Friday, 29 January 2016

Mini Cubes and Octahedrons - Borg Expansions

As Dan has noted in our Tactical Cube take, the Borg are a formidable foe in the show and in the game. In fact those recent changes almost put me off expanding into their fleet. However, I finally reneged and decided to take the plunge.

My first addition was the small Borg Scout Cube first (and last) seen in The Next Generation's I,Borg from the fifth season. As you would therefore expect, the expansion is heavily themed around that episode with two Third of Five options in the set but more on that in a sec.

As to the ship, the movement is the expected Borg "straight-line" process and dependant on whether you're playing original or revised rules, that's spin and move or move then spin. Having played out both the latter makes you extremely predictable and does reduce the element of surprise but gives the opposition a better chance of kicking you into oblivion since they know where you're heading next. As for range of moves, the scout is manoeuvrable, giving you a full range of 90 degree moves on ranges one to four (with the top speed all causing the addition of an auxiliary power token) plus a very, very useful maximum of a three reverse.

The model itself is detailed all in black with the surface covered in a non-repetitive circuit-like pattern plus some fancy little corner accessories just so you can tell it's different from the massive main cube vessels. The images used for publicity have some great green highlights but that's all missing from the retail model.

As to the stats, she doesn't appear that strong and in the first head to head I ran her in she didn't take long to receive her marching orders although for note I was taking on the flying heavy weapon known as the Scimitar. Starting out with a three for offence and for defence, a two hull and four shields for 24 points, Scout 608 can also perform an additional green or white manoeuvre at the cost of discarding an upgrade. Choose wisely my friends, choose wisely!

For captain of your tiny cube you have Third of Five who provides you with an extra defence die at the cost of a Drone token. Pretty useful but it's best I also talk about these token thingys. Each Borg captain has a certain number of tokens assigned to them at the beginning of the game which is usually determined by a number on their card. This indicates their starting captain skill which will change during the game depending on the number of Drone tokens used/regenerated in the game. I really like this Borg feature as it plays as though they are relentless and virtually unstoppable without being, erm, unstoppable.  Third of Five starts off with three of these but there is also a second choice of a Tactical Drone if you don't want to spend too much on a captain for your geometric vessel.

That Drone allows a revenge attack during a defence roll for the cost of one Drone Token (for details on the use of Drone Tokens take a look at the Tactical Cube post) and the opposition don't get to defend it. Great feature that only costs a single squadron point. The third captain option is an average Drone that allows you to prep a single Drone Token but won't cost a single point.

As for crew, there's an unusual double in the form of Third of Five. Make your choice though since you can only have one version active nor can you equip him on the same ship or in the same fleet as Hugh which comes with the Borg Type Three ship. This crew option is a discard to target a ship at range one or two with the ability to disable all the crew upgrades on an enemy vessel even if they're cloaked. That's a big hitter for five squadron points especially as you'll be close enough to pop a shot at them in the Combat Phase.

While you don't get a complete set of five crew drones, the Scout Cube does supply both Second of Five and Fourth of Five, both of whom are represented by images from The Best of Both Worlds. Less expensive is Second at just three points and a discard but he does let you take away an enemy upgrade of your choice so no limiting to Crew as with Third. Fourth again allows you to act within that one/two range and to disable up to two enemy shields AND two upgrades of your choice. It's a double-play with serious benefits for a discard and a five point cost. I'd consider sticking this on a lot of Borg ships just for that two-way tactical advantage. Interestingly all three of those crew cards allow you to use them on cloaked vessels. 

As for tech, Long Range Scan operates at a more distant range three at a cost of four points. A disable card, it lets you convert one damage result into an Evade or Battle Station should you have the Scan token active on your ship. Nice for additional defence and I wish I'd used this more effectively when my cube was hammered. Secondly there's Subspace Beacon which is also a disable card operating up to range three, allowing you to perform Scan as a free action. Clearly something you can couple with the other tech upgrade and a no-brainer to pair up I would say. Again, should have used this!

Compared to the Tactical Cube 138 there's just one Weapon upgrade with Scout 608 but it is the Magnetometric Guided Charge (with a picture of the cutting beam; duh). Using the scout's primary weapon total of three dice, it lets the player convert a Battle Station into a Critical Damage and stops the opponent from defending. Why did I not play this ship properly?!?! I could've won if I'd used the upgrades much more effectively although with the new Tactical Cube I've acquired I can see a dreadnought being constructed.

Finally the Borg upgrades are pretty cheap. There's the standard Borg Alcove to allow regeneration of your Drone Tokens (cost of four points but does give you options for later in the game) and the I, Borg themed Scavenged Parts card at just two points which acts to replenish your Drone Tokens when you discard an upgrade. At least you're getting something for losing a feature but it does restrict you on when you can regenerate your drones.

My final addition to date is the tragically misspelled (on the cards anyway) Queen Vessel Prime aka the Borg Ocatahderon Octahedron. Nearly double the squadron points of the Scout just on the ship (24 to 42), the Queen's personal battleship just falls short of the Tactical Cube (46 points) but only on hull and shield points and then just by one on each. In comparison to that ship it also exchanges one weapon upgrade for a crew slot. Boasting a painful six in attack, zero defence ability, eight hull and seven shield points it's still more than formidable in any situation. Not wanting to spend quite so much? You could sacrifice a crew slot and a shield for just 40 points.

Unsurprisingly the Borg Queen is your main captain choice. She can switch onto another ship if required and comes with a starting skill/Drone Token number of seven. I'd have expected something a bit higher but it really limits more activity of your Drone Tokens than anything else since the ship has so much fire-power as standard. The Queen can also syphon an action from another friendly ship at range one/two as a free action which could mean pairing a couple of vessels so she can utilise a larger arsenal effectively.

Mr Tactical Drone returns as a second command option with a starting skill of five and a cost of four points but he will hinder your enemy if you choose to spend a Drone Token to force them to roll one less defence die. Certainly with the weaponry at your disposal using this captain could cut your offensive time substantially. There is the no-cost option with a skill of one but I doubt he'll ever see combat unless you're desperate to save points. Oh, hang on...Point heavy ships...

Queen Vessel Prime comes with two Elite Action upgrades that only the Queen card (in this pack) can take advantage of. We are the Borg comes into play during the Defence Dice step of the Combat Phase and provides up to three Evade results at the cost of up to three Drone Tokens. Not one you'll be able to use again since it's a discard but with zero defence I would think it's critical to have something you can use to halt the inevitable battering. Six points for this might appear steep but is it worth paying to keep you in the game?

Alternatively there is Resistance is Futile costing one more point at seven. An attacking move which costs up to three Drone Tokens to stop up to three dice from being cancelled, it's one more card that will play havoc with anything non-Borg on the board. You'll probably lose friends too.

One crew upgrade here as well with just Magnus Hansen getting a look in. I had expected more generic drones to be shuffling around the pack but at least it's a named and recognised character we have here and one specific to an episode in which the Octahedron appeared (Dark Frontier). He does reduce the number of Drone Tokens required to complete an action but does get discarded although with a cost of one point he's a good choice if you're looking to fill than last tiny gap on your ship.

The Power Node tech upgrade drops in at three points and lets you disable the card plus two active shields to avoid an Auxiliary Power Token if you perform a red manoeuvre. For reference the ship can move at speed four forwards and three in reverse with only the left and right "fours" and the reverse "three" as red. Not a particularly essential upgrade for your ship given it's innate ability and strengths and there are certainly more appetising tech upgrades with other Borg vessels.

Unusually for the Borg though we have one and only one weapon upgrade with the very, very expensive ten point Multi Kinetic Neutronic Mines. A one-shot minefield deployment card, any ship entering the field rolls four attack dice and suffer the consequences. If you're unlucky enough to be in range one of the token then you don't even get to defend. Boom, another victory for the cybernetic perfectionists. 

What you do get a few of to play with are the Borg upgrades. At four points you can select Transwarp Signal which lets you remove an Evade, Battle Station, Scan or Target Lock from an enemy ship and also hurt them with an Auxiliary Power Token. Additional note here that it doesn't work on those CG Species 8472 types but seeing as they have a minimal presence in the game I don't think it'll worry a lot of people.

Borg Assimilation Tubules is a reusable card letting Borg players steal a crew, tech or weapon upgrade from an opponent. Clever twist on the favoured Borg recruitment technique which doesn't affect flippin' Species 8472 and does mean you could get some juicy freebies from another ship. Cost is a pricey eight points but the benefits are considerable if you pick the right upgrade to nick. Cloak from the Defiant? Quantum Torpedoes? Grapple from the Vidiians? Lots of goodness.

Last up is the Borg Shield Matrix that is accompanied by its own instruction card. On the base of it you just add a shield matrix token to the card (maximum of three) each time you're damaged. But what does it do you're asking? Simply put it adds an extra defence die for every matrix token you have and if an enemy attempts to affect the captain or one of the assigned upgrades then you get to roll one attack die for each token on the card. Whether you have to "spend" these tokens isn't stated but I assume that you should only add one per turn to the card up to the three and that they are used to take advantage of the benefit. Otherwise after three rounds you'd be constantly at a certain level.

Fancy playing out a scenario then the Queen's ship comes with Collapse the Transwarp Conduit once more pitching the pack at those familiar with Dark Frontier. A one-on-one Borg versus Federation set up, the latter is tasked with destroying the final Interspatial Manifold (an Objective Token) and get the hell out of Dodge before the Octahedron reigns fire and brimstone. I'd certainly pick a pimped out 70 point USS Voyager against the Borg but whether that makes a big difference will depend on your style and risk taking since the cybernetic assimilators are massively points endowed at their basic level. Not a mission I've played yet but I'll have to put some careful thought into the upgrades on that Federation ship.

So that's the second of our Borg ship reviews while we've been waiting for Waves 19 and 20 to appear from across the water. My only major missing faction now are the Dominion (shocker seeing as I'm a huge Deep Space Nine fan) but the Borg are certainly very interesting to play if potentially game killers. I love their upgrades, the different plays you can implement and even the neat use of the Drone Tokens but playing them can make you either look like someone who can't bear to lose or a total amateur simply because of their starting stats. The only good thing is that the starting points for the Octahedron and the Tactical Cube mean that very little can be added on.

Are they worth getting? Debatable since a lot of tournaments ban their use. If you look at the world championships the first and second place used Borg Spheres so you can see the impact of the faction even at that standard of play. One for beginners perhaps more than others to get them into the game with a good chance of success while still offering more experienced players a chance to develop their anti-Borg tactics.

Borg fan or are you still avoiding the faction?

Wave 20 is available now with all ships recommended to retail at £11.99 each. The Borg ships here usually retail around the same price. You can track down your local stockist HERE

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