Prime Championship Report

I’ve been playing Armada for about two and half years now. I came over from X-Wing, which was my first miniatures game, lured by the promise of giant capital ship battles. I’ve played in a number of local tournaments and even the 2018 Store Championships but never anything higher tier. I don’t consider myself a very strong player and I’m not a fan of crowds, strangers, or competitive social dynamics. To be honest I’m still pretty nervous about the whole thing.

I had the opportunity to attend several Prime tournaments this year but I backed out of them all with the excuse of a 4-5 hour drive and/or overnight hotel stays being too much for a game. I couldn’t manage that this time because the Prime was being hosted by one of my home stores. The same store that I walked into with my first X-wing Core Set and asked a group of ~30 strange men if someone could teach me how to play. The store where I later met by boyfriend. I’m friends with the owner, I’ve hosted tournaments there myself and I’ve harassed them about trying to get an Armada Prime for a couple years. I had to go play.

Fortunately, I had spent several months worrying about my fleet, practiced as much as I could in the short window after the Starhawk release and set a reasonable goal for myself of Top 16. I wasn’t sure if I could get there but it seemed much more achievable than aiming for first place.

The day of the event arrived and my boyfriend, who has quite a different tournament philosophy, built his fleet at the breakfast table before we left. There were 26 players in all and I knew maybe half a dozen of them. I confess that I was expecting mostly local players and was starting to freak out a little.

Game 1

In an ironic twist of fate, I managed to get paired with my boyfriend in the first round. We had spent weeks discussing the current Armada meta, bouncing ideas off each other and even playing a few practice games to try different fleets. We have a good understanding of each other’s play styles and broad tactical plans for the day. Last time we played each other in a tournament, we tied with 187 points each, much to the amazement of the TO and everyone else there.

The only thing I was scared of going into this tournament was Ackbar gunlines which is exactly what I was up against here. His fleet was an MC80 Assault Cruiser loaded for bear, C&S Assault Frigate, TRC90, a flotilla and a handful of squadrons. Neither of us had a bid. I had intended to be second player all day, using my suite of defensive objectives to force opponents to close into the attack range of my lumbering Starhawk. Now, I was having nightmares of being kited by an Ackbar Assault cruiser and not being able to shoot back. I won initiative, decided to take first player and picked Capture the VIP as our objective.

One plus in my column is that I had him out deployed with my squadrons. That meant I could see where his cruiser was headed and place my Starhawk with the best chance of intercepting it. I knew that I could win a point blank battle and that, if possible, I wanted to get in front of the cruiser to prevent it from escaping (and also not shoot me with its Ackbar broadside). He deployed straight into the table giving up minimal intelligence. I placed my ships directly across from him.

The first round saw both of our CR90s jump out, his racing for the VIP token and mine, supported by some squadrons, moving to intercept it. I also sent my A-wings to tie up his squadrons which turned out to be my first tactical blunder of the day. I do not play squads often and I had completely forgotten how obstacles work. It was a harsh reminder when his squadrons jumped out of the debris field they were hiding in, sauntered right past mine unopposed and blew my corvette into vapor. This allowed his corvette to escape with the VIP token unopposed.

Fortunately for me, I wasn’t the only one making tactical blunders in our game. His lack of familiarity with the fleet caused him to overestimate how fast the MC80 could turn and momentum brought both ships sailing right into my guns. At this range the Starhawk’s beastly stats, aided by the rogues, could make short work of them both.

An MC80 Assault Cruiser and Rebel Assault Frigate having a very bad day.

An MC80 Assault Cruiser and Rebel Assault Frigate having a very bad day.

It was still a slugfest. Both of his capital ships were packing XI7s which allowed me to finally use my Expert Shield Tech with great effect. Those double redirects soaked up a ton of damage over the course of the game.

Even better, Lando, Dash and Ketsu managed to run down the fleeing CR90 and prevent him from getting away with the VIP points.

In the end it was a 10-1 victory for me.

Game 2

I made a joke that my 10-1 finish was actually the worst thing that could have happened for my tournament chances. It was a joke until the round two pairings were announced and I found myself standing across the table from Steel Strategy’s Shmitty, fellow Garm Bel Iblis aficionado and 2019’s North American Continental Champion.

I would love to say that I was so intimidated and/or star struck by this occurrence that my brain turned to mush and I forgot how to play Armada. Unfortunately, that’s just not true. I’ve meet Shmitty a few times before although I don’t think we had ever played one another. I was surprisingly calm going into the match.

Shmitty was also playing a Starhawk, a Mk I with Garm, and a Pelta with Projection Experts. I knew this was going to be a tough nut to crack but since he didn’t have Kyrsta or redundant defense tokens I hoped the Starhawk’s lack of ECMs might come into play. I had won a couple of Starhawk vs Starhawk games in practice. The trick is to get into the side at the right angle to keep your double arc on target. That was my plan going into deployment. I probably should have done that. (Editor’s Note: She did not do that).

Shmitty also didn’t have a bid and somehow I won initiative again. I thought hard before I chose first player. I knew that he would also have a suite of objectives that played to the Starhawk’s strengths and likely score a ton of points but I figured the only way to win was to kill the Hawk and my best chance to do that was to take a page from Han Solo and shoot first. As often as possible. I chose Contested Outpost. If I did manage to kill his Starhawk, I could score the station a time or two at the end to cancel out some of the tokens. It seemed like a reasonable plan.

An awful blurry picture of setup

An awful blurry picture of our setup for the second game

Where it all went wrong is when Shmitty put down all his rocks in a long vertical line across the center of the table. I’m sure he had a plan with this (having a plan is what separates good Armada players from us scrubs) but for all I know he did it for lols. It didn’t matter because my brain went into overdrive trying to figure out what he was doing and forgot all about my own plan.

I decided that the rocks must be part of some elaborate escape plan and that after he scored a bunch of points from the objective he would sail his massive points fortress away. That would not have worked because I was first player and both of our ships moved at the same speed. This is why you should always take a deep breath and try to think objectively before you get too fixated on one possibility.

I did not do that. I thought, oh no he’s going to run away and I won’t get any points. This changed my whole game for the worse. If I had stuck to my plan and flown into his side arc, I might have won. He might have been hampered by the asteroids trying to bring his own front arc into play. I would have had a massive advantage in firepower for at least a few rounds. I don’t know if it would have been enough but it would have been better.

Instead, I devoted my entire game to getting in front of his Starhawk before it could get past the asteroids. This was a really bad idea. Not only did it cause me to fly in a suboptimal way but it put me in his double arc for a few turns and, ultimately, nose to nose with Amity, the Starhawk best suited to ramming opponents to death. By the time I got there, we had both killed all of the support ships but most of his fire had been focused on my Starhawk (the only real threat), while I’d had to split my fire to take out other targets. Mine was badly hurt before the finale and his had almost full health. It was not a fight that I cold have won but I did try to the last.

It came out to a 1-10 in the other direction, dashing my hopes for a good finish, but hopefully still within reach of my Top 16 goal.

Game 3

When we were setting up for the third round, I discovered that all of my Command Dials were gone. I still don’t know how that happened. I must have been so shaken up after the second round that I left them on the table. I had all my ship cards, upgrades, defense tokens and speed dials so it was very strange. It would have sucked a lot to have to forfeit the tournament because I lost my Command Dials. Fortunately, I only needed six of them and I was able to borrow some. As far as I know, mine were never seen again. At least they aren’t hard to replace.

My third opponent was someone from out of town. As luck would have it, he was also playing Ackbar, rounding out my tournament with 2/3 fleets I was hoping to avoid. That’s how it goes.

This was also a pretty typical Ackbar lineup: an assault cruiser, Admonition, a TRC90 and some A-wings. Again, they had no bid, and I won initiative. For the tournament I went into planning to spend all day camping my own Contested Outpost, I sure did go first a lot. But, again, I was afraid of letting the cruiser move before me. Faced with a predictably excruciating set of objectives I chose Hyperspace Assault. I thought there might be some anti-synergy there with the Ackbar Scout Frigate and also that the Starhawk is probably the best ship in the game to shrug off a surprise attack from Admonition. It was a good call.

My opponent played a strong kiting game. I was absolutely right not to let him go first. What neither of us really anticipated is that the Starhawk Mk II is very comfortable engaging an Ackbar assault cruiser at long range. No other ship in the game can say that. I was able to respond to his 6 dice broadsides with a total of 9 red dice (double arc + salvo) and my Linked Turbolaser Towers gave me rerolls, which he did not have. On top of that, the Kyrsta Unity’s strong defense token suite and high health and Expert Shield Tech largely blunted the incoming damage. My rogues also helped strip shields and tax his tokens.

He made the same mistake that I make every time I bring Ackbar to a tournament. He turned back just a little too far trying to keep the broadside on target and ended up staying in range of my guns a round longer than he wanted to:

An awful blurry picture of an MC80 about to have a bad day

An awful blurry picture of an MC80 about to have a bad day.

It was a good match and there were plenty of times it could have swung the other way but in the end I won with an 8-3 after killing the cruiser and, again, losing all of my support ships.

Results

I made it to the end of the day with a 2-1 record and 19 tournament points. That was good enough to put me in 10th place, well inside my goal of Top 16 but not quite making it to Top 8. It would have been nice to get there but I’m happy with the outcome. I went to my first major tournament and only lost to a much more experienced player.

My boyfriend went on to win the rest of his games and finished in 12th place with 18 tournament points.

Overall our local stores did great with several placing in the Top 8 and most of us making it to Top 16.

Fleet Review

I knew that my fleet performed very well in practice but I was not sure how competitive it would be. I was pleasantly surprised. Even after three more games with it, I don’t think there is anything I would change. Each piece did what it was supposed to do. I ended up using Expert Shield Tech a lot, maybe too much, despite being disappointed with it in practice. Having both Leading Shots and Linked Turbolaser Towers was less weird than I expected. LTT is still the go to dice fixer but at least a couple times during the tournament I needed to reroll everything so Leading Shots was definitely worth the 4 points.

The fleet did great but my flying could have been better. I brought the CR90 instead of a second flotilla because I planned to keep it on the edges of the fight so that if my Starhawk was killed my squadrons could continue hitting things and hopefully finish the job. This worked great in all the practice games but somehow during the tournament I kept moving my CR90 to the worst possible places. I think it died first in every game. That was just sloppy.

Ketsu is great. I overlooked her for a long time. A 4 hull Scatter bomber? Weird. But she is fast and that scatter makes her immune to a lot of flak. She gets work done, especially in the late game to run down fleeing ships.

Lando was also great. He is expensive and his dice are swingy. I still don’t think he’s worth his points in a squad vs squad fight. It’s also very tempting to blow his defense tokens early to make sure you get to use his ability before he dies but that’s a trap. Where he really shines is as a finisher. When you only need one or two more damage to finish off a juicy target, Lando can guarantee that it goes down freeing up your harder hitting shots for other targets.

I’ve known ever since I saw the FFG preview article that Kyrsta was likely to become my new default Admiral and that’s still true. She is good. I can’t wait to try her out on a bunch of different ships. Defense tokens are life. She goes very well with brawling play style.

Overall, I had a great time and played some really fun games of Armada. Maybe next year I won’t be so intimidated when Prime tournaments roll around again. I’m already looking forward to it.