I didn't actually need the mat, but it received a lot of attention and favourable oohs and aaah's. Stuart had brought his 6'x3' mat and as there was five of us, three never having played the game before, we went for the larger battlefield. I have mentioned before Stuart has everything and sure enough he not only turned up with the Armada starter set, but a bucket load of new squadrons, a new large ship and all the cards ensconced in neat protective sleeves, he had even built a card dispenser!
Simon and Stuart took the Imperials, two star destroyers (Victory and Gladiator classes) with attendant escorts of Tie squadrons while we rookies had two frigates (Nebulon and Assault MkII) and a corvette (Corellian) protected by X-Wing formations. I was opposite the large Victory type while my companions were up against the Gladiator, I signalled desperately at the beginning for help from the Corellian but the Imperials must have been jamming our comms. Despite being heavily outgunned my little "Star Rose" took on the giant while my X-wings also made for the large target, our opening salvoes hit the Victory hard and her engineering crews were run ragged repairing and adjusting her shields, torpedoes from my escorts also hit her.
Sadly the Victory now began to find the range, my ship's shields disintegrated and the hull began to suffer, my X-Wings could not shake off the Tie's for another torpedo launch. With a resounding crunch both ships hit each other, metal squealed and buckled as I desperately tried to break away, it was no good, I was hit by a full broadside and the "Star Rose" shattered into a million pieces.
At the other end of the galaxy the Gladiator had spent most of her time fending off numerous X-Wing squadrons while the unwieldy Rebel large ships tried to catch her, the Corellian had dropped out to repair shields but took so long that she was miles away when the "Rose" went up.
What was the game really like? It is a well polished product as you would expect from FFG, the ships are lovely and definitely evoke the movies, the small squadrons I think would benefit from a paint job, no matter how it is done, but they really need a splash of colour somewhere or at the very least an ink wash. The mechanics of the game are simple but elegant, there is a lot to remember and I found it a bit overwhelming at first even though we only played at beginners level and left out the specialist cards, after a few turns however it became much easier.
The game consists of only six turns and normally you choose objectives for the game, we didn't do that but I like the idea as opposed to a pointless dogfight and look forward to trying it. I have to admit I feel it is a bit pricey, however to offset this you do get a lot for your money, the ships, rulers, tokens, dice, cards etc. FFG certainly don't scrimp on the extras.
The game is not X-Wing with bigger ships, it can stand on its own two feet, I think if you like X-Wing but are not into the razzmatazz that goes with the tournament scene and merely want to lose yourself in the Star Wars world, then this is probably a better bet. It really is a very clever game.