I agree going into a match totally blind is awful. I think a solid middle ground would be that you still blind-pick your fleet before clicking to queue up for a match, but that before the match you both get to see each other's fleets.
There's nothing quite like running into Tyranids in ranked. You have no idea if they're doing stealth escort spam, or boarding squadron spam. Against the former, you need to spread out to contest objectives. Against the latter, you need to clump your fleet together or you'll just get de-popped from across the map.
And you have no idea what it is until either all 5 cap points start changing color, or one of your ships is dead.
I don't think the table top is necessarily the best way to balance Eldar. They were notoriously imbalanced in that they were pretty much immune to lances and close range fleets but melted to weapons batteries.
A Gothic cruiser would never even get in range to shoot an Eldar ship, and if it did, would probably deal no damage. A Carnage would tear one apart from 60cm away. It was very binary balancing.
I'm not sure I really like how holofields work, as it feels forced, but I am not sure I have a better idea.
I think the changes to ordnance in general are great.
I would like to see torpedoes get more charges, as using them at long range is almost a total waste given how strong turrets are.
One big change I'd like to see to ordnance that might be hard to implement would be giving us more control over the individual wings. It stinks using a Despoiler and having to order all your fighters to one spot. Being able to split a single carrier's squadrons up would be very nice.
And adding onto this, regarding playing against Nova Cannons.
SOMETHING needs to change:
A: The noise when someone's firing one needs to be way the heck louder.
B: You cannot have red backgrounds. Failing to notice a red circle losing you a ship is infuriating.
C: When you double-hotkey to go-to a ship, the camera needs to SNAP to them. Splitting your force against nova cannons makes it so anxiety provoking because if you can't see all your ships at once, you can't react to nova cannons.
Watching one group of ships for 4-5 seconds only to pan to another and see I'm about to lose 50% hp on 2 cruisers is enough where I simply leave immediately afterwards. The noise needs to be global. It's crazy frustrating.
I'm not going to touch on the myriad of technical issues still present in the game. I want to focus instead on the overall pacing of matches and the various ships in the game. I've gotten a solid number of games in and I think I'm ready to share my opinions on the state of the beta.
I feel the game needs to decide if it's going to be a Naval Tactics game, or an RTS. I personally feel it should strive to be the former, with a focus more on maneuvering and strategic positioning, rather than spamming abilities on cooldown and speed.
In sum, I feel that:
-Ships are overall far too fast and maneuverable
-The board is too large
-Ability spam is binary and frustrating for both sides
-Both players lack information going into a match, leading some games decided entirely by fleet composition
Ship Speed/Maneuverability: The core of a naval strategy game should be the ships themselves. The player who better flies their fleet and positions their ships better should win. Right now there is so little to be gained by trying to maneuver around your opponent, because they can simply turn on a dime. High Energy Turn lets your ships essentially turn on the spot. Why bother trying to sneak some Slaughters behind my Imperial opponent if he can just pull the hand break and whip his broadsides around in under 2 seconds? Reward me for out-maneuvering my opponent, and vice versa.
The incredible maneuverability of the core factions (basically all the human factions) leads to ridiculous maneuverability-creep with the others. In order to give the alien races their respective navigational advantages, they've been given simply ludicrous speed and maneuverability.
All-Ahead-Full is also far too fast, and allows too much turning while burning. You can run down almost any fleet with brawling ships. They cannot kite you. Overall I feel that ship speed and maneuverability needs to be largely toned down. With HET, I can react to anything my opponent does almost instantly. Out-maneuvering your opponent on the approach to allow for a better clash was one of the highlights of the tabletop game. In Armada, my ships can do a 180 and GTFO instantly if I start flying into a trap. There are a number of downsides that come from ships being so fast/agile:
-Torpedoes as a ranged, or area-denial weapon are almost worthless. They are exclusively used up close by HET-ing to aim, and then firing point blank.
-Boarding-spam is too easy. You can quickly have any ship near an enemy burn left or right to get a boarding action off.
-Kiting fleets can't keep distance easily, forcing them to rely on spamming bombers, because brawling fleets can close with them too easily.
-Battles heavily favor large ships simply because controlling more ships becomes much harder. Escorts are almost entirely worthless as combat craft, because the attention they need versus their impact on battles simply isn't worth it. The game pace punishes multiple smaller ships.
-Mobility creep has resulted in a bunch of nutty abilities. Nids had to be given this crazy lunge ability that you can't react to, because otherwise they couldn't catch anyone. Necrons can teleport because otherwise they can't do a thing about Orks racing at them full speed.
Which leads to...
The board is way too large: It simply doesn't need to be so big. The size of the board leads to a lot of down-time at the beginning of the match, and allows games to sometimes devolve into "I'm going to run escorts around the board until you cap the points." Slow ships down a bit, and shrink the board a bit. Slow fleets don't need all these maneuverability gimmicks to catch ranged fleets if the arena isn't unnecessarily massive. Don't give the Mountain a jet-pack to let him catch Oberyn. Just put them in a reasonably sized arena.
Ability Spam is binary and frustrating: I almost feel like every ship in the game is so fast/maneuverable because Nova cannons exist. Nova Cannons were NOT fun in the tabletop, and they are not fun in Armada. They are brutally effective against certain factions, and completely worthless against others. You will NEVER hit an Eldar player with them. I honestly don't even know what to do with NCs. I find them frustrating/mindless to both use and play against.
Both players lack information going into a game:
The diversity of fleets is great. The problem is that this leads to a lot of hard-counters in playstyle and ship selection. I need extra boarding-protection if I'm going up against Nids. Less so if I'm going up against Tau.
Let's look at one example of a game against Nids. Let's say I've got an imperial or chaos fleet. I see my opponent is Tyranids. That fleet can look WILDLY different. He can abuse stealth escorts and try to cap all the points, in which case I need to spread my fleet out to contest. Or, he could be loaded up with launch bays, and depopulate my ships one at a time from across the map, in which case I need to fly in a tight formation so my fighters can cover everywhere. I have no idea which it is, and so a lot of guess work goes into deployment and if I guess wrong, I could easily lose a ship.
And this is just one example. There's plenty of situations where ship selection and deployment style have to be guesses because you have no idea what you're going up against. Light cruisers and escorts are worthless against Orks. Nova Cannons and Torpedoes are worthless against Eldar/Deldar. The fleet skill that negates asteroid damage is worthless if you spawn on an empty board.
Why not let us see what our opponent's fleet looks like in a pre-match screen? Hell, why not implement a deployment phase? Half the strategy in tabletop was deploying your ships smartly, as you each took turns placing ships or squadrons until you're all placed. Adds a lot of thinking to the game.
Anyway, that's my big take on the game. Ships are too fast and turn on a dime. The map's far larger than necessary. Certain ability spams are binary and frustrating. Information about the matchup is not well presented.
Other random things that I've noticed:
-In general, larger ships seem to be far better investments than small ships. Escorts are rarely worth taking. Four Battleships is often more effective (and far easier to control) than a balanced fleet.
-I really wish you could select and give orders to fighter/bomber squadrons once they'd been launched.
-Speed up torps. Make 'em useful for zoning and at longer range. Cut down on that spread too.
-Long-range combat needs some tweaking. The most effective artillery fleet I've put together humorously enough is Orks with zapp cannon spam. That ****'s bonkers.
-Rebalance the special orders with each other. Brace is better than the others in almost every way, and putting your whole fleet on brace is rarely a bad move.
-The range on boarding and lightning strikes feels a bit too much. There's not much skill in selecting my whole fleet and mashing H on whichever enemy ship loses shields first, potentially instantly depopulating it.
-Scuttle damage is bonkers
-Pulsars feel really bad right now. Give us control over them, or simply rework them into a lance style weapon.
-Please fix hotkey displays
-The map with the bright-red sun under the board is a nightmare against Admech. Trying to spot nova-cannons from a distance if they appear on that sun.... oof
-Allow us some sort of formation controls. Escorts might be more usable if you could give them movement orders together without them crashing into each other.
-Give us some speed controls. I'd like to have a cruiser fly next to a battleship without overpacing it.