Armada d6 is a space war boardgame by Eric Zimmerman and John Sharp. Emulation is not only for software. Since Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 was released under the Open Game License as the d20 system, numerous clones are being published. New designers are taking the d20 system and making retro clones of Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition as well as ultralight systems. For instance you can play the official Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 modules (adventures) with the Microlite d20 system which has two-page core rules that emulate a full Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 system.
Zimmerman and Sharp is doing something similar. Several years ago Zimmerman and Sharp serendipitously ran across photocopies of partial rules and notes of an unpublished board game, Armada d6 at a book store. Twenty years later, they are emulating rules from partial information to reconstruct Armada d6.
The goal of Armada d6 is to build five monuments on the board. The board is made up of modular square tiles that you can arrange to create a large variation of maps. Each tile is divided in eight movement squares surrounding an impassable circular build site for a monument. Within the circles are costs and slots for monument construction.
As the name would suggest, you start with three six-sided dice that represent your units. You roll three dice during setup and the pip value determinse the unit type: Battlestation (1), Flagship (2), Destroyer (3), Frigate (4), Interceptor (5), and Scout (6). The lower number ships have more combat prowess while higher numbers are more mobile and better suited for monument construction, since ships move as many spaces as their pip value. Because there is a power-to-mobility tradeoff, setup rolls creates asymmetry without causing an imbalance.
On your turn, you get three action points to spend: move and/or attack, reroll a ship die, deploy an off-board ship next to your monument, advance the research die one pip, or construct a monument. You navigate your ships across the map and find suitable build sites and construct monuments. Each build site has a number, and the total pips of your ships adjacent to that site must be equal or greater than its value to construct a monument. Thus if there is a construction cost of 7, you must bring at least two ships to meet the required cost of 7 pips.
As you traverse the map to find new build sites, competition becomes fierce and combat occurs. Combat is resolved as a d6 roll plus your ship pips, and the lower number is the victor. If you win combat you advance your Dominance die by one pip and the loser reduces his or her Dominance die by one. If the Dominance die reaches six, it resets and you get to place a free monument.
The best part of Armada d6 is the Advancements. When a monument is constructed or the Research die reaches six (and resets) you get to pick a face-up Advancement card representing a technological breakthrough. The Advancements are powerful positive rule addendums, like TCG cards, that greatly benefit the holder. You can choose from a one-time, powerful Instant Advancement or a less powerful, but long-term, Permanent Advancement. These advancements allow you do one thing better: construct monuments at a discount, move further, do more damage, and other useful powers.
Armada d6 has but one weakness -- it does not address leader-bashing adequately. Leader-bashing is a classic multiplayer wargame design issue that many veteran wargame designer struggle with. When someone is in the clear lead, all players have the obvious choice of attacking the leader. As a result, sandbagging occurs as shrewd players purposely play suboptimally, competing for second place. These are some solutions that other designers have used: Mark McLaughlin's The Napoleonic Wars adds a formal, complex diplomacy layer that create teams, slowing down leader bashing. Philippe Keyaerts's Small World uses a hidden victory point system, making it difficult to identify the leader.
Overall, Armada d6 is an incredibly balanced and smooth game -- near perfection. Although the game is reconstructed from a classic American game, Armada d6 is full of beautiful Euro elegance. The game is far from obvious and keeps offering interesting choices, over and over. These are the questions that I keep pondering as I play. Do I prefer ships that are powerful or fast? Shall I pursue a military campaign and win by might or assemble an armada of fast moving builders? Is it better to have the short-term benefit of an Instant Advancement or should I focus on the long haul via Permanent Advancement? I can only keep three Permanent Advancements, which ones are best for the current strategy?
Armada d6 is the winner of the 2012 Indicade's Game Design Award, the first boardgame to win the award. Armada d6 is in the prototype stage and Eric Zimmerman and John Sharp are seeking avenues of publishing and distribution.