Thursday, 24 September 2015

Keeping it Fluid: Star Trek Attack Wing Wave 18

After the mixed bag of key races we received last month, September has introduced some really interesting dynamics to the Attack Wing mix.

I'll be honest, one of those evaded me until I sat down and read the cards properly but y'know what? This is a pretty neat trio and a lot better than I expected.

Box number one opens up to give us the USS Phoenix. A simple redress (physically) of the USS Sutherland OP prize from a while back which left me a bit grumbly because the flippin' sensor pod is wrong (OK, I'll stop going on about this now Instagram followers!). But hey, as I always say it's about the cards not the model...Honest.

The model itself is decent enough and is following the more recent trend to render Federation starships in silver rather than paint them up in a light blue wash. It works a lot better and the hull detail really does stand out. However, my saucer is out of kilter with the rest of the ship and sits at a slight angle to the right (check my video for a better look). The warp engines also seem to point in different directions to each other. Both of those issues do detract from the overall effect with clean painting, saucer detail of phaser strips and lifeboat hatches and a degree of "dirty" weathering. In comparison to the Enterprise-D model, the saucer is slightly larger and is a much better finish than the starter pack vessel.

Featured in the fourth season episode of The Next Generation, entitled The Wounded, the Phoenix was our first look at a new ship class since the Galaxy Class Enterprise in the pilot of the show. What we got was a mega kit-bash from the behind the scenes team that became a bit of a favourite over time. Here in Attack Wing her stats do place her firmly middle of the road. Only a couple less than the Enterprise-D and two more than the Defiant. Packing four dice in attack, one in defence, four hull and four shields at least you have something to work with if a little poor defensibly. The Phoenix can carry two additional crew and weapon upgrades and a single tech upgrade when maxed out. Her maneuverability, giving you virtually every turn in ranges one to three plus a four ahead, is complimented with the unique ship ability to change your maneuver after selecting it on the dial but before moving. However, it can only be for one at the same speed (ie a three turn to a three straight) and does incur the penalty of an auxiliary power token, Does mean you could get yourself out of trouble if you're running a high captain skill and can see what everyone else does before you do.

Captaining the Phoenix is Benjamin Maxwell. A commander with a skill of six and an SP of four. Aligning with his love of kicking enemy ass, Maxwell offers the chance to re-roll one of your dice when making an attack with your secondary weapon. (Admiral) Haden is your alternative named captain (the pack of course comes with Generic Captain too for zero cost and no ability) with this expansion and his upgrade is similar to the Flanking Attack we saw with the Vrax in Wave 17 in that you can hit a ship that doesn't have you in it's forward firing arc, gain one attack and lose one defence die that round. Certainly the benefit of sticking him as an admiral will be huge and I can see this ability getting a lot of use across the board.

The solus Elite Action here is Prefix Code. A true classic from The Wrath of Khan it allows the player to disable two shields on an enemy ship in range one to two. It does cost you an auxiliary power token but it could let you get through to those important hull points and get rid of your opponent a little bit sooner.

In the weapons cards this time there is the obligatory Photon Torpedoes this time using the time token feature to re-enable the secondary weapon and Quantum Torpedoes. The former will convert a Battle Stations result into a critical hit while the more expensive Quantum option will add a damage point on as long as you hit your opponent. Both roll with five attack dice and work at the two to three range. Pretty standard so far on the weapons but the two cards that spice things up here are the Arsenal and Aft Torpedo Launcher upgrades. With Arsenal you add two further weapon slots to the ship plus the card takes one of your time tokens when you are re-enabling meaning you can "reload" one full turn faster. Very nice, reusable and only four Squadron Points. The rear firing arc is missing from the Phoenix which makes the Aft Torpedo Launcher useful straight away BUT the big piece is that if you couple it with Photon Torpedoes you're only restriction to firing it is not within the forward firing arc. This upgrade will go in any of your slots on the ship and certainly adds a new flavour to the ship. Imagine coupling this with Haden's ability to target a ship that doesn't have you in its forward firing arc - you could potentially end up rolling six in attack.

Moving on to the tech here and there's just one addition to the game in the form of High Energy Sensor Sweep. Disabling an active shield on your ship allows you to perform a free Scan action and combining it with the high offensive capabilities of the Phoenix will make this a hard ship to take on since it'll help reduce the opposition's chances of deflecting your firepower.

Let's not forget our two crew possibilities with the Phoenix either with Terry and Elizabeth Lense. Neither actually served on the Phoenix nor was either even in The Wounded but hey, who cares... Lense costs just one point to remove a disabled token from one of your crew or tech upgrades (but not weapons which is odd considering the offensive capabilities being pushed here) and replace it with time tokens. She is a discard but not a great cost to do so. Terry on the other hand is a four point throwaway to disable two shields and repair one hull. While it might take off a critical damage action, I'm not sure if I'd rather have two shields instead and last a little longer.

Finally alongside the standard Additional Rules cards the mission this time is The Wounded and sees the Phoenix taking out a series of Cardassian outposts before the Enterprise shows up (eight turns to do it) while avoiding obliteration from the Dominion floozies. 

So to the second ship and while you might think that the Phoenix is offensive, the Bioship Beta is very offensive. Attack Wing players tend to grump a lot about the Borg and their super-abilities which make them nigh-on invincible however Species 8472 are perhaps another matter entirely. This second retail version of the vessel from Scorpion slams a huge six for attack, two for defence with five hull and six shields. It might not pack a rear or 360 degree firing arc but it's an absolute beast topping out at 38 points just for the ship itself.

You also have the benefit of Regenerate amongst your standard actions which allows the player to top up your hull points one per round. She also carries three tech slots and two weapon slots and the unique ability to cancel one damage result during combat at the cost of receiving an auxiliary power token. Once again this shows how difficult it may well be to take this vessel out of the game given its properties.

The Bioship tops out at four but gives you every maneuver forward at two and three but there's no tight right and left at speed one plus there's an all important 180 turn at three. As to the generic bioship, you'll lose a weapon slot and a shield to reduce the cost to 36.

Species 8472 bring a generic zero point costing captain option to the table as always but their main pilot carries a skill of eight and lets you re-roll one of your blank results during combat. Fortunately there's no need to disable the card to use this ability and should the Bioship this pilot is on be destroyed (bear with me here) you can jump ship and put him onto another craft in your fleet. This is very similar (if not identical) to the ability carried by the Borg Queen.

The Species 8472 Elite Action in the expansion this time is Telepathy and allows you to change your maneuver before you move. It's a hefty cost of four points for a one shot discard and with the power of the ship anyway it might not be necessary. You can use your points more effectively elsewhere.

We have two weapon upgrades to discuss this time and it's good that neither involves the word "torpedo". The less horrific Biological Weapon does bear a pic of Harry Kim gungified and also reduces your attack role from six to five but if it hits you not only score the usual damage but you get to discard a crew upgrade for each Battle Stations result you roll (max of two). It does cost six points to tack onto your ship. I do like it but nowhere near as much as the stupidly powerful eight dice attack of Energy Blast which only has the spending of a target lock as it's sole condition. A one hit wonder it's a heavy priced discard at eight points but hey, if you're up against it this is going to make a big difference and really nails home the fact that you want to be taking these guys into battle if you know you're facing off against Borg.

In line with the significant three tech slots, Bioship Beta's expansion packs in four options;  Electrodynamic Fluid gives you the option for multiple use either to be disabled and allow a sensor echo side-slip action or be discarded and perform a second maneuver with a top speed of three. Nice to have the options and goes with the flexibility of the ship to go wherever it wants. Costing an equal five points is Biological Technology and activating this provides the chance to gain more attack or defence dice by spending mission tokens that you place on the card once per round. Basically it's a weapons recharge allowing you the occasional extra bit of "umph" to make a crucial attack. Imagine using this in conjunction with Energy Blast....

Both of those upgrades cost a steady five points while Fluidic Space and Biogenic Field cost six. Very similar to features we've seen on the Krenim Timeship and the USS Dauntless, Fluidic Space allows you to remove your ship from the playing field and place it back anywhere in the game outside of ranges one and two of any other ship. One note here is that it doesn't say to remove any tokens you might have attached to the ship as it does on other ships that can perform a similar move. It is of course a discard given the huge benefit it could bring.

The Biogenic Field on the other hand is something you can keep using as it provides an additional defence dice to the ship and three if it's the Borg taking pot-shots.If you are attacked by an enemy upgrade it even provides the chance to defend and roll a Battle Stations result to counter it. Again you get to use three dice against the overpowered cyborgs.

I have to say that the mission with the Bioship is superb. Placing a one-on-one scenario with Species 8472 already without shields and suffering one hull damage is a really good twist to the usual format and means the enemy player stands something of a chance at winning. It also offers an unusual away team opportunity I've not seen thought out in this way allowing you to win the game off-ship. Good thinking outside the box Wizkids, I hope we see more of these in the future.

So to the final ship of Wave 18 and most likely the smallest playing piece to be released to date (I suspect the Delta Flyer will be marginally bigger); Quark's Treasure. It's an utter curve ball of a ship and I wouldn't be throwing it straight into combat before completely understanding some facts about this minute expansion.

Two points is the standard across attack, defence, hull and shields here with just two crew and a single tech upgrade meaning you're not going to be putting this Ferengi shuttle on the frontline of your offensive anytime soon. The generic shuttle option will drop a shield point and a crew slot for 14 points.

Costing 16 points the shuttle will bookend two more powerful ships and only has the Scan and Evade options in it's actions bar. However, there's no penalties for any crew or tech upgrades you place onboard which makes up for something. In fact the unique action box for Quark's Treasure has a second feature letting you ignore the auxiliary power token requirements on both the Docking and Launching actions included with the ship. Unsurprisingly she's not a fast mover with a full range of maneuvers at speeds one and two but only a forward step at three. I wouldn't think you'll be letting her stray too far from the main fleet - if at all.

For such a teeny tiny ship you get a silly three choices for captain (plus Generic Ferengi zero pointer) with Brunt your strongest candidate for the top job with a Captain Skill of four. Instead of allowing you to change your attack results during combat, Brunt makes the opposing ship re-roll one of its attack dice. Plus Brunt will allow you to use the Grand Nagus Elite Action even though he doesn't have the Elite Action emblem on his card. For reference the Grand Nagus card is a brilliant fleet action allowing all Ferengi ships in range one to three to immediately perform an additional green maneuver. If ever there was a typically Ferengi action in the game apart from nicking stuff, being slimy has to be a close second.  

Quark, on the other hand to Brunt, does carry the emblem but only has a skill of three. He's also a bit of a sacrificial lamb, as he stops a ship at ranges one or two from attacking you at the cost of tossing all your upgrades overboard and means you can't attack or, in fact do anything apart from move.

Zek is your third captain who can also double up as an admiral for your Ferengi fleet. Skilled at two, Zek is a bit of a feeble card, only letting you disable an upgrade on a ship at range one at the cost of disabling one of your own upgrades. Potentially it's one that might be of more use as the admiral action than a captain given that trouble could be elsewhere. 

Rom and Nog make up the Ferengi contingent for the expansion with Odo as a random Independent crewmember. I would have liked him to have been dual faction with the Bajorans especially with his ability to copy a crew upgrade from another ship at range one to three even down to whether it has to be disabled or discarded. It's a clever twist and in keeping with the character. Rom too keeps with his screen persona allowing you to repair up to two shield tokens as an action. Joy of joys too because there's no need to keep re-enabling this card or discard after a single use. Have to say this does make Quark's Treasure a much more playable ship since there are a lot of upgrades here to keep it hanging around in the game. Nog is also pretty useful even if it is a discard to force an opponent to roll two less die in attack. Only a cost of three points though and again another way to ensure the survival of the ship.

Inversion Wave is the first of two tech upgrades on offer. While it's not quite as forgiving as Fluidic Space, it does allow a total free move to any point within a radius of three at the cost of any active tokens and you do receive an auxiliary power token and have to discard on use. Certainly all the quirky upgrades with the shuttle make her a very unique playing piece. How appealing these choices will be to players more accustomed to Romulans or Klingons I'm not certain but at the least it's keeping Attack Wing fresh after 18 waves of expansions.

Cargo Hold only costs a point and adds two crew (and/or?) tech upgrades to the shuttle. I say and/or simply because it doesn't specify if they can be mixed or it has to be two of each only. For one point this is a good choice to add on since it will give you an additional four points to spend on extras. As with Cryogenic Stasis on the IKS T'ong last month though it, again, doesn't identify if it's a combined total of four points or four points for each upgrade. Being as it's a shuttle I would tend to lean towards the former.

Now you might have noticed that we've not mentioned the second Elite Action entitled Smugglers up to now so here it is. Somewhat wordy in its description, the card costs the same as Grand Nagus at five points and lets you steal a tech or weapon upgrade from a ship within a maximum range of three. However, the big twist is that it also plays into the use of the shuttle rules which are part of this pack.

As I said at the beginning of the piece, there's some new bits in this month's selection and the shuttle rules are the biggest thing by a mile. As with the new Borg rules, shuttles can only attack at range two and can be active or inactive. They also can't be equipped with a weapon upgrade costing more than three points if allowed and can only be included in a fleet where there is a ship with a hull value higher than four.

In reference to being "inactive", this is when the shuttle is docked with another craft. Yes, that's correct you can dock 'em. When docked they are removed from the board with all the upgrades and captain card placed under the docking ship's card and that ship in turn receiving an auxiliary power token. To dock the shuttle has to overlap the docking ship on it's move rather than the other way around otherwise it receives damage. Being docked also means you can swap upgrades between the two ships as an action during the game.

When launched each craft receives another auxiliary power token and the shuttle is placed within range one of the docking ship during the planning phase. It can then move about as normal. What isn't specified is whether the shuttle can only dock with the "Capital Ship" recognised by it's hull being greater than four. As I noted, the Smugglers card does include reference to the docking action as you can use the shuttle to steal upgrades however it can't use them and has to exchange them with the docking ship which can use them. 

How this new feature will play out and what use it will be should be fun to discover. I think you could use the shuttle to dive out and perform scavenging missions while your other ships tackle the battle side of the game and distract from your plundering actions. Can't wait to try it.

The final mission of Wave 18, called Smugglers, recreates the Little Green Men episode from Deep Space Nine as Quark, with Rom, attempts to deliver Nog to Starfleet Academy on Earth but also has a sideline to transfer some kemocite to a docking ship. Playing to the episode there's also a possibility of sabotage going on aboard the Quark's Treasure which affects the maneuvering of the ship and utilises Rom to cancel the effect. Ultimately the goal of the Ferengi player is to deliver both Nog and the kemocite while evading a patrolling Federation starship. Yet another nicely thought out scenario to complete the wave. Double points to WizKids.

OK so overall I think Wave 18 has to be one of my favourites to date. Each ship is distinct, each ship has some really great features and there's nothing anywhere near as precisely situational as we saw with Wave 17's trio. Here we have two extremely offensive ships with the Phoenix and the Bioship, both playing to very aggressive tendencies which will probably satisfy my thirst for obliteration and going out in a blaze of glory. Quark's Treasure is much more subtle and a playing piece that I think will take a while for players to master and understand how to use effectively. 

Perhaps she's something more useful in bigger games with four or more ships in your fleet where different plays might allow her a bit more running freedom. As I said I think she'll be good for quick runs out to steal upgrades but will need to have some serious protection which I believe you might be able to get from the recent Kreechta Marauder to divert fire - if not I'd perhaps look at the Ning'Tao for some of Kor's more suicidal actions that would benefit the shuttle.

Have you invested in Wave 18? What are the key pieces here and have you got any tips to use them well? Let me know!

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