Monday, 6 January 2020

Les(s) Than Miserable: Val Jean Attack Wing Expansion Pack

Struck another bargain this month!

In a continuing search for some sort of completism, I've managed to pick up a Maquis Raider Val Jean expansion for a few quid (less than a fiver including postage!). Not a bad find and one I had looked at in order to build up a ragtag Independent fleet.

How I'll integrate it I'm not sure but at present I'm just planning on getting used to adding this one in and seeing how quickly I end up losing.

A rather compact little ship, this pack is themed off the back of Voyager's pilot Caretaker and I do see some possibilities of playing a scenario versus the Kazon to recreate that final battle which stranded Janeway and Chakotay's crews in the Delta Quadrant.

Anyhow, let's dive in with our usual first look at the model. Well....for effort it would get a solid eight out of ten just for the fact that the hull has some fantastic surface panelling and detailing but the paint scheme is a flippin' nightmare. 

The red highlights aren't really picking up any of the finer points of the Val Jean leaving it feeling a bit stale and half-finished. Honestly, there's some cracking surface mechanics coupled with a capable mould but the final touches do ruin this one and I'm left to begrudgingly like it. I do have a suspicion that in the near future it may get at least a dirt wash if not significantly more TLC.

So to the stats and this one's no heavyweight capital ship. Punching at featherweight levels with a two for attack and threes on defence, hull and shields, the Maquis Raider is one of those ships you're more likely to be using to dip in and out of the fight in support of your larger craft sticking in four or five dice attacks at minimum. 

That's not to say that she's without any teeth because the Val Jean is complete with the Scan, Target Lock, Battle Stations and Evade Actions plus two optional Crew and Weapon slots with a cost of 22 points. Don't underestimate her defensive capabilities either because the small raider can add up to three defence dice to its roll in the Combat Phase at the cost of up to three equipped Upgrades. She's not big on armament but there's a fair certainty this one will be in the fight to the end.

As to the fancy footwork and with a top speed of four, the Val Jean offers a full set of banks and turns at speeds two and three with banks and forward at speed one. Add in there a 180 spin at speed three and this one can be weaving in and out of larger ships all day long. If you want to take the generic version out for a run, you'll lose a shield point, the Unique Action and one of the Crew upgrades with a slight cost reduction down to 20 points.

So who's in the hot seat for this expansion? 

Taking a closer line to Caretaker than any other episode, the pack comes with (Maquis) Chakotay costing four points and a skill of six. Now, I've never really taken advantage of the characters where you can add additional upgrade slots because I've usually maxed out in other areas when squad building and here Chakotay provides one more Crew or Weapon for your craft. 

He also lets you perform a second maneuver from your dial with a speed of three or less at the cost of an Auxiliary Power Token. Again, this makes the raider very useful in skitting in and out of the way of your opponents since effectively you could perform a seven forward move to escape!

Lining up as your alternative pack commander is The Maquis two-parter's Calvin Hudson. Costing three and skilled to level five, Hudson does open the chance to add a Tech slot to your craft alongside a Crew or Weapon option as provided by Chakotay. For usefulness at helping max out your craft, Hudson, in my opinion is actually the better choice since he also reduces the cost of all your upgrades on the Independent ship he captains by a point - and thus makes the additional upgrade slot more tempting.

The Caretaker dominant theme runs off into the Crew cards too with all four being members of Chakotay's ensemble that joined Voyager.

Costing a high five points we have Seska in her Bajoran disguise and acting in a Support Services capacity. For such a high cost she also requires a fairly sizeable sacrifice of both herself and another upgrade card to target a ship within range three and stop it from attacking. Seska continues the "indestructible and annoying" theme of the Val Jean  keeping it alive and out of trouble for one more round.

B'Elanna Torres (four points) takes a more offensive stance for the ship, allowing the Val Jean to maximise its firepower at long distance. Your opponent gains an additional defence die at range three but with B'Elanna disabled you gain one attack die or TWO if the ship she's aboard has a hull value of three or less. That means the raider would gain the latter advantage and attack with four.

Classed as an Independent (but I reckon he could have been dual-faction), Tuvok (three points) adds more manoeuvrability to the Val Jean with a potential one move after you've attacked. He is disabled to make this happen, allowing for multiple uses and I can see this being most effective when coupled with Torres and Chakotay - lots of moves plus a big attack at long range that can't be returned.

Finally the two point Kenneth Dalby provides further regenerative abilities to be either disabled to repair a shield or a hull point or discarded to repair two hull or shield points. He's one more useful towards the later stages to ensure the longevity of the Raider - and I've experienced this when I played it out against Kazon opposition last week.

Two Weapon choices come with the pack to fill out the other two Upgrade slots on the Val Jean. The tried and tested Photon Torpedoes card for five points is the early wave variant with the card disabled to perform the five dice attack at ranges two or three. One Battle Station result can be converted to Critical Damage and it allows the ship to launch attacks from the rear as well as the primary forward facing weapons.

Ramming Attack is a bt more severe. Taking a lead from Chakotay's final action in command of his ship, you can discard the card and perform a speed one move forward. It's a card you need to be in a specific location to use since if the Raider is over the base of another craft it is destroyed and you get to roll six attack dice against which your enemy rolls three less defence dice than usual. Ramming Attack can only be used for smaller ships with hull values of three or less and, understandably you can't use it alongside the USS Enterprise's Cheat Death Elite Action. 

If you're still looking to fill slots, Chakotay has the Elite Action emblem which provides you with Be Creative or Evasive Pattern Omega if you're running pack pure. 

Be Creative certainly is that, letting you disable the card at any time (wow!) to then swap an Evade, Scan or Battle Stations token in play beside the ship with one of those three choices. A nice way to mislead your opponent or cleverly change strategy if something comes up you weren't expecting. For five points this might be a useful card to have ready...

Then finally we come to the three point Evasive Pattern Omega which is one of those annoyingly situational cards that can only be played when you are in the forward arc of another ship but it is not in yours. Definitely a chance to spin in a chance attack off the cuff , it's not labelled as an Action so this "freebie" can be played alone but only after everyone has moved, allowing you to work out the tactical advantage first!

Packed in with your upgrades, the Val Jean's mission is Escape which sees it navigating the Badlands plasma storms to evade an enemy craft. Ideally it's noted as a Galor Class Cardassian ship as per the opening minutes of Caretaker and on a twist, you have to keep touching at least one mission token in play and for the Maquis ship it needs to touch and therefore collect seven of these before leaving the play area. This means there are less for the Cardassian/Dominion ship to be able to touch on each move, leading to it gaining damage - which means it will need to eliminate the Val Jean before it's too late!

The Val Jean is surprisingly nimble and can really be maxed out even with just the Independent pack that you get with it, especially when linked in with the Calvin Hudson card to reduce costs and even open up a Tech slot if required. It's a real Fly in the Ointment ship, one that will be buzzing around and taking a point here, a shield there just to wear down the enemy fleet. I love the concept behind this and in reviewing it I've seen a lot more opportunities to utilise the pack to its full potential that I didn't explore in my first exploitative game with the pack.

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