Sunday, 16 June 2019

Kelvin Counterparts: Attack Wing Mirror Universe Faction Pack: The Kelvin Timeline Part 2

We've covered the Enterprise and the alternate crew so let's turn our attention to Q'onoS and the Klingons for our second half of the Kelvin Timeline Faction Pack...

The two models included in this set are, frankly, excellent. Small scale they might be but the detail of the mould and the additional painted markings make for a great ship. Wizkids have crammed a lot in with the feathered panelling on the wings and the shoulder cannons (little out of scale these...) down to the vertebrae style neck connecting the command section to the main hull. Underneath is a little simpler with a flat hull complemented by some top notch detailing on the pair of warp nacelles hanging down from the wings of the engineering hull. For note, these ships and crew can be used either for the Mirror Universe or the Klingon Empire.

The influence of the classic D-7 is all too evident as it was on the larger and equally impressive version from Eaglemoss about a year back but I think this is just that tiny edge better because of the size of this one. It has to be one of the most exact reproductions from the franchise in the game and for once it's not let down by sloppy paintwork or misaligned engines. Instead we have a well presented Klingon vessel ready to take on the Federation.

Making a "second" appearance in the game is the IKS Amar last seen in its The Motion Picture guise as a K'T'Inga Class ship. The CG on the card shows it with purple tipped features  rather than the silver/greys of the miniature but we're not here to nitpick the image because it's all about the stats.

Now points-wise you at a disadvantage here because the Amar and the IKS Suvwl both rock in at 21 points versus the USS Enterprise's 28. Both ships pack four attack, one defence, four hull and three shield points plus the standard Actions of Target Lock, Battlestations, Cloak and Sensor Echo. They also mirror each other with slots for one Tech, two Weapon and a single Crew upgrade. Where they do differ is the Unique Action with the Amar able to fire its Primary Weapon if it receives damage while Cloaked (only once per game) and the Suvwl can add an extra attack die and reduce an opponent's defence by one should it be cloaked and not in the Primary Firing Arc of said enemy.

Both ships are geared towards dealing more damage leaving offence your best defence with these arrivals. Nor are they particularly quick with a top speed of four with full banking and 90 degree left and right turns at speeds two and three. The hard left/right at speed three as well as the reverse do incur the Auxiliary Power Token (red) penalty while the banking turns and forward of speeds two and one will get those removed (green). Considering the top speed there's a lot of manoeuvrability with these Klingons - even more surprising since these aren't more flexible birds of prey.

Kor is available as your highest skilled captain (seven) with a cost of four and the chance to equip an Elite Action as well. He has an interesting Action which wlll come in to play very well if you choose to employ it against your most powerful opponent. When attacking, Kor can add an extra die and then convert two Battle Station results into damage. If it's on the receiving end those Battle Station results can be converted to Evades and the ship gets to roll an extra defence die.

Kang is a little less flexible and will only be ever considered for use if you're going up against the Federation since his Unique Action specifically utilises one of that faction's ships. Should one be in your Forward Firing Arc then your captain skill increases from six to eight for that round. Kang too costs four points and can equip an Elite Action.

For two ships that can only add a single Crew upgrade you get a surprising four to choose from in this expansion. Koth could be a real asset to the ship costing two points and immediately disabling a Crew upgrade on an opposing ship. However, think a bit more and this could be a waste of resources since this is only used on Set Up and if your opponent is a half-decent player this will be reactivated sharpish. 

Also costing two points is Klingon Patrol. At the End Phase and as long as you;re not in the Forward Firing Arc of an opponent you can cloak. Admittedly this is nothing more than a Free Action completed at the back end of the round rather than the beginning - which will be all of two minutes in the real world.

Again for a cost of two is Klingon Guard. Offering a Combat Phase freebie of an Evade token, this one provides the chance to act after your opponents have made their move - or perhaps it'll assist you in a tight spot that you've noticed at the final moment. Low cost but with the potential to allow you an extra breath to get away. Simple but useful.

Finally, the most expensive of the Crew offerings is Klingon First Officer. It's a very unusual card in that it takes effect during the End Phase of the round and gives you a second chance to attack with the Primary Weapon. This in turn leads to the Captain being discarded and the First Officer being put in command with a skill of four which corresponds to the cost of the card. Slightly sacrificial however the chance to attack twice in the same round cannot be sniffed at if the opportunity arises.

Of the two Weapon cards, Disruptor Volley attaches an Auxiliary Power Token to an opposing ship within ranges one to three. Attacking with five dice there is no actual damage save this token although Attack Squadrons will lose an Attack Squadron token for each Damage or Critical Damage that is not cancelled out. For three points this is a very different type of attack than we are used to, reducing the opponent's tactical options for a short time and maybe reducing their speed choices next time round.

There's also the standard Photon Torpedoes card with again, the three point cost. Utilising the equipped ship's Primary Weapon +1, the Photon Torpedoes operate at all ranges and spends the Target Lock to fire. This one also has the benefit of changing all Battle Station results to Damage should the enemy shields be down. Brutal but effective, I'd never leave dock without this weapon option.

The Klingon Cloaking Device Tech card costs just two points to add on and offers two choices of action during the game. Either during defence you can convert one die result to an Evade (if cloaked) or you can drop three Time Tokens on it to cloak during the End Phase giving a second action to your go.

Finally the Elite Action, Overwhelm, is the only card that is offered up as just a Klingon option and costs you four points to equip. Featuring a pic of the Narada (?) it comes into play during the Attack phase allowing you to add one attack die to your roll for each ship that has attacked your target. One of the results can also be converted into a Battle Stations to just give that attack a bit more impact but you will have to disable it with two Time Tokens. Depending on when you play this will also determine if all or some or none of your ships will have attacked so best attach it to the ship with the lowest Captain skill so you will attack last.

So that's the second half of the Kelvin  pack and what a great assortment of alternative Klingon ships we have. This, along with the Federation ships not only gives you a two versus two scenario straight from the pack but also the chance to add all four ships into a Mirror Universe fleet which will be one heck of a mix and match. 

Wizkids have pushed the limits of the game here, trying new and unique card features alongside tried and tested favourites. The twin character cards as well as the Auxiliary Power Token attack are very distinct newbies to the game and provide some much needed variation that many of the later standard packs failed to provide. Looking forward to seeing what the Animated Series and Borg packs provide in the near future...

Check out more Attack Wing reviews in our online resource - and in the meantime let us know your thoughts on this expansion to the game - good choice? What else is missing?

If you've enjoyed it, please share!

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Thursday, 13 June 2019

Kelvin Counterparts: Attack Wing Mirror Universe Faction Pack: The Kelvin Timeline

Utilising elements from previous Wizkids games, Attack Wing has added a further piece to its repertoire.

Note: This is PART ONE of a two-part review...

Including two Constitution Class and two Klingon Battle Cruisers from the Kelvin Timeline, the Faction Pack provides not just the one Mirror fleet but two opposing forces if you want to go for a full on war.

The Constitution Class models actually have a decent amount of hull detail with panelling, phaser banks and even reaction control thrusters visible on the saucer.

Both the Enterprise and the Enterprise-A cards carry the same four attack, one defence, six hull and four shield points as well as one Tech, two Weapon and two Crew upgrade slots. They also both cost 28 points as well as the Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battle Station actions slotted in. They do differ when it comes to the aptly titled Unique Action. With the "original" Enterprise you can flip over a Specialisation Card (more on this shortly) and flip a damage card face down as a result.

On the Enterprise-A a Specialisation Card can be flipped to restore a shield point. Both of the Enterprises move identically with a maximum forward speed of six (does incur an Auxiliary Power Token) with Green forward and bank maneuvers at speeds one and two. Speed two also offers 90 degree turns and finally there's a speed of two for reverse that will incur an Auxiliary Power Token.

The Starfleet ships come with four captain options in Pike, Kirk, Spock and Sulu. Now, before we get into those you might think there are a heck of a lot of cards in this box but what we have here is a whole set of double-sided crew options. All of the Federation/Mirror cards here with the exception of Pike carry the "switch" Specialisation emblem. These will start on one side and then flip as and when directed within the game. There is, fortunately, a Specialisation card which explains all the benefits of these new possibilities plus their restrictions.

Unusually for this game pack I'm going to review per character for crew starting with the Kelvin Christopher Pike. An eight on Captain's Skill, Pike costs five points with the option to pack an Elite Action onto the ship as well. He allows an additional Crew slot plus can flip two Specialisation Cards equipped to the ship. Pike's a good card with strong stats that will allow you to change the flow of the game by altering your specialties in bulk per round to suit the situation.

Kirk has a Captain skill of seven for a cost of four points plus the chance to add an Elite Action. Kirk can be disabled during the Activation Phase and as a result you can remove a Time Token from any Crew assigned to your starship. Again a good skill level but reactivating this Kirk will take an Action to complete. Flip him onto Cadet Kirk, the cost is still four points and the Elite Action remains active. This version however is Crew rather than Captain and again he comes into play during the Activation Phase. This time three Time Tokens get set on the card so that you can increase your Captain skill by two for a round and also perform a Battle Station action as a freebie.

Cadet Kirk is certainly more flexible than the decently powered Captain option so I'd be more tempted to load him as this version with Pike in the command slot.

Science-shirted Mr Spock comes as the third command option for the Enterprise and provides a damn useful option alongside his skill of six and option for an Elite Action. During attack Spock allows your ship to add a Battle Station action/token to your ship or, if you have Scan already active. It adds a Damage to your attack roll. This highly effective card really has no downside nor does it require any Time Tokens to reactivate the feature. 

On the other side the Academy Tutor Spock works similarly to Cadet Kirk, increasing the captain skill by two points and letting you perform a Scan as a free action. All for the cost of three Tmie Tokens however it gives you the chance to move first and then potentially attack first with benefits. Spock costs a respectable four points and either side will allow the addition of an Elite Action.

Captain cards now out of the way, there are a further five Crew cards which are also double-sided.  Scott, Leonard McCoy Hikaru Sulu and Nyota Uhura cost three points with Pavel Chekov costing two. Montgomery Scott is temporarily disabled by Time Tokens should you wish to give yourself a better chance and repair a hull point or on the other side he will again result in a disabled card but for the option of repairing a Shield point. Once each Action is used the card is flipped meaning you can alternate which repair is completed. 

Cadet side McCoy offers an option to combat an Action that would lead to your Captain being discarded or disabled effectively "sacrificing" this card for that piece. Three time Tokens prvent it from being disabled while two will stop it from being thrown out of the game. On the Doctor McCoy side the process is two-step. Before the game starts you choose a Crew upgrade costing four points under the card. During Activation that Crew card is equipped to the ship and is temporarily disabled with three Time Tokens. I quote like the chance to add something new to the game with a delay. This can be played to great effect at a critical time to seal the deal.

Sulu can also be graded as a Captain with a skill of five and will gain an Evade Token should you perform a banking move at speed one to the left or right. Defensively it adds another chance to get away from an attack more effectively and the alternative also provides additional defence but only against minefields with three dice rolled to see if you can Evade the onslaught of this killer laid weapon. His stronger Action is definitely his Captain side but given the strength of the other contenders I would probably never use it.

Uhura also functions to extend your time in the game with her Cadet side allowing you to discard any Communication Failure damage cards and her Communications Officer side offers help to an ally with it increasing the range of any Upgrades by one. This Activation Phase action comes at the cost of three Time Tokens but could help a smaller support ship give you an extra boost or provide an unexpected attack from another craft.

Two point Chekov works against opponents during combat to remove a Scan token in play on another ship or you can utilise his ability to cancel off an Auxiliary Power Token from your own craft dependant on which version you choose. Either incur the standard three Time Token penalty before being reactivated. For a couple of points Pavel does provide something different and I would probably go with the Auxiliary Power assistance to mean I can perform some tighter manoeuvres. Definitely suggest coupling him with something that will reduce your Time Token penalty.

You also have two Weapon choices to implement taking their cues from the 2009 and Into Darkness movies. Full Spread Phasers either adds an attack die to your primary weapon (thus making this Enterprise attack with five dice) or allos you to fire from your Secondary Weapon arc using one less die (three in this example). This is a magic card to equip for just a four point cost and removes the possible need for Photon Torpedoes since there's no Time Token requirement to reactivate. Costing three points is Advanced Long Range Torpedo. Adding one more die to the attack (five in the case of the Enterprise), the Torpedo can be used at ranges two and three and does require two Time Tokens to be used up before it can be reactivated. However, the benefit is worth it with any ship within range one of the target incurring one point of damage. A great move that increases the abilities and effectiveness of the weapons in the pack and one which you would have to seriously consider on a Federation or Mirror Universe fleet.

Rounding out the Federation half of the pack there are two Tech upgrades included (but no Federation Elite Actions???). Integrated Future Technology is a nod to the arrival of Nero and Spock to the past. This one stops you from incurring Faction Penalties when you want to bolt on Romulan or Bajoran Tech or Weapon upgrades to the ship. But that's not all and for three points there's a lot of value here since the card asks you to place a Tech upgrade costing four or less under it during Setup then flip it over and equip it during Planning even if it goes over your points budget. 

Finally, Portable Transwarp Beaming Device works at all ranges and stops you losing an essential crew member from your ship if such an enemy Action was to do so.  If this was to happen then this card comes right into play with a light one Time Token penalty and a cost of two points which is well worth the price to keep your ship fully stocked for the duration.

The Federation half of this pack gives some strong contenders and a lot of things to consider. A few of these upgrades are downright outrageous and the double-sided cards provide a new twist on a game that's been around for a while. What I would have liked to have seen was some functionality linked to Beyond but the bulk of the crew features seem based firmly in the 2009 movie with the tech coming more from the Into Darkness sequel. Certainly a Saucer Separation option would have played well maybe offering two firing arcs and maybe we could have had a Vengeance or a Franklin instead of the second Enterprise which, of course, suggests that this was devised during or after the third movie. 

The models are decent and yes, we know they are recycled from other Wizkids releases which is likely the reason we haven't got either of the other two Starfleet ships I've suggested since their miniatures don't exist. That said, this is a great addition to the fleet and a whole new angle with the dual ability cards. Potentially one of the strongest fleets available in one place.

You can read the second half and the Klingons right here...

What's your impressions of the Kelvin Timeline faction pack? Will you be adding it to your collection?

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Sunday, 9 June 2019

On Patrol: The Official Starships Collection Issues 150 and 151

There's an overpowering sense of deja vu once more with issue 150 of the Official Starships Collection.

That's because we're back in Miranda Class territory again with the fourth (fifth if you count the Bozeman) variant following the Reliant, Saratoga and Lantree.

While choosing to use the Reliant issue 11 model as its basis, the USS Antares featured incredibly briefly in the background in one episode of Deep Space Nine - but somehow constitutes getting a whole issue dedicated to it.

As with the Reliant, the paintwork is brilliant and reflects the changes that the Eaglemoss team decided to make following the USS Enterprise refit disaster from issue two. The aztec work is seamless right across the hull but even at the start there are a few bits that really grind. For one, the name and ship number decals are shoddy - the red outline around the black typeface is all out of alignment and this is something which continues into the positioning of the red striping over the sensor nodes at either side of the half -saucer.

The windows themselves are painted in where applicable so there's no need to line up with any surface detail and while the physical mold is great for the ship it's apparent there's a little bit of half-arsed finishing here. One thing you do spot is the plethora of Starfleet deltas when looking down from the top and again in a couple of instances you can see that the backing red circle is well out of sync with the arrowhead. 

Y'see with the Antares the basics are done very well and there's clear learnings from the four other times this basic configuration was used in the collection but even on the rear pod there's signs of sloppy decal application at the corners with mine displaying red splashes and bugging me to hell and back.

Also, I was disappointed that this one turned up in partial kit form with one of the nacelles and pylon detached. Luckily it was a simple glue job to rectify but it seems this isn't a one off with issue 150 reading a few comments online. That said the detail again on the nacelle is spot on with the grilles and vents all precisely painted in and the registry decals located correctly against the "expected" places on a Miranda Class. With this one you have to take a little bit of leniency since it wasn't exactly seen front and centre so you have to take things as correct to a point. One further point on the nacelles - the central joint lines are painfully obvious and almost gaping. Just offsets the paint and decal work unfortunately that does look ace.

However I suspect that the rear pod wasn't wonky as the one I received was. Classic kitbashing here from back in the day since the top unit replacing the rollbar is nothing more than a repainted and up-turned stand from the AMT USS Excelsior kit, one of which is currently residing in my loft. 

Before I go all 90's nostalgia, let's move on. The sides of the Antares are finished with dotted windows plus ship registries which line up with the shape of the ship. To the rear, there are the obligatory numbers to indicate the two shuttlebays plus a cleanly decorated impulse engine which matches back to that original Reliant model.

Flipping her over that misalignment continues with the blue warp core field generator. The second imprinted colour is grimacingly off-centre with the mold - which would be understandable if everything else around it was out of kilter but the darker grey senor machinery and gubbins surrounding it all line up even if the colour is blotchy...and has bled into the light grey azteced hull in places...but...y'know...

The aztec paint is great, non-symmetrical on the plastic inserted underside and is a perfect covering for the Antares but AGAIN the damn registry decals have their red border totally misaligned to the black letters and numbers. 

I wish I could get to grips with the errors on this one but every single one just goes against the great work on the basics. At this stage in a collection I would have thought these challenges would have been resolved, never to return but nope, not here.

Issue 150's magazine offers scant detail on the Antares aside from its operational duties in the Dominion War coupled with the brief summary of the features well known to the Miranda Class that we have encountered several times before. The issue is laden with images from Deep Space Nine's battle scenes although the Antares is a tad hard to find...!

Whether anyone is just not willing to admit they created this kitbash may be the reason why it has remained a "design mystery" but at least Eaglemoss have attempted to cover the story behind its creation and while they don't come to an answer there are some decent shots of the altered model plus a rare one of the USS Jupp kitbash which never made it to screen.

Finally there's six pages dedicated to Chase Masterson aka Leeta and her role within Deep Space Nine. Originally conceived as a bit part, Leeta became one of the integral recurring characters within the show and here we get the actress' take on her time with the show. Overall a good and varied magazine which is something of an achievement considering the teeny amount of time we got to see this one on the TV.

Over to issue 151 and here's one I had to look up to remember. Seems that the B'omar patrol ship turned up in Voyager's fourth season episode The Raven - and that was it. They probably received more screentime than the blurry background filling USS Antares but it's not one that every fan will be clamouring for to fill that shelf gap. 

But, as always with these oddball entries into the hallowed halls of the Official Starships Collection it looks fantastic. It's become something of a running joke that these guest ships that were almost instantly forgettable actually turn out to be some of the best replicas that Eaglemoss produce - step forward ECS Fortunate, Promellian Battlecruiser, Merchantman... you can complete your own list.

So what works on this one so well? Very evidently the multi-coloured base pattern of cream, grey and beige is a series of decals and being a lot larger than the standard ship registry ones that adorn the Antares, these blocks fit snugly into the gaps on the hull with the additional "upper" coat of the grey/purple panelling at points from the front to back of the ship. These pieces combine the colours not in aztec-style blocks but rather in a mottled pattern that acts to age the ship through its application.

For the most part the geometric pattern is identical left to right but there are one or two exceptions on the nose where its a little bit more uneven around the cockpit. Effectively detailed and a good choice to go with panelled decals rather than trying to colour segments.

As we move front to back the patrol ship has recessed areas of the ship utilised by more add-on pieces such as black quarter-circle inserts and bolt ons. This theme of circle parts echoes on in the sides of the hull curving up to the top of the cockpit. 

Behind that cockpit there is a wealth of lumps and bumps in the shape of the craft appearing to be the coverings for the engine sections or weapons of the craft. Out on the starboard wing there's a probe element which breaks up the symmetry once more and is pretty sturdy since it's made as part of the metal upper hull. There are some gaps between the decals and the paintwork on the topside but they are fairly minor and the painted sections be they purple-toned, black or green, all stay within the specified pieces of the hull and an immaculate look from above.

With the central "bulge" Eaglemoss have toned down the green engine hue you can see in the magazine on the CG and model and gone for a very light expression in the curved venting. It's barely noticable and I only really appreciated what these slits were supposed to be after reading through the accompanying literature.

Flipping it over, the patterning is limited to the outer edges of the hull with the purple mottled panels dominating the mainly metal underside section. These raised pieces do have some paint bleed with a small element of misalignment when the coat has been applied especially if you look towards the back. It's relatively minor but looks like there is more area covered than there needs to be rather than the colour slipping sideways.

The two blocky rectangular elements line up roughly with the pair on the top suggesting some form of weapon since the two topside are labelled in the magazine as torpedo launchers and are incredibly well finished off. There's no bleed and a good mix of colours in only a few centimetres of space. 

I love the little black elements that sit to the sides and rear of the patrol ship and add bits of negative space into quite a flat design. It's not something we've seen a lot of but the finish is clean as are the lines of the ship as a whole. I think this is definitely an underappreciated ship that screentime didn't allow us to get to know enough. It's very 80's spaceship styling and retains a distinct original feel - even more so since this wasn't recycled into anything else during the latter years of Voyager or four years of Enterprise thereafter. 

Again the stand positioning gives the flight impression with the clip fitting over the rear of the patrol ship. The lean to the back means there's no issue of a nose dive but Eaglemoss do need to look at how they are sizing up the plug piece that fits into the black curved base as I'm getting more and more which need a little persuasion to sit properly.

Into the magazine for this one and there's - unsurprisingly - not a great deal to go on. A brief summary of the ship and the episode it featured gives way to potentially the most minimalist call outs on the plan views ever.  Rolling into the designing section I was a little surprised to see that there were similarities between this and the Romulan scoutship which might have indicated that it would have been reused. It's all to brief a piece but it's followed by a bit of an unexpected gem in the form of an interview with Discovery co-creator Bryan Fuller about his time on Voyager back in the 90's. 

As a piece of Star Trek history this interview is a good read and you can see that it's way before there's ever a hint of Discovery in the air. Given this is slotted in to a "one ep" ship magazine it's not what I would have expected and some more casual collectors could well miss these words from an influential member of the writing and production team.

May's editions couldn't be more varied but the B'omar patrol ship is an easy winner in my eyes thanks to its nifty paint and decal finish plus the fact it's not a Miranda Class variant makes a huge impact. Great replica and another fine oddball pitched into the collection. Next month's USS Excelsior concept and Devore warship (from Voyager's magnificent Counterpoint) could offer a similar diversity in quality although both suffered a fate of minimal appearances but for different reasons...

Had enough of Miranda Class ships? Wanting more of those single episode ships? What's your take on these two starships?

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Friday, 24 May 2019


25 years ago Jean-Luc Picard fought to save humanity one more time.

Rather unexpectedly 25 years to the day after All Good Things... bade farewell to The Next Generation on TV - 23rd May 1994 - CBS dropped the first minute long teaser trailer for the next chapter in Jean-Luc’s story. 

"15 years ago today you led us out of the darkness. You commanded the greatest rescue armada in history. Then; the unimaginable. 
What did that cost you? Your faith? Your faith in us? Your faith in yourself?  
Tell us, why did you leave Starfleet, Admiral?"

As a trailer it's more about the monologue quoted above than the visuals. Nice to have it all tie into the vineyards of the Picard estate that we've seen before in Family and, of course, in All Good Things... but this Jean-Luc didn't become an ambassador, didn't grow that wispy white beard and certainly doesn't look like he'll be donning a straw hat anytime soon.

Loving the hovering crop dusters at the vineyard and of course the sweeping shot of a case of Chateau Picard to confirm that we're talking about a certain former Enterprise captain. 

This is 100% scene setting and leads us to believe that following some major incident Picard just walked away. Now, if we go by the hints given early in the development of the show that event has to be the destruction of Romulus but what caused him to step back from the final frontier?

So All Good Things... took place in 2370 with the destruction of Romulus logged as 2387 that would put Picard starting in 2402 (15 years later). That's if Romulus is the jump point for the series and why would it not be? We have to assume that whatever event that shaped his life took place after Nemesis and that's 2379 which means the earliest Picard could be set is 2394 at a push. Yet, when the series was announced we were told that it would be 20 years after we last saw Picard in action so shouldn't it be 2399?

I think Picard is more likely to take us into the early 25th Century which will also surpass the "future" date of 2395 set in All Good Things...  and fit perfectly with the dates established. It could be that the "20 years" comment was just there to indicate how far in the future we would truly be going for this next chapter.

The questions asked by someone who sounds not unlike Sonequa Martin-Green show how drastically Jean-Luc's life has changed from the man we knew on the Enterprise - how much of the captain remains? What effect is the memory of Locutus still having on him? What faith is being referenced?

At the end we have just a single shot of Sir Patrick Stewart back in the role and in civilian clothing. Now one suspects that this isn't actually what he's wearing for the show and just done for the tease but it does cement the point that JLP is back!

Also check out the teaser posters which have taken a bit of a lead from the Discovery posters with the vineyard now replacing the rocky planet surface to form the shape of the Starfleet Delta - you can see this in the pic in the sidebar to the right now.

OK, I'm stopping myself there. Over the next few weeks I'll probably drop back in to the Picard fold to work out any new suggestions and ideas. One that did play through my mind today was how similar that ensign uniform in the bookmark clip seemed to be with the discarded, collared uniforms that should have appeared in Generations. Maybe these aren't as formal but a glance at the Playmates range which was released with that design did have me thinking it over.

Picard is set to debut on Amazon Prime later in 2019. US and Canada can view the show on CBS All Access and you can trial a week by clicking the link in the sidebar now.

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Sunday, 19 May 2019

Well Settled: Star Trek Catan

Catan isn't a new game, it's not a mind-blowing revelation but for us Star Trek fans the reissue is more than welcome.

In simple terms the objective is to reach a ten point target by building the longest supply route, the most outposts/starbases while wisely trading and collecting to make the most of your expansion opportunities.

Ideally played with four, the Stoke on Trent Star Trek Club were willing volunteers, fielding four teams of two for a 90 minute session on the classic board game.

The layout of the board can change with every game since the 19 hexagons (planet tiles) can be rearranged into any formation within the six border pieces. Each of the 18 planets receives a number which, indicated by the font size, indicates the larger likelihood of that being rolled.

Each player in turn gets to pick where their two ships and outposts get to start, are provided with a number of resources from where their second (of two) base is placed and you're off. Each ship needs to be linked to another and another to create a chain along which you can then use collected resources to build bases or get development cards allowing you extra flexibility and opportunity during the game to dominate the sector.

Players take turns to rolls two die which indicates a particular planet and any players with an outpost or starbase located next to said planet receive the appropriate resource be it dilithium, tritanium, water, oxygen or food. But beware, roll a seven and that player gets to send in the Klingons and steal resources and you can always play one of the crew cards each player can select to activate a bonus action that can turn the tide of the game in a second. Different combinations of the resources allow you to invest in different things.

The key is to keep control of the rounds so ideally get one person to keep track of where you're at and ensure that all trades and builds are kept to the end of the round or it gets confusing. It's a lot of fun and player trades with four commanders is a lot better since you aren't restricted to trading 4:1 and can genuinely barter for items. You will no doubt be short of something in the initial few rounds when you're restricted to just the two outposts and are scrabbling round to build one ship and extend your trade route. Making friends early will be a big benefit later!

Now since the initial club game I've played this game a lot and every time it's come out differently in not just score but the way that the board evolves over time and the length it can take to get started properly let alone win. I'm more cautious as a player, choosing to expand slowly, collect and build bases as I go whereas I've seen others go for a long supply line then work on establishing bases further on.

There's a ton of ways to attack the game and it can get very strategic to block another
player's route off to strike out further from your own staging point. 

From a presentation perspective the game looks fantastic in its box and is themed around the classic movie era with Kirk and crew in their monster maroon uniforms. Each of the ships from the four colours - red, orange, white and blue - is modelled on the refit Constitution Class with the starbases resembling Space Dock when in their upgraded forms. The quality of the playing pieces, the cards and the game board is all excellent with minimal assembly required that you can do during your first run through. You also get a reassuringly thin rules book that also carries a quick start layout and a reference guide to all the terms in the game. The rules are fairly straight forward but there might be a few terms you need clarity on which this second book will help with and I keep to hand during any games.

I guarantee a lot of very entertaining and competitive evenings with Star Trek Catan. Yes it is basically the original game and might not gel too well with any of the Catan expansions for the original but for pure enjoyment based around your favourite franchise it's worth the price. Be prepared for this to last for at least an hour if you're playing a full four colour game. Variety is superb and every time there's something new; heck, I had a game last week where every other roll seemed to send the Klingons to another system. Another time I had more dilithium than I knew what to do with but no tritanium (wow, if only life were this easy...) - so you can't plan a solid strategy that will work for all situations. Just deal with what you've got and go from there!

Star Trek Catan is available now from all good games retailers. Check the Asmodee website for further details of stockists local to you!

You can also find out about the Stoke on Trent Star Trek Club (and follow them!) via their Facebook page.

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Thursday, 16 May 2019

The Sky's No Longer the Limit

Destiny? Nope. It’s Star Trek: Picard and well, that’s not a shock is it?

I am dead excited for the premiere later this year and the announcement of the series name was something of a gimme. It HAD to be Picard; there was no other sensible option given the core material for the who. However - do we have a colon in there? Is it just Star Trek Picard? Will we shorten it to PIC? Difficult questions we will need immediate answers to - nay sirs we demand this information forthwith!

Anyway...also released was a short clip of the show with a still from that making its way online and showing Sir Patrick Stewart on set reprising his iconic role. It does seem that the uniform in the bottom right IS a Starfleet uniform as has been seen in a few leaked set photos. 

Plus it was included with an ensign talking to Picard as part of a very brief scene used as within the All Access promotion trailer. These new uniforms appear to have reverted to the coloured shoulders but with a much higher collar and the loss of the purple/grey undershirt we saw in Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Spot also the placement of the rank pin and the "dip V" in the middle which follows the cut of the collar. Does it look a bit fan flick and cheap?

More on that in a sec but first - CBS has now launched the Global Franchise Group which will encompass every aspect of Star Trek as the show enters what could be its third and most prosperous age.

With Discovery now free from the ‘constraints’ of canon for its third season (reckon Calypso is worth a few dozen rewatches...), we also have Picard , Michelle Yeoh prepped for Section 31 AND two animated series rocking CBS All Access and Nickelodeon you’d think that there’s a lot on the proverbial plate. Personally I'm happy that CBS have stepped firmly away from the much rumour-milled Worf and Sulu series. Phew.

The franchise group is focusing not only on the one active and three ‘in development’ TV shows but also novels, side projects, experiential events, upgrading and apparently more games - which for me is great since I’ve become horrendously addicted to Online in the last month. 

Due to be headed up by Veronica Heart the franchise group brings all the elements of Star Trek under one umbrella and I have to ask the question as to whether this is an early indication that CBS may well get their hands on the elusive, Paramount owned movie rights. What a commitment to the brand!

It would make sense for this to happen since Alec Kurtzman will continue to lead the televisual arm of the franchise and was involved with the JJ Abrams reboot in 2009. CBS is very cleverly positioning itself as THE singular home of Star Trek and with the waning interest in Star Trek 4 could this be the time to take it back and allow Quentin Tarantino to dabble in the Star Trek sandbox for the big screen?

It also goes to show that all the stories, the rumours and the utter bullshit are precisely the latter; rubbish. There is a strong belief and commitment to the brand especially with the resounding success of Discovery’s second season in particular. There are now as many televisual projects in the works as were produced from 1966 to 2004 with more probably on the way. Could this be a turning point for the franchise or are we already reaching super burnout levels just two years into its rejuvenation? Variety will be the key and taking Picard away from a starship may well be the biggest gamble in franchise history - can a show survive where Starfleet will not be the central organisation and what restraints will this remove. How will this affect Jean-Luc's choices?

Due out at the end of 2019, Picard (working title Royal Flushhas confirmed its cast (which I’m struggling to get excited about with the exception of Patrick Stewart himself) and now in an announcement from its star we know it will be showing on Amazon Prime around the world.

In the US and Canada the new series will be shown on CBS All Access yet the choice to go with Amazon Prime does seem a little odd. Ok, I subscribe to Netflix and have to declare that this did irk me that I’ll need to add another TV package to the monthly outgoings but the whole of the televised Star Trek back catalogue is on Netflix; every episode.

Which can only suggest that either Netflix can’t afford to spend for another Star Trek show or that Amazon Prime outbid them and ultimately offered the better package. Will we want to be paying for even more channels just to see our favourite show? Will we seek out other avenues to do it whether legal or illegal?

So Star Trek stands at another point of the unknown - a brave unknown future for Discovery, a 20 year leap unknown for a former Enterprise captain and the monetary unknown of a franchise group which might, for the first time ever, align every possible strand of Star Trek and properly universe build across time and space.

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