The rules are easy enough to learn: my wife, who has little wargaming experience, has played, and my most frequent sparring partner is my 9-year-old son.
If you're after a dog-fighting game, look no further than X-Wing. It has a very cheap entry cost when compared to Armada, and for a range from $100-$150 AUD, you easily have the core set and many ships to choose from for a fun and efficient 100-point squad. The learning curve is easier than Armada, and games run for an average of one hour or less, making it a solid choice for casual games but also a niche for the hardcore gamers among us.
I call X-Wing the tactical game of Star Wars: a fast, reactive game that rewards its players' ability to read opponents' manoeuvres while selecting the most optimal ones for his or her squad. It certainly is one of my favourite games to play to this day, and I am always looking forward to the next game and, of course, the upcoming wave releases.
Strategy is the key to victory for Armada. X-Wing relies on reactive tactics from turn to turn; Armada requires intense thought for the next 6 turns of play. Objectives are in the mix as well, ensuring the game refrains from simply being a stock standard 'death-match.' Armada keeps the play fresh because of this but also has a campaign for another style of play.
Squadrons provide another element to the game that compliments moving capital ships around the table and is bolstered by the 'Squadron' command. It is an important mechanic, and one that will take some time to master in regards to timing.
Concerning a buy-in, Armada is certainly more expensive than X-Wing. A 400-point fleet will be in the vicinity of $200+. When compared dollar for dollar against X-wing however the value drops slightly but if you're only playing one faction, and have a gaming buddy, the expense could be less.
If you're on the fence about purchasing one of these products, the selling points for me is as follows:
If you've never approached wargaming before, and/or you have kids who would be interested in following your gaming habits, then undoubtedly X-Wing is the better product.
Armada, however, fills a very strategic gap that X-Wing simply cannot. I would recommend Armada for anyone who has previous wargaming experience but who is also willing to spend the cash and time to learn the game. Taking the long view approach to this game will pay dividends, just like the game's strategic nature.
Of course, simply being the 'plasticrack' addict that I am: