As I’ve pointed out in previous articles regarding Star Trek: Attack Wing, the Borg faction takes a lot of flak from players for being overpowered. Their surprisingly nimble movement dials combined with the min/maxed statistics and 360 degree firing arcs make the Borg very difficult to fight against, and the newly released Queen Vessel Prime is just as tough as the original Borg Sphere in that regard. Online discussion boards are being frequented by more and more players calling for the Borg to be banned, that they break the game, and that they take the fun out of playing. Recently, a Tournament Organizer whom I have great respect for has banned the Borg faction from upcoming events which he will run at my home venue, and I was initially at a loss for how to react to that.
I had decided on Borg as my faction of choice long before their rules were ever published. The basis of the complaints about the Borg are valid, they’re tough and ruthless. Bringing the same fleet that won tournaments a year ago into matches including the Borg just doesn’t work, even if it can stand up against other factions. I regularly hear very similar statements about new releases being overpowered from players in other games too, but they normally fade quickly. Some X-Wing players panicked for the ten minutes it took to learn how to fight TIE Phantoms; bringing turrets and/or high pilots with high Pilot Skill. For my Warhammer 40K players out there in the warp, who remembers the Imperial Guard “leafblower” lists when that first hit the tournament scene, or the old Tau Fish of Fury Devilfish wall? “That’s so broken!”, “Nerf that build please, [game designer]!”
Those are just a couple of things that were all considered game-breaking when first seen, but players adapted, tactics changed, and happy and competitive gaming continued. It blows my mind that the reaction here isn’t to find a counter, but to ban the faction entirely. Maybe the game is that unbalanced, but a course-correction is surely due, and may already exist, whether players realize it or not.
In the case of Warhammer, it has traditionally been the very next army to be released that will have a hard counter for the previously game-breaking unit. So let’s make like Vulcans and extend that logic by looking at what is being released now for Attack Wing now that the Borg are pretty much all released (only the Oversized Borg Cube remains in the published retail pipeline), and how we might use it against the Borg.
For the sake of theorizing, we’ll assume that we’re building for an OP event that is 90 points + a blind booster, playing with ship pure (or fleet pure) restrictions, the build below is legal under both.
Long Live the Sovereign
(List updated on 10/12/14 to fix invalid upgrade slots as pointed out by a reader in the comments below)
USS Enterprise-E – 32
Flagship Independent (Federation) – 10
Jean-Luc Picard (+1 Crew version) – 5 (from the USS Enterprise-E)
Fire At Will – 5 (from the USS Enterprise-E)
Adm. Maxwell Forrest – 3 (from the Enterprise NX-01)
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)
Montgomery Scott – 5 (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)
Total: 85 points
This loadout of the Enterprise-E stands in with five hull, six shields, and throws from six to nine attack dice, even out of its’ printed arc at range 1-2 thanks to the Dorsal Phaser Array. A free Evade action from the flagship card enhances your defense slightly, and then you can choose between a Target Lock for offense, a general purpose Battlestations, Sulu for pure defense, Montgomery Scott for repairs or extra punch, or Admiral Forrest for extra maneuverability as the ship’s standard action. If you’re facing multiple targets, Fire at Will allows you to take -1 dice and fire at two of them (standard shot plus Dorsal Phaser Array).
What really gives this ship an advantage on the Borg is defense dice: One agility base, plus one for the flagship, plus one for Picard, plus one for Tom Paris, plus one for Elizabeth Shelby (against Borg), plus two and a Battlestations conversion from Sulu, plus one and scan immunity for Multi-Adaptive Shields while your shields are up, plus “free” evade results from Enhanced Hull Plating if the shields are down. While your shields are up, that’s seven defense dice with conversion and one or all blanks reroll. Once shields are down, you lose one defense die, but can have two free Evade results per attack at the cost of Auxiliary Power Tokens, used as lightly as needed to keep yourself actions available, but heavily enough to keep your ship intact. In a head-to-head fight you’ll lose a few hitpoints to the Borg if the dice aren’t with you, but you’re going to hit the Borg even harder, and as an added bonus, with Picard at the helm you’re firing first (Captain Skill 8, 9 with the Admiral).
You can switch things up to taste if you like, of course, especially with five points unspent in this prototype build. If you’re worried about Assimilation Tubules, as most players are against the Borg, you probably shouldn’t; no one individual upgrade is providing all of the power of this list, or would prove to be decimating if the Borg had it for themselves. The one card that would really hurt to have stolen is the Dorsal Phaser Array, but there’s two free weapon slots available as this is listed (one more from the ship, plus one from the flagship), and you can afford to put a second copy of the Dorsal Phaser array on by trimming just two more points from the list. Where would you find those two points? Perhaps by trading out Fire at Will for Attack Pattern Delta (from the USS Defiant), which would give you a second chance on those defense dice if you truly whiff on a roll against something other than Borg (because Shelby has them covered), or Attack Pattern Omega (also from the Defiant) to be able to turn Picard’s guaranteed critical hit into a guaranteed Warp Core Breach. True, the Borg can take a Regenerate action to repair the Warp Core Breach if they survive its’ first check, but that means that they’re not shooting that turn, which gives you another turn to pile on more damage!
This list also doesn’t lose much effectiveness against other factions, only Elizabeth Shelby’s effectiveness is diminished. In fact, with the Dorsal Phaser Array, this ship acts like a Borg ship that can maneuver normally, since you’re taking a page out of the Borg’s book (dare I say, “assimilating” their tactics?) and not caring about firing arcs in the least.
This whole list started out as an experiment, what can we do with a newly released ship to out-duel the Borg. A few minutes later and I do believe that I had rather fight the Borg than try to take down this ship. That may change once I get my hands on the ship and see its’ maneuver dial, but somehow I doubt it.
So how does your gaming group handle the Borg? Are they allowed, frowned upon, ignored, or banned? And what suggestions do you have for equipping the Enterprise-E differently and making it even meaner?
— The Tabletop GeneralTo Whom It May Concern: Please nerf Paper. Scissors is fine.