Monday, 20 February 2017

Wave 27's Klingon Return with a Twist

Again due to availability I only managed to snag one of the three releases from Wave 27 of Attack Wing.

It turned out to be the re-release of the Wave Zero IKS Gr'oth which fans will immediately know was Koloth's ship as seen in The Trouble with Tribbles and Trials and Tribble-ations. As such this is a pack that not only provides some additions for your Klingon fleet but also a firm link with its episodic origin. Just for reference the other two released were a repaint of the USS Enterprise-E which we have already reviewed and the Xindi Insectoid Fighter Orassin which I am desperate to get hold of so I can finally use my Xindi Weapon Zero properly!

As a repaint re-release this one's a bit of a downer to be fair because there have been so many D7's, K't'inga's and Romulan cruiser versions of this model that in later waves the paint jobs have been pretty decent anyway. Here the solid silver (should have been grey) base coat is overlaid with golden raised panelling right across the hull top and bottom which does make the Gr'oth look a little like it's been pimped out. That said the finish is pretty clean and there's no bleed or run off between the two contrasting colours. The model itself is decent enough too with the bridge module and the engines on the correct way round.

But I'm actually not going to linger over the ship for too long this time because I do want to focus more on the pack. She sets out with a three dice attack, one for defence, three hull points and two shields. The standard actions available are Evade, Target Lock and Battle Stations plus slots for single Tech, Weapon and Crew upgrades. For the 18 point cost you also get the unique action that allows you to roll an additional die if you're being attacked at range one. Given that range one also offers your opponent additional attack dice this is a nice trade off giving you a minor advantage to ward off damage. The standard version of the D7 has just one shield point, loses the unique action and also removes the Tech upgrade slot for a 16 point costing.

Movement is the basic full speed of four with a full range of bank and right angle turns at ranges two and three. There is also the Come About at range three that will incur the Auxiliary Power Token if utilised. Very standard indeed across most of the ships in the game these days.

As only could come with the Gr'oth we have Koloth costing four points and with a skill of seven. Certainly not one to dismiss since his unique action forces any enemy ship that attacks to re-roll one dice of your choice. It's a very useful trick to attempt to reduce damage but there's always the possibility it could backfire. Koloth also has the opening to field an Elite Action. The second choice in the set is Krell, the Klingon from A Private Little War. A snip at two points, Krell carries a skill of four and has a rather useful action to re-roll one of your Battle Station results. As with Koloth there's that risk it won't work out but a good theme for the captains in the set that they can offer a chance to change fortunes. For some reason the generic captain uses a shot of Kor from Errand of Mercy. No unique action, no cost and a single point skill if you've overloaded on upgrades.

We have two Crew options with Koloth's right hand man, Korax being the lone Klingon entry. A three-pointer, Scotty's antagoniser Korax can be discarded to remove any two Crew upgrades of your choice on an enemy ship as long as it's within range two and has no active shields. I seem to be seeing a pattern with this pack, don't you? Everything appears to be revolving around reducing the abilities of your opponent particularly at their most vulnerable moment - certainly a pack for the opportunist!

However, the real jewel in the Gr'oth pack is Cyrano Jones (three point cost). A solus Independent (Crew) card, Jones is what makes this a brilliant addition to Attack Wing. If you choose to use him your ship card (the one with the ship stats on it) begins the game with a Tribble Token beside it. Fortunately there's a handy reference card to tell you what else happens because in the End Phase of each round you add another Tribble Token to your ship card no matter how many are already on it. One to three Tribbles is pretty cool because it adds an attack die or defence die to your roll unless you've got a Klingon Captain or Crew. Four or five have no effect whatsoever but six or more means you roll one less attack or defence die as the fluffy little things begin to take over your ship! If you have a Klingon Captain or Crew it's TWO die!

It's a real beauty of a card because initially there is a real benefit to the Tribbles but that can wear off pretty quickly. If you're not cloaked and you have a ship within range two you can transfer as many Tribble Tokens to that vessel as you want except any you received that round. Truly this is one of the most unique and brilliant ideas to be included in the game - almost a mini-game within the main structure to see who ends up getting buried under Tribbles. Probably my favourite quirky feature of Attack Wing.

We have the original version of Photon Torpedoes in play here with the Target Lock and disable ruling rather than the Time Tokens from later waves. This allows a four dice attack fore or aft at ranges two and three with the chance to convert a Battle Stations result into a Critical Damage. It's a decent payoff if you roll it right! For note though the Gr'oth does not have a rear firing arc. Your other Weapon option for a higher cost of four points versus Photon Torpedoes' three is Magnetic Pulse.

Again a four dice attack at ranges two and three it does require disabling both the card and one of your active shields. Rather than inflicting Critical Damage to the shields of your opponent this neat attack causes a point of Damage to the hull instead. Initially this won't make a big deal of difference and thinking about it long term I'm not sure if this really does have any impact on the game since it's not causing Critical Damage which would mean using the conditions from the Damage Deck. Odd one - good idea in principle but no real benefit I can see.

The single Elite Action included with the Gr'oth for Koloth to field is Sabotage. A discard for a three point cost (not too high at all), it will allow you to target a ship within range two with no active cloak or shields and remove one of its Weapon or Tech upgrades. A sneaky action if ever there was which does rely on your opponent being almost on their knees anyway. Removing an upgrade they have been favouring at that stage could spell the beginning of the end!

The final upgrade is a Tech card for five points titled Projected Stasis Field. A hefty cost for a discard card, it also relies on you being uncloaked and requires all your shields to be disabled. That's a big ask and places you in a very vulnerable situation so I'd definitely suggest having some of those cards that takes away your opponent's abilities to hand to save your skin.  Projected Stasis Field then lets you target a ship within range two which has to disable all its active shields and cannot attack for the round plus it has to roll two less attack dice.

It's a bold and brazen move but against a larger and more powerful opponent such a strategy might well be a saving grace. I'd be keen to use this against the 30+ point ships with a lot of shielding such as the Scimitar and maybe even your larger Federation craft. Game changer? Absolutely so I wouldn't let the cost put you off but it will require some set up to be in the right place at the right time.

The pack's mission is Assassination. A two player game involving the Planet Token. Each player - one a Klingon and the other Federation - have 70 points to use as they will. The Federation player starts with his captain(s) all planetside and a command skill of one. The Klingon player can then use his Crew upgrades to beam over to the ships or the planet and kill the captain. The other option is to destroy the Federation vessels before they can retrieve their command staff and escape.

Overall the Gr'oth is an excellent expansion pack - in fact I'd go as far as to say it's one of the best and most inventive uses of the game to date and a great thing Wizkids chose to bring it back in a later wave. The Tribbles concept especially makes this a winner and you could easily make a whole game scenario just from that one card. I also think the Assassination scenario is a stroke of genius and demonstrates some of the brilliant ideas that existed around the first few waves of the game. A shame that it went a bit stale but with the new Fleet Packs that are being speculated and a bit of a game refresh apparently in the offing very soon it might be that Attack Wing gets a second burst of life. For fans and players who missed the expansion back in the day it's a rare and very grateful opportunity to grab a cool Klingon expansion that offers a lot of fun. Wizkids' move to re-release and update (hmmm) these ships really has left me, for one less grumbly since I can actually get hold of some craft that have been unobtainable for a fair few months and bolster by upgrades with some neat additions.

On a side note I've heard very little at all about Frontiers or any indication of expansions coming in the future for that game. It may well be that for the time being Attack Wing is still the go to game that Wizkids are producing which is a bit disappointing given the hype that surrounded the launch of Frontiers a few months back. Note too that Wizkids have also been updating Tactics recently...

Yet Attack Wing still hangs in there and shows no signs of stopping with another wave slated for next month including a repaint of the USS Defiant and the much sought-after Borg Sphere 4270 (I NEED THIS) and the second new Xindi craft (Aquatics), the Calindra.

Still playing? Are you looking to add the Xindi to your game?

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Friday, 17 February 2017

Passing in the Night: The Official Starships Collection Issues 92 and 93

January rocked out two solid entries for issues 90 and 91 - sadly February has come down with a bit of a bump.

In some senses it's not quality but screen-time which niggles with my opinion on this month's two starships. In the case of one it's a single episode craft from prequel series Enterprise and in the other it's a craft which managed just a few seconds on the TV in the remastered version of a classic episode from 1968.

You see the biggest gripe for issue 92 is that the Medusan Starship - straight down the line - only blips onto our screens in the final frames of Is There in Truth No Beauty? as the Enterprise reverses away and then we don't get to see the whole ship. No joke  but when I watched this episode the other day I turned away from the TV and nearly missed seeing it at all.

It's also a teeny tiny model, very compact with all the elements clustered closely around and behind it's spherical primary hull. Even the way it's packaged was a weird one since it appeared that if it were turned 90 degrees in the box we might have had a bigger ship. Anyway, let's deal with the hand we're dealt and go from there.

It has to be one of the smallest models in the collection given that it's whole footprint fits within the size of the standard black base yet there's still a good deal to say about it. With a clear reminiscence to the Daedalus Class (issue 100) with its globe-shaped primary hull it bears a lot of hallmarks to other Federation craft too with the distinctive warp nacelles almost identical to those on the USS Enterprise from The Original Series and those in turn connected to a stumpy secondary hull by spindly pylons. There's even a deflector dish that wouldn't look out of place on the Constitution Class cruisers.

That forward primary hull does have a subtle and worthwhile two tone "etched" paint scheme that manages to break up what could have been a flat and monotonous grey shape with a prominent bridge module and windows lining the equatorial line of the sphere. The windows do seem very washed out and barely recognisable in comparison to the magazine images and do seem to fade out against the grey hull onto which they're painted. 

The deflector dish is set into the metal lower half of the sphere, recessed back and on closer inspection it looks like it's actually part of the hull mould itself. It's a strong shade of orange from some angles and more of an off-bronze from a few others but the finish does seem quite artificial rather than something which shows wear and tear (again like the magazine cover). The lower half of the secondary hull is also formed in the metal mould and continues the etched two-tone grey pattern evident across the ship. Most notable are the ten "tubular prongs" that protrude from the rear. Honestly I have no idea what they are actually for and nor it seems does anyone else as the magazine only notes their existence. They are a little flexible too so just be aware when handling.

Saying that I would actually draw your attention to how the lower hull at this point sweeps upwards and how the upper plastic hull section droops down - very very similar to the rear of the Enterprise

The twin warp nacelles (capable of up to war six) are, in comparison to those prongs, damn well fixed in place with virtually no movement in them whatsoever. I have to admit that the detail on them is fantastic from the rear exhaust points and radiator fins right along to the (almost) perfect translucent bussard collectors. A little too much glue on the inside of both on mine kind of ruins the overall effect but I do like how these look on this craft especially with that little finishing Federation pennant flourished on the outboard side of each. They are larger than the nacelles on the issue 50 USS Enterprise and as such you get a much better chance to look over the design of that classic Enteprise element - even if it was reproduced nearly 50 years later for the remastered episodes.

Up on the top and the story of that grey etched paint job continues but this time there is a lined blue effect which is supposedly the section of the ship where the Medusans reside. The lines all perfectly align with each other but as usual there's a slight degradation of lines to the recessed markings on the hull. Same story different ship; it's something we see a lot.

As for the stand fixing this is perfect with the clips sliding square over the short nacelle pylons and holding the Medusan Starship nice and centrally. Y'see she does actually display really well but I'm not sure if her entry into the collection - even as issue 92 - can be justified when there are so many other ships that have made more impactful appearances have yet to join the illustrious ranks.

The magazine Ship Overview is a sprinkling of information on the ship merely describing its looks without too much detail before relying heavily on the third season episode from The Original Series that (just) featured it. The CG in here is great to look at and does even include "that" shot from the final seconds of the remastered episode just so you know it really was there. In the Designing section what does come across is that even though this was a blink-and-miss ship just as the end credits rolled there was still a great deal of thought that went into the shape of the craft because of the nature of the Medusans themselves and how that would align with the bipedal humanoids they were working with.

Finally the big draw here might be the piece exploring the final season of The Original Series from the perspective of the "man who killed Star Trek" Fred Freiberger. I've not seen him as that personally since there were a ton of factors riding strongly against him but as I'm watching the last batch of classic stories at the moment this has fitted nicely with my viewing schedule. It's definitely added a few things to think about even though it's a six page overview if nothing else. 

With that issue tucked neatly away in the binder and my Medusan Starship nestled up close to the Stella, it's time to crack open the plastic box and face the ECS Horizon.


I'm a massive fan of the ECS Fortunate model. I wasn't particularly looking forward to it but when it did arrive my word was I impressed. It was a work of beauty and detail in every way and still one of my favourite ships from the whole collection. So, when I heard that they were doing the Horizon I could not have been more hotly anticipating its arrival.

Problem is that the anticipation in this case far outweighed the result because I found the issue 93 vessel a bit disappointing.

For some reason I'm still having trouble pin-pointing (maybe I'll have it by the time I've finished this review), it feels as though it's a little unfinished.

The ECS Horizon bears obvious similarities to the Fortunate in it's linear shape and "tugboat" style but that's where the link seems to end. The former had much more style and finesse to its heavy-lifting nature but here all the fineries seem to have been toned right down. Let's start at the front and work back. 

The tugboat Horizon craft itself is a tiny thing perched right at the front of the five cargo modules we are presented with here. The detail isn't too bad but it does suffer from the microscopic scale due to the overall length of the ship. The panelling is pretty decently highlighted but the deflector dish is cumbersome and almost unrecognisable due to some oversized "prongs" protruding from the front. Two things that do hit you quite quickly here are that Eaglemoss have managed to run the ship name down both sides of the Horizon tug hull (very small) and that the bussard collectors are fitted in the translucent red. Now considering how many ships don't get that treatment and are a lot bigger than this does leave you wondering (Saratoga nacelle coils for example) but still it does provide a good finishing touch and means the Horizon isn't just a full-over matt finish. 

Sadly the rear engine exhaust ports are just painted in yellow but their location within the main structure of the ship would have been a right pain to try and add in translucent plastics. Both nacelles are parallel to each other and the main hull of the ship so even though this is probably the smallest actual ship piece in the whole series, there's not been any slippage in terms of precision.

That small tug and the whole bottom section of the five cargo pods are one continuous piece of plastic and also has a fiddly little plasma cannon notched into the underside. Again the panelling here is good but it does look horribly flexible and I've been avoiding touching it in any way save it might fall out or break. The same goes for the antennae which sits on top between cargo pods one and two. The forward piece on that is already bent slightly and I fear for it's survival after only a couple of days on the shelf. They are unavoidably both chunkier than they appear in the magazine and the episode just down to the way it has been made. Problem is it is a necessity since it's a distinctive part of the ship in both cases and Eaglemoss have done well just to make sure they are included; reminds me of the guns underneath the Nausicaan Fighter.

Due to the nature of this series we do lose the structural definition on the underside of the Horizon's cargo pods. Compare the blocked out section to the more "scaffold"-like nature shown on the cover and you'll immediately see the difference. Totally unavoidable due to the way in which these models are made as well as cost and time. There haven't been many ships where intricate parts like that have been replicated exactly - all I can say is let's refer back to the Bajoran Solar Sailor for experience in that area..

The remainder of the ship - the five cargo modules except for their underside - are all a single metal block. The panel markings from the tugboat all the way back are virtually identical Each is distinguished by the "0-1"/"0-2"...etc markings on either side and the minimalistic detailing works effectively. Again with the spine of the craft we are robbed of the skeletal nature of the upper structure but the definition of each strut still exists. I do think that the spotlighting effect, which is at the centre of each pod aligned with the spine, could have been a little brighter as I can barely see it against the cream/lightest of browns hull.

Hull colour is something of a challenge here too as the episodic images we get in the magazine make it look a heck of a lot darker than it actually is but we take that as a bit of a given now since it's a factor with almost every single TV starship we've seen. However saying all that there is a mix of tones in here which does offer a more weathered and aged effect on the ship echoing its generational use. That little bit of mottling in the metal and "dirtying" in the plastic makes a difference to the finishing effect.

Finally to the back and the aft cargo access and the panel definition is severely lacking. It's practically non-existent and does put a little downer on the overall effect. I actually think that might be the reason I think it's unfinished because the detail to the rear is so subtle whereas across the rest of the vessel it is quite easy to make out. 

Stand placement here is very specific due to a fractional change in the hull shape between modules 0-3 and 0-4. Try and slot it anywhere else and the prong stand just won't fit. It is very secure and fits like a glove. 

Over to the magazine and issue 93 overviews not just the design of the ship and its cargo pods but also the family-orientated nature of the vessel which had been operated by the Mayweathers for three generations. It's good that for once the magazine has returned to really focus on the ship and the aspects around it because a big chunk of the reading here deals with the "Boomer Culture" that was explored in both Horizon and the earlier Fortunate Son

I wasn't a huge fan of either episode but the background that is added here is a well thought out move that keeps this relevant and an exceptionally good reference tool in the series. Oh - and for those of you who like the designing bits there's a two page look at creating the ship. Sadly the process was a one-shot and done so there's not a lot to tell and in the case of this magazine it's probably the least interesting section because we actually get some decent background to add to your library.

A bit of a let-down to be fair this month on both counts. The Medusan Starship is a lovely model but I find it hard to justify its appearance when there are still more significant ships not even announced or months away. The Horizon in retrospect is OK. I think we were totally spoiled with the Fortunate and then expected the same whistles and bells on this one but didn't get that because it just never had it in the first place. Both ships are damn fine accurate to their screen counterparts and again we have to congratulate Eaglemoss for their work. You just have to wonder how many people will be hurrying to the newsagents to pick up these two especially given that the second Shuttles pack is arriving at doorsteps this week. Final words on these - probably for super-completists only and that might be stretching it.

Next month brings the Suliban Cell Ship and the USS Kyushu which is the first of the Wolf 359 kit-bash fleet. While I'm not really looking forward to the Suliban block, the Kyushu is a sure-fire hit for the collection and the start of a whole new series within the series. In case you missed it our archive has now been updated with the "unconfirmed" list of ships due out. We'll run our Anticipation Factor list when Ben Robinson nails these to the wall.

Worth picking up or ones to avoid? 

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Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Be There Klingons? Be There New Cast?

We start by wishing Andrew Mackay all the best for the future.

Because he's gonna need it after snapping away on the set of Star Trek Discovery and probably ending his career as an extra forevermore. Thanks to Stella the Star Trek dog (Nick Meyer's pooch) for letting us know he's gone on Twitter.

Bless him as he has given us a nice shot of what might be Klingons. Admittedly on his caption Mr Mackay does note he is hanging around backstage with his "Klingon crew" but there have been suggestions they aren't Klingons and Mackay himself has indicated he might have got his facts wrong and was just guessing that these are the legendary Star Trek nemeses.

The armour they are wearing in the leaked photo is consistent with the outer wear that appeared in the teaser trailer for the release-date-TBC series and that in turn bears the layered hallmarks of Klingon armour from the movies and TV series. In some senses it also looks not too dissimilar to the costumes worn by the Remans in Nemesis and therefore (due to reuse) the Xindi Reptilians from Enterprise. Personally I think that these are going to be Klingons and that Discovery is re-imagining the warrior race. From the back though it does bear a striking resemblance to the Klingon uniforms of the movies in the shape of the lower half. The shoulder spikes are an interesting touch and so is the fan-like design at the top which does look distinctly reptilian. 

After all The Original Series didn't have the ridges (Enterprise explained that away nicely) nor the armour and The Motion Picture upped the ante by adding those elements - effectively a re-imagining itself. Notably though in the movie the ridges extended right around the skull which is only evident again on General Chang and "confirmed" to some degree in Ethics when we got to see Worf's ridged back during his spinal operation. Interestingly the armour itself has a very similar spinal, ridged design...just saying....

Indeed the look of the Klingons stayed solidly the same from 1979 through The Next Generation up to Enterprise. The look is familiar, the style is settled and the next big change came firstly from the helmeted guards in the cut Rura Penthe scene from the 2009 reboot and then from the adversaries encountered on Q'onoS in Into Darkness. The ridges were still present but less prominent and ornamented by chains and a lot less facial hair.

L to R: TOS Errand of Mercy, The Motion Picture, Star Trek Into Darkness

Now fans are getting all wound up over this suggested Klingon return and re-imagining once again. Hey, they might not even be Klingons but it does look like there are similarities such as those full head ridges and the stylised armour. These could be any old (or new) aliens and on one hand I'm not wholly convinced they are Klingons purely due to the lack of hair and the longer face shape which seems to indicate full facial prosthetics rather than just a forehead. I can't see what all the fuss is about because this is a new show and while it does/has to fit - eventwise - into the canon Prime Universe visually it's going to be different and we've seen a lot of that more than evident in the snatched glimpses of uniforms, costumes and sets in that key teaser trailer. This ain't 1966 anymore and neither is it 1987 if you get my drift.

What I don't comprehend is why people are giving this picture such a hard time. Again and again I keep noting that we have yet to see the show on the screen and should really leave our judgement until the show has aired. Makeup and costume will naturally develop and evolve over time and that will definitely be true of Discovery. It would just look weird if it remained true to the aesthetics of The Original Series or even Enterprise. Times change, processes take leaps and there's a natural progression. It happens, get over it.

I'm quite excited to see exactly who these guys are and what their agenda is within the series. Getting a sneaky peek might have cost Mr Mackay his job but think of all the great publicity it's nurtured and the interest in the show it is helping to maintain. It does need help especially with all the launch date changes.

The sheer number of these costumed extras also indicates in itself that they must play a key part in at least the first episode of the show. If they aren't significant would you really need so many? That too might push me towards confirmation that they are Klingons given that we have three of them in the main cast list so far announced. 

We also received news of three new cast members joining the ranks of Discovery. Our most senior Starfleet officer seems to be Terry Serpico who is taking the part of Admiral Anderson while Maulik Pancholy will be the USS Shenzhou's Chief Medical Officer Doctor Nambue and Sam Vartholomeos will also be on Captain Georgiou's (Michelle Yeoh) starship as a junior officer from the Academy called Ensign Connor. 

Serpico's biggest role is in 108 episodes of Army Wives (never seen it) although he has had multiple TV and film roles since 1997. Pancholy has performed voice work on Sanjay and Craig and Phineas and Ferb plus a 63 episode stint on 30 Rock between 2006 and 2013. Finally Vartholomeos is best known for his work on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty although IMDB seems to have no record of him whatsoever. I would say that Discovery is going to be his big breakthrough role so this could be the start of something big for him.

This is becoming quite a sizeable cast list although whether all these characters will be in every episode or make it into a second season is highly doubtful. It does seem to be a very ensemble-focused series much more than it's predecessors which were much more zoned in on a select eight or nine characters for the whole duration of its lifetime. I would expect that for a second season only a selection of this initial roster will return.

Liking the Klingon look? What about the new cast announcements?

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Friday, 10 February 2017

State of the Independents: Attack Wing Borg and Gorn Expansions

Ahhhh the Soong.

Derided by many it was the enemy vessel that carried Lore and his individualistic Borg through many a transwarp corridor before finally being vapourised through some clever manoeuvring from Doctor Crusher and her rag-tag crew on the Enterprise.

This was actually released one heck of a while ago for Attack Wing (Wave Six and we're now up to 28) but at a fraction of the original retail price I'm always one to strike for a bargain and grabbed it for under a fiver. For a while I've been playing as the Federation, occasionally changing to the Romulans but I wanted to see how effective an Independent faction could be. Yes, the Soong does fall into the Borg team as well but I actually think its presence on its alternative side are much greater.

It's the only Borg designated vessel which can fly "normally" instead of straight with 90 degree turns and has fairly average stats meaning it's actually possible to beat it in a fight. As a model it might be a teenth of the size of the Eaglemoss craft but I actually think the colouring is much more 'realistic' than its larger counterpart. 

It's an utter beast, clocking in with a starting score of 38 backed up with six attack, one defence, seven hull points and five on shields. Basic actions include Evade, Target Lock and Scan and there's a lightning fast top speed of five (incurs auxiliary power token) if you're looking to get in and out of trouble. Along with the usual banks and 90 degree turns at speed three there's also the eve-useful 180 turn to put you right back in the fight. 

As a unique action for the Soong you can perform a free Evade action if you've just run at speed five and have no enemy craft in your forward firing arc. Effectively it's allowing an action even though you've just incurred one of those auxiliary power tokens. Very useful indeed! For upgrades there are two slots for Crew, one Tech, one Weapon and one Borg option available offering a good range of additional features of which there are a fine few in this set.  It's certainly filled packed with opportunity and the chance to deal some big damage for either faction it can represent.

If you choose to use he generic version of the ship - the Borg Type 3 - you will lose one of your shield points plus the unique action and one Crew upgrade slot for a cost of 36 points. The ship can only be used by the Borg and not as an Independent craft in this instance which might put you off choosing to save a couple of points here. Even as a generic version it's still an expensive ship to field although the result might be heavily in your favour.

Captain choices are rather cool with the option to take either Lore or Hugh. For note you can also find the young, individualistic Borg as a captain or a crewmember over on the Borg Scout Cube. Lore comes aboard with a skill of seven and can field one of those Elite Actions.  This Independent faction captain will cost you four points but there's the chance to add another Crew upgrade to your options for starters and you can subsequently use Lore to discard one of your Crew to add another die to your attack. Talk about a flexible command option because he can also field ANY Elite Action regardless of faction without fear of a penalty.

Hugh is also an Independent captain allowing you to add Crew upgrades for a point less than their card value. Like Lore he's pretty flexible and for his two point cost, Hugh will also allow you to add Borg upgrades to your ship but without that faction penalty.  These are two very strong command options for the Independent faction and certainly this is a much better High than we got with the Scout Cube.

To the Elite Actions and we have two to choose from here. Experimental Link harks back to the attempted and failed experiments Lore was performing on some of the freed Borg drones in Descent. In the Soong pack this is the Borg Elite Action where you can either discard the card and up to three Drone tokens or Disable up to three Crew upgrades to re-roll the equivalent number of Attack dice. While his can only be used for a Borg captain, Diversionary Tactics let's you target a ship at a maximum of range two as long as it's not in your forward firing arc for the cost of the action card and one of your Crew upgrades. It means the opponent targeted cannot attack you that round and loses one of its own Crew upgrades. Again I just can't fault the ferocity of this vessel and the additions it brings to the game. These actions just add more fuel to the fire.

The Soong carries space for a few Crew options and the pack comes with four which can all be used on either Borg or Independent ships - Crosis, Bosus, Goval and Torsus. Key character Crosis is the most expensive at five points but his upgrade results in quite spectacular results. By discarding him you can disable a Crew upgrade on an opponent's ship and then steal a Crew upgrade to use on your own craft even if it exceeds your own point and spec limit. A very useful card well worth the high points cost although it might be better on an Independent ship since using it on a Borg ship will cost you an additional two Drone tokens on top of the points just covered. 

With Torsus you'll also be using a Drone token if your ship has a Borg captain. You can discard him to increase your Captain skill by two points until the end of the phase more than likely allowing you to fire first in the combat step and most useful if it's a you-or-them situation. Both he and Bosus cost two points to equip.

Again though for two points Bosus is a damn useful upgrade even if he has to be chucked at the end of it. Should any of your upgrades be discarded as the result of an enemy attack/action then they can be placed under this card and when you choose to cash in Bosus you can add an extra attack die  that round for that action card and those underneath it. Potentially this could add four dice to one attack; utter madness. Of course if you stick him on a Borg ship it will cost two Drone tokens.

Rounding out the four is Goval. While the others are extremely aggressive options for the Soong, this one point costing upgrade offers some form of defence in that he can be discarded to stop another Crew upgrade from being disabled or discarded. Rather a useful card once again that provides this expansion with some excellent points from every angle. Goval will cost one of your Drone tokens if he's on a ship with a Borg captain. Best using every single one of these Borg on an Independent craft!

We have two Borg Weapon upgrades available with Photon Torpedoes costing six points and the spending of a Target Lock plus the disabling of the card to be used. Five attack dice are in use here and you'll spot there's no rear firing arc but this card will let you damage one extra shield point if the attack is successful in any way. Good that this is available given the limited firing options of the Soong and the fact that it can already fire with six dice from its primary weapon. Secondly there's Forward Weapons Array that provides a multi-targeting option. 

Costing six points you can attack up to three ships in your forward firing arc each with three dice. Attacking just one ship adds three dice to the attack (six) while attacking two let's you hit each with a four dice attack. Able to be used at everything up to range three this is really opening up the options to use this ship as your lead craft and be a ship to be feared. Shame you can't use either of these on an Independent ship though.

A big feature of the Soong in Descent was its ability to open subspace distortions and the lone Tech upgrade offers this and you can discard the card and roll the same number of dice as your starting shield value. Add to that the chance to re-roll any blank results up to the amount of active shields you have and the Soong becomes seriously armour-plated. Also tracking that quick travel feature is Transwarp Conduit. Again a Borg feature it is a Borg upgrade so that kind of makes sense.  

It's the equivalent of the Quantum Slipstream drive or the Picard Maneuver where you can remove the ship from the field of play, discard the card plus any tokens on the ship (except Auxiliary Power Tokens) and then drop her back into play outside of range three of any enemy vessel. Is there's anything that this expansion doesn't offer? It has to be one of the strongest offered by Wizkids and offers the Independent player some chance of a decent game plus gives the Borg faction a more flexible moving ship and some more powerful upgrades.

Descent is the name of the game too as the two-player scenario has a 70 point Federation ship taking on a 70 point Borg Type Three. In this case though the Federation ship can have nine Crew upgrades assigned but not Data. However only the usual number of allowed Crew upgrades can be active on the ship with the others disabled and used only as Away Team. The objective is to use your crew to beam down to the MS-1 colony and rescue Data and victory is secured when he's aboard and the Away Teams are recovered or if Data is recovered and the Borg ship destroyed in that specific order. The Borg can win if Data is not rescued by the time the Federation ship leaves the area or by destroying the Federation vessel.

It's a cool pack overall however there is a distinct lean towards the Borg options rather than the Independent. That's not saying Indy players get a bad deal out out what is available just that there is a distinct weighting towards the cybernetic lifeforms.

A second very inexpensive expansion I managed to acquire this month was the Gornarus. Again with that goal of building a decent Independent faction I chose to hunt out one of my favourite Star Trek races and their rather unimpressive starship. Recently reproduced by Eaglemoss on a much bigger scale it's not one of the franchise's most memorable designs and between the two replicas there are some clear differences.

Carrying a basic score of 22 rather than the Soong's 38, the Gornarus lands with three in attack, one in agility, three hull and four shield points. There are singular slots for a Weapon, Tech and Crew upgrade plus a standard payload of Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battle Stations to start you off. The unique action is a wee bit nifty too even considering its less than intimidating stats; if Critical Damage is inflicted on an enemy ship's hull then you can find either Structural Damage or Weapons Malfunction in the Damage Deck rather than having your opponent select a card at random. As usual the generic version of the ship loses a shield point plus it's Weapon upgrade option  and the unique action, dropping its cost to 20 points.

One question here has to be why is the shot on the generic card and the movement card the rear view of the Gornarus? Strange one but it doesn't change how you play the game - more of an off the cuff observation!

As for movement the Gorn starship lands in very general territory with a four forward maximum speed, a full range of moves at speeds two and three (tight right and left at three are red) as well as a useful (and also red move) 180 degree turn at speed three. No big spectacular options there and it was an early sign of what we ended up with a lot in the 20 plus waves.

At least our main captain choice is a familiar face and is this time named S'Sesslak. He has a skill of five for a cost of three points with the Elite Action emblem present to give that extra boost. His unique action is quite similar to how torpedoes operate, offering the chance to convert a dice - in this case a blank result - into a Damage result or a Damage result into a Critical Damage. Certainly a way to up the ante with no penalty for its repeat use. As an Independent fleet captain he makes a strong case. Slightly less costly is Slar costing two points with a Captain skill of three. Benefits here are singular allowing you to field the Salvage Elite Action upgrade only. Bit meh to be fair and probably one to leave in the deck.

Speaking of Salvage, it does provide a great chance to add some more muscle to your ship should someone nearby be knocked out of the game. If a ship is destroyed within range two you can discard the card, disable your Active Shields and steal a Tech or Weapons upgrade costing five or less points even if it goes over your own ship's limits. Means there's no hope of borrowing any Borg goodies but it might allow you to grab something decent that could come in handy. However, picking yourself a prize will mean incurring a Disabled token on the acquired item and an Auxiliary Power Token. Sounds harsh but you will eventually reap the benefits!

A second Elite Action option with the Gornarus is Faked Messages. For five points once everyone has been chosen (not moved) you can discard the card to force a ship within range three to alter its path to a single one forward. A very useful opportunity to get a player exactly where you want them - and if you have another part of your fleet with Salvage available it could be a big bonus.

There's one new Crew upgrade here in Gorn Raiding Party which provides the chance to disable two of an opponent's active shields and if there are no shields active then disable all upgrades on that craft. For five points the chance to put a huge spanner in the works of your adversary is one not to miss. Limited to a maximum of range two it might be but the results will be capability limiting for some time. Targeted Phaser Strike replaces Photon Torpedoes here increasing the Gornarus' attack from three to four dice. Costing four points with a maximum range of three it inflicts standard damage but for every Damage or Critical Damage result the enemy ship also gets a Weapon upgrade disabled. Seems that this craft is very much designed around a pirate concept and would work admirably as a background support craft causing havoc on ships while you have something larger inflicting the terminal damage. 

Improved Deflector Screens (four points) as a Tech upgrade utilises your active shields and for each you have still in operation you get to cancel a Damage or Critical Damage result. It's not a disable action but does become a discard if all shields are destroyed which is a nice twist in that it can't be used if you've suffered a certain level of damage - there aren't many of these in the game at all. Only ships with hull scores of three or less can use this one so it does back up that possibility of using the Gornarus (or other Independent craft) as a nippy little support ship. The other Tech upgrade provided is Impulse Overload for five points. Affecting a ship at range one, if you roll a Damage or Critical Damage result off three attack dice then your opponent must discard one of their Tech upgrades. Once more a chance to rid your enemies of their bonus skills. 

Finally we have Jammed Communications rounding out a trio of Tech cards. It keeps in line with the pack making this a very slippery little ship to face since it stops all ships within the maximum range three using any text abilities during the round. I'd take that as using any upgrade cards and by any I mean ANY ship including your own. How much of an effect might this have on a game if you're facing a player who likes to use multiple card combos in a round?!

Only Ambush at Cestus III could be the mission for this pack, harking back to the classic Arena. It places you one on one; Gorn versus Federation with 45 points a piece. The Federation player has a three man away team to recover from the planet and to then destroy the Gorn vessel while the Gorn must destroy the Federation ship while it has not recovered the whole away team. If it can't manage that then the Gorn ship must escape! A simple scenario but one that looks easier than it probably plays since beaming back is made all the more difficult by relying on certain rolled dice results.

The Gornarus pack itself doesn't offer big firepower but more the chance to level the playing field and take away the advantages of others. I think I can see this working best against mid-range craft with several upgrades - or Borg! It's one of the more unique sets and reviewing it alongside the Borg/Independent Soong made me appreciate how varied the options for the Independent faction actually are. They aren't as heavily armed but have a whole host of tricks out there to use. Of all the factions they are definitely the one that wins the most from picking the most effective upgrades.

Are these worthy additions to the fleet or should I be looking at other factions instead?

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