Monday, 8 July 2019

Mod Squad: Attack Wing's Federation Fighters and Expansion Plus

As part of my continuing addiction to Attack Wing I've been hunting down a reasonably priced Federation Fighter Squadron for some time.

On a random visit to a gaming website I stumbled on a lone expansion pack that wasn't over £40 and was in the UK - essential purchase without question.

One of the earlier waves (11), the Federation Attack Fighters are some of the smallest playable pieces in the game. As usual they come with the standard Attack Wing plastic base and stats base card. The trio of fighters are perched on a little plastic split base and my word are they fragile - I've already had to reset one that came off the stand while I was taking some pics.

The detail on the Peregrine Class ships is admirable for the size of the craft but if you want to really appreciate them, get the Eaglemoss version. These do their job for the game and aren't too badly finiished, You can make out the form of the ships and some panelling and they're certainly better painted than the Enterprise-E was.

With the fighter wings - of which you can also purchase the Scorpion set for the Romulans and the Cardassian Hideki set for the Dominion - they are captainless and see their stats decrease as the battle wages giving them up to five "lives" if you will.

So let's look past the miniature miniatures and get into the numbers that matter. Fighter Squadron Six starts out with an attack role of six dice, zero in defence with one hull and one shield meaning that while they pack a punch out of the box they are extremely fragile. Cleverly each time you "destroy" the fighter wing the stats alter and the skill level decreases meaning the wing becomes less offensive, more defensive and also ends up moving earlier and firing later in the rounds. 

They can be loaded out with three of the unique Fighter upgrades which we'll take a look at shortly as well as boasting the ability to field the Evade and Target Lock Actions with a cost of 24 points.

Now I got these to run more Deep Space Nine scenarios alongside the station, USS Defiant and the IKS Rotarran among others and what makes them an even bigger draw is their effectiveness at range one. These are perfect for getting in close and dangerous with any attack on an enemy ship at that range that results in at least one hull damage incurs a second Damage point straight away. These would almost be worth hanging back until the larger ships have taken down any shields so they can make a final move for the kill.

They're also impressively manoeuvrable, having a top speed of only three but with a full range of turns and crucial 180 spins with no chance of a red in sight. These are tight movers with absolutely no restriction. Amazing.

In the box alongside the usual array of Shield Tokens and the rest we have eight Fighter upgrade cards; four costing three points and four each costing four points and offering a range of different offensive and defensive tactics to outwit your opponent.

Kicking off the three pointers, Defensive Maneuvers can be disabled if you are targeted and gives you the free ability to drop an Evade token next to the squadron whether you have one there or not. It offers the chance for heightened defence which these little gems don't have one point of and will at least increase your life for another round. 

Attack Formation allows you to set one die to your chosen result as long as you're within range one of a friendly ship and is disabled if activated. Again it's a card offering a straight advantage although I'm not sure if this is a benefit to be used early on to ensure crippling damage while you're still pumping out six attack dice or later when your power has been diminished.

Co-ordinated Attack works very similarly to Defensive Maneuvers although it works when you are picking a target and provides a free Battle Stations token even if there's one already in play for the Fighter Squadron. Once more this will be disabled (not Time Tokened although I don't see why you couldn't retro-fit that feature onto these cards) to function in the game and adds a greater chance to cause the required damage. Depending on your stats will definitely determine how this can be used. It guarantees something at least but its going to be down to severity!

Finally on the three pointers we have Tactical Pattern Theta which is, unusually, activated by a dice result rather than it affecting a dice result. Here a Critical Damage hit to an opponent's hull means that the Federation player can assign their opponent either the Weapons Malfunction or Munitions Failure card instead of it being a random result from the Damage Deck. Great for inflicting a serious blow to the enemy and this pushes me more to want to use these as a last wave rather than the first into the fight.

Slightly more costly is Cover Fire - one I would absolutely pack in at the beginning of the game given that it can be discarded to roll the number of defense dice equal to the current Primary Weapon value - certainly going to be a help early on to extend your lifetime on the board.

Attack Wave gets disabled adds an extra attack die to your attack for one round but the disable feature means it's quickly reusable. Squad Leader adds two points to your Captain Skill at the beginning of the Combat Phase and disables any Actions until you can work off the Auxiliary power Token it locks on. If that's not your way, this four point card has a second option in which you can perform the Action from a friendly ship's Captain at up to range two. Likely that you would be looking at someone costly to be utilised for this one. But check the wording - there's no disable, discard or Power Token penalty if you use this second one which means it's well worth four points. This is one you can use in a supporting role again and again and again very speedily.

Squad Leader adds two to your Captain Skill at the start of the Combat Phase meaning that, early on, you may well be firing first. Doing this will incur an Auxiliary Power Token but you can easily wear that off with a bank or straight on move at speeds one or two. Squad Leader can also (alternatively) be used to target a friendly ship at ranges one or two and perform its Captain's Action as a freebie - that's a big advantage and could mean something can be used twice in one round and potentially giving you an extra bit of an advantage.

Last up in this pack is Support Ship which gives you a free life. When the last token and stats are about to be removed this card is removed instead giving you one final last stand. Coupled with some of the ore defensive postures in here this will give you a bit more time to annoy the opposition.

Now we could just end the review of the pack there but we also have the recently released Fighter Squadron Expansion expansion pack. This offers a new set of eight Upgrades plus the chance to change your trio of ships to either Squadron One or Three, each with its own Unique Action.

Now it might be wise to convert the earlier Wave 11 pack over to Time Tokens since some of the new upgrades use this feature and it was brought in to replace the older way of disabling cards. 

As with Squadron Six, One and Three also cost a standard 24 points with the same three Fighter upgrade slots plus the Evade and Target Lock Actions available.  Squadron One has it's action Time Tokened when a discarded Fighter Upgrade is reequipped - so think about this being coupled with Support Ship for instance - could it mean you'll never get eliminated?

Squadron Three has two Time Tokens set in play to perform a Sensor Echo move of Speed One as a Free Action adding another dimension of manoeuvrability to the group of fighters.

For note the generic versions of the squadrons minus their Unique Actions  also lose one Fighter Upgrade slot, have four lives and cost only 20 points.

Now to the upgrades themselves. Rocking in at a rather low cost of one point is Defensive Maneuver Alpha. There are eight words on the card denoting that this squadron blocks attacks on friendly ships - but how? What damage does it take? Where does it need to be? This has to be the most vague card produced for the game in its history - also how many times can it be used? Do you need to disable it? Discard it.........?

Defensive Maneuver Beta is somewhat sacrificial and also will mean that there is a bit of rule interpretation in play. Costing two points and active at just range one you can remove two Attack Squadron Tokens (two lives) to eliminate two Damage results from an attack on a Capital Ship. Now for reference that's any ship with a hull value greater than four. Luckily it's a single use so you can't keep chucking your fighters under the bus for the sake of that Sovereign Class starship.

Also at two points is Flanking Maneuver Delta. A little more complicated it's a two stage activation. Once you've performed a right ot left banking turn you drop on an Auxiliary Power Token and then immediately turn your ships 180 degrees. This actually a rather wonderful move to misstep the opposition and put yourself into a potentially better tactical position. It's a single use discard but I think this could really alter the tide of the fight.

Moving to the three point card quartet, Defensive Maneuvers gives the chance to drop on an Evade token just as you're lined up to be shot at even if you already have one in play. With the fighters you can't have enough defence and this is one that will only be disabled (interesting that this isn't Time Tokened) and so can be reused regularly to keep you in the game.

Leading the three point cards we have Anti-Squadron Barrage. This one is only useful if your opponent is also fielding an Attack Squadron and lets you perform one attack for every two squadron tokens (rounded down) that are still on the ship card. It's a niche move and very useful for one situation only. Defensive Maneuver Theta operates at range one and costs three points too. Discarding this one lets you activate an Evade token besides all ships at close range - good free action for other ships and demonstrates that these are potentially support ships which I would utilise when their lives start to wain.

Third up for the three pointers is Flanking Maneuver Epsilon. Using the Time Token feature of the game, this card lets you perform a Sensor Echo move (speed one) and step out of the way of trouble or into the path of attack. Now it does specify this is after the squadron has moved so it's not one you can hold back to the end of the movement section of the round.

Flanking Attack Omega works at range one and has the higher four point price tag. The benefit here falls to a Capital Ship at range one (four hull points or greater) which can then roll an additional three attack dice. It's a hefty cost considering that the Attack Squadron cannot attack. For five points though you can equip Lead Squadron. 

This one is worth the cost as it activates not one, not two but three features - an additional Squadron upgrade slot, it also adds the Battle Station Action to the expansion and ups the Captain Skill by a further two points. I'd say that this is a crucial card to play with the squadron because of the advantages especially for a more than reasonable five points.

I think the Fighter Squadrons - whichever you choose - are a cool twist on the basics of the game, removing a lot of card variables and limiting their usage. Looking through there are a lot of big positives to utilise the squad since you can extend their life and influence their combat specs significantly. Shame I had to wait a couple of years for this but one that I'm glad has received other options recently and is definitely a first assault weapon, drawing the fire off your larger capital ships. Dropping these in first will weaken an enemy leaving them open to the final strike - but I'd use them early since there's a series of big drops on stats over the course of their lives.

Have you added the Fighter Squadron to your fleet? What are the best combos to use? Let us know in the comments below!

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