I.S.S. Defiant preview

Well now, here’s a fun one for you. The first Mirror Universe ship for Star Trek: Attack Wing that will be available to buy directly at retail, the I.S.S. Defiant, has been previewed (and then removed, maybe this was leaked early) on StarTrek.com today, and it’s got some neat tricks in store.

Like it’s prime universe bretheren, the U.S.S. Defiant, the I.S.S. Defiant weighs in at 24 points,  and is the very definition of a “tough little ship”. While the Federation version laughs off critical hits, the Mirror Universe Defiant can take an Auxiliary Power Token to ignore a hit result, and now we see why the Enterprise NX-01‘s Enhanced Hull Plating was restricted to Federation ships only. The Mirror Defiant has one less shield available, but it hits a little harder, and that’s a tradeoff that I’ll gladly make.

Ship-USS-Defiant                        Mirror ISS Defiant

On a side note, I’m not the type of person to type “lol” lightly, as I believe that most people do not actually “laugh out loud” when they type it. But comparing the two ship cards side by side did get an audible chuckle out of me thanks to the fact that the silhouette image in the bottom left of the card has actually been “mirrored” between the two versions.

Jadzia Dax makes an appearance here in a minor supporting role. She’s a relatively cheap crew member, with synergy with the Defiant’s damage-shedding abilities, discarding to prevent one hull damage (as if the game designers were saying “Save her for a crit, dummy!”). It’s a simple card, with low cost, doesn’t require any actions to use… If you have the points to spare, what’s not to like? She’s also a good candidate for synergy with Captain Benjamin Sisko, when we get to him later on.

Mirror Jadzia Dax

I admittedly don’t know my Star Trek lore very well, but the majority of the crew of the I.S.S. Defiant seems like tech-starved gremlins, hungry for anything they can get their hands on. While the ship itself has no Technolgy upgrade slots, both Captain Miles O’Brien and crew member Jennifer Sisko add slots to the ship. Additionally, Ezri Tegan can be discarded to steal a Tech upgrade of up to 5 points, and Rom can be discarded disable up to two Tech upgrades, none of which is hindered by cloaking or shields. Gremlins I say! Meanwhile, not limited to Tech, Jennifer Sisko disables up to two enemy upgrades immediately after deployment, a new and questionably useful mechanic. Other than potentially slowing someone down slightly while they re-enable these upgrades before entering combat, I don’t see how this is really all that useful.

Mirror Miles OBrien                                  Mirror Rom

Mirror Ezri Tigan                                   Mirror Jennifer Sisko

But enough about stealing/disabling hi-jinks, lets get to laying down some damage. Multi-Targeting Phaser Banks give you the ability to take two target locks at a time, useful if you’re unsure which of multiple potential targets will be in your firing arc. Quantum Torpedoes make an appearance, no difference from the prior version other than the faction. Aft Phaser Emitter is actually a decent card for flexibility in a pinch, a 1 point weapon that disables for an attack for 3 dice at range 1-3 out of your rear arc – it won’t be something you use every game, but for 1 point, why not? Strafing Run, on the other hand, should get you laughed out of town for equipping. It is a 5 point discarded Elite Talent (Oh how we love those) which costs your action for the turn and allows you to take a primary attack with 4 dice as though you had a 360 degree firing arc, so long as you moved a maneuver of at least speed 3 that turn. Flavorful? You bet. Sounds fun? Absolutely. Worth it? Not a chance!

Mirror Multi-Targeting Phaser Banks                                    Mirror Quantum Torpedoes Mirror Aft Phaser Emitter                                     Mirror Strafing Run

I saved the best for last, ladies and gentlemen. The Defiant earns its’ name with the final three cards. Captain Benjamin Sisko is the first captain to provide an Elite Talent upgrade slot for less than three points available at retail (Previously Data and Magnus Hansen did it, but are only in OP prize ships). His ability screams “I’m throwing everything I have at you” as he stuffs Crew, Tech, and other Weapons into the torpedo tubes to do all the damage he can. I especially like this with the Aft Phaser Emitter, making that cheap little utility card have a second usage, even if it’s already disabled! Jadzia Dax is another potential cheap discard candidate, if you’re more concerned with dealing damage than preventing it.

Mirror Benjamin Sisko

Julian Bashir is one of my favorite tactical usage cards in quite some time. His ability is incredibly powerful, and best described in gaming terms as a “taunt”. It forces an enemy to target his ship or not fire at all for that turn, and roll two less attack dice in the process. For only two points, keeping in mind that the Defiant can shrug off one hit on its’ own on top of the reduced dice, that is a priceless ability, and well worth the discard!

Mirror Julian Bashir

And then there’s the finishing touch, the reason why Sisko’s cheap Elite Talent slot is so useful: Rebellion. This is a 5 point discard that I will take in a heartbeat and not think twice about it, and that’s saying something. Rebellion is all about “in your face” defiance, operating solely against bigger ships (ships with greater hull value than your own). It is discarded while you are defending to take two attack dice away from the opponent, and gives you a free primary weapon attack as return fire. Check with your local T.O. until an official FAQ ruling is given, but the way I read this, it may work even if you’re destroyed during the attack.

Mirror Rebellion

Chain Rebellion together with Bashir on the I.S.S. Defiant, with Sisko as Captain and Jadzia Dax as your other crew, and you can force another ship to attack the Defiant rather than an easier target, reduce incoming the attack dice by 4, cancel up to two of the remaining damage coming in, and then attack twice in the same round! That’s crazy good!

The I.S.S. Defiant has me pumped up for a Mirror Universe fleet, and has made up for some of the slight disappointment I felt with Chang’s Bird of Prey. Now I just need to see that Scimitar!!!

– The Tabletop General

120 point X-Wing tournament

I ran an X-Wing tournament last weekend, and as usual I made a slight tweak to the rules to give a break from your standard 100 point lists. Last time, as a prelude for Rebel Aces, I gave away raffle tickets for a copy of Rebel Aces for attendance and for game wins, with bonus tickets given for using named A-Wing and B-Wing pilots, or named TIE Interceptor pilots from Imperial Aces, but you could still run your usual list and many players did. So to mix things up further this time around, I upped the points limit to 120 and increased round durations to 75 minutes to see what effect that might have on force composition. Some players brought extra ships, others kept their pilots the same and gave them extra equipment that normally can’t be afforded in 100 points.

This was a busy day for me (the X-Wing event was preceded by a tournament for Star Trek: Attack Wing, and I had a Halloween party to rush off to as soon as I finished), so I neglected to ask to keep copies of everyone’s lists, or to write down the final standings for the event. Still, I figured I should share a couple of the photos I took, even if I didn’t have any deep tactical insights to share regarding the outcome.

Two rebel fleets jousting
3x Green Squadron and Roark Garnet vs Ten Numb, Arvel Crynyd, a Gold Squadron, and a Blue Squadron – They didn’t line up head to head like this, this joust is actually parallel to the deployment zone.

 

Rebel fleets jousting #2
Same fleets, different angle.

 

TIE Fighter furball
Howlrunner #1: “You’re an impostor and a traitor!” Howlrunner #2: “No, YOU’RE an impostor and a traitor!” Academy Pilots #1-7: “Wait, which one do we shoot?”

 

IMG_20141025_215750_871
Echo: “Pah, look at all those peasants, bumping into each other like uncivilized scum. Let’s handle this like proper backstabbers, with room to work” Boba: “Then why are you so close to me?”

I don’t know if it was a factor of players moving slower because they felt like they had plenty of time, or if the unfamiliar lists slowed decision making, but even with 15 extra minutes, around half of the matches went to time, which is unusually high for our local players.

One of the TIE Fighter swarm lists from the last couple of pictures won the event with a 3-0 finish, I believe it was the one with the Firespray, but I’m not entirely sure. Again, this day was a bit of a blur for me, and I was playing a teaching for Star Trek: Attack Wing at the same time the event was going on, so other than giving judgement calls and rulings when asked, I didn’t keep as close of an eye on the event as I normally would, and I was surprised to find that I had less pictures than I would normally take as well.

I’ll do better next time! Honest!

– The Tabletop General

Will GEICO insure a Decimator?

New site? Check. Same decor? Check. New content? Let’s go!

Looking ahead to the retail release of the VT-49 Decimator for Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures, I’ve really been torn as to how to use it, or if I’ll even have it take the field. But after the relatively positive response I received to my theoretical Suicide Bomber Z-95 list for Scum and Villainy, I’m very much in a non-traditional mindset when it comes to list designs. The design of the Decimator lends itself to creating collisions with the opponent, and I see no reason not to encourage that to continue.

Bumper Captains

Captain Yorr
Lambda-Class Shuttle (24)
Fire-Control System – 2 (B-WingTIE Phantom)
Ion Cannon – 3 (Firespray, Lambda, B-Wing)
Darth Vader – 3 (Lambda)
Anti-Pursuit Lasers – 2 (Lambda)

Captain Oicunn
VT-49 Decimator – 42
Ruthlessness – 3 (VT-49)
Proton Bombs – 5 (VT-49, TIE Bomber)
Mara Jade – 3 (VT-49)
Ysanne Isard – 4 (VT-49)
Ion Torpedoes – 5 (VT-49)
Dauntless – 2 (VT-49)
Anti-Pursuit Lasers – 2 (Lambda)

 

Captain-oicunn              Captain-yorr

Following Oicunn with Yorr down the middle of the table between asteroids, pilots will have little option for where to maneuver without being a prime target for a collision from the Decimator, which will deal a damage thanks to Oicunn’s special ability. Then pilots who run into either ship will take damage from Anti-Pursuit lasers. A TIE swarm will have a bad day against this list, with the Decimator carrying a copy of the new and impressive Ion Torpedoes along with Ruthlessness and Proton Bombs. With proper positioning, the Decimator could wipe out an entire swarm within the course of 3 turns!

ion-torpedoes                          ruthlessnessanti-pursuit-lasers                           proton-bombs

Carrying an Ion Cannon and Darth Vader, the shuttle can serve as the anvil to the Decimator’s hammer, being able to force a target to make a 1-forward manuever with an Ion cannon shot and/or loading on extra damage via Vader’s ability.

darth-vader                           ion-cannon

If you keep Yorr’s shuttle right behind the Decimator, moving at the same initiative value, K-turns aren’t available as options to escape. Additionally, once the Decimator gets to Range 1, Mara Jade starts loading stress tokens onto all nearby enemies, which will further reduce the enemy’s maneuvering options for successive turns. And the Dauntless title card will keep your actions flowing even while you ram the enemy, while Captain Yorr will absorb the stress with his special ability.

mara-jade                           dauntless

ysanne-isard

This list isn’t without its’ weaknesses, and actually falls flat against two separate popular archetypes in the current meta – The lateral maneuverability of a TIE Phantom will allow them to stay at a safe range and distance, and you’ll have to rely on a couple of lucky turret hits to bring them down, or smart flying with the two ships in tandem to catch the phantom with stress and ion tokens in the same round. The Millennium Falcon, on the other hand, has almost as many total hit points as the Decimator, doesn’t have to move towards the Decimator to fire, and one defense die is better than none. Throw in Han as the pilot, or the Millennium Falcon title card for evade actions, and the Falcon probably wins the head-to-head battle (it won’t do that against all Decimator builds, but it will likely beat this one).

But again, it’s outside the box, and it’s breathing some fresh life into the game. What’s not to like?

Do you have different battle plans in mind for your Decimator once it drops out of hyperspace and into your collection? Leave me a comment and let me know how you’re going to use it!

New Tournament Format for Attack Wing

As per a blog post today from Wizkids, they are going to be bringing up official forums for Attack Wing hosted via the Wizkids Event System. More importantly, the same post stated that a new set of suggested tournament guidelines will be forthcoming, and will include the following, or something close to it:

SUGGESTED TOURNAMENT FORMAT

120 Points per fleet

• 3 Ships per fleet

50 Points maximum per ship (at the start of the game) including all upgrades, captains, admirals, and resources assigned to the ship. During game play, it might be possible that you will exceed 50 points through game effects that let you steal or add upgrades to your ship.

• If your ship’s base cost is 43 points or more you may add up to 8 Points for upgrades (Crew, Tech, Weapons, and Borg) and a captain even if those cards bring your cost over 50 points.

• If there is a Blind Booster, 30 of your available Fleet Points are reserved for use with game elements from your Blind Booster leaving 90 points to build your fleet. The game elements in your Blind Booster may not be mixed with the 90 points from the rest of your fleet.  The Blind Booster ship counts toward the 3 ships minimum.

(Full blog post: http://wizkidsgames.com/blog/2014/10/24/star-trek-attack-wing-updated-suggested-tournament-format/)

This completely invalidates certain builds, like my version of the Enterprise E. The Borg Cube in particular is nerfed into near irrelevance, having exactly one point left for a Captain or other upgrades if you make use of it’s ability to equip a Borg Ablative Hull Armor at a discount.

But what this format prevents is worth the sacrifice. Attack Wing is going to go back to being less about collecting the pieces to build one or two nigh-unkillable dreadnaughts that will yield no points to your opponent; and will once again focus on tactics. maneuvering, and outwitting your opponent on the fly. No longer can players stuff all their points onto one battleship with multiple attack-canceling abilities. Weyoun and Varel is a much less scary combo when that no longer protects 75% or more of the opponent’s fleet. If your opponent still brings that in their build, then just shoot the other ships!

As I’ve told my local group, I’m willing to play by any reasonable set of rules put forth by the venue / TO, but I think this is a positive step for the game and the community. I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the community reacts.

What are your thoughts on the new format? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear what your opinions are!

— The Tabletop General

Z-95 Suicide Bombers

With the Scum and Villainy faction releasing soon for Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures, I’ve been spending a bit of time here and there trying to figure out what kinds of crazy squadrons we’ll see hitting the scene upon release. There still seems to be something missing to me, the glue that makes everything click just hasn’t been shown yet. But there’s certainly going to be some wild and crazy fun things to throw out there. One such list I’ve come up with won’t necessarily be winning major tournaments any time soon, but it will definitely make your opponent second guess every shot and be a great change of pace list for casual play.

Z-95 Suicide Bombers

Binayre Pirate (17):
Z-95 Headhunter – 12 (Most Wanted / Z-95)
Proton Rockets – 3 (Rebel Aces)
Dead Man’s Switch – 2 (Most Wanted)

Binayre Pirate (17):
Z-95 Headhunter – 12 (Most Wanted / Z-95)
Proton Rockets – 3 (Rebel Aces)
Dead Man’s Switch – 2 (Most Wanted)

Binayre Pirate (20):
Z-95 Headhunter – 12 (Most Wanted / Z-95)
Assault Missiles – 5 (Z-95 / Falcon / Tie Bomber / Slave-1)
Dead Man’s Switch – 2 (Most Wanted)
Munitions Failsafe – 1 (Z-95)

Binayre Pirate (19):
Z-95 Headhunter – 12 (Most Wanted / Z-95)
Assault Missiles – 5 (Z-95 / Falcon / Tie Bomber / Slave-1)
Dead Man’s Switch – 2 (Most Wanted)

N’Dru Suhlak (27):
Z-95 Headhunter -17 (Most Wanted)
Assault Missiles – 5 (Z-95 / Falcon / Tie Bomber / Slave-1)
Lone Wolf – 2 (YT-2400)
Stealth Device – 3 (Slave-1)

This list isn’t every man/droid/alien for himself, like the FFG previews make Scum and Villainy out to be. This is a radical cult of suicide bombers ready to turn standard X-Wing tactics on its’ head. Your opponent will be forced into situations where they will want to shoot sub-optimal targets, because killing your ships might kill their ships!

binayre-pirate                     proton-rockets

The Binayre Pirates are Scum and Villainy’s cheapest ships, and make for efficient missile platforms if you can survive to shoot with them. The ones with Proton Rockets have two jobs: Get into Range 1 of as many enemy ships as possible, and try to get off shots with those rockets. Anything else they can do is a bonus. The other Binayre Pirates’ assignments are are to let the first two get close, fire Assault Missiles at the enemy, with the full intention of potentially hitting their brethren, and then close to Range 1 themselves for a couple pot-shots, hugging as many enemies as possible for when they die in turn. Why? Because of Dead Man’s Switch.

assault-missiles                           dead-mans-switch

Last but certainly not least, N’Dru Suhlak should engage late, making sure there’s nobody close to him, so he gets his own bonus, along with that of Lone Wolf.

ndru-suhlak                     lone-wolf

You will lose ships. Period. In fact, you’ll probably lose four ships in the process for any games you win, because that’s part of the mechanic of how this list deals damage. N’Dru got his pirates to drink the special Kool-Aid, and they’re committed to the cause enough to sacrifice their ships. Each Assault Missile not only hits its’ target, but splashes damage onto other nearby ships, including your own. And each one of your pirates deals a similar splash damage when destroyed. So even discounting the damage for your actual shooting, you’ve got six potential Range-1 splashes for 1 damage. Positioned properly, that alone will take down most small ships. That sounds like pure chaotic fun to me! You won’t get any flawless victories for a massive score with this list, but you’ll blow somebody’s mind in a hilariously fun casual match.

So what excites you the most about Scum and Villainy? How will you make use of these new ships and upgrades? Do you have any builds in mind already? Leave a comment and let me know where what your thoughts are!

— The Tabletop General

Resistance is Futile OP1; Battle Report 3

In my previous post, I referenced the fact that I attended one more event last weekend for Star Trek: Attack Wing, and that it was a very unusual event. Serving as OP1 of this particular Tournament Organizer’s Resistance is Futile series, the local group had decided to toss out the stock scenario in favor of head-to-head battles with random sector conditions (the three from the WKO events, along with some custom ones). In response to a poll of local players, the TO had declared Borg would be banned from this series, all lists must be fleet pure (one faction only for your entire force), and that we would be using 100 point lists without inclusion of blind booster ships.

Having already won two instances of OP1, I wanted to be welcoming to newer players if the opportunity came up, but put up a real fight if nobody but veterans showed up, so I had prepared two lists, and would choose the more gentle of the two if we had any newcomers arrive before I had to submit the list. Unfortunately, due to a whole host of outside circumstances including illnesses and scheduling conflicts, the attendance for this event consisted of  the Tournament Organizer, myself, and one more player who was new to this venue (the same fellow from the prior day with the dual Bioship fleet). To me, this just meant a chance to try something wild and crazy, so I was going to pull out my friendlier build and just have a fun game or two. I thought the other player agreed to play something more casual than competitive, but there must have been something lost in translation. Having misplaced my sheet, I had to rebuild my Vulcan fleet on the fly, and looked up to find a 100 point dreadnought build of the Enterprise-E staring back at me from across the map.

Not having a sheet to reference, and knowing that I built it in a hurry and got some things wrong, I’ve had to guess at what I put where in this build. It’s not exactly right, but it’s close enough to what I fielded.

Vulcans, take 1

Ti’Mur – 20 (Collective OP1 prize ship)
Vanik – 3 (Collective OP1 prize ship)
Combat Vessel Variant – 4 (Collective OP1 prize ship)
Tractor Beam – 0 (Collective OP1 prize ship)
*Didn’t realize until now that this ship only used cards that came with it. Interesting!

Ni’Var – 20
Sopek – 4 (Ni’Var)
Fleet Captain Independent (Klingon) – 5
Diplomacy – 0 (Collective OP1 prize ship)
Vulcan Commandos – 2 (Ni’Var)
Vulcan Commandos – 2 (Ni’Var)
Vulcan Commandos – 2 (Ni’Var)
Koss – 1 (Collective OP1 prize ship)
Combat Vessel Variant – 5 (Ni’Var)

D’Kyr – 26
Kuvak – 2 (Ni’Var)
Admiral V’Las – 3 (Ni’Var)
Tractor Beam – 1 (Ni’Var)

wpid-img_20141022_211950_132.jpg

Round 1/2/3

Opponent:

USS Enterprise-E – 32
Flagship Independent (Klingon) – 10
Jean-Luc Picard (9) – 6 (USS Enterprise-D [Starter Set])
Picard Maneuever – 5 (Collective OP3 Prize ship)
Fire at Will – 5 (USS Enterprise-E)
The Needs of the Many… – 4 (USS Enterprise Refit)
Adm. James T. Kirk – 5 (USS Enterprise Refit)
Mr. Spock – 5 (Constitution class Enterprise)
William T. Riker – 5 (USS Enterprise-E)
Hikaru Sulu – 3 (Constitution class Enterprise)
Dorsal Phaser Array – 7 (USS Enterprise-E)
Tactical Station – 4 (Collective OP3 Prize Ship)
Multi-Adaptive Shields – 5 (Collective OP2 Prize ship)
Enhanced Hull Plating – 4 (Enterprise NX-01)

Battle 1: Without knowing what the Sector Conditions would be, the TO had us place a total of 6 objective markers that would serve as obstacles until further notice. Seeing the Picard Maneuver coming, I tried to figure out a way to build a wall I could hide behind, with them but it just wasn’t working. I deployed towards the left side of the map, angling towards the board’s center, and the Enterprise-E lined up directly opposite of me as close as possible. I don’t recall what the Sector Condition was for this round, but it really didn’t matter. Turn one, my Vulcans eased forward and scanned; the Enterprise streaked forward with a long manuever, followed by disabling Riker for a Picard Maneuver to be right up in my face at Range 1, followed by a Target Lock on one of my ships from Picard, a Scan Token from the flagship, and a Battlestations Token from the ship itself. Having the opportunity to knock me out quickly, the Enterprise discarded Tactical Stations for +2 attack dice for the round, and triggered Fire at Will for a total of two shots at +1 attack dice each, one at each of my Suurok class ships (the Ni’Var and the Ti’Mur). With 7 dice from the Dorsal Phasers, 8 from the primary with a range bonus, one Target Lock, free Battlestations conversions from Spock, and not allowing me any defense dice thanks to his Scan Token, I lost one ship and another was heavily damaged in just this opening salvo. To make matters worse, the Picard maneuver reduces all attacks by 4 dice for that turn, so I managed to roll exactly one attack die back at him.

And then the TO re-read Picard Maneuver – it gives you an Auxiliary Power Token when used, which would have prevented all actions taken after it. My opponent and I talked it over, agreed that the Target Lock made a difference in killing my first ship or not, and scrapped the game, calling it a draw, resetting to see if I could do ANYTHING to this beast of a ship in a subsequent game.

Key takeaways: Always read any card your opponent uses and you don’t know by heart. Also, don’t bring a logical argument to a gunfight.

Battle 2: We reset in almost the same position, but I had a little bit better of an idea of what to expect now, and I adjusted my deployment slightly. He deployed opposite to me once again, which ended up being slightly closer to the board edge than before. I knew I needed to survive the alpha strike, and then start denying him some actions to stand a chance. Our sector condition ended up being called “Explosive Gas”; any shots fired through the objective tokens would cause the token to explode, dealing damage to all ships at Range 1; didn’t matter, but it was a cool tactical concept.

This time my opponent did it right, standard move, Flagship Scan, Picard Battlestations, ship action to Evade, and then disabling Riker for the Picard Maneuver. Almost the same net result as last time, but as expected, both ships survived his shooting without a Target Lock to help out on one. I stood a chance, although a slim one, only facing a single attack and being allowed to roll attack dice the next turn. I considered my options, and the fact that we were awfully close to the board edge, and decided to potentially sacrifice a shot in order to deny actions, moving my ships to places I guessed the Enterprise might move, taking target locks with two ships I expected might have shots, and using the fleet action from Admiral V’las to disable Hikaru Sulu, preventing this defensive action. My opponent anticipated I would try to box him in, and in order to remove his Auxiliary Power Token he picked a speed 1 bank maneuver towards the board edge, which I wouldn’t have expected at all. It was a crafty move, as unlike the Voyager’s similar dial, the Enterprise-E does have a speed 1 reverse maneuver, which would have allowed him to not fly off the board the next turn. But unfortunately for him, he miscalculated how much room he had available, and he flew off the map on this turn, by the smallest bit of his ship’s corner! Vulcans win! Vulcans win! (In my best Harry Caray impression)

Key takeaways: Vulcans win! :)

Battle 3: Now things were serious. In order to tie for the event win, my opponent had to wipe out my entire fleet. We replaced the objective tokens for this round, setting up more of a traditional midfield asteroid field pattern akin to what you would see in X-Wing. I altered my deployment, still lining up in the left corner of the map, but this time I set up in a convoy, running parallel to the closest board edge. I’ll touch on this after a few more matches with the Vulcans to validate my thoughts, but this is part of an idea I’ve had on how they should be maneuvering to make the most of their dials, abilities, and firing arcs. Perhaps wanting a change of pace, or perhaps being suspicious as to what I was up to with my new deployment, my opponent deployed the Enterprise at mid-field, and prepared to approach more gradually. Our Sector Condition to start this round was entitled “Solar Winds”; at the end of the planning phase, after all dials are set, one non-damaging attack die was to be rolled for each ship – any critical hit results caused the ship to be moved with a speed 1 template directly towards the board edge to my right before beginning the activation phase.

For the first couple of turns, I had my fleet take long forward movements, following my board edge and scanning each turn. The Enterprise snaked its’ way through the obstacles, maneuvering in behind my convoy of “peaceful science vessels”. As my fleet neared the edge of the map and prepared to turn the corner, and the Enterprise was ready to enter firing range, both the Federation ship and one of my Vulcans were pushed by the winds. My ship was moved ahead and out of formation, and the Enterprise hit not one, but two obstacles; once thanks to the wind, and again with its’ movement. I knew I couldn’t kill the Enterprise, I just didn’t have enough dice to break through all of its’ defensive measures. I also knew that all I had to do was survive the round with at least one ship to take the “championship”. But I don’t believe in running from a (simulated) fight, and I couldn’t take full strength hits from the Enterprise and live, so I had to find ways to slow him down. I made a short stand, disabling Spock and taking some shots at the Enterprise. Somehow, I miraculously kept all my ships alive for a turn or two, disabled Riker and Sulu, and I picked off a couple more shields to add to those lost to obstacle collisions.

Solar winds pushed the Enterprise again, giving it an unexpected opportunity to evade my attempts to box it in, and rather than circling in place and continuing the fight, the Enterprise prepared to take a trip down the right side of the board in order to reset its’ disabled crew over the course of a few turns, not being able to re-enable more crew members than I could disable while engaged. The next turn, the Solar Winds sector condition gave out, only to be replaced with a Meteor Swarm! This hurt me way more than my opponent, as I had 3 times as many chances to get hit, and the Enterprise had more defense dice than my whole fleet to dodge the incoming space-pebbles, so this helped him in a battle of attrition. The Enterprise popped the D’Kyr carrying my Vulcan Commandos that had been itching to make a raid before moving out of firing range and slowly circling back towards the center of the field. I said before I wouldn’t run from a fight, but I wasn’t going to prevent the opponent from running or give chase at full speed either. Accordingly, my two remaining Suurok class ships followed the Enterprise, but I was careful to stay at long range. I definitely preferred the idea of having no shot over taking a big shot from the Dorsal Phaser Array. While resetting the Enterprise, Riker was sacrificed to The Needs Of The Many to recover the some of the Enterprise’s shields.

While my Vulcans were too busy arguing mathematical proofs to properly track their target and actually do any damage, the navigators on each ship still did their jobs, and over the course of the next 3-4 turns, I managed to stay at Range 3+, avoiding any Dorsal Phaser Array shots from the Enterprise. Perhaps my opponent was trying to play carefully amongst the obstacles on this trip through, or expected me to be more aggressive, or simply lost track of time, but the Enterprise never moved back into firing range before time expired on the match, giving me a loss in this match, but an overall victory for our three game “tournament”.

Key takeaways: I think this game might have exposed a big weakness in the Enterprise-E. As much as I like the ship, I’m hesitant to point it out, but if I’m not sharing tactical advice and insights, then why put so much time and effort into running this site? The Enterprise-E is said by many players to maneuver decently well, as it has all straight maneuvers from speed 6 down to -1 available (skipping 0, obviously), and speed 1-3 banks, and its’ speed 3 turn is white; only the reverse and 6 forward maneuvers give Auxiliary Power Tokens. But that speed 3 turn is the only hard turn maneuver on the Sovereign class maneuver dial, and the ship does not have a come-about maneuver available. Accordingly, if someone can get behind the ship, it’s very hard to maneuver around to get a shot. If the other ship is content to stay at Range 3, as my Vulcans were, this removes Dorsal Phaser Array from the equation. Essentially, in order to cover this gap, the Enterprise E must take torpedoes that it would most likely never fire otherwise.

Final Thoughts

It’s fitting that the Vulcans won the day by only losing slightly, using mind games and strategy over brute force and aggression.

Although not a match for the endless stacks of cards to chose from for the Federation, the Vulcans have some really neat abilities. Their average stats are comparable to that of the Constitution Class ships, and all have 180 degree firing arcs. They probably won’t stand up in any environment including Borg ships, but in locations where Borg are banned or frowned upon, they’ll be able to do some really neat things.

Since this event, I’ve picked up a Vulcan Tal’Kir out of the Resistance is Futile blind booster packs, and it replaces the Ti’Mur in my updated Vulcan build which I will bring to semi-competitive matches (events that count for something, but I don’t HAVE to win) in the near future.

Vulcans, Take 2

Tal’Kir – 26 (RiF blind booster)
Kuvak – 2 (Ni’Var)
Tractor Beam – 1 (Ni’Var)

D’Kyr – 26
Solok – 4 (Tal’Kir)
Adm. V’Las – 3 (Ni’Var)
Power Grid – 2 (Tal’Kir)

Ni’Var – 20
Vanik – 3 (Collective OP1 Prize)
Flagship Independent (Klingon) -10
Tractor Beam – 0 (Collective OP1 Prize)
Combat Vessel Variant – 3 (Ni’Var)

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Here we actually get some synergy out of cards and a build that was thought out in advance, as opposed to “What can I throw together in a hurry to spend 100 points on these 3 ships?”. All of these ships want to stay at Range 3, circling the enemy slowly as opposed to going head to head.

The Tal’Kir benefits circling at range by getting 2-for-1 Evade Tokens out of the captain if not in an enemy firing arc, hard to do in a head-to-head pass. Stack that with the ship’s ability to take an Aux token for a free evade result, and the extra die at range 3 on primary weapon defense, and it’s hard for the enemy to put much damage on this ship, while the flagship’s boost gives this ship 4 attack dice at Range 3.

The D’Kyr gets a native bonus attack die at Range 3, and Solok can either take a free Scan to diminish opposing defenses, or a free Evade to boost his own. If you don’t think you’ll want a green maneuver next turn to recover from Solok’s Aux token, Power Grid can catch that for you. The flagship boost would make for 5 attack dice for the D’Kyr at Range 3.

And then you have the flagship Ni’Var, which gets a free scan each turn from the Flagship card, and gets a bonus die for attacking at Range 3 with a primary weapon and having a Scan, so you’re looking at 5 attack dice for this ship’s attacks at Range 3, with a scan to negate the range bonus, and another ship action to enhance the attack with.

It’s not complex, it’s not cut-throat, but it’s a change of pace that will throw a lot of players off because very few of us have seen Vulcan ships before, much less so in a fleet pure environment. And sometimes, that’s all the edge you need.

— The Tabletop General

Resistance is Futile OP1; Battle Report 2

I entered into another pair of Star Trek: Attack Wing Organized Play events this weekend. Saturday was the first run of Resistance is Futile OP1 for this particular venue. Just like my first run through, it was at a venue which I hadn’t played at before, although there was a good bit of overlap between the players at each of these.

Again, for those just joining us, I’ve previously provided a summary of the Resistance is Futile Scenarios. This scenario is a basic fleet engagement, with the added mechanic of trying to not catch the attention of the nearby Borg fleet.

A TO at my home venue is decidedly anti-Borg (not that I really blame him for it), and his takeaway from my previous report was that Borg fleets were only defeated by other Borg fleets in that event. Having seen how effective the Enterprise-E turned out to be in that event, I decided that it was time for me to give it a spin for myself, and brought it to Saturday’s event.

Mirroring the previous event, the build was 120 point constructed lists with no fleet purity restrictions, no more than 90 points allowed on a single ship, and the blind boosters were to be opened and given out as prizes. Knowing that there would be overlap in the players, and that I was one of three Borg players on Monday, I expected to see some of the same lists show up on Saturday so I could either prove a point, or be proven wrong myself. Turns out, the Borg were not represented at all in this event. We had 3 Federation fleets, 2 Klingon, and one (drumroll)… Species 8472.

So here’s what I ended up bringing:

My Fleet

USS Enterprise-E – 32
Flagship Independent (Romulan) – 10
Jean-Luc Picard (+1 Tech version) – 5 (from the USS Enterprise-E)
Attack Pattern Omega – 3 (from the USS Defiant)
Tom Paris – 4 (from the USS Voyager)
Elizabeth Shelby – 2 (from the USS Yeager [Collective blind booster])
Hikaru Sulu – 3 (from the original Constitution class Enterprise)
Dorsal Phaser Array – 7 (from the USS Enterprise-E)
Enhanced Hull Plating – 4 (from the Enterprise NX-01)
Multi-Adaptive Shields – 5 (from the USS Raven OP Prize)

USS Voyager – 30
Mr. Spock – 4 (from the USS Enterprise Refit)
Pavel Chekov – 3 (from the USS Reliant)
Tactical Officer – 4 (from the IRW Valdore [Starter Set])
Cloaked Mines – 4 (from the IRW Praetus)

Total: 120

I really don’t know what to call this fleet. The Bash Brothers? Borg in Fed Clothing?

Earlier in the week, one of my readers ran a similar build for the E alongside an Enterprise D. I made a mental note that the Voyager would have probably been a better choice, and I suppose I must have said it to him as well, because he said as much when he showed up with a near mirror to my this list for his own fleet.

Going from Borg to high-speed Federation ships might have given me pause in this scenario had I not already played it once, loss of mission tokens didn’t really affect anyone (or happen much at all) in the prior event, and I felt confident that I could stay inside the boundaries.

With this list, I present two targets: The Voyager is a much lesser threat, but can be killed in a normal amount of time. The Enterprise E is a much tougher nut to crack, but also brings a lot more firepower to the table. My hope was to pass the enemy after the first round of shooting, rather than slowing to get an extra shot as many players do. Having ships fast enough to do it,  I wanted the 360 degree arcs to be the only way that ships could fire if at all possible.

Round 1

Opponent:
Species 8472 Bioship, Picard (9), Quantum Singularity, Bioelectric feedback x2, Flagship Independent (Klingon)
Species 8472 Bioship, Donatra, Quantum Singularity

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Kirk might have had a reputation, but Picard really gets around with the aliens himself.

Match of the tournament, right here, I knew it, and the TO knew it, but that’s how it works out sometimes with a random draw for the first round of an event. With 6 players present for this OP, I knew  as soon as I saw this list that we were bound to face one another, but I was hoping to get in a bit of a warmup match first. I knew what to do with my list, but I hadn’t actually used it before. And I didn’t slow down and do the math until the combat phase rolled around, but Picard was capable of throwing eight attack dice with Scan, Target Lock, and Battle Stations every single turn. Ouch! I forgot how nasty the Bioships can be, because I never see them used in 100 point matches. With an extra 20 points to equip them and give them action economy, they get mean!

Battle: Having faced off against the other player’s variant of my list earlier in the week, my opponent was a bit cautious from the start, and wanted to wait to see that I would do first. He deployed in the opposite corner from my fleet, far right as I faced the table. Knowing that good positioning could potentially buy me an extra shot or two, I shot forward along the left board edge. The Bioships took small turning maneuvers for turn one, making sure not to overcommit, but leaving both ships in the no-fly zone and losing a couple mission tokens right off the bat. We closed to firing range on turn 3, but Picard’s ship was still within range 2 of the board edge on turn 2 because he was moving so slowly at an angle to avoid the Cloaked Mines I had just dropped, so he lost another token. Since Donatra was much less of a threat alone than Picard, I targeted his ship first as we got in to range, but I moving first meant I didn’t get Target Locks and I rolled poorly, doing very little damage. The fifteen dice of return fire wiped the Voyager’s shields and dealt a couple points to the hull.

Based on the relative positioning of the fleets, I knew the Bioships had three options: Come-about turns (and Aux tokens to go with them), potentially wasting a turn of shooting, or using their Quantum Singularities to re-position themselves. Accordingly, I took the tightest turns I could manage with white maneuvers back towards the battlefield’s center. I thought with that I would either would either still be in range with my actions against none for the opponent from the Come-abouts, be alongside the enemy and able to make use of my 360 arcs while safe from return fire, or potentially cause one ship to bump and lose their actions while the other used up the Singularity action, giving me a 2-on-1 shot. Also, moving towards the center, I gave less viable landing positions for the return from the Singularities. It turns out I was wrong as to which way the fleet would turn, and the Bioships moved towards the board edge before temporarily winking out of existence, giving up another mission token from Picard’s ship in the process.

Range 3 covers a lot of ground when you’re near the map’s center, and my opponent couldn’t find anywhere he liked to return his ships that wouldn’t commit him to flying by those mines again. Since he wouldn’t lose a token immediately, he placed his ships in a flanking position on the right side of the board, near the edge. The next turn, he moved up cautiously, knowing he needed to both be done with the Voyager and at least damage the Enterprise E on this pass, and also not wanting to hit the mines, but it was too cautious, and Picard lost his last token. After consulting the mission rules once again, I suddenly had a new target. If Donatra died or lost her tokens, I won the game regardless of what happened with Picard. Thankfully, my dice picked this prime opportunity to come back to life for me. I lost Voyager in the next round of shooting, but nearly cleared Donatra’s shields. The next round, I managed to get behind the Bioships, and snuck Picard’s critical hit through, which was turned into a Warp Core Breach via Attack Pattern Omega. Needing to repair that, the Bioships didn’t come-about like they probably should have, and Donatra’s ship regenerated, netting one HP back. The Enterprise E’s gunnery crew redoubled its’ efforts though, and hit with six out of seven attack dice that round, clearing Donatra from the field and immediately ending the match.

Key takeaways: Bioships hit just as hard as Borg, and are a little less predictable. Even players that say they aren’t scared of Cloaked Mines turn out to be scared of Cloaked Mines, even when they aren’t doing any damage. The mission tokens are hard to lose in this scenario, but if you’re not paying attention to them, they make a huge difference. I did panic a little for my standings in the tournament though, because it was ruled that even though I “won”, I didn’t get credit for killing Picard’s ship. Also, a player I hadn’t met yet had his own really mean Enterprise E setup, and he scored a big win in his own match. Since this venue compares total fleet points scored, giving a small bonus for winning a match, I knew I would not only have to beat him but do so decisively if we faced one another, a close win might still leave him with the lead…

Round 2

Opponent:

USS Enterprise E, Picard (8, crew), Independent Flagship (Fed), Tom Paris, Hikaru Sulu, Elizabeth Shelby, Multi Adaptive Shields, Ablative Hull Plating, Dorsal Phaser Array, Fire at Will (I think)
USS Voyager, Mr Spock, Pavel Checkov

Look familiar? This is actually MY fleet, but since it's the same ships, I figured it would be okay.
Look familiar? This is actually MY fleet, but since it’s the same ships, I figured this would be okay.

Battle: I was honestly expecting to fight the other player with an Enterprise E build this round, but it was not to be, we had to get this rematch out of the way. Last tournament, I faced this anti-Borg build with my Borg. This time it was closer to a mirror match. I thought it would have been a nastier fight than it was. But I was able to guess my opponent’s opening moves, and cause his Enterprise to collide with my Voyager, losing his actions in the process, and wiping out his shields on the first turn. Next turn, he tried to squeak by with a speed-1 bank, and didn’t quite clear my ships, losing his actions again. The E dropped like a stone without any defensive actions and with poorly rolling dice, and the Voyager followed behind quickly.

Key takeaways: For the second tournament in a row, movement and action denial really matters in mirror matches.

Round 3

Opponent:
5x K’Tinga class Klingons with Gowron on one ship, Krell on another.

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“It’s fine, we outnumber the Federation. We’ll be home before you can say [insert complicated Klingon phrase here].”
Battle: Somehow, this player had managed to defeat the other Enterprise E build in a close match in round 2. That meant all I had to do was wipe these ships out and first place was mine for the taking. And honestly, it wasn’t complicated. Two ships down on the first turn of shooting, two ships down on the second, one turn disengaged, and then the fifth ship down on the next turn. I think we spent more time discussing which ship I was shooting (“The K’Tinga. No, not that one, the other one. The one where the captain is looking off to the left of the camera. No, he shouldn’t be at full health, he’s the one that lost his shields to the Cloaked Mines…)”.

Key takeaways: Speaking of Cloaked Mines, they sped things up and my opponent blamed them for the loss, but it really didn’t matter here. Especially with Gowron being the first one to fall, I could have flown in circles for another 30 minutes before opening fire to finish them off, K’Tinga class ships with no upgrades weren’t about to do any serious damage to the Enterprise E.

Final thoughts

Species 8472 is tougher than I remembered, I’m surprised they don’t see more play.

A lot of Fed players are leaning heavily on the Enterprise E, so much so that I’m not seeing builds without it. Granted, it’s really effective, but it’s opening them up to some interesting problems that I managed to exploit the next day in a VERY unusual OP event. More on that later.

I turned down a second copy of the Avatar of Tomed, and picked the Dominion / Mirror Universe ship instead, since I don’t have it yet. Getting the last remaining booster as well, I brought home a second Kazon Predator, which makes me tempted to run a Kazon list in fleet pure play. It might be almost as fun as the Vulcans I used at the next OP. But again, more on that later…

— The Tabletop General

Kaosball, Zombicide, & other CMON games

Last week, I got the opportunity to try out several board games published by “Cool Mini Or Not” (CMON) at a demo event. This was a unique opportunity for me to be hands on with several games without having to shell out cash for them first, and it was convenient because I had never gotten around to trying anything CMON has published. While I had heard of several of these games via discussion and advertisement of their Kickstarter campaigns, I wrongly assumed they were all indie titles. So to find out that a group I remember for offering Hot-Or-Not style voting on pictures of painted gaming figures was behind this large array of games, and that they would be holding a local demo session, I was intrigued, to say the very least.

Over the course of the evening, I got an opportunity to go hands-on with several games. I had heard of both Kaosball and Zombicide, but Arcadia Quest was brand new to me, and for good reason – it isn’t available at retail yet, although I understand that will change as soon as they’ve finished shipping to Kickstarter backers.

I’ll come back to Arcadia Quest in a subsequent article, because I’d like to get a little more hands-on experience with the game first. That playthrough showed promise, but there were some odd dynamics going on between the players at the table that made me want a mulligan before reviewing the game. For now, imagine Dungeons and Dragons got together and had a child with Sorry!, and it came out looking like Fire Emblem as a board game.

Zombicide

Zombicide isn’t really my kind of game. I never bought in to the whole zombie craze in recent pop culture, and the game forces some decisions that just don’t make sense; if one player starts doing more than the others to move the game along, that character gains more than their share of experience, and the quantity of enemies being spawned is solely based off of the most advanced character’s experience points.  It was odd playing with only two people, as that meant we each had to control 3 of the 6 characters (always 6 in play for game balance purposes), but I was glad to finally get a chance to try it, because I’ve heard great things about the game, and I can recognize where there’s fun to be had, even if I won’t personally enjoy it.

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So…. I hear there’s zombies outside. I think we should stay in here. They might not be able to open doors, and we can find food and water forever by searching this little room once per round.

There was definitely some hard decisions to be made regarding allocation of limited resources, not least of which was time – the pressure was intense as we played keepaway with the zombie horde. But the game seemed to fall in to the same trap that several other cooperative games like Pandemic and Forbidden Island do: one player steps up and creates a plan; and either all the other players just follow that plan, or the whole group loses the game. Perhaps my problem was not knowing the other player in the demo, and the fact that he had played the game before, so his plan was The One And Only Path To Victory ™.

I tried to tell you! But you just HAD to open the door and get their attention, didn't you?
I tried to tell you! But you just HAD to open the door and get their attention, didn’t you?

Still, with the right group of players who can work cooperatively at problem solving, these kinds of games can be a whole lot of fun You’re definitely matching wits against some steep odds, and I always enjoy a challenge on this level. I would definitely be willing to give Zombicide another shot if a group of my friends wanted to play it, especially if I got to break out my copy of the awesome Cardboard Tube Samurai promotional character and figures being handed out at this event. If you decide to give Zombicide a try, take my advice and skip the first mission – from what I’ve gathered it’s the longest and most difficult in the game, and thus the least welcoming to new players. The base game costs around $90 retail, and the expansions are anywhere from $20 for a new character to $100 for a new “season” kit including more maps, scenarios, and zombies.

Kaosball

Ninjas running from Zombies, Ogres doing hand to hand combat with Amazons, and Warlocks having firefights with Cowboys… Oh, and there’s a ball too. My favorite game of the evening by far was Kaosball, a 2-4 player sports game that had a bit of an American Gladiators feel. I expected this to be their version of Blood Bowl, but the mechanics are vastly different and I credit that as being part of why I got my butt kicked so badly.

What kind of pansy ogres have +0 to fighting?
What kind of pansy ogres have +0 to fighting?

The game looks relatively simple on the surface, players take turns activating one model per turn, fighting for position and over the eponymous Kaosball.  Each team has players that are designated as Runners and Bashers, with a limited subset of actions available to both. Only Runners can score points, and only Bashers can move around and attack the enemy. All players on a given team have the same modifiers to a given category of activity – Ball control, tackling, and fighting. Any contest of skill between two players involves those modifiers being applied to a blind-bid of a card from players hands with a given score value from 1-5. There’s a secondary level of strategy available here, as you can only play a given value once per quarter of the game.

Ogres? No problem. You know what they say, the bigger they are, the more blood there is to drink!
Ogres? No problem. The bigger they are, the more blood there is to drink!

Runners score points for being in designated scoring zones at the end of each of the four quarters of play, or for holding the Kaosball and being in one of those same zones at the start of any turn. The points scored for this rise as the game goes on, making late game heroics count for more. Points are also awarded for killing opposing figures and lost for fouling, but only if you get caught doing it! There can also be some bonus points awarded based on bonuses purchased for your team (see below).

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Coach, what gives? These Vampires don’t sparkle, even when I shake ’em up a bit!

Before a game of Kaosball begins, both teams are allocated a set amount of cash, and can bid on a random assortment of bonuses for the game, as well as “Ringers”, mercenary players who bring unique abilities to the field. My ringer, for instance, had some form of a poisoned weapon, and was able to scratch an opposing tackler, killing them instantly. On the other hand, my opponent purchased an ability that scored him a point every time his players won a fight, which added up quickly.

The "Steel Curtain" defense at work.
The “Steel Curtain” defense at work.

I do have a couple of gripes about the game. The static statistics bug me thanks to my Blood Bowl background. In Kaosball, a Runner is just as good at defending itself as a Basher on the same team, and the Bashers are just as good at holding on to the ball as Runners, although they can’t score points with it. Also, the fact that you activate one figure per turn meant that my opponent and I both had two figures that moved no more than once during the game, even factoring in casualties. This was exacerbated by my team’s special ability, which allowed me to push back any opposing players adjacent to the figure I activated – any time I pulled in a new figure from my starting area, I had to give up that ability’s usage for the turn. There ended up being multiple completely unused pieces on the board that never contributed to anything. That just screams design weakness, but I don’t know what a potential fix would be that wouldn’t change the entire flow of the game.

Pssst... Throg! When is it my turn to play? Didn't you read the gameplan? After Skullbasher dies.
Pssst… Throg! When is it my turn to play?
Didn’t you read the game plan? Not until after Skullbasher dies.

Despite losing horribly, I enjoyed the game and exploring its’ mechanics. I can only imagine how crazy things would get in a four player match. The Ringers and purchased team abilities add a lot of variety to the experience, as does the fact that there are a total of 18 different teams available. The core set includes 4 of the teams for around $100, and individual team expansions cost about $25 each (when you can find them in stock).

Other games

There were a few more games available which I didn’t have time to get to this week, but I hope to get back to, as this is rumored to become a monthly event for CMON to visit the venue with a rotating selection of their games to try. I’m especially excited about one game that I didn’t see because it’s still in their development pipeline, and the name escapes me, but it’s supposed to be a cooperative take on the Dominion deckbuilding mechanics, facing a set of neutral encounter decks that are going to be near impossible to defeat at the highest difficulty levels.

As for what I saw but couldn’t play, Rivet Wars appears to be a steampunk alternate history take on World War 2, with a bit of a fantasy twist. I really wanted pictures of this one, because the figures were wonderful; little squat tanks with a bit of a cartoony twist, a la World of Warcraft style art. No description I can come up with will really do them justice, but without being at the table, the snapshots I took didn’t turn out. The gameplay is grid based tactical combat, played on re-configurable map tiles. This one, unlike all of the other games present for the demo night, was explicitly for two players. I’ll give it a try at the next event if possible and let you all know how it goes, as well as get some better pictures of the figures.

Dogs of War was on the next table over, and looked to be a bit intimidating at first; in diametric opposition to Rivet Wars. Rather than having a tactical map of some sort for a board, it’s all assigning cards to an order of battle, and keeping score through a protracted campaign. The game can be won by crushing your opponents in battle, or by outmaneuvering them politically, and I get a Game of Thrones feel out of what was described to me about the aesthetic. Again, I’ll definitely test this out when another opportunity arises.

All said and done, I enjoyed the evening and having a chance to go hands-on with several of these games that I wouldn’t have otherwise tried. These games are all very well made, with game pieces crafted to a quality you would expect from a company called “Cool Mini Or Not”, and they all have lots of replay value. You pay a premium price for the quality though, as the starting point for almost all of these games at retail is $100 before even thinking about expansion content. While I still say to support your Friendly Local Gaming Store, if you were to so happen to buy a Cool Mini Or Not game from Amazon, the referral might cover my lunch visit to the mess tent the next day. Just saying.

— The Tabletop General

Changs Bird of Prey

The Klingon faction has gone far too long without some upgrades in Star Trek: Attack Wing. Sure, there was a B’Moth class ship available in blind boosters for the “The Collective” event series, but it didn’t really bring anything new to the table. Chang’s Bird of Prey, releasing next month and previewed today on StarTrek.com, is here to fix all of that.

Being such a big fan of ultra-maneuverable ships, I’ve always really liked the utility options of the Sensor Echo action, it’s one of the primary reasons I own such a large Romulan fleet. The ability to dodge out of firing arcs, quickly maneuver around an obstacle, or line up an unexpected shot can be invaluable in this game. Chang’s Bird of Prey specializes in this maneuver, to an extent that no other ship can match. Generally, both Klingon and Romulan ships have poor action economy thanks to the fact that you’re constantly having to spend your action to Cloak again after shooting or performing said Sensor Echo. Chang’s Bird of Prey comes with several options to help you out with that.

Changs_BoP

First, let’s look at the ship card itself. Not knowing Star Trek lore very well (other than that he can make for a devastatingly powerful captain), and knowing how excited some players were about what this release might entail, I expected something close to the Soong‘s statistics, so the stat line is underwhelming to me, but it’s also much more affordable of a ship than I expected. This ship’s special ability is priceless, and tells you almost everything you need to know about how this ship was designed: “If you attack with Torpedoes while Cloaked, you do not flip your [Cloak] Token over to its red side.” Essentially, this ship has an Advanced Cloaking Device built in when firing torpedoes. Granted, in order to fire those Torpedoes again, you’ll have to re-enable them as an action, and acquire a new Target Lock as an action, but you won’t have to chose between starting on that and bringing your Cloak back online. It’s an improvement!

Chang

The next way that Chang’s Bird of Prey specializes in cloaking is via Chang himself. When cloaked, Chang allows you to perform a Sensor Echo action with the length 1 template before making your maneuver. As anyone who has played with or against TIE Phantoms in X-Wing Miniatures can tell you, this is an incredibly powerful ability. Thanks to this extra little maneuver, you can react to the opponent’s positioning, avoid blocking maneuvers, and or help make sure you’re at exactly the range that you want to be for the combat phase. And to make things even better, you can still perform a normal Sensor Echo as your action! Assume you have Chang on a cloaked ship capable of a 1-Forward action. That ship would be capable of making a pure lateral movement equivalent to a speed 4 maneuver in either direction, with no net forward movement or facing change. This fits in incredibly well with my play style, and as a result I absolutely love this card!

There will be two other options for captains included in this expansion. Kerla can give up two defense dice before the roll in exchange for an additional Evade result, which is a statistical improvement in most cases. Admiral Gorkon will be in this pack as well, although details are not included yet other than that he provides defensive die manipulations too. I’m guessing Gorkon might have an action which enables rerolls of a limited number of defense dice, something which Klingons could really use.

Prototype_Cloaking_Device

Prototype Cloaking Device is a must-use card, and will quite possibly be the reason that some players buy multiple copies of Chang’s Bird of Prey. The Prototype Cloaking Device’s restriction to the Bird-Of-Prey class ship is the only reason that I haven’t already pre-ordered four of these ships just for this card. With the PCD equipped, Klingon action economy skyrockets. Disabling the card before your attack both prevents you from removing your Cloak token after an attack, and gives you the option to take an Auxiliary Power Token in order to reroll any of your attack dice as though you had a target lock. So for six points and a Tech slot that doesn’t have any other attractive options, you’re improving your action economy two-fold by not needing another Cloak action, and by removing the need for a Target Lock action to modify standard attacks (or for that matter, giving you the option of rerolling dice for a Torpedo attack). Good deal!

The_Games_Afoot      azetbur

There are, as usual, a couple of cards that I consider underwhelming at best. The Game’s Afoot is a 4 point Elite Talent with very limited use – It’s a one shot discard for a single extra attack die and a sensor echo free action after the attack, and it can only be used if you’re not in the target’s forward or rear firing arcs. With so many ships with rear arcs, 180 degree forward arcs, or even both, there’s just two 45 degree zones that this can always be used in safely, and those are the only places that you would really want that sensor echo to move to anyway! Just about as usable, Azetbur, is a 5 point crew member that is discarded as an action, she disables your captain and a target ship’s captain, and prevents both ships from attacking each other this turn. Let’s review: Costs five points. One shot ability. Requires an action. Costs you and your opponent an action to re-enable your Captains. Potentially prevents one shot in both directions. I suppose it might have a use in very particular situations, but I don’t see it being worth her cost unless you absolutely know she will be needed. Thanks but no thanks on both of these cards.

Cry_Havoc

If you’re looking for an Elite Talent worth something out of this expansion, Cry Havoc is a bit more usable. Again, 5 points for a single shot card, discarded at use. You must be have a Cloak token when using it, and it removes the token, denies you the ability to roll any defense dice this turn, immediately raises your shields, and gives you +2 attack dice in the combat phase. This screams Klingon, 100%. It also screams “Please find a way to combine me with Once More Unto The Breach!” for a net of two attacks at +1 die each. Unfortunately as both require actions, you’re out of luck on that combo for now.

I don’t think Chang’s Bird of Prey will make the Klingons a top-tier competitive faction again on it’s own, but it will certainly breathe new life in to them. And it means I’ll need to go out and buy some more Klingons to go with it. (This is the part where you visualize me looking at my wallet and sighing).

— The Tabletop General

 

On “Netdecking”

The internet… how I love and loathe thee at times. Without the internet, the world as we know it wouldn’t exist. I certainly wouldn’t have this site with which I can reach out and share my thoughts, and for that matter I wouldn’t have my day job in IT either to be able to support my gaming habits. At the same time, competitive gaming, in whatever form it might exist in an alternate universe without the internet, would be a far more interesting and varied experience. Without the ability to share builds, strategies, and gaming concepts over long distances, every gaming community’s “meta-game” would be wildly different; things that see heavy use in one area might never be used at all elsewhere. Granted, gaming in general wouldn’t be quite as common, but this is my theoretical mirror universe and I’ll make it up the way I want to!

Anyway, disregarding the idea of alternate universes, let’s do some time traveling, back to the early 2000’s. I was still in high school at this point, and I had “big fish in a small pond” status as far as gaming was concerned. My school had a rather sizable group of kids who played Magic: The Gathering, and near half of that group had either learned the game from me, or from someone that I had taught to play. I funded my way into several other gaming ventures by buying and selling cards – someone would want to get rid of a box of “useless” cards for cheap, I would buy them and make a killer deck out of it, and then I would sell that deck for a hefty profit, sometimes even back to the original owner, and the remaining cards from the transaction that weren’t in that particular deck then piled up into the boxes upon boxes that I still have to this day. Those players would usually win more often than before, but they wouldn’t have the same success with the deck because they didn’t understand the concepts behind it.

To give a specific example, consider a deck containing (amongst others) the following five cards: False Demise, Iridescent Drake, Altar of Dementia, Horseshoe Crab, and Hermetic Study.

Iridescent Drake               False Demise                Altar of Dementia

hermitic study               Horseshoe Crab

For those following along but not familiar with Magic terminology and gameplay, these cards don’t do much on their own, or if played improperly, but they’re tough combos if deployed right. Playing Hermetic Study on the Horseshoe crab allows you to spend a basic renewable resource to trigger that damage dealing ability over and over, which turns that creature into a living machine-gun capable of wiping out multiple creatures per turn and burning down your opponent’s life total quickly. As to the other three cards… False Demise is basically a one-shot resurrection for a given creature, but Iridescent Drake with False Demise on it can bring itself back from the dead an infinite number of times, allowing you to completely remove the opponent’s draw pile instantly by sacrificing the creature over and over via Altar of Dementia. This in turn causes the opponent to lose the game the next time they should draw a new card into their hand.

In order to be the most effective possible with this build, False Demise is saved to play on Iridescent Drake, and only that enchanted creature is sacrificed to Altar of Dementia; while Horseshoe Crab was the only creature to put Hermetic Study on. Sure, there could be emergency uses for cards, but in general, those two combos didn’t mix. If sacrificing the Horseshoe Crab to the Altar of Dementia twice would win the game for you, by all means go ahead and play False Demise there, and do your thing. Or if your opponent was near death but had blocking creatures you couldn’t get past, use Hermetic Study on whatever you have available to do direct damage.  Still, those uses needed to be the exception, not the rule. These two are fairly obvious as distinctly separate combos to experienced Magic players, but I wanted an example that would stand out here for discussion’s sake.

Meanwhile, back to that group of Magic players… we were an odd lot in general, an intersection of several social groups. Within that group, I had a particular nemesis that I could never turn down a chance to play and beat.This young man, who shall remain nameless, had previously been unwelcome around me for very personal reasons (you might say it was a matter of honor, in the way that teenagers look at the world), but he had a reputation as a skilled Magic player and I wasn’t one to back down from a challenge. We played on a fairly regular basis for a while, and I don’t think I would have liked him even without the past issues, but I had to admit he could give me a run for my money. Soon, however, I learned that he was giving me a run with someone else’s money, and lots of it. Coming from a wealthy family, he saw no problem with spending lots of his parents’ money on buying Magic cards on the internet, and he wasn’t even picking out which cards to buy. Instead, my rival was looking up the deck lists of recent major tournament winners, and just buying everything that they used, recreating that deck, and bringing it as his own against my home-brewed decks.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the definition of the term “netdecking” – finding a design for what to bring to a game on the interNET, and bringing exactly that as your DECK (or fleet / army /etc). This was a new concept to me at that point, and I didn’t like it. I still don’t, really. Even though I’m happy to provide some of my own ideas, I enjoy discovering a game’s mechanics and combos almost as much as I enjoy playing them. So what he was doing felt odd to me, it felt cheap, and it felt like he was cheating.

But even facing championship caliber decks, I still won more than my fair share. The decks he would recreate were designed to win high level tournament matches, and a lot of things that I did at the time wouldn’t have made the cut at that level. As a result, he would often hit a figurative Wall of Stone playing against me, because his decks didn’t have answers to the problems I presented him with; they were designed for a different setting. To be successful with a given build, it’s important to know the goals behind the design, the idiosyncrasies of the build, and what to do when your initial plan falls apart. Going back to magic terms, is it more important to do damage to your opponent early, or not take any unnecessary damage? Should all of your spells be cast as quickly as possible, or are there specific ones that should be held back for a key point in the match? Players can learn these answers for themselves as they play the game, but the answers aren’t necessarily packaged in with the shopping list they pulled off of some random website, despite the fact that the player who originally designed that list has thought those questions out thoroughly.

Fast forward back to this week: As I mentioned in my recent battle report for a tournament at a new venue for Star Trek: Attack Wing, I lucked in to facing a player who was using a variant of a Federation build which I had prototyped in a previous article as a thought experiment for fighting the against the Borg. He made me sweat, but I came away with the victory because that design (and the general tactics that I provided with it) wasn’t specific to the scenario in play. I had based my design of that ship with a standard 100 point build in mind, in which you would face no more than two heavy hitting Borg ships: Spheres, or Tactical Cubes, or even the new Octahedrons. But in this event, with 120 points, I had three such ships and as a result I was able to overwhelm his defenses; in particular, thanks to the extra shot per turn from the 3rd Borg ship, he had to load up on more Auxiliary Power Tokens to keep powering his Ablative Hull Armor than he could clear from his ship in a turn, but he continued to take easy maneuvers with his ship in order to clear those tokens, which resulted in having him unable to shoot at my fleet for multiple turns, making the problem worse.

In theory it was the right build to beat my faction (by my very own theory, no less), and I would consider what he was doing the right move if I only had one ship remaining to fire on him. But the combined fire of my multiple ships available in this scenario made his resistance… well…  futile (I couldn’t pass up on that one). Knowing that the odds were against the Enterprise E clearing those tokens off as fast as he was taking them, I would have given up on taking small maneuvers which would clear the Aux tokens, and instead I would have accepted that the Auxiliary tokens would be there and would be preventing his ship from taking utility actions like Evades or Target Locks, and I would have tried to work my way into range and finish off another ship to reduce the quantity of those tokens being given. But recognizing that situation only comes from experience, both with the game and the pieces in play, and he was not only just trying out this build for the first time, but also relatively new to Attack Wing. I’m sure once he gains more experience with both, that fight would be even harder still for the Borg if replayed.

The internet can be a wonderful medium by which to exchange ideas. A small portion of those ideas can be concerned with how to design a winning build for your miniatures game or card game of choice. But without context, without knowing the goals and constraints with which the concept was created, and without taking time to learn those for yourself, success isn’t guaranteed just because you have a superior design. That’s why here at the Tabletop General I try to give context, to share not only what I’m doing, but why I’m doing it. You might have an army of tanks to take on the enemy’s cavalry, but an army is only as good as the orders it’s given.

— The Tabletop General