So I finally got around to sitting down and playing that first game of Noble Armada. Here is a rundown:
To keep it small, we played a Destroyer battle. Two House Hawkwood destroyers vs. two House Decados destroyers. This equated out to 360 points each side, which is a bit smaller than a normal patrol, but worked beautifully for learning the rules.
Decados fleets get a bonus to their initiative, so she went first for the most part. To save you from a long and meticulous battle report, I'll summarize in a narrative (PS, if I'm not in line with the official fluff, tough noogies)...
The two House Hawkwood Griffins glided in the inky void while patrolling a quiet region of the Nein system. En route to the system's only Jump Gate, the pair of destroyers had encountered little out of the ordinary before this day.
At First Watch, Captain Ronald Archibald, captain of the HWD Honorbound, was notified that transmissions from the Jump Gate's sentries had ceased. Attempts to re-establish communications with the sentries proved unsuccessful. Becoming suspicious, he ordered that the two destroyers drop sensor probes and begin active scanning.
The HWD Intrepid was the first to pick up readings. Readings in the direction of the Jump Gate were being garbled by white noise, but slightly off-trajectory a solid blip was registered before again being washed out by the interference.
Knowing something was amiss, Captain Archibald ordered both ships at full burn.
Some time later, both the destroyers were brought to full alert by the sudden firing of unknown drive flares. Sensors identified the ships to be a pair of Decados destroyers, powering toward the Hawkwood vessels at maximum burn.
Captain Archibald sent his orders to the Intrepid before ordering his own helmsman to turn to stellar starboard. His sister ship did as commanded and split to stellar port. Now that the two ships were prepared to unleash broadsides upon the closing target, they waited, maneuvering at a low thrust.
One of the Decados destroyers took the lead, cutting loose with shield-defeating EM pulse weaponry mounted in dorsal turrets. Captain Archibald felt his vessel shudder slightly, and warning klaxons announced that the Honorbound's shields had been temporarily overloaded. Luckily, his vessel was not positioned in the Decados vessel's broadside arc.
Snapping out orders to his gunners, Archibald watched as missiles streaked away and lasers lit up the void, lashing out at the offending vessel in the distance. The missiles were well guided, and slammed into the Decados destroyer's aft section. Sensors indicated that one of the engines in the Decados vessel began to spool down, leaking propellant. The other drive flares intensified, obviously attempting to compensate for the engine failure. The Hawkwood Gunners cheered at the minor victory.
The stricken vessel's companion was too far away to help much, but a single EM weapon struck across the darkness to impact the Honorbound. Static washed over the bridge's consoles, but quickly returned to normal. Damage control estimates showed hull integrity at 97 percent, barely affected at all by the electro-magnetic damage.
The Intrepid let loose a ferocious volley of its own, ravaging the already-stricken Decados destroyer with raking beams of laser-fire and fearsome detonations of guided missiles. The Decados vessel's drive flares sputtered and died, but the momentum of the ship carried it forward still.
As the shields to the Honorbound regained their strength, Captain Archibald ordered both destroyers to close in on their target, with intention to board the stricken ship.
Angling both their fores to the enemy vessel, the pair closed in and prepared boarding teams. Circling around, the sister ship of the stricken vessel harried the Intrepid with a broadside from it's mighty projectile weapons that tore armor plates from the Hawkwood ship's spine. Still suffering from the effects of the earlier damage sustained, the stricken destroyer fired a vastly-ineffective salvo at the closing ships. Undaunted, the two Hawkwood destroyers closed to grapple-range. Firing boarding lines, the two destroyers snared their prey and began to deploy their boarding troops.
The boarding parties had to cut through a bulkhead to gain entry to the destroyer. Once inside, they met half-hearted resistance. The fire raging aboard the Decados ships had already claimed a fair number of the crew and the security teams aboard the vessel.
In a desperate attempt to free its companion, the other Decados destroyer circled in close and unleashed a devastating salvo upon the Intrepid. Bulkheads twisted and ruptured under the assault in a fire-wreathed conflagration that vented some unfortunate crewman into the void. Undeterred, the Hawkwood destroyer refused to relinquish its grasp upon the stricken Decados destroyer.
Cleaning up the last of the security forces on the Decados vessel was a simple task for the boarding parties. Once the crew was subdued, the leader of the boarding parties signaled to the Hawkwood vessels that they were successful. Pulling back security teams that guarded the bulkhead entry points, both Hawkwood destroyers cut their grapple lines and maneuvered away.
Knowing it was now heavily outmatched, the surviving Decados vessel tried to accelerate in an attempt to get away. The Honorbound was not about to let that happen. Captain Archibald ordered all guns to fire upon the fleeing ship.
Armor plates boiling away in molten rivulets, the Decados destroyer lurched under the impact of missiles and laser barrages. Listing, the drive flares flickered and begun to lose power.
Realizing the opportunity, the Intrepid managed to fire a broadside despite the chaos caused from the earlier damage it sustained. Laser-fire licked at the fleeing vessel's aft, further punishing the already-damaged engine housings.
Firing an ineffectual volley from it's dorsal-mounted EM weaponry, the Decados vessel only lasted mere seconds longer. A surprise broadside from the newly-captured Decados destroyer obliterated what was left of the fleeing ship in a hail of projectiles. Slowly listing under the force of such impact, the now-dead destroyer rolled slowly, venting gasses and unfortunate crewman into the void.
Captain Ronald Archibald did not share in his crew's rejoicing, but neither did he discourage it. This was a solid victory and the crew deserved praise. However, this was only the beginning. A dark shadow loomed over the Nein system, as the Decados were obviously here in force. Knowing the Jump Gate sentries to be dead or worse, the Captain ordered his subordinate ships to make emergency repairs. He would need them at their best speed for the return trip. The Admiral needed to be warned.
THE MECHANICS (Editorial)-
I found the game mechanics to be simple and easy to pick up. However, being a long-time GW player, I had become accustomed to the "I-go-you-go" style of games, and found it tempting to activate more units at a time than I was supposed to. For smaller games like the one we just played, this was not a problem. But when we tried to play a larger game with multiple ships of varying sizes and types... it became something of a problem. To counter this, I suggest that you use the rules for squadrons in any games of 1000 points or larger, as opposed to only in games 2000 points or larger (as suggested in the rulebook). When you have only a couple ships on each side it isn't so hard to remember to move one at a time, but when flying 4 frigates, 2 Galliots, and 2 Explorers, it is tempting to move like-ships at the same time. The Squadron rules allow for this, but typically are only recommended for very-large games. However, I don't feel that game-play really suffers from these rules except in the smallest of games.
The other thing I found difficult to keep track of was which ship had critical damage, how many troops were left on each ship, etc. The best way I came up with to track this was coming up with a simple fleet roster, on which you list each vessel (names help keep track of which is which), the amount of troops on board (both yours and enemies), remaining damage, and a space in which to jot down critical damage. I could fit about 20 lines of this on a page, so you should be able to keep it down to 1 sheet per fleet.
For indicating whether shields were damaged/burnt out, I came up with a few ideas. Initially, I was using colored dice to indicate the number of shields that had burnt out. Afterward, I thought that using blast counters (Similar to Battlefleet Gothics, which are free to download from GW's website) could be an effective (and visually attractive) way of telling how many shields have burnt out. I couldn't find mine though, so I had to settle for colored dice.
There is no condensed page of the tables used in the game, so be prepared to make your own or flip through the rulebook a lot until you memorize them! I may be writing up my own reference page very soon to make it easy.
The boarding rules are simple, but yet awesome at the same time. There is no rule against firing into boarding attacks, as far as we could tell, so it was really awesome to try to hold on during those tense moments. When you are getting a broadside let loose upon your boarding ship, it really makes the game tense and exciting!
The rules looks deceptively easy at first glance. The actual rules bit is only a few dozen pages long. However, once you start getting into the rules like Special Actions (special modifiers declared during the movement phase that affect how your ship operates for the rest of the turn) and Boarding Actions, the rules can catch you by surprise. Luckily though even at their most complex, these rules are not too much to absorb.
So, grab a friend and start playing! This game is really fun!