Saturday 8 June 2024

Set a Course...For Home: Lost in the Delta Quadrant

With the arrival of the Delta Quadrant's Adversaries there had to be a pack designed to take them on.

Lost in the Delta Quadrant provides just those ingredients. New versions of USS Voyager, USS Equinox, Delta Flyer  and a brand new Raven. The latter is the first time this ship has been available in the main catalogue believe it or not!

What we didn't mention in the review for Adversaries... was that a lot of the cards included with both of these expansions do effectively retire a chunk of older Attack Wing content. The costs of cards have dropped, the new features make these a lot more appealing to select and being in a set means there's some form of theme running through the options.

Unusually here there are two Voyager card options as well as USS Nova and the Delta Flyer II but let's not get bogged down in the names because there's a lot packed into this set that needs unpicking.

Aside from the cost changes which make Voyager an extremely appealing ship choice, the range of captains is certainly an eye opener with most of them also having the ability to double up as crew. Chakotay - in much the same way as with Turanj in the Adversaries... pack can be flipped to take command if the captain is lost. Big bonus there which keeps your ship with some form of command skill if things do go a bit pear shaped.

But the biggest newcomers here are the Lower Decks and Night Shift cards in terms of crew and the revamping of craft with a hull value of two or less becoming Auxiliary Ships. These ships can only be part of a fleet if there is at least one ship in the party that has a hull value of four or more.

But yes, Lower Decks and Night Shift. The former means that two cards bearing that text can take up a single Crew slot on your ship roster as long as they are from the same faction. With Night Shift, the text on the card listed under that heading is in play when your opponent has the Initiative Token. There are six of the Lower Decks cards in this pack offering the chance to disable opponent upgrades, take Time Tokens when another upgrade would be hit and even providing Free Actions. Night Shift seems to be limited to two cards in the form of Harry Kim as a Captain and the Elite Action, Coffee, Black.

Personal thoughts on both of these new abilities is that it does provide the Federation faction with even more advantages with no hint that these new inclusions will be available for other factions in the future.  It also seems these new features have really split the fanbase for the game with several notes that it's changed the dynamics completely. I guess sometimes you do need to stir things up and hey, it's not as if you HAVE to use these new packs or their additional spins. My thoughts would be to run this and the Adversaries pack as a campaign combo using the Delta Quadrant missions included. Then the new rules are kept enclosed to these ships. IF Wizkids do produce some more sets and further the Lower Decks and Night Shift rules into those then all the better.

If new players are coming to the game with just a starter set and these packs then it's an even better deal to keep the game alive but that's just my own thoughts right now.

Some of the other cards in here are well worth a punt too. Seven of Nine allows use of the singular Borg upgrade buried in the set. The XO, pilot and CMO from Caretaker are all discards (well played once again, Wizkids). You can upgrade your ships defences with Ablative Armour, add weapons in the form of Transphasic or Gravametric Torpedoes. Changing speed can be made through Variable Geometry Pylons.  The Nova Class can benefit from Rechargeable Shield Emitters and even the Delta Flyer can pop some added Photonic Missiles.

The Raven does seem under represented here with nothing "anti-Borg" or able to slip past the odd Cube. Perhaps a missed opportunity not to double-side Magnus Hansen as a Borg drone? Nor are there any references to the creatures the Equinox used to speed up their voyage home. Erin Hansen interestingly can only be equipped to the Raven - which I also feel should apply to her husband!

Another point is that the symbol for the Luna Class turns up AGAIN on the Bio-Neural Circuitry card... surely this has to be a sign that the Titan is on the way? Otherwise, frankly what's the point.

Thursday 4 April 2024

Adversaries of the Delta Quadrant: Attack Wing Launches into 2024

Three new expansions line up for March and we'll be looking at each one in turn, starting with a new Independent pack that takes fans back to the adventures of one USS Voyager.

Cleverly utilising four already existing Attack Wing models, Wizkids have certainly packed out this release to the max with a storming 52 playable cards, six ship options and a campaign book (make sure you check under the box tray!).

The ship options comprise of the Alpha Hunter and Relic Stalker for the Hirogen, the Fina Prime and Honatta Prime for the Vidiians, the Antares Shadow Numiri patrol ship and the Nasari Nerada

The Hirogen, Vidiian and Numiri ships are pretty evenly matched in terms of their basic stats although the Antares Shadow does suffer from not having the Scan ability.  Previously seen in the game as the Bajoran troopship, it's features here in the Delta Quadrant make it significantly more playable especially with the chance to pick off weaker targets with added firepower. The Nasari ship... well, that's a Romulan Science Vessel backwards - just as it was in the show!

But each has its own twists. The Alpha Hunter can Sensor Echo after every move, the Relic Stalker can gain a Battlestations if it's in range of an enemy ship after moving. For once it feels as though the adversaries might have a better and more productive run with some genuinely effective Actions.

Even the significantly lower scored Nerada can kick back if it gets up close to an opponent. 

As for captains, the pack takes its lead from right across the spectrum of Voyager's journey. Alongside those expected faces of the Hirogen and Vidiians are Iden from Flesh and Blood, Dala from Live fast and Prosper and the Vaadwaur Gaul from Dragon's Teeth. Iden, the Bajoran hologram, is the highest priced here at a full 10 points for a skill of 10 although his cost reduces if you equip other "?" upgrades to his ship. The downside is that he's only really effective against other Independent ships or ones with "?" upgrades onboard. A personal favourite in here has to be the new version of Karr that sees the Hirogen built to pick off weaker captains as well as being able to re-roll dice on attacks. 

But where I really feel this pack excels is in its choice of subject matter and then into the abilities. Choosing to dive into the holographic crew from Flesh and Blood was a bold move but with the chance to use them as either Crew OR Tech upgrades it opens up the dynamics of your ships. Just playing about with these cards I initially thought of using the Relic Stalker but then contemplated switching it out for the Antares Shadow. Why? Because by using the hologram crew upgrades Iden became cheaper to attach as a captain.

But dig even further into the cards and there are some new and intriguing features plugged in to add a new layer to Attack Wing. Faux Janeway aka Dala utilises a new Reputation Permanent Effect which (if I read the rather convoluted phrasing correctly) makes any game effects hit it as though it's on the enemy fleet ie the ones who gave it the token. I'll have to play around with this a bit more to totally understand it in play.

Kurros also has one of these nifty new abilities. He can place a Bounty Permanent Effect on an opponent allowing the theft of a unique Crew upgrade. For the rest of the game attacks at the BPE ship gain an additional damage point if a blank or Battle Stations is rolled. 

These two new inclusions do turn up the heat a bit with more peril for players encountering them and maybe even a faster ways to a defeat. Interestingly enough, this pack looks more to causing operational restrictions on an opponent than physical points damage. Check out the Vidiians for one as they are all about disabling Crew while the Tech cards tend to lean more towards repair and consolidation of your fleet. It's certainly a different dynamic to play with instead of just a continuous pummelling of weapons fire. 

The adversaries do play to their character traits in that sense  so the Hirogen do still cater for pure assault while there are more "intelligent" ways to battle and demoralise your enemy. Take away their upgrades, reduce them to a shell and then move in for the final kill or in some respects, let them do it to themselves!

Also in the box players will find the new Delta Quadrant Campaign. Duplicated in the Lost in the Delta Quadrant set, this new series of missions offers a host of scenarios to recreate Voyager's journey home. Ok, you could do this with any ship and any auxiliary craft but let's be honest, most players are going to want to follow it with Voyager and the Delta Flyer. Having the chance to complete each mission and reset does mean you're not trying to keep track of progress too much (well played Wizkids for the series nods in the booklet). It also makes players want to try as the Delta Master since this pack is a lot of fun with new things to try and a campaign that caters for both sides almost equally.

Would I consider playing out a Delta Quadrant fleet? After this pack, the answer is a resounding YES.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

USS Cerritos Crew Handbook

No secret, I love Lower Decks so after a recent acquisition of the Beckett Mariner Funko Pop, the Crew Handbook was always going to be on the list.

Taking a more light hearted look into the Star Trek universe, this is the ultimate guide to the USS Cerritos rather than as a series companion. With the overview of a guide for new Lower Deckers, readers are taken through every crucial area of the ship, introduced to the crew and given notes on potential foes and allies from across the Alpha, Beta and Delta Quadrants.

Realised in print by Chris Farnell, the book is a weighty 175pages in paperback and you want to keep on turning them.

The text itself isn't a trawl to read and instead the necessities of the Cerritos are broken down into more manageable chunks coupled with the stunning animation from the show itself. It's also incredibly current with the lieutenant ranks of Boimler, Mariner, Tendi and Rutherford in place. 

But what adds to this perhaps in a different way to the more "serious" technical manuals and other reference works is the asides (proof reader notes in-universe) from the crew. Adding a level of character to the handbook and keeping in line with the personalities of those characters at the same time!

Lower Decks has always been a little more sartorial when it comes to the Star Trek universe and the handbook is no exception. It doesn't take itself too seriously and the balance of information and humour means that this is accessible to fans of all knowledge levels and interest. A highlight for you ship connoisseurs is a potted history of the Cerritos' namesake which you may or may not take with a pinch of salt and in a way helps put a little substance into the series backstory.

In fact that's one of the big wins for me here. While there's a lot of suggestion and intimation it still leaves fans without 100% clarity and allows your imagination to fill in some of the blanks. Bits you might be able to join the dots thanks to episodes (certainly An Embarrassment of Dooplers) but in other instances it leaves a good amount of room for future developments. However, according to the author, the wonderfully UK-based Chris Farnell, the matter surrounding Admiral Jellico's circulatory system IS canon. Period. Fight him.

But that's not to say that the book ignores the canon of the show's episodes so far. Readers get nods to all types of stripy tricorder, the best holodeck programmes to run and even a Strange New Worlds homage with Cerritos bingo which might be a tad more extreme and expectedly curveball. 

Indeed, Farnell might have been given the reins to do as he wished with the handbook but he's absolutely kept it under control and well within Star Trek specifications especially since it still had to get the seal of approval from The Top Man Mike McMahan before printing (as Chris noted to me during a brief chat!).

If you're expecting a detailed technical piece of literary wizardry a la the TNG Technical Manual then this isn't the book however if you are looking for something that acts as a side guide and extremely entertaining companion to Lower Decks then this will definitely hit the spot.

Monday 25 March 2024

The Autobiography of Benjamin Sisko

Producing an autobiography of a character who has transcended the physical plane has to be one of the most difficult assignments to come from this book series.

Edited (wink wink) by Derek Tyler Attico, the story of Benjamin Lafayette Sisko is the one that I’ve been personally waiting for since the books first appeared. 

So how does one circumvent the obvious flaw that Sisko ‘can’t’ write this book? Well I won’t ruin that little twist but suffice to say it makes this volume extremely unique when it comes to how these have been written to date.

And if you’re wanting this to be a detailed first person account of Deep Space Nine, be prepared for a wait and also for it not to take up that much of the book. This really does go right back to the start of Sisko’s life. This autobiography provides a deep dive into three generations  of the Sisko line packed into the hotel/restaurant/home that exists in New Orleans. There’s even time to offer glimpses at older history emphasising the importance of family bonds that exist not just in that structure but also down the years in Ben’s Starfleet journey. 

Covering everything from Sisko's childhood, coupled with it's distinct lack of technology, Attico's work follows a path from adventurous and highly inquisitive youth through to maturing teen and into Starfleet officer. The journey feels natural and the level of detail not only traces its roots back into episodes of Deep Space Nine but into a deeper cultural exploration that hasn't been as apparent in other works from this ongoing series.

Attico's research into Sisko is certainly extensive but it doesn't suffocate the story. Rather than relying on just the material we've been drip fed through 176 episodes of the show, the reader can explore Ben's first encounter with a transporter or a tricorder with the same sense of wonder that the character himself does. 

But that feeling of family and personal bonds is always present. There is loss, not only of his wife at the battle of Wolf 359 but earlier in respects to grandparents and his mother as well as more complex relationships with his sister and younger twin brothers. 

Indeed, a good three quarters of the autobiography is filled with events that viewers and fans of the show will not have seen or were just hat-tipped such as Cal Hudson meeting his future wife or the way in which Sisko became Captain (later Admiral) Layton's first officer on the USS Okinawa

The clarity of events pre-DS9 is just staggering; the construction of the Defiant for instance brings both Leah Brahms and Cmdr Shelby into play while Attico has brilliantly woven in the single episode character of Tryla Scott (TNG's Conspiracy) both logically and seamlessly.  This feels like the true defining of the Ben Sisko character that, for a good part of DS9 was actually avoided although perhaps not consciously. 

Yes, there were nods to his sister, visits to the Sisko restaurant and the occasional appearance of Brock Peters' Joseph Sisko but for the most part Atttico has had a clean slate/ sandbox to play in and explore. Opinion; he's done it with aplomb and style. There's still enough legroom in here for future canon events to sneak into the narrative but this does show the development of the person before he was the Emissary and commander of Deep Space Nine. In the cases of both Janeway and Picard we've been privy to key events from earlier in their lives whether by visions of parents or Q interventions but Sisko avoided all of that bar two moments in Emissary that added meat to his back story.

DS9ers will adore this book which not only explores Sisko's backstory but actually utilises soome (I'm reliably informed) of Derek Tyler Attico's own personal history and experiences to flesh out Starfleet's finest captain (fight me on it!).

Saturday 10 February 2024

Scotty’s Gaming Physics

The Chief Engineer of the USS Enterprise is famous for uttering the line "You canna change the laws of physics" but you can change the rules of the game.

As we've already seen in the new Kirk Expansion Pack for Gale Force Nine's Away Missions, a new Beam Away feature has been introduced which can either be the greatest of gifts or a move that ends up with one less person on your crew.

Scotty also brings something different to the mix but first let's dive into the characters themselves and see what new dimensions this quartet add.

As the Commander in this set you would assume Scotty would pack the best Attack, Defence and Skill stats but that's not the case. He does have a triple advantage when it comes to his Engineering trait and with that heightened chance of success he could potentially add a Bonus Action to your team. That's a lot of firsts in one character so loading up your card deck will be a major skill in itself to take full advantage.

Hikaru Sulu actually boasts the best basic stats in the team with three dice available for Attack and Defence. While he's still limited to stun, he does provide a re-roll to both himself and his opponent. Sulu also has a double Security trait again super useful for those skill tests and, more interesting is his ability to roll four Attack dice if you happen to have equipped him with an antique weapon - and yes, it's a definite homage to The Naked Time. That said, it means that choosing the Rapier for melee means he's got an advantage from a distance or close up.

Uhura might not have the highest Attack ability but her double rolling Communications trait and chance to reroll on Operations terminal tests will provide a twist as long as you've packed the right objectives from the set. Probably a character you'll need to keep under guard which is where the traitless Mr Leslie comes into play. indeed, that's precisely what his character is designed for, rolling more dice if you're backing up another team member and I can't see why this would ever NOT be Uhura.  Ironically (or probably more likely by full intention, Mr Leslie is the perfect redshirt although that does mean this set is oddly lacking in any medical backup. Given the higher abilities of his colleagues, Leslie does add a sense of balance to the group however Trek fans will probably be wondering where Nurse Chapel has gone. In fact on a check of the deck there's only ONE card which will help restore any damage this team receives so deck build wisely!

But what of the rest of the pack? Well, there's lots to look at. There's more Beam Away tokens as we saw with Kirk (use that under advisement!!!) plus a rather cool little Tribble feature. Those fluffy annoyances can help players score more points if they've been deployed and started to spread but there are ways to remove them! Reading more into this, the Scotty team is ideal to deploy if you're up against a Klingon opponent as the Tribbles can give you some dice rolling advantages when coupled with the Beam Away feature. Again, it's worth digging into your cards to work out the best combination of Support/Mission to select. 

Out of the box there's that genius idea of a starter deck to get yourself acclimatised with the dynamics before mixing it up with the additional cards. In relation to the features of the set there are definitely a few sets of cards that players will want to have shuffled into the 20 cards available in each stack and there's absolutely room for customisation. However, I've yet to start mixing cards from each of the packs since they do seem tailored to each group straight out of the wrapper.

This pack also boasts a lot of cards with additional points bonuses as well as a hefty one if you're into stealing cloaking devices or Doomsday Machines. In these instances managing to complete other missions will greatly increase your tally but make sure you do them in the right order to make the most of it. A lot of the cards are similar to already released packs, relying on team members completing skill challenges at particular terminals with more emphasis on their innate abilities and higher scoring traits. Of the two new Original Series packs this is my go-to thanks to the Tribbles and also thanks to the interesting mix of characters on the team. It's fairly balanced  when you look at it person to person rather than being an average spread of stats across all four. That may well direct your play to pair them off and back each other up in a way that's not really been evident with Picard or Riker's Federation squads.

There's also a nice "easy" goal as a Core Mission in which players can gain ten points for simply keeping characters in play - that's a potential 40 points for keeping out of danger so make sure Leslie knows!

The Commander Scotty Federation Expansion is now available to pre-order from your Away Missions stockist!

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Friday 9 February 2024

Kirk Goes Away

With Christmas out of the way, your gaming fund is absolutely -

Hold that thought because for fans of Gale Force Nine's Away Missions, there's a new pair of expansions about to drop that will no doubt catch your attention.

For the first time stepping outside of The Next Generation's timeframe, Away Missions brings in The Original Series crew across two fabulous sets.

Assembled on the transporter pad for the first beam out are Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Chekov.

Now this could be classed as the more "run of the mill" Federation pack but there's a new feature on the cards that will certainly mix things up... and did in my first trial of the set.

The figures are great. I know there's a very mixed bag of opinions out there around their styling but I think it really works and given their size the detail is pretty damn fine even down to the correct rank braiding on the shirt cuffs and dials on the teeny phasers. Some of the paint jobs we've seen on the previous sets are just phenomenal and I wish I had half the talent on display. Look forward to seeing these in all their glory!

So to the pack; Kirk is an oddly average team leader on first glance but the chance to pick up some easy points on skills challenges thanks to that Command trait helps a lot. So too does his ability to re-roll an additional die in attack, skill and defence. Plus he integrates a lovely close combat attack adding two dice to his assault. At cover value not so good but once you can get him into tight situations Kirk comes into his own.

Spock is the go-to for skills challenges whether or not he has the trait since he rocks an impressive three dice out of the box. His nerve pinch is also a close quarters winner but will stun rather than kill. It's an advantage over his phaser, emphasising this pack as one that will need players to be prepared to get right up to their opponents for maximum effect.

McCoy's healing abilities are useful but rely on you again being close to another character (namely your own!) to regain some health. One note here is that McCoy is a big advantage in terms of the health regain over the Scotty pack which we'll come back to in that article.

Crouching Chekov adds the muscle to the pack needs players to ditch Support Cards in order to take advantage of the re-roll Kirk gets for being Kirk. It's actually pretty balanced as a quartet with each character providing a different weight to the away team and potentially leading players to customise their cards to play to the higher stats of each one. That said, the fact that you're shuffling before dealing out five Support/Mission cards doesn't guarantee you'll be getting the right mix off the bat so think about packing in some easy wins just in case your combinations don't come to pass.

All are able to make a move of four spaces to get around the board and that makes using turbolifts a lot easier in this gamer's opinion. They did come in useful to bounce around the boards and complete a few goals in round two.

Packed into the box to help boost the abilities of the team we have additional bonus point tokens as well as counters for the new Beam Away move and Mind Meld.

Taking your character out of play as part of a Mission Card direction, your character then only completes the directions on the card when you come to activate your following character. In the first run through I got to use this move twice and both failed spectacularly resulting in both Kirk and Spock being Neutralised during the second of the three rounds. Good luck to McCoy and Chekov for round three.

In the box players also receive a new deck of cards. What I think is a fantastic idea here is that for the initial few run throughs there is a set 20 Mission and 20 Support card deck pre-built before adding in another set to customise your loadouts. This stops any horrible surprises but also means players can get to grips with that new Beam Away dynamic that can get your characters out of a sticky situation. For example, I had Spock cornered by Lursa and used it to drag him out of danger in the hopes that his return would mean I could beam him back to the transporter pad. Needless to say it didn't in this case. 

Some cards will provide the usual skill tests at a certain terminal on the board while others play to whether or not opponents are neutralised. Some do allow for additional bonus too including searching for specific cards to help your team or even require others on our crew to complete skills tests for the points that round. Nicely there are a couple (Hortas take note) that combo up your points should you have other missions already scoring.

The theming of the deck is absolutely on spec too. Working in classic themes and episode titles, the Support and Mission decks offer a breadth of equipment, tactics and game changing interruption moves that will have you racking up points and hopefully keeping your opponent on their toes for the duration of those three critical rounds of play.

There are joyously several focusing on Kirk's legendary fighting skills to give the captain even more of an advantage as well as gains in medical equipment and phaser lethality. That last one's a big winner since Federation characters can only stun! Vulcan Nerve Pinch is another good one you hope pops up since it can incapacitate an opponent in one go - very useful for a cornered Vulcan. 

Mind Meld is also Spock specific with the chance to use an adjacent character's trait for a Skill test - so just make sure you know who you're next to when it matters because it might be to your advantage.

As said, Kirk and Spock are much more useful right up close leaving McCoy and Chekov to do some distance shooting although you will need to unify the team to get different challenges completed over the course of the two rounds.

I do like this set and it's already seen more action than Picard but that's only because I've not unboxed Scotty just yet. In fact both of these sets are currently a bit of an "anomaly" since there are no classic villain sets to counter them and for timeline purists dropping Kirk and co onto a 24th Century ship against the Borg (for example) could almost be seen as franchise sacrilege. We can only hope GFN have some suitable baddies lined up in the wings... am I hearing calls for a certain Khan? Kor? The Gorn? Now there's a pack...

The Beam Away function is one to use wisely but it's not the only new twist that's introduced in these expansions. Scotty's set has some interesting new bits I can't wait to try and I think the Chief Engineer himself might be a real dark horse of a character as the Mission Commander. But we'll come to that one next...

The Captain Kirk Federation Expansion pack is now available from your Away Missions stockist!

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Saturday 11 November 2023

Clandestine to the Core: Section 31 Starbase; Eaglemoss Official Discovery Starships Collection

The home of the secretive Section 31, the former penal facility's origins fitted right in with its use in Discovery.

A little more squat than the spired Starbase One, this was another of the structures featured in Discovery's heralded second season and featured heavily in the conflict with Control.

Following a similar construction trend to the Starbase the lower base and the underside of the landing platforms are metal in construction adding a good bit of weight and stability to the model.

That said, it's actually a much more intricate piece than the Starbase. The lower section has an open area as a docking bay with a substantial weathering effect, rising up through a scaffold-esque structure into the main body of the station. The wear and tear effect on the model surface is even better than that on Starbase 1 hammering home that this is a really old piece of technology left out in space. The unevenness of the finish on that lower connecting stump is impressive too given how it forms around the supporting framework. You can see the rust and degradation almost as if its real.

The stand actually holds the station on the underneath of the two asymmetrical landing pads (which, as is noted in the magazine don't actually make much sense!). They do add an element of functionality to the tower and are just as weathered and battered as the pieces that lie directly beneath them.

The rib cage elements that then encase the central core seem to be slotted as a single piece down onto the body and there's a certain fragility to their form even though there's never a doubt to their sturdiness. These are again beautifully rendered with a fantastic ridged detail and markings which were almost indistinguishable onscreen but help bring this piece to life immediately. 

The central core continues the worn grid pattern that defined the lower support section rising up to another, smaller rib cage that circles the top, seeming to protect what you would assume is the command unit. There's also a piping element that sits to the rear and runs vertically almost mirroring a spine holding the ribs of the Section 31 base in place. 

It's a most unusual structure, emanating feelings of brutalism and a stark contrast to the more impressive and perhaps positive showmanship of the Starbase 1 spire. If I'm absolutely honest I'm not a huge fan of these two as starbase models and the designs leave me a little cold when compared to the classic nature of Spacedock or Regula One for example. 

However this is a striking, well presented and superbly finished replica that does just about Feverything right from the colours and subdued three tone hues that add to its ominous nature right to the way in which it is finely balanced both in terms of weight and plastic/metal ratio. 

I also love that asymmetrical nature which is almost never present in starbase design. There are lumps and bumps, structures that dominate to one side and give it a real one-off look. Its repurposed nature is something only seen here and this also marks a rare opportunity to look at what the Federation's prison system may have looked like. 

The magazine covers a very brief review of Control's actions in the season including its takeover of this very station before we embark on a good run of diagrams and drawings about its concept. This was a strangely long process but one that seems to have been very satisfying by its end even if the station would eventually be destroyed.

A completists model if ever and definitely one that will appeal to Discovery fans because of its utter uniqueness. Not one I would choose to stick out on display but one that would create a few talking points in a Star Trek conversation if nothing else.

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