Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Expanded: The Dominion in Ascendancy

Following on from a series of faction packs and the Borg Expansion, Ascendancy has introduced the Dominion to the board at long last.

Taking the game into the Gamma Quadrant, the Dominion War box provides not just another faction to the game but a whole new aspect to the Ascendancy experience.

At its core the new faction comes with the standard control panel as well as Jem'Hadar ships and fleet markers plus the usual array of tokens and space lines to ensure that there are enough to go around each and every player at the table.

But there's still more because the Dominion launches from the Gamma Quadrant on their Great Link base and can only access the Alpha Quadrant via the new Bajoran Wormhole playing piece which combines four elements into one. With this there are a series of new planets which can only be added to the game when exploring the Gamma Quadrant and cannot be utilised unless the Wormhole is in play. But even if you don't want to add in the Dominion there are rules to allow the addition of the Wormhole and the Gamma Quadrant for exploration and empirical expansion.

Also the Dominion can utilise Infiltrators. This is, personal opinion a damn cool addition. When you capture Bajor it also means you gain a Command Token for taking control of a space station as well as an established, independent civilisation. Bonus!

Allowing the Dominion to use two Command Tokens, up to five of these little annoyances can be spread out across the board. Their title also tells you al lot about their role, allowing them to provide false orders to rival factions which can in turn lead to some rather underhanded takeovers!

So if you want to use the Dominion in play, it's really as simple as that. Start them out in the Gamma Quadrant and then head off for, no pun intended, domination of the galaxy. But if you want something a little different - perhaps not as different as the Borg expansion - then delve a little deeper into the rule book.

Dividing a minimum of four players into two alliances, the game then allows both expansion and co-operation to reach that crucial Ascendancy level. Dominion players of course will start on the other side of the Wormhole and then connect to their ally from there. Notably though this also means that players start the game with their home system immediately connected to four other randomly selected planets from the Exploration deck. Homeworlds can be conquered although this in turn opens up the chance to act as a Resistance force with your own set of actions to try and destabilise your conquerors. 

Certainly a change from being ousted in the main game and then having to sit it out for hours and watch others take all your rewards.

The biggest issue for me comes in the fact that I'm going to need to have a game with at least three others to take full advantage of the Dominion War element to this pack and that incurs a game time of four hours minimum. Ascendancy is not a game to be taken lightly or as a quick win. This set absolutely cements that and it would be wise to ensure that you have the time to be able to invest in the game before considering adding this to the collection. I for one do like the additions it brings however I'm more likely to be unpacking the Borg for some solo play rather than heading into the Denoris Belt and heading for the Great Link. A shame but I have to be realistic on the limitations unless I manage to find another three willing associates who can sacrifice a Saturday or a Sunday.

The Dominion Expansion opens up the playing field to ensure that everyone can be involved for the duration of the game. I think one of the issues has been that conquered players in the past can be left doing nothing for hours and the Resistance element counters this nicely. There's not a ton of additional rules and it's a step up from the standard faction expansions that provide a homeworld and some new tokens. This feels like a full package and something that can stimulate the game in new directions. Indeed, when I heard it was coming it excited me that, unlike Attack Wing, Gale Force Nine have looked to change up elements of their base game and try to engage players in different ways. 

There are a lot of pluses to rule over the negative of needing multiple players although I can still utilise the Dominion, the Wormhole etc as part of that Borg expansion. In fact that's absolutely what I will be doing (literally dawns on me now) so all of the elements will get used to their fullest as best I can.

Monday, 26 September 2022

The Blagger's Guide to...The Next Generation

So this Picard guy, he's done some stuff before, well, Picard yeah?

Very true, very true. In fact he was doing "it" for 15 years between 1987 and 2002 - but we're going to focus purely on the first seven in our third lesson, The Next Generation. Even more time specific, it's 35 years since the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D first took to the airwaves so what better time than this to dive into the show that hooked millions.

Lesson Two on the movies probably felt a bit tasking so I waited for a while before delivering this latest instalment in your blagging - I mean education.

This show is as much hallowed ground as the original, perhaps more so and you'll need to be Fact Loaded to start tackling it.

The Crew

Opening with Encounter at Farpoint, Jean-Luc Picard is a shouty man who doesn't like kids. Things do change for him. He quotes more Shakespeare, becomes less shouty but still can't abide kids especially the one he keeps telling to shut up. He stops the Klingon at Tactical from shooting a lot of things and you should always drop in something to do with contract negotiations and becoming a Borg to cover your tracks.
Argument starter for ten: Better than Kirk

His first officer - or Number One as he is called - is a bearded Kirk clone(!) called William T Riker. He has a subconscious obsession with obtuse angles and sitting down that make him an almost off-limits drinking game target. Too many have been hospitalised for his rakish stance at the side of Data during a red alert. He has a "thang" with the ship's counsellor, Deanna Troi but they keep it all calm in the show because it was years ago and was, actually just written for another pair of characters for a show that never got made. 
Argument starter for ten: Mention Wil Decker

While you can bemoan the choice to listen to another trombone recital from Number One, how about focusing some attention on Lieutenant Commander Data (that's day-ta not dah-tah) who is seeking to become human but frankly gets more action than anyone else. He wants to be human which leads to much merriment and also some real tear-in-the-eye moments.
Argument starter for ten: He uses contractions more often than they use the transporter

Over in Engineering (but not for the first season!!!) is Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge. Unsuccessful with the ladies for all time, Geordi might be blind but he gets to see thanks to a heavily modified headband.
Argument starter for ten: Wesley should have been Chief Engineer

In Medical there's Doctor Beverly Crusher. The older you get, the more you realise she's hotter than Troi. She's got this "thing" for Picard that goes mainly unsaid and it's worth dropping that in whenever you spot her in season three of Picard. Plus points for mentioning she choreographed the Muppets in real life. Additional cudos for bringing up her unceremonious departure and reappearance (seasons one and three).
Argument starter for ten: Sex Ghost

Taking over from the very quickly departed Lt Tasha Yar as Tactical Officer (he tries to fire the phasers but gets told not to a lot) is Klingon Worf. Remember him, he's around almost eternally it seems (see also Deep Space Nine). Talk a lot about honour, bat'leth swords, bad parenting and prune juice and you will do no wrong. 
Argument starter for ten: This guy needs his own series!

Finally there's Deanna Troi. Ship's counsellor who actually gets better as the show progresses. Sadly seems like window dressing for a good portion of the first couple of years but once they change her wardrobe up and try not to focus on pairing her with her mother for every story there's positives. She's part-Betazed (empath) so get ready for all the feels.
Argument starter for ten: Why isn't she in uniform? She's an officer right?

The Ship

OK. It's been 7 decades and a bit since the original series so to show that, the ship now has a "D" slapped on the end of the NCC-1701 numberplate. It's big and part of the suitably named Galaxy Class. In fact it's ridiculously big and it can split in two parts but only when the budget allows them to take the big model out of storage to shoot it. You'll be very familiar with the sets because they get reused in the movies, Voyager... anything that will help save some money!

Main places you'll need to be aware of aside from the bridge? There's an observation lounge for lots of talking and plot exposition, a bar called Ten Forward where Whoopi Goldberg serves drinks and gives advice (season two onwards). Of course there are the crew quarters, cargo bays that have no concept of health and safety and a standard set of exhaustive shuttles. One thing to know from the off is the wonders of the holodeck. Go anywhere, be anyone! This allows the crew the chance to effectively define the surroundings for their death given the number of malfunctions it incurs.

The Seasons

There are seven of them with (usually) 26 episodes in each with 178 episodes in total. Now I know that sounds worrying but hold on. There's no season long arcs that you need to keep track of. Yes, there are some recurring stories in there; Data and his evil twin, Worf losing honour, gaining honour and Klingon stuff, Geordi being unable to hold down a relationship for two weeks, Riker and Troi - but these are all sprinkled in. Just mention one or two occasionally to show you're aware of them and you'll be fine. There are some two-parters but that's probably the longest attention span you'll need (90 minutes - manage that?). 

Best to either decide if you hate or love the omnipotent Q who pops up a lot. His stories are a mixed bag of brilliant to meh. Oh and then there's the Borg. You might have seen them neutered in Picard' first season but here they are truly BAD ASS. Always compare them here and in the First Contact movie to the way they are poorly treated in Voyager once we reach that lesson. 

Key episodes

Encounter at Farpoint - it's the first one. Q's in it. Ship separates. The trial never ends.
The Measure of a Man - Data's clearly not/is a person/robot and I agree/disagree

Yesterday's Enterprise - That's the "C" and it's come forward in time. Yar's back, only Whoopi Goldberg knows the timeline's changed. Got to send it back!

The Best of Both Worlds - The Borg are back huh? And WHAT? They've made Picard a Borg? They're coming for Earth? Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!!!

Sins of the Father/Reunion/Redemption I & 2 - Klingon Civil War! Gowron dude! Those Duras sisters are creepy.

Unification - Spock! He's on Romulus and it's all a bit cloak and dagger but he meets Picard!

Relics - Scotty! He's on the Enterprise and he meets Picard!

All Good Things... - It's the finale. Hang on a minute - 25 years into the future? Isn't that about when Picard is set? Well that didn't go to plan did it... Trial never ended by the way!

So there you have it, Star Trek: The Next Generation in a bite-size format that will absolutely bowl your peers and soon to be Trek friends right over. Concerned that you'll have to watch more after this? Don't worry because I'm certain there'll be some snapshot follow ups to keep you up to date!

Saturday, 24 September 2022

Down at the Disco: S4 in Review

Of all the Star Trek series, Discovery not only stands as the longest on air but also the show with the most changes during its four season run. Believe it or not, that mark is hit exactly five years ago this very day (in the US).

To put that into perspective, that's only 55 episodes in total which is equivalent to just over the first two seasons of TNG. Yet we've seen huge changes in the crew, five huge story arcs and a time jump of 1000 years.

All in a day's work for the crew of a Starfleet ship and now here we are, Coming Home and on the break to wait for the inevitable season five. Warning - possible spoilers ahead.

Season four's promo work didn't help it from the beginning. Starting out with another potential anomaly threat to the Federation it looked like a rerun of season three and suggested that the format could already be getting tired. 

It seemed to be correct with the first episode seeing Book's home planet of Kweijan destroyed by the mysterious DMA (Dark Matter Anomaly) and more prevaricating about the Federation rebuilding. If truth be told, that first half of season four was a bit of a mess. The anomaly seemed like a good idea with its ability to appear and disappear at will. Danger could indeed come from everywhere. But the problem was that everything else seemed to be more or less disposable.

For example, Adira was coming up as one of the more interesting characters on the show played by the wonderful Blu Del Barrio. The narrative around Grey's rebirth linked in well with Picard's own season end however by season end they were gone and Adira was relegated to background almost overnight. With Mary Wiseman stepping back and Tilly transferring to Starfleet Academy there seemed a natural gap in the cast but this didn't seem to be fully realised in this season. 

Even the "baddie" for the season in the shape of Shawn Doyle's Tarka wasn't a super villain or a moustache twirling nemesis as Ossyra played for the Emerald Chain. His lost scientist persona fitted more into a role fans would perhaps liken to Soran from Generations, driven by his personal need to get home rather than the bigger picture. Doyle's character didn't need to be evil to be effective in season four and after the host of enemies across the show it's one point that made a refreshing change. Tarka's relationship with Book hinged a great chunk of the season together and was a stronger thread to the overall arc right from the moment they decided to head off on their own.

But let's also remember something fairly significant about this season. It was filmed during the pandemic and just for that it deserves a ton of praise for just existing. Look more closely and you'll see that the season has actually been very cleverly crafted. It might not be everyone's cup of tea and it's unusual that there aren't more fisticuffs, explosions but for the first time, Discovery kind of went really sciencey. Most of the 13 episodes are bottle shows, confined to either standing Discovery sets, Book's ship and Federation headquarters. There's only a trade station, an ice planet, Kweijan and the deserted world of the Ten-C that are new sets. Even then you might suspect they were repurposed. Even the 10-C themselves were CG and barely seen at that.

If you have to give something to season four, it's the clever use of sets, space and storytelling given restrictions at the time to still manage to deliver a coherent arc. Perhaps the most impressive element of the season is that the conclusion didn't rely on the same hand to hand combat or battle situation that we've experienced many times before. Yes, the galaxy and more specifically Ni'Var and Earth were in danger but the answer came in the form of science rather than guns. Is this Discovery's most Star Trek solution ever? To have an alien race communicate mathematically, emotionally and chemically is inspired and truly franchise format breaking.  

The bulk of the second part of the season was dedicated to the Ten-C and the journey to locate them. For only the second time in Star Trek history has the story taken us outside of the Milky Way and into the utter unknown, even beyond the reach of the wonderful spore drive. 

But then that is what Star Trek was supposed to be about. Yes, there is the element of impending danger, the threat that Earth could well be destroyed but where season four of Discovery succeeded was in a peaceful solution that actually worked and made sense. Communication was the key and for the first time in its four season run it felt that we were boldly going. Star Trek was Star Trek and he Federation didn't need to shoot something a lot to win. 

The 32nd Century setting still feels uneasy but for a season troubled by very Earth-based challenges, this has to be seen as a success even if I wasn't blown away by the story as it seemed to be a tale already well-trodden in the franchise. Cudos also for the fact that both Detmer and Owosekun had more to do than sit at the front of the bridge for a season. While the latter was involved with the away team in season two's New Eden and Kayla Detmer has had some key piloting moments, this felt like the first time they were used to their full effect. The other bridge fillers were still around and as horribly under utilised but even this seemed to be a step forward in the audience being able to connect to not just Michael and Saru.

I'm not going to say that this has been a great year for Discovery even taking into account the mitigating circumstances. The show still appears to be finding its feet in the 32nd Century with season four becoming more of a "season two" of a soft reboot. Where Discovery worked was through tying in its classic links such as Pike and Spock. 

Season four ended very cleanly. No loose ends, nothing to resolve at the beginning of the already green-lit season five. The distant future offers the chance to reset and go their own way but we have lost a lot of the familiarity of the franchise through such a prominent time jump and hopefully season five will correct the rot. It will be without the chains of a pandemic and therefore stretch out beyond the confines of the studio walls to embrace the challenges of the 32nd Century.

Thursday, 22 September 2022

In the Cards...of Fluxx

Fluxx has been a game that's kept giving (Star Trek) editions for some time.

Adding to the TOS, TNG, DS9 and VGR sets there was also the Bridge expansion which allowed the Kirk and Picard sets to be linked into a 20 card deck.

But what about the other two packs? Surely Sisko and Janeway want to get in on the action? Adding a special Ezri Dax card was a nice touch for the DS9 set but we want MORE!

As I've started getting back into playing a few rounds, the DS9 and VGR packs have become more of a go-to. The first two packs are great but we've taken to the characters and combos a little more. Of course this means we can't be far off an Enterprise pack?

Well no. Instead of a fifth installment of this great card game, Looney Labs have chosen a slightly different path. Choosing to tie in two expansions, Archer and Porthos, Fluxx now has even more endless possibilities for us to explore.

These two packs add in new Goals and Keepers which allow for the DS9 and VGR packs to be fully integrated into a 400+ deck that includes everything Star Trek that's come before. It's been a new lease of life for the game where the only options were to combine the TOS and TNG packs or play the later two as their own individual games but now the options are endless and there's the chance to combine between two and four packs and not all the time either.

But enough of the advert(!), it's just a damn fine game that deserved an ENT tie-in piece. The major issue might be though that there's only Archer and Phlox included from a crew perspective so don't be expecting T'Pol, Reed, Tucker or even the NX-01 (big shame) in either set.

The Archer pack contains several new elements to the game alongside new nine goals to draw the whole range of packs together. This set includes three new Keepers in the form of Archer himself, time traveller Daniels and from TOS’ All Our Yesterdays the Atavachron. New Creepers include Temporal Rift and The Xindi to add to the list of no-gooders to ruin your hand. There’s a new Surprise in Department of Temporal Investigations and a Meta Rule which allows multiple goals as long as they are from different packs, to be used at the same time.

The Porthos expansion sort of continues the Enterprise theme with the eponymous canine appearing alongside Dr Phlox but we also see the inclusion of Data’s cat Spot as a keeper as well as Romulan Ale and Klingon Kor. The additional eight goals (Errand of Mercy goal was in my pack twice?) tie in each of the main packs with multiple characters being brought in to win the game. One New Rule also appears which allows all players to draw and play an additional card if Star Trek is on the TV. The final card included is an Action which lets you draw an extra card if you leave the room during the game and return almost as if nothing has happened. 

These additions do bring that extra spark to the proceedings and give Fluxx another new spin. With all the options and alternatives that between one and four main packs can provide this has meant that game length can be incredibly varied and no two games are even slightly similar. 

What is quite overwhelming is the volume of goals now. These two packs alone provide 16 new possible winning formulas. The challenge is that to take full advantage you would need to combine all four packs every time. That’s 400 cards and for that I’d say you’re only going to want to play with at least four players otherwise it’ll take days to complete. Ultimately only worth it if you're ever going to combine packs and more so if you're going to be using all four base editions. 

Played Fluxx or any of the sequel packs? What did you think?

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Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Prodigy: Preparing for Part 2

The reveals of Picard's third season trailer might have distracted you from the fact that Prodigy's first season (part two) is set for return this October. 

As I said a few months back, rather than individually go through every episode I wanted to be able to have a more educated overview and look back in sections. This, for Prodigy, seems like a good point to take stock.

My thoughts ahead of it airing offered very low expectations of the show. It was for kids, I even grumbled at the animation in the first episode and wasn't planning on giving it a great deal of my time.

How wrong was i. Because I went in without demanding greatness from the first frames and was aware that it wouldn't be as adult-orientated as Discovery or Picard likely made a big difference.

While Burnham's journey in the 32nd Century seems to have meandered a little, Prodigy has remained untainted. The wokeness and community servicing that Discovery in particular has gone to town on is nowhere to be seen. Now, I get that Star Trek should be discussing current issues and scripting allegories just as Gene Roddenberry himself did back in the 1960's but there are some that would say Discovery is trying too hard to accommodate.

Prodigy on the other hand isn't. This is a straight up action adventure that provides a gateway into the world of Star Trek for a younger generation. It still talks about teamwork, family and has a story and characters who are already developing but it's kept things simple and, ironically, quite down to Earth.

Assembling a crew of aliens is one thing but to actually show character advancement in what is, at the core, a kids show is brilliant. All of the leads feel as though they are on individual journeys with some more prominent than others. Dal and Gwyn do tend to take the lead as the "acting captain" and the daughter of their nemesis, The Diviner but Rok too has been provided with serious development albeit in one episode.

But let's not get too ahead. Prodigy's first season has been wholeheartedly (to this mid-point) a brilliant success. These first ten episodes have successfully introduced the cast, a new ship, told a mini story arc and still managed to step way for a few weeks with a great cliffhanger.

With a strong learning towards its new elements and only sprinkling in a minor amount of existing Trek lore, Prodigy has done well to avoid the franchise's own self-loving and aim to embrace a totally new audience. The basics of the show, the Federation and our new crew have been set over this initial run of episodes and the writers have done a magnificent job of avoiding in-jokes and keeping their stories open and accessible.

The ship is a very clear Starfleet design with the over-hull nacelles and a distinct primary/secondary hull shape that can be traced all the way back to its most original form in USS Enterprise NCC-1701. Yes, it's got some neat twists; lots of surface landings, a 3D vehicle printer, that extremely open glass-topped bridge, the Janeway hologram and the incredible protowarp drive - but it's still recognisably Starfleet and I goddamn want one.

The crew are oddly relatable. Dal might be the captain-elect (by himself) but he has to share that centre stage with the equally capable and more mature Gwyn. But Dal is the new viewer to Star Trek, excited, interested and wanting to know it all. He is the avenue into the franchise that the Nickleodeon audience should be following. Rok has come on in leaps and, well, leaps from background to essential. Zero's Medusan nature has been touched on and visualised in one of the larger callbacks to the history of the franchise (Is There in Truth No Beauty? TOS S3) although Murf remains a complete enigma however completely indestructible he/she/they are.

The only character to really have been left at the kerb a little is Tellarite Jankom Pog. He feels almost as neutered as the Maquis after Caretaker and the argumentative nature played on right from the first episode has been frittered way in weeks. Hopefully he won't be relegated to the Inspector Gadget of the team with his extendable arm as his only "thing".

Now (spoilers) I had expected the Diviner arc to last more than the first half of the season but it has meant that this line of storytelling hasn't overstayed its welcome. It felt right to go in the direction the show took this plot and it felt conclusive and also the end of the beginning. The mid-season two-parter returning the Protostar and its crew to the mining colony where we started out ensured that loose ends were tied up although we know that there have been hints at the ship's purpose and final mission through these ten episodes.

Nor at any point has Hologram Janeway felt intrusive. Kate Mulgrew's return has been a masterstroke. It has greatly benefitted the series and of all the returning characters we've seen across the recent shows, certainly Prodigy has nailed it both with this leading lady and the assembling of the crew for Dal's Kobayashi Maru sim.

For long term fans there is still a sense of familiarity through the reminders of Starfleet, the design of the ship both internally and externally and, of course, that cliffhanger which leaves no doubt that the universe is all coming together. Would I be surprised to see one of the Prodigy cast turn up in a live series at some point? Not in the slightest and with the hints of an upcoming Academy show it might be sooner rather than later.

I'm very much drawn towards Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks but in Prodigy there is the hidden gem of the current Star Trek catalogue and something that is wildly accessible by every generation with enough in there to draw in Voyager fans as well as a new, young generation who can then go on and discover the shows of the '90's.

Leaving the season on a cliffhanger and by introducing the real Janeway aboard a very real USS Dauntless, the show has dropped a massive bombshell and a sharp left at the same time. Where is Chakotay? Will the Dauntless catch the Protostar and what the hell is Murf?

Prodigy has a ton and a half of things to offer and is just heading in its own direction. Whether it's possible to dovetail it into one of the series occurring at the same time has yet to be seen yet it remains absolutely unique just as each other series has managed so far in this Kurtzman era.
Perhaps the stories haven't minded much depth with the plots fairly straight-forward but it has managed to keep the audience interest at all levels and you can bet the second half of the season will deliver just as much if not more.

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Sunday, 11 September 2022

Last Two Up: STO Starships Collection Issues 19 and 20

We knew this was coming but good grief did it take a long time to get hold of the final two issues from Eaglemoss' 20 edition run of the Online Starships Collection.

Just to say before we start here that this has actually been a really, really good selection of ships from day one with a good spread across the main fleets with a couple of curveballs thrown in and, of course, an Enterprise for all those completists out there.

The end of the collection so early was a surprise - at least it was then - however in hindsight it sort of told us collectors and fans that the writing may well have been on the wall for some time.

But let's not go down that rabbit hole another time and instead focus on the two great ships that finish off the set.

With issue 19 we have the Cardassian CUV Damar starship and bookending the series with a Federation vessel we have the impressive Concorde Class.

Carrying a lot of the hallmarks of the Galor/Keldon Class ships commonly seen throughout seven years of DS9, the Damar Class/CUV Damar vessel dons a darker overcoat and actually seems to devolve to some degree. The very form of the ship takes it back even more closely to that of a scorpion. For example right at the front the ship carries two elements which suggest pincers as well as retaining the long forked tongue of a tail to the rear. Deadly at both ends!

While it also does away with the standard sandy Cardassian paint scheme of its forebears, the Damar model is actually...class. The paintwork on this one is fantastic. There's a god contrast and a whole ton of panel detail on just about every surface. Even better is the choice not to emboss the window points onto the hull and just paint them on. This look a lot more accurate and aligned than previous editions.

What also impresses with this Online Cardassian ship are the sharp RCS thruster points and blue grilles which stand out very effectively. The CUV Damar really is one of the best and most visually impressive from the collection. Multiple colourings, accurate window placement and perhaps the pinnacle, the layered hull.

From the front this is much clearer with the segments of the ship stacked up and enhanced with the use of negative space between the two main pieces. These are securely fixed together with the joints all hidden away within the depths of the layered hull.

What I did spot as well is the slight colour shift between the upper and lower hulls when the ship is flipped over. There's a more matt finish to the ventral side of the Damar as well as a direct continuation of the fine detail that marks out the upper levels of the ship. 

The Damar is a real gem. Well constructed, well replicated from the game and one of the more expertly finished vessels that Eaglemoss produced over nine years. It's just a surprise to find one that's so impressive this late in the day. Clearly its assisted in a large part by the design itself but for once the collection has a model that looks solidly built, finely turned out and well painted especially when it comes to the highlights and features.

Issue 19 remains solid and true to the Damar with details of its in-universe development, nature and role as well as a discriminating examination of the ship's design for STO. There's a ton of graphics and in-game images of the ship as you would expect but I would jump to say that the model easily blitzes every single image of the Damar on these pages; it's that nice a model. 

Rounding out the issue alongside its in-game stats is a section broadly covering The True Way (a Cardassian revolutionary group) and the Union itself after the climax of the Dominion War and the years to the 25th Century. Well worth a read and very comprehensive in a surprisingly small amount of space.

The USS Concorde NCC-94500 looks like a mash up of several different ship classes. The main chunk of it does appear to take inspiration from the Excelsior with its dipped hull and thinned rear section. Yet, this design tweaks even that classic with the quad warp engines and a more "eye" shaped deflector dish. 

Now, I'm not a huge fan of this ship but personal opinion on the design has never been a factor in determining if the model itself is any good. 

The thing with the STO ships is that the Federation ones tend to have this light/dark, black/white contrast going on which I can't quite accept on most occasions. I get that it's more striking when you see them in the game and makes them more easily recognisable but I'm more used to the flatter colours from the show and movies. 

Yet the Concorde cuts quite a mark as the final edition in the 20 issue series. The contrast of the two opposite shades works well and there's little to no colour bleed between the segments. The speckled finish we've so often seen in the series also returns to break up what would otherwise be a very stark white base coat. What I also love about the finish to this one is the alignment of the lifeboat hatches which hang right across the black/white border but are absolutely spot on in their placement and colouring.

The alignment of the red striping towards the rear of the primary hull is a little off when you compare starboard to port. Neither is crimped or marked but the two aren't quite aligned if you dropped a mirror down the front to back centre line.  It also clashes in with the black arc around the middle of the saucer if you look even more closely and from memory it's unusual for the lining decals to be this out of whack with the hull.

Also the red hatch markings are way off and worse since they adorn the very front and centre of the primary hull. That said, the windows are nicely applied because they aren't relying on specific hull dips or rises.

But the Concorde gets much more interesting the further back you go. Once past the registry (very basic) and the bridge, the rear of the primary hull expands out with an array of mechanics, sensor platforms and more. This effectively acts as both the rear of the saucer but also as the very rigid and secure pylons that hold the four warp engines. 

The detail along that spinal section is pretty good, mixing in greys and blues to draw out the elements however the finish does look chipped in places and the decals once again (on very close inspection) just don't quite line up in all aspects. The chips in the paint are a real disappointment as once you see one, there's a second and then you're scouring the whole thing to spot any more - which sadly there are.

But onto the engines where we have two larger warp nacelles slung tightly underneath a shorter pair. The wise folks at Eaglemoss did mange to incorporate translucent bussard collectors but chose to paint in the warp field grilles since they are very, very slim elements here. The paintwork for those grilles is ok at best with some feathered edges and again some paint "chipping" where the engines have black segments. The bussard collectors fairly hefty in size which does mean you can clearly see the peg elements which are holding it all together.

Across the whole of the 20 issues this seems to have been a constant factor. This black mask always seems to be worn in some form be it at the edges or frayed within the striping and it's detracted from the visual brilliance of more than one Federation starship, present company included.

The underside of the Concorde continues the speckles over white paintwork but once more features a lot of misaligned decals marking out key pieces of the starship whether cargo  hatches or lifeboat ports. The real issue has always been the scale and application, something that the XLs have managed to walk a fine line with on most occasions.

It is a little blotchy as well with the grey areas coming across as blobs rather than distinctive elements on the tail piece. Both the black and grey pieces of the bulbous forward area do avoid this but there are signs of some sloppy paintwork that indicates quality control wasn't p to scratch on this day. Fortunately the panel/shield grid lines are very prominent here as they are across the majority of the underside of the Concorde. The bottom of the saucer too is well finished if somewhat smooth. The red striping decals are crisper here and line up more precisely with the curves of the hull and inlaid sections although the hatch markings are all over the place as they are elsewhere.

It's a decent model to finish this short-lived series though and throughout, the unusual Federation ships have been well presented and well-represented. In a sense the Concorde fittingly demonstrates the best and worst of Eaglemoss. Great base colours, a learning that we as fans want to actually see the panel linings and surface undulations but god forbid you want decal or window accuracy at this scale.

Issue 20's magazine offers up similar material to all of its 19 predecessors with details of the battlecruiser's in-game existence and reasons for development as well as some rather nice plan views of the class. These do illuminate that the speckled paint finish is a design choice rather than an element that is seen in the game. 

Some of the CG images in here are spectacular especially the one which opens the issue. There's more from the real world as we are taken into the design process for the Concorde Class before, fittingly, the final article of the whole line - and also Eaglemoss' smaller starships collections - covers Starship Design within the STO universe.

So that was indeed that and this marks the final review from this collections and as noted, the final review from a starship (numbered edition) collection of this scale. We still have some review of older Discovery lines and bits to wedge in but for now, this is really how it comes to an end. The STO Collection was tragically underrated and clearly undersubscribed but 20 issues have covered Klingons, Romulans, Tholians, the Dominion and a ton of Starfleet vessels of all shapes and sizes.

In no way a let down, the collection has replicated the game's starships as best it could and in some respects (Damar) actually produced something that may well be superior to the original source piece.

I've been lucky to review this series and I hope for anyone who is a fan of starship design and never got the chance that these will be back online to purchase not too far in the future. While you might not go for all of them there are definite must haves in here on the brilliance of their original design and also some that work better as a model than on screen.

Eaglemoss - it was great while it lasted and thanks for these great additions for any fan collection.

Check out all our Online Starships posts HERE

You can find out more on the Star Trek Online Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

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Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Heavy Defence: Ty'Gokor Orbital Platform - The Official Starships Collection Special Issue

For some reason in my head I had it that Ty'Gokor was this station and not the planet beneath it.

But after a few decades the penny finally dropped when I got hold of this, the final platform to be released from the now defunct Eaglemoss Starships Collection.

Featured in the fifth season Deep Space Nine opener Apocalypse Rising, the platform acted as one of the defensive measures around what was announced as the most heavily protected piece of the Klingon Empire. 

The site for the presentation of the Order of the Bat'leth, Ty'Gokor's orbital platforms were a rare chance for viewers to see anything resembling a space station borne from the Klingons. While the Federation versions were high tech and clean-lined, there's something loveable about the harsher, grubbier construction here.

Probably the most striking parts of the platform are the four docking arms. All identical in structure, we actually only ever saw the top three because the fourth was hiding the structural arm to hold the model in shot for the camera.

But anyway, the finish imbues that traditional green/brown Klingon colour scheme which unusually here includes some form of aztecing which is most out of place on anything from this part of the galaxy. It does appear to have scorch markings around those docking bay openings although the interiors remain blank and the level of physical detail is a bit hit and miss. The edges of the panels and feature points all seem to be rounded off and smoothed across the upper and lower surfaces while the openings are a little jagged in places.

Each docking port also carries the instantly recognisable Klingon insignia but that can't draw away from the fact that some of the girder detail is completely lost in it transfer from the screen to the model. Most notably this is in the "baffle" structures either side of the docking ports that should not technically exist.

Tracing the arms back to the central structure, there is again a mixed level of detailing with some less than perfect seams. The alignment of the plastic is less than perfect and the masts on the top of the station seem to have chosen their own angles to point at - in some cases anything other than directly up. To be honest that entire antenna assembly is nothing as it appeared on the original model and this is dramatically backed up once you open the magazine. The CG on the cover is, in regards to this piece, also wholly inaccurate and "distracts" from the truth that it's nowhere near realistic. 

Traversing the structure only highlights more of the inaccuracies between this and the studio  model. While the triangle-forming supporting arms are fairly well implemented, the scaffolding-like structures around the platform's central core are only there thanks to some raised bumps on the surface of the plastic. It's very impressionist when you start looking and disappointing at worst.

But, the central, grilled element of the station is pretty spot on. The lattice is clean in its execution with a decent depth between each of the slats. The lower docking port which sit parallel to the grilled area again shares a lot of the issues of its three higher relatives - blocked scaffold piping, slim detailing, however the worst offence comes around the other side where it's noticeable that the two vertical sections are not quite lined up, leaving the panelling and the horizontal curved grille just out. What you also spot by this point is the near total lack f any metal components in the platform. All the way down to this point we've seen plastic alone and it's only when  we descend below the final docking port to the last piece of the core that we get that distinct cold touch.

Where? Right at the very bottom. In fact it's more or less just a weight to balance the structure and plug the hole in the base. Detail again is middling at best with some nice surface embossing and a few raised panel points. Problem is that everything here seems very indistinct given the strength of its features in the (errored) CG and also the model photographs. I would have expected that the scale would have allowed for some freedom but the more industrial nature of the Klingon orbital platform has worked against it.

Having so many pipe-like elements on the exterior of the model turns this from a very interesting structure into something much more blocky and average. Stick this alongside Spacedock or Regula One and they will easily blow it away. This is tragically an example where the final, original piece is just too much to be scaled precisely for the cost and size of these specials. To (literally) cap it all off the antenae at the base of the station are just as wayward as the ones at the top.

Stand fit is good and stable thanks to that metal base weight if nothing else with a unique clear plastic element to slot it all into above that familiar black stand. It does give that nice "floating" effect but doesn't make up for the other issues we've discussed here.

The magazine is pretty good and while the CG isn't 100% accurate it does offer a much better and more highly detailed render of the orbital platform. Passing through the details over the purpose of the platforms as well as details of the fifth season opener, the article is augmented with images from Apocalypse Rising as well as plan views of the station. Designing the unit only maxes out two pages of which over 50% is pictures - and not all of it of the item itself sadly. Then there's seven pages dedicated to episodes where crew have been disguised/altered into other races from the franchise. All in all that last piece is a bit underwhelming although you can see how they tied it in with the Klingon disguises given to Sisko, Odo and O'Brien to infiltrate Ty'Gokor.

As the very last (to date) special produced and shipped, Ty'Gokor leaves me a little cold. It's not the spectacular piece it could be however it is nice to have something more unusual recreated as part of the series. Tragedy is that this could have been sacrificed so we could have had the Caretaker array but alas that one may never see our shores.

This is one for the Klingon fans without doubt and would ideally go in the middle of that Empire display. For me though it's not one I'll be wanting out all too often but does help to complete this incomplete collection.

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