Saturday, 14 November 2015

State of Independence: Lone Starships in Attack Wing


With Wave 19 delayed due to some issue in the US, we've got a barren month when it comes to new Attack Wing expansions.

As it happens I was looking to expand my Independent fleet and added in two older ships to the numbers. Choosing which wasn't too hard as I'd heard some good things about both the Vidiian Fina Prime and the Hirogen Hunter.

The Vidiian ship (Wave 10) is one of the biggest - and ugliest - ships to come out of the game. It's also the only version available currently as the Starships Collection has still to slot it into the running order. It's certainly wide but size isn't everything and it's a shame that having a larger surface area doesn't make it any better than the other expansions. The paint scheme is very blocky, very basic and has an uncharacteristic shine to it that I wouldn't have placed on the Vidiian ship. It's an odd design and there's definitely nothing else like it in the Star Trek universe - and in Attack Wing there's certainly nothing similar in at least a couple of features.

Weighing in with 26 points, the named Fina Prime packs three in attack, two defence, five hull points and three shields with the option to add in two weapon and two crew upgrades. As standard for a lot of Federation ships at least the Vidiian vessel can perform Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battle Stations as standard actions. The Battle Cruiser unique action will force an opponent at range one to lose a shield token at the price of an auxiliary power token. A nice way to bring those shields down a little quicker and get to the hull. The generic version sacrifices one of those shield points and a crew upgrade to bring the ship point total to 24.

Being a battle cruiser there's a top speed of four but with most options at speeds two and three plus a handy 180 turn that will cost an auxiliary power token. With some of the options here that choice of maneuver over speed is an advantage we'll talk about later.

The Fina Prime pack does disappoint in one way however; it's one of the slimmest we've had in the whole range. There are only two captain options provided and one of those is a generic Vidiian for your Independent faction. The Vidiian Commander will cost four points with a skill of seven and enhances your attacks with the Grappler or the Hypothermic Charge or performing the action on the Boarding Party card. If you're playing any of these features he's a must for your ship, making great upgrades even more usable.

There are four crew alternatives to choose from though bringing back at least one familiar Vidiian from Voyager in the form of Denara Pel. Continuing the trend of the Commander, the ship and some other features, Pel offers close-range benefits with a ship at range one losing a crew upgrade at the cost of the Vidiian. One thing though, if you're grappling then it becomes a disable rather than a discard. Certainly one to use if you're facing a Federation opponent with their crew-heavy craft.

Sulan, who fans will remember from Faces as the Vidiian who captured B'Elanna, is your next crew card. Again his ability is at range one and allows you to discard a crew upgrade on your opponent's ship but if you're using the grapple feature you can also disable another two crew upgrades on that target ship. His increased cost over Pel shows that this is a stronger card but at least here you have the option to spend a bit less for a similar feature in Denara Pel. Third crew selection here is Dereth, a Vidiian taken from Phage in Voyager's first season. An organ harvester in the episode, Dereth operates here as a safeguard feature, allowing you to disable an opponent upgrade should they try and affect any of your upgrades. Nice that it's not a disable or discard card so you can keep on using it as the game progresses.

The Fina Prime expansion definitely conjures up a lot of problems for Federation players with those three crew options alone but the fourth, the more costly Vidiian Boarding Party card action is a killer. It is very situational, meaning that the target ship for this attack must be uncloaked, in range one and have no active shields before you can even think about using it. However it provides a four attack dice roll and for each damage or critical damage hit rolled a crew upgrade gets removed from the target ship. Effectively you could shut a Federation ship down completely in one move. Even worse is that if grappling this can be used as a free action so you can prep if the target ship decides to retaliate (although what with...).

The ship comes with nor has slots for any tech upgrades so you're pretty limited beyond those crew-upgrade-slaughtering crew upgrades to just two weapon options. Hypothermic Charges attacks with the same number of dice as your primary weapon (three) but only operates at range one to two. So why use it? Because it ignores your opponent's shields and goes straight for the hull, potentially providing some much welcomed critical damage to key systems. If there are shields active then the big news is that the attack lets you re-roll any number of dice. No target lock required here but you will need to disable the feature to use it.

To the final card here and the biggest unique point in the set which is Grappler. Again attacking with just the three dice and at that extremely close range one, you need to disable the card to take advantage and if you successfully inflict one hit through a regular attack then you get to lock on. Once this happens, the opponent ship, while it carries the red grapple token, attacks with one less die and defends with one less. It also can't move faster than two but if at the end of the Activation Phase it's moved out of range one to the Vidiian ship then the link is lost. During the Combat Phase the grappled ship can get out of the hold by rolling two damage or critical damage results using the same number of dice it would for a primary attack. Phew. Lot to remember there but quite specific to be able to be able to kick that one off in the first place.

There is a single Elite Action with Fina Prime; Decisive Orders that allows an attack dice re-roll (up to two of them) if your target ship has no active shields. It's a discard for four points so I'd be more tempted to leave it out or look at other options from other Independent ships. The mission here does come from a classic Voyager episode in the form of Deadlock. The Vidiian ship has to start with the Boarding Party card upgrade fitted while the Federation ship has only 35 points to start off with an additional 25 points of upgrades "sideboarded" for the mission. The Vidiians win if they either destroy the Federation ship or get to employ the Boarding Party card successfully. The Federation player wins by destroying its opponent or escaping with three or more mission tokens collected.

Hang on - escape? Yes, because you're in a subspace divergence which either damages the ship or removes an upgrade each round. However all those upgrades off to the side represent the alternate reality ship (just like the ep!) which you can use to help and that comes at the cost of one of your eight mission tokens. If you can escape with at least three still on board then you've successfully negotiated the situation.

The second ship I acquired was the Hirogen Alpha Hunter from Wave 11. A lot smaller model but actually much more impressively detailed given its size. The golden colouring is well done but size does mean that any more precise detailing is lost. The pack is a lot thicker than Fina Prime and the ship more primed for attack and to take more damage than the Vidiian cruiser although its SP is identical at 26. 

Offering four dice in attack, two for defence along with a hull value of three and four shield points, the Hunter carries the standard four actions of Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battle Stations plus its unique action allows you to perform the Sensor Echo action as a freebie even if not cloaked. On top of that there are two tech, two weapons and a crew slot to fill if you're looking to max her out. 


As with the Vidiian Cruiser the Alpha Hunter can hit a top speed of four and is blessed with a full range of movement at speeds two and three plus that key 180 turn. That's actually the only move that incurs the dreaded auxiliary power token so in comparison to those Vidiians it's not quite as restrictive. If you're choosing the generic ship version it will cost a shield point as usual plus one of your weapon slots for 24 points. Still a slightly better option than the Fina Prime perhaps.

As for captains there are two decent choices alongside the generic Hirogen card. Topping the stats with a skill of eight and a cost of five points is Karr, the commanding Hirogen from Voyager's The Killing Game two-parter. Unusually he offers two Elite Action slots as well as the ability to re-roll two attack dice every time you go into battle. If Karr's skill is higher than the opponent's captain you get to gain an attack die at the beginning of the phase.Truly a stupidly powerful card and one I just have to use even at the cost.

The Alpha Hirogen, represented by the hunter from Prey, allows conversion of a blank into a damage result. He's also able to use an Elite Action with a captain skill of six and a cost of four. With all those Elite Action slots flying around in this pack, WizKids do offer three choices to fill them with. Full Reverse allows you to change your revealed move to a one or two maneuver backwards without incurring an auxiliary power token. It's a cool one to mix up the Activation Phase but it does rely on you second or even third guessing your opponent to make it work. Costing a few more points but again allowing you to change your maneuver and receive a free Battle Stations action should an enemy vessel end up in your forward firing arc after you move. It plays more to the aggressive tendencies of the Hirogen than the retreating Full Reverse


The third and final Elite Action is Stalking Mode and is again a discard. Used as an Action, it reduces an opponent's captain skill by two points and gives you an additional attack dice . While the card might be discarded, the effects last for the duration of the game which will come in very handy and could work well to reduce the potency of an enemy capital ship. A very useful card well worth the five points it'll cost to equip it.

The Alpha Hunter includes just one crew upgrade with Turanj who lets you add another weapon slot to your bar and will allow you to discard your captain card if his/her skill is below four to add in an extra attack dice. Turanj then becomes your captain with a skill of seven. Very unusual feature this one and I don't recall seeing anything similar in the rest of the expansions I've experienced. 

As for weapons, the Hunter packs the usual Photon Torpedoes card utilising a target lock for five attack dice and the conversion of any Battle Station results to critical damage. The second, Subnucleonic Beam, inflicts normal damage but for each hit which is uncancelled you get to disable one of your opponent's crew upgrades. Costing an additional five points if used on a non-Hirogen vessel, it operates at range one to two. Certainly seems that there are a lot of extras in these Independent packs which are there to cause Federation players a whole ton of problems.

Finally thee are two tech upgrades Sensor Network takes its line from Message in a Bottle, letting you take a peek at an opponent's proposed move and then adjusting yours accordingly. Nor can your opponent change their move. Definitely works to help capture your prey or alternatively evade that attack. Last of all there's Monotanium Armor Plating to make sure you stand a half-decent chance of lasting the game. While it doesn't increase your hull or shield value it may stop opponents gaining a target lock if you can roll at least one Evade on two defence dice. It's able to be used everytime someone attempts that action and if they have managed to get a lock on you can disable the card to remove the effect.  Costing three points it's well worth the spend as I find target lock is an often-used feature that kicks you in the teeth over and over either for re-rolls or photons so having a defence against it is an enticing addition.

The Worthy Prey mission included here sees the Hirogen chasing an enemy ship (I'll be using Species 8472 I think) and for each round the Hunter attacks it receives one mission token. If the enemy is destroyed the prey is deemed worthy by rolling a number of dice determined by the amount of mission tokens collected. Deem it not worthy and the Hirogen lose.

OK - so how do these packs really operate? Fairly well. I have yet to really work the Hirogen pack properly but the Fina Prime ship was pretty decent against the Klingons. However, getting into a suitable position to use the Grappler card was near impossible without incurring a vast amount of damage. An Independent fleet definitely gives more variation to your game than with just a "standard" Federation fleet however it's quite an adjustment as I found when I was totalled by that Klingon squadron. What I lose in manoueverability I gain in upgrades and it's a delicate trade-off here. I think I still have some way to go to perfect it and will probably switch out either the Krenim Timeship or the USS Dauntless for the Hirogen Hunter. Trial and error, readers, trial and error!

Both ships are recommended to retail at £11.99 and you can find your local Attack Wing stockist HERE

Fan of the independent faction? Which are the best upgrades Squadron Points can buy? What should I be avoiding? 


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