Tuesday, 6 November 2018

State of Fluxx: Cards on the Table

Sorry to say but I am totally addicted to Looney Labs fantastic card game.

At first I wasn’t that fussed. It’s a card game that’s Star Trek. Should be ok. Meh, let’s give it a go.

Here’s the basic spin of the game. There’s a 100 card pack in play and each player (up to eight can join in) are initially dealt three cards each. 

To start the basic rule is draw a card from the deck and play a card. It’s very straight forward - at least initially. Within the pack are different types of cards - Goals for example are items you need to collect to win the game; Actions are tasks that can be performed during the game; New Rules add a twist to play such as having to play five cards not just one or limiting the number of cards you can hold in your hand.

As you play and new rules get introduced, the dynamic of the game can change a lot. One minute you have nothing to play and the next you have loads to put down but can only play one. It sounds like brain scrambling madness but after a couple of games to get used to some of the plays it becomes incredibly enjoyable and also very, very tactical. 

The aim of completing a Goal - which can change from turn to turn by the way - is to collect Keeper cards which feature a piece of Star Trek tech or a character. Each Goal card asks for a combination of two of any of these items and maybe a Creeper.

A what?

Oh yes. Forgot to mention. Creepers are cards that can stop you from winning by simply possessing them however they may also be your ticket to victory if held in the right combination. You can have the Mirror Universe card combined with a character or the Enterprise or perhaps the Malfunction card linked to the Transporter. Anything is possible which play and winning moves never being the same in any game. 

The overall formula of Fluxx may well be generic should you pick any of the other packs available such as Batman, Firefly or even Mathematics(?!) but the Star Trek pack is exceptionally well illustrated and conceived. Character drawings are sharp and even badges are correct to the role. The ships and equipment look like they should and, amazingly there’s even a Fizzbin Action that just about makes sense.

I’ve played this a lot over the last few days and even my six year old has grasped the game and won a couple of rounds through some very devious outmanoeuvring of the Old Man I might add.

At the last meeting of the Stoke on Trent Star Trek Club we held a massive eight player game as the group’s first foray into playing and it was certainly eventful with new rules, Keepers and Creepers flying into the game all over the place. It also meant we were easily distracted and nearly missed the winning play - including the person who put the card down!  Just goes to show that with more players you have to keep your eye on the ball - or cards - very closely.

You do find that the amount of rules in play at some points can become overwhelming and you do end up missing out on the benefits of a couple if you’re not paying attention. Same goes for keeping track of the Goal. With the speed that a new one can be in place you need to keep an eye on your played and unplayed Keeper cards as a couple of times I could have won and hadn’t spotted a combination that I had on the table or Goal card I should have put down to secure victory. 

Star Trek Fluxx really made me think and concentrate and the playing time is great for evenings running anywhere upwards of ten minutes dependant on your skill or just how much of a git the players want to be with rules and delaying tactics. While my maximum game time has been around 25 minutes I can imagine a few players have settled in for the long haul.

I absolutely love playing this. It's dead easy to pick up, simple to get into and doesn't require three hours of preparation. Ideal for those nights in the hotel at conventions (Hi DST'ers!) and those rainy evenings at home this winter. If you're loving it to another level then pick up the Bridge Crew expansion and The Next Generation set to make the game that little bit longer!

Star Trek Fluxx is available this very second from Looney Labs direct or via one of those popular retail websites we all know and love.

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Sunday, 4 November 2018

Deep Space Truckers: The Official Starships Collection 134 and 135

Aaaaah. Starships...maybe one day you will arrive early for subs once again...but not this month. 

But enough reminiscing of the old days, lets plough on to discuss this time’s stellar duo in the shape of issue 134’s Vulcan Survey Ship from Enterprise’s second season Carbon Creek and the faux Delta Flyer from Voyager’s Live Fast and Prosper

If you'd never seen it before, the colour of the Survey Ship would immediately point to the fact that it's from the Vulcans. That dusty paint scheme is evident on all of the ships from Enterprise belonging to the green-blooded logicians. While the survey ship does carry some traits from the other ships, it has a very distinct appearance with a hint of those mammoth rings for one and a decidedly pointy visage however it has a lot more to offer in this replica from Eaglemoss.

For a start right there on the nose we have some unusual signs of weathering with paint chip damage speckled on to the surface in a very very rare move - usually these are produced as if just dropping off the production line.

This plastic top section carries a lot of very prominent and deep panel lines around its circumference. As part of this we have the oval sensor platform front and centre with some segmenting also visible within its form. The scale here means that these lines don't clutter the hull and allow for distinct sections on the surface without one thing seemingly falling over another. Just above this ring of panelling we have the main bridge area marked out with a ring of four-sided, yellow-shaded windows. These portals really allow for an idea of the scale - as do the two docking hatches just forward of those upswept winglets.

Take a good look into some of the corners of the Survery Ship too around this middle bridge "tier" and you'll spot some more weather-effect finishing with the sunken corners appearing a little darker and some of the grilled panel work at the back of the bridge space also dirtied up. 

The subspace transceiver array sitting atop the Vulcan craft seems to be a little under defined and by that I mean to say that the mold doesn't seem to have created enough of an impression. This leaves the array a little flat with a lot of the detail from the original there but just losing that final millimeter of sharpness on execution.

To the rear of the array we have the upper of the two impulse engine units. As with the hull there's a good level of panel lining on the module and again a nice touch of weathering in the corners plus it's finished off to the rear with an opaque yellow exhaust port segmented by lines in the same colour as the rest of the hull. Now that might not seem a big deal but to get that level of finish on two pieces (both impulse engines) is pretty spectacular and there's not colour outside of those crossed lines on either exhaust.

The central horizontal recess in the hull which runs right around the Survey Ship is a handy design feature that separates the upper plastic from the lower metal part of the craft. Weirdly it's only when I hold her up to the light and look specifically at the warp engine covers that I can tell which is one material and which the other but only by a tiny shading difference in the sandy top coat. It's very minor but it does show up under bulb-light.

The metal underside doesn't miss out on any detail from the original but there is less going on down there than we have on the ventral section. The front of the ship again carries some space damage and rather than just the speckles that dot the top there appears to be some indication of streaks of paint abrasion. It's dead odd to see this on an Eaglemoss model and I genuinely can't think of a ship from the other 133 regular issues that has this. Those of you collecting the specials might well compare it to the heavily weathered USS Kelvin but on this scale and cost the aging of the Survey Ship is a big, welcome move.

Moving backwards, the main hull panels remain mostly clean with some shading in those edges and recesses with fin-like vents and two arcing cargo doors(?) taking up most of the bottom surface. 

Cleverly the second impulse engine and the curved winglets all combine into one snap on section of the hull which sits onto the ship underneath. Again that plastic versus metal colour shift is ever-so slightly noticable yet the panelling and effect remain constant to the other, larger pieces.

Just for note, the warp engine covers here are shown retracted while in virtually every shot (not that there were many) they were open - it's a minor niggle and not one many might notice but worth just pointing out!

Now the magazine has quite a good slab of info in regards to the internal layout of the Survey Ship, its bridge and its capabilities before spiralling into recounting the events of Carbon Creek. Pictures of the ship from the episode are few and far between in this edition so we have to make do with the CG recreations. In fact the only image of the Survey Ship is from the back as it's crashing to Earth!

Designing the Vulcan Survey Ship is an odd one too as we have John Eaves' sketches and artwork for what was conceived as the vessel but was actually so good it was used for the D'kyr Class Vulcan ships. It seems that the story behind the eventual Survey Ship shape has been somewhat lost over the years!

The final section deals with the second season of Enterprise which, in my opinion, is one of the most middling batches of Star Trek episodes over the last 52 years. Certainly this section pinpoints the highs, lows and necessary changes of that season and makes for a good read around why certain alterations were made for season three.

Now to a ship that's only six metres longer than the Vulcan Survey Ship with Dala's 'Delta Flyer'

Something of a cross between a camper, an MOT-failing truck and a minivan, Dala's ship has all the finesse and grace of a brick. It's ugly as sin which, bizarrely, makes quite a change from the usual style of starships.

The wide-fronted ship has a very basic two-tone grey coating sprinkled with a few raised, darker grey panel sections and two distinct pieces of surface wiring on the right hand facing side of the nose and also on the engine sidepod. These are both in the same colour as the hull and do blend into the surface.

The forward detail on the nose does show the docking port but the clamps along the leading edge of the engine pods is lost because of the level of detail Eaglemoss are able to achieve. They are however noted on the plan views in the magazine.

Note the low amount of panelling evident on this one against the hull of the Survey Ship. Very different approach with a minimal amount of detail being transferred across.Moving back towards the centre "spine" and navigational deflector (the curved piece at the front of the spinal ridge) the only additional piece of detailing is the red stripe running to the rear.

It is a very basic design, more function than form and widening out to the engine pods we have a further splash of colour from the warp engine intakes and to the rear the warp engine grilles in translucent blue. 

The model is exceptionally close to the televised model, keeping its "beat-up" appearance although it could have done with some more weathering akin to the Survey Ship to really finish off the effect. The detail on the leading edges of the pods is a bit disappointing as is the lack of grilles and panelling along their sides. The mock Starfleet mock pennant is in place on both sides but even the two-tone paintwork doesn't drop over the sides. 

If you do look along the sides you'll also spot that the front section is also missing the same paint finish; again a bit of a surprise at this point in the evolution of the collection.

OK. Running to the rear we have a chunky cargo pod carrying significantly more blue-coloured highlights than it seems to have anywhere else - along all four sides in fact. In respect to those pieces they appear to be a dark blue in photos but here are the same colour as the warp grilles and look unnervingly out of place. Even more annoying is that the front and back blue insets are out of line with the places they should sit into (and by a smidge). I suppose I can say that the eight pod clamps that line the sides of the cargo section are at least darker than the rest of it. 

Eaglemoss only managed the underside inset piece in metal this time. It's fully two-toned as with the upper hull with more detail and panelling to the front. We never got to see the underside in the episode so it's not that exciting except for the four plastic "clip-in" additional cargo containers that sit under the protruding pod/engine/wing structures. 

The sloping nose adds more detail to the front by book-ending the barely-there docking pot but in summary this is one model that I do feel missed its potential by some way - and that's saying something since it's not exactly one of the more intricate designs that Eaglemoss have had to deal with over the years.

Standing her, the grip slides firmly around the rear of the engine pods and holds the faux Delta Flyer firmly in place. I'm not too fussed though as I don't think this one's going to be displayed for long at all...!

Right - magazine's got to make up for some of the shortcomings here, yes? 

 Totally because it shows up all the points I've mentioned above and makes the model out to be a lot more interesting and visually appeasing than the physical block we have with issue 135.

Detailing the run-down nature of Dala's ship, the magazine refreshes us on the sixth season Life Fast and Prosper  and the events that led to the con-artists posing as the Voyager crew. There are some good photos in here for comparison to the model as well as the excellent (and still terribly labelled) plan views that scream out all of the missing or over-worked details on Dala's ship. 

Covering John Earls' work on the craft is very interesting and the notion that the ship was given life through the reuse of the Defiant's sets from Deep Space Nine influenced the outside as well as the internals. That makes sense when you look at the formation of the engine pods close to the main hull and the forward docking module that resembles (slightly) the Defiant's deflector.

Six pages of visual effects are discussed in relation to the penultimate year of Voyager covering Life Fast and Prosper as well as Tsunkatse, Virtuoso, Blink of an Eye  and Fury among others. These sections provide a good background into the making of the show and some of the more interesting challenges that came up during production.

So, an alright month in all for the collection with two smaller ships sharing the limelight from, once more, two ends of the Star Trek timeline. The Survey Ship is definitely the stronger entry this time and that CG work on Enterprise pays off once more. Dala's ship doesn't hit the mark for me and it's one of those that we could have gone without for another few years and not missed - and talking of that, next month we have the Keldon Class Cardassian ship from Defiant coupled with the Xindi-Humanoid ship from Enterprise's third season arc.

Additional note - much better packaging from Eaglemoss since the warehouse move and nice not to have boxes just strapped up and nearly falling apart - they're actually taped up!!!

What other Enterprise series ships do we need in the collection? Is the fake Delta Flyer up to the usual standard or not?

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