Monday, September 15, 2014

Star Trek Attack Wing: Initial Impression

After months of ummms and aaahhs I've finally bought into Star Trek: Attack Wing (STAW), the spaceship combat game by WizKids.

Just as I did a brief overview of X-Wing by Fantasy Flight Games in my 'Initial Impression' article (see here), I wanted to do something similar for STAW. Having recently picked up a brand new second hand core box set from a local lad, I will do just that below. Read on and prosper....

Star Trek: Attack Wing core game contents

For the retail price of €36 you get 3 of the most iconic star ships from the Star Trek universe including:

  • USS Enterprise/Galaxy class Federation ship;
  • IKS Maht-H'a/Vorcha class Klingon ship; and
  • IRW Khazara/D'deridex class Romulan ship.
You also get all the tokens and gaming accessories needed to play the game including:

  • Attack and defense dice;
  • Manoeuvre templates, dials and a range ruler;
  • Quick starter rules pamphlet and full rule book;
  • Ship, captains, upgrades and damage cards; and
  • A boat load of tokens (including a freaking planet!)


Now that's what I call a brick

I will come out here before I go on any further and say that I'm a big Star Trek fan. Star Wars is nice and all but it just doesn't have the same depth that you get with Star Trek. I'm probably influenced heavily by the fact that I grew up watching The Next Generation, Voyager and Deep Space 9 while the Star Wars movies were released well before my time. So I'm a Trekkie at heart.

With that out of the way I will tell you now that the reason I picked up X-Wing 4 months ago instead of STAW was for the same reason: the models.

I still remember walking into my FLGS back those months ago and having a good gawk at both starter boxes. My opinion would be the same if it were to happen today, the X-Wing models looks light years ahead of that of STAW.

I come from a of background WH40k and Games Workshop which meant that Fantasy Flight Games and WizKids were both companies that I knew nothing about. However in terms of initial impressions, X-Wing grabbed at me more than STAW did despite my love of Star Trek. This tells you right there how highly I rate the models/gaming pieces as part of a gaming system.

Anyway as luck would have it a friend of mine was willing to sell his second STAW core set at the fraction of the retail price and if there is something I love more than Star Trek then it has to be a bargain! 

The Rules

Having read the rules and examined the accessories it appears that the game shares the same core mechanics as X-Wing with a few very important differences. This is no surprise given that even the box set mentions that it uses the Flightpath system licensed from Fantasy Flight Games.

I still haven't played a proper game yet but given that I pretty much know how to play X-Wing, therefore I more or less know how STAW would play out by just reading the rules. I get the feel that the emphasis is more on how you deck out your ships as oppose to out manouevring your opponent. 
STAW ships comes with lots of slots for upgrade cards which can be crew members, weapon upgrades or tech upgrades. This of course is very Star Trek. If you watch any of the shows it pretty much boils down to the crew of the ship/space station speaking some techno-babble and saving the day with some ingenious solution just in the nick of time. STAW translates this quite well in the form of the abilities from all the upgrade cards you add to your ships. In particular I really like those crew cards that allow you to eliminate one of your opponents upgrade cards when their shields are down. Beaming a Klingon kill team over to the enemy ship for an assassination mission is pretty thematic. Qapla' mo fos!

Now I've heard some people say that they dislike STAW for using the Flightpath system as it was intended more for aerial dog-fights as oppose to large capital ship combat. I would agree if ships in Star Trek behaved like those from the likes of Battle Star Galactica or even 40K where the capital ships drift into weapons range of each other before unloading at their enemies with walls of munitions and fighters and bomber wings. This is not really the case with Star Trek. If you watch any of the shows, these ships are pretty damn nimble. I know this was done mainly to make the scenes dramatic. When you only have 2-3 ships shooting at each other they better be whizzing around your TV screens otherwise it would be a pretty boring fight scene. Either way the movement dials and templates portray the on screen antics of Star Trek ship combat pretty accurately in my opinion.

However the best thing about Flightpath for STAW is not because it's thematic or because it's true to the TV shows, but because it is a simple system. A 100 points game should still only take an hour compared to the dice fest of 40k or Fantasy that can take up to 2.5 hours or more.

So in case you skipped that wall of text, STAW rules are good and not just a cheap clone of X-Wing. You can tell there was a lot of thought put into it by the designers. I even suspect one of my favourite rule from X-Wing, the Tie Phantom cloaking, was 'ahem' inspired by the cloaking and sensor echo mechanic from STAW.

The Models

 At first glance the models are pretty damn awful. The Romulan D'deridex ship has a huge mold line running down the front, the Federation Galaxy class ship is waaaaay out of scale while someone hit the Klingon Vorcha ship with an ugly bat, several times.

However if you are a hobbyist and willing to take some time into a repaint, these ships are not half bad. The details first appears to be lacking but this is mainly due to the horrific paint jobs. Each ship actually has oodles of detail and are very accurate compared to the models used in the TV shows. After repainting mine I have to say that I'm actually pretty impressed.

The Galaxy Class

The Vorcha Class

The D'deridex Class

However something that still really bothers me is the scale. If you've seen any of the shows or movies you'll know that the ships in this set are all over the shop. Very disappointing.

The Accessories

A pretty mixed bag in terms of quality

For the most part, the cardboard card stock used for the accessories in STAW are identical to X-Wing. However someone at WizKids decided that the same material should also be used for the ship,  captain, upgrade and damage cards. Not such a good idea.

The cards also depict screen captures from the TV shows which means that most of the 'art' on the cards are barely there because most of them are so dark and exacerbated by the low quality print material of the cards themselves.

Compared to X-Wing, the accessories in STAW core set in general looks to be of lower quality. Even the shapes of the tokens looks simpler with basic ovals and triangles. It just lacks that final finish that Fantasy Flight seems to put into all their products. Perhaps this is to keep costs down so that WizKids can afford to sell it at the same price point as its Star Wars competitor.

The Verdict

As you may have gathered from my rambling above, I see both pros and cons in this game just from my initial impression of it. However from the initial glance this game does appear to be a genuinely good game. Models are good (with a bit of TLC), the rules are streamlined just like X-Wing but with the added bonus of missions that actually appears to be decent, there are loads of factions to choose from and competitive play seems to be supported.

I'm going to give this game an initial verdict based on my initial impression of the core box set. I will provide an update verdict down the line once I've got properly stuck in.

From a scale of "Expendable Red Shirt" (Buy at Your Own Peril), "The Tribbles" (Not Great But Not Bad) and "Vulcan Mind Meld!" (This Will Blow Your Mind!).

It's Vulcan Mind Meld!

Again this is only an initial impression but this game definitely has potential to go where no one has gone before.....

Alright that's all I got for this week. Stay tuned and remember to set your phasers to stun :D

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