What the heck is the difference between Armada and X-Wing?

February 23, 2016

XWingImageSo excitement for Star Wars is at an all-time high. The Force Awakens just came out and is pretty amazing, they’ve already begun work on Episode VIII, and if that wasn’t enough, we’re getting a  Star Wars anthology film, Rogue One, at the end of this year. But Star Wars isn’t just about the movies, of course. In addition to the novels, comic books and video games, there have been a number of great Star Wars board gamArmadaImagees released over the past few years.

Customers walking into our stores are confronted with an entire section dedicated to two of these games: Star Wars Armada and the X-Wing Miniatures Game. Both of these games have grown quite a bit in the years since their respective releases and it can be a lot to take in for those unfamiliar with them. The two most common questions I get when approaching someone staring confoundedly at a wall full of Star Wars stuff are “What is it?” and “Is it a game?” Based on this, I thought a blog post explaining the ins and outs of these excellent games was in order. So, if you’re looking for a review, you’ve come to the wrong place. Rather than a review (although both games are excellent), I’m just going to outline what both games are and how they’re different from one another here.

To begin, at their hearts, both Armada and X-Wing are tactical miniatures games. Basically this means players fly plastic spaceships from the Star Wars universe around the board trying to blow up each other’s ships. While this seems straightforward, it’s an important assertion to make because when many people see the wall o’ Star Wars, they assume they’re looking at toys. This probably has something to do with the fact that both games come with gorgeous pre-painted miniature ships that do indeed look like toys. In fact, let’s not lie to ourselves, they are toys. It’s perfectly fine to buy one and fly it around with your imagination and have just a grand old time (8 to 12-year-old me thanks you very much). But that’s not all you can do with them. There just happen to be great games attached to both that sweeten the deal. Let’s take a look at those games now.

On the surface, both games are very similar. Each player constructs a custom group of ships, determines movements and actions for those ships using dials, and fires at enemy ships using a range ruler to determine combat bonuses. But while both X-Wing and Armada share the same DNA, so to speak, they are also different in some significant ways, the most noticeable being the scale of each game. In the photo below, the ships on the left are from X-Wing and the ships on the right are from Armada. Additionally, the X-Wing ships represent just one ship on the battlefield, while the Armada ships represent an entire squadron of starfighters. So clearly we’re talking about different scales of battle here, and these different scales affect the feel and pacing of each game.

X-Wing attempts to simulate space battles between the small, nimble starfighters of the Star Wars universe. Think the Rebels’ X-Wings and Y-Wings versus the Empire’s many TIE Fighter variants or, if you need a movie reference, the final Death Star battle in A New Hope. Remember when the Death Star’s lasers were having trouble hitting the Rebel fighters and Darth Vader mustered a couple of pilots to “destroy them ship to ship”? That’s what we’re talking about with X-Wing. Everything is quick. It’s a game about outmaneuvering your opponent so you can take them out. In order to do so, you have to anticipate their movements and leverage the special abilities of your group of fighters. It really feels like you’re in a dogfight where one false move could result in the loss of one of your ships.

Armada, on the other hand, is a slower, deeper game. It’s all about pushing giant capital ships around the board and having them slug it out. This is a game that includes all of the awesome ships left out of X-Wing, like Star Destroyers and giant Rebel frigates. Here, the battles between fighters that take place in X-Wing are just a tiny blip on the map. There are still dials, but in Armada ships can have more than one dial and they determine a lot more than just movement. Want to use your squadrons early? Issue a squadron command from one of your capital ships. Want to move into the perfect firing position? Issue a navigate command. Going for the kill on your next attack? Issue a concentrate fire command and get another attack die. Just need to get your shields back up? Issue a repair command. There’s a lot more to manage in Armada and, thanks to multiple action dials per ship, planning is key. You see, the dials stack on top of each other and you only get to use the dial on top of the stack on your turn. So, unlike X-Wing, you need to think about what actions you’ll need down the road. It really helps make you feel like an admiral issuing commands to an entire fleet rather than just individual starfighter pilots doing their own thing.

And there you have it. There are the very, very basic differences between X-Wing and Armada, two very good Star Wars games. Interested in learning more? We have a ton of events each week related to these games:

  • Thursdays at 5:00 p.m. at our Bayshore location for X-Wing;
  • Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. at Greenfield for Armada;
  • Stick around Greenfield until 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays for X-Wing;
  • NEW! Wednesdays at 5:00 p.m. at Greenfield for X-Wing AND Armada!

All of these events are casual and very welcoming to new players. Check out our event calendar for more details. We hope to see you soon!


Brian K

Brian K was born the same year the Nintendo Entertainment System was released, so he's been a gamer all his life. When he's not working at the Bayshore store, he's busy teaching composition and working on his PhD at UW-Milwaukee. His favorite games include Escape: The Curse of the Temple, Pandemic and King of Tokyo.

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