This is part two of the Separatist Fleet unboxing project at Goonhammer GmbH headquarters (my apartment). It’s time for the big boats.
Behemoths – “This is getting out of hand. Now there are two of them.”
First-off, my thanks to Atomic Mass Games, who sent the Separatist Alliance Fleet Starter, Recusant-class Destroyer Expansion Pack, and Separatist Fighter Squadrons Expansion Pack for review. I paired this with an Invisible Hand Expansion Pack that I purchased and I’ve been getting acquainted with the whole faction.
Beyond the Fleet Starter and a squadron pack reviewed earlier, the meat of the Separatist Alliance exits hyperspace hard and fast. Their ship roster skews heavy, with half of the four hulls being large ships. Yet, there is… nuance. The two ships vastly differ in characteristics and roles. The one you pick may end up defining the fleet.
- + Flexible and durable
- + Good combatant or battlecarrier
- + Strong double-arc when using front and side batteries
- + Decent manoeuvrability and good top speed
- Side batteries are slightly stronger, but well-balanced firepower
- – Weak side shields
- – Expensive to fit (in points)
- + Mobile attack ship
- + Excellent manoeuvrability at high speed
- + Powerful and attainable double-arcs
- + Cheap (for its size)
- Stronger forward firepower supported by a wide front arc
- – Easily over-extends
- – Made of paper
That should guide the basic decision-making of which ship to add to a collection. I ended up with both, because Armada players are notoriously reasonable and decisive people.
Unboxing – “What’s in the box?!”
The ships are presented in the usual display packaging. The model is gently wedged inside a plastic housing that pulls triple-duty for showing it off, supporting the box, and protecting the product. Armada packaging normally has a fair amount of empty space because the boxes are sized for the largest rigid item: punch-out cards.
I will also summarise the word about dials from the previous article. But the short version is, you don’t get exactly everything needed to put these ships on the table right out of the box. The speed and command dials needed to play with the ship are packaged in the Fleet Starter, and sold separately. This is basically… okay, because the Fleet Starter contains important list-building and playing essentials and excess dials anyway. It’s important to note, though.
Invisible Hand Expansion Pack
The Providence is the infamous flagship of General Grievous and numerous other Separatist admirals. It slots into the roster as a flexible, large warship. It’s your pick of frontline fighter or battlecarrier, rendered in its Episode III glory.
The two variants in the box are the Dreadnought and Carrier. Oddly, the names are inverted in comparison to the characteristics of each hull. The Dreadnought’s Weapon Team slot opens up fantastic carrier opportunities, and the Carrier’s Defensive Retrofit and Fleet Command slot make it look purpose-built for frontline work. Fit your ‘Dreadnought’ as a carrier and fit your ‘Carrier’ as a battleship and you’ll be fine.
The Providence model is one of the best Armada models I’ve ever opened. The pre-painted scheme is of a higher detail than the very early models from 2015. The striped grey hull is dotted with detail and surface markings are not misaligned. This one is much better than the Republic Venator, which has a notorious issue with misaligned markings.
It is otherwise a dark and imposing model that fits the scale of Armada really well. The spindly structure leading up to the observation deck feel sturdy enough to handle anything except perhaps a direct landing from height. Unlike the actual Invisible Hand, yours is much less likely to snap in half and crash-land.
General Grievous needs little introduction, and his classically vicious personality is reflected in his special ability. When Grievous commands your fleets, friendly squadron losses can be used to restore your fleet’s defences. This encourages a spammy squadron playstyle that leans hard on Vultures and aggression.
Admiral Trench is a cyborg tarantula with an attitude problem. As a fleet commander, he loads up four commands that he can supercharge during chosen rounds, provided your ships only spend a command token to resolve that command. If they do so, their command gets supercharged to the strength of a dial + token, which is the strongest version of that command. Trench draws comparisons to Thrawn for the amount of foresight needed to bring out high-powered commands.
The Providence titles are really interesting, but not a must-have. Invincible is the simplest one: get an extra Defensive Retrofit slot. The cost is high due to paying for Invincible, the upgrade card, and spending the title slot. But if you pay up, the ship gets up-tanked in unexpected ways, Minister Tua style.
Lucid Voice is for people obsessed with Salvo builds. It modifies the ‘printed battery armament’ of the ship, which improves the ship’s Salvo range by a lot. Swapping out one of your side blue dice for a black die is either an unfortunate cost of your better Salvo, or a new opportunity to use the Ordnance upgrade slot. Depends on who you ask. Another expensive title that could define your build.
Grievous’ Invisible Hand is probably the worst title in this box. It’s fabulously expensive and requires a lot of additional investment in fighters. Hypothetically, it’s a supercharged Rapid Launch Bays that shields your fighters in the flagship before disgorging them in an alpha strike. In reality, it’s comically expensive, eats your board control, and is situationally effective. It’s an upgrade for narrative play, but isn’t meaningfully effective in a competitive matchup.
My other favourite upgrades from the box are Jedi Hostage, Thermal Shields, and Point Defense Ion Cannons. I’ve called out Thermal Shields and Point Defense Ion Cannons before, because they’ve shaken up defensive play in Armada. Thermal Shields are unique to Clone Wars era ships and let you pinch up to half the dice from your opponent’s hand before they roll to attack you. It’s as dirty as it sounds. Point Defense Ion Cannons give a rock-solid defensive option to a slot that is normally reserved for specialised offensive use. My flagships rarely leave home without it.
I’ve singled out Jedi Hostage as an example of really fun game design. It mixes narrative into interesting gameplay. See, the story here is that you’ve kidnapped a jedi, and your commander is taunting the opposing fleet with the captive. For whatever reason, they want the hostage alive, so they have to attack your ship more cautiously. When they attack the hostage-carrying ship, they get disrupted by a Raid token. To counter this, the opponent can launch a ‘rescue’ by discarding a squadron command into your ship. This results in an angry jedi running around your ship and ripping its guts out. Which is represented as a nasty defensive debuff.
Is it effective? Depends. It’s a staple for TF-1726 fleets. But it’s so fun.
Recusant-class Destroyer Expansion Pack
This is the Separatist glass cannon extraordinaire. Not since the MC80 Liberty have we seen a ship fly this dangerously. Its most prominent appearances in Revenge of the Sith were a background flyby, and another that crashed into an allied Munificent. Flattering.
The box comes with two Recusant variants to pick from. The Light Destroyer is cheaper and better optimised for frontline combat. This is the default Recusant hull. The Support Destroyer is slightly more expensive and brings improved squadron command and upgrade space for carrier work. Its inherent frailty means that the Recusant never replaces other ships as your fleet carrier, but there’s the option to flex into fighter command between salvos.
The Recusant exemplifies the alien Separatist ship design that draws many players to the faction. Instead of familiar straight edges and triangular configurations that sci-fi viewers associate with down-to-Earth human designs, we get ridged slopes and a long hull. It’s less beetle-like than a Munificent, but spindlier.
The long and visibly vulnerable thin section of hull between the main hull and engines reminds me of the Nebulon-B and its habit of snapping in half under fire. It speaks to the Separatist fleet being an ad hoc arrangement largely assembled from peacetime thinking, rather than a dedicated battlefleet like the Republic.
Despite the almost delicate appearance, it is durable. Armada models are made of a slightly harder plastic than model kits because they’re pre-assembled. The model has enough flex to not snap under pressure, but it won’t fail catastrophically unless you drop it from a tremendous height or it lands on a fragile part. Aside from enjoying the design, I adore the Recusant’s smaller footprint for storage.
Mar Tuuk is one of the Separatists’ finest. His ability is actually quite simple once you figure it out, and very consistently useful. I explored his use in more detail here, but he’s just an easy way to add firepower to your ship attacks.
TF-1726 doesn’t work as quickly out of the box. He relies on the placement of Raid tokens to drastically increase damage from your anti-ship attacks. That means building the fleet with an eye toward depositing raid tokens. This requires more setup, but is equally rewarded with eye-watering damage output.
As is typical with recent releases, every title card is useful. There are no Dominators here. Gilded Aegis expends your Redirect token for maximum shields on a facing of your choice. Impeccable for surviving major fire, especially if you use General Grievous to restore the token. Nova Defiant is a peak performance command token storage box for a faction that needs those tokens to trigger valuable effects. Best used with a plan to spend those tokens. Patriot Fist is a sort of… new player insurance/consolation prize card. It adds a strong two blue dice to an attack as long as you forego your second attack of the round. It’s worthwhile if you missed a double arc, or can use it to finish off a major threat. Strangely, it doesn’t work in short-range, so this one might find its way onto your less aggressive Support Destroyer Recusants.
The two best officers in this box are Shu Mai and Passel Argente. Both of them reward forward planning in different ways. Shu Mai designates two non-consecutive rounds during which you will have awesome re-rolls – should be easy in a fast attack ship. Passel Argente requires spending different commands for the first four rounds, and then feeds you a free extra dial for the last two rounds of the game. Passel Argente is a better fit on the Providence that can really use the Squadron dial and bonus dial, but he has immense utility if you get the ability to work.
I also must shout out the DBY-827s and Flak Guns included with the Recusant. Nobody is trying very hard to build a Salvo Recusant, but these two upgrades are the foundation of peak performance Salvo builds. Consider the Providence a prime candidate for these upgrades.
Thoughts – “Guess I’m the commander now.”
The joy of cracking into big Armada ships can’t really be understated. Everything just comes out of the box comfortably. It’s both the joy of gradually building a collection of ships and cards, and the wargaming novelty of new toys!
Both of the Separatist Alliance’s large offerings are strong contenders. They’re distinct enough that their roles never fully overlap. Even a carrier-fitted Recusant will never steal the spotlight from a Providence in the same role. They each offer their own enjoyments in a game with very solid balance. It’s just a treat that some of the latest Armada releases were also some of the best.
The more I analyse the two ships, the simpler the selection becomes. If you want versatility, get a Providence. If you want glass cannon chaos, it’s the Recusant all the way. The surplus of large ships in the Separatist roster really gives them an edge that no other faction quite has. The opposition should always be mindful of these major threats and is forced to prepare for the different fittings that they can face..
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