Star Wars Armada vs X-Wing? Which Game Is For You? Red Falcon Answers!
In 2012, Star Wars X-Wing exploded onto the table top, war game scene. Three years later Star Wars Armada joined the fray. With two games so similar, is Fantasy Flight Games cannibalizing it’s own gamer base?
As far as aerial combat, table top games go, the Star Wars franchise has had it on near lock down. Squadrons of TIE fighters swarm menacingly as the Millennium Falcon, flanked by squads of X-wing fighters, weave and dodge. Choose from an iconic list of pilots: Skywalkers, Solos and an assortment of Darths dot the skies. It’s so familiar and easy for the mind’s eye to grasp.
There’s no question about Star Wars being a great framework to build a game off, the REAL question is this: which game do you sink your time (and money) into? We’ll be looking at how much it’ll cost to play, overall game mechanics and game infrastructure (where to play and who’s playing).
Start Up Cost
While both games will definitely take a bit out of your wallet, the way in which they do it will be a little different. Both Armada and X-wing offer a basic starting kit retailing at about 85 bucks and 50 bucks, respectively. So out of the gate, X-wing is a cheaper game to jump into.
Where the game gets you is on the expansions: both games offer a variety of ships you can buy to customize your battle fleets. Armada expansions are anywhere from 20 to 50 bucks a pop while X-wing miniatures are predominantly around 15 bucks though they top out at around 40. On the surface, X-wing is the cheaper game though it’s important to note that X-wing has a much greater number of miniatures to choose from; meaning you could spend hundreds of dollars if you’re into collecting them all.
There’s a lot to be said for both games in regards to mechanics and there’s a lot of personal choice involved so we’ll just touch on some of the bigger differences between the two games.
For me, one of the coolest elements of Armada is how the ships move. Included in the starter kit is a maneuvering tool which looks kinda like one of those plastic snakes with a bunch of hinges so it can wave back and forth. smaller ships are more agile which translates to being able to set the hinges at tighter angles while larger ships need more time and space to turn. It’s super user friendly for new players.
X-wing on the other hand uses movement templates to determine how each ship maneuvers. Players decide in secret what movement each of their ships will perform and then, in a sequence of captain skill, move their ships. Ramming ships into each other or running off the board is a threat with this style of play and newbies might find it frustrating at first. It’s also a fair bit more cumbersome.
Played on a 3 x 3 foot square, the whole area is a battle zone where ships grind it out for intergalactic supremacy. Veteran players will always have an edge on the less experienced as forward thinking and planning is hugely important to victory. Due to the nature of the dog fight, the whole play area usually becomes a swirling mass of ships; circling and jockeying for position to deliver a critical blow. The order of movement and combat are chosen by the level of the pilot’s skill on each ship. Once again, new players may have a hard time deciding on strategy in this fast paced game environment. Games tend to last about 90 minutes which is pretty quick for a table top war game.
Armada is undoubtedly a friendlier game for the uninitiated. New players can see where there ships are going and don’t have to worry about running them off the board. Instead of actions being chosen turn by turn on the fly, ships are given a stack of action cards which are chosen in advance: bigger ships receive more actions but take longer to get into position to use them. I’ve heard some people say it’s not as free flowing as X-wing and feels more like a “smash em up” style game. Objective points draw ships together which may add some legitimacy to the aforementioned argument. Lastly, the games tend to last about 120 minutes, which can be a little more time than some people want to sink into a game.
By far and large, X-wing has the edge here. Tournaments are held regularly and new waves of ships are being released on a constant basis. At my local games store, X-wing night is almost always bustling with gamers; watching and judging each others strategies and fleet components. I have yet to see anything even remotely resembling this with Armada. I do think FFG would release two games so similar in so many ways but then again, Star Wars fans are a strange bunch of cats. I’ve been on forums where gamers have bought heavily into both and are happy playing either game.
In the end, I think most of us would get more enjoyment out of X-wing. It’s miniature selection is vast, especially since adding a third faction of mercs and killers known as Scum. There’s lots of people playing already so you won’t have to beg people to come over and learn to play. From where I stand Armada is more of a “family” game: friendly and forgiving. I’d like to set this up at a cottage and play it over a weekend.