Monday, 27 February 2017

Never Mix Electrics and Water: Attack Wing Wave 28

Three ships are out now for the 29th wave of Star Trek Attack Wing.

Two have graced shelves before and there's a new kid on the block to bolster the fledgling Xindi faction that's recently taken up station, initially with the Xindi Weapon Zero and more recently with the Xindi Insectoid Fighter, Orassin.

We won't be covering the USS Defiant repaint this time since we ran over that pack some time back - click HERE to read that review but we will kick off this time with a welcome return to the Borg Sphere 4270.

As a model this is a mighty fine piece of kit. Whether there was actually little if any repainting of it is questionable since it's repackaged exactly as it was previously even down to the promo leaflets. 

One thing first - it's mounted incorrectly and that bugs me to hell. Why it's not mounted through the small circle which should be top/bottom is beyond me but hey, it doesn't detract from the amazing finishing sculpture on the bodywork. In comparison to the Eaglemoss version this is incredibly finished. For note though it's clearly based on the First Contact design rather than the bodywork from Voyager and it shows. I really think the more segmented and raised and lowered sections works much more effectively than the green glow which characterised the Sphere's appearances in the TV show. 

What is most impressive here is that the Borg ball is different on every surface. There's no line of symmetry and it really is unique from every angle and on that point Wizkids have to be congratulated; it's a marvellously unique item and I'll be damned if any part of it repeats at any point. As usual with the Borg ships, the stats are utter madness; six for attack, zero agility, seven hull points and seven shields. 

For those of you doing the maths that means she bears a basic cost of 40 points which makes it one of the most expensive standard ships in the whole game. While she might pack a formidable punch there's not much resistance and I generally find a good sustained barrage from a few ships can bring down one cybernetic opponent at a time. Sphere 4270 carries the standard actions of Target Lock, Scan and Regenerate which certainly narks off more than one fleet. You can subsidise your actions with two Borg upgrades as well as single Tech, Crew and Weapon slots available.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse though, the Sphere has a unique action which allows you to split your attack between two ships with at least one die being aimed at each vessel. It's not a disable action which means this is going to cause lots of problems for opponents time and time again. The generic version of the Sphere loses one shield point as well as a Borg upgrade and the Tech upgrade slot for a cost of 38 points. Still damn expensive. 

Where the Sphere excels even more - and I'm comparing it to other Borg ships in this respect is its amazing movement ability. Able to reach a forward speed of four and a reverse of three, it's one of the most agile craft produced with a full range of left and right turns at all forward speeds. Turns at speed four and the straight reverse three speed all incur the Auxiliary Power Token impediment. Note too that the Borg ships move at right angles either move/turn or turn/move depending on your choice of rules. Sphere 4270 really can play havoc in a game and I would be as bold as to say that it could probably do a fair wodge of damage all on its own without even a Scout Cube as backup.

To command your Sphere the first option is Tactical Drone. Costing three points he has a starting skill of four. Now Borg captains operate Drone tokens which can be traded for abilities and in the case of this gent you can spend one token to be able to re-roll any number of your attack dice just once. As you do spend those tokens the skill of your captain will gradually decrease. Neither Tactical Drone nor the zero point costing Drone have the option to field an Elite Action nor are there any included in the set.

Joining the Crew ranks this time we have Borg Seven of Nine costing four points. Sure to be a popular addition purely due to the character, Seven can be disabled to re-generate two Drone tokens to your Captain card. You can't go higher than the starting number but it means that this already near-impossible to beat craft has another avenue to rebuild itself and keep going. 

Borg Assimilation Tubules costs eight points and will let you do what the Borg do best - steal technology. Disabling the card and discarding a Drone token will allow you to pinch a Crew, Tech or Weapon upgrade from a ship within the sphere of range two. That upgrade will be disabled when it drops onto your Borg craft but the use of an Action will resolve that quickly. Any upgrade can be taken even if it exceeds the Borg ship's restrictions but you can't get your hands on a Species 8472 upgrade because, well, they're 'ard as nails. Definitely a good way to handicap your opponents even if you never re-enable it but it is worth taking something of value that might come in useful later on.

A second Borg upgrade with the Sphere is Borg Ablative Hull Armour.  Pricey at a whopping ten points you hope this is a game-changer (or finisher). It's actually not and instead is a rather useful defensive option, converting all an opponent's Critical Damage results into Damage with all the resulting damage cards being placed under the Hull Armour card. Might seem rather good but after you have four damage cards under there the upgrade must be discarded and normal damage resumes. In essence you're adding a further four points to your hull or your shields. Not that this needs much more back up but if this is your additional defensive option, imagine if you mirrored your attacking stance. Oh, hang on...

Already a familiar feature to those with the Borg Tactical Cube 138, the Borg Tractor Beam locks you onto a ship at range one with a cost of seven points to assign it to your ship. It might not seem very worthy at the face value of the card which is why Tractor Beam has its own set of instructions.  The attacked ship has two shield tokens disabled nor can it raise shields or cloak while in the hold of the Borg beam. Worst of all perhaps it can only move at a maximum of speed two. However, if the targetted craft manages to get outside of range one (target range) then it breaks the link. Problem is that by that time, the Borg ship may well have initiated the Weapon upgrade Cutting Beam.

Combining it with Borg Tractor Beam this is a 15 point upgrade because the cutting can't be done without first locking on. Working at range one, this TEN dice attack (yes, read it and weep) is truly one of the most brutal moves in the entire game and almost certainly will spell the end for a few ships. The card (costing eight points) does need to be disabled but I don't suspect you'll have much use for it very often considering the firepower already at your disposal. I'd think this would be excellent to use against capital ships and starbases perhaps.

Last up and acting as the only Tech card in the pack is an eight point Feedback Pulse. Take note because aside from Seven of Nine all the add-ons for this ship cost a minimum of seven points. The Borg might be a damn hard faction to beat but if you're playing standard 40 or 50 point ship games you really won't get much - if any - chances to bolt on extras.

Feedback Pulse provides a one-off opportunity to declare half of your damage taken under attack is cancelled out. Now you can only declare that before the dice are rolled so there's an element of pure chance in here. If it's a success the half you've cancelled gets assigned to the attacker (but not Critical Damage) and it does drop an Auxiliary Power Token next to your craft.  It's one of those cards which seems like a damn good idea at the time but you just know it'll backfire and leave you wasting eight points for a badly rolled result. The fact you call it before the dice are rolled is a massive chance but one that could really help. If you're stupidly lucky.

Operation Fort Knox replays events from the mid-season five feature-length story Dark Frontier with the Federation attempting to steal a transwarp coil. A 70 point Borg Sphere takes on a 60 point Federation ship in this one in a straight two player set up. The Federation ship will need to get up close and personal to the Sphere (range two maximum) to beam an away team over (disable shields and captain and number of crew upgrades you choose) to the Sphere. In the End Phase you get to roll one attack die for every crewmember on the Sphere. For each Damage or Critical Damage rolled you gain a Mission Token. Two of these means you've completed the objective and need to exit the board via your starting area. The Borg simply need to eliminate the Federation pest. Seems all very straight forward but unless you pick the right Federation vessel this looks horribly one-sided.

Perhaps as equally big a draw in Wave 28 is the only new ship to be released in this trio, the Calindra. The third Xindi craft to join Attack Wing, the Aquatic Cruiser is not a ship to be taken lightly, rocking in with a respectable 28 points base cost.

The model itself is nicely finished with a metallic blue scheme and golden and steel highlights. Given the scale the shape and the finer detail here do get a little lost and comparing it to the larger and more adventurous Eaglemoss model from the Starships Collection it's quickly evident that this has been severely simplified especially when it comes to the rather fine wingtips and some of the rear tail fin lines. That said it's still very clearly an Aquatic Cruiser even from a distance because the Xindi craft all have such immediately recognisable silhouettes. I do like this craft replica a lot because of the delicate finishing touches and the choice not to overload the paint scheme as we've seen from the ton of Klingon D7 and K't'inga cruisers that have raised and lowered panelling all painted to the nines. Basic and plain is good enough for me. 

So that 28 point cost is just two points less than the mammoth Xindi Weapon Zero which shows how critical this cruiser is to this faction. An attacking roll of four hides a rather precarious defence of just one with a solid six for hull points and an average three points holding the shields in place. This is one of those ships that balances delicately among its own stats. Initially it looks great but the lack of an even spread of points across the plate could be deadly.

As with Federation craft, the Calindra offers Evade, Target Lock, Scan  and Battle Stations as your four built-in Actions as well as three Tech slots, a Weapons and a Crew slot too.  As always there's a unique action available with the Xindi ship being able to discard a blue Target Lock token in order to re-roll all your defence die. With just one to begin with this does provide a chance to at least pull something back if the dice didn't fall favourably. T

The generic cruiser loses a shield, the unique action and two Tech slots (replacing one with a Weapon upgrade option) for a combined 26 points. Movement for either is bog-standard with a top speed of four, full sets of banks and turns at ranges two and three. Range one contains forwards and the banks left and right while there's also a reverse with a speed of one. Both the sharp left/rights at speeds two and three plus that reverse will leave you with an Auxiliary Power Token to deal with.

As this is a new faction there's also a whole new set of captains to whack on your ship. Kiaphet Amman'Sor (catchy) has a skill of four and can field an Elite Action for a cost of three points. When defending, Amman'Sor adds a defence die to your roll which is more tha nuseful seeing as the cruiser only has one as its basic anyway! Great news for Xindi players is that he also adds an attack die to your roll for the round. It is classed as an Action so it will restrict your other abilities if you choose to use it however I can't see why you would select another commander for your ship with this on the table. Should you have a momentary breakdown and choose an alternative, Wizkids have also provided Aquatic Councilor for a cost of one point and with a captain skill of two. His ability is much more open to use than Amman'Sor's as he allows you to convert a Battle Station result into an Evade. Of course this is probably going to be done on just the one defence die!

There is of course the "freebie" zero pointer Xindi captain option in the pack if you'd rather max out your upgrade potential and starting these off we have Xindi Torpedoes. Using four attack dice at a range of two or three, this three point Weapon upgrade costs a Target Lock (in play) and results in the ship acquiring three Time Tokens to launch the barrage. Again there's a benefit to the Xindi if it's used on the Aquatic Cruiser as you'll be able to use five attack dice rather than "just" four. Again this is a no-brainer for me and you'd equip this with Amman'Sor to balance out some of your weaker stats.

The Crew slot option here is the duplicitous Raijin whom Archer and the NX-01 crew encountered in the third season of Enterprise. Employed by the Xindi to gather information on the humans, the Raijin here acts to limit the abilities of an opponent's ship at up to range three. Now that's a massive advantage and means you don't need to get very close to make this discard work. It also has the unique point of disabling a chosen upgrade - any as it doesn't specify - for two turns by placing two Time Tokens on the upgrade card. For four points this is a good long range ability that will keep you out of trouble and at arms length. So far, this is turning into one heck of a pack...

Continuing the link to Raijin, the Biometric Hologram is one of three Tech upgrades with the Calindra. Used by the Xindi's female infiltrator to display her findings, it offers the chance to roll two extra attack dice and be discarded. Plus if the attack (potentially seven dice if you couple it with Amman'Sor) has the chance to disable all Crew upgrades on the opponent's ship. Given its power and unique ability it's only available to the Xindi - which gives you at least three ships you could equip it on including this one (to date). I reckon the five point cost for such a huge assault is well worth the gamble but if you're playing a 40 point per-ship game you aren't going to have a lot of leeway with the 28 point starting score of the Calindra.

Next there's a five point Subspace Vortex card. Also a discard (this pack is not forgiving on the disabling option by any means), this Tech option will give the chance to get you into or out of trouble in a flash by using your Action to perform an extra four, five or even six forward manoeuvre at the cost of an Auxiliary Power Token. A good one to have as back up but not an essential since the Xindi cruiser has a decent hull score (six) behind that less than spectacular shield total (three). There are other cards like this available for other factions so I doubt the additional five point cost to use on a non-Xindi ship will trouble many players.

Last up in the Tech trio is Trellium-D. The Vulcan madness-inducing rock was a key part of the Xindi arc and here it offers a bit more defence to your craft. As with Subspace Vortex there's a an additional cost - four points - if you use it on a non-Xindi ship and you can't have more than one equipped on a ship. Trellium-D has two Mission Tokens palced beside it and these can be used to cancel either a Damage or Critical Damage result. One token is used per result so there's an extra two hull or shield points saved for another day!

The last upgrade card in the pack is your new Elite Action and there's a ton of text here which means for five points it had better be worth the read. Retaliation does exactly what it says on the tin so when another ship in your fleet is destroyed you can make another attack with your Primary Weapon for one less die than usual (three in the case of the Calindra for example). If there's nothing to target then the attack is "stored" and noted with the addition of a Mission Token next to your ship. On your next attack you can then gain an additional three attack dice to use before discarding this card.

Only available for a Xindi ship with a Xindi captain you would hope there isn't a ship nearby so you could take advantage of the extra three dice next time around for one massive assault. In the case of the Calindra it means that you'll get another three dice to roll either way it will just depend if you get them alone or as part of a potential seven dice attack. I guess you could also combo this with some of the other effects in the pack such as Amman'Sor's additional dice which could even up you to eight on that next turn roll.

The Countdown scenario in the Calindra pack places the Aquatic ship alongside one other Federation ship at the least (max squad 160 points) against a 120 point Xindi force. Might have to wait a while to raise this since there are only three Xindi ships as yet available.

Set out as a standard two player game the Xindi ships are accompanied by an Objective Token representing Weapon Zero - although you could just use Weapon Zero of course. Mission Tokens are used to represent spacial anomalies each time a Xindi ship is destroyed and will cause ship damage if you get too close. These can be placed anywhere outside of range one of any other vessel.

To win the Xindi Weapon Zero has to make it right across the board while the Allied (Federation) player simply has to destroy it. I would honestly ignore some parts of this and just use Weapon Zero. I can't imagine anyone who has chosen to collect the Xindi fleet not having it. I, of course, will now be proved totally wrong but it doesn't seem right considering how far down the release schedule we are. It's a nice little play-out especially with the use of the spacial anomalies and I reckon that's something that I could drop into any other scenario so thanks for the idea Wizkids!

A decent wave. In fact a really good wave with a cracking new ship and a welcome return for the Sphere and Defiant which will make those of us who scoured eBay for them a lot happier considering we won't have to pay astronomically stupid prices. Kudos to Wizkids for these re-releases which might get newer players back and late adopters the chance to fill gaps. I'm very pleased to have the Sphere and even more pleased with the options now available through the Calindra which really is a mean machine. I've unintentionally warmed to the Xindi and while their time on the show was not the greatest, their appearance in Attack Wing has been well worth the wait. My concern is that with some of the heavy-powered upgrades these guys are a serious threat in the game and not one to be taken lightly. I'd be bricking it if I faced the Aquatics with Weapon Zero on the same side!

The next wave is another chance to tick some boxes with a long overdue repaint of the USS Excelsior (man have you seen the prices online for the original?!), a second opportunity to purchase Species 8472's Bioship Alpha (must get and try it with the Beta) and finally our third new Xindi ship in the shape of the spindly Reptilian Starship. Definitely another wave to watch!

Repaints caught your attention or staying clear of all these latest ships? What about the Xindi capabilities? Are they one of the forces of the game to be reckoned with?

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Friday, 24 February 2017

Presidential Feelings: Articles of the Federation

As we come to book four in the post-Nemesis reading list we shift gears dramatically and for this novel we are treated to a little more West Wing than Star Trek.

Federation President Zife's resignation due to the Tezwa affair has left an opening for a new president. In a hotly contested election Nan Bacco is declared the winner. This story follows her first year in charge & doesn't take place in space or on a ship or have any crew we are familiar with,although we do get a few guest stars! The book is better for it as the story flows along nicely.

A lot of what happens is seeing the events of Nemesis ,The Tezwa affair and other plots that have been the focus of previous novels through different eyes & how the ramifications have played out. It would be an advantage to have read the A Time To.... series but not essential.

One major one is the ship load of Remans heading towards a Federation outpost looking for Asylum. To complicate matters the Romulans and the Klingons aren't far behind.

Nan Bacco also finds out exactly why the previous president had to retire & deal with some of the fallout. Around both of these events there are smaller issues to be dealt with and we get the characters fleshed out very well as we progress.

When I came to read this book I have to say I wasn't looking forward to it. Its not set on a ship we know, central characters we don't know and its overarching political story I thought I was going to dislike it straight away but Keith Decandido's excellent writing, realisation of the characters and not always have the Federation come out on top makes this a wonderful book. Not only is it the best book in the post-Nemesis continuity but the best Star Trek book I've read in a long time.

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Thursday, 23 February 2017

Split Personality of Discovery

I have never read such utter spun rubbish as I did last week in regards to the Shenzhou and Discovery crew conundrum that seems to be puzzling fans and giving birth to some wild theories. 

As we've clearly noticed there have been a lot more announcements of the crew of the USS Shenzhou than there have been of the Discovery which has fans suggesting that in fact the two ships are one and the same. Could it be that the Shenzhou is destroyed and the remaining two crews come together on the Discovery? Is it that the Shenzhou is renamed late in the first episode to become the title ship after some serious working over and repairs? Could Shenzhou just be a red herring and actually all the people we know are cast are actually just on one ship in the first place but we are being led to believe otherwise purely to keep us guessing until the very end?  

All are very good possibilities but I'm just not buying that notion that the two ships are in fact one and the same. I have a feeling that the wire frame of the ship we saw in the teaser is the Shenzhou. It bears a lot of echoes to the design of the NX-01 in its primary hull and is massively different to the Discovery footprint from the hurriedly created teaser of last year. I just don't see how one would turn so dramatically into the other. Surely it would just be cheaper and more efficient to just build a new ship?! So this leads me to my theory that in fact it will remain a multi ship series. Maybe the Shenzhou is hunting down the Discovery and that's why we don't have a lot of crew details because we won't be seeing a lot of the ship except for the characters we know of. 

Maybe those characters - designated as belonging to the Discovery - are actually going to be on the Shenzhou helping to hunt her down? Here's another theory. Maybe Rainford is the most senior officer left on the ship which might explain her "caveats" so much vaunted in the build-up to casting announcements last year. We know she's not the captain of Discovery but what if she has to take those reins because there's no one else left? The Shenzhou is Discovery theory for me is too far fetched even for a series that brought us Threshold and Spock's Brain and I think it would lose some of its credibility. 

I still openly believe and admit that if the stories are right and the characters are good it won't matter what the ships look like, it won't matter how many ridges the Klingons have or don't have because we will be getting quality television that is well created and thought provoking and that is the key to Star Trek being successful. It needs to creatively push those boundaries every week for 13 weeks.   

If the cast is all cloak and dagger maybe we just haven't had all the characters revealed yet? In fact we still haven't had the official word on Sonequa Martin-Green being the lead lady, it's purely from a leak. However given the number of cast announcements it doesn't seem feasible to add any more names to the hat since this would be a ridiculously sized cast. However on the flip to that it is going to be a continuous story for the 13 episode season so it may in its very nature necessitate that larger number of main cast just to keep the story rolling and consistent. If rumour is true we might actually get to see it on screen "in the Fall" which is what actor Doug Jones has indicated in a new interview but let's hold off on getting too excited just yet.

So in conclusion let's wrap this one up pretty quickly - there are just some absolutely absurd concepts about this show going around and they can only be helping fuel the bizarre "hate" that seems to exist at the very core of the Star Trek fandom right now. At it's heart Star Trek isn't about the design of a starship nor is it about the shape of a Starfleet insignia, it's about the people, the personalities and how they deal with the challenges of life and the human condition. So there might be a few visual differences and changes but surely if they get the feel, the heart of Discovery right then all those can be easily forgiven...

What's the worst theory about Discovery you've heard to date?

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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Journeying Back: The Graphic Novel Collection Issues Four and Five

Three classic stories down and we have another two with Spock: Reflections and The Next Generation: The Space Between.

First released in 2010, Spock: Reflections is an absolute stormer of a read. Collecting together a series of events from the legendary Vulcan's life stretching from his time as a youngester at home to his years under Captain Pike through to his time as commander of the USS Enterprise (circa The Wrath of Khan) plus an underlying narrative that takes Spock on a journey from Romulus to Earth.

Honestly I could not put this down.  The way in which the story unfolds, the writing, the graphics; the lot. This is an absolute must have in every way. The character of Spock is believable and the way in which the background story develops is beautifully natural. One thing that stands out is how the artists involved perform the transitional moments from the "present" to Spock's past. Each is moulded into the very fabric of the story and, just as with its development, feels wholly natural at every stage. Indeed, the flashbacks - and indeed the end of the story - touch on every significant point within the story of Spock and Star Trek across the 44 years to when this was written. 

Reflections does the seminal Star Trek character a lot of justice and I respect the writing and visuals so much I would be tempted to call it canon purely on that quality alone. Visually the tones of the different eras we bear witness to are recreated perfectly right down to movie rank insignias and mountaintop detail from the third planet in the Veridian system. It breathes a respect for the character, for Nimoy and for the franchise that I've not experienced anywhere else in these first four issues of the series and it is undeniably a story that I will come back and read again and again.  It also, as always, offers the stark contrast to the fourth issue of Gold Key Archives. 

Now I did a bit of research on this and there were over 70 issues produced so I'm thinking this is going to be the "backup" material in the collection for a while to go yet. This time's offering is The Peril of Planet Quick Change and to be fair change is the thing this doesn't. We're still firmly entrenched in the 1950's style Flash Gordon style Star Trek replete with backpacks, rocket ships, quirky dialogue and frankly, very little to associate it with the franchise bar the odd appearance of an Enterprise exterior, Spock's ears and a delta insignia. 

I'm still smiling everytime they step into the teleportation chamber and that's kind of the point with the Gold Key stuff. The story is true boys' own action once more and it is nevertheless entertaining and will fill some time in a wet and rainy afternoon. 

Issue Five presents the first IDW foray into Star Trek from a decade ago. With its initial release in January 2007, TNG: The Space Between collects together several points in the seven year TV voyages of the Enterprise-D with appearances from main cast and fan favourite recurring characters. Each of the six stories is standalone but there are a few sprinklings which do tie them loosely together by the finale. 

It is a very loose connection and even if that hadn't been there I don't think it would have loosened the enjoyment of reading this anthology. The art here is a lot more impressionistic than in the previous volumes, using a lot more texture and contrast to dark and light especially when it comes to shadows. It also comes across as a great deal more basic in its realisation, yet the stories still remain strong and involving. Unquestionably the more recent IDW works are much more strongly visualised and detailed however the strength of the tales has been there since the beginning and that's backed up very solidly with the short stories collected here. Each presents the characters from the show as close to their TV natures as possible while adding something interesting to the mix. 

What is well managed here are the different periods in which we get to explore The Next Generation further. The nuances of each season are nodded to whether it's Geordi's season one appearance on the bridge or Troi's science division uniform from the last two years, the tweaks are all included at their relevant times and that's what makes these IDW instalments ever the better - they recognise the franchise and the importance of getting it right each and every time no matter the writer or the artist. More so perhaps in The Space Between because it jumps about in the timeline plus it had the unnerving distinction of being their first release. 

Given that these are single stories, the pace of The Space Between is heck of a lot quicker than Reflections and it's noticeable how far along you can get before needing to flick back and take stock. With the Spock story it's a lot easier and more manageable to follow given the natural narrative breaks which wrap around the flashback sequences.

I loved this return to the Enterprise-D but it just can't top the brilliance of Spock: Reflections in so many ways. The Space Between is action packed, well written and a great read but Reflections just has that heart that makes it an instant classic and one you will always be drawn back to. The presentation of Spock is to a tee and I simply cannot fault the result. Magnificent. 

The fifth Gold Key archive from the late 60's this time is The Ghost Planet. In comparison to the main cover story each and every one of these has been to the same standard and same effectiveness every fortnight. The title itself says everything you really need to know, driving the Star Trek bus further into 1950's serialisations with wise-cracking dialogue and more sci-fi tropes than you can shake a Horta at. In fact I'm not sure if I can come up with much more to say about these spins on The Original Series except that they do offer a completist angle to the collection.  

Next month we have Nero charting the backstory of the Romulan from the 2009 reboot movie for issue six and as yet there is no confirmation of what will be in issue seven - certainly cutting close on that news!!!

Is Spock: Reflections going to be the high point of the collection? What stories would you have recommended?

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Monday, 20 February 2017

Wave 27's Klingon Return with a Twist

Again due to availability I only managed to snag one of the three releases from Wave 27 of Attack Wing.

It turned out to be the re-release of the Wave Zero IKS Gr'oth which fans will immediately know was Koloth's ship as seen in The Trouble with Tribbles and Trials and Tribble-ations. As such this is a pack that not only provides some additions for your Klingon fleet but also a firm link with its episodic origin. Just for reference the other two released were a repaint of the USS Enterprise-E which we have already reviewed and the Xindi Insectoid Fighter Orassin which I am desperate to get hold of so I can finally use my Xindi Weapon Zero properly!

As a repaint re-release this one's a bit of a downer to be fair because there have been so many D7's, K't'inga's and Romulan cruiser versions of this model that in later waves the paint jobs have been pretty decent anyway. Here the solid silver (should have been grey) base coat is overlaid with golden raised panelling right across the hull top and bottom which does make the Gr'oth look a little like it's been pimped out. That said the finish is pretty clean and there's no bleed or run off between the two contrasting colours. The model itself is decent enough too with the bridge module and the engines on the correct way round.

But I'm actually not going to linger over the ship for too long this time because I do want to focus more on the pack. She sets out with a three dice attack, one for defence, three hull points and two shields. The standard actions available are Evade, Target Lock and Battle Stations plus slots for single Tech, Weapon and Crew upgrades. For the 18 point cost you also get the unique action that allows you to roll an additional die if you're being attacked at range one. Given that range one also offers your opponent additional attack dice this is a nice trade off giving you a minor advantage to ward off damage. The standard version of the D7 has just one shield point, loses the unique action and also removes the Tech upgrade slot for a 16 point costing.

Movement is the basic full speed of four with a full range of bank and right angle turns at ranges two and three. There is also the Come About at range three that will incur the Auxiliary Power Token if utilised. Very standard indeed across most of the ships in the game these days.

As only could come with the Gr'oth we have Koloth costing four points and with a skill of seven. Certainly not one to dismiss since his unique action forces any enemy ship that attacks to re-roll one dice of your choice. It's a very useful trick to attempt to reduce damage but there's always the possibility it could backfire. Koloth also has the opening to field an Elite Action. The second choice in the set is Krell, the Klingon from A Private Little War. A snip at two points, Krell carries a skill of four and has a rather useful action to re-roll one of your Battle Station results. As with Koloth there's that risk it won't work out but a good theme for the captains in the set that they can offer a chance to change fortunes. For some reason the generic captain uses a shot of Kor from Errand of Mercy. No unique action, no cost and a single point skill if you've overloaded on upgrades.

We have two Crew options with Koloth's right hand man, Korax being the lone Klingon entry. A three-pointer, Scotty's antagoniser Korax can be discarded to remove any two Crew upgrades of your choice on an enemy ship as long as it's within range two and has no active shields. I seem to be seeing a pattern with this pack, don't you? Everything appears to be revolving around reducing the abilities of your opponent particularly at their most vulnerable moment - certainly a pack for the opportunist!

However, the real jewel in the Gr'oth pack is Cyrano Jones (three point cost). A solus Independent (Crew) card, Jones is what makes this a brilliant addition to Attack Wing. If you choose to use him your ship card (the one with the ship stats on it) begins the game with a Tribble Token beside it. Fortunately there's a handy reference card to tell you what else happens because in the End Phase of each round you add another Tribble Token to your ship card no matter how many are already on it. One to three Tribbles is pretty cool because it adds an attack die or defence die to your roll unless you've got a Klingon Captain or Crew. Four or five have no effect whatsoever but six or more means you roll one less attack or defence die as the fluffy little things begin to take over your ship! If you have a Klingon Captain or Crew it's TWO die!

It's a real beauty of a card because initially there is a real benefit to the Tribbles but that can wear off pretty quickly. If you're not cloaked and you have a ship within range two you can transfer as many Tribble Tokens to that vessel as you want except any you received that round. Truly this is one of the most unique and brilliant ideas to be included in the game - almost a mini-game within the main structure to see who ends up getting buried under Tribbles. Probably my favourite quirky feature of Attack Wing.

We have the original version of Photon Torpedoes in play here with the Target Lock and disable ruling rather than the Time Tokens from later waves. This allows a four dice attack fore or aft at ranges two and three with the chance to convert a Battle Stations result into a Critical Damage. It's a decent payoff if you roll it right! For note though the Gr'oth does not have a rear firing arc. Your other Weapon option for a higher cost of four points versus Photon Torpedoes' three is Magnetic Pulse.

Again a four dice attack at ranges two and three it does require disabling both the card and one of your active shields. Rather than inflicting Critical Damage to the shields of your opponent this neat attack causes a point of Damage to the hull instead. Initially this won't make a big deal of difference and thinking about it long term I'm not sure if this really does have any impact on the game since it's not causing Critical Damage which would mean using the conditions from the Damage Deck. Odd one - good idea in principle but no real benefit I can see.

The single Elite Action included with the Gr'oth for Koloth to field is Sabotage. A discard for a three point cost (not too high at all), it will allow you to target a ship within range two with no active cloak or shields and remove one of its Weapon or Tech upgrades. A sneaky action if ever there was which does rely on your opponent being almost on their knees anyway. Removing an upgrade they have been favouring at that stage could spell the beginning of the end!

The final upgrade is a Tech card for five points titled Projected Stasis Field. A hefty cost for a discard card, it also relies on you being uncloaked and requires all your shields to be disabled. That's a big ask and places you in a very vulnerable situation so I'd definitely suggest having some of those cards that takes away your opponent's abilities to hand to save your skin.  Projected Stasis Field then lets you target a ship within range two which has to disable all its active shields and cannot attack for the round plus it has to roll two less attack dice.

It's a bold and brazen move but against a larger and more powerful opponent such a strategy might well be a saving grace. I'd be keen to use this against the 30+ point ships with a lot of shielding such as the Scimitar and maybe even your larger Federation craft. Game changer? Absolutely so I wouldn't let the cost put you off but it will require some set up to be in the right place at the right time.

The pack's mission is Assassination. A two player game involving the Planet Token. Each player - one a Klingon and the other Federation - have 70 points to use as they will. The Federation player starts with his captain(s) all planetside and a command skill of one. The Klingon player can then use his Crew upgrades to beam over to the ships or the planet and kill the captain. The other option is to destroy the Federation vessels before they can retrieve their command staff and escape.

Overall the Gr'oth is an excellent expansion pack - in fact I'd go as far as to say it's one of the best and most inventive uses of the game to date and a great thing Wizkids chose to bring it back in a later wave. The Tribbles concept especially makes this a winner and you could easily make a whole game scenario just from that one card. I also think the Assassination scenario is a stroke of genius and demonstrates some of the brilliant ideas that existed around the first few waves of the game. A shame that it went a bit stale but with the new Fleet Packs that are being speculated and a bit of a game refresh apparently in the offing very soon it might be that Attack Wing gets a second burst of life. For fans and players who missed the expansion back in the day it's a rare and very grateful opportunity to grab a cool Klingon expansion that offers a lot of fun. Wizkids' move to re-release and update (hmmm) these ships really has left me, for one less grumbly since I can actually get hold of some craft that have been unobtainable for a fair few months and bolster by upgrades with some neat additions.

On a side note I've heard very little at all about Frontiers or any indication of expansions coming in the future for that game. It may well be that for the time being Attack Wing is still the go to game that Wizkids are producing which is a bit disappointing given the hype that surrounded the launch of Frontiers a few months back. Note too that Wizkids have also been updating Tactics recently...

Yet Attack Wing still hangs in there and shows no signs of stopping with another wave slated for next month including a repaint of the USS Defiant and the much sought-after Borg Sphere 4270 (I NEED THIS) and the second new Xindi craft (Aquatics), the Calindra.

Still playing? Are you looking to add the Xindi to your game?

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Friday, 17 February 2017

Passing in the Night: The Official Starships Collection Issues 92 and 93

January rocked out two solid entries for issues 90 and 91 - sadly February has come down with a bit of a bump.

In some senses it's not quality but screen-time which niggles with my opinion on this month's two starships. In the case of one it's a single episode craft from prequel series Enterprise and in the other it's a craft which managed just a few seconds on the TV in the remastered version of a classic episode from 1968.

You see the biggest gripe for issue 92 is that the Medusan Starship - straight down the line - only blips onto our screens in the final frames of Is There in Truth No Beauty? as the Enterprise reverses away and then we don't get to see the whole ship. No joke  but when I watched this episode the other day I turned away from the TV and nearly missed seeing it at all.

It's also a teeny tiny model, very compact with all the elements clustered closely around and behind it's spherical primary hull. Even the way it's packaged was a weird one since it appeared that if it were turned 90 degrees in the box we might have had a bigger ship. Anyway, let's deal with the hand we're dealt and go from there.

It has to be one of the smallest models in the collection given that it's whole footprint fits within the size of the standard black base yet there's still a good deal to say about it. With a clear reminiscence to the Daedalus Class (issue 100) with its globe-shaped primary hull it bears a lot of hallmarks to other Federation craft too with the distinctive warp nacelles almost identical to those on the USS Enterprise from The Original Series and those in turn connected to a stumpy secondary hull by spindly pylons. There's even a deflector dish that wouldn't look out of place on the Constitution Class cruisers.

That forward primary hull does have a subtle and worthwhile two tone "etched" paint scheme that manages to break up what could have been a flat and monotonous grey shape with a prominent bridge module and windows lining the equatorial line of the sphere. The windows do seem very washed out and barely recognisable in comparison to the magazine images and do seem to fade out against the grey hull onto which they're painted. 

The deflector dish is set into the metal lower half of the sphere, recessed back and on closer inspection it looks like it's actually part of the hull mould itself. It's a strong shade of orange from some angles and more of an off-bronze from a few others but the finish does seem quite artificial rather than something which shows wear and tear (again like the magazine cover). The lower half of the secondary hull is also formed in the metal mould and continues the etched two-tone grey pattern evident across the ship. Most notable are the ten "tubular prongs" that protrude from the rear. Honestly I have no idea what they are actually for and nor it seems does anyone else as the magazine only notes their existence. They are a little flexible too so just be aware when handling.

Saying that I would actually draw your attention to how the lower hull at this point sweeps upwards and how the upper plastic hull section droops down - very very similar to the rear of the Enterprise

The twin warp nacelles (capable of up to war six) are, in comparison to those prongs, damn well fixed in place with virtually no movement in them whatsoever. I have to admit that the detail on them is fantastic from the rear exhaust points and radiator fins right along to the (almost) perfect translucent bussard collectors. A little too much glue on the inside of both on mine kind of ruins the overall effect but I do like how these look on this craft especially with that little finishing Federation pennant flourished on the outboard side of each. They are larger than the nacelles on the issue 50 USS Enterprise and as such you get a much better chance to look over the design of that classic Enteprise element - even if it was reproduced nearly 50 years later for the remastered episodes.

Up on the top and the story of that grey etched paint job continues but this time there is a lined blue effect which is supposedly the section of the ship where the Medusans reside. The lines all perfectly align with each other but as usual there's a slight degradation of lines to the recessed markings on the hull. Same story different ship; it's something we see a lot.

As for the stand fixing this is perfect with the clips sliding square over the short nacelle pylons and holding the Medusan Starship nice and centrally. Y'see she does actually display really well but I'm not sure if her entry into the collection - even as issue 92 - can be justified when there are so many other ships that have made more impactful appearances have yet to join the illustrious ranks.

The magazine Ship Overview is a sprinkling of information on the ship merely describing its looks without too much detail before relying heavily on the third season episode from The Original Series that (just) featured it. The CG in here is great to look at and does even include "that" shot from the final seconds of the remastered episode just so you know it really was there. In the Designing section what does come across is that even though this was a blink-and-miss ship just as the end credits rolled there was still a great deal of thought that went into the shape of the craft because of the nature of the Medusans themselves and how that would align with the bipedal humanoids they were working with.

Finally the big draw here might be the piece exploring the final season of The Original Series from the perspective of the "man who killed Star Trek" Fred Freiberger. I've not seen him as that personally since there were a ton of factors riding strongly against him but as I'm watching the last batch of classic stories at the moment this has fitted nicely with my viewing schedule. It's definitely added a few things to think about even though it's a six page overview if nothing else. 

With that issue tucked neatly away in the binder and my Medusan Starship nestled up close to the Stella, it's time to crack open the plastic box and face the ECS Horizon.


I'm a massive fan of the ECS Fortunate model. I wasn't particularly looking forward to it but when it did arrive my word was I impressed. It was a work of beauty and detail in every way and still one of my favourite ships from the whole collection. So, when I heard that they were doing the Horizon I could not have been more hotly anticipating its arrival.

Problem is that the anticipation in this case far outweighed the result because I found the issue 93 vessel a bit disappointing.

For some reason I'm still having trouble pin-pointing (maybe I'll have it by the time I've finished this review), it feels as though it's a little unfinished.

The ECS Horizon bears obvious similarities to the Fortunate in it's linear shape and "tugboat" style but that's where the link seems to end. The former had much more style and finesse to its heavy-lifting nature but here all the fineries seem to have been toned right down. Let's start at the front and work back. 

The tugboat Horizon craft itself is a tiny thing perched right at the front of the five cargo modules we are presented with here. The detail isn't too bad but it does suffer from the microscopic scale due to the overall length of the ship. The panelling is pretty decently highlighted but the deflector dish is cumbersome and almost unrecognisable due to some oversized "prongs" protruding from the front. Two things that do hit you quite quickly here are that Eaglemoss have managed to run the ship name down both sides of the Horizon tug hull (very small) and that the bussard collectors are fitted in the translucent red. Now considering how many ships don't get that treatment and are a lot bigger than this does leave you wondering (Saratoga nacelle coils for example) but still it does provide a good finishing touch and means the Horizon isn't just a full-over matt finish. 

Sadly the rear engine exhaust ports are just painted in yellow but their location within the main structure of the ship would have been a right pain to try and add in translucent plastics. Both nacelles are parallel to each other and the main hull of the ship so even though this is probably the smallest actual ship piece in the whole series, there's not been any slippage in terms of precision.

That small tug and the whole bottom section of the five cargo pods are one continuous piece of plastic and also has a fiddly little plasma cannon notched into the underside. Again the panelling here is good but it does look horribly flexible and I've been avoiding touching it in any way save it might fall out or break. The same goes for the antennae which sits on top between cargo pods one and two. The forward piece on that is already bent slightly and I fear for it's survival after only a couple of days on the shelf. They are unavoidably both chunkier than they appear in the magazine and the episode just down to the way it has been made. Problem is it is a necessity since it's a distinctive part of the ship in both cases and Eaglemoss have done well just to make sure they are included; reminds me of the guns underneath the Nausicaan Fighter.

Due to the nature of this series we do lose the structural definition on the underside of the Horizon's cargo pods. Compare the blocked out section to the more "scaffold"-like nature shown on the cover and you'll immediately see the difference. Totally unavoidable due to the way in which these models are made as well as cost and time. There haven't been many ships where intricate parts like that have been replicated exactly - all I can say is let's refer back to the Bajoran Solar Sailor for experience in that area..

The remainder of the ship - the five cargo modules except for their underside - are all a single metal block. The panel markings from the tugboat all the way back are virtually identical Each is distinguished by the "0-1"/"0-2"...etc markings on either side and the minimalistic detailing works effectively. Again with the spine of the craft we are robbed of the skeletal nature of the upper structure but the definition of each strut still exists. I do think that the spotlighting effect, which is at the centre of each pod aligned with the spine, could have been a little brighter as I can barely see it against the cream/lightest of browns hull.

Hull colour is something of a challenge here too as the episodic images we get in the magazine make it look a heck of a lot darker than it actually is but we take that as a bit of a given now since it's a factor with almost every single TV starship we've seen. However saying all that there is a mix of tones in here which does offer a more weathered and aged effect on the ship echoing its generational use. That little bit of mottling in the metal and "dirtying" in the plastic makes a difference to the finishing effect.

Finally to the back and the aft cargo access and the panel definition is severely lacking. It's practically non-existent and does put a little downer on the overall effect. I actually think that might be the reason I think it's unfinished because the detail to the rear is so subtle whereas across the rest of the vessel it is quite easy to make out. 

Stand placement here is very specific due to a fractional change in the hull shape between modules 0-3 and 0-4. Try and slot it anywhere else and the prong stand just won't fit. It is very secure and fits like a glove. 

Over to the magazine and issue 93 overviews not just the design of the ship and its cargo pods but also the family-orientated nature of the vessel which had been operated by the Mayweathers for three generations. It's good that for once the magazine has returned to really focus on the ship and the aspects around it because a big chunk of the reading here deals with the "Boomer Culture" that was explored in both Horizon and the earlier Fortunate Son

I wasn't a huge fan of either episode but the background that is added here is a well thought out move that keeps this relevant and an exceptionally good reference tool in the series. Oh - and for those of you who like the designing bits there's a two page look at creating the ship. Sadly the process was a one-shot and done so there's not a lot to tell and in the case of this magazine it's probably the least interesting section because we actually get some decent background to add to your library.

A bit of a let-down to be fair this month on both counts. The Medusan Starship is a lovely model but I find it hard to justify its appearance when there are still more significant ships not even announced or months away. The Horizon in retrospect is OK. I think we were totally spoiled with the Fortunate and then expected the same whistles and bells on this one but didn't get that because it just never had it in the first place. Both ships are damn fine accurate to their screen counterparts and again we have to congratulate Eaglemoss for their work. You just have to wonder how many people will be hurrying to the newsagents to pick up these two especially given that the second Shuttles pack is arriving at doorsteps this week. Final words on these - probably for super-completists only and that might be stretching it.

Next month brings the Suliban Cell Ship and the USS Kyushu which is the first of the Wolf 359 kit-bash fleet. While I'm not really looking forward to the Suliban block, the Kyushu is a sure-fire hit for the collection and the start of a whole new series within the series. In case you missed it our archive has now been updated with the "unconfirmed" list of ships due out. We'll run our Anticipation Factor list when Ben Robinson nails these to the wall.

Worth picking up or ones to avoid? 

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