Monday, 18 January 2016

Impossible Threat? Borg Tactical Cubes in Attack Wing

What’s worse than a Borg Sphere? A Borg Tactical cube! The armoured nightmare, making its only appearance in Unimatrix Zero, has actually received two versions for Attack Wing as Dan and Clive explain...

The first version, Tactical Cube 138, was released last year into retail and, while we only ever saw one cube on screen, Wizkids have released a second, Tactical Cube 001. This edition however was given to overall winners of their Resistance is Futile OP event. So let's take that retail version first. 

What is immediately apparent before you even open the packet is the size of the cube itself. Significantly larger than the standard ships but still a fair margin off the oversize cube, the Tactical Cube is a formidable and intimidating presence in Attack Wing and that's before you take a look at its features. The plastic base is also larger than normal to accommodate that armoured shell and increased size.

Weighing in with six attack and zero defence you might think that WizKids have made the Borg noticably arrogant (and overpowered) in their gaming form but with nine hull points and eight shield points to beat it certainly balances the fact that they can't stop an attack on basic ability alone. It weighs in at a colossal 46 points (more than every other ship bar the two oversize craft) so playing a 50 points-per-ship game doesn't give you a lot of room to move here so it's likely to be played in a one vs two (or more) scenario to even the odds.

As with all Borg ships the cube offers Target Lock, Scan and the vital Regeneration plus the unique feature that the Borg Ablative Armor upgrade in the pack costs three less points to equip. Along with that Borg upgrade you can add on three weapon, one tech and another Borg card to your ship. For smooth moves you have everything forward and at 90 degrees between speeds one and four plus reverse up to speed three which is certain to play a part given very few other ships can manage such feats. The higher end forward and back speeds do lumber you with an auxiliary power token but given your fire-power and upgrades there's not a lot you're going to worry about here.

If you're looking for a detailed model then I would push you more towards the recent Eaglemoss cube. Although a bit smaller it's a better replica with much finer attention to detail on the surface and, I suspect, a closer tie to the screen appearance. Leading your charge there are a couple of choices. At the head of that queue is the Borg Queen (Susanna Thompson version).

What you need to appreciate with the Borg as we look at the captains is the use of Drones. Each Borg captain is assigned a certain number of Drone tokens at the start of the game and these can be spent during the game. It might be a free action or the level to which an upgrade can be effective but we'll come to each as we meet it on each ship. What spending a token means is that your Captain Skill decreases every time one is used.

So to the Queen because she allows you to spend one of those tokens to perform a free action. Also if the ship on which she is assigned gets destroyed then you can switch the Queen over to another Borg vessel in your fleet replete with her full compliment of eight Drone tokens. Starting with eight tokens the Queen costs a high six points but does have that amazing flexibility plus an Elite Action slot.

Your other option is to take on the Tactical Drone at a cost of four points and a starting skill of six. With this captain you can spend three of those tokens to maintain your target lock after it's been spent. Not sure how big an advantage this is compared to some of the other Borg command options and I'd rather spend another two points for the Queen.

The solo Elite Action is Assimilated Access Codes which comes at a cost of five squadron points and a discard. Up to three Drone Tokens can be used here to disable an equal number of enemy shields or you can flip a cloak token. Handy little upgrade but a hefty cost for one use when it would be cool to have it for a couple of goes at least. Definitely one for use against Romulans or Klingons I would hazard.

You kind of get the feeling this pack was designed with one thing in mind and that's more obvious as you only get one crew card, Four of Twelve, who, once more, is a discard for a more appetising two point cost. You'll need to spend one of those scarce Drone Tokens too if you want to remove an Evade, Scan, Battle Stations or, more enticingly, a Target Lock token from beside your intended victim. Considering the lack of defence on the cube this would be one to keep in the back pocket when things start to look a bit grim since it might mean the difference between escape or defeat especially if you can remove offending target locks.

Also solus to the pack is Self Destruct Sequence as your only Tech upgrade. Cancelling the chance to move or act it comes into play at the end of the Activation Phase once everyone has moved. You then roll the number of dice equivalent to your hull value (a staggering NINE in this case) which then damages every ship within range three. Nor can the enemy defend against this unless it has a Scan token assigned. Undeniably a huge endgame suicide move I guess this is a big decision especially if you're firing all nine results at each ship individually. Thing is the card doesn't specify if you need to split the result or not. I'd say not but heck it's not one many will walk away from.

The larger number of upgrades with the ship come in the Borg and Weapon upgrades (surprise, surprise) and if you're looking for inexpensive and reusable the best start is Borg Alcove. An Action card it allows you to add a Drone Token back to your captain but no more than the original starting number. No catch either and no discard or disable so you can effectively use this every single round and it only costs four points. Just have to wonder if you'll have enough slots/upgrades to utilise this properly. Secondly there's Borg Ablative Hull Armour. Additional defence plating is a bit of a recurring theme in Attack Wing with Voyager, Defiant and Prometheus being three ships I can immediately think of that carry the card or its near-as-dammit equivalent. Converting critical damage hits into normal damage will keep your cube going a bit longer without too many technical hitches and increases your shielding/hull by a further four points. Worth it for a ten point super-cost? Probably since your came might keep running a bit longer BUT you are taking a huge point hit for the feature.

The killer Borg Tractor Beam we first saw in Q Who makes a slicing appearance here and costs a large seven points but you don't need to disable or discard this either after just one round. Effective at the rather close-for-comfort range one there's no condition to its activation. If you want it, stick the included tokens next to your Borg ship and the target vessel. 

Notably it works against cloaked ships and disables two the craft's shields. Nor can shields be raised or a cloak initiated while the beam is active. But what else does it do? It restricts the enemy movement to just speed two and allows you to implement the stupid-weapon-of-total-destruction, the Cutting Beam. Now talking of huge costs with the Ablative Hull Armour, this takes eight points BUT you'll have to have the seven point Tractor Beam as well. This makes the ability to use this ten dice attack at 15 points all-in. Luckily it's "only" a disable and not a discard or there would have been blood and is an unusual two-card combo which relies on a high price. However, it's going to be ridiculously effective even if you are going to need to be at touching distance to use it.

Rounding out your Tactical Cube are two cards each with a six point cost and part of your Weapons choices. Borg Missile drops a four dice attack within range two but before you wonder why you would drop two dice from a primary attack for this, hear me out because this one is probably worth a shot. For each normal or critical damage result you get to slap an Auxiliary Power Token and obliterate an active shield plus there's no defence roll so you're almost guaranteed to do some damage. It's a fine example of how over-powered the Borg are in Attack Wing and certainly something to make them feared. I'd hate to run into a cube armed with this and that Cutting Beam - but considering the massive costs that's not very likely. 

Final Assault does equal your primary weapon roll with six dice and insists (yes, really) that you split the result between two or three different ships. Big revolutionary move allowing a double/triple attack on one shot. Worse is that if you play this on the Tactical Cube you get to use nine - I said NINE - dice to throw around. Blub. You're dead.

Closing the expansion is the Deliver the Nano Virus scenario which takes its lead from  Unimatrix Zero. While I don't enjoy that two-parter that much the mission is great to play as your Federation player hops on and off the cube to thwart the Collective. Having a two-on-one scenario is a must or the Federation player would be screwed in about four goes. Luckily having backup means there's a fair chance for success especially if you choose to play by the amended Borg rules which I did to see how they would work. For note I stuck the Thunderchild and the Defiant against it and won. Just.

So, Dan...what's the deal with this prize cube?

The second cube, the prize expansion, has a lot of cards that are themed around First Contact. Firstly in command is the Borg Queen, based on Alice Krige’s portrayal of the role. Like most of the Borg captains, she comes with a set number of drone tokens, the starting number (in this case nine) represents their Captain Skill.

You spend a drone in order to do the actions on the relevant card, thus reducing your Captain’s initiative. For example, this Queen card allows you to spend six tokens in order to disable two upgrades on an enemy ship. A nice ability, however, it’s fairly situational. You have to be in range one, and it maybe that the target ship doesn't have any upgrades to disable. Also, by spending those drone tokens, it does reduce the Queen to a skill level three, meaning that unless you have an upgrade that allows you to increase drone tokens, she will be a level three for the rest of the game.

Another upgrade is a Borg version of Data, representing our favourite android during the 0.68 seconds when he was tempted by the Queen. In this pack, he allows you to spend a token in order to disable a nearby captain and take a free scan action. A nice upgrade, and one that works very well with the Queen who has nine tokens to spend. The elite talent (command interface) lets you discard it to re-roll a single dice.

I don’t like this one as five points seems like a steep price for re-rolling a single dice once per game, especially when Interplexing Beacon lets you do much the same thing, but at range 3 for 3 less points and 1 to 2 tokens for 1 to 2 dice respectively. Finally, rounding out the pack is the Borg Maturation Chamber. This Borg upgrade allows you to regenerate all of your drone tokens. At six points, it is a bit expensive, but its nice if you need to get your Captain’s drone levels back up. Lastly, versions of the Borg Tractor Beam, Borg Cutting Beam and Borg Missile are included here. 

The ship itself allows you to discard your Borg upgrades to cancel opponents hits or critical hits. A nice ability for a last ditch situation, but if I were playing Borg in a situation like this, I would try to get away from my opponent and use the regenerate ability before returning to the fray. 

The ship physically differs from the retail cube in that it is made of translucent green plastic. It’s difficult to convey in photographs, but it looks different enough from the previous version. Online videos have shown many hobbyists breaking their Borg ships open and installing green lights in order to give their ships a green glow. While I would never dream of attempting this myself, this cube is probably more conducive towards that end. 

How does this ship play? Well, her high points cost puts her in the same bracket as Deep Space Nine, meaning that you get to put up to eight points of upgrades on there (if you're playing 50 points per ship), hence my unhappiness with the high cost of the various upgrades on here. 

The ship is further hampered in tournament play by changes to the overall rules that affect the Borg. Firstly, ships with a base 360 degree firing arc can now only fire at a maximum range of two. Secondly, the Borg movement mechanic has been changed so that instead of spinning and then moving, ships move then spin, meaning that a Borg Cube will usually only go backwards or forwards. 

Having run this ship in tournament play, I can confidently say that she is still a formidable beast. With 8 shields and hull she can take a pounding, and with six attack dice she can give them out too. However, with no evade, she won’t last forever...

There we have it - the two available Tactical Cubes. Horribly over-powered and under-defended but hey, at least it gives the other players a bit of a chance to win.

Borg fan? Borg hater? What's your stance with the Attack Wing behemoths?

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