Sunday, 8 September 2019

Can't Keep Her Down: Attack Wing's USS Equinox

Once the toast of many a Federation fleet, the USS Equinox expansion for Attack Wing isn’t getting as much love these days.

Launched as part of Wave Three (there are now 31 plus a ton of card expansions, unpainted miniatures, faction packs...), you can see how subsequent ships and sets will have built on the learnings from these early phases to advance Attack Wing over the years.

As someone who came to the game midway through the launch of the expansion waves (15) I missed out on some of the earlier ones and I am now finally tracking down a few that were on my hit list.

It's definitely been a gruelling challenge to do so with the early ships now scarce and prices for them proving to be near what it would cost to build the real thing. Lucky there was an Equinox going for original retail price at the end of a long search!

As it goes, the model for this starship - originally seen in Voyager's fifth and sixth season cliffhanger - is one of the best especially when you consider the quality that the game was launched with. The light blue hull colouring sets off the contrast against the well-detailed sensor emplacements, phaser strips and lifeboat hatches to a point where you wonder how the hell the game fell off such a cliff face when it came to the quality of its products at some times in the game's lifespan.

Even the warp engines have some sensational colouring when it comes to the bussard collections and warp grilles, even down to the Starfleet pennants streaking across the top of the nacelles. It's a lovely little piece of work from all angles and Wizkids have done a stunning job of translating the original into such a small piece of plastic. My god, they even included the RCS thrusters and painted in the impulse engine...take note Eaglemoss...take note.

That said, her stats are a tad on the underwhelming side, meaning you can add this ship into your fleet for a measly 20 point cost. This named Nova Class vessel attacks with two dice, defends with two and has three shield and hull points. The Action bar carries the standard Federation setup of Evade, Target Lock, Battle Stations and Scan plus slots to include up to two Crew, one Tech and one Weapon upgrade. 

What is great about the Equinox is its Unique Action and you can see here why she was so popular "back in the day". By disabling an Active Shield in the End Phase you can repair all of your damaged shields thus keeping her in the game for a fair while. 

The generic version drops one of the Shield points as well as a Crew upgrade to cost 18 points and loses that key Unique Action which turns it straight into cannon fodder for a decently powered mid-20 pointer or above. Nor is the Equinox the speediest of starships. As a science vessel her pace wouldn't have been required so she'll push a forward four tops with full sets of bank and hard turns at speeds two and three. The three speed hard turns as well as the one speed reverse will incur the pains of an auxiliary power token but that can be eliminated by subsequently playing a forward two or a one forward or bank as all four are green. Certainly the range of movements is good to help stay out of trouble but if she's in the thick of it then there's probably no quick way out. 

Rudolph Ransom heads up the Captain selection for the Equinox with a skill set of four and a cost of two. We know that Ransom wasn't a military commander and Janeway explains he was a scientist and it's fairly reflected in his ability. It also comes across in his own Action. Ransom will add two defence dice to your roll if there's an Evade in play which would mean this ship could defend with four dice. Effectively with Ransom and the Unique Action in play you could be going longer than the Duracell Bunny.

Maxwell Burke, Ransom's exec is the second named Captain and costs one point. His skill is equally low at just two and Burke is a polar opposite to his captain allowing you to discard him to add in two attack dice for the round. Question is, if you discard him...who's in command?

USS Equinox comes with three Crew choices as per the named officers in the TV story - Noah Lessing, Marla Gilmore and the Emergency Medical Hologram. 

All three cost two points so this is a very inexpensive set of upgrades right out of the box. Lessing can be disabled alongside a Tech upgrade to target a ship in range one or two and then deactivate a Shield. Reactivating will take up an Action in a subsequent turn while guaranteeing a "hit". Does seem a lot of resources to use to complete so not one for me I'm afraid. 

Gilmore is a little more complex. Her Action allows you to disable all your shields and target a ship within ranges one or two with no active shields. Again it requires both this card and a Tech upgrade to be disabled but this time the latter is on the opponent's craft. The brilliant twist is not only do you stop that card being used by the enemy ship but it can then be used as a Free Action by your ship that round. For two points this is a solid winner of a card that can keep on giving since it's only disabled. It's quite conditional and I would expect this to used fairly late in the game to close out a big hitting ship.

The EMH card however might well come in handy with your Navigational Deflector as that has an option to be disabled and not just discarded. 

Navigational Deflector (five point cost) is another of the big wins for the Equinox and adds to its legacy as one hell of a hard ship to eliminate since you can discard this card to cancel out a Damage result. If the damage is caused by a minefield or an obstacle then it can be disabled (this is where the EMH could be used) so you can roll in defence against this attack. Combining with the EMH or with Lessing will open up your options with the Equinox and extend it's lifetime even more . I wouldn't be shocked if it might be the last survivor in many cases!

Last upgrade is the ever present Photon Torpedoes (five point cost) and being from the earlier waves you still need to spend a Target Lock and also disable the card to perform the attack.  You get to convert a Battlestation over to a Critical Damage and point it, as usual, either fore or aft. It will up an Equinox offensive up to five dice from the standard two plus it works at ranges two and three. 

The included mission, Under Attack takes its lead from the Equinox two-parter with the inclusion of the neucleogenic lifeforms Ransom and his crew were experimenting on. It does evolve into a 40 point versus 40 point battle however each round both ships will lose either a Crew upgrade or suffer a damage point. This will certainly even the odds and determine the ultimate length of this fight. It's a basic ship to ship combat mission although there's the risk that it might not be your opponent that takes you out first but the lifeforms you have been testing...

USS Equinox is an "oldie" but a goodie. One of the more defensive packs on the market, the starship is nimble, small and regenerative. No big weapon options aside from the Photon Torpedoes card but that's not necessarily the way to win the game. The Nova Class here shows the chance to spin your tactics to play a long game and wear your opponent down, possibly from behind the lines and your larger ships. I've been using her in conjunction with the Enterprise-E and the Defiant mainly supporting the larger Sovereign Class and her apparent lack of threat seems to work a dream against the Klingons - at least so far!

USS Equinox might be available somewhere but I'd take a good look around first - prices certainly vary!!!

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Thursday, 5 September 2019

Deep Space Nine: Gamma: Original Sin

I'm over a year out of date with book reviews but I've now settled into getting some time to catch up on the events of the literary universe.

Original Sin was released back at the beginning of 2018 and due to circumstances I just never got round to it which in turn has led to me delaying reading Section 31: Control and The Next Generation's Hearts and Minds.

However, let's focus on the topic at hand. Original Sin marks the first foray (and maybe the last given where the franchise is heading....) into the deep space mission of the Galaxy Class USS Robinson under the command of Captain Benjamin Sisko. Seeking out new life and new civilisations on the other side of the Bajoran wormhole, the former station commander has his wife and young daughter in tow as well as an assembly of new characters to man the stations of the starship.

Writer David R George III (one of my favourites) has a huge blank canvas here since no writer has stepped out of the Alpha Quadrant into the wild unknowns of the deeper Gamma Quadrant. We pick up with the Robinson three months into her voyage of discovery on the other side of the wormhole and as you would expect it's all about to go far less than swimmingly.

Encountering null space and a race of creatures who steal the Robinson's children including young Rebecca Sisko (the "Avatar" to Ben's Emissary), therein lies a complex rescue operation which is interwoven with a flashback to a time on Bajor when Rebecca was abducted once before by an individual obsessed with her relationship to the Prophets.

The great thing with Original Sin is that with very little knowledge of the previous novels from Simon and Schuster you can dive right in and there's no concern that you need to catch up on the rather intensive 20 year back catalogue. It's very much a standalone at this point but with the clear indication that this could be the stepping point into a new series of adventures for Ben Sisko and his crew in the Gamma Quadrant. 

It's capably written and certainly accessible but yet I still found that I was wanting more from this one and that's unusual for a David R George III novel after reading quite a fair chunk of them in recent years. I've always felt inspired and wanting more when reading them but with Original Sin I was left a little unfulfilled. In a sense this feels like the start of something new and almost the foundations for some major universe building however there's not been any news of a follow up since it was released or where the direction for Deep Space Nine: Gamma could well be headed. 

For me David R George III is a master of the bigger picture and the galactic events that have been shaping the Federation - The Fall, Sacraments of Fire and Ascendance have all marked key points within the overall arc of the literary Star Trek universe and this just doesn't seem to meld into any of that. Even Allegiance in Exile for The Original Series tied in with the greater legacy of the franchise but here that sense of inclusion is distinctly absent.

Original Sin is out on its own. For the Robinson that's very true as they begin this monumental voyage but for the author there's not a lot to ground himself with and it kind of shows in the resulting material. Ben and Kasidy of course receive a good amount of text here and that has to, in some degree, be accredited to their presence on screen during Deep Space Nine and as such they are the most realistic characters in the story. Other members of the Robinson entourage do come and go perhaps almost as much as the runabouts they use on the rescue missions but they do tend to be less than memorable by the close of play.

The story itself is very ably paced, flipping from the present to the past and paralleling the two kidnappings as they occur(ed) yet there is very little else to the plot, no deeper story, no "B" to the "A" and without more to the character I just found Original Sin a little pedestrian and a novel that's taken me an age to read. It's OK but that's it and I'd easily place it as my least enjoyed David R George III Star Trek novel. There's no background to get stuck into, no mythology for the author to revel in and draw his audience into which is something I love about his books in the past. Let's just keep our fingers crossed that George III gets a quick return trip to the Alpha Quadrant...

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Gamma: Original Sin is available now from Simon and Schuster priced £7.99

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Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Pack Mentality: DS9 Fluxx

An avid fan of the first two versions of the game, it was a no-brainer to get hold of Deep Space Nine Fluxx when it landed in the UK.

First of all let's refresh. Fluxx is a game whereby you are aiming to complete a Goal first. Simple? Nope; because as you play the rules change. You might have to draw four cards and play three, have the rules reset, be able to steal another player's Keeper (cards you collect to complete the Goal), play one card and draw five, be able to dispose of a set number of cards, have a free Action to play each round... the options go on and on and even better is that every time you play the game will turn out differently.

Looney Labs have already released The Original Series and The Next Generation packs plus the stroke of genius which was the Bridge Pack Expansion and you can read about those elsewhere. For now we're focusing purely on the latest version to arrive.

At the core it's very, very similar in style to the other two packs. The artwork on the cards is fantastic, offering unique perspectives on the full crew (minus Ezri Dax most notably) as well as the array of guest characters, nemeses, starships and of course the station itself. The goals play out the same as before however there are two big differences.

First of all we have Equipment and Starfleet Personnel with an additional category - Visitors - which encompasses a lot of the guest cast including Rom, Nog, Morn, Dukat and Garak plus some others. There are a few of the pink-edged Goal cards which need a larger combination of said Visitors or Equipment which can lead to a more lengthy game as you struggle to find that last one in the pack. 

The other big change is the removal of the Ungoal card. While the two earlier sets had a way to "Unwin" the game by comboing the Enterprise with either the Doomsday Machine or the Borg Cube dependent on what was in play, had been played and was on the table, Deep Space Nine Fluxx has totally removed this element leaving only a win as the method to bring about the end of the game.

You do notice with this that a lot of the characters bear identical features to their Original Series or The Next Generation counterparts leading to a sense of disappointment that there wasn't more variety introduced. In each edition all the captains allow you to steal another Player's Keeper however there are some new twists - speaking during your turn will lose you the Morn card to another player for example. Also new specifically for this box and previously only included in the Bridge Expansion Pack is the Meta-Mission card allowing you to discard four Goal cards during your turn to take a new four from the deck. Trust me when I say that this comes in very handy when you’re drawing five cards and playing only one.

Deep Space Nine Fluxx is the one I would turn to now if I wanted a quicker game since I generally leave the other two packs mixed with the Bridge Expansion. As a big fan of the series it's cool to see a lot of the aspects honoured here - not just characters but the Orbs, the wormhole, even latinum gets a look in so you can be sure that the topic is something the game creators are very familiar with.

If you've played Fluxx before and are happy with the previous two Star Trek versions this might not be a necessity purchase as it plays the same as the others. If there's a Voyager set in the future or perhaps a second Bridge Expansion to being it more into the bigger Star Trek Fluxx circle then I'd count it as an essential.

Well presented, great fun and easy to dip in and out of - definitely one for the bag at Destination Star Trek - see you there for a game!

You can check out our (updated) review of The Original Series and The Next Generation Fluxx (and Bridge ExpansionHERE!

Which pack or way to play are you preferring? Would you want a new expansion to draw all three packs together? What about a Voyager or Discovery set?

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