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.
It’s a sliding scale..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Both BFG and Star Wars do feature large deadly space stations that relate to the word star in someway
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.
~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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