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Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands

Review of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands

Tiny Tina’s WonderlandsIf you’re a fan of Borderlands, or just looking for a good dungeon crawler to play, then Tiny Tina’s Wonderland is the game for you.

Although it may seem like a simple reskin of Borderlands 3, there are plenty of new features and improvements that make this game worth playing. The shooting and looting loop is as fun as ever, and the humor is much more consistent than in the previous game.

However, if you’re getting bored of Borderlands’ formula, then I wouldn’t recommend picking up Wonderlands. The structure of the game has barely changed since the original Borderlands, so it might not be what you’re looking for.

If the notion of a “What if Borderlands, but with D&D rules!” sounds strangely familiar, that’s because it does. Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep was a DLC expansion for Borderlands 2 based around the same concept, and this is a near-direct follow-up set after. In fact, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep: A Wonderland’s One-Shot Adventure has just been re-released as a standalone title. It doesn’t matter whether you play it or not; you’ll know what’s going on without playing it.

Of course, let’s start with the basics; Tiny Tina, along with two of her friends named Valentine and Frett, has crash-landed on a planet while waiting for rescue. Tina decides to bring out Bunkers & Badasses, a role-playing game with a lot of weapons that just happens to be set in the Wild West. Tina creates her own campaign in which you must fight the malevolent Dragon Lord, as voiced by Arnett, the voice of Batman from the Lego Batman movie, as a nameless rookie. How do we know he’s bad? He chops off the magnificent, most amazing, and prettiest pony’s head in all of existence: Queen Butt Stallion. The bad guy has to die clearly.

I had hoped that Wonderlands would be more edgy and dark in its humor, avoiding the subjects that the Borderlands series is known for. There’s always been a dark comedy lurking behind the fart jokes and insanity in Borderlands. Tiny Tina, for example, is a hilarious illustration of this; she’s a completely broken kid who had undergone an immense amount of trauma and wound up dealing with it by adopting a mad persona.

Game screen shot 01

Over time, the more tragic aspect of Tiny Tina has been pushed into the background, and in Wonderlands, it’s barely even addressed; nevertheless, despite the coarse humor, there are no curse words. That’s because, unlike all previous Borderlands games that have received an M rating, Wonderlands gets a Teen rating.

Let’s be honest here: an age rating on a video game doesn’t immediately improve the writing and humor. The idea of Wonderlands being rated Mature doesn’t make it any more funny, but it does limit the jokes somewhat. The writers themselves poke fun at it several times, noting that the hundreds of Pirates you encounter drink Soda, not rum. In my opinion, the game does not feel as much like a full-fledged Borderlands game as it does previous entries in the series. It also lacks some of the same trademark humor that has been characteristic of this franchise since its inception. With more cooperative play and less focus on exploring, Tiny Tina’s Wasted Potential is a far better fit for younger gamers than its predecessors were. As a long-time Borderlands fan, I did miss the black comedy and adult jokes in this release. The game is rude and crass, which was where much of my enthusiasm for it stems from.

But the good news is that despite the ESRB’s rating, the writing is far superior to Borderlands 3’s cringe-inducing efforts, although it still falls short of the highs set by its predecessors. The tone is lighthearted and enjoyable, and most of the jokes land favorably, however, there’s a feeling that the writers are just flinging joke after joke at you without giving you any rest. The story is also a little on the self-referential side, cramming in subtle and not-so-subtle references to just about everything from the Monkey Island games to role-playing clichés. It relies on it a little too much, though, forgetting that referring to anything isn’t humorous in and of itself.

Tiny Tina is in top form as the insane, erratic, and loud Bunker Master. Ashley Birch provides the voice of Tina once again, and her role as Aloy in Horizon: Forbidden West was somewhat flat. She puts everything into voicing Tina and would have fooled me if I hadn’t known beforehand that she was playing both parts.

Game screen shot 02

Tina is likely to be as divisive as ever. Her wild behavior, loudness, and tendency to end every statement with a YELL can be quite charming and amusing, or totally irritating. Her voice plays a crucial role in the Bunker Master’s job of narrating activities and even altering the planet in front of your eyes. If you found her annoying in the past games, you may wish to skip Wonderlands entirely or just lower the volume. However, if you’re one of the many people who find her distinct brand of insanity charming, this game is for you.

Valentine and Frett are secondary characters who appear in and out, parodies of D&D players. Although Valentine isn’t the brightest knife in the drawer, he is a fan of the idea of being a hero, and he is more guided by his emotions than Frett, the Robot. These two reconciling their two very different approaches provides a great lesson for all D&D players: there’s a time for rules and a time for winging it.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with Wonderland’s narrative, and I especially liked the Dragon Lord, who gets a lot of words and backstory. Arnett seems to be having a blast voicing the character, and it shines through in all of his lines. What I’m trying to say here is that the tale accomplishes its purpose; it provides a bare minimum of plot explanation for everything while also eliciting a chuckle or two, such as when Torgue violently destroys the entire ocean.

The artists and animators who have stretched their abilities and raided the color box appear to have benefitted from the D&D concept. The settings are vibrant, colorful, and full of fascinating views of ransacked pirate ships or villages that have been lifted into the air by a magic beanstalk. There are several interesting elements in the levels, as well as some enjoyable opponents. Enemy variety is insufficient for the game’s scope; basic skeletons make up the majority of it.

The game surprisingly ran well on my Ryzen 4800 and the aged but still kick-ass GTX 1080. I had everything turned up to maximum, and I didn’t notice any significant framerate drops. The only problem I encountered was stuttering in windowed mode, which the game would occasionally switch to when first starting it up.

This is a Borderlands game through and through, with all the same drawbacks and strengths as its predecessors. This ends up being just as much of a liability as it is a benefit because, on the one hand, the shooting is still lots of fun and the weapons feel fantastic to use. After that, you’re probably going to die a few thousand times over. It is highly unlikely that you will survive the entire campaign on your first try (or even attempt). But hey! You may still have fun with a game like this if you put in the effort, and I’ll show you how further on. What awaits during your journey through Unholy Heights? There are thousands of skeletons and pirates and other cannon fodder who will happily charge at you with all the intellect of a goldfish attempting to solve a math problem, eager to be shot down amid a barrage of colors, explosions, and special abilities. There are still mountains of guns to loot and analyze. There are still heaps of pop-culture nods, dumb jokes, and nonsense for you to read and chuckle with.

Given the plethora of fantasy cliches, I was a little disappointed that Gearbox stayed true to their guns. In fact. You could be fighting goblins, climbing beanstalks, and battling an evil Dragon Lord while wielding an assault rifle or a shotgun, in general. A few weapons get a little more glamorized, such as pistols with crossbow parts or a shotgun with a bubbling cauldron of crystals, but I believe there was much more space for Gearbox to go creative and embrace the fantasy element rather than sticking to the franchise’s usual style. A handheld trebuchet that shoots flails perhaps?

The guns are still enjoyable to use, and they’re well-balanced. There is no longer a way to improve weapons, so if you find something you like, it will certainly be discarded after an hour or two, but with so many different gun models shot at your face, you’ll undoubtedly discover something else to fill the huge hole in your heart. Then wielding that boomstick to kill stupid opponents is satisfying, stress-relieving fun.

The new spell system adds a little bit of variety to the mix by swapping out grenades for spells. You may loot a wide range of magic abilities, such as meteoric fireballs or intense auras, in this D&D reskin. It’s not like these additions provide much gameplay value; it’s simply another ability with a Cooldown. However, throwing out spells is still enjoyable, and when combined with your class’ specialty, it provides you with lots to do. If you pick the spell-casting class, you can really hurl magical projectiles quickly, and even equip two spells at once.

In terms of class distinction, things have gotten a few improvements, owing to the fact that you no longer pick a predetermined character with a fixed class. When creating your own custom character, you may select from six different classes, but you can also adopt a second class later on. It’s not feasible to max out both skill trees since you only have so many skill points available, but it’s a lot of fun to mix and match your skills. Then, near the end of the game, you may swap out the secondary skill tree at any time to play around with it. I really like this alteration to the system because it allows for a lot more experimenting and varied play styles in terms of whether you want to go after elemental damage or buff spells or concentrate on your companion dishing out more hurt.

There has also been an effort to improve the melee combat. You may now obtain new swords, hammers, and axes with their own characteristics and special perks, and the fighting skills have a slew of bonuses for hitting people in the face. Actually, I believe that constructing a totally melee build is feasible. However, that would be a pretty boring way to play because there’s just one button for striking things, so doing so for 15+ hours is probably going to get monotonous. Plus, in a series about stockpiling weapons like some sort of military dragon, why would you want to?

The strict adherence to the Borderlands game template is perhaps the most significant problem with this, as we saw in the first game and which has barely changed in the years since. It’s a little vexing that Gearbox hasn’t advanced their quest-making methods for decades, despite the fact that so many games have come and gone. The story’s writing team does a fantastic job of disguising the tasks with interesting themes or concepts, such as when Tiny Tina is attempting to complete a quest while Valentine and Frett are distracted by an unimportant NPC. These portions are fantastic, and most of the side missions are good, but I found myself growing bored with the same basic structure over and over again. There aren’t any. It would have been nice to include a few surprising pieces or turns to make things seem new and exciting, but there aren’t any. I get the impression that I had a good time playing Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, yet I can’t recall anything in particular.

The new overworld, like the previous games, is constructed similarly to that of classic D&D campaigns. It acts as a connecting link between all of the objectives and is full with ruins and dungeons to explore. Your character’s head becomes a bobblehead; there are shortcuts to discover and even a few abilities that allow you to return and access previously inaccessible locations or collect special loot dice that boost your chances of finding valuable gear. The new Combat Encounters are self-contained arenas full of monsters to fight, essentially condensing the whole Borderlands concept into a few rounds of combat. I enjoy some of the smaller overworld elements, such as fallen Cheetos serving as barriers or soda rivers that neatly convey the idea that the overworld is a genuine D&D map. It can’t be denied that the overworld adds nothing to the game in and of itself; after all, it’s just a hub world with a different camera angle – but I still appreciated its inclusion for what it was.

The shooting and looting in Borderlands have always been its two major pillars. The first game was advertised as containing “millions” of weapons, and that number has only increased thanks to the game’s ability to combine distinct parts to create new bullet-spewing equipment. Most of the time, this implies minor statistical variances and elemental properties, but it’s not uncommon for it to produce interesting results. There are also the new legendary items, such as a screaming Banshee blade or the Queen’s Crey, which can call frost meteors. Hunting down valuable loot, obtaining slightly superior gear that fits your build, and the thrill of a Legendary emerging from a chest are all as pleasurable, gratifying, and addicting as they’ve ever been.

However, when it comes to the rainbow showers of weapons, armors, abilities, and trinkets, I must confess that Borderlands has gone a bit too far. With the introduction of lootable spells, armor, and cosmetics there’s now more gear than ever before coming from foes and chests alike; all offering minute changes in stats. I soon found myself ignoring almost all of it, only pausing to investigate the purples and legendaries, and maybe the odd blue. The rest remained on the floor, like a carelessly discarded handful of Skittles destined to be thrown away. I don’t believe there will be that many die-hard fans who will go through every single drop, but I feel like the typical person would be similar to me and overlook the bulk of it, in order to save hundreds of hours of their life. Perhaps I’ll be alone with this viewpoint, but I think Gearbox needs to reel down the loot a little so that it starts to seem valuable again.

I’m really not a fan of how the game manages cosmetics. It’s nice that bad guys constantly drop new tattoo designs and colors for your custom character to use. However, it is aggravating to have them take up room in your inventory if you do not remember to go in and open them.  All this in mind, cosmetic collections are a waste of time and money. When you have hundreds or thousands of cosmetics, they take up a lot of room until you finally toss them out. It’s an ill-advised game design that takes away essential inventory space in a game all about hoarding things like a rampaging vacuum cleaner. The obvious answer is that cosmetics should be added straight to your collection. Simple, right?

It’ll take you 10-15 hours to finish the game, and if you want to complete the numerous side-quests and challenges that dot the overworld and major areas, it’s certainly going to be double that. There’s a decent amount of end-game content after that, in which you may participate in the Chaos Chamber fights. These are a sequence of arena fights against a variety of foes, with curses and blessings being picked up between rounds. A currency is gained during the journey that may be used to obtain loot, with new kinds of gear not seen in the rest of the game appearing along the way. It’s a fantastic method to extend gameplay time without detracting from the overall experience.

Conclusion

Borderlands 3 is a fantastic addition to the series, with more shooting and looting than ever before. Although there may be too much loot for some players, the game still offers an enjoyable experience that can last for dozens of hours. The end-game content is also well-done, providing extra challenges and rewards for players who want to keep playing after finishing the story. Whether you’re a fan of Borderlands or not, this game is sure to please.

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands
Overall rating: 3.5 star
Available On: PC, Playstation & Xbox
Developed By: Gearbox

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I saw The Last Jedi Monday night, over two full weeks after its release. Spoilers are ahead but you have already seen the movie. Shut up.

That fact alone should illustrate my level of enthusiasm for Star Wars movies. I wasn’t always like this. I was, like many people in their mid-40s in the year 2018, a passionate fan of the original Star Wars films. Perhaps it’s old(er) age, or perhaps the 2nd Lucas trilogy of episodes I-III were so deflating that they made me stop caring about Star Wars. If Lucas apparently didn’t understand why we loved the originals, what’s the point?

I admittedly was excited about Episode VII, The Force Awakens because, as sad as it id to say, Lucas wasn’t making it. Even that movie, which was universally praised as a return to “Star Wars being Star Wars” I was left feeling somewhat “meh.” Too silly, too jokey, too “wink wink Star Wars fans did you catch that reference we just made! We’re just like you!” It’s was the Big Bang Theory of Star Wars movies. It was also a remake of A New Hope and killing Han was and remains bullshit. You don’t KILL Indiana Jones, he always escapes. You don’t actually KILL Han Solo. You can make us think he’s dead, but you don’t KILL him unless it’s of old age…or maybe Greedo’s son shoots him in the back.

The Last Jedi was better than Force Awakens. I will give it that. But I have a lot of issues with this movie and not just as a Star Wars film. I stayed away from spoilers because I knew I would eventually see it. The only headline I saw was from Mark Hamill who said something to the effect of, “That it not my Luke Skywalker.”

Whoa. That could be really good or really bad, whatever it meant. Turns out, it was pretty damn good. What the film did with Luke was at first jarring — Luke Skywalker has turned into a bitter old man who is so massively depressed he wants to die alone on a rock with these cute little space penguins. Luke’s path makes sense and when you think about it, it makes a hell of a lot of sense. The ordeal of Episodes IV-VI would mind-fuck pretty much anyone, even a Jedi. Then when Luke fails training young Jedi, and fails Han and Leia’s kid, his mind snaps and he retreats into a self-hating mess. Maybe not the ideal Luke storyline, but I can get behind it. And Luke’s end game is also perfect. It’s the hero Resurrection story but without Luke going toe to toe with the dark Jedi. He uses his mind and slips away into Jedi peace-land. Really good.

Outside of the Luke stuff, The last Jedi did very little for me.

So apparently Rey is a super strong Jedi with no training whatsoever. Luke’s training consists of a few verbal warnings and the “reach out” technique. After that she can move rocks around like she’s Yoda. I guess her Midi-chlorian numbers are off the charts! Fucking Lucas. This bugged me in Force Awakens and bugs me even more after Last Jedi.

You can take a huge Rebel (sorry, Resistance) cruise ship, send it into a Star Destroyer at LIGHT SPEED and apparently the Destroyer can take that on the chin.

So if the tracker is on ONE Resistance ship, why not have everyone go to light speed in a different direction? “Ok team, you go here, you go here, you go here and they can’t follow ALL of us. Ready, break!”

So Leia was Wonder Woman all along? Her space flying scene was the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen in a Star Wars movie. When she got blown off the ship I looked at Mary and said, “Shit they actually killed Leia…and early.” Then she space walks like Buzz Aldrin back onto the ship. W.T.F. Do not fgive me her “Jedi powers.” No. Stop it. No. No.

Ok so this Snoke guy. What’s his deal? Oh, you don’t know either? I guess you just gotta have that Evil Emperor character and since Vader already tossed the original down the shaft, why not just invent a new one? Makes perfect sense to me. I also hate the First Order in general. Can we not get new bad guys? A new storyline that isn’t a recycle of shit we have already seen?

Ackbar goes out like that? Damn man that’s kinda harsh.

So I guess Finn and Rose take a trip to Space Monaco to kill some run time in the movie and make sure Finster gets his cameo. That entire sequence was a massive filler. This is all they could do with Finn? Total waste.

The more I thought about the movie, as well as Episode VII, I realized why I was so indifferent to these movies.

Timothy Zahn ruined this for me. Thanks Tim. What I wanted were Jedi twins, Mara Jade, Talon Karrde, Han & Lando, crazy hermit Jedi Joruus C’baoth, and Grand Admiral Fucking Thrawn.

That’s what I wanted. Impossible due to the age of the actors, I get it. But I will take Thrawn over Snoke/Emperor 2.0 any day.

Jumping the Shark Podcast: Final Collection (#247-#255)

Herein you will find links to every Jumping the Shark video gaming podcast posted in 2016 (newest first), wrapping up with our episode #255 finale. This year, JtS featured the vocal stylings of Todd Brakke (@toddsfoolery), Brandon Cackowski-Schnell (@misterbinky), Holly Green (@winnersusedrugs), and William Abner (@TheAbner). Show production, editing, and summaries alternate between Todd and Brandon.

This, very likely, is my final update of any kind to the NHS page. If I end up posting anything new going forward, the best place to find out about it will be via my Twitter or feed or my archival site at www.toddsfoolery.com. Thanks so much to all of you! —Todd

Episode 255
Released: 5/2/2016
Synopsis: Here we stand, at the end of all things. Or, at least the end of the Jumping the Shark podcast. For our finale, Bill rejoins Brandon, Holly, and Todd as we reminisce and engage in a bit of navel-gazing over our 255 episode run. We also wrap up with much chatter on Fallout 4: Far Harbor, Dark Souls III, Stellaris, Uncharted 4, Homeland, and games criticism in 2016.

Our warmest and sincerest thanks to all of you who have taken this journey with us. Catch ya later on down the trail.

— Bill, Brandon, Holly, and Todd

Episode 254
Released: 5/2/2016
Synopsis: This week Todd spends time with Steve Jackson’s Sorcery, Holly is back from PAX with tales of Lawbreakers and Battleborn, and Brandon is living the sequelized dream with tales of Ratchet & Clank and Bravely Second: End Layer.

Episode 253
Released: 4/3/2016
Synopsis: This week Holly plants many a crop in Stardew Valley, Brandon takes to the streets in The Division, and then he and Todd wrap up with a wholly opinion-netural (like) look at DC Murderverse, or as most know it, Batman v. Superman.

Episode 252
Released: 3/20/2016
Synopsis: This week Holly and Brandon run through the forest primeval in Far Cry: Primal while Todd languishes in pampered luxury in Cities: Skylines. He also drops some knowledge about Kingdom.

Episode 251
Released: 3/6/2016
Synopsis: The Brakke/Cackowski-Schnell Hour of Power returns this week as Todd fights for the future in XCOM 2, Brandon earns his Birthright in Fire Emblem, and there is much exploration of the delicate psyche of the Internet Outrage Machine as it pertains to the women of Ghostbusters, jealousy of all things Australian, and the International Date Line.

Episode 250
Released: 2/21/2016
Synopsis: This week it’s all Firewatch all the time as Holly, Todd and Brandon explore the wild, untamed wilderness of Firewatch. Danger! Mystery! Elks! Lovey-dovey bits! It’s all here and that’s just the intro! (Note: This is a spoiler-cast.)

Episode 249
Released: 2/7/2016
Synopsis: After more than a year away, spent sharing his basketball genius with the youth of America, the self-proclaimed straw that stirs the drink, Bill Abner, is back this week! He and Todd try not to stress out in the Darkest Dungon, Holly hopes Dark Dreams Don’t Die in D4, and Brandon finds Divinity in Original Sin: Enhanced Edition for the PS4. Along the way there’s also some Spelunky, Brandon’s extra special ranking of Assassin’s Creed games, and reflections on game industry burnout.

Episode 248
Released: 1/24/2016
Synopsis: This week Holly tools around in zombie dune buggies in the Dying Light DLC, Todd kills all of his crew members on the way to Mars in Tharsis, and Brandon navigates the rooftops and alleyways of Victorian London in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. They also make a lot of jokes about pee. You can ask, but you really don’t want to know.

Episode 247
Released: 1/10/2016
Synopsis: Holly, Todd, and Brandon ring in the new year by taking a look back at the gaming experiences that shaped our 2015, with a look ahead to what’s on our collective radar in 2016. We wrap-up with a bonus Life is Strange spoiler section with all of Holly’s thoughts about all things Max and Chloe.

Back to basics with X-Wing and Armada

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My wardrobe is full of spaceships. So many spaceships that there’s barely room for clothes. Most of them live in an enormous box which crushes my shirts out of all recognition when it’s squeezed in and out for play. It’s a good job I play with spaceships a lot more than I wear shirts.

Having a cupboard crammed with spaceships is awesome, but it’s also a little tiring. Each comes with cardboard and plastic that must be meticulously selected and laid out before playing. That was, up until recently, where most of the game was in x-wing, and that’s sad. What was sadder is how often I’d ruin the suspension of disbelief just to make a better list.

Take Poe Dameron. Poe’s an incredible fighter pilot, and it shows in his skills and abilities. He’s also an incredibly expensive fighter pilot that you’ll want to preserve to cause maximum carnage and deny the enemy victory points. So, given that his ability lets him benefit from focus tokens without spending them, it makes sense to give his ship an astromech droid which can spend the token to regenerate shields. Right?

Of course it does. Poe with R5-P9 is a great combo that I’ve seen used to great effect in many games. It’s also completely and utterly wrong.

You’ve seen The Force Awakens. You know that Poe would never take to space without his beloved BB-8 and focus tokens be dammed. So, with the Force Awakens base set for X-Wing and one each of the existing expansion models, that’s exactly what I did. I flew Poe as he’d want to be flown. With BB-8 on board, a rookie wingman, and nothing else.

They ran into an ambush on the wingman’s training flight. Three members of the First Order’s Omega Squadron and their fearsome ace. Similarly unequipped with any modifications. The TIE f/o’s caught them in an ambush and smashed down the rookie’s shields with a volley of plasma fire, before smartly executing a k-turn and coming back in for the kill.

Poe screwed up. He panicked, and no matter how much he weaved and used BB-8 to barrel roll, he could barely make it into the fight beyond a couple of stray bolts. The rookie, meanwhile, took a deep breath, concentrated on the force and flew straight and true into the heart of the enemy swam.

When the dust cleared, only Omega leader was left flying and the rookie, his hull hanging together with prayers and sticky tape, joined up with Poe and caught the wicked ace in a murderous crossfire. Game over.

It was simple. It was fast. And it was brilliant.

Armada had the same feeling of freshness when it was first released. That’s part of what I liked about it: a rich, epic game that played in a couple of hours and didn’t need lots of pre-prep work. What mattered were the decisions you made on the table, more than the ones you made beforehand. Wave 1 didn’t overburden that dynamic too much, and the game did need a few more ships.

So now we’ve got wave 2 and so far I’ve picked up the rebel releases. How could I not, with Admiral Ackbar coming in the Home One expansion and giving me the chance to shout “it’s a trap” when my fleet came into contact with the enemy? Plus, Home one and the MC30 rebel frigate are sweeting looking models. The Frigate also promises to bring some much-needed black dice firepower to the Rebel side. I still haven’t tamed my inner wargamer enough to resist pre-painted plastics.

Throw in the Rogues and Villains expansion and you’ve got a plethora of ships to play with. And that, for the moment, is all I care about. So I’ve started doing the same there – forgoing lots of detailed upgrades in favour of a fleet commander, a couple of capital ships and a few characters and fighter wings.

It’s hard to leave out Han and the Falcon when you’ve got them in your collection. You can even take the little plastic ship off its stand and perch above the bridge of a Star Destroyer if you’re a real geek.

The first time I ran a list like this was against someone who’d tooled up with upgrades just like usual. Because there’s still not a fleet builder for Armada that actually prints the card effects on the output sheet, it took a while to get set up. I’d seized on the concept of using Garm Bel Iblis and just taking as many ships as I could, to maximise my free tokens. It seemed like a good plan. It wasn’t.

In truth, it was a massacre. I didn’t play well, treating it more like X-Wing and going in all guns blazing than the more thoughtful approach required for Armada, but even so, I don’t think I took out a single Imperial big ship. Upgrades, it seems, are more important in Armada than they are in X-Wing. Which makes the lack of a fully-featured fleet builder all the more annoying.

Such an awful loss was partly down to an unfortunate feature of Armada that I don’t think I’ve spotted before. With the range ruler literally allowing handfuls more dice to be thrown between range steps, tiny distances can make a big difference in the outcome. His Gladiator-class Star Destroyer was in black dice range on a critical turn, and my MC30 wasn’t. If the opposite had been true, it might have been a very different outcome.

Frankly, I stopped playing miniature games to get away from exactly this sort of thing. But I like Armada too much to hold that against it. So next time, I think I might make both lists. Hang the upgrades and just take Akbar and Home One squaring off against some big Star Destroyers and squadrons, just like the denouement of Return of the Jedi. I’ll get to shout “it’s a trap!”, and I’d urge you all to do the same.