Friday, 21 July 2017

Facing It: Christopher L Bennett Returns to Classic Territory

With his latest work in the Star Trek literary universe, Christopher L Bennett has stepped out of prequel territory into the Kirk era.

Acting as something of a sequel to the first season episode The Corbomite Manoeuvre, The Face of the Unknown returns the USS Enterprise to the First Federation and to David Bailey who is still acting as ambassador to the secretive assembly.

Y'see it appears that the now legendary Balok puppet we all love so much is actually based on a supposedly extinct race called the Dassik who have, you'll be quite unsurprised to hear, returned from the dead to exact some form of revenge on the First Federation which was involved in assisting their neutering many moons ago.

The plot is actually ok here with the reasoning behind the downfall of the Dassik making a fair bit of sense as does why they are utilised as puppets for first contact however...

As regular readers will be aware I've skipped duty reviewing Christopher L Bennett's novels for a good four years now ever since I had a bad experience with one of his Enterprise; Birth of the Federation series. I found that long winded, dull and hard to keep focused on for 340 pages. After so long of personal boycott on Bennett's work I thought I would dig into this one because it's been so long and also because it's The Original Series rather than Enterprise. After all, it might just be that I don't like reading prequel series stories rather than the author as the only novels I've tackled of his are Archer and co.

I can now conclude that it's not that. I think I just don't like Bennett's style. That's not to say he isn't a decent writer nor are his books convoluted or terribly characterised in fact I'd go as far to say that his understanding of the NCC-1701 crew is superior to his precision with the NX-01 staff. The big issue I have is that Bennett will use a couple of thousand words when eight will do and then contrary to that will use a few to skip plot moments or technicalities such as escaping cells for instance. 

There are a number of sequences in the book where there's a lot of talking and nothing really happens. In the build up to the conclusion there's a plot twist involving Balok that seems odd it's not noticed by the crew sooner and then doesn't really get an acceptable pay off. Indeed the story wouldn't have suffered with its omission. There's an action sequence involving Sulu that doesn't really go anywhere either and The Face of the Unknown just comes across as somewhat bloated with great sequences that don't work or are filler. 

To some degree there is a lot going on here with the Enterprise under repairs at the hands of Scotty, Spock off doing his thing, Kirk captured, the Dassik, the mutiple races and personnel of the First Federation... the list goes on. It feels like a struggle at times to read with even Bailey sapped of that boyish charm and naivety that made him an interesting character to follow in 1966. 

While family, work and life in general meant that this was picked up and put down rather frequently it might have meant that some of the story lost its impact and power. I would suggest that to really get to the heart of this book you need to be reading it in significant chunks to keep track of the various threads but for me this one just lacked any conviction and left me pretty cold after reading The Long Mirage and even the uneven Headlong Flight. 

With the recent 50th anniversary I applaud Bennett's choice of source material for The Face of the Unknown and he does a decent job of answering some of the questions fans might have had since that classic episode aired however someone at the publisher needs to help him shave down the word count and cut to the chase. I managed to push on through to the end but found that was more a relief to have reached the final page than a success with some level of readership fulfillment. I think the next time there's a Christopher L Bennett novel dropping through the letterbox I'll be calling on Tiff to review.

Have you read The Face of the Unknown? Fitting sequel or mediocre followup to The Corbomite Manoeuvre?

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Thursday, 20 July 2017

Worlds in Motion Picture: The Graphic Novel Collection Issues 12 - 15

After our mass review last time of the four issues I'd managed to get all in one go it's the same again this month.

Starting out we have The Edge of the Galaxy, an original story set after the events of the 2009 Kelvin timeline movie. Now here's the twist, these are actually reworkings/reboots/rewritings of some of The Original Series' first season stories, specifically Where No Man Has Gone Before, The Galileo Seven and Operation: Annihilate!

I can hear the groans now but you're actually wrong to judge that early since not everything is as crystal clear as you might immediately expect. Rather than just being a case of inking in Chris Pine where Shatner once stepped, the writers of these graphic tales have gone back to the originals and retold the tales with a Kelvin spin. Not everything is cut and dry - as with the movie, the characters are all there but there are not necessarily the same outcomes that we experienced in The Original Series. For starters, Doctor Dehner isn't even aboard the Enterprise leaving Gary Mitchell alone as the sole protagonist here. His likeness is based on Gary Lockwood who played the character in the second pilot but as for similarities that's as far as it goes. 

Have to admit I raised a smile when they commented on the "other" Delta Vega since one was used as Spock's prison in the 2009 film. Indeed you'll spot lots of parallels to the original as you read through the story but it's a compelling narrative and waiting for the changes makes it even more exciting. The same goes for The Galileo Seven which has a huge spin in it towards the end due to the relationship between Spock and Uhura. Pushing through to Operation: Annihilate! and the alterations to the timeline thanks to the Narada are even more evident from the appearance of a very much alive Sam Kirk.

These stories have their characterisation of the Kelvin Timeline Enterprise crew down to a tee. Kirk is particularly bang on with a slight swagger and cockiness replicated right on the page. So too is McCoy amazingly well represented by the graphic novel. Getting the likeness is one thing but managing to instill the essence of the role is key and in The Edge of the Galaxy we have that in spades. I love the way in which the writers have chosen to twist these classic stories in new ways for the Kelvin generation and there's more of that coming in Vulcan Vengeance so bear with...

Let's turn to the Marvel Comics, Volume One. Created in the late 1970's, this series takes place in the era of The Motion Picture so expect a lot of beige. The first stories in here are the graphic novel version of the first film. 

It's a close reproduction of the story but luckily doesn't take half as long to read as to watch. The other neat thing is that there are a few scenes missing from the movie which appear in here including the sequence of Kirk going after Spock within V'Ger. 

The artwork here is much rougher and the likenesses to the actors from The Original Series are further out than you may want but the core of The Motion Picture story definitely asserts itself and there's no mistaking this as Star Trek. The colouring too is a little sloppy in places throughout the stories included in this volume but, y'know, different times, so you can't really make too much of a comment but coming after the crisp lines and vibrancy of The Edge of the Galaxy it's quite a culture shock.

That of course is the brilliance of the Graphic Novel Collection in that we get all these different periods of Star Trek comic history rubbing shoulders with each other in a matter of pages (yes, and I will happily include Gold Key in that bracket). 

What is appreciated with The Motion Picture story here is that the longer, visual effects pieces that dominated the big screen return of the franchise are slimmed to a few frames and don't detract from the pace of the narrative. We brush through the unveiling of the Enterprise in a page, we're inside V'Ger in about four; it makes a huge difference.

Once you're through this, we have Marvel's interpretation of "what could have been" to some extent in regards to Phase II. That series never reached the air but in these pages we get a ride into that never-explored territory. Now knowing what the first series scripts might have looked like thanks to the brilliant Phase II: The Lost Series book, these are somewhat far fetched and almost stepping into the equally crazy realms of the fabled Gold Key archive.

The Haunting of Thallus story for instance would fit right in although this tale does manage to pull in a ton of Klingons and at least try and weave in some form of established canon. However, it's still far outside the remit of what I would expect from Star Trek. There might be some exploration in here but the leaning towards the fantastical does seem a bit of a sell out and I honestly don't think it would be a concept that would have even made it to a writers room. These stories do ensue a sense of indulgence and while visually they are in line with the vision of The Motion Picture and do portray the cast with a degree of accuracy, there doesn't appear to be too much substance to the narratives.

We also have The Enterprise Murder Case and Tomorrow Or Yesterday - two single part stories that nicely fill out the volume but are fairly instantly forgettable. Nice inclusion of some of Kirk's backstory with the appearance of the chunky USS Republic within these pages but aside from that they are typical comic fayre.

What also works for the collection is the inclusion of artwork for The Motion Picture film poster plus additional cover art for the editions of the Marvel Comics included in this volume. I'm a bit embarrassed I've not mentioned this with other volumes as they are some of the great hidden gems that are getting a nice bit of additional exposure - I'd take a closer look in the specials too because they seem to have taken this section a whole step further particularly with The Planet of the Apes crossover.

Issue 14 pulls back some respect for the graphic novel medium in regards to Star Trek with another sojourn into the Kelvin Timeline. Another three stories fill out the majority of the edition with new twists on the Romulans in Vulcan's Vengeance, a reworking of Return of the Archons and a new Tribbles story.

Vulcan's Vengeance is a fantastic read and combination of stories and I ripped through these in a very short period of time. I'm fast becoming a huge advocate of the IDW material especially their work with the new Kelvin Timeline which has removed some of the restrictions of 700+ episode continuity and offered a blank canvas on a plate. 

It makes sense that episodes the crew of the Prime Timeline faced would surface here but the writers have l, as with The Edge of the Galaxy tales, managed to keep them fresh and exciting from start to finish. The Balance of Terror remake/total makeover takes the destruction of Vulcan into account and reaffirms the new mentality of the quadrant around the refugees and their offshoot cousins. Vulcan's Vengeance is a dark, grim story that delivers the unexpected from very early on and keeps you guessing to the end.

The Return of the Archons goes along the lines of the three stories from The Edge of the Galaxy and is a strict remapping of the episode from The Original Series.  Now I didn't think it possible but this is an improvement on the classic story. After all, The Return of the Archons isn't one of the strongest episodes and some of the alterations make it much more feasible and align with the Kelvin Timeline more reasonably. I'm rapidly becoming a big fan of Mike Johnson's writing as everything I've seen from his pen so far has been excellent. In fact the Kelvin installments have been the stronger and more driven stories up to this point (maybe with the exception of Early Voyages). The attention to detail, JJ-canon and arcing plotlines is fantastic and fills in more than the films ever will. His portrayal of the crew is very endearing, retaining key elements of the originals personalities while still managing to encompass the updating from Pine et al.

What you come to appreciate with this and with the final story of the three is that there are sprinklings of ideas and threads that will be picked up (or were retconned in here) to bridge the gap from the 2009 movie through to Into Darkness. I won't blab them out here but you'll spot a few of them straight away and I'm predicting that on two or three more revisits I'll spot a few more nods to the first of the two reboot films. 

The Truth About Tribbles story is, frankly, excellent. 

A completely new tale about the rapidly multiplying furballs that take the reader to their homeworld, sort of explains why they have to reproduce so quickly and adds in a few severely irritated Klingons to max out the story.  It actually adds some depth to their background that we've never been privvy to before. There is the expected element of humour in here that could only come from a Tribbles story but this is actually quite dark for something that we know to be one of Star Trek's lighter moments. It also manages to handle two strands of story at the same time under the Tribble umbrella if you will while also setting up a certain controversial blip from Into Darkness.

The parallels back to The Trouble with Tribbles and Trials and Tribble-ations are nicely done and we can see here the Klingon plan to eradicate the "menace" as it was. Wonderful read, fantastically illustrated right the way through. For reference the three Gold Key archive stories included with 12, 13 and 14 respectively are The Brain Shockers, The Flight of the Bucanneer - with the crew bizarrely undercover as space pirates replete with cutlasses, stripey jumpers and eyepatches and lastly The Dark Traveller where in the Enterprise encounters a cross between Q and a space wizard. All a bit weird but nothing I haven't come to expect from these pulp comic stories. Whatever next...

Finally in Volume 15 we come back to the Star Trek universe as it was seen in the late 70's and early 80's after the arrival of The Motion Picture with The Newspaper Strips Volume One.

Now as with the abysmally bound The Classic UK Comics, Part One, this doesn't have the additional Gold Key story as it's rammed full of short stories based around that period of Star Trek history. We have new aliens, Klingons, the odd appearance from a classic Constitution Class starship, starbases and above all, some very impressive artwork that captures the pastels of the first movie absolutely perfectly. It's a lot less hurried and scrawled than the Marvel Comics from Volume 13 with better definition of the physical features of the crew plus some better renderings of the Klingon and Federation ships. To some degree the writing is more Star Trek centric being much less Flash Gordon/50's sci-fi off the wall and more grounded tales that have a more technical aspect to them and seem to tread more along the lines of canon. Hell, they even make reference to the Perscan belt units at one point which almost made me have an aneurysm.

Honestly these are a great read and easier to dip in and out of since half the stories aren't lost down the spine. The larger frames and cut back dialogue does work better than the squashed in text of those Marvel Comic tales and overall this is a much cleaner interpretation of Star Trek on the page than those in Volume 13. The tragedy is that these newspaper strips have been "lost" for a while since they weren't mass distributed and really need to be appreciated.

With it being a longer volume these shorter stories with their cliffhanger points every couple of pages make it very easy to digest. Frankly I just loved these with their clear affection for the core material and their presentation here is wonderfully done. These four issues offer a good range of storytelling from across the graphic eras of Star Trek. Great selection and variety.

Next month we have The Next Generation's Ghosts and another from the Kelvin Timeline with Mirrored.

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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Arming the Final Frontier: Discovery Stuns

In a week where just about anything could happen, the Discovery Twitter account is rapidly becoming the go-to location for new teases of the prequel show.

Not satisfied with the Starfleet delta or the flashy new communicator? Well how about the big guns. Literally.

For their latest two shorts previewing Discovery, we have the (re) introduction of the phaser and the phaser rifle. Let's take a ganders at the more oft-used hand weapon first in the few seconds we've been granted.

To be fair we've already seen a slight glimpse of the phaser in the shot of Georgiou and Burnham on the transporter platform (after a few conversations I'm not convinced 100% that this is the Shenzhou transporter pad) as part of their away team armour. Now though these CBS ten second trailers are giving us a bit more access to the 23rd Century. 

The parallels to The Original Series' weapon of choice are far closer for this item than they are to the phase pistols of Enterprise or the laser weapons of The Cage. The close-up shots mean we can spot the familiar grilled rear and the crystal control at the top of the handle plus the very shape of the weapon harks back to its 1960's Wah Chang origins.

While it does remain obtrusively out of focus you can clearly tell there's a distinctive Type One lump on the back which, for once, we might get to see detached in action. I'm loving the metallic finish on the trigger and the panelling which keeps it in line with canon but also adds the detail that Discovery seems to be lauding into every aspect of its designs. While the bulk of the phaser is immediately identifiable the big change has to be at the business end with the pointed barrel seemingly a thing of the future. Instead there are three different apertures which reminded me of microscope magnification lenses. Could these be for different beam widths or intensities perhaps? There has to be a good reason why they are three different sizes.

The phaser is a weapon that has stretched appearances right across the franchise including the recent reboots which have their own take on it. In that case they've opted for something that melds The Original Series with some of the design elements from the movie era hand phaser plus a nifty reload feature. The new movies from the Kelvin timeline also reintroduced the phaser rifle to the Kirk era.

Now that's something that only made one onscreen appearance plus a few publicity shots right back at the dawning of the Star Trek universe for pilot number two; Where No Man Has Gone Before

A very distinct grey and metallic orange, it was wielded by both Kirk and Spock as they attempted to stop a transformed Gary Mitchell. Maybe with the phaser rifle it's more a legendary design because of that singular appearance. Enterprise was a big fan of rifles too with them being the chosen armament for the MACOs. Even The Next Generation dabbled n its later years before the rifle made a strong return for First Contact where two versions were used in the fight against the Borg. Voyager's take on the weapon was somewhat bulky at times before they reverted to the First Contact variant. 

What is noticeable is that the rifle - especially The Next Generation version - echoed the design of its' smaller sidearm version. With Discovery they've opted to return to that concept with a weapon that carries a similar barrel style magnification wheel as well as trigger style. There's also that dial crystal control on the rear grip. Seems they've avoided going for that long, needle-point barrel here, instead choosing something more chunky and functional.

What the pictures echo about this and the phaser is the metallic finish which gives it a harder but yet more solidly crafted feel to it. Again these photos from CBS are a little sketchy but there's a clear forward and rear grip to the rifle plus at the back what appears to be some form of shoulder stock.

Something similar to the First Contact rifle here is the sight/light fitting that is attached to the top. The shape has distinct design traits to the later weapon through this piece but the detail versus any of the weapons of the past 50 years is incredible - just take a look at the drilled out metalwork and then at the main body where there are those vertical slit sections. Now the eagle-eyed will already have noted the homage in the design to that original Kirk phaser rifle - there's even what seems to be an orangey tinge under the skin to hark back to the 60's one-off prop. 

Finally there's another snappy teaser that's dropped which seems to hint at several things. The first appears to be some form of weapon cartridge (above) possibly for the rifle (which does seem to be out of shot) followed by what might be a shot of the new tricorder since there are clearly buttons and a screen on there AND it's definitely bigger than the communicator. Hands up who thinks there's going to be a shoulder strap and a big boxy reboot here?! 

Third is sure to be another shot of the phaser as it's got a slight close up of the Type One locked in place and more detail is displayed on the pistol grip (below). Look and you can see the distinctive side shaping of the palm-sized weapon which then leads the eye down to the pistol shaped Type Two. Seems there's some gold going on there as well as silver and gunmetal. 

These are accompanied by the Starfleet delta shield (seen in the previous ten second teases) before finally there's the gold braid for the uniforms. These seem all a bit random and don't fit together as nicely as the previous four tech ones. I've included some screenshots here but I'm up for suggestions as to what the first few might be and perhaps what you might want to see teased in the near future. Any expectations for Comic-Con for instance?

Again I can't help but be impressed with the overall feel of Discovery. The more I see of the designs the more I am confident that this will be the show of the year and a series that brings Star Trek firmly back to TV. How can we not have faith in a show which has now pulled in Jonathan Frakes to direct an episode?!

What do you think to all the new designs and teases for Discovery?

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Monday, 17 July 2017

First Looks at Discovery Teases

In a week that is locked in major female character/actor reveals (how 'bout that Doctor Who news huh?!), CBS unveiled a first look at a new look Klingon with Battle Commander L'Rell played by Mary Chieffo.

If you thought that the male Klingons looked brutal you're in for a shock because this newest shot of Chieffo alongside Klingon leader T'Kumva (Chris Obi) shows that the female of the species is possibly deadlier than the male. Strong female characters in sci-fi? Look no further than Discovery!!!

I'd say that Chieffo's look has more subtlety and femininity but I'd be lying - it bears all the severe lines of Obi's armour but with styling into some form of dress at the bottom. Colour-wise it is much more neutral yet still echoes the warrior origins of the legendary Star Trek race and I'm convinced there's something very Elizabethan about the style of the clothing - very regal with an element of flamboyance thrown in there. Will it be as practical as the grey armour we're familiar with or are these more ceremonial get-ups perhaps? Spikey.

As for makeup there isn't a great distinction from this angle between the genders nor can I really see if there is any differentiation in the forehead ridges that individualised the Klingons of The Motion Picture and afterwards. Look also to the cathedral style of the Klingon ship on which the pair are framed. Very different to the grim, sparce surroundings of a Bird of Prey!

There was also a new and very generic shot of Burnham and Georgiou out at the same time with some info about how Sonequa Martin-Green's character has been mentored by Michelle Yeoh ahead of getting her first command. Now, given the emphasis on this factor I might push that something happens in the pilot which will delay this from happening - indeed this suitability for a command is stated in the teaser trailer if you recall.  This would then allow for Burnham to end up on the Discovery and naturally the character conflict between herself and Jason Isaacs' Captain Lorca. Was Discovery meant for Burnham? Doesn't this shot look like two pics mashed together into one since those lighting angles look totally off?!

Good to know, according to Alex Kurtzman - a man who cast canon aside for the JJ Abrams movies - that they have been keeping a close eye on canon to ensure that Discovery stays true to the franchise. There has to be some kind of irony in there, I'm certain. 

We are now just TEN weeks away from Discovery. Yes, it's nearly here and with San Diego Comic-Con round the corner, we can expect a slew of info and pics to be coming for the show - there's even a Discovery panel which should help shed the light on a lot of stuff. Just before that though, here are two brand spanking new posters...

While the first of the two shows just a line figure (probably Burnham) spacesuited up, the second has a new reveal of the USS Discovery. Flashback to the original reveal a YEAR ago next week and there's a massive update here. For one, the saucer clearly now has two rings with a distinctive gap between the two not unlike the USS Vengeance from Into Darkness

The shape of the Discovery overall seems to have been shaved down and streamlined to another level. Also the warp engines look like they are exactly parallel to the secondary hull plus they seem to have been substantially elongated beyond the rear of the hull. Very big changes here but they still retain the overall impression of the Planet of the Titans design originally dreamt up in the late 1970's.

Did I also fail to mention a couple of new videos to tease the show? No! One shows the new brushed metal Starfleet delta emblem in close up (see top pic) while a second gives us a quick ten second spin around the brand new communicator which includes a rather cool little display instead of a grille speaker (below) but the golden flip lid is still there as is the basic shape of the instantly recognisable classic Star Trek device. Check these out via the official @startrekcbs Twitter feed.

So that's it with the prospect of so much more this week at Comic-Con...we're in for some big stuff I think!

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Thursday, 6 July 2017

Three Repaints for Wave 30

For those of us that missed them, this month's Wave 30 releases are a chance at a catch up.

Not one, not two, but three repaints fill out the quota and give us a Federation, Klingon and Romulan entry.

Let's start off for once with the Romulan IRW Valdore. The Class ship of the upgraded Warbird seen in Nemesis, this wife-spanned hunter is one of two released for the game and easily has the best finish. The other, the IRW Vrax from Wave 17, featured a lovely luminescent and translucent green finish making it appear as though cloaking. With the Valdore we can actually see the finishing surface detail from nose to stern without squinting. 

These repaints have been a real win in my opinion. The end result feels cleaner and less rushed and the bonus is the chance to grab one of the earlier ships that are now so hard to find (Excelsior being a prime example). For a ship of this scale the line work on the body of the Valdore is exceptional. The paint is cleanly applied and although it is one solid shade of green it's not overloaded to the point where definition is lost. 

So to the pack and the Valdore is the most powerful basic ship of the wave, coming in at a steady 30 points cost. For that you're getting one hell of a ship; four attack, two defence, six hull and rounded off with three shield points. There are the standard Action options of Evade and Target Lock plus the useful Cloak and Sensor Echo which have helped many a Romulan and Klingon ship dodge a nasty attack. The Valdore also provides players with two slots for Crew and two slots for Weapon upgrades to add to the devastation that the ship can offer up.

The unique action this time around comes into play alongside the Valdore's manoeuvre dial as when you play a green speed you get to add an additional attack die for that round. That will increase you up to five when in the combat zone and definitely give you an advantage. 

Movement is good but there's no reverse options with this one so you'll be ploughing into the action hoping to come out alive the other side. There are a full range of moves at speeds two and three although at speed three the 90 degree turns left and right are red. There's the chance to use the Come About as well plus the Valdore can step up to a forward speed of four if necessary. Not one of the fastest craft in the park so you'll be relying heavily on your firepower options and that six hull score to save your ass.

Over on the generic Valdore Class you lose the unique action plus a shield and a Weapon slot for a mere two point reduction in cost to 28. 

Captaining the Valdore is Donatra as occurred in Nemesis. It's a strong card even with the average skill of six and a cost of four points. Donatra carries the slot for an Elite Action but also allows all friendly ships within range one to gain an additional attack die. Now, imagine sticking Donatra on another Romulan ship and then coupling her in with the Valdore's unique action and that ship could technically end up using six attack dice each round it's in range of this captain.

If Donatra doesn't float your boat then there's The Next Generation's Tomalok. A captain skill of three and a cost of two will make him the more price-friendly option plus he gives you a distinct advantage when attacking from distance as your opponent can't roll an extra die when you're phasering them from range three. No limits on this one so it's repeat-use happy all the way to the bank.

The lone Elite Action of All Forward Disruptor Banks offers multiple use with a disable feature to limit just how much it can be effected. Adding one more die to your attack it can only be directed forward but linked in with some of the ranging options already discussed and you're looking at upwards of a six dice attack that can be repeatedly used in some cases and at distance. Four points is nothing for something that is as potentially powerful as this card alongside the other Valdore improvements.

If the cards so far aren't enough to have you considering the Valdore for your fleet there are two Weapon choices to boost your ship. Both cost five points and use five attack dice but are effective over different ranges. Plasma Torpedoes cost you a Target Lock as well and are disabled to allow you to re-roll any blank results at ranges one and two. Photon Torpedoes is more long range at two and three again with the disable and Target Lock constraints (one of the features of waves pre-16). In this case you can convert a Battle Stations result into a Critical Damage. One to use when those shields are down and you can make harder damage count.

Final card in the pack is Tactical Officer with a cost of three points as your Crew upgrade. When removing a Target Lock to re-roll attack dice, you gain an extra re-roll once per die. That's one to add into the mix of additional attack dice with the Valdore's unique action plus All Forward Disruptors with Tomalok stopping any additional defence at long range.

Destroy the Scimitar is the mission offered up here. As with the Vrax and the Scimitar it's a scenario from Nemesis and played as a three-person co-operative. I reckon you could easily turn this into a one-player game as the Scimitar token has a set movement style set out by the scenario. The end result is a simple one and I'm looking forward to tackling it (but might use my Scimitar instead of the token).

Second is the IKS Koraga. I must have a fleet of Birds of Prey now because there seem to have been that many - and D-7/K't'inga Class ships as well! 

This one is a redo from Wave Two and was the ship Worf was commanding - and lost - before the events of Deep Space Nine's Penumbra. Yep, we never actually saw this one on screen but what the hell here it is for Attack Wing.  

The Bird of Prey paint scheme has gone through a fair few variations since I got my first one. That was Chang's from The Undiscovered Country and in these later waves there has been more precision in paint application and more daring intricate detail particularly around the rear of the scout-size starships (this is actually supposed to be the larger K'Vort Class rather than B'rel). Truth be told, the Birds of Prey have long been one of the better paints and repaints in the series as well as some of the sturdier miniatures. Never a bad thing to have more and it does mean I can recreate the final battle from The Way of the Warrior with a decent size Klingon fleet!

The Koraga offers no surprises when it comes to stats with a four attack, one defence, five hull and three shield point combination (26 points total cost). As with the Valdore we also have the standard Evade, Target Lock, Cloak and Sensor Echo on the card plus two Crew slots and one for Tech and Weapons each.  Each time you defend with the Koraga while closed you gain an additional defence die - not sure how much of an advantage this is since a Bird of Prey will typically defend with five dice cloaked as it is.

Movement is identical in every way to the Valdore including the 180 turn at speed three so I'll refer you up for more details on that. As for the generic Bird of Prey, we lose a shield, a Crew slot and the Unique Action for a cost of 24 points.

With a skill of five, Worf is the strongest captain option here costing three points. He does allow you to re-roll all blank results when attacking however I think you would pick other Klngon captains ahead of this one. His brother, Kurn, is captain option number two with a skill of three and a cost of two. He provides an additional attack die as an Action but will mean you get landed with an Auxiliary Power Token. Maybe useful as a final strike or to get out of a sticky situation.

Advanced Weapon System (five points) is one of two Tech upgrades here and can be disabled to keep your Cloak token from flipping before rolling any dice. It's firing while cloaked if you hadn't realised! Second to that is the four-point-costing EM Pulse. Another disable rather than discard, the ship being targetted rolls one less attack and defence die for the round which will open it up to a lot of attacks if you've got yourself in the right place. I'd say especially useful against capital ships and the Borg!

With Crew you have N'Garen costing four points who can make significant changes to your attack roll, converting one Battle Stations to a Critical Damage and all of the others to normal Damage. That's got to be one to open up a lot of chances and isn't restricted to a discard or a disable which means it's an Action you can play as many times as you want. Nice card and not one I hear a lot about. Definitely one that is worth taking more time to understand effective uses. Also, what's the crack with this one if you have dice to re-roll?

Making the Koraga a family affair we have Alexander for three points. When at least damaged by one point, you can place a Battle Stations token onto the Alexander card and then during the Activation Phase you can move one of those tokens to beside your ship. It's a twist on the Free Action move but offers little option to combo with anything else from this ship.

Last up is the standard Photon Torpedoes card costing the usual five points and usable at ranges two and three. As it's from an older wave this does offer the Target Lock disabling caveat rather than Time Tokens.

With the Koraga you can Patrol the Badlands in a two player scenario which pits the Bird of Prey against the Dominion with the additional hazard of plasma storms. The core of the mission is for the Klingon ship to make it to the Dominion player starting area while navigating the Badlands and inform Command. The Dominion player need only eliminate the Bird of Prey but the plasma storms cannot be fired through...

With the number of storms in the playing field this is one of the trickiest scenarios I've seen for Attack Wing and one with the most obstacles in a two player format. Certainly one that'll make you think!

Finally we have a true classic and the only Miranda Class ship to be released as part of the retail expansions for Attack Wing; USS Reliant

No collection is complete without this one and now it bears the slightly pimped up silver paint job that all the later Federation Starships have to carry. Admittedly it's the cards in this one that really drew me to it rather than the horribly under-powered Reliant but the model is still worth a look over. 

Mine did come with bent nacelles but that just means it'll look perfect alongside my movie Enterprise refit (a repaint of this is due in Wave 31) in the Mutara Nebula which also has crooked warp engines - but that was the least of its worries in the movie.

The hull detail is nice and clean with distinct panel edges and for the size it's a decent enough replica. Sadly the 20 point Reliant is a bit of a weakling on the cards!

With just two for attack, two for defence, three hull and three shields, the USS Reliant is not going to be heading up anyone's taskforce. More of a support craft, the science vessel offers the Federation standards of Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battle Stations alongside two Crew and a single Weapon slot. What she loses at distance however is made up for at close range with range one attacks gaining an additional attack die. Remember at close range you gain one die anyway so this means the Reliant effectively DOUBLES its attack power at close quarters.

As a class ship, that Action goes out of the window and you're left with a bit of a dud, reducing shields to two points, removing one of the Crew slots and costing 18 points. I seriously wouldn't bother. What it does have going is a good, full set of moves at ranges two and three which don't incur Auxiliary Power Token penalties making it one of the better ships to manoeuvre without it costing you the ability to perform an Action. She also has the option of a single speed reverse move but that will incur the token penalty. Still, for the chance to zip around unhindered it might appeal to some.

In keeping with The Wrath of Khan, the ship comes with both Federation and Independent faction cards. That's most evident in the captain cards where you get a pick from Khan Singh and Terrell.

Independent Khan is a strong candidate for the command chair here, allowing you to pick whatever upgrades you want from any faction without incurring a penalty. It's a massive, ridiculous win that opens just about every door whatever ship you stick him on. Add to that Khan will convert Battle Station results into Critical Damage if you spend a Battle Stations token during the round. Again there's no penalty or clause here making him one of the most high-powered captains in the game. Even with a cost of five points and a skill of eight it's well worth the price.

Captain Skill of two, Clark Terrell is the Starfleet captain of the Reliant before Khan gets his hands on the ship. Costing a single point, Terrell provides support to friendly ships at range one, offering them an additional defence die. The ship is all about these close quarter moves with all the advantages seeming to come at the closest distance. 

To the Crew and we have three point Pavel Chekov oddly pictured from The Final Frontier rather than The Wrath of Khan but anyway, he can remove Auxiliary Power Tokens after performing white manoeuvres rather than green which will stop your movements and Actions from being limited each round. Fairly cheap and very useful to keep your craft in the thick of the action and able to act.

Costing one point less (two) is Kyle. Formerly of the Starship Enterprise, he's worked up to Comms on the Reliant and can reinforce your ship by providing an Action that repairs a shield token but will reduce your attack dice by two for the round. Kyle is perhaps better suited to a ship with more than two dice for attack as with Reliant but if you are in close quarters it would mean you could still roll one die while fixing your defences.

While those are your two new Federation Crew candidates, Khan gets his own backup with Joachim for four points. He's a rather meaty upgrade to have on the Independent fleet as he doubles the amount of Damage Cards (two) which are drawn and you, the Independent player, get to choose which one is inflicted. No restrictions here so you could cause a lot of damage and really cripple an opponent for that final hit.

Follower of Khan is a budget card with a cost of just one point. A rare discard from this wave of ships, all remaining shields have to be disabled and a ship at range one/two can be targeteed as long as its not cloaked or has active shields. You can then remove a Crew upgrade from that ship. To be honest that's a lot of effort for a low cost card with not a lot to gain. If you're looking to fill a niggling gap on the cost then it's a good call but otherwise I'd head elsewhere - too many things to tick and remember before it becomes useful and at that point it may be too late to use anyway.

Both of the Elite Actions for the Reliant pack are Independent with I Stab At Thee... being the less expensive. Again a close range winner, it allows a destroyed ship to act out a last gasp of revenge, roll three attack dice and inflict the damage on all ships at range one. Oh - and there's no defence to be rolled against this one so it might be your last. For five points you can take Superior Intellect (but do you think in three dimensions...?) which is a discard option. You can target a ship at ranges one or two that is not cloaked or shielded and can steal one of that vessel's face up upgrades even if it takes you over your points quota.

That's a handy little addition that will up your own abilities at the cost of others and you could grab something very useful and powerful since there's again, no restriction on what you can have. Last up is the Photon Torpedoes card again with the original Target Lock and disable rules. Only a four dice attack here for three points and ranges two to three.

As you would hope and expect, Reliant comes with The Mutara Nebula. NCC-1864 has to be captained by an Independent (hmmm wonder who...) versus a Federation player with 40 points to either side. However, there are no shields in operation within the nebula, Scan and Cloak are useless and only a ship at range one can be Target Locked. All ships can perform Sensor Echo and gain two extra defence dice. No attacks can be made at ranges two or three which means that a lot of the Reliant's close quarters cards will be super-effective.

For a lot of veteran players, Wave 30 will be a waste of time since there's nothing fundamentally new here. For those of us that joined late it's another chance to get some of the killer packs. The Koraga isn't that interesting and is one of those packs that fades in the memory since there are other more prominent Klingon sets worth getting. The Valdore and the Reliant however are just awesome expansions and I can see why these have been re-released. There are some strong cards in here which will open up the game to those of us who didn't grab those important early waves and some of the more powerful ships and upgrades. Valdore is a cracking Romulan ship with some serious firepower while Reliant is almost a polar opposite, requiring clever tactics and quick thinking close up to be at its best.

Wave 31 will follow the same trend as 30 with three repaints - the Cardassian Hideki Class fighters, the movie USS Enterprise refit and the Jem'Hadar 5th Wing Patrol Ship filling its slots. Looks like there won't be anything new for a while then...

Good additions for new players or a waste of a wave? What's your pick from Wave 30?

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