Saturday, 29 June 2019

Star Spotting: Larry Nemecek's Stellar Cartography

Now updated to include Discovery, Larry Nemecek's Star Trek Stellar Cartography is back and better than ever.

Comprising of ten A2 maps illustrated by Ian Fullwood, Ali Ries and Geoffrey Mandel and an accompanying book, the collection comes in a swanky fold out tome to keep it all in perfect condition.

There are a couple of oddball ones in here such as the Vulcan interpretation of their home system as well as the Klingon and Romulan empires in their own languages and styles. These three are the more "artistic" of the fold out maps and while they look authentic to their respective civilisations, they do leave you a little miffed as to what is where and why.

Good thing then that this collection also includes a series of maps detailing the Alpha and Beta Quadrants with irascible scrutiny. In fact in the case of a couple of them there's a stupid amount of information to take in that covers all bases from The Original Series right up to the first season of CBS' Discovery. There's also Known Space, the Cardassian Union, the Dominion War and more to pour over.

Each map, be it the rather artsy Vulcan one or the more detailed Federation editions is neatly stored ready for review within the book and is accompanied by an explanation to their creation and interpretation thanks to a slim companion volume which sits dead centre in the impressive presentation box. While each of the maps provides something very different to pour over for hours (especially a certain couple of them), the book backs up just why certain areas look the way they do or the reasons behind the way the civilisations have chosen to display their understanding of the cosmos in various ways.

The clever bit is having the scope to envision just how the Romulans would extrapolate their star systems or how the Vulcans would represent their homeworld and Larry Nemecek has done a sterling job making each one distinctive and memorable. The themes are all very individualistic with the Klingon maps functional and stark contrasting to those smooth curves of the Vulcan images which has an almost musical, sensual feel to it.

That said there are a couple of the maps which are heads above the rest of the content and these are the foldouts which show Federation space and detail events from the past 50 odd years of the franchise, recounting the path of V'Ger, the location of the Mutara Nebula, precisely where USS Constellation was lost to the Planet Killer and even pinpoints The Battle of the Binary Star from the very latest show, Discovery which I think makes this the first piece of behind the scenes literature from the franchise to do so.

The detail on these Federation maps is mind-blowing and I've gone over them more than a couple of times and on each occasion there's been something new I've caught, another route I've uncovered or episode that I've flipped back to and realised how close location-wise it was to another event from a few decades later.

At the centre of this tri-fold behemoth of a work there's a handy, smaller guide which contains page size versions of the maps plus background and explanations around their appearance in galactic history and details on key civilisations featured within.

The work in this book/collection/tome is amazing and there's always something else and another angle to look at it from. Truly a wonderfully presented and researched work that any fan should have in their library and a resource that will cause many a referential argument - or be the source of the correct answer - for many, many years to come. I for one know this is going to get a lot of use and suspect that there will have to be a fair few more updates with all the new Star Trek series coming out in the next few years....that's a lot more dots and lines to fit on to the maps!

The accompanying book is much easier to use for quick reference yet there's something much more engrossing about looking at the fullblown, unfolded maps when you get the chance. Certainly a lot clearer to scrutinise the detail!

When I briefly caught Larry at Destination Star Trek last year (his second time at the event), he was working on his Portal 47 project plus continuing efforts on Trekland as well as the location tours in Los Angeles plus promoting the updated (and rather spiffing) Star Trek Stellar Cartography.  Definitely a man with a lot to do and here's hoping that the next thing we get to see is the completed Con of Wrath!

Star Trek: Stellar Cartography is available now from all decent sci-fi selling bookshops, online retailers and the like priced RRP £35 ISBN 978-0-7603-6381-2.

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Friday, 28 June 2019

Nearly There, But Not Quite: The Official Starships Collection Issues 152 and 153

You might've been mistaken for thinking that issue 152 of the Official Starships Collection is some sort of error.

But you'd be wrong because this concept ship did turn up in a televised episode. Unlike the Voyager concept (Sternbach's and the upcoming USS Altair) or the Phase II USS Enterprise, the USS Excelsior as designed by Nilo Rodis can be seen as part of the scrap floating around in the Qualor II shipyard during The Next Generation's Unification.

Conceived for the third movie instalment, this forward thinking starship was a little too forward thinking for 1984 and was canned in favour of a suped up and sleek version that we are greeted with upon the Enterprise's return to Spacedock in The Search for Spock.

The Excelsior concept (hereafter just known as Excelsior) projects a design that wouldn't see much light until the mid-90's when elements would eventually materialise in the design of such ships as the USS Prometheus NX-7xxxx. 

Eaglemoss' model is a slender affair and almost Micro Machine in scale with the overall length of the craft dictating its overall size as part of the collection. To the front there's a small primary hull immediately recognisable due to its circular shape and even in this limited space we have enough to determine that not all the parts of this design were lost. The structure at the centre of the saucer surrounding the bridge would survive however the actual detail on this module is squandered in miniature. Crazy to admit but the early release Excelsior back in issue eight did it better.

The ship registry is legible on the top of the saucer but it is blotchy and affected by the panelling which seems too deep and close together when crammed into a fairly small area. The paintjob's more speckled than aztec with the hull seemingly pock-marked across the saucer and along the centre line towards the engine block at the rear. Eaglemoss have also included the distinctive red striping on the saucer as well as marking in the RCS thrusters to complete the effect. 

All in all that's a lot to get on there and while the paintjob does break up the light grey monotony, I'm not convinced it really works. The blues of the central bridge structure are well defined and razor sharp and are almost out of place against the speckled hull.

The saucer plus the top section of the spine are metal on this one and connect to the quad nacelle cluster where plastic takes over for the underside connector piece as well as the engines themselves and the pylons. These are all devoid of the speckled paintjob and look much the better for it. The pylons are cleanly cut with negative space and some darker grey detailing forking out to the four identical nacelles.

Each of these has a flat top section dotted with some sort of paint or surface detail. Each engine has two translucent blue panels inset to replicate the warp field grilles however it's only set onto the plastic and not a feature that you can shine any light through from the other side. Finally the engines are oddly tipped with a dark grey spike which isn't something we've seen anywhere else on a Starfleet vessel.

Construction-wise the engines are very sturdy and appear clipped into the frame of the Excelsior by way of the metal and plastic central hull sections. On the underside of the hull you can just make out, to the front of the built up section just in front of the nacelles, the tiny main deflector. From the curve of the hull this is another feature that did in some way make it on to the final design. Here though it's a simple painted and recessed blue circle to indicate the location of the device. 

The underside of the saucer is perhaps more interesting than the top with the speckled paint work returning once again but here it mixes with greys and a striking blue which is sunk into one of the outer rims of the saucer. There is quite a bit going on in regards to the finish here and a slightly larger model might have helped to clean some of the detail up.

Stand position is fairly sturdy as it slots in to the rear hanging the ship right over the black base and not strangely to the front or rear as we have had occasionally.

The magazine is a tad disappointing with the initial starship overview just being a new CG render of the ship followed by two pages of plan views with no notes or sidebar information - there is literally jack all to say on this one since it never actually did anything apart from play dead at Qualor II.

Fortunately the magazine slightly redeems itself with a section covering the design of the USS Excelsior including concept drawings from Nilo Rodis and then The Great Experiment in which the late Leonard Nimoy recounts the making of The Search for Spock and his first movie directing gig. The final two pieces are great but overall it's one of the weakest magazines in the collection alongside a so-so model that could have been a bit bigger and made a lot more impact.

Next in the lineup is the Devore Warship from Voyager's classic Counterpoint.

Aside from being one of the finest episodes of the show's seven seasons, the craft for the episode is goddamn gorgeous. Covered from bow to stern with a metallic paint finish, the top layer then appears weathered and worn with scratches and patches to break up the surface and add real depth to the replica.

There's no real intricate angles to talk about here or cool decals because it doesn't need it. The simplicity of the paintwork does a lot but the real star here is the chain-mail-like embossing that covers about three-quarters of the warship. Each "link" sinks into the hull surface and is bordered by sleek metal panels sporadically broken by the worn paint, by the dots of windows or six blue circular sensor modules.

|It's a dazzling finish on a ship that features dominantly in only one episode (with some "guesting" in a few others) and is among the more unusual looking and detailed craft within the collection. The shape of the Devore ship includes no sharp angles; everything is a sweeping, majestic curve and even the intakes for the integral warp engines are detailed in their individual recesses. 

The detail to the back of the ship is still as impressive with the chain-mail effect continuing to the tip of the tail, interrupted only for the triple sweep of what I surmise is the ship's impulse engine. Not big enough or deep enough to warrant the translucent treatment mind.

The underside is dead simple with the whole inset piece looking like a carbon fibre Formula One car with sweeps and curves to give it that "aerodynamic" feel (really useful in space) broken by three protrusions at the front and rear as well as the recessed "moon pool" shuttlebay entrance. 

There's a lot of weight to the Devore Warship given that the top lump is all metal and only the underside insert being plastic. It's a simple two piece construction although the real win here is that distinct surface finish and paint job.

Stand placement is the now familiar rear grip - since that's about the only place you could do with such a streamlined surface. It's a good grip but the base stub is again not exactly the right size.

The magazine offers up the standard plan views along side a trip back to Counterpoint as well as the details of the Devore Warship. A couple of pages on this is followed with how the craft was designed for the episode - and unsurprisingly reused in future Voyager. The craft is certainly one of the most unique finishes ever seen and we get to understand more about how that came about. Sadly it's all CG and episode images without a single concept sketch to aid the background narrative.

Ultimately the biggest attraction to this issue is the background on Counterpoint itself, dissecting the nature of the story and explaining the reasons it turned out just so. The reflection here comes from the story writers and Mark Harelik who played Kashyk.

Both of this month's ships are top notch. The concept Excelsior is a hidden treasure of the collection and not one anybody expected to see in the main line of the series while the Devore Warship brings in a classic Voyager ep with a very memorable design. For a collection that's now heading towards 200 issues, there seems to be a lot of life and prospects still to come.

Do you want to see more of the Qualor II wrecks? Is this a step too far for the collection?

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Thursday, 27 June 2019

Respect Deserved: What We Left Behind

Absolute tosh, waste of time and don't bother.

Three statements that you are guaranteed NEVER to hear in relation to the recently released What We Left Behind documentary looking back at the jewel in the Star Trek crown, Deep Space Nine.

Assisted with funding through IndieGoGo, this two hour spectacle is, frankly, too damned short but what it does with those 120 minutes is worth every second.

Tracing the show's origins back to the early 1990's, What We Left Behind sees series producer Ira Steven Behr chatting to cast and crew involved with the seven year arc but not just in a talking head style which is actually referred to during the Q&A session following the main feature.

There's a huge sense of the family of the show from the off with everyone involved clearly passionate about the work that they did and the risks the show took once it stepped past its first couple of unsteady seasons. In regard to the family, the doc also passes its respects on for those members of that family who sadly could not be part of the reunion.

Behr leads the viewer through the whole story of Deep Space Nine with a few quirky, asides here and there mixed with the reminiscences of those involved. There's definitely a lot of facets to the story not just in how the cast feel that they were treated onscreen or off but also how the show was viewed by Paramount and, in some hilarious respects, by the audience on the other side of the TV screen. At times though it does swing the other way; there are anger and tears and this only goes further to show how impactful Deep Space Nine was then and still is right now to those involved.

What We Left Behind does have its fair share of anecdotes and light-hearted angles but Behr always brings it back to how unique the show was (and still is) as part of the ongoing Star Trek franchise and how it sat within the TV landscape in the mid to late 1990's. Certainly you will come away with a different perspective on the show given how the world and opinions have changed 26 years after it premiered because it might not be "right" for the current climate. Note on this point how this discussion focuses particularly around Kira.

Aside from the round tables and one to ones with Behr, there are another two significant elements to the documentary. The first of these is the writers room one day session to map out a theoretical opening episode for season eight set 20 years on from the series finale. Seeing Rene Echevarria, Ron D Moore, Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Hans Beimler reunited with Behr for this one off event and the result is fascinating to say the least.

Utilising animation we get to see the five acts of the show come together on the screen reuniting classic Deep Space Nine characters in a clever and unpredictable way that would have audiences flocking back to the series. The five writers create an engrossing story that most, if not all, series fans would beg to see one more time. What this does manage to cover are some of the unanswered questions from 1999's final episode plus how important Bajor and their religion was to the show.

The third piece to this puzzle comes in the shape of the HD footage meticulously constructed. Originally planned to be just five minutes, it eventually ran to a total of 20 minutes including a glorious battle sequence from Sacrifice of Angels as Defiant  punches through the Dominion lines and many other shots from the length of the series. The comparison to the original televised version is jaw-dropping. The detail, fluidity and spectacle on the big screen does it more than justice and 100% justifies the time taken to build this element into the final film. The Q&A session tagged on to the end of the docu-movie revealing a lot more of how and why this footage came to be as well as insight into the concept and evolution of the What We Left Behind story.

Where this succeeds for me is that it feels fresh, new and full of life even 20 years after the show ended. The cast and crew realise what they owe to the show and what the show owes to popular culture. It's amazing to see the positivity that flows through each frame and the evident joy that talking about Deep Space Nine brings to every single one of the people interviewed as well as the fan comments that are sprinkled in.

The only downside is the run time - there's not enough of it although the hints within the documentary are that the DVD/Blu-Ray releases will receive a ton of additional special features that will flesh out the story even further. It's incredible to think about the documentary afterwards and realise that a lot of the run time - and I emphasise the - a lot - spotlights the characters rather than the plot meaning that there is a lot left out including any mention of Lwaxana Troi, The Next Generation or Voyager crossovers outside of the pilot, the older Klingons, the Maquis, the Mirror Universe and a whole ton more. 

In retrospect, only a few episodes are given even the slightest of nods - Emissary, Far Beyond the Stars and Past Tense being the most prominent with the whole story generally having to limit itself to the major events of Deep Space Nine and the things it was influenced by and influenced itself. Honestly, the two hours run time does not do the subject justice but yet on the flip side this is likely to be the only one of its kind that will ever discuss the show in this manner.

Think about it for a second, The Original Series received a special when it hit 25 years, The Next Generation had a behind the scenes show tacked on the end when it finished in 1994 but here we have a true gem, a one off documentary that explores the journey (or actually the lack of mobility) which made this such a unique show - the arcs, the characters, the recurring roles, the Defiant, an anti-Federation, the hits, the misses and the almost weres; this has as much as possible packed in with something for new fans discovering it through Netflix and weekend binge-watches to established fans who have been with The Sisko and the crew since the beginning.

Deep Space Nine was the first Star Trek series I truly followed step by step from its conception to pilot and right the way through to the final episode. I stuck with it through the Move Along Homes and the If Wishes Were Horses first season stories, I pricked my ears up when the mentions of the Dominion started to appear in season two and by the time it began to fully serialise in seasons three through seven I was hooked more than ever before.

This documentary is for me, the fans of Deep Space Nine and those of us who hold it dear. A true work of love dedicated to a loyal fanbase within a fanbase and even apologetic at times for not quite getting to everything however I suspect that might be rectified with bonus material on other formats coming soon.

For the "bastard child" of the Star Trek universe to receive this treatment is incredible and almost beyond words and you will be glued from the first bars of the intro through to the last fade out of the Q&A roundtable. To have been able to experience it on the big screen was an epic moment and to see polished sequences like never before was a rare chance. If this ever gets a second screening in the UK I urge you to fill the petrol tank, buy a train ticket or book a taxi to see it and if you don't Garak will find you....

What were your thoughts on What We Left Behind? Where did you see it? What key things are you looking to see in the special features if/when the DVD is released?

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Thursday, 20 June 2019

Conspicuous Conflict: How The Next Generation Set the Tone for Discovery with The Pegasus

The Next Generation’s The Pegasus may have been responsible for the annual celebration of Jean-Luc on June 16th corresponding roughly to the story’s star date of 47457.1 yet it also represents a key moment in the development of the franchise in several different - and perhaps unexpected - ways.

While we can easily get caught up in the frivolities of the teaser section and the ensuing additional Star Trek celebration day (which is now only a few days past), The Pegasus is the most significant single episode of the final season of The Next Generation (not counting All Good Things…), blowing character, situation and Star Trek canon clean out of the water...or more accurately the galaxy.

Indeed, The Pegasus is one of The Next Generation’s darker moments, a twist in the tale of which even Gene Roddenberry may not have approved due to one vital element that separates it from the ethos of the Great Bird - conflict. To be more specific conflict between humans and tighter still, the main cast.

Opening up Commander William Riker’s backstory, the Enterprise is in a race against time to beat the Romulans to a starship missing for 12 years and containing a vast array of experimental technology including (spoiler alert) a Federation phasing cloak.

Riker initially chooses to keep the true purpose of the mission secret and follow the line of his former commander now admiral, Eric Pressman (Terry O’Quinn aka Locke in Lost). This places him unusually on the opposite side of the fence to Captain Picard and puts the Enterprise itself in serious jeopardy.

The story brings into question the very transparency and honesty of Starfleet. It had been six years since the aliens of Conspiracy infiltrated the organisation but this time there was no external influence. Starfleet had, at some time, decided to go against the Treaty of Algeron and built a - nearly - fully operational cloaking device. The usually squeaky clean Starfleet is dirtied unexpectedly with the The Pegasus offering a precursor to Eddington’s defection to the Maquis in Deep Space Nine and one might suspect the inclusion of Section 31 pretty soon afterwards. Everything is indeed fallible; everyone is an open book and nothing can be taken at face value and if the Cardassians, Romulans and Klingons have their secrets then surely the Federation must too?

The real heart of this story however is the three way tug of war between Pressman, Picard and Riker. The admiral uses his rank, influence and knowledge of Riker’s past to attempt to manipulate the Enterprise first officer to his cause and keep a terrible secret for just a while longer. However this move means Riker is placed directly against Picard who gets to the point where his demand for answers is rebuked and leaves him with potentially the need to replace his Number One. It's a chilling moment in the show seeing Jean-Luc not even miss a beat when he is considering the safety of the crew and families in his care  nor how this all seems to be going against the best interests of the Federation itself.

In the backstory to the events of the seventh season tale, the mutiny on the Pegasus brings into question who was right at the time of the failed cloaking experiment and for once not everyone is coming to the same conclusion even if they are all apparently on the same side. 

Interestingly this is the only recorded mutiny to have ever taken place on a Federation starship because Burnham and the events of her career are silenced following Discovery's disappearance. Picard himself states that mutiny on a Federation starship is unheard of - so Section 31 definitely did a good clean up job after she disappeared into the future. Anyway...

The crew of the USS Pegasus were split on whether it was right to be playing around with the cloaking technology leading to a handful of them including Riker and Pressman abandoning ship thus leaving the remaining individuals to an unknown fate. Rarely have we seen or heard of Starfleet crews not coming to the same decision or deciding on the greater good by a majority yet here we have a divide between morality and duty which is again played out in Pressman versus Picard 

At its heart The Pegasus demonstrates that the added spice of conflict between main characters can have a beneficial effect on the story although the situation is you would not expect Starfleet to find itself embedded in nor was it replicated that often during the first 50 years of the franchise. It's a testbed for some of Deep Space Nine's grittier moments and could have shown the potential for Voyager to really explore than Maquis versus Starfleet edge but alas it would take another 23 years before a series producer would finally choose to do away with Star Trek's greatest creative barrier.

The Pegasus held up surprisingly well for a 25 year old episode and resonates even more with the arrival of Discovery in which conflict is essential to and drives the story and the development of the characters. Riker’s reputation and ethics are called into question and rarely do we see Starfleet officers - upstanding Starfleet officers - having their actions scrutinised so closely yet here we are brought to an impasse where duty and loyalty collide.

Look at the early episodes of the latest Star Trek series and they’re not too dissimilar with Burnham turning on Georgiou to attempt to pacify the Klingons as well as the ongoing tensions and conflicts between the crew. While the waters on Discovery are a little greyer than those in the 24th Century, the conflict only arises here because of direct orders to keep the secrets of the lost starship just so. It’s one of The Next Generation’s most charged episodes when it comes to the main cast allowing both Stewart and Frakes chance to dabble in a bit of comedy and then almost the polar opposite by the third act.

It also presents more insight into the past of Riker through his time with Pressman, the reason that Picard chose him from the long list of glowing recommendations and that even at this stage, the captain won’t allow things to get in the way of the rest of the crew and the ship however long he’s known his first officer. 

The Pegasus is one of the last, great episodes from the era of The Next Generation and well worth revisiting today of all days. On the surface it might be explaining retroactively why the Federation doesn’t have cloaking technology but below that exterior is a much more intense character piece. If you're looking to find great Star Trek during the first Golden Age, then this is a damn fine place to start.

What other moments of conflict has Star Trek managed to get away with before Alex Kurtzman took the plunge?

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Sunday, 16 June 2019

Kelvin Counterparts: Attack Wing Mirror Universe Faction Pack: The Kelvin Timeline Part 2

We've covered the Enterprise and the alternate crew so let's turn our attention to Q'onoS and the Klingons for our second half of the Kelvin Timeline Faction Pack...

The two models included in this set are, frankly, excellent. Small scale they might be but the detail of the mould and the additional painted markings make for a great ship. Wizkids have crammed a lot in with the feathered panelling on the wings and the shoulder cannons (little out of scale these...) down to the vertebrae style neck connecting the command section to the main hull. Underneath is a little simpler with a flat hull complemented by some top notch detailing on the pair of warp nacelles hanging down from the wings of the engineering hull. For note, these ships and crew can be used either for the Mirror Universe or the Klingon Empire.

The influence of the classic D-7 is all too evident as it was on the larger and equally impressive version from Eaglemoss about a year back but I think this is just that tiny edge better because of the size of this one. It has to be one of the most exact reproductions from the franchise in the game and for once it's not let down by sloppy paintwork or misaligned engines. Instead we have a well presented Klingon vessel ready to take on the Federation.

Making a "second" appearance in the game is the IKS Amar last seen in its The Motion Picture guise as a K'T'Inga Class ship. The CG on the card shows it with purple tipped features  rather than the silver/greys of the miniature but we're not here to nitpick the image because it's all about the stats.

Now points-wise you at a disadvantage here because the Amar and the IKS Suvwl both rock in at 21 points versus the USS Enterprise's 28. Both ships pack four attack, one defence, four hull and three shield points plus the standard Actions of Target Lock, Battlestations, Cloak and Sensor Echo. They also mirror each other with slots for one Tech, two Weapon and a single Crew upgrade. Where they do differ is the Unique Action with the Amar able to fire its Primary Weapon if it receives damage while Cloaked (only once per game) and the Suvwl can add an extra attack die and reduce an opponent's defence by one should it be cloaked and not in the Primary Firing Arc of said enemy.

Both ships are geared towards dealing more damage leaving offence your best defence with these arrivals. Nor are they particularly quick with a top speed of four with full banking and 90 degree left and right turns at speeds two and three. The hard left/right at speed three as well as the reverse do incur the Auxiliary Power Token (red) penalty while the banking turns and forward of speeds two and one will get those removed (green). Considering the top speed there's a lot of manoeuvrability with these Klingons - even more surprising since these aren't more flexible birds of prey.

Kor is available as your highest skilled captain (seven) with a cost of four and the chance to equip an Elite Action as well. He has an interesting Action which wlll come in to play very well if you choose to employ it against your most powerful opponent. When attacking, Kor can add an extra die and then convert two Battle Station results into damage. If it's on the receiving end those Battle Station results can be converted to Evades and the ship gets to roll an extra defence die.

Kang is a little less flexible and will only be ever considered for use if you're going up against the Federation since his Unique Action specifically utilises one of that faction's ships. Should one be in your Forward Firing Arc then your captain skill increases from six to eight for that round. Kang too costs four points and can equip an Elite Action.

For two ships that can only add a single Crew upgrade you get a surprising four to choose from in this expansion. Koth could be a real asset to the ship costing two points and immediately disabling a Crew upgrade on an opposing ship. However, think a bit more and this could be a waste of resources since this is only used on Set Up and if your opponent is a half-decent player this will be reactivated sharpish. 

Also costing two points is Klingon Patrol. At the End Phase and as long as you;re not in the Forward Firing Arc of an opponent you can cloak. Admittedly this is nothing more than a Free Action completed at the back end of the round rather than the beginning - which will be all of two minutes in the real world.

Again for a cost of two is Klingon Guard. Offering a Combat Phase freebie of an Evade token, this one provides the chance to act after your opponents have made their move - or perhaps it'll assist you in a tight spot that you've noticed at the final moment. Low cost but with the potential to allow you an extra breath to get away. Simple but useful.

Finally, the most expensive of the Crew offerings is Klingon First Officer. It's a very unusual card in that it takes effect during the End Phase of the round and gives you a second chance to attack with the Primary Weapon. This in turn leads to the Captain being discarded and the First Officer being put in command with a skill of four which corresponds to the cost of the card. Slightly sacrificial however the chance to attack twice in the same round cannot be sniffed at if the opportunity arises.

Of the two Weapon cards, Disruptor Volley attaches an Auxiliary Power Token to an opposing ship within ranges one to three. Attacking with five dice there is no actual damage save this token although Attack Squadrons will lose an Attack Squadron token for each Damage or Critical Damage that is not cancelled out. For three points this is a very different type of attack than we are used to, reducing the opponent's tactical options for a short time and maybe reducing their speed choices next time round.

There's also the standard Photon Torpedoes card with again, the three point cost. Utilising the equipped ship's Primary Weapon +1, the Photon Torpedoes operate at all ranges and spends the Target Lock to fire. This one also has the benefit of changing all Battle Station results to Damage should the enemy shields be down. Brutal but effective, I'd never leave dock without this weapon option.

The Klingon Cloaking Device Tech card costs just two points to add on and offers two choices of action during the game. Either during defence you can convert one die result to an Evade (if cloaked) or you can drop three Time Tokens on it to cloak during the End Phase giving a second action to your go.

Finally the Elite Action, Overwhelm, is the only card that is offered up as just a Klingon option and costs you four points to equip. Featuring a pic of the Narada (?) it comes into play during the Attack phase allowing you to add one attack die to your roll for each ship that has attacked your target. One of the results can also be converted into a Battle Stations to just give that attack a bit more impact but you will have to disable it with two Time Tokens. Depending on when you play this will also determine if all or some or none of your ships will have attacked so best attach it to the ship with the lowest Captain skill so you will attack last.

So that's the second half of the Kelvin  pack and what a great assortment of alternative Klingon ships we have. This, along with the Federation ships not only gives you a two versus two scenario straight from the pack but also the chance to add all four ships into a Mirror Universe fleet which will be one heck of a mix and match. 

Wizkids have pushed the limits of the game here, trying new and unique card features alongside tried and tested favourites. The twin character cards as well as the Auxiliary Power Token attack are very distinct newbies to the game and provide some much needed variation that many of the later standard packs failed to provide. Looking forward to seeing what the Animated Series and Borg packs provide in the near future...

Check out more Attack Wing reviews in our online resource - and in the meantime let us know your thoughts on this expansion to the game - good choice? What else is missing?

If you've enjoyed it, please share!

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Thursday, 13 June 2019

Kelvin Counterparts: Attack Wing Mirror Universe Faction Pack: The Kelvin Timeline

Utilising elements from previous Wizkids games, Attack Wing has added a further piece to its repertoire.

Note: This is PART ONE of a two-part review...

Including two Constitution Class and two Klingon Battle Cruisers from the Kelvin Timeline, the Faction Pack provides not just the one Mirror fleet but two opposing forces if you want to go for a full on war.

The Constitution Class models actually have a decent amount of hull detail with panelling, phaser banks and even reaction control thrusters visible on the saucer.

Both the Enterprise and the Enterprise-A cards carry the same four attack, one defence, six hull and four shield points as well as one Tech, two Weapon and two Crew upgrade slots. They also both cost 28 points as well as the Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battle Station actions slotted in. They do differ when it comes to the aptly titled Unique Action. With the "original" Enterprise you can flip over a Specialisation Card (more on this shortly) and flip a damage card face down as a result.

On the Enterprise-A a Specialisation Card can be flipped to restore a shield point. Both of the Enterprises move identically with a maximum forward speed of six (does incur an Auxiliary Power Token) with Green forward and bank maneuvers at speeds one and two. Speed two also offers 90 degree turns and finally there's a speed of two for reverse that will incur an Auxiliary Power Token.

The Starfleet ships come with four captain options in Pike, Kirk, Spock and Sulu. Now, before we get into those you might think there are a heck of a lot of cards in this box but what we have here is a whole set of double-sided crew options. All of the Federation/Mirror cards here with the exception of Pike carry the "switch" Specialisation emblem. These will start on one side and then flip as and when directed within the game. There is, fortunately, a Specialisation card which explains all the benefits of these new possibilities plus their restrictions.

Unusually for this game pack I'm going to review per character for crew starting with the Kelvin Christopher Pike. An eight on Captain's Skill, Pike costs five points with the option to pack an Elite Action onto the ship as well. He allows an additional Crew slot plus can flip two Specialisation Cards equipped to the ship. Pike's a good card with strong stats that will allow you to change the flow of the game by altering your specialties in bulk per round to suit the situation.

Kirk has a Captain skill of seven for a cost of four points plus the chance to add an Elite Action. Kirk can be disabled during the Activation Phase and as a result you can remove a Time Token from any Crew assigned to your starship. Again a good skill level but reactivating this Kirk will take an Action to complete. Flip him onto Cadet Kirk, the cost is still four points and the Elite Action remains active. This version however is Crew rather than Captain and again he comes into play during the Activation Phase. This time three Time Tokens get set on the card so that you can increase your Captain skill by two for a round and also perform a Battle Station action as a freebie.

Cadet Kirk is certainly more flexible than the decently powered Captain option so I'd be more tempted to load him as this version with Pike in the command slot.

Science-shirted Mr Spock comes as the third command option for the Enterprise and provides a damn useful option alongside his skill of six and option for an Elite Action. During attack Spock allows your ship to add a Battle Station action/token to your ship or, if you have Scan already active. It adds a Damage to your attack roll. This highly effective card really has no downside nor does it require any Time Tokens to reactivate the feature. 

On the other side the Academy Tutor Spock works similarly to Cadet Kirk, increasing the captain skill by two points and letting you perform a Scan as a free action. All for the cost of three Tmie Tokens however it gives you the chance to move first and then potentially attack first with benefits. Spock costs a respectable four points and either side will allow the addition of an Elite Action.

Captain cards now out of the way, there are a further five Crew cards which are also double-sided.  Scott, Leonard McCoy Hikaru Sulu and Nyota Uhura cost three points with Pavel Chekov costing two. Montgomery Scott is temporarily disabled by Time Tokens should you wish to give yourself a better chance and repair a hull point or on the other side he will again result in a disabled card but for the option of repairing a Shield point. Once each Action is used the card is flipped meaning you can alternate which repair is completed. 

Cadet side McCoy offers an option to combat an Action that would lead to your Captain being discarded or disabled effectively "sacrificing" this card for that piece. Three time Tokens prvent it from being disabled while two will stop it from being thrown out of the game. On the Doctor McCoy side the process is two-step. Before the game starts you choose a Crew upgrade costing four points under the card. During Activation that Crew card is equipped to the ship and is temporarily disabled with three Time Tokens. I quote like the chance to add something new to the game with a delay. This can be played to great effect at a critical time to seal the deal.

Sulu can also be graded as a Captain with a skill of five and will gain an Evade Token should you perform a banking move at speed one to the left or right. Defensively it adds another chance to get away from an attack more effectively and the alternative also provides additional defence but only against minefields with three dice rolled to see if you can Evade the onslaught of this killer laid weapon. His stronger Action is definitely his Captain side but given the strength of the other contenders I would probably never use it.

Uhura also functions to extend your time in the game with her Cadet side allowing you to discard any Communication Failure damage cards and her Communications Officer side offers help to an ally with it increasing the range of any Upgrades by one. This Activation Phase action comes at the cost of three Time Tokens but could help a smaller support ship give you an extra boost or provide an unexpected attack from another craft.

Two point Chekov works against opponents during combat to remove a Scan token in play on another ship or you can utilise his ability to cancel off an Auxiliary Power Token from your own craft dependant on which version you choose. Either incur the standard three Time Token penalty before being reactivated. For a couple of points Pavel does provide something different and I would probably go with the Auxiliary Power assistance to mean I can perform some tighter manoeuvres. Definitely suggest coupling him with something that will reduce your Time Token penalty.

You also have two Weapon choices to implement taking their cues from the 2009 and Into Darkness movies. Full Spread Phasers either adds an attack die to your primary weapon (thus making this Enterprise attack with five dice) or allos you to fire from your Secondary Weapon arc using one less die (three in this example). This is a magic card to equip for just a four point cost and removes the possible need for Photon Torpedoes since there's no Time Token requirement to reactivate. Costing three points is Advanced Long Range Torpedo. Adding one more die to the attack (five in the case of the Enterprise), the Torpedo can be used at ranges two and three and does require two Time Tokens to be used up before it can be reactivated. However, the benefit is worth it with any ship within range one of the target incurring one point of damage. A great move that increases the abilities and effectiveness of the weapons in the pack and one which you would have to seriously consider on a Federation or Mirror Universe fleet.

Rounding out the Federation half of the pack there are two Tech upgrades included (but no Federation Elite Actions???). Integrated Future Technology is a nod to the arrival of Nero and Spock to the past. This one stops you from incurring Faction Penalties when you want to bolt on Romulan or Bajoran Tech or Weapon upgrades to the ship. But that's not all and for three points there's a lot of value here since the card asks you to place a Tech upgrade costing four or less under it during Setup then flip it over and equip it during Planning even if it goes over your points budget. 

Finally, Portable Transwarp Beaming Device works at all ranges and stops you losing an essential crew member from your ship if such an enemy Action was to do so.  If this was to happen then this card comes right into play with a light one Time Token penalty and a cost of two points which is well worth the price to keep your ship fully stocked for the duration.

The Federation half of this pack gives some strong contenders and a lot of things to consider. A few of these upgrades are downright outrageous and the double-sided cards provide a new twist on a game that's been around for a while. What I would have liked to have seen was some functionality linked to Beyond but the bulk of the crew features seem based firmly in the 2009 movie with the tech coming more from the Into Darkness sequel. Certainly a Saucer Separation option would have played well maybe offering two firing arcs and maybe we could have had a Vengeance or a Franklin instead of the second Enterprise which, of course, suggests that this was devised during or after the third movie. 

The models are decent and yes, we know they are recycled from other Wizkids releases which is likely the reason we haven't got either of the other two Starfleet ships I've suggested since their miniatures don't exist. That said, this is a great addition to the fleet and a whole new angle with the dual ability cards. Potentially one of the strongest fleets available in one place.

You can read the second half and the Klingons right here...

What's your impressions of the Kelvin Timeline faction pack? Will you be adding it to your collection?

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