Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Core Components: Attack Wing Wave 17

OK, that title actually covers two points. The first being that we have a wave that comprises of Federation, Klingon and Romulan ships and secondly that a central feature has been reworked after two years. 

So let's deal with our trio of new arrivals first starting with the Akira Class USS Thunderchild.  This has to be one of the best miniatures that Wizkids have produced when it comes to starships. Choosing to go with a shiny silver paint scheme rather than a grey/blue hue with a four inch brush the effect was a fine choice. The hull detail is a lot clearer and defined, the darker grey segments do well to highlight the plating of the hull and lifeboat hatches. Even the warp engines are more precisely painted and overall this is just a brilliant little replica. Shame it's not a trait that's replicated across the whole of the seventeenth wave but more on that in a bit.

The Thunderchild is a hugely popular ship in Trekdom so any expansion featuring it needs to impress. To begin, it's pretty well decked out on the stats front. Bearing the standard Federation quadrilogy of actions -  evade, battle stations,  scan and target lock,  we also have a four attack, a two defence, five hull and three shields which means you'll stand a fair chance in a fire fight. Additionally it's unique action allows you to roll another die should you take no damage when defending and hope to inflict a hit on your opponent.

Her range of movement is impressive with almost every turn available between one and three plus a four forward and a 180 at speed three into the mix. Funny thing is that all three of the ships in this wave also have virtually the exact same movement template. To the maneuver in fact.

Over to your captains and there's a choice of three including the generic zero pointer. Both Hayes and Shanthi can double as admirals which is an unusual choice for an expansion (usually there's just one) and both can field an elite action. Hayes, seen in First Contact and Voyager, allows ships at range one to gain an extra attack die and it's two if against those annoying Borg. Shanthi, seen only once in Redemption and therefore with zero link to this ship, lets you target a ship at range one or two and re-roll all your blanks. Both are nice moves and shout out "Admiral" even in their captain positions.

What becomes more apparent is just how situational this pack actually is. The elite action, Persistence,  can only be used if you roll critical or standard damage on every one of your attack dice and it's then that you get the chance to roll more dice to add to your initial result. Whether you would want to use this I'm not sure since five points is a lot for a discard and one that relies on hitting such a tight number of criteria. The same can be said for Intercept, the second of three -  yes three - elite actions with the Thunderchild. Here you need to be in the same firing arc as a ship being attacked to force that opponent to hit you rather than the chosen target. All a bit fiddly which might make you run for the photon torpedo upgrades for safety. Federation Task Force does pull this one back a little with a modicum of hope as it does allow you to target up to two friendly ships within range one to two to perform a free Target Lock action. Again a discard for five points so it's not one to take lightly but should assist in making those final blows on your opposition.

Given that the Thunderchild comes with three weapons and a crew slot, you'd expect there to be some crew options with the ship but you'll be disappointed (or a little surprised) that for a Federation ship there are none in this expansion. There are two weapons upgrades for the three slots available; one is the standard Photon Torpedoes card which players seem to ignore and choose to play the Target Lock re-roll instead. However with a new game dynamic it seems this may change.

The introduction of time tokens now means that instead of using an Action to re-enable the photons you have a set number of turns before they become active again as if being "real-time" reloaded. When you fire the weapon you place a set number of the tokens onto the card and remove one per round. Both Photon Torpedoes and Quantum Torpedoes here utilise this new feature. Choosing between the two cards can be tricky as the both operate over the same two to three range and offer five attack dice. The winner with the heftier Quantum Torpedoes though is an extra damage should the target ship be hit. Photon Torpedoes on the other hand still only converts one of your Battle Station results into a critical damage should you roll one.

If you have used up two slots with these weapon upgrades then Rapid Reload is definitely a strong option to fill either the last weapon slot or the crew slot. Counting as whatever type of upgrade you want it works harmoniously with the time token feature by disabling the card and placing only one of the blips onto your weapon card. Truly it does actually cut down the time it takes to lock and load. 

Finishing out the pack is the Federation Task Force mission which takes you to the blockade formed by the Dominion to stop Sisko and the Federation fleet from reaching and retaking Deep Space Nine. Just as with the episodes Favor the Bold and Sacrifice of Angels the Dominion has the potential to build a squad double the size of the Federation but only one of the Federation ships needs to get past to ensure their success. Looks a lot of fun this one and very tactical from the Federation perspective.

Second to the table this month is the IRW Vrax. It's the second Nemesis Warbird we've had with the first, the Valdore right back in Wave 0 believe it or not. Well, this is the other ship that took part in the Bassen Rift battle alongside the Valdore and the Enterprise-E. As I said earlier, the model quality with this wave really is bizarre. The Thunderchild was superb, A-grade given the scale and cost but this one left me scratching my head. Why oh why was it made from translucent green plastic? I almost thought I'd won it in a goddamn cracker.

Now the actual mould and build is great. There's a nice level of hull detail but given the nature of the material used it's hard as hell to see any of the detail unless you've in a moderately lit room. Paintwork is minimal here with only a few dark markings spotted onto the hull. Nor is there a gap between the eliptical wings but that's more likely to be due to scale. Also the plastic means you can see the joints through those expansive wings. Not as bad as some I've seen where the glue has blobbed and is very visible. On my Vrax the joints were pretty spot on - and I could tell because I could see them all.

Anyway I'll stop moaning. It's a big model with the same width as the Scimitar and it has upgrades to match it's formidable size.Attacking with four dice, defending with two and packing a hull score of six and three shields she's a match for the Thunderchild given there's one hull point splitting them. Also the two ships are a perfect match on maneuvers given that their cards are identical (as said) but the Vrax does have a green "two" bank available as a slight variation. It's also loaded, as you would expect, with that crucial cloak and sensor echo pairing available. Also her special action allows you to change a revealed four forward movement into a banking four maneuver even though the movement card doesn't allow that motion. It does mean you'll receive an Auxiliary Power Token but if it gets you into/out of position it may be worth the risk.

Of the two skilled captains, Suran is the higher at six and gives the ability to choose the result of one of your dice when attacking as long as you're within range one of another friendly ship. That should ensure you keep a tight-knit unit in battle. Oddly Velal with a captain skill of five can be used as a Fleet Admiral and takes a much more defensive stance. He lets players roll two defence die less in one round for a guaranteed Evade result. What it doesn't say is when you should declare this - is it your action for the round or do you declare whenever you defend as there's no point to discard or disable this one.

There's only one Elite Action in here, Coordinated Attack, probably balancing out against the Thunderchild's overkill. Discarding it will allow you to "jump the queue" during the Combat Phase and attack straight after another friendly ship at the cost of one attack die. Another cost heavy discard at five but one that might turn the tide and let you get an upper hand.

The Vrax does provide two crew upgrades again in deference to the Thunderchild's conspicuous lack thereof. Tal'Aura lets you discard an upgrade from an enemy ship at range three while Bridge Officer acts in the same way as Rapid Reload in that you can reduce the number of Time Tokens you place on a used upgrade.

For weapons (second ship also with no tech upgrades), there is the always-haunting-the-pack Photon Torpedoes now using the time tokens dynamic. Plasma Torpedoes operate at a closer range of one to two and use the tokens but with an equally useful five attack dice in hand you will be able to re-roll any blank results. Hope you get some.

The final weapons option with the Vrax is Flanking Attack. Yet another high costing discard at six points, it can only be used against a ship that is in your forward firing arc but you are not in the forward firing arc of the target. It reduces the opponent's defence by one and does give you a solid six dice for attack. Again, very specific and situational but potentially worth it given that you could inflict a ton of damage from it.

I guess one of the disappointments here is that the scenario is the Battle in the Bassen Rift which we've already effectively had in the Scimitar pack. Here the focus is more on the Romulan/Federation force against a ship that can be suped up with a ton of stuff. Personally I'd use the Scimitar straight away and get all of its heavy duty upgrades installed. I suppose the challenge with these missions is keeping them relevant to the ships although where that might be restricted such as the Vrax maybe scenarios could be theoretical: I'm sure noone would mind.

Last up there's our Klingon entry. Another D-7/K'T'inga reuse and it's good to see the sideways bridge module has finally been fixed - only for someone to put the warp engines on backwards. Jeez; how hard is it?!

Colour-wise it's pretty good and the detail has been stepped up. This paintwork is certainly getting better as we go along and it seems the Wizkid modellers have learnt to paint within the lines which must be difficult on such small items.

The IKS T'ong has the weakest stats of the three ships in Wave 17 with a cost of only 24 squadron points against the 28 of the Thunderchild and the 30 of the Vrax. Attacking with four dice, defending with one and carrying a hull score of four with three shields, the T'ong is no slouch and will certainly provide a challenge to other ships around that squadron point total given that she also has a cloaking device - pretty much the Klingon standard. Movement is exactly the same as her two other Wave 17 compatriots so we can skip over that and head into the options for captain.

Taking lead from the second season The Next Generation episode, The Emissary, the pack is focused around the Klingon sleeper ship the Enterprise is sent to intercept. K'Temoc can command your ship here and reduces the cost of each of your Klingon upgrades by one point but doubles the cost of any non-Klingon ones you choose to add. A nice option which means you can pack more in with a not-too-bad skill of five as well.

Morag is your second named captain option included with this expansion and, yes, once more he's a very situational card to carry in your fleet. He lets you disable an upgrade of your choice on a ship within range one to two that isn't cloaked or has any active shields as long as you're not cloaked and prepared to drop your shields and receive an auxiliary power token for your efforts. Very, very risky move and I would suspect a very rare thing to see occur in the game. My other point with the captains is the odd choice to use an image of Kurn for your generic zero points cost captain. Surely there are other Klingons to pick?

The sole Elite Action with the T'ong is Devotion to Duty which really is there should you be hanging on by a thread. It's the last stand of last stands allowing you to add up to a maximum of two more dice to your attack. These dice equivalent to the number of damage cards you have beside your ship (up to the two max) and can only be used with your primary weapon. It's a last gasp chance for victory and a discard so handle with care. 

K'Ehleyr, memorably played by Suzie Plakson, is provided with the T'ong as one of the Klingon crew options. Not a member of it's crew in the episode, K'Ehleyr was key in the mission to intercept the sleeper ship before it attacked. A five point cost gets you a discard to stop a ship at range one from attacking you nor can you attack it. I'm not a massive fan of this one unless you're intending to run and regroup or simply looking to take a breather in the action. The Tactical Officer crew upgrade allows you to re-roll your blank attack dice results at the cost of a disabled card but it's not dependant on any specifics nor does it need to be activated as an action so happy days all round.

To weapons and your standard Photon Torpedoes make an appearance with the new time token rules and alongside those you can choose Concussive Charges with a four dice attack. While this is the same as the standard ship can use it does allow you to remove game tokens from your target for each uncancelled damage or critical damage. I'm not certain whether this would be used very often although it does use the time token feature rather than a disable or a dreaded discard. I tend to find there aren't that many tokens bar target locks lying around!

The Tech upgrade is a little controversial here as you can slip two non-Borg upgrades under the Cryogenic Stasis card and as an action you can activate them one at a time. Now it says that they should be crew upgrades with a cost of five or less - but is that combined or individually??? While this will cost you five points it does mean you can exceed your ship's restrictions - now does that mean point wise and/or feature-wise? I'll have to play around with it and see what comes about. Cracking little addition to the pack which could play nicely into your hands late in the day.

For the mission this time it's a one on one Federation versus Klingon as the T'ong attempts to attack a remote outpost. While it's fairly straight-forward for the Klingon player to take out the station (or their opponent's ship), the Federation player needs to convince the Klingon player to stand down through sacrificing its action to gain a mission token. Three mission tokens and it's achieved it's goal. If the Klingons start attacking the outpost the Federation player can win by destroying the K'T'inga Class ship. Of the three scenarios this seems the most interesting to play from Wave 17 given its not a straight out attack and destroy. Definitely top of my "to play" list.

Aside from advertising the Vrax and the T'ong very differently to their actual models (specs may vary etc), the accompanying sleeve leaflet also details the upcoming Temporal Cold War storyline organised play event for 2015. Bearing an image of the Xindi weapon sphere I think it's a safe bet that we're going to be seeing a third oversize model as the prize and then much later as (we would think) a retail option to go alongside the existing Deep Space Nine and Borg Cube. The Xindi weapon sphere has already been leaked in a couple of photos around the web in prototype form a couple of shelves away from a Borg Cube which appears to have a portal to fit a Sphere inside (Borg one that is).

So Wave 17 offers some new techniques and some very specific upgrades. I think it was a risk to go so situational but it means there are more variations to the game and they're not just recycling the same old cards and features in later wings. The addition of the time tokens and the yet-to-be-seen Continuous Effect Tokens means that the game's not wallowing in the doldrums and churning out average packs. With these new options there are reasons to get these expansions and play on. While I'm hankering for more unusual packs from the Independents or Mirror Universe factions these are OK for now. Looking at what's ahead though I think we're in for some brilliant - and very unique - packs in the next few months.

Picked out a ship to add from Wave 17? Which was your choice? Let us know below!

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