16 December 2016 | Star Wars: Armada

All-Out Offensive

The Developers of The Corellian Conflict on the Shape of the Campaign

"Proceed with the countdown. All groups assume attack coordinates."
     –Admiral Ackbar

Star Wars™: Armada Wave V and The Corellian Conflict make their way to retailers later next week, and that means fans will soon find all-new ways to enjoy their epic fleet battles!

Of course, you have the new Wave V ships and squadrons that we've explored in our previews. These add plenty of new abilities and strategic options to shake up the existing Armada metagame. But the game's most eventful evolution does not come with the Phoenix Home, the Imperial Light Cruiser, or the new Rebel and Imperial fighter squadrons. It comes with The Corellian Conflict.

With its new rules, objective cards, stations, obstacles, roster sheets, and map, The Corellian Conflict leads you and up to five of your friends into an ongoing series of epic fleet battles for the fate the Corellian Sector. At the same time, it introduces an all-new campaign experience to Armada. Take sides with the Galactic Empire or the Rebel Alliance, then vie for key hyperlane routes, seize vital shipyards, and establish new bases. Victory demands your engagement in multiple battles and depends on your team’s ability to control vital worlds while crushing your foes!

In addition to its campaign, The Corellian Conflict also expands your standard battles with twelve objectives that add to the challenges presented by those in the Core Set. And as you pursue these new paths to victory, you can consider the strategic advantages offered by sixteen unique squadron cards, all of which allow you to field some of the most legendary pilots and squadrons from the Galactic Civil War!

In our earlier previews, we've looked at some of the new elements from the campaign, we've seen what the new squadrons and their abilities have to offer, and we've reviewed most of the new objectives. Today, now that the expansion is nearly here, we talk with the developers to get a better sense of how it feels to bring all the expansion's different elements together over the course of the new campaign.

The Campaign Experience

To offer a better picture of how it "feels" to be a part of the campaign from The Corellian Conflict, we interviewed developers Sam Stewart, Alex Davy, and Max Brooke, as well as producer Michael Gernes.

FFG: Let’s start by talking about what you were hoping to accomplish with The Corellian Conflict.

MB: We wanted to help with people tell stories in their minis games. This is something we knew people were already doing, but we wanted to enhance that experience.

SS: We wanted to create an experience that went beyond simple set battles. One of the things I’ve always loved in minis games is being able to tell a story over multiple fights, running military campaigns where your accomplishments help you or your allies down the road. I wanted the decisions you make during this game matter next week—or even next month.

AD: We also wanted to give gaming groups something to unite around—a fun way to get together on regular basis. My favorite thing about tabletop gaming is the social experience… and looking Sam in the eye when I blow up his Liberty-class Cruisers!

SS: You must get disappointed quite a bit, then! (Alex laughs.)

MG: As minis gamers, I think we’ve all played in campaigns before—often together—and we all find the emergent narrative to be one of the most fun aspects of minis games.

SS: There are a lot of players for whom competitive tournaments aren’t their favorite way to engage with a game. This offers them something that’s just as engaging and enjoyable as tournament play.

FFG: What were some of the things that inspired you as you worked?

MB: One of our biggest sources of inspiration was actually Dust Warfare: Operation Hades. Alex and Mike were directly involved in that in some capacity, and a lot of people helped test it.

MG: Operation Hades was a campaign set in the fictional city of Zverograd. The players broke into teams by factions and fought a series of battles over a long-term period, capturing different sections of the city. Units gained experience, and players could add new units to their forces.

MB: The point-capture system is different in The Corellian Conflict, but there’s a similar dynamic of planning attacks, assigning attackers, and so forth.

AD: We learned a lot from that campaign—what worked, what didn’t, and how to approach challenges like when players suffer drastic losses early. Hades helped us bring an extra level of polish to the process, as did our incredible playtesters.

MB: Locations also had logistical effects in Operation Hades, which we maintained in The Corellian Conflict.

FFG: And were those logistical effects important in Hades because of how they provided extra dimensions to each location, forcing you to balance an attack’s strategic or tactical value against straight-forward points accumulation?

SS: Exactly. It let us create locations with a wide range of values. Another point of inspiration is that Alex and I have long been part of a group of friends who really enjoy running narrative campaign events. So we’ve been playing in long-running games similar to The Corellian Conflict for years. Those experiences were inspiring me when we sat down to make this.

AD: Star Wars also lends itself perfectly to the notion of an ongoing, system-spanning conflict, and the architecture of the game is extremely conducive to modeling individual battles. It was an easy leap to make.

FFG: Alex, your earlier comment about players who suffer early losses leads me to another of my questions. How does The Corellian Conflict address the problems that come when a player needs to “catch up?” How do you prevent players from simply getting ahead and then getting further ahead?

AD: The campaign really is a team experience. Resources are shared, decisions are made as a group, and there are a number of special rules aimed at addressing mismatches. Whoever has fewer points in a campaign round gets to initiate the first assault, there are two different special attacks players can launch in order to reap more resources for fleet building and repair. And if the situation gets truly dire, a player can retire his or her crippled fleet and disgraced admiral to call in a new fleet better suited to the battles at hand—at a price in victory points, of course!

SS: The campaign rules requires everyone to fight, each round. Even if your fleet is battered, scarred, or seriously outmatched, you have to bring it to the table. But in that situation, you don’t just have to run your head into the brick wall that is your opponent. You can choose to think about the next game, and say, “Well, I’m going to lose either way, but if I get out of this game with all my ships intact, I can repair them, buy some extra upgrades, and next time I’m going to be a lot better off.” Then you can play the entire game trying to survive. And suddenly your opponent isn’t trying to win; they’re trying to kill something vital before you cut and run.

AD: Players can also escape to hyperspace if it’s clear a fight is lost, preserving their ships to do battle another day. It’s very important to us to keep every player engaged and excited, whether their fortunes are up or down.

MG: That plan cuts two ways, though, because there’s rule for Grav Well Interdiction, so a fleet that brings an experimental retrofit upgrade to the table can prevent the enemy from retreating.

SS: That’s true. And that also encourages different fleet-building choices. Maybe you wouldn’t normally bring the Interdictor , but you put it in your fleet because your team decided your fleet is the “finisher” fleet that preys on weaker opponents.

MB: When you’re on your back foot, you often want to match a weaker fleet against a stronger one rather than throwing your strongest fleet into the meat grinder. If you can preserve your strongest fleet’s strength and play conservatively with a damaged fleet, it can sometimes let you catch back up. Commanders are additional factors that play into those decisions. A defensive commander like Admiral Motti or Mon Mothma might be well-suited to fighting against stronger forces, while a more aggressive commander—who isn’t at good at preserving fighting strength—like Admiral Ackbar or Darth Vader , might be better for crushing weakened foes.

FFG: Is it fair to say, then, that you may end up with some dedicated defensive and offensive fleets? And these, presumably, encourage different players to play to different play styles?

MG: Yeah, to an extent. And fleets can definitely be tailored to be stronger that way, too.

SS: You certainly can, and some players may enjoy different playstyles more.

FFG: Was there anything that surprised you about the campaign as you played deeper into it?

MG: There was a lot of meta-thinking by each team when declaring assaults. We’d be huddling and talking through which enemy fleet would be likely to defend if we chose a particular fleet to attack with.

MB: It definitely makes the strategy of assigning attacks almost as important as the tactics of battles. The planning sessions felt weighty and interesting. Both sides are playing with limited resources and information, and are attempting to out-guess the other’s deployments.

SS: Yeah, the amount of strategic planning that came into who was going to attack where, and who they would likely be matched against became a huge part of the game. The limited info meant it almost felt like we were actually in a war room, plotting out large-scale fleet deployments.

FFG: Can you guys take us inside one of these huddles? Let’s say we’re mid-game, and the Imperials have a slight lead. What would the Rebels be thinking?

SS: Sure. The Rebels might be looking at one of the Empire’s core worlds, and thinking that if they blew up the Imperial base there, it would set the Empire back in their ability to rebuild and refit fleets.
     Let’s say there are three Rebel players and three Empire players. That means the Rebels get to declare the first and last attacks, because they’re behind. So the Rebels figure out what their best fleet is, and what their second best fleet is. Their first attack is with their second best fleet, and they attack a location that’s kind of valuable. Maybe it has Diplomats or some other ancillary effect. They’re hoping the Empire is going to send its best fleet to defend the location.
     Even if the Empire doesn’t take the bait, they may still be tempted to use their best fleet when they declare their attack—since it’s the only attack they’ll be making during the turn. The Rebels deliberately send their worst fleet to defend, with instructions to just keep as much stuff alive as possible.
     Finally, the Rebels declare their final attack with their best fleet, hitting that vital core world. Hopefully, the Empire has been drawn off by these other battles, and has only left its “B” team at home to protect things.

AD: Another surprising thing is how different commanders scale up. Commanders like Ackbar, Tarkin , and Vader can be a bit tricky to squeeze into a 400-point list, but, man, do they sing when you get to 500 points!

FFG: What can you say about the shape of a campaign? How does it play out?

SS: Early on, it’s probably going to be a bit of a land-grab. Both sides want to build more bases to establish their resources. Also, neither side likely wants to risk facing the base defense objectives, because their fleets aren’t going to be all that tough.
     And those base defense objectives are designed to give very powerful advantages to the second player, and zero advantage to the first player.

MG: You definitely want to win some battles, build some experience, and then go after more ambitious goals. But it’s totally possible for a fleet to get beat up in the early stages, and that often leads to it taking on a defensive role. That happened with me in our campaign.

SS: Early battles tend towards being more cautious. You’ll probably have players cut and run with their ships more often, rather than getting them destroyed.
     Mid-to-late game is where you’re going to see more decisive battles, and more fights to the bitter end. That’s when getting campaign points matters more, and as the end draws near, preserving your forces doesn’t matter as much.
     The trick is knowing which battles are decisive and vital to win, and which ones are going to turn into expensive victories that don’t really help your team all that much.

MG: When the victory track gets close enough for a side to launch the All-Out Offensive, you start taking that into account, because the timer is really ticking down.

FFG: Okay, let’s talk for a moment about the All-Out Offensive. What does its victory condition offer the campaign that you might miss if you could only win by being the first team to reach the requisite number of victory points?

MB: Well, it’s a story capstone, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted to include it. The Corellian Conflict is a narrative campaign, and we wanted to have a big, memorable event at the end that people will be talking about for ages. And, boy, can the All-Out Offensive deliver! Playing with six players and more than one-thousand points per side is a really unique Armada experience!

SS: Yeah, we guarantee that you’ve never played a game of Armada like the All-Out Offensive before. It’s a huge megabattle with lots of points on each side, and you’re coordinating with up to two of your buddies as you plan out each turn. But it’s more than that—you’re playing with the fleet that you’ve built up over months of gaming. You’ve been with this fleet from the beginning, you’ve earned every one of those upgrades, extra squadrons, and ships. Now you’re throwing it into the maelstrom of war, and seeing what comes out the other side.

MB: Having elements of each fleet jump in sequentially, in waves, also builds a ton of tension.

FFG: Talk about that.

MB: In the All-Out Offensive, each player must set aside hyperspace reserves. These ships can arrive during later rounds at predesignated points, joining the ongoing battle.

SS: The All-Out Offensive is specifically is designed to enable this huge, set-piece battle. One of the ways it does this is that it requires every player to keep something in reserve. So you’re holding back Star Destroyers and Mon Calamari Star Cruisers and having them arrive from hyperspace on turns two and three. That keeps gameplay faster earlier in the battle, and it also ensures that nobody gets wiped out early and has to sit the rest of the battle out.
     Also, it’s incredibly thematic!

AD: Our test experience with the All-Out Offensive was a truly incredible game, and it captured the beautiful chaos of a massive do-or-die space battle, with ships jumping in from hyperspace, players going all-out to win, heroic vessels that had survived the entire campaign going down under merciless barrages of firepower.
    It was a hugely satisfying culmination where everyone got to throw caution to the winds and go for the jugular.

FFG: Thanks, guys!

Assemble the Fleet

Assemble your fleet, and prepare yourself for a Star Wars: Armada experience like no other. Armada Wave V and The Corellian Conflict arrive at retailers later next week!

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