Game Day: Noble Armada

A tabletop view of two fleets moving to engage.
Two fleets face off in Noble Armada. Credit: Ken Newquist

The Blackrazors’ annual holiday hiatus will come to an end in a hail of laser fire and missile explosions as we play A Call to Arms: Noble Armada. The Fading Suns-themed successor to Mongoose Publishing’s Babylon 5: A Call to Arms starship battle is fast, fun and often brutal.

It faithfully recreates Wrath of Khan-style slugfests between ships of the line, with the initial weathering of the ship’s shields and hull, and then punch through into critical systems. We’ve had fun in our first three playtests, and I expect more of the same tonight.

This time around we’re introducing a new player, and I want to mix things up by introducing something additional mechanics, specifically space debris. While we’ve had a good time heeding Admiral Nelson’s advice of “Damn the maneuvers, just go straight at ’em!”, adding asteroids and the like gives you a chance to do something a little more complex.

The Call to Arms: Noble Armada rulebook includes a number of scenarios, as well as a campaign generator, but since we have a new player tonight, we’re going to hold off on using them. The scenarios provide set starting points and victory conditions, but most are scaled for two players. Instead, I’m going to toss a few space rocks on the board, and see how it works out.

My ultimate goal – if I can ever get my work schedule to return to something resembling normal – is to fight a proper campaign with a small group of friends. I’d like to schedule twice-a-month sessions where we can battle it out for control of a star system. I’ve already created the system, so it’s really just a question of coming up with the time.

I’ve assembled two 500-point fleets for the event; one for me, one for our guest player. I’ve statted them out below for the curious.

Patrol Group Ghost

  • 2 Odyssey-class explorer (@ 50 points each)
  • 2 Spider-class frigates (@ 100 points)
  • 1 Efreet-class destroyer (@ 180 points)
  • Note: All ships have crew quality 4

Task Force Ghost (480 points) is an al-Malik recon group is led by the Efreet-class destroyer Fire Wraith, and supported by two Spider-class frigates, Wolf and Sting. The force is rounded out by two Odyssey-class explorers, Ulysses and Olympus, which serve a crucial role in identifying and targeting enemy threats,

In a fight, the al-Malik Ghost patrol force relies on its scouts to seize and hold initiative. It then beings to close with the enemy, peppering opponents with long range missile fire (range 28) . The scouts augment the main force by using their “redirect attack” ability to cause missed attack die to be re-rolled. Once they close, the ships open up with their rocket batteries (range 20). The al-Malik ships don’t try and get too close; once they are within range of their missile launchers they maneuver to keep the enemy’s at an optimal distance (approximately 15”-28” in game terms.

Patrol Group Death’s Head

  • 1 Stalker-class explorer (@ 60 points)
  • 2 Scorpion-class frigates (@ 100 points)
    • 2 Elite Troops (at 2 points)
  • 1 Manticore-class destroyer (@ 180 points each)
    • 10 Elite Troops (at 2 points each)
  • Note: All ships have Crew Quality 4

Patrol Group Death’s Head (496 points) is led by the Manticore-class destroyer Medusa. It is joined by two Scorpion-class frigates — Scorpious and Deathstalker – and a single fast-moving Stalker-class explorer, Lion.

When on patrol, the Lion serves as a recon ship for the rest of the force. She runs along side the pack and provides targeting reports for the rest of the fleet. The fleet in turn uses these to re-roll missed attacks as they attempt to close with their enemies.

In full engagements with comparable enemies, the task force stays close together. The task force rarely splits up, instead focusing on a particular ship or group rather than split up and try to chase opponents all over the map. Expert hand-to-hand combatants, the Hazat attempt to board and capture ships (glory to the swordsman!) whenever possible.

After Action Report

A Call To Arms went off well. We fought two fleets — Damon with his Hawkwood fleet, I with my Hazat. Our friend Lance watched and read up on the rules, which was more fun than you might imagine. Of course we hadn’t hung out for a few weeks, so it was nice just to have an excuse to chat and drink a beer or two, but the combat itself was a heck of a lot of fun. Things were evenly matched for much of the fight — Damon blew up my scout, then I took out one of his destroyers.

His troop transport closed with one of my frigates, and a fierce melee broke out. My troops failed to take his ship, and then fell back to mine. Meanwhile he sent a contingent of troops over to my vessel, and while I subsequently blew up his transport, the troops he’s sent to my frigate won the day and took my ship. The big turning point, however, was when his destroyer opened up on mine, and landed three critical hits, two against my engines. Things quickly went down hill from there, as Damon landed several more crits, ravaging the ship’s internal systems and leading directly to her destruction with all hands.

It was a brutal way to end the fight: while one of my frigates was able to get away, Damon destroyed my flagship and captured my other frigate. It was a hell of a battle, and even though I lost I had a lot of fun losing.

Lance was sold on the game, even without playing, and intends to get a fleet. The question now becomes … when can we play? We have four players, and I’m thinking that setting up some sort of round-robin campaign is the way to go, with all four of us vying for control of a star system. We could alway have two allied fleets facing off against one another, but the round robin approach might give us a little more flexibility. We’ll see how it goes.

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