Saturday, 13 June 2015

Fleet Orders: Two Tough Little Ships

Being a few months behind meant that the USS Defiant model had to make its way from across the pond to join my expanding fleet.

Seeing as Dan did such a great job on his recent Deep Space Nine post it'd be rude not to talk about the ship that spent a lot of time there during the series. Alongside that I'd also like to discuss the recent release of the Oberth Class USS Pegasus.

The Defiant's first outing was a round alongside the Enterprise-E taking on the Negh'Var and Chang's Bird-of-Prey with an admirable performance although I wasn't expecting too much from this small 24 point ship.

Coming with command options of Sisko, Kira and Admiral Ross (bit random and the always included generic card) she doesn't seem to be that amazing on paper with only additional quantum torpedoes for attack and the ability to deploy a minefield (as in Call to Arms) however it's the superb cloaking device that really makes a difference. Being the only Federation starship with this option and not killing the points totals, it did come in handy on a couple of occasions adding five die to defence.

Sisko does allow for re-rolling one defence die but with a six score he's still mid-field and certainly below Kirk,  Picard and Janeway in value. Kira costs less and can be used on a Federation ship without a points penalty for being Bajoran militia. She also helps counter any attempt to remove upgrades which might be more beneficial than Sisko.

Jadzia Dax allows you to make an additional "2" maneuver but removes your attack function, Worf reduces the defence of a ship in range one and O'Brien lts you repair two shield tokens again at the expense of an attack.  There's also two attack patterns with Omega letting you search out the "Warp Core Breach" card if you critically damage an opponent's hull while Alpha allows you to re-roll all your die in defence. Both are only available once so careful, timed use is essential.

But is Defiant really a must-have ship for your fleet? I would argue yes due to the quantum torpedoes and cloaking device coupled with the low cost of 24 points for the ship initially. The challenge is that when you compare her stats with Voyager or the Enterprise-E for example, she is clearly less maneuverable has less firepower and has a lower hull value which means that she is a bit of a chance.

Taking her into battle is another thing. On her own I'd question the Defiant's effectiveness but as an accompanying ship she's superb. Being able to cloak and uncloak again aligned with your use of the quantum torpedoes is a deadly combination and at the bitter end of combat against the Klingons it was the Defiant which made the last hit on the disabled Negh'Var and secured victory. Hard fought it was because the Defiant took some heavy damage being that little bit slower meaning she took the brunt of the attacks while the Enterprise-E could get out of range and make use of its dorsal phaser array which didn't limit her to the main forward firing arc. Note though that the Defiant can do a full about maneuver which can really disorientate your opponent. The Bird-of-Prey never saw it coming I have to say although it does gain you an auxiliary power token (tut tut)

I would have liked to see some sort of advantage to using the Defiant's phaser systems in contrast to the dorsal array that came with the Enterprise-E but there is some give in the manoeuvrability. Having straight-forward phasers isn't what I expected - there could have been a limited use variant for this ship or something that maybe widened the firing arc given the nature of the ship and her firepower capabilities.

As to the one-off mission you get with the Defiant, it's time to revisit Call to Arms and mine the wormhole. Yep, you're tasked with blocking the arrival of the Dominion fleet from the Gamma Quadrant - defeat comes with either the Starfleet player laying all the mines or the Dominion player kicking your ass into the Beta Quadrant. Nice again to see Heroclix focusing on episodes to draw on for their mission ideas.

In the future if I were using two ships I might side for Voyager and the Enterprise-E based purely on their stats but with the Defiant having eight points less against her name than the Intrepid Class ship I would plump for her if only to beef up the features of both ships and have a better fighting chance. 

It might sound that I've got a bit grumbly here and that could be as I had to import Defiant but I do like to use her although I doubt I would want to expand and have a fleet of these escort ships as there are better options around. As a part of a fleet she's a good little skirmisher, decent power but can end up as cannon fodder if you don't use the cloak. Personally, I'd take the chance with her any day.

Second up is a slightly newer arrival, the Oberth Class USS Pegasus. When I think Oberth my first port of call for the choice of ship would usually be the USS Grissom from The Search for Spock but look a bit deeper and you can see that actually using the ship featured in one of The Next Generation's best episodes is a very, very good decision. In comparison to the Defiant model she's a gem. In reality there's still a fair amount of detail missing but given the scale that's not surprising and I don't tend to analyse the models since this is about the package you get with them.

Being an experimental testbed for Starfleet tech, the Pegasus offers not just advanced shields but that treaty-ignoring phasing cloaking device which both Admiral Pressman and the Romulans were after. These features certain lyrics enhance what could have been a fairly dull entry to the game. Certainly these cards make up for the terrible movement that this vessel have -  which is a trend that runs across the whole of this wave and I'll cover more in a follow on piece. The Pegasus doesn't have any red maneuvers and can perform 180's on both 2 and 3 moves but 3 is as fast as you're going here so prepare to take a lot of damage from the larger opposing ships.The ship itself allows your upgrades to cost one service point less and she's not equipped with battle stations in her actions bar leaving you only evasive, target locking and scan as your standard options.

The Pegasus also features another William T Riker, sans beard, alongside Admiral Pressman who can act as either captain or in a fleet command position. Strangely he's only the third Starfleet admiral in the game along with Kirk and Dougherty from Insurrection and only one of those turned out to be trustworthy - hang about - and even he got demoted....

Ok - so the selection of admirals isn't that brilliant but there's still the rest of the crew to try out, picked from the finest production staff in the quadrant. Yep, this time around we get the back room staff from The Next Generation posing as your available upgrades so let's take a glance at what everyone can do for you. Pressman is a good card here allowing you to either disable or discard service upgrades for an additional one or two attack die per round. With such a low powered ship it might be wise to stock up on only service upgrades with this in mind!

Riker offers a boost to your ship and the chance to avoid critical damage which effectively makes him a sub-captain here, much in the same way as he acted in the episode itself. A second captain, Ronald Moore is available for the Pegasus allowing you to add a tech token to your ship. he's a one on your points so technically a zero if you;re using the Pegasus action. Walter Keel is your freebie commander with the ship and carries no beneficial features. The four other crew available are Dawn Velazquez giving you the chance to discard your captain card for an additional maneuver which also puts her in command; Eric Motz allows a third tech upgrade; Phil Wallace lets you reduce your speed by one point after flipping your maneuver dial and Andy Simonson lets you get a peak at an opponent's movement plan before that phase of the game.

So pretty nice so far and the benefits are there if you want to take a - slow - chance but there are three kick-ass features here that make the Pegasus a tempting morsel. The phasing cloak does give you the advantage of being able to go anywhere in the game board, even if it's occupied by another vessel. The shields allow the re-rolling of one defence die and would be essential when coupled with the ship's low starting hull and shield figures.

The final and very neat twist on the Pegasus is the escape pod. If you lose the ship - which is a distinct possibility given it's low stats - then you can make a last stand and drop the captain plus a maximum of two upgrades aboard which can be picked up by a friendly ship within range one. That is if you make it because the pod can't attack, can barely move and has a hull value of one. Just be sure you're not going up in flames anywhere near a Borg Tactical Cube. It's a cool little tweak on the game effectively meaning you can save a couple of your best bits and then, with no implications, add them onto another ship. 

My first thoughts on the Oberth Class were less than favourable however WhizKidz have made her a tempting fleet addition thanks to the low hull value specific upgrades and one more thing; a bonus mission which you can play solus.

For those times when you've defeated everyone else repeatedly and need to hone your tactics just that bit more, take command of the Pegasus with both Pressman and the Phasing Cloaking Device onboard and navigate a safe path through the Devolin asteroid field. If you succeed then you've done better than Pressman but make sure that you have both the captain and that top secret bit of tech still equipped by the time you escape the danger. Great addition and one that's a lot of fun to play. However, the rules on dealing with asteroids are a little evasive. How do you deal with them and when do you get damaged if under the phasing cloak? Also moving the space debris takes longer than planning your move through the rocky field.

That's my two latest Starfleet additions covered but I'll be talking about the Krenim Timeship and the ISS Avenger shortly which comprise Wave 14 with the Pegasus very soon. These two are pretty different to my usual choices so it'll be good to see how they go on in the field!

Fan of Attack Wing and a keen player? What did you think of these two Starfleet ships?

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