In the halcyon days of summer 2017, the Wyrd Stones and Tackle Zones crew reunited for a gaming weekend in Austin, TX. One of the top-billed games we played was Games Workshop’s classic Man O’ War. We had a blast and I’ve been looking for a way to get that same gaming experience ever since. In late 2020, Mantic Games released Armada, a naval combat game set in their Kings of War universe. Some local gaming buddies jumped on the bandwagon and I took the plunge too.
The game has released with four factions so far: Basileans (holy warrior human types), orcs, dwarves and a pharaonic flavor of undead. The undead just released, so at the time I had to choose between only three factions. My buddies were splitting a starter set so that left me with dwarves.
“Wait a second?” you ask. “Dwarves? Casey playing dwarves? This is an affront to elves everywhere!” You would be right to wonder why I would play the stunty bearded-ones, but I have a secret to confess. I’ve only recent switched sides in the War of the Beard, and for a long time, I was a big fan of dwarves, so this project has been more about getting back to my roots than anything else.
I ordered a starter fleet and expansion fleet from Mantic. All the ships in the line are resin so far, the casting was pretty good with little flash, although I did have one little cannon break. The dwarf ships are pretty easy to assembly thankfully as there are no masts to glue on or paint. This makes them a bit more durable than the other models in the range, except I have broken one or two of the tiny cannons with my clumsy fingers.
As you can see the dwarf ships are steam powered as they so often are in a fantasy setting. In the game this means they don’t care so much about the direction of the wind and can plow forward straight into it if you so desire. They only have medium-size and small-size ships so far, while another bigger ship has been revealed but yet to release.
The keen-eyed among you will notice that one ship doesn’t look like the others. One of my friends also bought a couple copies of Dreadfleet with the intention of using some of the ships in the game and for the plastic terrain. The dwarf ship from Dreadfleet scales perfectly with the Mantic ships and it fits on the medium-sized base just like the rest of the dwarf ships. I write off the difference in appearance by saying it’s either a prototype model or an older model that is still in service of the fleet. Because it’s size and that the dwarf fleet is mostly ships of the same size I can proxy it as a variety of ship types, which is a great bonus!
The bases are acrylic bases that Mantic sells. They are a bit pricey and they send you an assortment of sizes, most of which I don’t need. I normally cheap out and make own bases, but I decided to splurge for a change and the sake of simplicity.
I also painted up some of the Dreadfleet terrain for our gaming group supplied by the aforementioned friend. One is a bigger island with a castle on it, three feature shipwrecks which I have painted the sails in the colors of the Basilean player’s ships, and I did three wrecked dwarf ships which I painted in my own colors. Unfortunately I already returned the dwarf wrecks to their owner so they didn’t make the photoshoot, but I still have a finished pic from my worktable.
I’ve managed to play two games so far, once against orcs and the second time against the humans. In fact, I even have a little bonus match report for you!
We played 250 points Dwarfs vs Basileans. I had 7 ships with several upgrades scattered across my ships, my opponent had 8 ships with some upgrades spread across his ships. We played a treasure hunt scenario. There were two islands on the map and at the end of the turn any small or tiny ships within 3″ of the island collected three loot tokens and any medium size ships or bigger within 5″ of the island got one loot token. The small and tiny ships are supposed to then ferry their loot tokens over to bigger ships, as at the end of the game only look tokens on the bigger ships counted for victory points, but we didn’t realize this.Our ships deployed in opposite corners of the map, so the first couple turns were spent making way toward the islands and preparing to engage.
I managed to “Cross the T” a couple times during the game, as well as have my “T” get “crossed.” This is starting to sound naughty, but I assure you it’s nautical. In the early stages of the game my ships were taking a real beating. This big ship was my opponents named ship with a special character on board and some more upgrades. That ship is also from Dreadfleet but it scales well with the Basilean ships too.
Then I got lucky and managed a critical hit on it which started a fire onboard. When a ship is on fire it takes some automatic damage but then you have to roll a d10 to see if the fire spreads. On a 1 the fire reaches the ammunition and the ship explodes. You can take a special action to try and put out the fire which will prevent you from exploding even if you roll a 1. But you can’t fire any weapons when you do this because it’s all hands on deck. My buddy was thinking about lining up some juicy shots which would have probably destroyed a ship or two so he decided to risk it. He rolled a one. Boom! The following turn I managed to sink two more of his ships, so despite starting strong the game had turned on him. We got VPs for the loot counters on the bigger surviving ships and VPs for destroying enemy ships. The game ended 17-5, a crushing dwarf victory.
It’s a fun game. From the two games I’ve played so far the game has an ebb and flow to it. The first couple turns are about positioning and closing with the enemy, then the middle turns take the longest because there’s lots of ships firing and moving and then in the late game the ships are drifting apart and repositioning again. It’s in the later part of the game where the dwarves ability to sail into the wind becomes a big factor.