Star Wars Armada Gladiator: Opinion Time?

Gladiator-class Star Destroyer Expansion Pack

Gladiator-class Star Destroyer Expansion PackThe Imperials gain a brand new ship in Wave 1, the Gladiator-class Star Destroyer. If you look through the old Expanded Universe stories, you’ll find that this ship isn’t named until The Force Unleashed as it was previously just known as the Demolisher, which was the title of the only version present in the stories and something we’ll see again later. In the pack you’ll find two variants of the ship:

  • Gladiator I-class Star Destroyer
  • Gladiator II-class Star Destroyer

And you’ll find a load of new and old upgrade cards:

  • Admiral Screed (Commander)
  • Admiral Chiraneau
  • Insidious
  • Demolisher
  • Weapons Liaison
  • Expanded Launchers
  • Assault Concussion Missiles
  • Engine Techs
  • Nav Team
  • Sensor Team

The Model

Even though the Imperials tend to have a “Go big” attitude towards ship construction, the Gladiator is a small-class ship used for patrolling and designed to quickly take down any opposition with a brutal volley of fire. However the model doesn’t look to be the right size for a small ship. The model fills the base its on, dwarfing the same-size class CR-90 and Nebulon, making it look more like a medium size rather then small. The detailing on it is as nice as always, but again its a bit of a let down as the overall look feels lackluster. A primary focal point, the launcher bay dominating the front arc, is left untouched and is just plain grey which is a real shame. I’m sure some re-painters will correct this but it would have been nice to see it already painted.

Ship Cards

Both versions, the Gladiator I-class and Gladiator II-class, carry on the “Go big” ethos in their stat line by packing a lot of close range punch in black dice heavy arcs. This means that they can deal out a lot of damage in just one salvo but it comes with the risk of rolling nothing but blanks too. A big gamble but if it pays off, bye-bye Rebels, plus Admiral Screed helps maximise your rolls by spending a die to switch another die to a face with a critical.

Both of them have 5 hulls and Evade, Brace and Redirect for their defence tokens so their endurance is a mixed bag. If the hits get through then they’re going down quickly and, because Evade doesn’t work at close range, which is where they want to be to use their black dice, they’re relying on just two tokens per turn (Insidious title changes this slightly but I’ll get to that later). On the approach this means they should be able to shrug off a salvo or two but they need to be dashed in, strike, and then quickly move out. I prefer the Gladiator II-class of the two versions because it comes with red dice on its side arcs, giving its attacks access to the ever useful accuracy result. The extra anti-squadron dice should also make your opponent think about swinging in with a bomber wing because, with good rolls, this ship can quickly whittle them down.

The Gladiator-I comes in 6 points under the Gladiator-II by trading in the red dice on the side arcs for pure black dice and by dropping down to just one anti-squadron blue dice. This means that, once it’s in range, its salvos really pack a punch with a potential 8 damage from one side shot, and that’s without any upgrades. Otherwise, however, the difference isn’t massive and it will come down to your preference and your desired role for the Gladiator.

Upgrade Cards

The Gladiator comes with 10 upgrade cards, 3 of which we already saw in the Core Set, so I’ll skip those for this article and instead focus on the 7 new cards. First up…

Admiral Screed

Gladiator Class Star Destroyer - Admiral Screed A new Imperial Commander and already a popular one, often being picked over Tarkin in a lot of lists I’ve seen. His ability allows you to spend a die during an attack to switch another one to a facing with a critical icon. You can only do this once per ship activation, but this makes black and red dice attacks that bit more devastating. Plus the black dice critical facing also has an extra damage, so you’re effectively turning a blank miss in to 2 hits with a critical effect. Can you see why he’s so popular already?

To make the most of Screed’s magnificent ability you should be focusing on taking ships with black dice such as the Gladiator and the Victory I, but he still works with any attack the Imperials make as every ship uses black or red dice. At 26 points he’s a real steal, much lower then Tarkin’s 38, and that extra 12 points turns in to a Title card or TIE Interceptor.

Admiral Chiraneau

Gladiator Class Star Destroyer - Admiral ChiraneauDespite the misleading title, this card is an Officer upgrade who provides some utility to your squadrons. When you use the squadron command, your squadrons can move even if they were engaged but their speed is reduced to 2, half of the normal Imperial speed. I’ll put it here immediately: this works beautifully with “Mauler” Mithel if your opponent has tried to lock him in combat to avoid his move-to-damage ability, allowing you to just shift him around the engagement.

Really this Officer is better off being on-board a Victory in most situations because the Gladiator will want to be spending its command dials on manoeuvring and concentrating fire, not activating squadrons. Consider also that the Gladiator’s squadron value is one lower then the Victory’s and, with its lack of access to Expanded Hangar Bays, you can see this guy belongs on a different ship. On a side note, one day I will learn how to pronounce Chiraneau.

Sensor Team

Gladiator Class Star Destroyer - Sensor Team A Weapons Team upgrade that lets you spend a die, and exhaust the card, to change a die to an accuracy facing. Accuracy is always helpful in small quantities by helping you deny your opponent’s defense and at close distance you’re already ignoring Evades, but it costs a die and that’s the crucial part. With Screed being so popular you’re probably already burning a die to get the damage/critical facing so sacrificing another one, without having an upgrade like Expanded Launchers or a concentrate fire command, can be a tough call to make but potentially game changing.

There is definitely a time and place for Sensor Team and I’ll try it out in some builds, but right now I’m not seeing the value of it so long as I’m running Screed.

Expanded Launchers

Gladiator Class Star Destroyer - Expanded LaunchersWhat goes well with 4 dice? Two more dice! The launchers improve the Gladiator’s front hull zone by 2 black dice making for a devastating 6 dice attack from the front. This will rip through most ship’s shields and burn through defence tokens leaving the opponent vulnerable to secondary fire.

You’ll want to always be firing from your front hull zone with this equipped, so other upgrades such as the new Engine Techs and the Demolisher title help achieve this. At 13 points it’s a costly upgrade and should be taken with caution, otherwise your 5 hull Gladiator starts to become a very expensive, quite squishy points-sink.

Engine Techs

Gladiator Class Star Destroyer - Engine TechsI mentioned this card above and this is one of my go-to upgrades for the Gladiator. She allows you, after taking a manoeuvre command, to perform a speed-1 manoeuvre. If you take a look at the Gladiator’s card you’ll see that, at speed-1, it gets two yaw meaning this is a great upgrade to get into position to utilise your front arc’s fire power. Your Gladiator is a nippy ship, for an Imperial, and should be used to get in behind an opponent’s ship, which this upgrade allows you to do.

The Demolisher and the Insidious titles combine nicely with Engine Techs. Demolisher because both abilities happen after executing a manoeuvre so you can choose which one to resolve first and, even though premeasuring is allowed, sometimes you might find you’ve slightly mispositioned, so you can use this extra move to get into a more favourable position and unleash hell on an opponent’s newly exposed side. With Insidious the extra move makes it easier to get in to a rear hull zone so you can gain those extra dice.


Gladiator Class Star Destroyer - DemolisherI’ve covered this title a lot already because it combos so well with the other upgrades, but I will add that this title is a must for any Gladiator. It’s slightly costly at 10 points, but being able to take one of your attacks after you’ve moved is an ability worth its weight in gold and shouldn’t be underestimated until you’ve tried it. I can see that, if you’re going for a maximum-ships list where you want quantity over quality, then there’s no problem with leaving this off, but otherwise I would recommend it every time.


Gladiator Class Star Destroyer - InsidiousI mentioned this title right at the beginning and now we’ve finally got to it. This title ups the range of your black dice to medium distance, but with the catch of the range only increasing when firing at an opponent’s rear hull zone. Three points is cheap for a title and, whilst on initial glance this seems fantastic, you soon realise that actually getting to use this ability is a bit more limiting. Speed 3 is high for an Imperial ship, but the Gladiator is still slow compared to the Rebel ships and you really need other upgrades to support this title, such as Engine Techs or Nav Team, and at this stage it’s a 10+ points.

Learning how to manoeuvre to maximum effect each turn is crucial to utilising Insidious because, with a 6 turn limit, you don’t get many chances to correct your course. In a mirror match you should be able to get in behind a Victory and use the added range to good effect (although you need to be careful that you don’t speed up and bump in to it by accident) but against Rebels you’ll have a tougher time finding the benefits of the increased range. Its a good title but it needs you to fly well to use it.


I really like the Gladiator. It’s fast for an Imperial ship, with a great array of dice with some interesting and amazing upgrade cards included in the box. Any Imperial should pick this up and give it a whirl.

Star Wars Armada cards, components and models are available to purchase at Big orbit Cards: Star Wars Armada