Theatre of Wargaming: The Undiscovered Country
Hello everyone, how’s it going? Welcome back to my blog where you’ll find me talking about a game that I’ve recently started playing: Star Trek Attack Wing.
It’s been a while since my last blog post. Sorry about that. Nonetheless, I’ve been doing a lot towards my hobby goals.
I have almost entirely finished sorting and cataloguing the cards I brought back with me from Japan. All I need to do is sort out how I’m going to store them and finish up with the spreadsheet I’ve been using to note down what I’ve got. It looks like I’m somewhere in the 10,000 region, excluding basic lands (which I’m sure some of you are scoffing at as being a “small collection”).
I’ve also been able to squeeze a handful of Magic games in. My local store did an Eternal Masters draft. Whilst I didn’t pick up anything terribly exciting from the draft itself, I did somehow manage to go 2-1 and win myself 2 packs of EMA for my troubles. As is my habit, I haven’t opened them as I tend to hoard my sealed boosters for future use in chaos drafts or to be opened as part of a game (either through Booster Tutor or Stocking Tiger (in some of my Commander decks, with opponents’ permission), or Lore Seeker in my Conspiracy cube).
Unfortunately, I’ve had to shelve Project K. There were external factors which meant that I was unable to finish it on time. I’ll hopefully be able to finish it later in the year and write about it here.
Due to the extended period of time since my last blog post, I’ve managed to finish FTL. Kind of. I’ve now completed the game with every ship on every difficulty setting, but without having turned on the Advanced Edition content. So, I’m effectively halfway through it as I intend to do it all again, this time with AE turned on.
I’ll be discussing some other hobby progress in the main part of this blog. Suffice to say it involves both purchases and playing games.
This week’s hobby commitments are to finish sorting my cards and putting them away, as well as to start thinking about building some decks that have been on the backburner for a while now. I’ve got a Nicol Bolas Commander deck that’s around three generations behind where it ought to be (as I’ve updated the deck list but not actually gotten around to swapping cards in and out of it). That’ll probably be the first thing I’ll get done.
Today I’m going to discuss a game that I very recently started playing: Star Trek Attack Wing. But before I do that, I’m just going to go over my personal history with Star Trek in general.
As might be very apparent from the title and some chapter headings of my last blog post, I’m a fan of Star Trek and have been one since the mid-90’s. Whilst I missed out on watching The Next Generation whilst it was still being produced, I was able to watch Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise as new episodes came out in the late 90’s/early 2000’s.
Around that time I bought heavily into the Star Trek CCG by Decipher, which was a wonderful game that captured the essence of the TV shows and movies almost perfectly. As a miniature wargamer, I also searched for a Star Trek miniatures game but couldn’t find anything that fitted. I tried the old Starfleet Battles but since I’m not a huge fan of the Original Series (and definitely not a fan of the SFB expanded universe) it didn’t really capture my attention. I also considered Games Workshop’s Battlefleet Gothic but the rules of that game didn’t really fit the Star Trek universe.
The only game I found that I felt even remotely fitted the gameplay experience I wanted was Full Thrust. Despite the mildly NSFW name, it’s a generic set of spaceship miniature wargame rules that can be adapted to any sci-fi universe’s ships. During the mid-2000’s I managed to play a couple of games and have spent a lot of time attempting to create fleet lists that fit my vision of Star Trek. I used old Micro Machine toys as my ship models for this.
In 2011 Wizkids released a Star Trek board game. Star Trek Fleet Captains is a game that replicates the feel of a season of the TV show, where you have ships going from star system to star system and encountering a variety of challenges. Whilst not a miniatures wargame, it did include (unpainted) ship miniatures which had been something difficult hard to source over the past decade.
Shortly after Fleet Captains was released, Wizkids announced that they were releasing Star Trek Heroclix: Tactics, a set of prepainted Star Trek miniatures (using the same moulds as Fleet Captains) that used their existing Heroclix rules. Played on a gridded map, this seemed like an interesting take on a starship wargame. I bought fairly heavily into this game, only to find out that it turned out to not be terribly popular, as well as being riddled with some pretty basic spelling errors, but at least I had a supply of new starship miniatures.
The Voyage Home
In early 2012, Wizkids released Star Trek Attack Wing. Whilst it uses the same miniatures as Fleet Captains and Tactics it’s a completely separate game, with mechanics based on and licensed from Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game. Like Tactics, the miniatures are prepainted, though unlike Tactics there are no identifying marks as the ships in Attack Wing can be used either as named ships (such as the USS Enterprise) or as a generic version (such as a Constitution class starship). All ships and crew portrayed in Attack Wing come from the “Prime universe” and not from the rebooted universe of the three most recent movies.
Shortly after Attack Wing was released, I purchased a modest amount for the game: the Starter set (which contains the USS Enterprise-D (a Federation Galaxy class ship), the IKS Maht-H’a (a Klingon Vor’cha class ship), and the IRW Khazara (a Romulan D’Deridex class ship)), the USS Defiant (a Federation Defiant class ship), the Gor Portas (a “Dominion” Breen Battle Cruiser), and the Kraxon (a “Dominion” Galor class ship). I also received a Khan Singh captain card, only normally available in a limited quantity at GenCon.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to play any games at all due to my Starter set (with all the rules, dice, tokens, and templates needed to play the game) stuck in England with the expansions and myself in Japan. I kept myself somewhat abreast of the game in passing through the internet, but I had no hands on experience at all.
But, now that I’ve returned to the UK from Japan, I’m finally in a position to start playing the game with like-minded individuals.
Attack Wing works similarly to another game I’m familiar with, Wings of War (now Wings of Glory). Each player has a number of miniatures representing their ships, and each turn secretly plans each ship’s movement for the turn. After everyone’s done that, each ship gets to move in a certain order, perform actions such as engaging their cloaking device or acquiring a target lock, and then each ship gets to attack using either their primary weapon or any secondary weapons they are equipped with.
Ships can be equipped with a variety of upgrades, depending on their “upgrade bar”. Each ship requires a captain, even if it’s just a generic captain. Talents are skills that certain, elite captains can bring to the battlefield. Weapons are additional armaments that the ship can bring to bear against their enemies. Crew cards represent exceptional personnel aboard the ship and include many named characters from the Star Trek franchise. Tech represents technological advantages.
There are also two other types of cards in the game: admirals and resources. Admirals are assigned to a ship and give it bonuses in a similar way to captains whereas resources are bought for the fleet as a whole and are usually capable of being used by every ship. I don’t currently own any of either.
Ships, captains, and upgrades in Attack Wing have “factions” such as Federation or Klingon, indicating their allegiance, and if you put a card of a different faction aboard then you usually pay a penalty for it (one point per card of mismatching faction aboard the ship). This allows players the ability to customise their ships extensively, even allowing them to go against the given affiliations and alliances of the various Trek powers.
On Sunday June 12th 2016 I attended my first official Attack Wing event at my local gaming store, Wargames Workshop, in Northampton. Official events, also known as OPs (Organised Play events), are run using a variety of scenarios, based off of events in the TV shows and movies, and offer both participation prizes as well as competitive prizes for winning and fellowship. These prizes are unique to these events and, for the most part, aren’t available for sale (other than by other players winning them and selling them privately afterwards).
Sunday’s event was event two of the Temporal Cold War Storyline, Future Tense. Based on the Star Trek: Enterprise episode of the same name, two opposing fleets are attempting to retrieve a small ship adrift in space, seemingly originating from the future. For this scenario, each player takes a fleet of up to 120 squadron points, with no ship costing more than 50 points, and no ship equipped with any upgrades that cause you to pay a faction penalty cost.
Based simply on the fact that I only had access to four ships (as I’d lost my two “Dominion” ships in the move back from Japan), I took the following fleet list:
- U.S.S. Defiant 
- Jean-Luc Picard 9 (Captain) 
- Cloaking Device 
- Quantum Torpedoes 
Ship Total: 40 SP
- I.K.S. Maht-H’A 
- Nu’Daq 5 (Captain) 
- Advanced Weapon System 
- Photon Torpedoes 
Ship Total: 41 SP
- I.R.W. Khazara 
- Toreth 7 (Captain) 
- Plasma Torpedoes 
Ship Total: 39 SP
Fleet Total: 120 SP
As you can see, unless otherwise directed, there’s no need to take all of your ships from the same faction (which is good news for me, considering the small number of ships I own), but I will be discussing this a little further in the next section.
My first game had me up against a USS Excelsior with the same Picard on it, along with the Scimitar, and a third ship I can’t recall. My Maht-H’a attempted to tractor beam the objective and was blown up for its troubles. The rest of my fleet died pretty shortly afterwards.
In the final round, I played against said lady with her three Species 8472 Bioships. Neither of us went for the objective and just tried to blow each others’ fleet out of the stars. Like the first game, this was a pretty one-sided battle, with all of my ships getting damaged and eventually blown up. I also made a crucial manoeuvring mistake which turned my IRW Khazara directly towards the table edge (going off the board counts as being destroyed). It’s something I’ll be more careful to avoid in the future and it’s a good thing it happened here rather than at another, more crucial time.
As an aside, these games would happen to be my first ever games of Attack Wing. My experience with playing wargames in general likely stood me in good stead but it’s also something of a testament as to how easy the game is to pick up.
With everyone’s games over, the final results were in and… I was in last place. As such, I won the wooden spoon award. Which, at Wargames Workshop, is an actual wooden spoon with the face of a Star Trek character drawn on it by the staff member who runs these events. Here’s Wey-spoon, who I received.
We also received a copy of the Advanced Technology Resource card as a participation prize.
For Temporal Cold War OP event 2, the competitive prizes were two copies of Azati Prime, a Xindi Aquatic ship, only available through this OP. The winner received one copy and the other went to the person who received the fellowship award (called the “Redshirt” prize at Wargames Workshop). As luck would have it, my name was drawn and I happened to win the second copy of Azati Prime.
I also decided, after the event, to pick up a copy of the USS Excelsior myself. It did a good job against me in my first game and I figured that it’d be something cool to add to my collection, as well as being a nice way to spend some money at the store to say thanks for hosting the event.
So, whilst I had a great time at the event, and am very much looking forward to the next OP I attend, I must admit that I have some misgivings about the game.
First of all, the miniatures are not to scale with each other. This isn’t the worst thing to complain about, as actually having miniatures on the market after going through such a long period of time without any at all is absolutely great. That said, I’ve had problems with ships not being to scale with each other whilst playing Full Thrust and as I intended to use these miniatures for that game too then it would have been nice to have them to scale with each other. The one main attempt at doing so, the Constitution class, is derogatorily nicknamed the “Tinyprise” by the majority of players due to the fact that the model is, frankly, tiny compared to almost every other ship model in the game.
Secondly, I have some issues with the power level of some of the ships in the game. Mostly that I feel that the USS Defiant is a little underpowered. Now, I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m a Deep Space Nine fanboy, but considering what is displayed on screen (such as blowing up a Jem’Hadar Attack Ship in a single volley of fire), having a primary weapon value of only 3 seems like it’s not strong enough. Likewise, there are arguments that the evade value of the Defiant class could be 3 but that seems to be reserved for the very smallest and most manoeuvrable of ships in the game.
I also have mild issues with the way the Cardassians are treated. For the final four seasons of The Next Generation and the first five seasons of Deep Space Nine, the Cardassian Union were considered a separate entity, yet in the game they’re considered part of the Dominion (as per the alliance made in By Inferno’s Light). I can see why that’s the case, and all it does is increase the amount of options that Cardassians have, but it still feels a bit wrong to me. I will admit that maybe I’m a little influenced by the Star Trek CCG, which treated the Cardassians as a separate faction.
I’m not the hugest fan of how flexible you can be with regards to factions. As long as you pay a 1 point penalty (which can be negated in some cases), you can put upgrades from any faction onto any other faction’s ships, and even mix them aboard. Now, there’s nothing terribly wrong with this, per se, but I’m a huge fan of the mythos and background in Star Trek and it’s a little galling to see things like having Species 8472 upgrades on a Borg ship, for example. In the recent 2016 World Championships the winning fleet had ten off-faction upgrades in their fleet. Overall, I understand that this is a game, and weird things do often happen in Star Trek, but I wish there was more of a benefit of playing “faction pure” (where all of your ships and upgrades can only come from a single faction). My local store enforces what I understand is known as “penalty pure” (so you can mix your ships but not the upgrades on them), which is nice.
Finally, I’m not the biggest fan of the distribution method that Wizkids use with regards to OP events, giving away exclusive items to the participants and winners of such events. Whilst I will admit that it’s a great way to encourage attendance, having things that are only available by playing at these events feels like it penalises players who haven’t been with the game since the beginning and/or haven’t had access to a store to play at.
The Search for Spock
At the end of the day, despite all of my misgivings, I love the game. I love the fact that I get to hang out with fellow fans of Trek. I love that I get to use some of my favourite ships and re-enact battles from the shows and movies.
Where do I go from here? Well, Temporal Cold War OP event 3, recreating Enterprise’s attempt to destroy Sphere 41 during the Enterprise season 3 finale, Zero Hour, is what my store is running next. I’m not sure what my fleet’s going to look like as the scenario has some pretty weird rules. I’ve got a couple of ideas, but I don’t have a lot to work with right now, so I might see about doing something about that. Nonetheless, when the OP happens I’ll be sure to write about it here.
The Final Frontier
It would be remiss of me to make a strongly Star Trek-themed blog post without mentioning the recent tragic news of Anton Yelchin’s death. Anton Yelchin portrayed Pavel Chekov in the three most-recent Star Trek movies: Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, and the upcoming Star Trek Beyond. He was killed in an accident at his home involving his car.
That’s about all I’ve got time for today. Thank you for taking the time to read all of it. If there’s anything here that you’ve read about that you’d like to discuss then please feel free to write a comment below.
Liam, aka MT.