Friday, 12 December 2014

Formation of the Fleet: Welcome to Attack Wing

I failed at Star Trek Online. I hate parting with money for a supposedly "free" game which takes ages to get anywhere, uses a ton of disk space and relies heavily on "pew-pew" tactics.

OK, I applaud that actual Star Trek cast from The Next Generation and Voyager are getting involved with the storylines but it all ends up in the same shooty actions and I became fairly bored pretty quickly. Sorry Online but you failed to ignite my passions for online gaming in every aspect. Deleted. I won't be going back.

Which led me into looking for something else to float my Star Trek gaming boat and I ended up going back to something that I'd sniffed around a while ago; Star Trek Attack Wing. A few people might scoff and suggest I've just exchanged pew-pew on the laptop for pew-pew on the tabletop but hear me out and then you can fire all the shots you want across my bow.

Back in t'day I wasn't adverse to a bit of roleplay gaming from the likes of Games Workshop but with the passing of time these things get boxed and stored in the loft. Attack Wing does have similar attributes, a free-playing game area of any size (be realistic though), free movement, a ton of features for each ship and that all important range ruler.

I've toyed with the idea for a while and then with some birthday money I took the plunge and purchased the Starter Pack. I got a good deal on it so I recommend hunting around and even managed to add in the USS Voyager expansion for not much more than the set would have cost me on its own at full retail price.

For a starter box it's packed solid with everything you'll need to get running the first part of your likely-to-expand-rapidly fleet. There's the Galaxy Class USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D, a Klingon Vor'Cha Attack Cruiser and a D'deridex Class Romulan Warbird which means two or three player games can be run from day one of your gaming investment. Besides the ships the box contains one Rules of Play book (including some very useful introductory game steps), a chunk of push-out tokens and a couple of decks of cards.

The ship models are very basically detailed and scanning over the internet a fair few people have pimped them up to their full, correct visual specification. The promo images for the ships do make them out to be vastly more detailed than they are so just be aware before you buy. However, that taken into account, it's behind the scenes and at the edge of the board that the real magic happens. Each ship gets attached to its own little base carrying a firing arc and basic stats as well as its own captain token before being placed into the gaming arena ready to start.

Let's look at the pile of tokens first though. We're already mentioned the range ruler, there are several different movement pieces and then you're into more interesting territory with Captain tokens, ones for mission objectives, others for disabling ship features, others for indicating raised or lowered shields, whether you're using auxiliary power...there seems to be a token for just about every eventuality within the Star Trek starship realm here which makes every encounter unique and more about playing your cards right. The movement dial (pictured) is a clever little device to make sure no-one tries to cheat and avoid conflict. Forunately movement isn't as super easy as selecting a number and direction on the wheel. Each ship has movement limitations that can affect its actions and some move in different ways to others. for example the red right angle with the 3 here means that the Enterprise would be on auxiliary power and lose the chance to use an action in this round. It's a beautiful idea well executed. One other thing to note is that the Captain tokens are horribly tight to fit into the base of your starship. They do get bent quickly as the card is thicker than the gap into which it fits so you might want to either photocopy or hunt some spares out on eBay.

The cards are just as important, perhaps moreso tactically, as your movement and choice of when to attack. Each round of the game takes four stages - Planning, Activation, Combat and End - everyone plans, everyone chooses where they're going and then enters the third phase which is where the cards come into play.

Each player can choose a certain number of ships upgrades (not including their captain card) which will allow them to do certain things during play - maybe once or sometimes repeatedly. It could be allowing a secondary weapon to fire twice, firing a more powerful weapon, cancelling any previous round effects, enhancing shields - you get the general picture.

So how does it play once you've popped all the tokens from their card mounts, set your ship up and established who's commanding the Galaxy Class Enterprise and who gets the Klingons and Romulans? 

At first it's best to follow the guide and try the introductory game. I played my step-daughter and got a whooping with the D'deridex Class Warbird. Shields were down and there was no going back. However once you step past the very basic starter game it gets a lot more interesting. More factors come into play, you appreciate the maneuverability of each ship (which can be significantly different) and just what can push it to breaking point. Shields and hull damage become a lot more significant as damage cards get dealt with successful hits through your defensive grid take an effect on your ship's abilities.

The selection of your crew and therefore your upgrades becomes pretty important and as I get further into playing and collecting my fleet I'm sure it'll become more evident that certain abilities are better against certain opponents. I'm thinking of going for pure Starfleet versus Klingons however I know that there are a couple of ships outside that remit that look rather tasty. The Galaxy Class ship doesn't have to be the Enterprise either given that there's a blank card to which you can assign your own standard - USS SKoST perhaps?

As to the upgrades, each ship has different strengths and weaknesses at this level too with certain crew providing unique features which do have some relevance to their position on the ship. Geordi's are more inclined to propulsion while Riker's have a line into command. Then there's getting to grips with firing arcs and weapon power depending on your target distance and all sorts of bits I probably haven't tackled. Out of the box you don't get to play as a full fleet due to the number of ships but you can see from these three that selecting the right ones will be key to your successes. I think from conversations I've had with another recent disciple of Attack Wing who's purchased the Breen warship that it has some kind of super weapony thing. I suspect that Chang's Bird-of-Prey has the ability to fire while cloaked. It's on the To Buy list of course.

Attack Wing has been out for a while now with the current expansion wave into its ninth cycle with one a month, containing three new ships, planned right up until at least June 2015. This month saw the arrival of Wave 10 including the Vidiian starship, the Regent's ship from the Mirror Universe and the Cardassian Hideki Class squadron. So far I've only acquired the Starter Set and one USS Voyager. If you're wondering why I've not mentioned that one, I want to talk about it separately so that's my next piece on Attack Wing sorted. I've grabbed an image here which also shows Wave 11 which adds the Federation fighters, Romulan drone from Enterprise and the Krenim warship from Voyager.

For this time though let's round off the discussion on the Starter Set. It's a good deal and means that from the off you're able to play with a maximum of of three players. I get that there's some similarity to Star Trek Online here in the fact it's space combat however at least I can sit and face the person I'm playing and have a chat at the same time rather than facing a computer screen for another ten hours.The in-game variations are endless through the ship upgrades (choose your crew carefully) and the captain as well as in your choice of ship - or ships because your fleet will be growing. 

Next time I want to talk about the Voyager expansion pack and it's impact on the starter set and also it's unique features which make it one of the stand out add-ons...

Started on Attack Wing? How are you finding the game and what are your ships of choice? Let us know which ones to watch out for below!

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