Friday, 10 February 2017

State of the Independents: Attack Wing Borg and Gorn Expansions

Ahhhh the Soong.

Derided by many it was the enemy vessel that carried Lore and his individualistic Borg through many a transwarp corridor before finally being vapourised through some clever manoeuvring from Doctor Crusher and her rag-tag crew on the Enterprise.

This was actually released one heck of a while ago for Attack Wing (Wave Six and we're now up to 28) but at a fraction of the original retail price I'm always one to strike for a bargain and grabbed it for under a fiver. For a while I've been playing as the Federation, occasionally changing to the Romulans but I wanted to see how effective an Independent faction could be. Yes, the Soong does fall into the Borg team as well but I actually think its presence on its alternative side are much greater.

It's the only Borg designated vessel which can fly "normally" instead of straight with 90 degree turns and has fairly average stats meaning it's actually possible to beat it in a fight. As a model it might be a teenth of the size of the Eaglemoss craft but I actually think the colouring is much more 'realistic' than its larger counterpart. 

It's an utter beast, clocking in with a starting score of 38 backed up with six attack, one defence, seven hull points and five on shields. Basic actions include Evade, Target Lock and Scan and there's a lightning fast top speed of five (incurs auxiliary power token) if you're looking to get in and out of trouble. Along with the usual banks and 90 degree turns at speed three there's also the eve-useful 180 turn to put you right back in the fight. 

As a unique action for the Soong you can perform a free Evade action if you've just run at speed five and have no enemy craft in your forward firing arc. Effectively it's allowing an action even though you've just incurred one of those auxiliary power tokens. Very useful indeed! For upgrades there are two slots for Crew, one Tech, one Weapon and one Borg option available offering a good range of additional features of which there are a fine few in this set.  It's certainly filled packed with opportunity and the chance to deal some big damage for either faction it can represent.

If you choose to use he generic version of the ship - the Borg Type 3 - you will lose one of your shield points plus the unique action and one Crew upgrade slot for a cost of 36 points. The ship can only be used by the Borg and not as an Independent craft in this instance which might put you off choosing to save a couple of points here. Even as a generic version it's still an expensive ship to field although the result might be heavily in your favour.

Captain choices are rather cool with the option to take either Lore or Hugh. For note you can also find the young, individualistic Borg as a captain or a crewmember over on the Borg Scout Cube. Lore comes aboard with a skill of seven and can field one of those Elite Actions.  This Independent faction captain will cost you four points but there's the chance to add another Crew upgrade to your options for starters and you can subsequently use Lore to discard one of your Crew to add another die to your attack. Talk about a flexible command option because he can also field ANY Elite Action regardless of faction without fear of a penalty.

Hugh is also an Independent captain allowing you to add Crew upgrades for a point less than their card value. Like Lore he's pretty flexible and for his two point cost, Hugh will also allow you to add Borg upgrades to your ship but without that faction penalty.  These are two very strong command options for the Independent faction and certainly this is a much better High than we got with the Scout Cube.

To the Elite Actions and we have two to choose from here. Experimental Link harks back to the attempted and failed experiments Lore was performing on some of the freed Borg drones in Descent. In the Soong pack this is the Borg Elite Action where you can either discard the card and up to three Drone tokens or Disable up to three Crew upgrades to re-roll the equivalent number of Attack dice. While his can only be used for a Borg captain, Diversionary Tactics let's you target a ship at a maximum of range two as long as it's not in your forward firing arc for the cost of the action card and one of your Crew upgrades. It means the opponent targeted cannot attack you that round and loses one of its own Crew upgrades. Again I just can't fault the ferocity of this vessel and the additions it brings to the game. These actions just add more fuel to the fire.

The Soong carries space for a few Crew options and the pack comes with four which can all be used on either Borg or Independent ships - Crosis, Bosus, Goval and Torsus. Key character Crosis is the most expensive at five points but his upgrade results in quite spectacular results. By discarding him you can disable a Crew upgrade on an opponent's ship and then steal a Crew upgrade to use on your own craft even if it exceeds your own point and spec limit. A very useful card well worth the high points cost although it might be better on an Independent ship since using it on a Borg ship will cost you an additional two Drone tokens on top of the points just covered. 

With Torsus you'll also be using a Drone token if your ship has a Borg captain. You can discard him to increase your Captain skill by two points until the end of the phase more than likely allowing you to fire first in the combat step and most useful if it's a you-or-them situation. Both he and Bosus cost two points to equip.

Again though for two points Bosus is a damn useful upgrade even if he has to be chucked at the end of it. Should any of your upgrades be discarded as the result of an enemy attack/action then they can be placed under this card and when you choose to cash in Bosus you can add an extra attack die  that round for that action card and those underneath it. Potentially this could add four dice to one attack; utter madness. Of course if you stick him on a Borg ship it will cost two Drone tokens.

Rounding out the four is Goval. While the others are extremely aggressive options for the Soong, this one point costing upgrade offers some form of defence in that he can be discarded to stop another Crew upgrade from being disabled or discarded. Rather a useful card once again that provides this expansion with some excellent points from every angle. Goval will cost one of your Drone tokens if he's on a ship with a Borg captain. Best using every single one of these Borg on an Independent craft!

We have two Borg Weapon upgrades available with Photon Torpedoes costing six points and the spending of a Target Lock plus the disabling of the card to be used. Five attack dice are in use here and you'll spot there's no rear firing arc but this card will let you damage one extra shield point if the attack is successful in any way. Good that this is available given the limited firing options of the Soong and the fact that it can already fire with six dice from its primary weapon. Secondly there's Forward Weapons Array that provides a multi-targeting option. 

Costing six points you can attack up to three ships in your forward firing arc each with three dice. Attacking just one ship adds three dice to the attack (six) while attacking two let's you hit each with a four dice attack. Able to be used at everything up to range three this is really opening up the options to use this ship as your lead craft and be a ship to be feared. Shame you can't use either of these on an Independent ship though.

A big feature of the Soong in Descent was its ability to open subspace distortions and the lone Tech upgrade offers this and you can discard the card and roll the same number of dice as your starting shield value. Add to that the chance to re-roll any blank results up to the amount of active shields you have and the Soong becomes seriously armour-plated. Also tracking that quick travel feature is Transwarp Conduit. Again a Borg feature it is a Borg upgrade so that kind of makes sense.  

It's the equivalent of the Quantum Slipstream drive or the Picard Maneuver where you can remove the ship from the field of play, discard the card plus any tokens on the ship (except Auxiliary Power Tokens) and then drop her back into play outside of range three of any enemy vessel. Is there's anything that this expansion doesn't offer? It has to be one of the strongest offered by Wizkids and offers the Independent player some chance of a decent game plus gives the Borg faction a more flexible moving ship and some more powerful upgrades.

Descent is the name of the game too as the two-player scenario has a 70 point Federation ship taking on a 70 point Borg Type Three. In this case though the Federation ship can have nine Crew upgrades assigned but not Data. However only the usual number of allowed Crew upgrades can be active on the ship with the others disabled and used only as Away Team. The objective is to use your crew to beam down to the MS-1 colony and rescue Data and victory is secured when he's aboard and the Away Teams are recovered or if Data is recovered and the Borg ship destroyed in that specific order. The Borg can win if Data is not rescued by the time the Federation ship leaves the area or by destroying the Federation vessel.

It's a cool pack overall however there is a distinct lean towards the Borg options rather than the Independent. That's not saying Indy players get a bad deal out out what is available just that there is a distinct weighting towards the cybernetic lifeforms.

A second very inexpensive expansion I managed to acquire this month was the Gornarus. Again with that goal of building a decent Independent faction I chose to hunt out one of my favourite Star Trek races and their rather unimpressive starship. Recently reproduced by Eaglemoss on a much bigger scale it's not one of the franchise's most memorable designs and between the two replicas there are some clear differences.

Carrying a basic score of 22 rather than the Soong's 38, the Gornarus lands with three in attack, one in agility, three hull and four shield points. There are singular slots for a Weapon, Tech and Crew upgrade plus a standard payload of Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battle Stations to start you off. The unique action is a wee bit nifty too even considering its less than intimidating stats; if Critical Damage is inflicted on an enemy ship's hull then you can find either Structural Damage or Weapons Malfunction in the Damage Deck rather than having your opponent select a card at random. As usual the generic version of the ship loses a shield point plus it's Weapon upgrade option  and the unique action, dropping its cost to 20 points.

One question here has to be why is the shot on the generic card and the movement card the rear view of the Gornarus? Strange one but it doesn't change how you play the game - more of an off the cuff observation!

As for movement the Gorn starship lands in very general territory with a four forward maximum speed, a full range of moves at speeds two and three (tight right and left at three are red) as well as a useful (and also red move) 180 degree turn at speed three. No big spectacular options there and it was an early sign of what we ended up with a lot in the 20 plus waves.

At least our main captain choice is a familiar face and is this time named S'Sesslak. He has a skill of five for a cost of three points with the Elite Action emblem present to give that extra boost. His unique action is quite similar to how torpedoes operate, offering the chance to convert a dice - in this case a blank result - into a Damage result or a Damage result into a Critical Damage. Certainly a way to up the ante with no penalty for its repeat use. As an Independent fleet captain he makes a strong case. Slightly less costly is Slar costing two points with a Captain skill of three. Benefits here are singular allowing you to field the Salvage Elite Action upgrade only. Bit meh to be fair and probably one to leave in the deck.

Speaking of Salvage, it does provide a great chance to add some more muscle to your ship should someone nearby be knocked out of the game. If a ship is destroyed within range two you can discard the card, disable your Active Shields and steal a Tech or Weapons upgrade costing five or less points even if it goes over your own ship's limits. Means there's no hope of borrowing any Borg goodies but it might allow you to grab something decent that could come in handy. However, picking yourself a prize will mean incurring a Disabled token on the acquired item and an Auxiliary Power Token. Sounds harsh but you will eventually reap the benefits!

A second Elite Action option with the Gornarus is Faked Messages. For five points once everyone has been chosen (not moved) you can discard the card to force a ship within range three to alter its path to a single one forward. A very useful opportunity to get a player exactly where you want them - and if you have another part of your fleet with Salvage available it could be a big bonus.

There's one new Crew upgrade here in Gorn Raiding Party which provides the chance to disable two of an opponent's active shields and if there are no shields active then disable all upgrades on that craft. For five points the chance to put a huge spanner in the works of your adversary is one not to miss. Limited to a maximum of range two it might be but the results will be capability limiting for some time. Targeted Phaser Strike replaces Photon Torpedoes here increasing the Gornarus' attack from three to four dice. Costing four points with a maximum range of three it inflicts standard damage but for every Damage or Critical Damage result the enemy ship also gets a Weapon upgrade disabled. Seems that this craft is very much designed around a pirate concept and would work admirably as a background support craft causing havoc on ships while you have something larger inflicting the terminal damage. 

Improved Deflector Screens (four points) as a Tech upgrade utilises your active shields and for each you have still in operation you get to cancel a Damage or Critical Damage result. It's not a disable action but does become a discard if all shields are destroyed which is a nice twist in that it can't be used if you've suffered a certain level of damage - there aren't many of these in the game at all. Only ships with hull scores of three or less can use this one so it does back up that possibility of using the Gornarus (or other Independent craft) as a nippy little support ship. The other Tech upgrade provided is Impulse Overload for five points. Affecting a ship at range one, if you roll a Damage or Critical Damage result off three attack dice then your opponent must discard one of their Tech upgrades. Once more a chance to rid your enemies of their bonus skills. 

Finally we have Jammed Communications rounding out a trio of Tech cards. It keeps in line with the pack making this a very slippery little ship to face since it stops all ships within the maximum range three using any text abilities during the round. I'd take that as using any upgrade cards and by any I mean ANY ship including your own. How much of an effect might this have on a game if you're facing a player who likes to use multiple card combos in a round?!

Only Ambush at Cestus III could be the mission for this pack, harking back to the classic Arena. It places you one on one; Gorn versus Federation with 45 points a piece. The Federation player has a three man away team to recover from the planet and to then destroy the Gorn vessel while the Gorn must destroy the Federation ship while it has not recovered the whole away team. If it can't manage that then the Gorn ship must escape! A simple scenario but one that looks easier than it probably plays since beaming back is made all the more difficult by relying on certain rolled dice results.

The Gornarus pack itself doesn't offer big firepower but more the chance to level the playing field and take away the advantages of others. I think I can see this working best against mid-range craft with several upgrades - or Borg! It's one of the more unique sets and reviewing it alongside the Borg/Independent Soong made me appreciate how varied the options for the Independent faction actually are. They aren't as heavily armed but have a whole host of tricks out there to use. Of all the factions they are definitely the one that wins the most from picking the most effective upgrades.

Are these worthy additions to the fleet or should I be looking at other factions instead?

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