Kings of War Armada is a ship wargame by Mantic Games, set in their fantasy Kings of War setting in the world of Pannithor. In this article, we’re going to look at the Armada 2-player starter set, talk about the rules, and look at what’s included in the box.
If you want to know more about Kings of War, you can read our Guide here.
This article forms part of our Nautical Tabletop Month that's running across all of November. We're going to look at different nautical wargames and board games, as well as interview developers about capturing the sea feel on the tabletop. We'll also look at nautical factions in popular wargames along with tabletop accessories that are available to keep your hobby ship-shape. You can see all the articles here on the hub. So come aboard as we set sail and celebrate all games nautical in nature.
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The Kings of War Armada 2-player starter set includes everything 2 players need to play Kings of War Armada. The starter set contains:
- 2 Fleets of 4 ships each (Basilean and Orcs)
- Full Armada rulebook
- Ship and fleet reference cards
- Basilean and Orc MDF upgrade tokens
- 3ft x 4ft sea gaming mat
A large part of the 2-player starter set is taken up with the 2 fleets. Both fleets have 4 resin ships each and require minimal assembly. For those unused to working with resin, it’s best to give it a wash before assembly, this simply involves leaving the miniatures to soak for 5 mins in some soapy water, then drying them off. This washes any residue from the production process off and allows them to glue and take paint later. Most of the ships have multi-part sails, which just require sticking together, then attaching to the body of the ship. The ships also come with MDF bases to make it easier to move them around the mat.
Both fleets contain 2 Main Battle Ships and 2 Support Ships.
The Basilean’s are a religious human faction. Their ships are fast, with well-trained crews. They have solid weapons and some great damage protection. The Basilean fleet contains:
- 2 Elohi - The Elohi has the most guns out of the starter-set ships and a bonus level of protection
- 1 Gur Panther - A smaller ship than the Elohi, but still has some solid guns
- 1 Gunbrig - A small floating weapons platform with a front-mounted indirect weapon
The Orcs like to get in close. Their ships can take lots of damage to get them in, where they excel at ramming enemy ships and then boarding them. The Orc Fleet contains:
- 2 Hammerfist - The Hammerfist literally has a spinning fist on the front. It can take a lot of damage and has a solid close-quarter weapons rating
- 1 Blood Runner - The Blood Runner has the highest amount of heavy cannons, but still likes to get in close
- 1 Bombboat - The Bombboat has front and rear-mounted indirect weapons and the highest close-quarter weapons rating in the starter fleets
On ships alone, the Basileans come in at 88 points, with the Orcs 98. Luckily, there are plenty of upgrades including Captains for both sides, and the starter-set has some MDF tokens a well as the card tokens to mark the upgrades on the ship cards.
Both starter-set fleets like to operate very differently, with the Orcs relying on their ability to take damage to get them in close where their weapons excel, then ramming and boarding. The Basilean’s need to keep the Orcs at range, using their superior firepower and better maneuverability to keep the Orcs at a distance.
Anyone coming from Black Seas or Kings of War will find a lot familiar with Armada. The rules are based on the Black Seas wargame from Warlord Games and initiative, movement and combat work the same way. Kings of War players will obviously recognize the setting and factions, but there are also similar rules concepts with nerve.
For those coming in without a background in either of those games, Armada has very straight-forward rules to allow you to focus on the gameplay. Ships can set different speeds, which means moving 1, 2, or 3 times. Each move is to the full value of the ship's move value, with a single turn allowed between each, so some planning is required to avoid hitting other ships, terrain and making sure you can bring your weapons to bear on the enemy. Only Orcs can intentionally ram other vessels, but during collisions and boarding actions, both ships can take damage, which gives a great risk-reward for getting in close to the enemy.
Shooting is also very simple, with weapons divided into Heavy, Long, Close and Indirect with each having its own range and colored-coded dice. Weapons have fire arc’s clearly marked on the ship's card, so as long as a weapon is in arc and range, you roll a number of dice equal to its value and try to score 6 or more.
Damage is set with weapon types, except indirect fire which is random and will scatter if the shot misses. There are bonuses to damage, such as double damage for point-blank shots, and extra damage for shots that can align broadsides with the bow and stern of the target ship, and also critical hits for additional damage. When a ship has taken more damage than its nerve value, it reduces its operational ability and it may surrender if a large enemy is nearby.
There are optional advanced rules for wind, terrain, oars and engines, squadrons of smaller ships, and repairs. The rulebook also includes background information for Armada, as well as images and overview details for all the ships for the 2 current factions, and the 2 upcoming factions (Dwarfs and Empire of Dust). The rulebook is beautifully illustrated throughout, with full-color images, diagrams, and shots of painted miniatures.
Kings of War Armada is very easy to learn and play, even with the optional rules. The current 2 forces feel unique in their playstyle and the included fleets in the starter-set provide some great games. There are 10 scenarios included in the rulebook for those looking for more than just knocking fleets together.
For those looking for a fantasy ship game, the scope for expansion with Armada is huge with Mantic’s Kings of War setting. You will also be able to play Armada as the Kingdoms of Men with the correct scale ships you may already have when the rules are published. Armada doesn’t have a huge amount of rules detail in terms of ships taking damage to specific sections, as the combat system is streamlined for easy and quickness of play. It does have a lot of flexibility in force building with the optional upgrades, and that can only expand as more factions become available and the game grows.
The Bottom Line
Kings of War Armada is an awesome stream-lined system for fantasy ship combat. Damage is simplified to keep the game flowing, so those looking for very detailed ship damage to different sections won't find that here. But those looking for a great system, with a focus on easy play and tactical depth will find it. The movement and shooting systems work very well, and there's a good amount of list flexibility with the available upgrades. The 2 included fleets give a great insight into how both fleets play, and both feel thematically unique.
Get This Game If:
- You want a great fantasy ship game.
- You want stream-lined play.
- You want to ram a literal fist into another vessel.
Avoid This Game If:
- You want a detailed damage tracking system.
- You don't want fantasy and magic in your ship games.
The copy of the Kings of War Armada 2-Player Starter Ser used to produce this review was provided by Mantic Games.