Monday, 29 June 2015

The Next Wave: Attack Wing 15 is Experimental

June's Attack Wing expansions have arrived and after a week of getting to slam them through their paces, let's look at the results...

As usual there are three diverse ships to add/subtract/mix and match with your existing fleet(s) although how many of us have been gagging for the Bajoran scout ship Ratosha may well be the biggest mystery of the year.

Probably one of the first model versions of the vessel which could usually be found ferrying just about anybody from Bajor to Deep Space Nine, I can only think players will be wanting to buy a few of these to go alongside their Bajoran interceptor(s). A low squadron points starship (18), the Ratosha won't get you anywhere at pace but with your options for this faction fairly limited you're going to be stuck with very few other places to go. That low total does mean that an "average" 40 squadron points per ship is going to get you a tidy amount of upgrades which you might want to choose from the accompanying pack.

Options for captain come from the season two trilogy opener in Deep Space Nine including scheming oik minister Jaro Esso, Colonel Krim and his right-hand man Day Kannu plus the usual cannon fodder commander if you're running a little points heavy elsewhere. Jaro has the advantage of being a low points captain (1) and can flip to become your Bajoran admiral if the need takes you. His feature reflects his duplicitous nature as you discard crew upgrades for the sake of extra defence. A nice twist on the character taken into the game by WizKids. 

The more expensive Krim captain card (4) is more forgiving allowing you to add one more crew upgrade to your roster and allowing a re-roll of a defence die. Both these two offer defence options with Krim being my preference and providing a longer term strategy. Day Kannu however is better if you're prone to taking the offensive allowing you to choose the result on one of your attack dice but does mean you acquire an auxiliary power token for the honour. It's a toss up which one to use but that will depend on your leaning in the game. I would be more tempted to boost your defences since there are only three hull points and two shield points between you and oblivion.

Before you skip to the next ship though, it's definitely worth considering the additional features here. Often those smaller ships carry some abilities that larger ships only dream of - or may never need. With the Ratosha the emphasis on defence continues through the pack. Provisional Government stops you attacking an in-range ship and in turn stops them from attacking you. Potentially this could allow you to get very close to a desired target and unleash your full final attack before getting obliterated if there's anything getting in the way.

There is also the Bajoran Militia upgrade (and I thought I had a duplicate card at first) which boosts the total number of attack dice dependant on the number of these cards attached to the ship. Probably a good call to only have two at the most as you'll be wanting to use one of the other upgrades to give yourself a bit of flexibility.

More Than Meets the Eye allows you to scan even if you already have a scan token allocated to your ship thereby reducing the number of defence dice your opponent can roll by two instead of just one. This plays to your minimal offensive capabilities only having two attack dice to roll if you're going by the basics. If you're not then it's likely you've added Assault Vessel Upgrade to your scout ship which can be used as in a tech, crew or weapon slot. This will boost your stats allowing three attack dice for attack and raising the shield value to three at the cost of only four squadron points. Given the ship value it's easy to see that a lot of the included upgrades would be easy to slot in. Tragically though you'll only have a maximum of three crew upgrades to use on this vessel which might mean you deploy some of these over on an Interceptor.

Closing off the expansion is the mission piece based around The Siege from season two of Deep Space Nine. Set up as a standard two player game, it sees a minimal Federation force take on the advancing Bajorans leading to either the local militia taking control of the station or the Starfleet team capturing its opposition. Why the planet token is used as part of this I'm not certain - it may just be there as an obstacle to slow the Bajorans down but in principle this seems to be one of the easier missions for a non-Federation faction to win.

Second up there's one for the warrior in you with the Klingon Ning'Tao Bird of Prey. Firstly I can only layer praise on WizKidz for their incredible recreation of the B'rel class ship, easily trouncing the last version released as Chang's Bird-of-Prey. The colours are more vibrant, the detail much more clearly etched and just so you can tell them apart, this one has the wings dropped for attack.

As with the Ratosha she's another low value ship with moderate maneuverability but is a very "average" Klingon ship One thing that does distinguish her is the choice of five captains which come with her. Alongside Martok (who can also act as an admiral but is a lower rating than the version included with the Negh'Var), there's Worf, the usual generic Klingon should you need to save a few points and two versions of Kor. 

I don't recall another Attack Wing ship offering up this many captains nor two versions of the same character and they are significantly different given their age gap and experience. Younger Kor from The Original Series' Errand of Mercy has the higher score and allows you to re-roll attack dice determined by the amount of non-disabled crew upgrades you have however the Deep Space Nine veteran includes one of the most bizarre moves ever - a card which forces opponents to attack the specific ship he is commanding. Great to help the remainder of your fleet regroup or escape I would think but don't count on the Ning'Tao surviving. 

As with the cards we noted on the Ratosha, the game's creators have cleverly worked little character traits into the way their ability plays. Sticking with the Klingon way, Martok offers better attack at the expense of defence. I'd personally use either Kor here instead of Martok who has a more effective card with the Negh'Var. Worf acts to give a nice balance to your options with the Ning'Tao, allowing additional defence dice but meaning your ship gains a weighty auxiliary power token.

Having five options for captain with this set means there's only one crew upgrade included here and that's Darok, another veteran who allows you one chance to use a free option before he's discarded. Me thinks that you might not be using a lot of the cards from this set on a regular basis given the less than stellar line-up however the features do make it quirky and could well offer a real thorn in the side of anyone trying to take on your Klingon masses.

Photon Torpedoes comes "as standard" it seems and then there are the pack-specific elements. In this instance Inverse Gravition Burst is a pretty great addition. While it is single use it does offer the chance for you to regroup by hitting every ship within the 1-3 targetting range. Another upgrade in keeping with the Kor theme of the expansion is Long Live the Empire!. The feeling you get from this set is that using any of the cards is tantamount to gaming suicide (as I said, keeps with the Kor theme) since you can add up to three attack dice to your attack but automatically you take hull or shield damage for each additional dice you used.  The final upgrade option is Strafing Attack which allows you to attack two in-range vessels regardless of whether they are within your firing arc. 

If you like your episodic missions then this one places you into something of a Kobayashi Maru moment with the ship taking on a more powerful Dominion force. In the space of four phases you'll need to stay alive or destroy the opposition which isn't so difficult since you don't have to worry about auxiliary power tokens and get an additional two defence dice. I won;t get chance to properly work this one through as I've yet to obtain any Dominion ships. If you have played it out, let me know how it went!

The Ning'Tao is not an obviously powerful ship from her stats nor does she have the quick boost option that comes with the Ratosha but the single use upgrades that you do have to use here or with another Klingon ship do offer late chances to change the tide of the game. I'd be more tempted to place them all into one basket and use the Bird-of-Prey as it seems she was intended - to draw fire and make a mess which the remainder of your fleet can clean up if it gets destroyed. On a final note, interesting that they choose the Ning'Tao ahead of Kruge's ship from The Search for Spock....

The big draw from Wave 15 though has to be the USS Prometheus. Model collectors can stand down as it's not the best replica with a rather blocky paint job that's in the same league as the Enterprise-E but I can say that the nacelles are all in parallel alignment. Good work on the mould but a "better try next time" on the finishing.

However as I'm fond of repeating here, it's not about the model it's about the cards and my lord is this a cracking addition. Offering maneuverability equal to the Intrepid Class as well as a number of tactical upgrades and superior stats, it all comes at a cost with the Prometheus draining a hefty 30 squadron points before you even consider beefing her up. That maneuverability does have its advantages since the ship's extra action allows a bit more evasion or repositioning but only if you've used a 1 or 2 in the activation phase of the game.

Coming back to reality a little there are three captain options with USS Prometheus which line up with Message in a Bottle from Voyager's fourth season. First there's Judson Scott's Romulan hijacker, Rekar who adds an extra attack dice to a secondary weapon (which you then have to give up). I'd suspect he's going to end up in your Romulan fleet rather than sticking with the Prometheus unless you're free-playing the game and ignoring factions.

Your second command option is The Doctor. Costing one squadron point he offers the chance to increase your captain skill from two up to ten but it is a gamble which will leave you with an auxiliary power token either way. I suppose this does reflect his lack of command experience/knowledge so if you do pick The Doctor (and I wouldn't for any ship) then your future is in your hands. However he is better than the standard non-action bearing Captain Keogh who fleshes out the set. Why they've included the Odyssey comander I'm not sure.

Your crew options in this expansion are limited to Romulan Hijackers which means you'll not lose out by attaching Romulan upgrades to a non-Romulan ship. Brilliant! So you can technically end up with the Prometheus or any Federation ship (for example) crewed by the secretive race. It also gives the benefit that if you're not near a friendly ship you can disable this upgrade and add an extra attack dice. 

Unsurprisingly the EMH Mark II appears as either a crew or tech upgrade. As with The Doctor he's not an amazing addition but that keeps with the inexperienced feel of those two medical crew-members. His target lock feature does disable an opponent's crew upgrades though so it's not that poor. 

While the crew upgrades are so-so, you're more likely to be adding the Prometheus to your fleet thanks to its tech and weapon options.  There is of course the usual photon torpedo card but with the experimental twist that using it with this ship adds a further dice to the attack.  Ok so now to the big stuff. 

Regenerative Shielding allows shield repairs and can be reused while Tactical Prototype lets players perform an additional evade, scan or battle stations move which emphasises the ship's better movement options over most of its peers and competition. 

Ablative Hull Armour is one of the nifty quirks of the pack and costs a not insignificant 7 squadron points. Hang fire though because it's advantages are more than clear with that high price. Applicable only to the Prometheus Class, it allows an additional three hits to your ship and converts all critical damage to normal damage. Surely this is a stunner of an option which will increase your lifespan in the combat zone and would be ideal to couple with some snazzy maneuvering. 

Finally though there is the Big One. Multi-Vector Assault Mode not only gets its own rule card but also its own token it's simply that awesome. Fairly obviously this is only available for the Prometheus Class. While the model won't spontaneously split into three sections it does give you a 360 degree firing arc with eight attack dice at the cost of disabling the card and a target lock. Better still - it's reusable and will surely cause havoc with your opposition.

When it is activated the ship does have limited movement and also reduces your defence by a dice but as with cloaking, you can keep it active for as long as required and won't be taken off at the end phase unless you decide to do so.

There's also a fantastic mission to take her out on which initially places the experimental ship in the hands of the Romulans before having the Prometheus reclaimed by The Doctor. The idea is to defeat your opponent and of course there will be a benefit to whichever side has control of the Prometheus.

By far the Prometheus is the most impressive and fearsome ship of the trio released this month and will definitely be part of my Federation fleet going forward including some of the great features it's brought to the game. Multi-Vector Assault Mode is potentially one of the strongest add-ons available to Federation players (aside from Voyager's Transphasic Torpedoes). The chance to rebuild your shields too is an enticing addition especially when coupled with the high maneuver score of 6 which will get you out of a sticky situation very, very quickly. It's a decent trio if truth be told with some nifty little features also present on both the Ning-Tao and the Ratosha. Certainly Klingon fans will be happy with the arrival of Kor (twice!) and perhaps some more Klingon-esque moves. My dad will be happy to slide it alongside his existing fleet and attempt to give me a further kicking - but then he's not seen the Prometheus so I doubt he'll stand much of a chance against the might of Multi-Vector Assault Mode

Where the Bajoran ship is aiming I'm not sure since we only have two vessels available for this faction in the marketplace right now. The Bajoran Solar Sailor is due but as a trio it's not looking like a serious force to be reckoned with. I can only suggest that the Bajorans might be amalgamated into the Independent faction to offer some chance of a win.

A great range of ships for June with three more great options due next month with USS Dauntless (first ship where you don't have to start with a captain!), USS Pasteur and the Ferengi Marauder. Good news too that we have info on every wave up to January now.  

Now you can also have a look at the cards and ships in more detail with these short video reviews we've posted up to our YouTube page

Managed to get hold of a Wave 15 ship? How are you using them and what tips do you have?

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