Getting ready to launch

In less than a week, Mantic Games will be launching their much anticipated fantasy naval combat game Armada.  People are so excited about it (myself included) that the initial print run of the base game has sold out on the Mantic web store already.  (However, check with your FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) as Mantic has said they hope to have it in shops by the release date of Nov 21, 2020.)   (Just to clarify, sold out means that Mantic has allocated all their copies - these are going to pre-orders as well as stores that have ordered it.  It does not mean it is no available, only that you can't get it directly from Mantic until the second printing is available (which they expect to be soon after the first of the year).

One of the duties of being a pathfinder for Mantic is to promote their games and run demos to introduce people to them.  This is also a perk, as it means that Pathfinders can get their hands on some pre-release goodies in order to prepare for these demos.  I'm actually going to be doing demos twice, on Nov 21st and Dec 5th down at Three Brothers Games in Hebron KY (yes, I'm in Ohio (and unfortunately no game stores locally are open for gaming yet because of this stupid pandemic), but Three Brothers is only an hour away for me).  These will from 1 pm to 6 pm both days (I didn't think doing it the weekend after Thanksgiving was a great idea - though who knows right now).

So what goodies did I get to show off the game?

First off, they actually sent copy of the full book.  I (and others) were just expecting a PDF of it, but no, in all it's full color, 92 page glory.

Mantic is doing their own marketing push, so have asked us NOT to reveal anything inside this beautiful book before the official release (so you'll have to wait until next week for that!).

In order to play the game, you of course need dice.  They sent a set of Armada dice (these are the same extra dice you can buy separately, and I believe will come in the base set).  The game mainly uses D10s (though you do need D6's for nerve checks and to see which way the wind is blowing each turn).  The set has three blue (for heavy weapons), three red (for light weapons), three black (for close quarter weapons) and one green D10 (for indirect weapons).  (Rather than bog the game down with details on all the various cannons (and magical attacks) each race can bring, they have abstracted everything down to four types of attacks).

A lot of ships will have a mixture of weapons, especially on their sides, so having different colored dice allows you to roll for all your shots at once (as different weapons have different ranges, and do different amount of damage).

They also included a full set of tokens (which is four sheets).  The book and token set are the same as come in the base game, or that you can buy separately.  There isn't an option to just purchase the tokens separately yet however.

The first sheet has a large armada logo on it - apparently because they couldn't fit all the tokens onto three sheets, and had some extra space to fill.

The ships each come with a card, and the game is meant for you to use them for your fleet.  In order to help with this, there are tokens for all the standard upgrades you can take for your ships.  Blue for normal ones, and purple for magic upgrades.

There are two sided tokens, one side indicated that a ship is on fire, while the other side is used to mark when a side of a ship has fired already (for when you use the "Fire as She Bears" rule (which allows a ship that has not activated yet shoot at a ship that moves through it's firing arc) to indicate that a side cannot fire again this turn.

The stylized one on the left is for a ship being ablaze - the explosion indicates that the weapons on a side have fired already this turn.

It also has tokens to represent the speed of a ship - Anchored, Steady, Battle and Full Speed.  These are two sided - so each ship generally only needs two tokens per game.  There are additional black tokens to indicate when a ship has run aground (not a good thing).

Top row are the types - run aground, anchored, steady, battle and full speed.  The bottom row are the back sides of each.

For land based wargames, terrain is extremely important for providing things like cover.  There is less terrain at sea, but they do include some that can be used.  This sheet has two sand banks / reefs.  In general terrain is something to be avoided in Armada, because of the danger of running aground and being stuck motionless for the remainder of the battle.

The second sheet contains the templates necessary to play the game.

There is a windrose.  This is used to indicate from which side of the board the wind is blowing, which controls the order in which ships activate.  Each turn (after the first) you roll two D6 to determine if the wind shifts at all (2-4 it moves 45 degrees clockwise (i.e. 1/8 of a step - or from a side to a corner, or corner to side), 5-9 it remains the same, and 10-12 it moves counter-clockwise (which, apparently, in the UK (where Mantic is located and all their rules are written), they call anti-clockwise)).

Next is the firing arc and turning arc. 

Weapons mounted on the bow or stern (that is front or back for you land lubbers :-) ) have some slight pivoting capability - they have line of site that is 30 degrees off of each corner.  Ships are not nimble, so as such they have limited ability to turn.  At the end of each movement step, a ship can make a single turn - the amount is marked in the card - either red (45 degrees) or yellow (30 degrees).  Simple slide the appropriate side of the template against the back of the ship base, and then pivot around either corner up to the allowed turn (i.e. until it touches the side).

There is also a measuring stick to measure how far each ship moves (and check for range for weapons, etc).  These templates (the windrose, firing arc, turning template and measuring stick) are available in the Acrylic template set.

The Blackjack Legacy youtube channel did a video review of the acrylic templates, and he brought up an issue with them.  I don't have my set of those yet, so I can't comment on the acrylic ones.  However the ones that come with the set could be better.

I show a Kings of War ruler next to the Armada ruler.  They appear to me to be accurate.  However the issue with the Armada template is that they have decided to add extra artwork to the end of the ruler.  It looks nice - but to get accurate measurements you MUST measure from the marks centered on each number, not from the edge.

I have found that the easiest way to move your ships is to lay the ruler next to the ship, with the distance you want to move at the front edge of the base.  You can then slide the ship along the ruler to the end - and thus you get the proper distance, and no issues with accidentally "drifting" as you move.  However these stick make it harder to do that - first because the marks to not go all the way to the edge, and then, even worse, the end is not where you stop.  The difference is 3/16" of an inch (or close to 5mm for those of you who don't base your system of measurement off some dead kings thumb).  Not a big deal for friendly games - but when this hits tournament play where precision can be key . . .

It has more fired / blazing tokens, and also a large island terrain piece.  This is two sided - with one side including a port (not that a port may or may not have anything to do with any scenario that might be in the rulebook).  It appears the artwork on the two sides matches up, so if you had two you could combine them to one very large island.

There are also a few wound tokens as well.

The third sheet has two more sandbars/reefs (almost like you might need four of them for a scenario (or two) in the book.

There are also two rock tokens, again terrain to be avoided (though it can provide cover if it blocks line of sight).

There are also four smaller island pieces that fit together to form a single large island.

This sheet contains the grounded tokens, more speed tokens, as well as the activation markers (to keep track of which ships have activated each turn).

Activation token and surrendered token (an appropriate white flag) 

The final sheet has the surrendered tokens and more speed tokens.

It also has most of the wound counters.  These are two sided (to make them more efficient), coming in 1/3, 5/10 and 20/25.

There are also scenario tokens, with various numbers on one side, and a treasure chest on the other.  I'll let you speculate as to why these are included.

Finally, it has some ship identification tokens.  There are 14 pairs of these (A - N)

Since the ship cards are identical, these can be used to mark a ship and the card representing it.

In addition to all of this (which is all available for purchase), they sent us a special demo playmat.

This is a 2' x 2' play area (with the starting positions of two ships marked on it), the cards for those ships (along with special rules for both), and all of the information from the quick reference sheets that may or may not be at the end of the book which I'm not allowed to talk about the inside of.  They include six tables plus summaries of all the rules (except for how to move - which seems a bit odd to me.  But I guess that is why they have us running the demos).

I think it is interesting that this setup does not have the players sitting across from each other (like you would normally expect).  I realized this gives the advantage of making it so both players can more easily see all the reference material, and also have the person giving the demo on the other side of the table (not quite at 6' distance for those of you counting however).

Of course, most important thing in any miniature game is the miniatures, and for the demos they gave us two - a Basilean Gur Panther and an Orc Bloodrunner.

The models for Armada are all resin, and are of the usual great quality that we have come to expect from Mantic resin casting (not that I want to put any pressure on Kirsten or anything :-) ).

The gur panther comes in five pieces

The main ship hull.  I strongly recommend you wash your ships before assembling or painting them (as you should always do with resin).  However I did find that these pieces had a bit of dust on them from the casting process.

The mizzen mast and sails are one piece, with the logo molded on the lower sail.  One very nice bit is all (or nearly all) the 'sprues' had the ship marked on them (GP1, BR2), which will really help identify the parts when you have multiple ships coming together.

Same with the main mast.

Finally is the main staysail (which attaches to the main mast), and the bow figurehead.

There is just a little cleaning required, and assembly is straightforward.  I painted the sails separately from the rest of the ship to make it easier.

One thing I didn't realize until too late was the bottom of the ship wasn't quite even, so the ship is tilting slightly to port (again, for landlubbers, port is the left side when facing the front).  Most of this was painted with GW contrast paints (I am hoping that Vallejo will come out with their own versions of these soon).  I used Gore-Grunta Fur for the ship - I really like the way it brings out the wood texture.

One note for those interested in using Constrast paints.  When I did my review I did NOT use GW primer (they specifically recommend Wraithbone or Grey Seer for use with their contrast paints).  When I primed these, the contrast paint did not want to stick, the surface seeming to be a bit hydrophobic.  I re-primed the sails then with Wraithbone and it worked much better.  So IF you want to use contrast paints, definitely consider using their recommended primer/basecoat for them.

Ok, then other ship is the Orc Bloodrunner.

The blood runner comes in nine pieces - starting with the main hull

There are small cannon ports that go on the sides and across the middle of the ship

Unlike the basilean ship, the masts are separate from the sails.

There are two pairs of sails.  You can identify which go on each mast because the main mast has two dots on the to connection (to match the sails).  The main mast is the one that DOES NOT platforms for lookouts on it.

The mizzen sails are on one sprue.

The main mast are on another

Finally, the bow is a giant drill.  This to help ramming other ships.

I painted the sails much like the pictures in the book, with red sails.  Because red ones go faster!  (Yes, I know I'm stealing that from 40K (which I barely tried), but I've always liked that orc philosophy.  (I also like the idea that the contraptions that goblins build work as much because of their belief in them as on any actual engineering.  So red ones do go faster, because they believe they will).

When I first tried talking a-boat Armada I didn't have any actual Armada ships to compare size to.

Well now with these two, I do.

First, the ships against each other.

The game is based on Black Seas by Warlord Games, so it is only fitting to compare the ships against those.  These are medium ships - and the medium ships for Black Seas are frigates.

As you can see, the size if fairly comparable.  The black seas ships have a bit less mass (and more detail) than the Armada ones - they appear to be a bit more fiddly (especially with the rigging).

I know some people have also wondered how the Armada ships will compare against the Fleet of a Dread game put out by the company who shall not be named (again).  I just happen to have picked up some DreadFleet ships (from Hoard-o-bits)  - so here is a side by side comparison of the Gur Panther and a Dreadfleet Swordfish

Size if very comparable, but once again the plastic ships seem to have a bit less mass than the resin ones.

It also appears that while in all the games the shooting mechanic is abstracted - it seems that Armada ships may be closer to only having the number of guns that they have shots for - while both Blacks Seas and Dreadfleet appear to have a significantly more cannons (an Elohi (which is the closer comparison to a frigate than the gur panther) has the same shooting profile as a Black Seas Frigate ( 2H, 1L, 1C on the sides and 1L on the front), the black seas ship actually has 18 cannons per side.

So it looks like I'm ready to go for the demos on Saturday.

I had the book spiral bound at Office Depot, and before they did that, I had them blow up the cover and make a laminated poster out of it, to help bring attention to the demo.  I wanted to have the laminate the demo mat, but it was too big, so I mounted it on foam board (unfortunately when the instructions on the foam board say you can peel it off and reposition it if it isn't aligned straight - THEY LIE!!!  Once that mat came in contact with the sticky foam board it wasn't going anywhere ever again (so, unfortunately, there are some wrinkles in it - but better than having it tear (and it was already starting to tear at a folded corner before I have given a single demo on it.).

I hope to see you this weekend at Three Brothers Games to show off how much fun Armada is!  (I've going through the demo a couple of times already, and it is pretty balanced, quick and quite fun.)

Because it is all fun and games . . .