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Subject: Armada - For Admiral Accountants rss

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Andrew Glassop
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Dubbo
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A general disclaimer: I prefer Eurogames or 'light wargames' such as Memoir '44 or Commands & Colors: Ancients. So if this game was meant for someone else (and I suspect it was) then you can add a pinch of salt to this review.

Wanting to get more 'serious' I embarked upon the good ship ebay.com.au, looking for likely games to make me a real gamer. Several were purchased, including said title Armada. Checking BGG lists I saw that it was termed 'unplayable' under the orginial rules, but not to worry as kind souls had posted updated rules that fixed all manner of bugs. I printed out all the files, counted the counters, hexed the hexes, and sat down to play a solo game. My family deserting me - something that may become more common I fear.

Setting up took an hour. Squinting at the armada (heh heh) of numbers on each tiny counter, I finally figured out where to place the counters that needed to be placed on the board, and settled down to play the first turn.

I began by using the English Allies, the Dutch Protestants and the Huguenot French, to inflict some casualties on the perfidious Catholics. I stacked units, counted combat stregnth, determined ratio, and rolled dice. And missed. Actually, this did not conern me. One of my complaints against Memoir was that it was usually pretty easy to hit stuff. the idea that battles would take some time impressed me. Eventually, one of the battles scored a hit (the mighty Huguenots) and enemy took a step loss. Now it was the time for the Spanish to respond. They extricated themselves from the English and moved en-mass towards the Dutch Ports. Again, misses more than hits but that was fine.

Ah, blood racing I moved onwards towaords the next phase of play. Consult the rules (both versions now, plus errata) and discover that having spilled blood on the fields of France I must now, COUNT COMBAT STRENGTH AND PAY FOR THEM. So - with eyes already straining - I was expected to unstack all units, add up their stengths, write this down, reduce it from my ducat treasury, and restack the units - on, might I add, very small hexes.

I gave in.

It was a humilating defeat for the French, Dutch, Spanish, English, SPI and, most importantly, me. I scooped all the counters into the tray, neatly folded the map, squeezed all the additional rules sheets into the box, and sighed, melodramatically, to no-one. I wanted to play a wargame where I had to fight, not manage the treasury outlays of a two small nations. I put it back on the shelf, poured myslef a small cordial, and considered where I had gone wrong.

First, although the combat was interesting, and you needed to be there for the long haul, there was not enough of it. Most of the game was going to be spent adding, subtracting, multiplying and imagining numbers. I'd given up and I hadn't even got a ship on the map yet - my heart could not take it. I had chosen the wrong game.

Second, the rules should have suggested that you should write down your total costs at the start, and then simply add or subtract from that. That might lessen the pain somewhat.

Third, for those of advancing years, it needs to be bigger. But short of scanning, enlarging, printing and glueing a new set of counters, that ain't going to happen.

So, I'm going to give it a few months, and then return to it. Perhaps the long winter nights will entice me to endure more.

But for now, its a pretty miserly game in terms of enjoyment.

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Tiggo Morrison
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Good review, poor game. You captured my sentiments almost exactly. I have never been back to this one.
 
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Chris Geggus
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Speaking as one who received it as an issue game from my original subscription to Strategy & Tactics, I will only say that you got further than I did. Admittedly I was trying to understand and make something of the original rules, but, if I remember correctly, I was so cheesed off that I did enough physical damage to the game that I couldn't even sell it off afterwards.

My recommendation would be to let rip and get some, albeit brief, vicarious pleasure in removing from the face of the world such utter crap as this alleged game undoubtably is.
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Richard Berg
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Bothering to "review" a 30 year-old game - especially one that is out of print - is a rather self-absorbed exercise to start. However, as noted - albeit in somewhat less than Dickensian language - the original version of "Armada" was pretty much a disaster on all levels. It is worthy to note, perhaps, that the game was redesigned and a 2nd edition, which worked a lot better but never caught the imagination - or interest - of the gaming public.

And i think that, if interested in seeing what historical boardgaming is all about, you would do yourself a big favor if you asked some of the regulars in that niche what they felt was a good game to take a look at . . . and letting them know what areas of history you like. You'll probably get a whole shipload of suggestions, but none of them will be this garbage scow. Like seeing what cars are like by buying a Yugo . . .

Lots to enjoy out there . . .give it another shot.

RHB
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Stewart Newman
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As stated, the second edition rules pretty much sewed up all the holes in the original. With that done, I found this a highly-enjoyable game. I loved the fact that you have multiple options in terms of overall strategy. As Spain, do you follow the historical route and send a mighty armada directly against southern England; or do you focus instead on supporting the Catholics in the French Religious Wars, while reclaiming the rebellious Dutch territories; or do you land in Ireland, build up there, then invade Scotland and Northern England and descend on London from the north, rallying the local Catholics to your banner as you go?

If you don't like any book-keeping in games, that's fair enough. It's not everyone's cup of tea. However it's not terribly arduous in this game and is, in fact, a core part of the system. You're not just pushing inexhaustible cardboard units around, you're managing (albeit in a relatively simple way) the military, political, economic and religious struggle in Western Europe during several key years towards the end of the 16th century. Again, if it's not a period/place you're interested in, fine.

(By the way, not sure I understand the reference in the review to 'two small countries'. England certainly was, but Spain was obviously a great world power).
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Robert Helbing
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What makes this game worthwhile is the way it depicts the interconnective nature of the Armada (Spain vs. England), the Eighty Years War (Spain vs. the Dutch), and the War of the Three Henries (French Catholics vs. French Protestants). King Philip II of Spain and Queen Elizabeth I of England faced multiple demands on their troops and their treasury. Managing the different conflicts simultaneously, choosing your preferred plan of action, and suffering the vagaries of fate all do a good job of putting you in the same shoes as your historical counterparts. Throw in some chrome (Irish Revolts, Treasure Fleets, shallow draft shipping, prevailing wind direction) and you capture a lot of flavor of the era. It's also a well-balanced, right-to-the-end player's competition.

It's not a great game, though. The land combat is bland, and the sea combat is puzzling and indecisive (odd because the game is named after one of the most decisive naval battles in history). The bookkeeping, while not any worse than point-keeping in Vinci, is still tedious. Armada would make a poor introduction for someone new to wargaming. I'd recommend Hannibal or Twilight Struggle. Armada will only appeal to someone with a strong interest in the period and the conflicts it models.

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Stewart Newman
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That's a very good point about the inter-connectedness Robert. And I agree that the land combat is a bit bland. On the sea combat though I don't think it's too far wrong. Historically the actual ship-to-ship fighting was indecisive. The English and Spanish fleets barely damaged each other during the running battle up the Channel. The campaign was decisive because of other factors (a poorly-planned rendezvous with Parma, the panic caused by the fireships and, of course, extremely adverse weather).

If the game were re-done though, I wouldn't like to see it over-loaded with extra rules. As you rightly point out Robert, one of the best things about it is the way the flavour of the era is so well captured by a fairly simple rules-set.
 
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Stewart Newman
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By the way, here's a link to an after action report from a few years ago, co-written by myself and my opponent: http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX?14@983.HXp6eb8wV04.16947707....

Might inspire others to give the game a try
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Andrew Glassop
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I have ordered Hannibal, but will have to wait a few months. I live in a small town in back blocks of the Australian country side, and the nearest game store is over five hours away, and the Australian dollar is comparable to kangaroo's gonads in value, so such purchases must be carefully regulated. Hence my reliance on Ebay, where I went through periods of insanity leading to the purchase of Armada.

At the same time I get Hannibal I should be getting Paths of Glory. Which one should I crack open first?
 
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Eamon Finnerty
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Go for Hannibal first but they are both great games. I own both but have not played Hannibal yet but it has great reviews and I think is simpler than POG. Of course they are both CDGs which can be difficult if you are playing solo. I get around it in POG by redealing the hands every time. I deal both sides a full hand. Look at the current side and play a card. Then look at the other hand and play a card. Before I play a card I deal a complete hand so I never know what the other side have. A bit long winded but I find it works.
 
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Andrew Glassop
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Thanks

I play Commands & Colors: Ancients solo using a variant of that, drawing two or three cards and only playing one. I also let each side keep one in hand for special occasions.

So now all I have to do is sit and wait (and play Balkan Storm: The Next War which I just got. Hopefully it will be more enjoyable.
 
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Patrick O'Halloran
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I had an enjoyable time playing, after much work (3 sets of rules - Origional, 2nd edition, and third party) and spreadsheet programming to monitor ducat costs. There are very stiff penalties for running out of ducats. Actually a good game for economics (and I am actually an economist!), but probabily not for everyone's taste. This game screams for a remake (much simplified accounting requirements).
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Andrew Glassop
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So if there is a niche market for economist gamers then Armada has it wrapped up! Actually, I really do sense there is a great game under there - and a fantastic part of history - but the ducat counting, even in the first turn, was too much for me.

If this turns your head as an economist, what other games are up there? I'm guessing that In the Year of the Dragon could be run perfectly through a spreadsheet analysing risk and return. Or do economists run towards the CRTs of ASL and its bretheren?
 
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Patrick O'Halloran
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Well, I try not to mix economics with my gaming. One is a profession, the other a hobby and interest. I really just loved the period and was willing to put up with the accounting aspects in order to simulate the period. I do not have too many other games with such high accounting/economics requirements except perhaps A World at War which makes Armada seem like child's play. I began playing wargames long before my interest in economics started. Indeed, I believe my interest in economics arose from my interest in national conflicts.
 
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Ross Menzies
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abeniman wrote:
So if there is a niche market for economist gamers then Armada has it wrapped up! Actually, I really do sense there is a great game under there - and a fantastic part of history - but the ducat counting, even in the first turn, was too much for me.

If this turns your head as an economist, what other games are up there? I'm guessing that In the Year of the Dragon could be run perfectly through a spreadsheet analysing risk and return. Or do economists run towards the CRTs of ASL and its bretheren?


Just to comment on a thread that's over 3 years old. Is very difficult to mount a reasonable strategic simulation of this period without it involving economics. In all cases the forces that nations could potentially raise were almost solely based on their ability to pay for them through an economics system (& I use the term lightly - there wasn't really much of a system) very different from the last century or so. Most contemporary accounts are preoccupied with money money money. A spreadsheet for Armada would be highly useful but.

Also just to mention RHB's comments - I don't think that there's anything self-absorbed about reviewing an old game any more than in making a critique of Casablanca. Art lasts forever & there will always be grounds for viewing through fresh eyes. Many old titles are played by people new to them & letting them know what to expect is a valuable service.
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Steve
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That's a very good point about the inter-connectedness Robert. And I agree that the land combat is a bit bland. On the sea combat though I don't think it's too far wrong. Historically the actual ship-to-ship fighting was indecisive. The English and Spanish fleets barely damaged each other during the running battle up the Channel. The campaign was decisive because of other factors (a poorly-planned rendezvous with Parma, the panic caused by the fireships and, of course, extremely adverse weather).

If the game were re-done though, I wouldn't like to see it over-loaded with extra rules. As you rightly point out Robert, one of the best things about it is the way the flavour of the era is so well captured by a fairly simple rules-set.

You do understand that neither side had much of any experience tactically with ships and guns. By the time you understand the rules to the game you will know what will work better than Drake did. They had to get very close to do enough damage fast enough to overwhelm the damage control parties. [Sailors could and did splice cut rigging and there were ways to plug holes in the hull.]

Most experts miss the fact that 4 Spanish warships (out of maybe 20 to 25) were lost in action. The 1st to an explosion caused by a disgruntled sailor and the 2nd by loss of steering control. The last 2 are the interesting ones. As a result of the Spanish running out of shot (= ammo), the English moved in much closer and pounded the Spanish warships. 2 were in such bad shape that they were abandoned in sinking condition. The experts say that they did not sink. I say they did. They drifted until they rested on the Channel bottom off Holland. It is not my fault that the water was shallow enough for the Dutch to go aboard and refloat them. In deeper water they would have sunk, so I count them as "sunk by enemy fire".
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Harvey Thomas
United Kingdom
Romsey
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I agree with this review. It is a tedious and annoying game not worth the effort. A real shame for what is an interesting war.
 
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Gus I
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I often tried to make this game work, now I just play Virgin Queen instead.
 
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