Right, the armada box got delivered to my door yesterday and my girlfriend and me just concluded the first game. Time for some first quick first impressions! This won't be a review, but more a rambling stream of thoughts after just having played the game.
First of all the box is huge!! Secondly, it's a lot of wasted space, I reckon about 50% of the box is actually filled with stuff, the rest is cardboard folding.
The mini's look great in my opinion, a bit bigger than I expected, but that helps with the scale, and especially the star destroyer is gorgeous. As a hobbyist, I might repaint here and there (especially the small unpainted fighters). But all in all a good job.
The game cards equally look great, sturdy with cool artwork on them.
However, FFG quality control must have been sleeping on the rest of it; all (yes ALL) the bases I got in the box for the large ships and the fighters came with flaws. Most seem to be from sloppy plastic injection techniques.It results in some of the sides of the large bases having an unfinished look, almost as if it came to close to a heat source and just started melting. All of the smaller bases have little bumps and injection marks, or have edges that have little nooks or aren't quite round where the should be. I might have gotten a bad batch, but seriously botching all 13 bases in a box that contains 13 miniatures is pretty poor in my opinion.
On to the cardboard tokens and parts. Here as well you can see that the printing and cutting didn't really work out 100%: most token images aren't quite centered on the cut out, and a lot of the cutouts vary in shape, are sloping instead of straight or don't quite fit, resulting in some unnecessary bending and pushing.
This is my main critique here. Though it might seem nit-picky, over here core sets are going for a 125,- euro's. For that kind of money I would expect to have the basic items to be high quality stuff, or at least without flaw. What I got is functional, but with a lot of minor flaws.
I am assured that FFG customer service is great though, so I shot them a message and will await their response.
(Edit: Another minor nit-pick: if one of your core main units (x-wing) has a standard attack value of 4 blue dice... include 4 blue dice in the game, not 3.)
On towards the game though, because that's what it's all about in the end. Spoilers: This is also probably where most of my negativity about the game ends.
When everything is put together and you're playing it looks GREAT, a table filled with fighters and capital ships can't be beat in my opinion.
It took some time to figure out the rules, but the how to play booklet gives a good starting point, comparable to the x-wing core set. The rules are somewhat more complicated than x-wings, but still allow for a reasonable paced game.
The game really shouldn't be compared to x-wing as it is a vastly different beast. Where x-wing often allows you to pull out some tricks on your turn, here you are really committed to the course of your lumbering beasts (I played imperials, and the Victory Star Destroyer especially suffers from this).
What I love about the game is that you really face difficult choices; every turn you have a limited amount of resources and options, which most of the time are all equally valid. This aspect comes back in almost all phases of the game. -> Do I want to use my commands to increase the speed and change direction of my Star Destroyer as it is getting awefully close to the talbe edge, or do I use it to boost my Tie fighters so I can get in an alpha strike on those x-wings which are closing in?
Combine this with the fact that the bigger the ship, the more you have to plan your commands ahead (a star destroyer needs to choose the commands he want to use 3 turns in advance, a frigate 2 turns and a nimble frigate get to choose each turn what to do). Commands you don't want to use can be used in a later turn, but with reduced effectiveness.
The same dilemma applies to defending against attacks, with a limited amount of defense actions per turn, you will need to decide to brace for impact against the attacks of that corvette, or save it because maybe that frigate will attempt a shot at the rear of your ship. Defense actions can be used twice in one turn, but then that action is gone for the rest of the game.
This resource management aspect of the game really gives a nice amount of depth to the strategies and tactics you can employ in the game.
The game feels more "wargamey" than x-wing, which for me is a good thing. To use a pc gaming analogy: Xwing is a squad based tactics game like x-com, while armada is more a real time strategy game like empire at war. In x-wing you control each members' precise actions, in armada you dictate the flow of your forces on the board, but are more dependent on previous actions and available resources.
All in all we had a blast with the game, I have to see how it expands but for now it ranks at least equal to x-wing in my opinion. My girlfriend also really liked it, but might prefer x-wing a bit. (Which kind of fits the picture as I'm more of a wargamer, while she prefers short and fast board games).