Battlefleet Gothic VS SW:Armada

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Battlefleet Gothic and Star Wars: Armada are two of the best  sci-fi fleet combat games ever. How do they stack up against each other?

There is not a particular lack of sci-fi fleet combat miniature games out there. Many games have tackled the subject, featuring great fleets from a host of backgrounds clashing amid the stars. From Star Fleet Battles, to Firestorm Armada, to Saganami Island Tactical Simulator and many more the subject has been covered. However, only a few of these games have left a wide mark, and have seen widespread popularity. The two best, and most likely most popular, out of this genre are Battlefleet Gothic (BFG) from Games Workshop and Star Wars: Armada from Fantasy Flight Games. These are two games, that have a wide spread following and present good solid rules. BFG, which came out in 1999 has lost most of its company support, but retains a following among players, while Armada is a new and still growing game.

But how to these two games stack up against each other, and which one is the better game? Let’s find out.

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It’s a sliding scale.. 

The Similarities

In many ways BFG and Armada are very similar games. Both feature players using points to buy fleets of starships and using them in battles. Both are focused on the use of heavy capital ships but include some elements of fighter combat. Both allow degrees of customization of your ships and battle lists. Armada and BFG also both utilize a group of special commands you can give to you ships to make them, move better, or more survivable, or use fighters better. At a more conceptual level both games are really about maneuver and the clever placement of ships, rather than brute force attacks. Both also feature an empire and those rebelling against it. But while they have some common points, the differences are myriad.

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Empires that just loooove massive pointy spaceships.

Rules: Depth vs Streamlined

On the whole BFG presents a more in depth set of rules than Armada does. In part this is simply because a lot of Armada’s rules and complexities come into play with individual cards and how they interact with the game and each other. But even with all that, BFG had more depth, from rules for boarding and teleport attacks, to persistent torpedoes and ship leadership. BFG had a host of features that Armada does not. Even in most of the areas both games had rules covering the same things, BFG had more depth. Shooting and ramming for instance, were more complex actions in BFG. Only when it comes to Squadrons does Armada really beat BFG’s depth. The Armada rule book is 24 pages, BFG using 48 of its main book’s pages to cover the core rules.

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No gunnery tables here…

Depth however is not always a good thing. BFG has a lot more rules, a lot more dice rolling. It’s a harder game to get into and normally takes longer to play. Many of the rules are also either unclear or unnecessary. Many of them also need a lot of tracking, there is no simple mechanic like damage cards or dials, everything has to be marked down or kept track off. I know for instance in most of my local groups we stopped using the blast markers, keeping track of them was just too much work. To some degree Depth, or complexity vs streamlined, or simplistic, are a matter of personal preference. But I think it’s pretty fair to say that Armada is an easier game to get into.

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Like the Sarlacc it is harder to get out of

Customized Vs Personalized

In Armada your fleets have a great ability to be customized and tailored to fit your likes. You are presented with a number of bare bones ships and are allowed to add upgrades, commanders and titles to them as you like. Each fleet, and each ship can be customized in an nearly infinite number of ways. This leads to a great amount of freedom and variety in lists and the game in general. This level of customization is one of the major selling points of Armada and a great strength in the game.

In contrast BFG does not have much customization. Yes you get to build your fleets, and you get some freedom in that, you get very little choice in outfitting or upgrading ships. Some ships, have a handful of options, one or two maybe, but my Dictator Class Cruiser is going to be the same as both Bill and Tammy’s. On the other hand, BFG has a high level of personification via hobby. One aspect of this is that you have to build and paint your own models. So despite what the rules and stats say my Dictator IS in fact different from everyone else’s. This idea is born out through the game system, players are encouraged to name their ships and commander, to build up histories and backgrounds, to make their ships and fleets their own. This is something that Armada lacks.

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Unpainted gray is my personalized choice! 

Linked Play Vs Organized Play

Currently Armada doesn’t have a campaign system, while BFG has a decent one. BFG is in a fact a great game to play out a large scale story with. A large part of this goes back to my previous point about personification. It is also easy to build a liked series of games, using just BFG or combining it was 40K, or even more esoteric games like Epic. Armada doesn’t really have that option yet, though hopefully that will have changed somewhat by the end of the year via the Correlian Conflict campaign expansion. On the flip side Armada is a much better game for competitive organized play and already has a great system set up for that.

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Armada lacks anything as crazy as the Orks

Using the Fluff vs Being Used By It

BFG does a stellar job of using the Warhammer 40k fluff. From its rule book to its ships every inch of the game is imbued with the grimdark feel we know and love. The rules themselves reflect the fluffy well and feel dark and heavy and a bit mad. Each ship is present with background on it, each navy has information and each scenario has a reason. Armada does not do as good a job. While the Star Wars fluff is just as rich as 40ks, Armada does not use it very well. The fluff does shine through in the models, names and art used, and even the rules have a good Star Wars feel about them. Other than that though, there is little fluff, not even the flavor text sometimes found in X-wing is present. If you know and love Star Wars that might be fine, but if you don’t? Armada will neither teach you about it’s fluff nor make you love it, BFG will.

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Both BFG and Star Wars do feature large deadly space stations that relate to the word star in someway 

Final Thoughts

Both BFG and Armada are amazing and fun games. Both have strengths and weaknesses. BFG is older and has more content, but less balance, Armada is growing but lacks a personal touch. Each game takes it’s own approach to massive spaceship battles, building on a rich IP to bring fiction to life.

So which game is better? I can’t tell you that. Answering that questions is as impossible as answering who will win, Star Wars or 40k? In truth I love them both. Which one you like more will in large part be based on personal preference as each are different enough. Right now for me, Armada is easier game for me to play, requiring less invest of time and money, but I would never say no to a game of BFG. If you are new to the spaceship games, Armada is what I would suggest, it’s better for beginners and you can actually buy it from a store. BFG is not dead however and lives on in both video games and a number of community. In the end it’s really up to you.

 

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~Well that’s all for today folks! Between BFG and Armada which one do you think is better? Let us know down in the comments!

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  • Nyyppä

    I’d go for Gothic. For the theme. SW is nice but I’m not interested enough to even try it.

  • Ross Allan

    Fog up – I’m yet to play Armada. But I’m a big fan of BFG.

    The main draw for me is that the rules allow for, and encourage, classic Age of Sail fleet tactics, with the added bonus (and one I never quite got right) of being able to use torpedoes to force your opponent to break formation.

    Line astern, cap the T, Ackbar Slash. All very much your Georgian fleet tactics, giving meaning to the term ‘ship of the line’.

    If Armada has anything like that going for it, I may give it a shot. Was all hyped for it until I saw demo models at a Sci-Fi convention. Sadly, the ones I saw left me underwhelmed – especially given the entry price 🙁 (you may have read that opinion from me before, but as ever I do remain fully aware I may have just seen a bad batch, and I’m by no means claiming they’re in anyway representative of their quality as a whole)

    • Severius_Tolluck

      Admiral Ackbar makes the ships he is in “Ships of the Line” As he is all about capping that T and broadsiding, especially in the Mon Cal heavy cruiser.
      Thing is, it has balance going for it, and it is not a dead game, and is meant more for head to head over league / campaign that BFG offers. As much as I love BFG Armada has to scratch the itch unless BFG truly comes back in a nice fashion from the G Dubs.

  • Ty Hayden

    Both are fun games in their own rights, but Armada does have 1 thing going for it that BFG hasn’t had for years: support.

    • ZeeLobby

      Haha. Pretty much nuff said. I imagine it’d still be popular if GW continued to support it.

      Excited for when Specialist Games brings it back.

      • Ty Hayden

        I had high hopes when they announced the resurgence of specialist games, but with the BFG video game, I have started to doubt it will return. 🙁

        • ZeeLobby

          Never thought about that, but it’s definitely true. Especially since both are pretty good.

        • Joel Davies

          A video game is not stopping Blood Bowl coming back. So I’m pretty confident it will return eventually.

          • Ty Hayden

            Maybe someday. The big difference is that there was a massive community keeping traditional Bloodbowl alive, and even now, it remains fairly unique. Bringing it back is a pretty safe bet, as long as they don’t disenfranchise the veterans.

            BFG was brought to a dead stop and isn’t unique anymore. Though that doesn’t mean I don’t want to play it again if they resurrect it…

        • Runefyre

          FW has confirmed that they will do it at some point. And that it’s up there with mordheim/necromunda on the priorities list.

          • Ty Hayden

            That concerns me. I would prefer if we got plastic ships like we did the first time and there treatment of Titanicus is an ill omen in that respect.

          • Runefyre

            I doubt they’d mess with the scale of BFG.

            That would price them a little better.

            Just speculation though. At least they’ll do a nice job with the rules.

  • Commissar Molotov

    What, no Star Fleet Battles? The game that was like doing your taxes just to get through a single turn?

    • Babylon 5’s fleet game too. We gave that one up very, very quickly.

      • Krizzab

        i always wanted a centauri fleet…

    • dinodoc

      ACTA seems to be the closest analog. I honestly don’t know anyone that actually did fleet combat with SFB.

      • Commissar Molotov

        We sure did! We actually used Federation & Empire as a scenario generator:

        https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/36/federation-empire

        Took us a good 6 months to finish our first campaign.

        • dinodoc

          Much respect.

          • Commissar Molotov

            It was before beer and women took up most of our time. Ah, my misspent youth…

          • dinodoc

            Not sure I could have handled more than a single ship skirmish of SFB (It’s the reason I love SF: ACTA) so I still have to bow down to your gaming chops. What fleet did you use?

          • Commissar Molotov

            We each took one of the powers in Federation and Empire (I was the Romulans, as I recall) but whoever was around to play the tactical games would take whatever ship was needed. We’d try to have a player for each ship as much as possible, but for some of the really big fleet dust-ups we were stuck playing two or three ships apiece! It was a heckuvalotta fun, but we’d never be able to do it now with wives and families and serious jobs.

            One of the players had a retractible gaming table on pulleys in his spare room that we could winch up to the ceiling, so we’d be at it all weekend long and then winch the game board back up and out of the way on Sunday night!

  • Krizzab

    gothic, gorillion of reasons, but one of them is the fact you dont need buy things that you dont want.

    • Ross Allan

      How endemic is that to Armada, as its one of the reasons I eventually ditched X-Wing.

      • dinodoc

        To be fair, there seems to be an active market on Ebay for the cards.

      • Truthiness

        It’s there, but you can make a perfectly competitve fleet by sticking with what you like. They’ve done an excellent job with the tourney kits thus far of supplying rarer cards that everyone wants. Leading Shots and XI7s have gone from a niche upgrade only found in single expansions, to flooding the market.

  • WellSpokenMan

    No mention of the HALO fleet game? I mean, unlike BFG it’s a game you can actually buy. Star Wars, and I realize this makes me part of a very small group of geeks, isn’t really my thing. I’d be interested in BFG if it ever comes back and is supported by GW. Until then this is largely an academic exercise.

    • Or Firestorm Armada, which in many ways reads like a more streamlined BFG. (never actually played it)

      • GrogDaTyrant

        Firestorm Armada is basically everything that was good about Gothic, but made into a more playable game with 6 fully fleshed out fleets and a smattering of “minor fleets”. It also helps that the game is now in it’s second edition, and a lot of balance issues and rules-bloat were improved drastically. In terms of space naval fleet games, I rate Star Wars Aramda and Firestorm Armada about equal. One is for piles of dice and a crazy number of unique styles for each faction. The other is more customizable ships with cards, planning your commands well ahead of time, and Star Wars. A (very) distant 3rd for me is Gothic, due to terrible rules, massive fleet imbalance, and lack of support. About the only reason I see for playing Gothic now, is because “it’s 40k.” Which is also a reason why not to.

    • Krizzab

      Halo Fleet battles is a good game, very tactic. but has the same problem that SW only 2 factions to play. FSA or DFC are very good options for a fleet game, both their starters are good, nice miniatures quality and not very expensive, Armada starter borders the scam, 3 “meh” quality starships and not even all upgrade cards.

      Gothic was very good and balanced game, in Imperial Fleet VS Chaos, other races or were overpowered like necrons or rendered useless like Orks.

  • Jake

    as far as computer gaming goes, installing the thrawn’s revenge mod and going crazy on multiplyaer campaign on Empire at War is pretty much the best thing ever

  • JD Robertson

    For me personally, the one where I get to push around Star Destroyers is going to win every time, regardless of anything else. I also find that Armada has just about the right level of complexity for what I want to play right now. Ships are fiddly enough that they feel like complex and dangerous machines, but things are streamlined enough to make the game approachable and to keep games moving. It will be interesting to compare with Dropfleet Commander when that book arrives, though.

  • Emprah

    Afraid Armada wins because BFG is no longer in production. But BFG would win if it was re-released.

  • Red_Five_Standing_By

    Aramada is a good game wrapped in bad design.

    There’s a reason X-Wing is the king of FFG’s miniature games and not Armada.

    • SupPupPup

      Yeah, its Starwars…

      • Red_Five_Standing_By

        Your comment makes no sense. Armada is also Star Wars.

        • SupPupPup

          Is it really though, how often do we see Amarmada level battles in the movies, its usually dogfights.

          Xwing just oozes starwars (Its even based off a ww2 game!).

          • Red_Five_Standing_By

            You see them a lot in the prequels and the Clone Wars, you know, when there were two powerful countries with massive navies (as opposed to the Rebellion Era, where one side had a proper Navy and the other ran hit and run missions).

          • SupPupPup

            Are there any clone wars ships for armada?

          • Red_Five_Standing_By

            Not yet… Maybe never.

            Ironically if they did go to that era FFG would either have to create 2 new factions or ally the Republic and CIS with the Rebellion and Empire.

            Most people’s gut reaction would be to give the Republic the Rebels and the CIS to the Empire but, IMO, that is the wrong move.

            The Empire is a direct continuation of the Republic. They shared many of the same ships for a decade or more (until the Empire full embraced its own way to wage war). Meanwhile the CIS ships were mothballed, for the most part, which made them easy targets for the Rebellion to acquire and re-purpose.

    • af

      What do you mean by “wrapped in bad design”?

      I find Armada a beautiful, fun and engaging game. I’m not a tournament player; I simply bought the core set plus a couple of expansions from both sides and I use it to play with my friends.

      The only criticism I can think of is that it’s a very fiddly game. Was that what you meant? The wheel counters are a good idea on paper, but I find it hard to touch them without shifting the ships. Almost everything you do, for example using the movement ruler, will cause you to either voluntarily or accidentally move ships or squadrons. Even momentarily moving a squadron out of the way on purpose is messy. For serious tournament play I can see how this is a problem. Then again, when I mentioned this issue in BoardGameGeek, a couple of competitive players assured me this wasn’t a problem in practice… go figure.

  • BigGrim

    Gotta admit, I was tempted by Armada but the ships are a touch too expensive. BFG, never actually round to it.

    What I have done is backed Dropfleet Commander. It looks great and Hawk Wargames have a damn good rep.

  • nurglitch

    Article confuses complexity with depth, for some reason. Complexity can be defined as the number of elements and relations between inputs and results. Complex doesn’t mean better. Depth can be defined as the amount of game-able content available to players in a game where content is the ratio of live options to no-brainers. Elegance can be considered a ratio of complexity to depth; Go is elegant.

  • ctFallen

    I wonder how Dropfleet Commander will compare. Hopefully my pledge will arrive soon and I’ll find out.

    • dinodoc

      Same designer.

  • Azhrarn

    Until BFG makes a return from the Forgeworld led Specialist Games, I’d say the Space Battle game of choice will probably become Dropfleet Commander. Co-written with the original writer of BFG it appears to be every bit a spiritual successor to the original BFG, more objective focused than it was, but very solid indeed.

    • ZeeLobby

      Not gonna lie, DFC looks very promising.

    • Krizzab

      Andy chambers discarted all balance in BFG, the game was so unbalanced that even in tournaments the organizers banned certain races like Necrons.
      If the guys of HW keep balance on DFC the game only can expand.

  • rantersheaven

    As far as fun, I think BFG is more fun. It suffers from clunkiness of being designed a long time ago, however.

    Armada is not horribly designed, but I don’t think it’s that great of a game either. It skewed too close to X-Wing in design, and suffers from both that and the fact that star wars is a ‘fighter’ universe, not a capital ship one. It’s popular, sure, but best? Over Halo fleet battles and firestorm armada? I think it’s more that it’s Star Wars, and has Fantasy Flight behind it.

    That said, my money is on Dropfleet Commander. It’s new, but in many ways an updated BFG, and all signs point to it being awesome. My bet is it becomes the defacto space ship game for those who’s primary choice of game is not tying into the movies.

    • Emdee

      I really want Dropfleet to be good. It has some of the best models by far, but I haven’t heard much about the game play though. FSA is fine but it doesn’t have the same support (model wise) that I’m a bit spoiled with from GW or FFG.

    • af

      I don’t understand how the comparison to X-Wing would hurt Armada. I’ve seen gameplay videos of X-Wing and I don’t think it plays too similar to Armada.

      I own Armada and it feels epic to me. Plus who didn’t dream of commanding a Star Destroyer, possibly the most iconic sci-fi starship of all time?

  • Truthiness

    Love the article. At the end of the day, I’d happily play both. If you’re an old BFGer, give Armada a shot. It’s not the same, but it scratches the same itch and has a very healthy and balanced meta.

  • georgelabour

    Until they add mandalorians and maybe some Old Republic stuff I’ll always favor BFG.

    Not only does the acronym work bettwe than SW:A but it has Kroot, and SPACE ORKZ.

  • Runefyre

    lol, he said SW has the same depth as 40k fluff-wise.

    lol

    • af

      Have you taken a look a Wookieepedia lately? The vast amount of fluff — most of it terrible in my opinion; I’m one of those guys who thinks it’s just the original trilogy — is mind-boggling. Most articles seem to go on forever, describing irrelevant minutiae of minor characters from long forgotten EU comic books.

      Yes, I’m aware 40K is probably the king of fluff, but Star Wars isn’t too far behind 🙂

      • Commissar Molotov

        “Wait a minute – the Empire has a Smurf Admiral? Since when?”

  • markdawg

    Armada is a fun balanced game and I have a great time every time I play it.

    I am in the process of using the Armada rules to make a WW2 Naval combat mod using as many Armada rules as can.

  • Alpharius

    I like Armada, but like all FFG games it’s a bit of a rat race given how focused they are on the competitive scene. That’s not a bad thing at all, of course, but I feel like X-Wing already scratched that itch for me.

    I honestly don’t know why I don’t play Armada. I like Star Wars, I like ship games, and I have a small Imperial fleet. I just don’t feel like buying all the latest ships and learning all the upgrade combos just to keep up with the Joneses.

    • af

      Is playing non-competitively with your friends not an option?

      • Alpharius

        Not around here, if it’s not a tournament, it’s practice for one.

      • markdawg

        that’s how play it all the time bro

  • BFG or Armada? Pff. Easy Choice: Full Thrust.

  • Certs

    I think I’d prefer FSA over either …if there were people who actually played it here locally. Was nice seeing it now at NOVA though.

    • Emdee

      I agree. Although, BFG is like 20 years old now. I’m waiting to see what changes they make when (if) it comes back out. For now, FSA is my choice.

  • Agent OfBolas

    Well, I play both on regular basis … and I must say there is only one winnner here = Armada.

    Gothic is DEAD.

    GW killed it, so no matter how good it is, you can’t go to shop and buy a new set.

  • Myu

    Interesting article. I’m not sure how I could compare the two games having only played BFG. Can’t say I found it as difficult (such as with blast markers) to play as you did but then everyone is different.

    I never felt strongly (one way or another) about starwars ships other than the x-wing so from a model point of view there’s nothing to draw me me.

    The game’s balance sounds promising but I’m not sure how much I want to try it without really liking the models. I am a fan of starwars in general though. Maybe if I could play with someone else’s models for a few games I’d give it a try.

  • DaveTycho

    Now all we need is someone to create a BFG or armada style game for Star Trek. Not the crappy X-wing clone attack wing.