Friday, 17 January 2020

Caretaker, Voyager and 25 Years On

A small raider is pounded by phaser fire from a Galor Class starship; a diversion into the Badlands follows, using the plasma storms to slow the Cardassians. 

The Maquis ship is scanned and then hit with an energy wave of unknown origin...and so begins the seven year adventure that was Voyager

Designed as the starship successor to The Next Generation, Voyager still had to be markedly different to that series and from the off it was clear this wouldn’t be as comfy a ride as we were used to. Gone was the familiarity of the Alpha Quadrant, Klingons, Romulans, the Federation and Deep Space Nine with a whole new quarter of the galaxy to explore. 

New allies, new enemies, new worlds to explore and a virtual free reign to create something totally new as the USS Voyager and her mixed crew of Starfleet and Maquis were forced to cooperate to survive and make it 75000 light years back to Earth. 

Caretaker is one of the stronger Star Trek pilots delivering action and adventure in spades and providing a handy contrast to the more spiritual and cerebral Emissary from two years previous. It offered viewers the potential for inter-crew conflict, differences to be settled and a new, formidable enemy to keep the crew on their toes.

Now at the time my Star Trek affiliations leaned more heavily towards the static Deep Space Nine than the pioneering Voyager. Granted, the Kate Mulgrew-led series had a much better first season, it was plagued with temporal anomalies, swirly-things in space and the like plus an odd urge to try and tie things back to the Alpha Quadrant with both the Romulans (Eye of the Needle) and Barclay (Projections - filmed for season one and shown with season two). Deep Space Nine had endured a rocky first season and this was much smoother running; each week a new story as the ship travelled home plus the occasional return of the Vidiians or the Kazon to up the ante and provide some form of continuity that had been missing from The Next Generation for instance.

But by the time Voyager premiered, Deep Space Nine was cutting a distinct mark in the Star Trek universe and was already deep into its third season which would really kick off the ongoing Dominion story arc plus herald the arrival of the popular USS Defiant. There was conflict, the station was host to a variety of characters within the main and secondary cast and this would only go from strength to strength to strength under the watchful eye of Ira Steven Behr.

Voyager on the other hand really had me lost when it came to its continuity and the promise from Caretaker and this wasn't just something that occurred in the first season. As documented and discussed numerous times, the conflict with the Maquis quickly fizzled and it's most evident if you watch Parallax with Torres and Carey and sporadically over the first two seasons from pre-Cardassian Seska and then Jonas as we head towards Basics.

In some respects, Voyager played its first year very, very safe which was a shame after the promise of Caretaker which still holds up today. The Doctor for one is tremendously watchable in his series of fleeting appearances, Kim has something to do and it's not just scan an anomaly, Chakotay has a bit of spark and Paris hasn't been neutered. There's lots bubbling away in that hour and half story which even makes the Ocampa and the fake-Klingons seem interesting. 

Voyager needed to keep its edge and with all the Maquis setup from The Next Generation's Journey's End and Pre-Emptive Strike through Deep Space Nine's The Maquis two parter, the resulting powder keg was flooded with water, only reminding us in Worst Case Scenario and Shattered significantly later in the run that there had actually been two crews in the first place.

Voyager did look great from the off and there are some wondrous gems in the first year; The Phage, Eye of the Needle, State of Flux and maybe add in there Heroes and Demons for the Doctor. These offered standout moments but the uniqueness of Deep Space Nine and The Next Generation isn't there. The sense of separation and reliance on limited supplies doesn't have an impending urgency to it and for me, Voyager only really comes to life when it enters its third season, putting distance between itself, the Kazon and any mouldy cheeses that might be lying around.

Ok so it does the traditional thing of taking a season and a bit to really get going and we can debate Blue Alert, the never ending number of shuttles, Kim’s rank and lizard sex for hours but the fact is that the legacy of Star Trek: Voyager has lasted and, fair play to it, the show launched a network. When Netflix announced which episodes were most watched, it was The Next Generation and Voyager that dominated all ten positions with Endgame as number one most re-watched and the show taking six of the slots. Christ, even Time and Again got in there.

Where Voyager eventually succeeded was in pushing out into more high concept stories and away from a simple story relying on an anomaly or the holodeck (however there would be some exceptions - looking at you, Fair Haven). Check out Blink of an Eye, Living Witness, the mesmerizing Counterpoint and even later episodes like Workforce to see that Voyager became the series where anything went. It's the only series in which a regular is reduced in rank - and it's for more than the length of the episode, for example. It managed to handle lots of standalone stories but still encompassed more than one story arc with the Hirogen, the Borg and the Pathfinder project all offering contained plots along the way.  Interestingly the one that you would have expected to have lasted right to the final episode, that of finding the female Caretaker was firmly closed mid-way through season two with Cold Fire which left the ending very open indeed.

As a crew goes, Voyager is probably full of the most vanilla characters in Star Trek leaving the later seasons firmly in the hands of Janeway, Seven of Nine and the Doctor with the remaining ensemble filling in where necessary. That trio are some of Star Trek's strongest and most memorable creations and were the most heavily explored almost from the second that Seven stepped out of the dry ice in Scorpion, Part II. For many, that was a massive restart for the show although for myself I'd finally succumbed (not to Deep Space Nine levels) with the third season's Future's End as well as season two's brilliant Death Wish and the clever build up to the arrival in Borg space.

For me, Voyager was the series I could go to if there was no Sisko and a wormhole while for many it was top of the list even ahead of Kirk or Picard's adventures and perhaps there's an even bigger indication of how much love Voyager has within fandom over its oddball space station cousin. Janeway turned up in Nemesis and with next week’s arrival of Picard we will see Seven back on screen for the first time since 1999 with rumours already circulating that the Doctor could be putting in an appearance for season two. Any sign of Deep Space Nine characters? Not a word.

So 25 years on and Voyager is still flying strong, demonstrating that Star Trek needed that new frontier, its first female captain and a bold brave step into the Delta Quadrant. What will the effect of the technology it brought back have had on the Federation? Will this be something that we will have explained and explored in the near future?

For now let's just celebrate the last Star Trek series to complete a planned run and not be cancelled short. It is one of only three to date to have a fully planned and realised conclusion and a show that has a plethora of well-constructed episodes that push writing boundaries more than any other Star Trek series. 

Happy 25th Star Trek: Voyager!

What's your memory from watching Caretaker for the first time?

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Monday, 13 January 2020

The Core: The Sign of Four?

Damn rumour mill.

I don't want to credit one of those torrid Facebook pages or YouTube channels that pumps out rubbish but could there be any truth in the rumour that Kruge is being considered as the antagonist for Star Trek 4? Add into that the speculation that Hawley might even take the fourth movie into new directions with a totally new crew.

Director in waiting Noah Hawley is RUMOURED to be thinking about these as possibilities but that will mean for the third out of the four reboot movies the production will rely on retelling stories of characters from the Prime Timeline - Spock and the Romulans then Khan for Into Darkness if he goes with Kruge. In terms of the characters, the suggestion might actually be more based around the difficulty in securing Pine and Hemsworth as billed when the next movie was greenlit before Beyond had even appeared in cinemas. 

Personal opinion - Beyond worked because it did its own thing, referencing the back catalogue and still coming up with something new for the franchise to explore - although tragically it wasn't the massive success fans and the studio desired. I'd add a bucket of salt to that Kruge rumour but the one about the new cast...? Well, it's perhaps more reasonable and might even be a new piece of the Universe that is being forged with Kurtzman and co, bringing the cinematic Star Trek into the bigger picture.

Now if Paramount decide to use the rebooted JJ Abrahms universe to revamp some of its more classic foes then surely there are more opportune characters in the wings? Let's explore a few possibilities...

Kor, Koloth, Kang

I mean is there a more iconic Klingon trio? (Is there another Klingon trio?!). The classic Klingons from The Original Series and latterly Deep Space Nine would be a perfect foil for the Enterprise crew plus it would provide a second and potentially more fulfilling chance to get the Klingons "right" that was missed in their messy Into Darkness appearance.

The Planet Killer

What about this one? A near unstoppable force, a crazed starship captain, the very existence of the Federation at stake? Could the Doomsday Machine be responsible for obliterating a few more notable worlds in the Alpha Quadrant and really change the layout of the Kelvin Timeline? I can certainly imagine that the graphics would be a big step forward and provide an impressive spectacle on the big screen.

The Gorn

Already mentioned in Into Darkness and featured in the video game that launched around the same time as the movie, their sole appearance in The Original Series is as iconic as the filming location the encounter took place at. No more rubber suits but this would guarantee a lot of action and could spin out well from Arena into its own creation. 

I'm just not sure how much faith I put into these kind of rumours because we're not even close to seeing a camera roll or a casting announcement. Thing is that in Star Trek we know anything can happen - after all, a TV series became The Motion Picture and that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg here...

Lest we also forget that it's just two weeks until the arrival of Picard and we're already been successfully teased with a morsel of background information through the exceptional Short, Children of Mars.  While there's been all sorts of grumbles about the reuse of starship designs from Discovery I was personally a lot more invested in the narrative and that bit right at the end. 

Anyway, we know that season two of Picard is on the way with a new exec producer in the form of Terry Matalas who is replacing season one's Michael Chabon. Matalas has been show runner on both the TV 12 Monkeys series and more recently MacGyver.

Picard, as Patrick Stewart has indicated, will NOT be The Next Generation and it seems that there is a distinct visual identity being forged with the current slew of Star Trek series. Section 31 is now deep into production and Alex Kurtzman has now confirmed there are a further TWO live action series to come which are in the process of formation now. 

These will sit alongside not just Discovery, Picard and Section 31 but also the Lower Decks animated series and the Nickleodeon cartoon. Might one of these two be the in-demand Pike series? Could the second be the fruition of Nicholas Meyer's project to bring Ceti Alpha V to screens as a miniseries focusing on the exile of Khan Noonien Singh?

The first is one fans have been clamouring for since Anson Mount stepped into the role for Discovery's second season and the latter has been floating around for about four years and was the reason Meyer (apparently) detached himself from Discovery early on.

Fever pitch - we are reaching a real pinnacle of Star Trek but the proof will be in whether or not we can survive what will be a 52 week a year onslaught of content with some form of the franchise being on TV and in production. Does this foreshadow a loss of quality? A time when the amount of content will outweigh the quality of the shows we are receiving? 

Franchise fatigue set in with Enterprise back in the early 2000's and while that was a culmination of continuous Star Trek since 1987 it was spread across 15 years, four series and six movies in that frame. Now we're getting all that again but within five years... will Star Trek from the Kurtzman era have a short shelf life?

What do you think about Star Trek's longevity in its current forms?

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Friday, 10 January 2020

Journey to Picard: Short Trek's Children of Mars

Expectations for Picard are understandably high.

Now with Patrick Stewart's recent revelation that this show is definitely nothing like The Next Generation and that time has definitely moved on (and we mean on and offscreen), Children of Mars is our first, real non-trailer Star Trek that offers an insight into just what will be different about the new series.

Another sub-ten minute tale, Children of Mars contains only a few lines of dialogue early on as school pupils Kima (Ilamaria Ebrahim) and Lil (Sadie Munroe) briefly converse with their mother and father respectively who are both stationed on Utopia Planitia, Mars.

For those in the know, that name will immediately ring bells but for those new to the franchise, it's worth noting that this is one of Starfleet's major ship-building facilities and where the Enterprise-D was constructed. Nicely we've also got a few cool ship shots of the facility swung in here for good measure which should get anyone who's a starship fan into a right tizzy (see bottom!)

Set to a version of David Bowie's Heroes, we see the two girls are not the best of friends, causing each other no end of pain and trouble culminating in an intense fight.

Children of Mars is a beautifully made short, documenting two children from very different backgrounds and cultures with very different relationships with their distant parents. What you do come to see is that both are initially loners, outsiders who aren't "in" possibly due to their absent parents and almost seem to take pride in causing anguish for the other as a form of personal entertainment.

The fight is their Waterloo if you will, a breaking point at which they realise they are potentially more alike than they would readily admit. While the looks from one to another suggests they regret their violent actions, it is an offworld incident that truly draws them together in the closing seconds.

All credit to the two girls here as they have a range of emotions to play out visually with absolutely no words to fall back on to explain their motives and actions. Also to be the focus of an Earth-based Star Trek short that is once more outside the main story is a gem to add context and body to the larger universe which this Kurtzman era seems very focused and dedicated to nurturing. In fact, this marks possibly the biggest step away from the main body of story with only a brief shot of Jean-Luc Picard to tie it in to the upcoming show with any certainly.

We knew that Picard would open our eyes to a different Federation just as the 900 year time jump will do for Discovery and here in Children of Mars we have another twist to the story which explains some of the material we have seen in the trailers and comes totally from left field. Plus, we all noticed the "First Contact Day" celebration banner in the school? How great was it to see a major historical event tied in?!

Mars is attacked by what the news footage refers to as "Synths" leaving at least 3000 dead on the red planet. This may well refer to the "F-8" we saw in the first teaser and may well rope the Borg as well as Data, Lore and B-4 into the Picard story. It's a huge, unforeseen kick and one that sits between this and when we will next see Picard. I'd lean towards this theory rather than these are "reformed" Borg on a rampage and would indicate that humanity's search for android perfection has gone off the scale in the wrong direction.

In fact, it's not hard to see since Admiral Picard's reaction is recorded in the FNN news footage which also contains some shots of attacking ships we have seen in the trailers.  Children of Mars is an absolute kicker, turning our expectations over and revealing that the Federation is not in as rosy a state as we might have thought - and might even be in the first stages of crumbling to the form we have seen it in during the Discovery trailer.

There has to be a link into the inclusion of Alison Pill as a character here too since she is an expert in cybernetics and this story easter egg also adds weight to just why Picard is having visions of Data and visiting the boxed up B-4 (or Lore?). 

For the time being, Children of Mars has become one of the furthest points of continuity in the Star Trek universe behind the destruction of Romulus in flashback during the 2009 reboot and Calypso from last year's four shorts - but this will be eclipsed in a matter of 13 days with the premiere of Picard on January 23rd.

Go watch this one as soon as possible because it's going to be the last, big precursor to the new series especially with the news that issue three of the Picard: Countdown graphic novel has been delayed until the 29th January and therefore after the series has why might that be....secrets revealed too early perhaps...?

Utopia Planitia with two distinct new starship classes front right and left. The docks appear to be an upgrade of the version seen at the end of Nemesis.

Earth shuttleport - the shuttle looks suspiciously like a refresh of the Discovery shuttle.

Synth ships attack Utopia Planitia (note the label bottom left)

Welcome to Picard!!! What are your thoughts on the latest Short?

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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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Friday, 3 January 2020

Chrono-Trek: Play History for Your Own Ends...

What happens when you take Star Trek, mix in some of the great elements of Looney Labs' Fluxx series and then mash it all together with a clever spin on the wonders of the timeline?

You might be thinking one hell of a headache but I can assure you it's not - and if you're looking for a stocking filler at this time of year, look no further than Chrono-Trek.

Here's the spiel - you play as a (randomly) selected character from the Star Trek universe with a mission to correct the timeline and thereby win the game. Each character has a difficulty rating (one to four) and are assembled from the corridors of everything from The Original Series to Enterprise as well as The Animated Series (well done for that by the way). Each character has a series of three goals to achieve to win which might involve ensuring particular events play out or that they have acquired certain artifacts not limited to but including Data's Head, Janeway's coffee cup and Porthos. 

Then there's the timeline itself. Comprised of 36 cards, these are laid out in four rows in front of the players running from A1-D9. The timeline covers a lot of events from the franchise and through playing you can change how it looks for your benefit or to stop other players from achieving their goals through some clever manipulations.

The timeline is made up of three elements essential to the game. The five Anchorpoints represent the anomaly from All Good Things... and travels back in time. If all five Anchorpoints are flipped (there are cards which will direct you to do this) it's Game Over unless you were lucky enough to pick Q as your character in which instance you're the winner! Then there are Linchpins which are cards that can be flipped and will then affect other points in the timeline called Ripplepoints.

Amazingly these Ripplepoints are collected from events in the Star Trek timeline from the beginning of the Universe, passing through First Contact, seeing the Enterprise-C lost, the arrival of Starfleet at Terek Nor and beyond - but changing Linchpins can skip the timeline off into many new directions, some of which will be to your advantage. Ripplepoints are the very events that you will need to command to win the game. Studying the timeline and seeing what can turn which other card is essential.

Play starts out with each player in turn drawing a card from the deck and then using one from their hand; draw one, play one. Containing Action Cards, Power Cards (super Action Cards), these might provide you with a glance at your opponent's cards, allow you to play another, some will swap your hand, another will "erase" your character from the timestream meaning you have to pick a new persona - which dominoes into your goals for the win changing completely and there's even more beyond that guaranteed to make every game different and challenging.

Players might even choose to take on an Assignment and collect items to trade in order to give them more cards to choose from in their hand, you could even draw a Fracture Card and properly lock down the timeline, spinning it out into a third, more terrifying scenario - unless you're playing with a four "pip" character in which case, Fractures are a good thing!

Chrono-Trek does seem quite daunting at the beginning although I found having the existing knowledge of Fluxx was a huge advantage because some of the card principles are replicated. The biggest piece of the game to get your head around is how to manipulate the timeline for your own advantage. Working out which Linchpin to flip to influence other events is as key to victory as the tactical playing of your Artifacts to keep everyone guessing just what you're planning. 

This is another excellent and ever-changing card game from Looney Labs with an insane ability to be replayed and replayed and replayed with a different path to victory each time. Initially it's best to start playing with the one pip characters and working up the difficulties before throwing all in and just seeing what you get. Approaching it this way will help you progressively understand the more in depth parts of Chrono-Trek in stages rather than blitzing everything because you fancy playing as Q or the Borg on day one. 

I've found through the games played so far that keeping hold of hand-change cards or ones that can affect an opponent's path are instrumental towards the more climactic moments plus always pay special attention to which Linchpins are being turned and what events they then change as this will indicate where your "enemies" are likely to be striking!

One more great thing to it is the inclusion of so much fan love. The art and flow of the timeline itself is incredible, recognising so many key parts of the franchise and weaving them into a playable sequence that just works with whatever is thrown at it.

Chrono-Trek is well worth purchasing for yourself or any aspiring Star Trek fan, not only giving hours of good fun franchise entertainment away from a flickering screen but also to refresh that historical knowledge of the timeline - but that's really a matter of perspective if you need something different to be happening.

Chrono-Trek is available now to buy from decent Star Trek game selling shops and websites. 

What's your favourite take on the game? Any good tips and tricks? Drop a comment below!

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Monday, 30 December 2019

Picard: Countdown Issue 2 AND Trailer Spots

Picard is captured, the Romulans are in danger of extinction...

Sounds like an average day in Starfleet and probably a quiet one for Admiral Jean-Luc in this second issue of the Countdown series coming ahead of the January series premiere.

Picking up where issue one left off (shocker), the story continues on the three fronts; briefly the Romulans arriving at Chateau Picard and then on the surface of Yuyat Beta and, before you forget it's there, aboard the USS Verity in orbit.

Now, I'm going to say this pretty straight, I'm not sure I'm seeing much of the point to these three prequel comic issues ahead of January 23rd. The artwork is fantastic, the story itself is well plotted but we know what Picard was involved with that "leads" into the series and I can't decide whether these are clever spoilers, winks or just a general tease. These events have already "happened" if you will by the time we are reacquainted with the former Enterprise captain and this tale appears to be a story within the overall evacuation story.

So we can see that the Romulans are unwilling to aid the native population of Yuyat Beta from being destroyed when the Hobus star goes supernova and we can understand the moral dilemma facing Admiral Picard but will this be an incident that is closely linked into the events of the series? Will this be mentioned or is it going to be a never-mentioned sub-paragraph of one day in the life...?

Picard proposes to step out into new territory and with Countdown we are at least getting a hint of what that future and Starfleet itself is looking like from a physical perspective. It has linked in at least one of Jean-Luc's new crew into his backstory and I believe that the Romulans we are seeing in the "present" rather than the evacuation timeline may be the more prevalent element of the narrative yet to this stage are being incredibly well under-played as a footnote.

Over in trailerville though, we've had some new material on the show. Not a great deal of new info thrown out in the latest teaser but we do get more footage of Picard and Riker  plus a little more of Seven and Picard's conversation at (what I expect) is the Picard vineyard. 

Most interesting has to be the new shots of the updated-for-2019 Borg drone quite literally flashed into the opening seconds of the trailer as well as the Entertainment Weekly shot of Hugh's drastic new look which does have some lineage back to his heavily prosthetic-covered look last seen in the conclusion of Descent from 1993.

The makeup is definitely in line with the First Contact/Voyager Borg we were used to after 1996 but might this be a freed drone?

We also have Federation ships of a new and unknown design flashing by some form of starbase structure as well as what might be a good, clear crisp shot of the rear of the hero ship from the show. Unusually they're firing red energy weapons which we would expect from a Klingon craft.

I've included some of the new shots below for perusal - not a lot to discuss from these I feel but well worth a look over. Perhaps the best shot in there we haven't seen before is early on with Picard seated in front of what looks like the curved windows from Ten Forward. Could this be part of a flashback or dream sequence including Data? Are we going to be dipping onboard the D and E more than we have been let into?

New ship on approach?

Jean-Luc in Ten Forward perhaps? Or is this on another starship...?

At home with Seven - who also got her very own mini-trailer (shot below)

New Borg makeup in close. Still retaining the veined facial appearance with familiar looking eyewear and hoses. I don't think there's been a lot of changes from the '96 update.

New character we've not seen in the trailers before

Close look at the apparently damaged Borg Cube. We've been thinking the Romulans are in control of this but what if it's Starfleet?

Then there was a little second trailer that gave us a few more new looks at Troi, Riker plus the latest variation of the Starfleet uniform as below...

At home with the Rikers - Picard drops by for advice?

Location unknown - what might they be looking for?

New uniforms - take note of the All Good Things... combadge and the medal/badge on the opposite side. Plus - first Vulcan of the new series?

Backing up the curved windows shot near the top of this selection, those wall tiles look awfully familiar...

Not as welcome as we thought? More to Picard's visit to the Romulan village?

What have you spotted in the trailer or Countdown that will be a key part of Picard?

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