Friday, 2 June 2017

Completing the Xindi: Attack Wing Wave 29

Wizkids continue to refresh older releases and add in another Xindi ship with the 29th batch of expansions for their Attack Wing game. 

First up is the USS Excelsior. One of those release that eBay sellers have been mining at ridiculous prices for a couple of years now it's finally back in the hands of gamers and at a significantly more realistic price. It's one of the packs I've wanted to add since I first opened up the Starter Pack because it's such an iconic craft if nothing else.

I missed out on the Enterprise-B recently due to crazy demand for it and this more than makes up for the disappointment. 

Starting with the model the biggest difference to the original is the new shiny silver paint job that covers the whole ship. It does make the craft more distinctive and is a big departure from the matt finishes of earlier ships. Notably the USS Venture, the USS Enterprise (original configuration), the Nebula Class and the Sabre Class have all made appearances in silver and it allows the hull detailing to shine through a lot more easily. 

Now I might be wrong here but for some reason the Excelsior saucer is slightly eliptical and I'm 100% convinced that it's supposed to be round. On the model here there does seems to be a slight lengthening front to back and while it's noticable I don't think it will interfere with your game play. Most of the remaining ship detail is OK given the small scale that Wizkids has to work with but the rear shuttlebay area does look huge and nowhere near the slim hull hugging fit that we saw on the screen. It may just be easier to mould this way but it does look oddly oversized. 

Even given the couple of model challenges this is still one of those "must have" starships and the re-release in Wave 29 means that a lot more players will be able to enjoy captaining the experimental Excelsior. She's not too badly equipped either for a 23rd Century craft sporting a three attack, one defence, five hull and four shield stats out of the box. This provides a cost of 26 points for the starship leaving lots of room for handy upgrades.

As with all Federation ships the standard Target Lock, Battle Stations, Evade and Scan Actions are available but you can boost the scope of the ship's abilities with three Crew slots as well as singular Weapon and Tech options. If you are using the named USS Excelsior you can also take advantage of it's unique action that allows a free Scan action if you're not within range one of an enemy vessel.

Choosing the generic Excelsior Class as usual loses you a Shield point and a Crew upgrade slot for 24 points. I was hoping that there might be a bit more speed in the experimental vessel but she tops out at a four with the hard right and left turns at speed two and three incurring the Auxiliary Power Token. The one surprise here is the ability to reverse at speed two which is a cheeky little move to save your bacon.

Captaining the Excelsior out of the wrapper there are two obvious choices. Your higher skilled one (six) is Hikaru Sulu with a cost of four points. He'll let you disable a Crew upgrade to remove an enemy Target Lock which is something I find I'm constantly battling. Sulu is neither a disable or a discard so this is one that can be used and used and used again during your mission. As an alternative commander in the set we have Styles who oversaw the Excelsior's test runs. With a skill of three and a cost of two points he's a cheaper option and will allow you to add a second Tech slot to your upgrades bar. Nice touch as this keeps in with the experimental stage of the ship's life during The Search for Spock.

Keeping with the Federation faction trend, the Excelsior comes loaded with Crew options. Dmitri Valtane costs three points and lets you re-roll two attack dice if you have a Scan token next to your ship. Certainly one to equip on the Excelsior with the ship's unique action involving a freebie Scan that will allow you to use more options in the initial phase of the round. Secondly there's Lojur, seen as the helmsman of the ship in Star Trek VI this guy can be disabled to avoid disabling your Weapon upgrade. Perhaps a bit redundant in the days of Time Tokens but a good call if you're stuck with the older Photon Torpedoes cards which do require disabling to work. Two points is ok to spend if you have the latter but otherwise he's utterly redundant.

Finally we have Janice Rand. Making one more appearance in Star Trek, the former Enterprise yeoman allows the captain to perform his Elite Action as a free Action. For a two point discard this is a cheap price to pay to be able to use and can be combo'd in with the ship's Unique Action and  Valtane for a super round.

Positron Beam carries the only photo directly related to the Excelsior or of the Excelsior with a shot from Deep Space Nine's Tears of the Prophets. Another inexpensive discard, this feature lets players drop an Auxiliary Power Token onto an enemy craft at range one. Crucially again there's no specific that this can be the only card used in a round so the Excelsior certainly packs a wallop when it comes to being able to use multiple cards in one turn.

The other Tech option in the pack is Transwarp Drive. Promoted heavily in Star Trek III, the experimental drive system pushes a four or a five manoeuvre into a six when revealed during the Activation Phase.  At a price of three points this is a steal to give you a boost of speed without incurring any penalty. Great concept and a nice tweak although I think it should be given limited use as with the quantum slipstream drive. 

Photon Torpedoes come as standard here with the original disable feature and rounding out the set is the Elite Action, Feint. Targeting a ship at range two or three it is forced roll two less defence dice. Two ways I can see this going - either handy to knock out larger opponents or to give you an easy shot at a weaker opponent. Either way it's used is going to place you in a better position.

Your mission to accept with the Excelsior is Operation Retrieve named after the plan devised to rescue Kirk and McCoy from Rura Penthe in The Undiscovered Country. Federation ships start out at one end of the gameplay area opposite Rura Penthe while the Klingon ships start on the west and east sides. Kirk and McCoy are represented by a mission token which can be beamed aboard with your shields down as an Action.

The Federation player wins by retrieving the officers and escaping while the Klingons must prevent the escape or destroy the starship attempting the rescue. These earlier missions were definitely a lot more intricate than some of the later options and had more variations to be played out. This one and the one for the bioship are great examples of quick-fire scenarios to play out which are great for testing your abilities and also learning the game.

Second of the three from Wave 29 is the Species 8472 Bioship Alpha. I already have the Beta bioship from Wave 18 so I'm looking forward to pairing these two up against a worthy adversary...probably the Borg.

First thing's first. The model is a huge improvement and actually looks organic. Howe they've managed it I'm not sure but when you put it beside the Beta there is a distinct improvement. The final edging, the panelling - everything just seems to have come together here and produced one of Attack Wing's better ships. It looks really respectable and the paint job doesn't look rushed or heavy handed. 

The definition of the fin detail is precise and it's good to spot that different sections have been coloured differently. What does amaze me is the lining between the fins and the forward weapon where we have four colours all representing different pieces and all blocked out very carefully. Eaglemoss should take note.

As with the "B" ship, the Alpha craft is a point-sucking demon starting out of the dock with 38 points just for the hull. It's insane six for attack, two defence, five hull and six (six?!) shields make it a formidable opponent before you consider what to do with the remaining points available for upgrades. You can also add on a further three Tech options and two Weapon abilities. As for standard Actions there's Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Regenerate to keep you going. Bioship Alpha is capable of inflicting an Auxiliary power Token on its enemies should they be hit with at least three damage making any offensive move from this ship above the standard levels of lethality!

The regular version of the ship costs 36 points, removes one shield point and takes away a Weapon upgrade slot. Still stupidly overpowered though.

Movement options mean that while this isn't a fast ship she's good to try everything available and is exceptionally nimble with full left and right turn sets plus a come-about at speed three. Only the speed three sharp left and rights (plus the come-about) will incur an Auxiliary Power Token if used. No reverse here so once you're in the action be prepared to get stuck in. Not that I see that being a problem with such a high powered craft.

Captaining the ship is Bioship Alpha Pilot costing six point and offering a skill of seven plus an Elite Action option. Frankly the unique action he provides is a nightmare. Once all the other players have selected their manoeuvres you can then choose a ship at range one, take a look at its dial and then adjust yours accordingly. It does class as your Action for the round. I'd take that chance any day because this is going to mean you can target each ship specifically and pick enemies off one at a time. It also means your opponents might want to travel in pairs....

The generic version of the captain - Species 8472 - costs a single point, has no action option nor does he cost anything. 

Using the ultra-enemy's catchphrase, The Weak Will Perish is this pack's Elite Action at a cost of five points. Imagine coupling this with your ability to shadow an opponent with the Bioship Alpha Pilot and it's a brilliant if controversial combo. Discard the card and then disable your captain to re-roll any number of attack dice not once but twice. If used on anything apart from a Species 8472 it costs five more points but this could be a true opponent killer and certainly one to employ against the Borg.

As you'd expect from this beast of a pack, there are three additional Weapon choices varying in cost from expensive to ridiculous and then bats-arse. Costing just five points is Biological Attack. It's one of the more original ideas to be used on an upgrade requiring your ship base to be touching an enemy ship base at the end of the Activation. You also need to disable your captain card to drop one critical damage point on your enemy even with shields up. If that's not bad enough then it also allows the Species 8472 player to disable a Crew upgrade. Wowzers.

Shell out six points and Energy Blast becomes your next choice. Using five attack dice as standard it increases a Species 8472 ship's firepower up to seven but does require a Target Lock and has to be disabled to activate. Again another way to overload the firepower of this little ship and you don't have to get particularly close as it'll only operate over ranges two and three. 

Last but not least there's the ace in the pack with the Energy Focusing Ship card. Costing a brain-numbing ten points and again as with Energy Blast, operable at ranges two and three, it effectively pools nearby ships to slam home a massive attack. Your friendly ships at range one are unable to make a normal attack and each gets an additional two dice to attack with for that round. 

Your main ship does incur an Auxiliary Power Token but the benefits for that single round (it's a discard) could outweigh the ten point cost if used well. It will need you to have certain pieces in the right place to be most effective - maybe one to use once you have mastery of this ship and it's other abilities.

Bioship Alpha might be Crew-lite but there are more than enough Tech upgrades to go round. Extraordinary Immune Response (five point cost) actually offers something on the defensive angle. Nor is the usual lose a dice and gain an Evade. Instead this gives an additional extra defence die for every damage card you have. For me that's a totally new concept but one that does mean you become stronger for a round when you really need it and want to avoid "game over". Quantum Singularity for six points is one of those cards which helps reset your game.

By discarding the card, removing all your assigned tokens except any Auxiliary Power Tokens, you can put your ship back into play at the end of the round but not within range three of another craft. There are a fair few variants of this one around the game but they do all tend to be specific to that race. 

Then there's Bio-Electric Interference. Unsurprisingly it's a discard. In fact that's the big negative with this pack. There are some really juicy options but they are all single use so pick wisely and a lot of them are only available for this faction.

This once costs six points and targets all other ships within range three. All tokens except Auxiliary Power Tokens get binned off. If cloaking tech is deactivated then that ship can raise shields and in addition it means you avoid being target locked. This and the other two Tech upgrades are all faction specific meaning that you're going to need to be Species 8472 to reap the benefits of these powerful cards. However, as with the Borg these ship itself will dominate your points tally so pick carefully.

Your mission with Bioship Alpha is Scorpion. A two player game it's a single Federation ship (maximum 50 points) against a single Species 8472 ship (maximum 70 points). Four objective tokens are randomly placed by the players to represent debris while six mission tokens are placed on the Federation ship card. These represent the time it will take to prepare a Class Ten High Yield Torpedo and when three have been removed (one per round), then the weapon is prepped. The torpedo requires a target lock and uses ten dice but is a single use weapon so ready wisely. 

Cleverly if it's fired at close range (one) then the Federation ship has to defend against it as well. This game is designed to last six rounds with the final three mission tokens being removed over subsequent turns. Either the Federation player wins and destroys the bioship or the Species 8472 player wins by destroying the Federation ship, escaping or by having the Federation ship blow itself up with the torpedo. Great concept, simple execution, brilliant mission to play out  and one that is time restricted so you won't get bored.

Last up and it's the jewel in the crown of Wave 29. The third and final Xindi regular scale ship, the Muratas. A Reptilian warship, the 22 point craft isn't quite as impressive as I had expected, leaving your fleet potentially reliant on Weapon Zero to hold the fort. Problem is that the Xindi fleet is p**s poor when it comes to defence. This and the Aquatic Cruiser, the Calindra only have one die for defence as does the bigger Weapon Zero. If you come up against anything that's post-Enterprise era you're screwed. I put those three Xindi ships up against a fleet of the Enterprise-E, Voyager and the Phoenix and Weapon Zero didn't even last one round. Yuk.

Anyway, to the Muratas; I digress.

Offering four in attack, that lone die for defence with four hull and two shield points (cringe) I find this one hard to like at first glance. She carries standard Actions of Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battle Stations with slots open for two Weapon, one Tech and one Crew upgrade. If you do want that additional edge then you can disable an active shield and re-roll up to two of your Attack Dice. Used with a Target Lock you could have the chance to re-roll twice in a single go. For the unnamed variant you'll lose a shield point, the unique action and one of the Weapon slots reducing your ship cost to 20 points.

She's also less manoeuvrable than the larger Calindra with no reversing move although it's traded for that ever-useful 180 turn at speed three. Indeed as with most ships there are a full set of motions for ranges two and three while only banking at speed one is included and speed four is only a forward move.

The model of the ship is actually damn good and far less flimsy than the larger Eaglemoss variant from the Official Starships Collection. The purple and sandy-brown colour scheme is in full effect with the former highlighting sections of the pointed tails as well as some of the front-end features of the craft. It does look a little basic in form and the line work isn't all that clever but on the most part it all lines up and things that are supposed to be parallel are, well, parallel. The surface detail is a nice finishing piece here giving depth to the Muratas and is, as said, a tad bumpy in places. At least there is depth and texture to the craft and it's as near as you could wish for in something mass produced in this scale. After all it's really just there as a representation. I'm sure keen modellers will be more than able to add in more at their leisure.

Dolim is back again after a first appearance with Weapon Zero. He's still a Captain skill of eight and costs five points. What he does bring to the game is an action which could be a stroke of brilliance or a way to get annihilated right out of the gate. Dolim allows your Weapon upgrades to cost a point less too so you can properly max out the firepower on the Muratas

Captain option number two is Degra. Costing three points with a skill of four, he also provides more attack force for the Xindi. Joined with a secondary weapon, Degra he adds an attack die and two if it's used in conjunction with a Xindi upgrade. Both of these captain cards offer very unique advantages to the player and make the faction quite enticing. It also attempts to overlook the fact that you might be able to dish out a beating but you're unlikely to take much back.

Dolim can also field an Elite Action and he's lucky to get a one  in the warship box. Patience for the Dead furthers the "attack madness" that packs this expansion. It disregards the Captain skill and allows you to attack first that round. You do forgo the chance to defend against any attacks but if you're tempted to throw this into the ring I would suspect you know you're either on the way out or it's the last gasp of a dying ship to take something down with it. Suicide? Possibly, but with a bonus.

The Reptilian Analysis Team is a solo Crew upgrade. It allows you to add a Tech slot on, which could be advantageous if you're maxing out on Weapon upgrades with Dolim as captain. It acts as a "buffer" to be disabled rather than disabling the card in play. This upgrade also means that your main card can be reactivated in three turns as you can drop some Time Tokens on it rather than having to use an Action to flip the switch. An unusual one since Time Tokens have been fairly exclusive to the Photon Torpedoes upgrades to this point. Added bonus for the Xindi? Only two Time Tokens if you're staying faction pure. Good offering again here that makes this new faction a real stand out choice.

If you did want to slip four Weapon upgrades onto the Muratas with Dolim you'll have to dig them out of other packs because this ship only comes with two. Particle Beam Weapon costs the same as your Xindi ship's primary weapon value (four here) and adds an additional die to your attack (which would make a five dice attack with the Muratas). Fairly standard but as with Species 8472, there aren't a lot of cards here that you can move onto other non-Xindi ships.

Xindi Torpedoes still offers a four dice attack from a non-Xindi ship and a five dice attack if fired from a faction vessel. This card utilises the Time Token feature and is effective at ranges one to three. It reactivates after three rounds.

Closing out the pack we have two Tech cards both costing three points. Thermal Chamber is an Action card that removes all your disabled tokens from Crew upgrades and increases your Captain Skill by four points for the round. Nicely it's reusable and there's not even the need to re-enable the ability. Definitely a card to add to your ship if you have a low skill factor to begin with but the double bonus of removing disabled tokens has to make this a no-brain addition to your ship. Finally this is a card not just unique to the Xindi but to this class of vessel. Kind of makes the Muratas your go-to Xindi craft.

The final card in the pack is Sensor Encoders and you benefit from an re-roll of a defence dice for disabling this feature. A second option here is that the card can be discarded if a friendly ship is destroyed and the warship (and it is a card for use only with a Xindi-Reptilian craft) gains an addition defence dice for the remainder of the game!!!

The Muratas scenario is Damage and is time limited to just four rounds. Following events from the Enterprise third season, this tale sees a Federation ship (40 points) negotiating with the Xindi. This ship starts out next to the planet token which represents Azati Prime while the Xindi ships (70 points to play with) can set up anywhere else but not within range three of each other or the planet. The Xindi have four rounds to destroy the Federation ship before they are recalled while the Federation player has the same time to either last out the negotiations or eliminate one of the Xindi craft.

For a more recent scenario this one has a lot of promise and certainly more than some of the standard one on one player fights that have marred later waves. Along with Operation Retrieve and Scorpion from this wave it's a good set of games to play if you're stuck for a way to go. Has to be an upside to this set.

Honestly with this pack I don't know how you could resist playing as the Xindi since there are a ton of new and unique options to take advantage of. Everything screams of difference but there's still that issue of putting this ship and her brethren up against anything from the later eras of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine or Voyager. Good but sadly just not powerful enough to be a genuine threat. 

For me, Wave 29 is a godsend. I missed both of the original releases on their first run in the early waves and can now tick them off the list especially the Excelsior which was a must have from day one. I need to get more time now to get to grips with the finer points of the Xindi faction and to get hold of the Xindi Insectoid fighter.

Wave 30 is out shortly in the UK and will return us to three ships from days past. There's the Klingon Bird of Prey, IKS Koraga a K'Vort class ship destroyed in the Dominion War (Penumbra from Deep Space Nine), the IRW Valdore Warbird from Nemesis and one that you just have to have, the USS Reliant complete with Khan captain option. Cracking selection and certainly the latter two are very exciting to see back. Not too sure if I need another Bird of Prey but I'm sure it can't hurt.

Fan of the Xindi? Are there key cards you must play as that faction?

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