Thursday, 25 November 2021

STO Issues 17 & 18: USS Edison and Tholian Recluse


The Discovery era Hoover Class gets a shiny update in STO with the USS Edison.

One of the ships featured in the Battle at the Binary Stars, the class was hidden from view with many others when the repair base was lost in a dangerous region of space only to be relocated once the radiation had died down in the 25th Century.

Tech'ed up to the levels of "modern" Starfleet in STO, the reimagined USS Edison model is a stunningly compact vessel packed out with a load of crisp details for fans of the franchise to pour over.

Continuing the theme of Starfleet ships, HeroCollector have base-coated the Edison with that pixelated white then layered her up with a series of greys through to black which accentuate the stepped hull levels and panels. There is a whole range of colours going off across the hull here and the windows are added as a decal rather than being painted in or recessed and marked up. As always, this coy move makes a huge difference since the decals for the lifeboat hatches and the "brackets" for the phaser strip ends don't line up quite correctly. Nor do the black marks for the RCS thrusters which means that, tragically a lot of this ship seems to have decal shifted about 3mm to the left.

Yet all of the painted sections are spot on. The domes for the warp field coil and the bridge are aligned, for the most part so are the darker hull patches but what is frikkin' terrible is the ship registry.

Slapped on the front of the hull, the NCC-95160 is almost unreadable due to the clash of colours - only legible if you flip the Edison over and read it from the underside. Carrying on the inspection, the pennant stripes across the forward hull and also at the sides seem perfectly in alignment with the curve of the hull right to the tapered rear end.

While the engines don't contain translucent bussard collectors, they do have blue warp field grilles set into the plastic and again carry that pixelated paint job and dark grey feature panels. The painting here is much better and the decals are far straighter than elsewhere on the Edison

But turning her over reveals a ton more. The ship might be one of the slimmest designs to have made its way into the game and onscreen in Discovery, but those wonderful people have maxed out on the visual upgrades when it comes to the underside. For one you can get a much better look at the engines and a second set of translucent warp grilles and even more of that rather excellent dark panel finish. 

Bizarrely the decals on the bottom around the phaser strip ends and the thin red stripes on the pylon edges are all straight as a dye and perfectly in place. The colouring for both the bussard collectors on the underside plus the central sensor dome are also great and you have to kick yourself a little bit to realise that this is just the ventral section. How the finish on two sides of the same thing can be this different eludes me but I do love the work that's gone into the build underneath.

Even at the front we have those legible registry details and there's a much more finished and uniform feel about the whole setup here. 

The magazine for issue 17 offers up a good level of depth to the in-game starship class and not just in reference to the Yard 39 spin that came off the back of Discovery airing. aligned with that is an article detailing the upgrades to that original 22nd Century design as well as images showing the changes made. Interestingly and actually in line with my own thoughts, the secondary/Engineering hull was the main piece that attracted the most design work. Flick back to the ship and review here and it's clear that the effort was a success.

Finally the STO Lore section expands on the Allied Cooperative Starship Development Board which saw the combined efforts of the Federation, Klingons, Romulans and Jem'Hadar to take the next steps in their navies. Resulting in some instantly recognisable designs (such as the Enterprise-C concept, Narendra Class), the ACSDB article covers how the big powers in the quadrant came together and the progress they are making to utilise the technology of each.

Issue 18 takes us into Tholian realms with their Recluse battlecruiser. Something completely different here that evokes the angular design of the classic from TOS as well as the tweaks from Enterprise and the remastered original episode. 

The Recluse is a Tholian webspinner on drugs. Pumped up and taken to another level, this makes for a terrifying adversary. Arched forward with a triple-pronged formation, the ship oozes aggression and is one of the most impressive craft to be included in this limited run.

The build work on the Recluse is amazing. The central section is held in place with struts running from the three outer forks and seem to gel back into that larger piece of the ship. The struts themselves have small window detailing and markings which was unexpected. The black blends smoothly into the rest of the hull, adding a valleyed effect to the surface and breaking up the grey overcoat. There's a lot of surface changes on the Recluse and it genuinely looks and feels unique amongst the 20 issues. 

Even the recessed sections carry minor detailing and brings a sense of life to the craft. What I also really like on this one is the "scarred" effect on the grey panels. It adds more depth to the model and makes it seem used and somehow imperfect. The fact that these lines do seem fairly random assists in taking the expected uniformity away and creates a much more realistic effect.

Check out that there are some further lighter sections on the ship and how nicely the engines to the rear are painted up. With all the differences in hull levels I was thinking there would be a ton of paint errors on this one but it's quite the opposite with one of HeroCollector's most impeccable finishes for several years. This does look the part, right down to the lighter blue weapon emitters at the tips of the arms. 

Acting as a carrier for the smaller Widow Class fighters, the Recluse magazine covers a bit on the Tholian Assembly as well as how the large vessel lines up with the web-spinning vessels of the fleet in quite substantial detail. This is excellent, expanded background on what are a scarcely explored race within Star Trek. That's one major plus point with Online in that it has worked to tell much more about some of those lesser known aliens.

This issue is a cracking read because the section covering the designing of the Recluse also includes the work done to update the Tholians themselves as an Online adversary. It explains how the levels of the Assembly were devised and ultimately how the ships and Tholians themselves aligned. As you would hope, issue 17 rounds out with a more in depth look at the Tholians themselves with more CG images and concept work to flesh out their story from their rare episodic appearances.

These are two great issues of the Online Collection with the Recluse being a particular highlight. The rendering, recreation and detail on it is beautiful and in keeping with the "reclusive" race. The Edision is only let down with those decal issues but remains a strong redesign and model maybe only because the secondary hull is such an impressive section. No big complaints with these two and certainly worth adding to your ship set up any day of the week.

Check out all our Online Starships posts HERE

You can find out more on the Star Trek Online Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

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Wednesday, 24 November 2021

USS Defiant NX-74205 XL


The tough little ship is a little bigger with this edition of the XL series from HeroCollector.

Don't let the image on the box fool you either because the enclosed starship is a lot better than it suggests.

The first and most prominent upgrade to the Defiant aside from the size, is the colour. Both the grey base coat and the blue highlights of the original issue eight edition have been toned down and suit the ship a lot better.

The pale blue is much more suitable while the model also benefits from much thinner panel lines which, in retrospect, do overpower the finish of the smaller original. Edging detail such as around the torpedo emplacements are cleaner too and as you look further along the ship it's even more evident in the exposed electronics just behind the nose piece and then into the grille work behind the bridge module.

Defiant is also extremely heavy to the back end indicating that this has been purposely weighted for display and avoiding her being front heavy since it's a rear grip stand. Let's get my one issue out of the way first though; that warhead/nose section is still flimsy to a degree with only a small connection to the main hull holding it in place. It's better than before (because it's bigger) but I wouldn't want to catch it on anything. Easily the weakest part of the model.

Decalling, as with the Runabout, is also more precise with the thin Starfleet red stripes much more suited to the larger scale but aside from those points there is also a marked step up in the quality of the product. The edges are a lot smoother here if you compare the curve forward of the bridge. Some of the recessed circles (nose especially) are not a large and the colours actually line up to the panels.

The warp engines contain those lovely translucent elements to the front in red and then to the rear in blue. Note too here that one of those rear piece is sunk back from the hull plus they are separated by a separate plastic trim that runs vertically. On the regular issue that was just part of the insert painted up grey. 

On the underside it's a similar story of more subtle paintwork combined with that higher definition. Portholes are painted in along the sunken edge near the nacelles, the grille lines are easier to see under a better paint job and there's even some updated painting. The centre of the shuttle hatch is no longer blue and just behind that centre circle there are two smaller circles now in light blue rather than black.

Out on the engines, the red striping is cleaner again but there's added yellow panel detail to the front as well as a black stripe that was totally missing on the first version. Another addition is the underside phaser cannons sitting on the front edge of the warp engines and again totally absent on the smaller one.

Most impressive for myself though has to be the additional red chevron decal under the nose and the correct painting of the "handlebar" feature under the warhead. It's now grey rather than that odd choice of blue. The forward deflector too is spruced up utilising another translucent (but not coloured) piece as an insert. The edge grey on this is very precise and lightyears ahead of the first one. 

Probably the big win with the majority of the XLs comes down to the finish; the paint and decals are in the places they should be. On the smaller issues they were a little to the left for example but here there's no slip. Even the red/green port/starboard lights are in place and the more you look, the more you can see the differences and the reasons that this is a great addition to a starship collection.

In the magazine though it's a sense if deja vu to any long term fans with three sections tackling the Making, Casting and Filming of DS9. The focus, strangely, is much more in Emissary and season one than anything to do with the Defiant but then what is there left to cover? Not a bad read per se, just overfamiliar content for anyone dedicated enough to be buying the XLs. Also, biggest magazine gripe - keep it in some way relevant to the item.

It is a massive improvement in every single sense of the word and this is a ship that will easily be swapped in to take the place of its smaller predecessor. It highlights a lot of the errors, a lot of the "had to do" work that fitted for the 180 issue series but the choice to go bigger was justified. 

As I'm going through the XLs under review it's clearer and clearer that they are another level of product. In some cases the price may be too steep but they give a true appreciation of the ships and present them much more suitably.

USS Defiant maxes out on cool both in DS9 and here in supersized model form. Top flight from HeroCollector and one for permanent display without question.

Were you as enamoured with the Defiant? Let me know below!

Check out all our Starships posts HERE

You can find out more on the Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

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Tuesday, 23 November 2021

25 Years: First Contact Retrospective


After two and a half decades, First Contact still stands as The Next Generation's finest cinematic voyage.

A combination of time travel and the Borg, the eighth Star Trek movie combined two of the franchise's most successful elements into a movie of truly galactic proportions.

1996 was an interesting year for Star Trek; it was the 30th anniversary of the show and First Contact quite literally went back to the beginning, the pivotal moment in time where everything changed and looked at the very origins of the Alpha Quadrant. Voyager had produced Flashback and returned viewers to The Undiscovered Country while DS9 had perhaps more effectively commemorated its heritage with the mix of new and old in the sublime Trials and Tribble-ations

Star Trek was truly at the zenith of the Berman era with two popular shows in their third and fifth seasons and no apparent end in sight for Picard's crew on the big screen... but all that would change in seven years with the release of Nemesis in 2003.

However, at this point there were some changes taking place in the franchise thanks to the arrival of this eighth movie. While it's brilliant to note that passage of time it's also worth pointing out that this would be the debut of the grey/black uniforms, James Cromwell's Zephram Cochrane, the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E and a striking redesign for the cinema screen of the Borg.

While the Enterprise-E would only make two further appearances in Insurrection and Nemesis, the new uniforms would transition onto DS9 and more recently Lower Decks while the Borg look would be seen again in the Delta Quadrant. Cromwell's Cochrane would even turn up in the premiere episode of Enterprise in 2001 to pass the torch. 

But it can't just be these factors that endure First Contact 25 years later. It came off the back of the successful - if flawed - Generations with a more natural gestation period than its predecessor. While the handover movie to the TNG crew had been hurriedly produced after the seventh and final season of the TV series in 1994, First Contact  had a chance to develop at a more sedate pace. Written by Generations and TNG scribes Ronald D Moore and Brannon Braga, the Borg were the natural go-to for villainy and First Contact probably fleshes them out more than any other single instalment of the franchise.

We've talked before about the differences in the Borg from TNG to Voyager but here in First Contact we have them at perfection. Assimilation en-masse is introduced as is the silky Borg Queen and in two hours we have a better picture of the Borg hive structure and even their true malevolence. In The Best of Both Worlds and the other TNG episodes there was always a sense of a blank slate with the drones and even a mindlessness but in First Contact they look threatening, they look determined. Take the look of the drone who attacks and presumably assimilates Lt Hawk on the main deflector dish. The menace is present not just his facial expression but in his movements and ultimately the costume. These were Borg you felt were genuinely unstoppable from the second they appeared on screen.

But again, First Contact isn't just about the Borg because even though they are a formidable threat, there are still moments of appropriate humour in here; Data and Picard touching the Phoenix, Barclay stalking Cochrane or Troi getting drunk. But they don't overwhelm the picture and help to alleviate some of the burgeoning tension that builds through the story.

There's a lot of variety in here with Picard's story on the Enterprise as he makes his way back to the bridge with Lily Sloane, the preparations for the first warp flight and then Data's peril at the hands of the Collective. While Generations placed the fate of an unseen planet - Veridian III - in danger, the Federation itself and more specifically Earth are targeted. 

Yet while we celebrate the dawning of another milestone in Trek culture, for us in the UK it was actually December 13th which marks our true 25th anniversary of its premiere. That's 21 days after the US experienced it.

Twenty-one days ladies and gents. OK, that was nothing like the wait we had for TOS or TNG or even DS9 if you were reliant on terrestrial TV in the mid-90's - but there was still a wait of some degree. Over time it became less and less until in the case of the latest shows it's 24 hours dependent on the platform.

But remember back then? We just had to wait whether you wanted to or not. You could always fork out £11.99 for two episodes on VHS and even then they were at least six months behind. Yet here we are again but having to wait an untold amount of time to see the latest Discovery episodes. The more things change, the more they do indeed stay the same however, while we can grump over the delays (which back in t'day we just dealt with and waited or got someone to post a video from the US!) TNG remains only one of two Star Trek shows to have made the jump to the big screen.

While it is 25 years since Picard, Data and the Enterprise crew faced off against the Borg Queen for (what should have been) the only time, it is still a rather jaw-dropping 18 years since Nemesis. Eighteen years since a Trek series last crossed to the big screen directly (not a reboot!) and surely now the clock on that possibility is ticking down rather than adding up.

After the rushed production of Generations, First Contact showed what the cast of TNG were capable of both in front and behind the camera. It set a benchmark that neither of its successors were able to match and in many respects that no Star Trek movie has managed to achieve since. It is the crowning glory in that short-lived big screen stint for the Enterprise-E and a stepping stone and reference point for many, many more adventures across the galaxy.

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Monday, 22 November 2021

STO Issue 16: AFS Khitomer


With only a slender few issues left in its sadly limited run, the Online Collection is pulling in some excellent editions to round out 20 volumes.

Issue 16 (apologies but the Enterprise-F refit was out of stock so this will be updated with that shortly) is the AFC Khitomer. Aptly named after the location of the infamous peace conference, the first starship to be designed jointly by the Klingons and Federation is a fairly recent addition to the game.

A slender design, the Khitomer attempts to meld two design strands together and does manage to pull it off. The front is very Federation and the back is very distinctly Klingon. But we're here to check out the model rather than offer opinions on the in game creation, more how does HeroCollector handle it.

Honestly, it could do with being bigger and would look stunning as an XL - which they also need to do with the Enterprise-F. Just as with the Excelsior and Enterprise-B, the length versus the box space on this one works completely against it with the ship seemingly squashed into a size that doesn't befit it. 

Windows are mere tiny blobs and barely recognisable out on that scythe edge to the front of the saucer and the distinct blue and yellow panelling seems totally lost on such a small canvas. Even the CSN-01 registry looks crunched up on the small primary hull. 


That's not saying that HeroCollector haven't done all they can here because it is still as STO accurate as possible with that unusual brown edging running the whole way round the Khitomer's leading edge. The mix of colours here is interesting too with that as noted brown linking in with the more typical white base of Starfleet to give an unusual starship look. 

Even in its small diecast form, the Khitomer still smells Klingon with that long neck assembly, replete with bridge-style module nestled on the top and those classic low slung dagger-like nacelles which almost look stolen from Discovery. The forked upper assembly is another distinct Klingon assembly and beautifully brings the combined strengths of the two formidable powers together in one shape. 

However, it still feels a bit crinkly. The mottled, pixelled paint job does convey the online nature of the ship nicely but there is still a lot going on. Some of the yellow striping is arrow straight while the curves are slightly wobbly and uneven. Lifeboat hatches and other miscellaneous decals are just too damn small to really take in with the undulating surface of the hull not helping their placement either top or bottom. 

Most of the best paint and decal work here is towards the rear of the Khitomer. The impulse blocks, warp grilles and markings around that winged section are quite precise with the bussard collectors standing out on the engines. Indeed, it's not that bad a result but as I've looked over her more, it's that primary hull/saucer that doesn't seem to be totally up to scratch on this one and mainly on the top. Underneath the detailing is nice and clean with a decent level of decalling that doesn't overcrowd the surface with a flatter finish for the hatches and ship registry. Even the more curved and circular features here are under better control and just sit right. There is a section of brown paint missing (?) from the edge of the primary hull (see pic on the left side) and continuing on, it seems to flake in and out at several points with a distinct white line in some places.

Under a bit more inspection, the ventral side of the Khitomer is it's best. The blocking is conspicuously better although still not perfect. There is some feathering towards the prongs of the back upper unit which again bugs me a little but it's a step up from the other side.

I cannot emphasise how much this really, really needs to be made into an XL. I think STO fans would go mad for it (and the F) if it were in a bigger scale because this just doesn't work. That's a big shame because I can see a lot of game fans looking forward to this one and coming out relatively disappointed because of the finish. There's nothing to quibble on when it comes to the actually build materials and construction, just how it's wrapped up.

Into the issue 16 magazine and we have an overview of the in-universe story behind the abilities of the AFS Khitomer as well as its journey to creation. This is followed with the real world story of its design and build which details how the team behind STO worked to combine elements of the two distinct cultures into the one vessel. Wisely we then complete the issue with ship stats from the game plus a briefing on the nature and history of the alliance between the Klingons and Federation as seen in the late 24th and early 25th Centuries.

The magazine this time rounds out the ship nicely and it feels as though this is a complete Khitomer package with all elements clearly interlinked and related to the featured vessel. As a bundle, great, but when it comes to some of the touches on the starship model itself there is room for improvement.

Check out all our Online Starships posts HERE

You can find out more on the Star Trek Online Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

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Saturday, 20 November 2021

Dominion Faction Pack: Cardassian Union

 


A break in the run of XL reviews to cover another of our popular topics - Attack Wing.

An eternity ago we discussed the excellent Starfleet, Vulcan and Klingon packs but were surprised that the Cardassian Union expansion was delayed in the UK. It's finally arrived on our shores and is sure to provide a new level of play to your existing Dominion faction.

Set up in the standard four ship faction box, the Cardassian Union set brings together various aspects of the DS9 storyline. Taking a piece from the Romulan/Cardassian alliance to destroy the Founders, another from Dukat's personal arc and a third that also encompasses TNG and Voyager, there's a lot going on just with the ships.

Providing a second side to your Dominion faction (if you're playing pure), the pack includes two Keldon Class ships, a Galor Class and Gul Dukat's Klingon Bird of Prey models along with 28 new cards and tokens.

The four ships are the standard versions of ships which already exist so we'll skip onto the upgrades. The highest costing ship is the Keldon Class Preloc at 24 points. Offering the same fie Attack, one Defence, four Hull and three Shields as the lower costing Orias, the Preloc increases the number of Attack die of Dominion faction ships within range one by one. The two Keldon Class ships both have options for two Tech, two Weapon and one Crew upgrade as well as Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battle Stations.

Strange thing is, I would have actually put the Orias as the more expensive of the pair since it gets to field the Cloak and Sensor Echo Actions as well if there are only Romulan or Dominion upgrades attached to it. If a friendly ship within range one cloaks then the Orias itself can do likewise as a free Action. Honestly I'd go with the Orias due to that extra standard Action ability. I only tend to play faction pure so this would be a huge advantage.

The Orias and the Galor Class Vejar both come in at a 22 point cost. The latter loses an Attack die but gains a Shield. Again, the Orias seems a better choice since the Vejar only carries Evade, Target Lock and Scan as standard abilities and four upgrade slots; Tech, Weapon and two Crew. Its Unique Action allows friendly ships up to range two can perform a Free Action from its Action Bar. 

Finally there's Dukat's Bird-of-Prey for a cheaper 17 points. With a four Attack, one Defence, three Hull and three Shields, the captured Klingon ship fields the Cloak and Sensor Echo features as standard as well as Evade and Target Lock. Operating as a dual faction vessel both as the named and generic versions, the Bird-of-Prey gets to either receive a Battle Station, Evade or Battle Station during combat or can increase the Captain Skill by three for that round. 

The Bird-of-Prey is a cool addition to the set and something a bit more curveball. Two Keldon Class could have seen one substituted with some Hideki fighters. If you are looking to reduce costs then the Bird-of-Prey general version comes in at 13 points with a single Tech, Weapon and Crew upgrade. The two generic cards for the Keldon Class both cost 20 points with two Tech, one Crew and one Weapon slot while the Galor Class is 17 points with a single Tech, Weapon and Crew slot. Each of them also loses its Unique Action from the named card and one Shield point. 

As for the Captains, we have four in the set enabling you to field every ship straight out of the box... well almost as for some reason I was missing one base!

Top dog here is Gul Dukat. Oddly there's no benefit to placing him on his own named Bird-of-Prey but he still proves an eight Captain skill plus, rarely, two Elite Action slots. 

He does also provide an enhanced attack feature which more than justifies his five point price tag. While modifying attack dice, an Evade or Scan beside the ship can be spent to convert up to three Battle Stations into two damage each. Now, logically I'd stick Dukat straight onto the Preloc or Orias to max those dice every time and if not, have him on a ship which comes into range of one of those on every turn just to max the hit chances.

Enabran Tain can flip to either Fleet Admiral or Captain with a skill of eight. There are no penalities with him for attaching Romulan upgrades to his vessel and as a second ability, Tain lets you discard a Dominion Crew upgrade to attack with an additional attack die on your primary weapon. It does incur two Time Tokens but could up your fire power to six if you're staying with this pack.

The four point costing Gul Toran also has the Elite Action option and a Captain skill of six. Toran's action unusually gives a bit of added attack and defence for friendly ships within range two. As the Action for the round, he can select a faction and then all friendly ships engaging them will gain an attack and defence die that time round. I like this one because it's rare to get a good defensive option. Just remember it's there if you equip him - and I'd suggest to a support vessel.

Last up there's Gul Evek. While Tain and Toran are DS9 focuses, Evek actually appeared in TNG, DS9 and Voyager during the mid-90's aboard the Vejar - see it all links!

Skilled with a lowly four and costing a reasonable two points, Evek only operates his Action at range one but does take on all the Auxiliary Power Tokens that might be in play on those ships during the Combat Phase. While potentially incapacitating Evek's command, it may well open up other Action opportunities on more than one ship.

The four Crew for selection also give a broad pass across the DS9 Dominion story arc. The five point Tora Ziyal can act for either the Dominion or Bajoran faction. She targets an attacking ship during the compare results stage and if the enemy is within range one, she can cancel the attack completely and be discarded. Ziyal also allows her own vessel to then perform an attack on that same ship utilising one less dice than a primary weapon if possible. A good card to help live another day or stop that one huge attack that you know is likely to be coming.

Three point Korinas works a little harder out at ranges two and three. Disabled and incurring an Auxilary Power Token, she removes an in play Minefield token. Very subjective and a waste of points unless you know this is something that could be deployed. I'd probably leave this one aside.

Gul Damar (two points) although not a Captain himself is perfect to add to any ship since he ups the Captain skill by two. He also assists with a friendly ship at up to range two in that if they use a Weapon upgrade he can be disabled with two Time Tokens and up to three attack dice can be re-rolled. Very useful although the Weapon upgrades from this pack max out at three dice anyway. Last up is Gul Broca. The final puppet leader of the Cardassian Union during the Dominion War, his Action is another decent one worth considering. Two points for its use as well is very agreeable with him targetting all friendly ships within range two. All of those affected roll an additional attack die that round including the one Broca is equipped to.

As to those Weapon upgrades, the Cardassian Union has some interesting plays to use. Available only for Galor Class ships, Multiple Dorsal Arrays (three points) works at all angles of attack but only if your enemy is using Attack Squadrons (fighters). Disabled with two Time Tokens, it allows your vessel to perform a second attack against the same target. Now I like this because I also love fighters and understand how flipping annoying they can be. This does offer some protection and deterrent at the same time.

The Enhanced Resonance Field Grid is a bit of a sneaky attack for a cost of two points. When using the Primary Weapon and you have an uncancelled Damage result, the card is binned off and that Damage can be put straight onto the Hull rather than the Shields. I'm not sure if this will make much of a difference in the long run unless you use this multiple times to dodge the shields on your opponent. Plus you'll need to remain in range to make it work over several rounds.

Last up is Phase Disruptor Array which can be used on Galor or Keldon Class ships and will cost two points. Activated at ranges one and two, the card incurs three Time Tokens and you will need to spend an active Target Lock to re-roll any number of dice up to two times. Couple of BIG wins here. It's reusable and it's a multi-roll which is better than a standard Target Lock and is only actually costing one more Time Token (depending on if you're using that or Disable tokens). Ideal for close quarter combat, you will need to make sure that your attacking ship lines up with a target in the forward firing arc.

Tech upgrades in the faction pack range from four points down to one. Top price goes to Type-3 Galor Class which adds two points to the Shield value of your ship, making it more defensible than a Keldon Class. Legion Crew Module means you can add another two Crew slots to your ship for a cost of two points and Uridium Alloy (two points) can be disabled during the modifying of attack dice step to convert two Damage into Critical Damage.

Perhaps the most interesting of the four Tech cards though is Sensor Ghost. What looks like a lot of text for a two point price is another useful defence technique. Discarded, Sensor Ghost forces an attacking ship to roll one less attack die and if the attack doesn't destroy your ship then it can perform a "one" Sensor Echo move and get out of the way...hopefully.

Obsidian Order is the most expensive upgrade card in the pack at five points. Usable over all three range marks, it mirrors enemy ships. If they spend a Battle Station, Scan or Evade then you get to equip one. No disable or discard in play here either which means you can certainly use this to your advantage both on attack and defence. Another perfectly sneaky move from the Cardassians.

Interrogation for two points disables a Crew upgrade on an enemy ship at range one during the Planning Phase of the game and locks it out with three Time Tokens. Not a massive fan of this one as it need you to take a chance that your opponent will have something worth locking out for that period of time. Very risky but low cost so you could take a punt.

Third in the group of Elite Actions is Supreme Tribunal. One point is a good price if you need to fill up some points. It does incur a four Time Token penalty and the only result is that an enemy ship within range two receives an Auxiliary Power Token. Nice point filler to reuse if you have a gap.

The final upgrade card is Kanar which can be equipped on any ship without an upgrade slot. For one point it's a nice option to have as you perform your Action before moving with the penalty being twofold. First you have to reveal your manoeuvre face up and also take on two Time Tokens. However, very useful if you realise you're in an early tactical advantage before moving!

Two missions are also packed into the Cardassian Union box. The Simpler Times sees the Klingons chasing down Gul Dukat and his captured Bird-of-Prey on a straight forward seek and destroy. The Secret of the Orias Sector takes its lead from DS9's Defiant in that a Federation ship must escape from the Cardassians after completing scans of the sector. Its 60 points versus 40 points but more dicey for the Federation player who has a mission to finish before getting away.

This may well be my favourite faction pack to date. It's exciting, varied, sneaky, defensive and loaded with four ships that really do gel well as a force right out of the box. The upgrades here are exemplary and mixed in with the Jem'Hadar faction pack from a couple of years back, I can see this being one of the strongest armadas available.

The Keldon Class ships alone are worth the price and I'm looking forward to joining them up with the Dreadnought missile or even a Hideki fighter wing in combat. Definitely a must have pack that really could re-ignite a lot of passion for the game with its brilliant cards. Absolutely first class.

You can check out all our Attack Wing reviews over on the Gaming Section!

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Friday, 19 November 2021

Delta Dynamo: USS Voyager NCC-74656 XL


Over the course of the Starships Collection we have seen Voyager in several guises.

There was the original for issue six, Armoured Voyager, Borgified Voyager and even a version from the envisaged past of Living Witness but all of those come second to the impressive XL NCC-74656.

I've loved every iteration (maybe slightly less the Borg one) of Voyager and as we've progressed so has the quality. The paint has thinned, the shield grid lines have become more visible and there are a ton of visual upgrades to explore. Even right at the front there's the enhanced detail on the sensor palette and even the forward airlock.

Voyager's surface electronics are clearer to see with the XL and the recessed windows of the primary hull are now marked in rather than just being dips in the surface. Even the tiny lifeboat hatches carry small markings however there are some unforgiveable issues there too.

Catching the hull in the light you can see that some of the thin black linings and also a great deal of the windows (especially at the taper of the neck) are badly aligned to their hull locations. There's a lot of weight to the upper hull as well with HeroCollector making a slight modification to the mould. The arches to the sides of the shuttlebay are now part of the metal upper rather than part of the plastic engineering section.

Colouring in general is a lot more precise. The overall blue of the hull has been dulled down as it had been for the Warship version with the greys of the highlights again as with the Defiant, also turned down. It's interesting to compare the various versions of this ship and see how each has made an improvement. The definition (yep, that word again) between the sections and colourings makes it a lot better on the eye.

The underside of the primary hull is just as well finished with a ton of lifeboat, phaser strip and window detailing. Those windows are once more horribly misaligned. However, there's a good level of precision around the two warp core ejection hatches. In fact on the belly of Voyager there's a whole lot more slim decalling to take in including the red/green port/starboard lights. Right across the base there are a nice set of markings applied. The mark out for the Aeroshuttle (with registry) stands out yet perhaps it's the deflector dish that's the most striking element of the Intrepid Class.

The blue and orange contrast here is spot on and because the hull tones have been taken down a few steps it really catches the eye. In regards to the detail however it's on a par but doesn't surpass the smaller editions.

To the back the shuttlebay itself has received a sticker upgrade both on the landing pad and around the edge. The plastic pylons are well constructed and lead out to the warp engines which follow the familiar route of it forebears. The bussard collectors are split and still too small to fit out with translucent pieces however the warp field grilles are. Between those two, the field coils are painted up in gold and with the final touches of the Starfleet registry and pennants, it's actually a good job.

HeroCollector have also upgraded the ship in a lot of ways. The decals with the ship registry are a vast improvement. The increased level of markings right across Voyager step it in the right direction but those window mis-placements are awful. It's not just on the top but in every location there's a recess point requiring one of the "slit" black or white indicators. Surely there's a better way to get these in the right place.

The magazine covers the groundwork that made the first season with backgrounds on the original briefs for the main characters and the direction of the show plus an article exploring the design choices to make Voyager still feel Starfleet but have an updated look suitable for a new show and starship. Decent read but, as with many of the XLs, it's material that's already been seen elsewhere.

Certainly the winner for "Longest Box", USS Voyager looks the part in most ways - just try not to look too closely as there could be a little disappointment in the finish.

Was this a successful upgrade? Is the XL Voyager a good purchase?

Check out all our Starships posts HERE

You can find out more on the Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

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Thursday, 18 November 2021

Relay Station 47: The Official Starships Collection Special Issue


Aquiel
 is one of those episodes that comes up for a fair bit of criticism from the TNG era.

Which sort of meant that the announcement of Relay Station 47 was something of a surprise to fans and collectors alike.

There's been a clear emphasis on including space stations (aside from DS9) with HeroCollector recently adding the Jupiter Station to the line on top of K7, Regula One and Spacedock. Yet this one still wouldn't have been high on many fans' list of wants for 2021...or even 2023...

What does shock you on opening the familiar blue HeroCollector box is how small this one is. Relay Station 47 wasn't the biggest installation in the show but it could have done with a bit more upscaling here. What doesn't help its case is that the station itself is so thin it's almost 2D to begin with!

But let's tackle the Starfleet outpost as a model and see how it copes under scrutiny. With the flat antennae and the top assembly being integrated plastic pieces, there's a good amount of weight in the main section of the station. There isn't much to go wrong with the assembly either, given that it's fairly simple form.

The station does benefit from the Starfleet standard aztec paint scheme as well as multiple sections enhanced with the darker blue colouring and in some places a mustard yellow. Thing is that referencing against the episode is quite difficult as the station spent a lot of time in shadow and with the very strong colouring here dulled right down for the screen. This, if you will recall from a lot of our earlier reviews, was a fairly common practice.

Small it might be, but where the Relay Station excels is in the extremities. The aerial/sail assembly which "should" be to the right if we go with the cover picture is well detailed with elements on the vertical and horizontal axis. There is definitely some flex in here although that's unavoidable due to the thin nature of this assembly.

The upper piping section is also nicely completed however in comparison to the CG within the magazine it does appear to be the wrong way round(?) but then the upper drum looks as though it's facing the right way. Minor, but just take a look at where those oblong pieces are in the pics. The panel detail is defined strongly and HeroCollector have avoided over-painting the unit which also retains the grilled elements of the blue sections. . Also if you can't quite make out the text under the station number it reads "Subspace Relay Station".

The stand too is unique for Relay Station 47 with it slotting down into the plastic barrel and onto the stand. Still not sure if it's something I would display every day although it might come into play as a "prop" in Attack Wing or if I'm changing things up on the shelves with a starbases display. 

The key thing with the station is the number - 47 - which is a recurring "in joke" within the franchise. This in turn explains the reason for the inclusion of this piece in the collection and while not one that will be pulling in a massive audience, it does look the part and is well presented. 

The magazine covers over the story of Aquiel before turning to the more interesting background to the station's design process. The plan views nestled between those two sections are well worth a look over even if just for that niggling piping arrangement. Aside from that the two - page and model - do line up particularly well. 

The design process actually reveals this is a reuse of the cryo satellite from the season one TNG finale The Neutral Zone with some modifications. Then, rounding it out is a more light hearted piece on that 47 link that adds to the background of that Star Trek era and not an article that is character or ship focused. 

Relay Station 47 is a great, niche piece of onscreen Trek history and an unexpected entry to the series. Accurate to what we are able to see, it's one for the completists. 

Check out all our Starships posts HERE

You can find out more on the Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

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Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Dream Catcher: Prodigy S01 E04


Beginning their training under the watchful eye of the Janeway hologram, the eclectic crew of the Protostar get their first away mission.

Landing on an M-Class planet (much prefer it to be A-Class says Dal), it's evident early on that this is still an evolving collective with the group splintering to explore on their own leaving gelatinous Murf and the contained Gwyn on the ship.

The Protostar makes its first planetary landing with all the grace of a bag of potatoes off the back of a truck but the show still looks gorgeous from every angle. Everyone also has a lot more to do this week as they explore the planet.

As you would anticipate, nothing is as it seems with Jankom Pog, Rok, Zero, Gwyn and Dal all encountering their own desires courtesy of a lifeform inhabiting the planet itself - and ultimately leaving our crew in a cliffhanger situation. Each scenario delves a little into each of the crew and offers a bit of background on each person.

But there's lots more in here to look at. New tricorders, new type one phasers and most impressively the Runaway land vehicle all make first appearances in Dream Catcher.  That's all packed into a fairly short run time and the series gives it everything. It's an episode that's bursting at the seams trying to tell you as much as possible to keep new fans and existing Trekkies glued in a multiple visual ways.

The jokes aren't as plentiful this week although there's still a lighter tone to the show although it does offer a fair bite of peril and action along the way. Dal's impatience is growing a little tiresome even at this point with his impulsiveness firmly in every scene. My guess is that this will gradually be toned down as he wrestles with the teachings of the Janeway hologram and becomes more like a Starfleet cadet.

The M-Class planet's inhabitant is a nasty piece of work with the visual artistry looking absolutely stunning to create the "background" of this creature. Initially seeming benign, the infestation becomes a serious threat and not just in the subconscious when it attacks the Protostar itself.

The theory behind the episode admittedly is nothing new and fans can trace these sort of "hallucination" episodes as far back as Shore Leave from 1966 but even now there's a use for such stories. It opens up the cast here and also reveals some chinks in Gwyn's hardened exterior. Freed from her prison she makes a distinct decision that is incredibly telling about her personality. The ending places the group on a different footing to where viewers may well have expected the series to go - and so early in. It's telling that we shouldn't expect the status quo and even for a kids series there are going to be twists and turns.

Dream Catcher is an average to good episode for Prodigy that still manages to surprise even with a standard dangerous alien plot device and is further saved with those dribble-inducing vistas.

Check out our full set of season one and two reviews for Lower Decks HERE!

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