Rapid Launch Bays has easily got to be one of my favorite cards in the game. It allows squadrons to be carried into battle on board a ship and “Launch” directly into the heat of combat. And while it’s not exactly a “New” card, I do want to talk about just how much I love it!
One of the early things I didn’t like much about Armada, was that enemy fleets had to start the game with squadrons deployed. Considering that some squadrons are fast, and some are incredibly slow, it never made that much sense to be. Why would rebels launch A-Wings and a YT-1300 both at the same time while being at maximum distance from enemy contact? When this card came out it was a breath of fresh air. Finally, I could have a more thematic battle, with ships launching directly into combat.
Flight Commander is practically an auto include on any ship using Rapid Launch Bays. It allows you to MOVE first, get into position, THEN drop your squadrons, and immediately shoot. From a certain point of view, it allows any ship to be as dangerous as a Demolisher.
The usage of this card was also clarified recently. You don’t actually have to activate the ships that you deploy with this card – allowing them to shoot and move so long as you activate them afterward with some OTHER ship. You have options! You can drop some X-Wings, activate ONE of them, perhaps one other ship, and leave the rest of your deployed ships for another activation or perhaps even the squadron phase.
My favorite squadron to use with Rapid Launch bays is probably B-Wings. Their speed of 2, originally made them incredibly difficult to use effectively. As a bomber with 2 anti ship dice, you REALLY want these guys up close and personal to enemy ships, and Rapid Launch Bays gives you the ability to deploy them right where you want them. If you position yourself correctly, you can even drop these trusty bombers so they avoid enemy engagements, allowing them to ravage your enemy’s hull right away!
You can combo this with the Yavaris if you play your cards right. Dropping some B-Wings at close range of an enemy flagship that has already activated, might be a situation where you want to leave the B-Wings un-activated, if you’ve got a Yavaris nearby that can allow those now close-range B-Wings to double tap. This is a risky move though, because to do this means you are giving your opponent a chance to react, so you may find your Yavaris destroyed, or your B-Wings engaged by hostile squadrons before they can bomb the enemy flagship. So if you plan to drop your prized bombers in your opponents face, you need to consider how your opponent will counter them before you waste an opportunity to hit them directly.
Rapid Launch Bays can also be used against pesky squadrons. Suppose you are playing as the Empire and your opponent has a named A-Wing that is stopping all of your best laid plans, and is able to Scatter when you try to attack them, narrowly avoiding death! Dropping a Boba Fett at range 1 of the enemy’s most annoying squadron might yield you a great opportunity to deal an unavoidable damage, which might be just what it takes to finally get rid of Tycho Celchu or Shara Bey!
I generally try to use Rapid Launch Bays on ships that can drop 3 or more squadrons, but also ships that have the mobility required to get them into a good enough position to do so. Flotillas aren’t bad in this case on either side. It gives them some threat that they may not have otherwise had, and their speed, mobility, and squadron value while all being mediocre, are all balanced well considering their low cost in this case.
For the rebels, I’ve found the Assault Frigate Mk2 tends to be the most well rounded carrier, and works very well as a Rapid Launch Bay platform. The Empire has several options, with the ISD 1 having the largest potential capacity. I’ve even tried to use the Raider with Boba Fett before, as a single option, and while not optimal, it still works somewhat interestingly, due to the fact that you can stock a squadron token and still use it, rather than needing to plan a full squadron dial to make this work.
So between the form and the function, Rapid Launch Bays is one of the best upgrades in the game. It makes the battles more thematic, and really can change the tempo of the way squadrons perform. I love it and I hope you do to!