Monday, 19 August 2019

Return to the Nebula: The Official Starships Collection Issues 156 and 157


If you had your fill of Class variants then you might want to look away.

Eaglemoss' 157th issue of the Official Starships Collection drops a third Nebula Class offering following on from the USS Honshu (issue 23) and the USS Phoenix (issue 112). But what more can you give from this Galaxy Class kitbash? 

The biggest difference with the USS Melbourne is the removal of the rear sensor pod to be replaced with the smallest warp nacelles you've ever seen although a closer inspection reveals that Eaglemoss have stepped up the quality on this variant in a significant way. Apparently it's a prototype y'see - and one that surpasses it's earlier siblings.

The Melbourne has the highest level of detail on any Galaxy Class type saucer. It's a marvel and, as I've repeatedly, repeatedly said it shows how the machining and finishing of the models has simply become better and better over the course of the last few years with many lessons learnt.

Here the surface aztecing is flawless; the paint tones subtle and the lifeboat hatches cleverly shaded darker on one side to add a sense of depth to the surface. This saucer is all metal with some very distinct and ingrained panel lines emanating from the central island. The paint application means that the lines are very strong and Eaglemoss have avoided washing out the result. 

The saucer also carries four very distinctive yellow transporter pattern emitters but as with the window alignment it feels that these are just ever so slightly out by a fraction of a  millimetre. What makes up for this is the excellent marking on of the windows around the very edge of the elliptical primary hull and the near-perfect registry that adorns the dorsal side. It's neat - both as in cool and good.

As for further colour, there are the four RCS thrusters (tiny yellow dots!) at the edges of the hull and two postbox red impulse engines at the back. These do look a tad out of place being bright and red an' all but it does make the whole ship "pop" thanks to this and some other detail touches.

Leading out and down from the saucer section is the cobra neck here partially hidden away due to the sweeping arms of the warp pylons. Eaglemoss have covered the patchwork body here with the familiar aztecing and phaser banks.This plastic section then feeds directly into the twin warp nacelles hanging down under the hulls. These sections also seem to show off the aztec paintwork more visibly as does the unit connecting the ship to its mini nacelles.

These are a carbon copy of the larger pair with Eaglemoss even managing to fit all four with translucent bussard collectors and warp grilles plus Federation pennants. What I have noticed is that the colouring of those pennants, particularly the smaller ones on the upper mini nacelles is misaligned in the oval behind the delta. On the trio adorning the underside of the Melbourne this isn't as obvious but is still present.

I was also disappointed to find that one of these upper nacelles had paint marks on it from the black detail blobbed at the back of the engine units. That noted, the fit of the small nacelles as well as the unit attaching them to the hull is well built and without any huge gaps. Overall, I can't offer anything but praise for the construction quality here - easily the best of the three Nebula's.

Flipped onto her back there's immediately the awareness that the aztec pattern is missing. It's a single grey shade right the way across the underside of the Melbourne and that includes the secondary hull and the nacelles as well as the saucer. Panel detail lines remain as does the moulding of the captain's yacht at the centre and the multiple lifeboat hatches.

Thing is that the windows are awful. Moving away from the misaligned colouring to the hull indents, the Melbourne has the lit and unlit window slits out of alignment with each other. Somehow the larger square recessed windows are spot on in their gaps but the lined paint ins are horridly out of sync. 

Eaglemoss has managed to decal in the cargo bay hatches on either side of the yacht and also towards the underside front of the secondary hull perfectly but everywhere you look the windows just don't line up even on the engineering section. It's bloody annoying.

The pennants are slightly better here with the red of the ovals only a teeny bit out of place. The deflector dish painting also needs to be noted here. Again a big improvement over the years with both Galaxy and Nebula classes featuring on multiple occasions. The orange/blue combo is well executed and the hull in the recess bearing some very clear lining.

There are more evident signs of the construction methods on the bottom most prominently towards the rear but it's one line on a very well built replica. Y'see that's the gripe. The build is great, even dropping in a tiny tractor beam, strong colours and  very stable "back end" service pod but it's typically let down by that failure to attend to the detail that's plagued the collection since issue one.

As with all the Nebula variants the stand slides around the warp engine pylons from the back making a solid display pose for the ship. 

The magazine's a decent read too, explaining the reasoning behind the mini-nacelles, the fact there were two different USS Melbourne's at Wolf 359 and some of the variables through the Nebula Class. 

Following up, there's a double page on Ed Miarecki including the work he did restoring some of the original models used on the show including Deep Space Nine itself. Ed's work on the show is then covered in more detail with a selection of his models detailed over subsequent pages. 

It's a bit of a "best of" issue with the Rules of Engagement article then listing out key battles throughout Starfleet history from Azati Prime and the near destruction of the NX-01 The Ultimate Computer to Wolf 359 to the retaking of Deep Space Nine in Sacrifice of Angels plus a lot more. Issue 157 certainly covers a lot of ground in its pages offering a sprinkling of information. Most of it is generally in universe and already known but the Ed Miarecki 

The month's second starship - and a fresh design for the collection - is the Cardassian freighter Groumall

Best recognised as the ship commanded by the fallen-from-favour Gul Dukat n Deep Space Nine's fourth season, the freighter is one you might have expected to see a lot earlier in the series.

Carrying a dusty yellow paintjob from nose to engines, the Groumall finds itself with panel highlights striped across its forward pincers as well as on the stumpy cargo pods which cover its surface like the plates of an armadillo. I'm not a huge fan of the paint on this one as towards the front and the aggressive forked nose the detail of the hull surface seems to be lost in the colour.

The further you go back, the more the paint seems blotchy with the brown and grey highlights appearing fuzzy-edged and again, as with the Melbourne, ever so fractionally out of sync with the raised panel points it's supposed to be aligned to. The white window details are bang on to the edges and must be part of a separate painting process so no quibbles there however it still feels like a rush job.

That's not the biggest offender with the Groumall though as the join lines are barely concealed. At the nose there's a visible gap with a seam then running all the way across the top of the freighter hull right to the engine block at the rear. The "over" side to the left if you look from the top is metal front to back including the engine block while the left "insert" also runs the length of the craft with identical detailing. The paint is also flaked around this central join line and while it's great that the freighter has a worn look, it's obvious that construction has caused the superficial damage.

The rear engine block is one solid piece of starship with two thirds of it being metal. Once more emblazoned with the brown and grey highlights, it also carries, on both sides, the emblem of the Cardassian Union. Unlike the CG ships of the Enterprise era it has a much more angled and simplistic finish avoiding any intricate piping works or fiddly recesses such as with the Klingon Freighter last month. 

Also to the rear are the two large, vertically parallel engine units. Slat painted red with a grey surround, the look is very effective and the lower piece is utilised as part of the grip for the display stand. The detailing is well presented with the red restricted to just the exhaust points and there's no bleed into the surrounding hull works.The side impulse engines are uncoloured and almost nondescript. A bit if translucent plastic work here would have done wonders but the tight space and multiple colourings of the hull potentially make that too fiddy. The surface markings do exist but blend in unnoticed to the browns and greys.

Turning her over the Groumall is almost identical to the top with the one distinction that the wings to the rear (attached to the engine block) are now pointing up (think about it...). Note as well that the blue paint for the square details on these rear fins is vertical on one side and horizontal on the other, failing in any way to line up with the raised hull detail. It's a bit of a facepalm move to not even attempt to get them the right way. Ok, these squares will be hidden underneath but many a discerning fan will be checking every inch when they pull it out of the box on delivery day.

The issue 157 magazine details the uses of the Cardassian freighter with the clear focus on the Groumall's voyages under the command of the disgraced Gul Dukat including its final mission and secretive upgrades. There's some excellent CG to just highlight the flaws in the model because, well, the pics are that good. Of curse we also have some shots from Return to Grace. The detail of the images in the mag do appear a lot cleaner and crisper than the finished product as though it were new off the production line. 

Designing the Groumall calls in John Eaves and his cracking art which oversees the evolution from something very Cardassian to something not so Cardassian and the reasoning behind it.The Groumall does carry a lot of the traits that fans will see in other freighters from the franchise and even the story behind it belays that it was the direction Higher Powers wanted it to show.

Finally it's all wrapped up with a Cardassian flavour discussing The Rise of Damar under the expert guidance of actor Casey Biggs. The relevance of the character here was that Return to Grace marked his first - fleeting - appearance in the series. Biggs relates the key moments from that episode right through to his role as a figurehead leader to inspiring the Cardassian resistance. 

I really, really want to love the freighter but the detail and build of the USS Melbourne is a light year ahead of it. The Groumall is a key part of the Deep Space Nine story and certainly more visible than the Nebula Class prototype yet the very visible joins and some less than aligned paint features grind the gears.

Cardassian fan or one for the Nebula? What's your choice and thoughts on this month's starship pairing?

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Thursday, 15 August 2019

Barbara Scarfe (March)


Long-time associate of Star Trek, Barbara Scarfe aka Barbara March has lost her battle with cancer at the age of 65.

First appearing in 1991's Redemption two-parter, March took on the role of older sister and acting head of the House, Lursa. The sisters were attempting to place their illegitimate nephew as the new Chancellor throwing the Empire into a brief but bloody civil war which would have benefited another Alpha Quadrant power if successful.

With their distinctive outfits (which both March and B'Etor actress Gwyneth Walsh have worn at conventions over the years), the Sisters of Duras became an instant hit with fans and easily the most reknowned female Klingons ever to walk on Q'onoS. 

Indeed, Lursa and B'Etor would prove to be so memorable and in demand from the Star Trek fanbase that they would reappear not just in Bloodlines as The Next Generation's seventh season drew to a close but also across in Deep Space Nine's first season Past Prologue (the first regular length episode aired after Emissary) and ultimately would prove to be the downfall of the Enterprise-D over Veridian III in the seventh feature film, Generations.

I found March's Lursa to be the more dominant of the pair, more calculating and the one behind the master plan while B'Etor would be close by to get her hands dirty. Of the five appearances (Redemption being two parts), it would be that cliffhanger from the fourth and fifth seasons that will remain as my favourite moments. It's a rare event to see a Klingon female taking command at this point in the history of the franchise and would perhaps set a precedent that would be evoked through Grilka in Deep Space Nine's Looking for Par'mach in All the Wrong Places and later with L'Rell in Discovery as she takes command of the Empire.

However their was a more devious streak to the duo with their family connections to the Romulans dating back to the Khitomer incident which was explored in Sins of the Father and Reunion before being glaringly exposed in Redemption II. A Klingon family perhaps but one that did not concern itself with honour in the pursuit of control of the entire Empire.

While Generations would also provide the undoing/overconfidence of the sisters, their mark on the Star Trek universe was secure, leading to more Duras' in Enterprise some years later. For appearing in approximately six hours of the franchise, Lursa and her sister were well recognised and certainly the sci-fi world is a little emptier.

RIP.

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Wednesday, 14 August 2019

All Under One Roof


The significance of the above image may not immediately mean anything but for the first time since 2006 both the movie and TV licences will be owned by the SAME business as Viacom and CBS are set to reunite after a series of recent murmurings. 

But what does this all mean for the franchise powerhouse?

Simply put it means that the TV and movie opportunities can once again be properly intertwined. No longer will Viacom need to tread their own path, spin out into alternate universes, reboot and boldly go differently. It offers the possibility that one day Discovery or one of the subsequent franchise behemoths could venture onto the big screen beyond the confines of TV and it’s smaller scope. 

Estimated to bring about a company worth $28 billion, ViacomCBS will Control every aspect of Star Trek - but will they pass it all under Alex Kurtzman’s guidance or will he remain solely in command of its televised adventures? For the eagle-eyed of course there's a certain iron that Kurtzman - one of the guys behind the movie reboot over on Viacom/Paramount etc should be the one who is now at the helm of the franchise's future on the CBS lot. Could this have been the Big Plan all along so he will be in overall control of Star Trek's direction for the foreseeable future?

What also of the Quentin Tarantino movie which remains the focus of much speculation and excitement? What names might this draw in and will he now have the option to dig into the rich TV past of Star Trek to utilise it’s toybox of characters and events to add a more mature aspect to the universe? How long will it be now before there's an announcement about the future of Star Trek on a cinematic scale?

These are, I’m sure you would agree, very exciting times for the franchise - to know that everything has been reunited and managed in one hub. If the future for Star Trek was already looking bright with the range of series coming then this must be almost blinding in comparison. 

There's also been speculation that Star Trek could become the next Marvel Cinematic Universe. I honestly don't think so. As a concept yes in terms of having both movie and TV entries in its collection but in relation to box office numbers and hype I'd err on the side of caution. Star Trek will not draw in that kind of attention. Yes, it has lasted over half a century but it's not as big a draw and nor will Star Trek be pumping out three or four movies a year plus TV content. Already we're discussing saturation with at least five series in some stage of work (two animated, Discovery, Picard and Section 31) without even considering what the movie arm of the universe might be doing.

That's the thing though - this truly is now the Star Trek Universe - all aspects controlled in one place, one home. It all seems to be coming together rather well at the moment wouldn't you agree...?

Happy to see the franchise reunited after so long? What would you want to see as the result of this reunification?

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Sunday, 11 August 2019

What If Voyager - The Official Starships Collection Bonus Edition USS Altair


Alongside the Enterprise-J this has to be one of the thinnest, most fragile craft to come out of the Starships Collection.


If nothing else, the USS Altair offers a revolutionary design and unique backstory which might leave you wanting more from this distinctive starship.

The slender Altair is also incredibly light with the main swept wing underside and forward upper section being one piece of metal which pulls the weight of the ship to the nose when she's slipped into the thin plastic stand grip. More on that later by the way.

What the ship lacks in surface area it certainly makes up for in detail and fortunately the magazine includes the Ships of the Line image that this craft first properly appeared in. It's origins do go back to the mid-90's and Voyager concepts however tit's become more than that.

Led by that unusually prominent bridge dome right at the front, the Altair bodywork is crammed with panels, grates and recesses right across the depth and slightly more breadth of the wing. The painting finish is immaculate with the darker grey shading of the raised sections playing well to enhance the lighter dipped sections of the hull.

It's surprisingly light on decals too with no registry or ship name emblazoned across the hull at any point nor are there any visible Federation pennants streaked across the tail or engines as you might expect. In fact the only discernible decal on the whole thing appears to be the cargo hatch just behind the bridge dome. The plastic rear edge of the swept wing (before it steps down to the tail section) also has a series of windows carefully painted against the edge adding some sense of scale to the ship where the decals might.

On the top section only the port/starboard red/green lights mark out any visible differences before the hull sweeps back into an almost Cardassian tail piece. Here the raised upper tail section does have a dog-ugly join to raise the pincer ends up above the flat tail before diving back into a unique aztec-ish two tone grey/beige colour combo that darkens towards the back. Nice fade in with this and what you appreciate is that the metal of the swept wing actually curves back to provide extra stability to the back of the tail meaning there's zero bend. The upper "pincer" piece merely adds decoration not support.

Now to the engines. Mine arrived with the starboard nacelle at an awful rake to it's sister on the other side. The connecting plastic is very malleable allowing me to tease it back into place and perfect alignment but I would be worried if this ever gets dropped because the pylons are horribly fragile. 

The warp nacelles are evidently the inspiration for the Enterprise-J's propulsion units, possibly aspiring to be even more spindly and delicate. Each is adorned by its respective port/starboard light to the rear which also continuing what I would term as a speckled grey two tone pattern to the very tip. The tiny bussard collectors are well formed but not translucent with Eaglemoss instead opting to paint them in a solid burnt orange and then stick the warp grilles as small tubes to their backs. These will be just as unforgiving as the engine tops so be aware!

Flip the Altair over and the finish is very reminiscent of a hammerhead shark with a distinct black arrow marking across the front of the wing and then forking down into the centre tail section. In the middle of this there is space for a shaded deflector with a hint of blue fading to white - quite a cool little touch adding depth to what is actually quite a shallow indent in the underside of the metal hull. 

Aside from the distinct stripe, the excellent level of panelling detail continues with the two shades of grey highlighting the recessed and level metalwork. Even along the edge of the hull Eaglemoss have managed to paint in the very tiny windows which curve around the surface. It's a tiny area of detail you could very well miss and indeed choose to miss out but it's in there on the Altair and duplicated on the model. 

Underneath you can also appreciate the flimsy nature of the nacelles with a better look at the warp grilles which stand proud of the upper casing. The Altair surely couldn't have been produced in the early years of the collection given the delicate nature of some of its parts especially around the engines and it's been well worth the wait.


The stand positioning displayed in the magazine shows that the Altair should just balance on top of the plastic vertical grip however it does actually slip into the claws which gives it a decent midriff position. Even with the slimline body and thin shape, the stand isn't intrusive into the design and allows for it to be fully viewed when displayed.

The magazine offers bumper info on the Altair and it's in-universe details on size and technical specifications are fascinating especially concerning its revolutionary temporal core. The plan views allow a good comparison to the model and are - thanks to a full double spread dedicated to them - larger than the included ship. 

The section dealing with designing the Altair focuses on the process to create Voyager which saw this unusual concept first come to light. The work of Mike Okuda and Doug Drexler is deservedly recognised for their efforts to bring Voyager to life and thereby accidentally creating the ship we're discussing here. Lots of sketches and 30 year old CG as well as spin offs into the Congo and the Universe classes that were inspired from the basics of this concept. Add in the Ships of the Line image that finally unveiled the final design of the Altair and this is a killer issue. This once more allows for a decent comparison with the finished version/image and the model. Here I might note the hull colouring does seem darker and the lighting adds a lot to the feel of the starship. In the case of the latter there's no way this is possible without doing exactly that and there's physically no space to do so. That does detract from the effect although it's still a great recreation.

Closing out the issue we have Drexler's Voyager concepts which reveals that some of the ideas within the "throwaway" nature of these renders actually turned up in the final onscreen Intrepid Class starship; take a good look at the shape of that primary hull for one...

Unexpectedly better than I thought even if this is one of the smallest, thinnest starships to grace a plastic and cardboard box this side of Vulcan. I love the detail, the feel, the delicate nature of the Altair which make it an interesting bonus edition. Voyager fans will certainly lap this one up and stick it alongside Rick Sternbach's first concept for due comparison. Star Trek's most "out there" design for a few decades - and I like it!


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Tuesday, 6 August 2019

The Real First Contact? The Official Starships Collection Issues 154 and 155



Oddly only a partial review this month to be updated next month due to a printing issue with the Klingon Transport magazine.

Both of this month’s ships come from Enterprise and it’s the Klingon entry which we’ll be tackling first purely down to issue number rather than release order. 

An unusually chunky design for the warrior race, the Transport has an excellent amount of detail once again thanks to the use of CG in the prequel series versus the models of previous generations. 

At the front the stubby green nose carries a golden deflector - an unusual feature on a Klingon ship and here we have it sitting slightly proud of the hull and - as we'll see - the cleanest piece too. The panel lining around the nose is nice and clean although the red inset detail painting is a little blobby in a couple of spots although they are quite tight gaps to fill. 

The metallic paint finish could have looked far too pristine but again Eaglemoss have thought ahead and weathered the whole craft with a dirt wash that takes the edge off the shine and adds a few years on to her age as well as keeping with the hardworked feel of the craft. In this respect Eaglemoss have done well to give that used and poorly cared for atmosphere to the transport.

The dirt weathering is most evident on the central container section where the dark streaks run from the top and down the sides of the craft. The panel detail here is fairly simple indicating larger pieces and fortunately the paint hasn’t filled up the separation lines so every part is distinguishable. Nicely there are what would seem to be two docking ports either side at the front od the main cargo block which I did miss on first inspection. It's another sign of how good the CG was for the prequel series and how impressively this has been translated across into the scaled down reproduction presented here.

However the most impressive element of the Klingon Transport has to be the rear third and the engine assembly. On occasion Eaglemoss has simplified some of the workings on the exterior of its ships yet here we have a fantastic recreation of the propulsion unit that must have proved a challenge to create. The pipe work is exquisite with a load of layering, recesses and call outs at every point, even having an inset red translucent exhaust piece set right at the back. 

Some of the depth of perspective is lost in shallower detail on the engines but overall it’s a sound effort and the detail goes a long way. It’s safe to say this is once more due to the use of CG on Enterprise meaning the original files are easier to work with than the rough and ready models of the ‘90’s.

The transport is pretty chunky from every angle and while that topside is filled with detail the underside is almost a polar opposite with only the engine units repeating their upper mechanical detail. The weathering/dirt wash continues but it's across a flat underbelly with only a couple of changes in depth along the main section to add to the sculpt. 

Therefore best viewed from the top, the stand placement for this one has the plastic clip sliding comfortably between the engines and the mechanics at the rear end and holds the transport steady. No issues either with the peg-to-base which has been a will-it-won't-it gamble every two weeks since records began.

MAGAZINE REVIEW TBC

Since we’re awaiting the magazine for this one it’s straight on to the Vulcan Survey Ship which pops up in the great Carbon Creek - although it's not the one T'Pol's ancestor took to Earth but the craft which rescued her at the end. 

Coated in that familiar Vulcan chestnut brown, the survey ship makes a bold statement out of the box and fits well with the rest of the fleet although you can see it's design isn't quite on par with the ships from the Enterprise era.

Almost bullet-shaped, the small ship has a certain metallic glow to it only offset with (and this is two for two issues here) by the subtle washed weathering applied to the top half of the hull. It's a gloriously smooth finish - again another Vulcan trademark - with the windows dabbed on to the forward, pointed section.

The metal topside is light on embossed detail yet does carry some slight curves and bumps but no obvious panel lines as seen on the Klingon Transport. All the elements of the craft seem to emerge almost organically from the central hull with the forward fins and three engines sitting glaringly proud.

The smaller plastic underside panel plus these extremities are all plastic constructs and actually have the better quality finish when it comes down to it. There are some lovely subtle paint changes on the forward fins that you wouldn't have appreciated on screen nor would you have taken in the use of negative space within the design of the engine units but here you can.

However the other challenge is that all of these plastic sections of the ship are devoid of weathering and look oddly clean versus the darker patches marking up the topside of the survey ship. Yes it's a good build however having three pristine engines and a set of fins that look immaculate does look strange next to a slightly weathered main hull.

The engines and the underside continue some nice painting subtleties with a second shade of the hull brown that appears to be only a small fraction of the colour wheel different to the main covering. 

The underside too carries some very lovely hull panelling detail expanding on a more technical aspect of the craft. The magazine makes much more of the hull finish and does seem to blend all the elements together for a seamless journey of the eye over the ship. 

One bug bear is that the engines have no translucent element to them. Look into each of the openings at the rear and you will only see shadows, darkness and more brown. To the eye it's difficult to differentiate between the brown hull and whether or not there is a translucent red element at the back of each of the warp engine openings. Gut says yes there should be and is yet would it not have been wiser to go with a yellow colour as in the magazine's views instead of a dark red we can barely see if at all. 

The engines are perhaps the flimsiest piece of this one and the sense that they are incomplete doesn't help bring this replica to life. One of the three on mine is a little loose so just be aware as it lifts from the rear. 


Sadly the few shots of it in the magazine from the ep as well as the time it appeared onscreen don't allow for too much scrutiny but the CG images and the ship itself do appear to line up very precisely in terms of panel detail, window alignment and finish. There's even some very slight aztecing on the D'Vahl if you catch it in the right light which highlights some of the varied panel colours across the hull. In fact check out the CG from the Ship Profile section and you'll see how perfectly detailed the underside of the ship is to the rendering on paper.

One glaring omission on the model which is all too present in the magazine is its landing gear. On the undercarriage of the D'Vahl you can make out the three distinct covers for the feet which are displayed on the cover and also in a couple of the stills from the Enterprise episode. The tragedy is that these feet aren't on the model itself and it's an odd one to see the magazine and model not totally aligned at least on the cover in terms of the physical product. 


In issue 155 the Ship Profile section deals with the features of the D'Vahl survey ship as well as the part it played in rescuing T'Mir and her fellow Vulcan observers from Carbon Creek. Surprisingly this section covered a lot of background into Vulcan activities in the 20th Century as well as spewing out the fairly standard episode synopsis. The plan views allow for a good side-by-side comparison on this one with the engines definitely standing out as the "area for opportunity" if there was ever a chance to rework this model. The addition of some strongly coloured engine exhausts does make it feel lacking and every image here reinforces the fact!

Almost feeling like a page-filler is Vulcan Fleet Listing which overviews the craft of the Federation founders in the 22nd Century. In fact all four of the classes/ships included have been seen in the collection which makes this a bit like closing the stable door after the horse had bolted.

Finally Adventures in Time adds Carbon Creek to the pantheon of time-travelling stories from the depth and breadth of the franchise. The article takes in everything from Return to Yesterday and  Assignment: Earth in The Original Series to Time's Arrow in The Next Generation onto Little Green Men in Deep Space Nine then Future's End and 11:59 in Voyager. It does also cover a few holodeck episodes plus Enterprise's North Star however there's no mention of Trials and Tribble-ations possibly because it's "fictional" history rather than "actual" history if you will.

An average couple of issues from the collection with neither Enterprise entry really setting the world on fire. My personal favourite of the two would be the Klingon Transport for the detail and engine build but it's certainly not one of Eaglemoss' stronger monthly pairings.

Average or a hidden gem of the collection? Let us know your thoughts below!



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Saturday, 27 July 2019

Cards are Dealt: Hirogen and Borg Attack Wing Expansion Packs


At the same time that the Federation Attack Fighter pack arrived, there were another two card expansions waiting in the wings.

Providing a new slant on the Hirogen Hunting Vessel, this Independent faction card set includes not just the cards but the tokens to supplement your Attack Wing game - just make sure you have a Hirogen ship before using since this pack doesn't include the movement dial or card (nor the ship or stand for that matter). 


Totalling a cost of 22 points, the vessel attacks with four, defends with two and carries a hull value of three and raises four shield points. The additional slots here are well-mixed with two for Tech, two for Weapons and one for crew - which sort of makes sense since Hirogen vessels usually only had a commander and one other on board; nice touch Wizkids if that was intentional.


The Action bar has the standard Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battle Stations features available while the unique action works when the ship doesn't succeed in an attack. Effectively it's something for nothing with the defending ship being Target Locked and the attacking Hirogen craft receiving a Battle Station token. Good move which means even the worst turn could end up with a positive result.


The generic version of the ship loses one shield point and a Weapon upgrade as well as the Unique Action for a cost of 18 points - still a decent ship even with some teeth removed.


Captaining this new vessel offers two alternatives with the Hirogen Hunter costing more (four points) and packing a skill of five. A reusable card, it allows Tractor Beam to be used as a Free Action as long as it is equipped to the same ship. The Hunter also has the option to add on an Elite Action. Surprisingly Idrin, the named captain, costs only two points with a skill of three. During the Activation Phase Idrin can be Time Tokened to remove disabled or Time tokens from either Tech or Weapon upgrades attached to the same ship. He too can add on an Elite Action of which there are two included with this card expansion.


Beta Hirogen kicks off the two new Crew cards. Costing three points he's worth the punt given that he increases the Captain Skill by one and doubles up on Scan tokens whenever one is played on the ship he's equipped to. I really like this one due to its double use and benefit to the overall playability of the ship - especially if you're fielding Karr from the Alpha Hunter pack.

Donik, a character from Flesh and Blood, is also damn useful as he stops any upgrades fired from a Secondary Weapon arc having any effect on your ship. This is a MUST to equip and rules out being hung out to dry with torpedo attacks launched from the backs of many a ship. His cost of just two points for such a huge blocking move is a steal - I'd have doubled the price for this one.

Ok. We mentioned earlier the Tractor Beam card and now let's get to it. It's one of the two Tech upgrades provided in this expansion and costs a rather appetising three points to equip. Activated in the Action stage of the round, Tractor Beam has the bizarre ability to swap the green and red maneuvers meaning that green moves would incur an auxiliary power token while the red ones won't. Active at ranges one and two this could well slow down potential prey and leave them in range for that one further turn. 

Stealth Mode (three points) allows your vessel to perform a Sensor Echo move even if not cloaked at the cost of two Time Tokens. A nice defensive move for a pack which is very offensive in it's nature and does allow the player a chance to regroup if necessary.

Talking of offensive capabilities it's perhaps a shock to find that there is only one Weapon upgrade included with this card expansion. Subnucleonic Beams costs three points and operates at ranges one and two. Acting with the same four dice as the Primary Weapon in the pack, it lets you fire and then disable as many Crew upgrades on the opponent's vessel as there are uncancelled Damage or Critical Damage icons. A double hitter here that could take out some potential big guns and clever combos. It will incur two Time Tokens however which limits its activity during the game.

Optronic Data Core functions as either a Weapon or a Tech upgrade (hence the question mark emblem) and can be used as a free Action at the cost of three Time Tokens OR it can be disabled to remove a disabled token from another "?" card attached to the ship. Now, I wouldn't think that second one will happen very often so you're probably not going to be using this card very often!

Closing out the set we have two Elite Actions. The first, the three point The Lone Hunt, is active at ranges one and two but only if there are no other friendly vessels within that zone. It's notably neither disabled or discarded and so can be reused over and over giving your ship an additional die in attack - and I always have a fear of five dice rolling ships which could make this one more than a handful given the other useful upgrades included here.

Last up is the four point Relics which can only be attached to Karr or a Hirogen Captain (isn't that the same thing?) and has two stages to its use. The first part sees you drop a Mission Token onto the card for each time you make a successful attack (once per round) up to a maximum of three tokens. These can then be spent during the Activation Phase to perform a free Action from the ship's Action bar. Fairly useful but not quite as dynamic as the other features in the pack and I'd pick The Lone Hunt over this one every day of the week.

With no Mission cards in this pack we can jump straight across to the other card expansion pack - Queen Vessel Prime aka the Borg Octahedron. As part of the Borg faction this is one of those ships that you love to play given its firepower and capabilities but is an absolute b*****d to take on because of those exact same reasons. This pack will only solidify your thoughts further.

Carrying a six Attack, zero Defence (and why would you need that...), eight Hull and seven Shield points, the diamond ship costs a stinging 42 points with slots for two Borg, one Tech, one Weapon and two Crew. Standard Actions for the Borg are Target Lock, Scan and the ever popular Regenerate. If all that's not enough, the unique Action for the pack means that this one could well be virtually unstoppable since the End Phase of each round can see you add a Drone token to the Captain. Now, stupidly that doesn't specify up to the starting amount...? Could you go over?

The generic version of the Octahedron loses that vague unique action plus a Shield point and a Crew upgrade slot to rock in at a 38 point cost. 

The Tactical Drone starts out with a Captain skill of six and if there's an enemy ship within ranges one or two during Combat then spending a Drone token will allow you to add a Battle Stations token to your vessel and therefore give you a smidgen of defensive possibilities. While this is a good card the lack of defence overall for the Borg is a significant challenge so always go in prepared - even if it costs!

First costs four points to the Tactical Drone's three and starts out with the same six Captain skill as dictated through the number of Drone tokens assigned to it. His functionality is much more attractive, allowing you to spend a Drone to remove two Time tokens or one disabled token from any upgrades on the ship - this will have you back up and running at full tilt almost every round.

This pack offers up four Crew upgrades which are a mixed bunch to say the least. Neonatal Borg adds a further Crew slot to the ship and also lets you fill Tech or Borg slots with Crew. For a two point cost it does provide a lot of flexibility on a Borg ship so you can pick out the very best opportunities. Mezoti (also two points cost) nullifies the effect of a Crew upgrade being used against the Borg ship and is discarded once it's been effectively deployed. As a suckerpunch to the enemy ship the Crew upgrade used in the round is then disabled and its effects cancelled out. Having this ability in your stack will definitely improve the longevity of your time in the game and is another sterling defensive move to have available.

One and Second both cost four points to get aboard your vessel. The futuristic One from Drone is discarded after use and causes Shields to be disabled rather than destroyed for each hit. No shields however and it's pointless to use as there is no effect. Another chance to add some defensive options to the Borg fleet. I'd be more tempted to stick this on the Sphere or the Tactical Cube where there are a higher Shield totals and give yourself even more time to make the killer blow.

Second is a costly card and that's being easy on it. For four points you get to perform a free Action, drop four Drone Tokens onto this card and remove the existing Captain. Second then becomes the Captain. For the chance to use a free Action this comes across as massively OTT but then you think about it - if you've used up all or most of the Drone Tokens off the existing Captain, this gives you another four goes so y'know what - it IS worth the risk!

Only one additional Weapon upgrade in this set and trust me, with six in Attack you don't need much more. Tractor Beam (not the same as the Hirogen one) fires at ranges one and two with the same number of dice as the ship's Primary Weapon. For the whopping five point cost you expect fireworks and this does deliver - to a degree - and there is more risk and gambling than actual certainty since it switches Critical Damage hits into the ability to steal Tech or Crew upgrades from the opponent regardless of defensive status. 

It's a big cost and quite a chance to take although there's no stipulation of when you can play this card either before or after your roll to attack. Nor does it specify if you equip the stolen upgrades to your ship even if they exceed the points limit you may have imposed. Little bit vague again from Wizkids and this certainly needs a little clarification going forward.

There's also a singular Tech upgrade slipped in here in the form of Technological Analysis for four points. Active at all weapon ranges it leads you to discard a Drone token to then remove a Battle Stations, Evade, Scan or Target Lock from the target opposing ship. Useful if only to take the punch out of your opponent’s attack or render them a little more susceptible to retaliation. 

Last up is the solo Borg upgrade; Threat Analysis. Costing a minimal one point, this allows you to disable this card with two Time Tokens to be able to play Battle Stations. What’s the great thing? Well the Borg ship here can’t play this for its Action bar so this provides both an offensive and defensive advantage particularly if things aren’t going too well. 

The Elite Action included costs two points and is entitled Neural Transponder. This card seems to be an enforced Action as whenever a Battle Station, Evade, Scan our Auxiliary Power Token is played then the card is discarded and any  friendly ship at ranges one or two receives the same token as long as one isn’t already there. It’s a bit wishy-washy as an upgrade so you can use your points more wisely elsewhere. It’s likely to be the weakest card in the pack where there are much stronger cards for a slightly higher price. 

The Borg pack seems to be very average in the style and type of upgrades included for your already overpowered fleet. The Hirogen pack is one of my favourite expansions, possibly one of the best packs in the game. There's lots of new spins on gameplay in here and gambles to select just the right upgrades to make the most effective ship. This has made me want to get hold of more of these card packs as there seems to have been a bit of thought outside of the Attack Wing box that we haven't seen since initial launch. Definite thumbs up for these and fingers crossed there are more in the near future - but let's see those Borg and Animated Series packs first please...

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