Mar 19 2012

So What is Firestorm Armada, Anyway?

Firestorm Armada - Sorilyaan Fleet

With last week’s launch of Wargame Wednesday featuring a battle report of G and I playing Firestorm Armada, I figured I should write a short introduction to the game for our readers.

More after the jump…

Firestorm Armada is a skirmish scale spaceship fleet combat game developed by Spartan Games. One of the great advantages of a skirmish tabletop game is that you only need a few models to be able to start playing. In this case, one of the starter boxes available for each of the 6 core races will contain 10-11 models, which is enough for the starter game size of 500 points.

Even more helpfully, the Firestorm Armada rulebook contains cut-out fleets that you can photocopy to give the game-system a try before you invest in one of the starter fleets. This is indicative of an overal customer friendly approach that a lot of other game companies (*cough* Games Workshop *cough*) could learn something from.

Aquan Battleship

An Aquan Battleship with some custom modeled Wings above right and Frigates above left.

The game is designed around a few classes of ships, starting from fighter-wings and frigates at the small end, up to battleships and dreadnoughts at the large end. Each of these ships has has different stats (or separate rules in the case of wings) that determine how far it can move, how hard it can hit, and how much of a pounding it can take.

Smaller ships, like Frigates and the medium sized Cruisers, can operate in squadrons composed of multiples of the same ship, which allows them to combine their offense in ways I explain below.

The turn order in FA is based on alternating activations of squadrons of ships between the two players, this gives the game a dynamic feeling where your tactical options change over the course of each turn as the players alternate using their ships to move and attack. In this game it is often a tactical coup when you can destroy or severely weaken one of the other person’s squadrons of ships before they can activate it.

Another neat feature of FA is that the players roll off for who gets to activate first in each turn (though different factions have different bonus modifiers to this roll). Critical moments in the game can often hinge on winning the roll to activate first on a critical turn. My losing that roll on a couple of important turns in my game with G really hurt my strategy, for example.

Firestorm Armada Measurement Template

Movement in FA is done with the template pictured above. Each size class of vessel has a both a certain amount of distance it can move, and a minimum distance it must move before it can make a 45 degree turn. The movement template simplifies the geometry by including 45 degree turns. One unique aspect of Firestorm Armada is that ships must move at least half their distance unless they intend to come to a complete halt (a special rule called Cut Engines which penalizes you by forcing you to do nothing with that ship for a complete turn before it can move again).

If you watched our first FA battle report, you will have seen that G ultimately lost his battleship, and with it the game, because he moved into a position where his battleship was unable to move 2″ straight ahead prior to making a 45 degree turn to avoid crashing into the moon we had as terrain. The combination of compulsory movement and turning restrictions adds a level of tactical depth to maneuvering in this game that I really enjoy.

Distances to enemy ships in FA are also divided into 4 range bands (called RB1-RB4 for short). Each band is 8″ such that RB1 = 0″-8″, RB2 = 8″-16″, and so on. Every ship in FA will have differing amounts of firepower at each range band in the different zones it can fire in, known as arcs.

Dindrenzi Starter Fleet

Dindrenzi Starter Fleet: In the battle report you'll notice that my Dindrenzi are based on a reversed color scheme.

Most vessels have 90 degree firing arcs for their main weapons systems, such as port & starboard, while some vessels (such as my Dindrenzi) will have forward facing main weapons systems with a fixed arc. That means that the forward facing weapons on Dindrenzi ships can only fire in a forward facing channel defined by the width of the base the ship is mounted on. On the other hand, some weapons systems like torpedoes and turrets can have 360 degree arcs, thus allowing them to fire in any direction.

Attacking other ships is done first moving, then determining which range band you are in, and then firing at the targeted ship(s) with a number of 6 sided dice (d6) corresponding to the Attack Dice (AD) of your ship(s) at that range band, in that arc. This is complicated by the concept of linked fire, which allows you to combine fire from multiple ships in the same squadron. Basically you take the number of AD printed on the stat card for the focus ship, and half (rounding down) the AD for all the other ships adding their fire to the attack. Linked fire allows a squadron of smaller ships to threaten the higher DR of larger ships.

Each ships defenses are primarily defined by their Damage Rating (DR) and Critical Rating (CR). The DR determines how many points of damage are required to remove a Hull Point (HP) from a ship, while the CR determines how many points of damage are required to trigger a critical hit, which has bonus damage effects. A few races have Shields (SH) in addition to this, which give them a specified number of dice to roll with a chance to reduce the points of incoming damage.

As an aside, while critical hits have a 12 possible effects on the roll of 2d6, the most amusing/scary results are on double-ones where the ship suffers a reactor overload, is instantly destroyed, and creates a massive explosion that can destroy other ships around it!

Torpedoes work a little differently in Firestorm Armada. Unlike most main weapons systems, the AD that torpedoes get generally stays the same regardless of what range band you’re in (though for some races like the Terrans, torpedoes actually get better the further you are). The other difference is that every ship in FA has a certain amount of Point Defense (PD) dice, which it can use to try and reduce the damage inflicted. Like linking fire with offensive weapons systems, ships within 4″ of a friendly ship attacked with torpedoes can combine their PD dice with those of the targeted ship to help its defenses.

Terran Alliance Starter Fleet

Terran Alliance Starter Fleet: Damn G and his Torpedoes...

In addition to these basic game mechanics, there are other more involved mechanics including wings, ramming, launching boarding parties, and a few scenarios in the main rule-book beyond ‘kill all of the other guys shit.’ Spartan Games also provides a bunch of option rule add-ons to Firestorm Armada including game cards that allow you to do special things as well as optional terrain rules and alliance fleet rules. The game system overall is very modular, from extremely simple to quite tactically complex.

If you’re interested in learning more about Firestorm Armada I recommend heading over to Spartan Games Firestorm Armada section to learn more.

As someone who has dabbled in a few table-top games (Warhammer 40k, AT-43, Dust Tactics, Warmachine & Firestorm Armada) I have to say that Firestorm Armada is amongst my favorites. I love the designs of the ships and the tactical depth of the rules, as well as the skirmish size keeping the monetary and painting time outlay to a comparative minimum.

I hope this very brief introduction to Firestorm Armada will make our battle reports a little easier to understand.

That’s Yo (dicetastic!) Garbage!


About the author


Lorenzo tends to utterly emphatic opinions on the things that interest him: Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Video Games, Anime, Tabletop Games, Technology and Internet Spaceships.

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  1. Dallas Ada,s

    Im actually really glad that Firestorm Armada is so inexpensive. I have been wanting to get into Wargaming but Warrhammer 40K is just too damn expensive and it seems like the only products that is sold at my local wargaming store.

    Looking forward to more Firestorm Batreps.

  1. War-Game Wednesday Episode 2: The Path of the Righteous! » That's Yo Garbage

    […] detail about actual game mechanics. More information about how Firestorm Armada plays can be found here. The next two episodes of War-Game Wednesday will focus on two different games, which will give us […]

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