Five Potions for 13th Age!

Taking inspiration from some of the various old RPG sourcebooks I have lying around, I've concocted some extra potions for 13th Age

Potion of Animal Empathy
Drinking this potion allows the imbiber to empathise with and befriend animals (creatures with the beast keyword) for a time. Like a Charm Person spell, this potion will not work if imbibed during combat or against animals that have rolled for initiative. They may, however, come to the defence of the imbiber and his allies if the GM deems it appropriate. It is unlikely that animals will attack their original master (if they have one), but they may defend the imbiber against creatures or humanoids strange to them. The GM may also determine that several animals are affected at once - particularly if they are in a mob - if their total combined hit-points does not exceed the maximum.

The effect is dispelled immediately if the imbiber or his allies attack the animals.

Tier Cost Maximum Hit-Points of Animal Duration of Potion Effect
Adventurer 420gp 54 5 minutes
Champion 850gp 144 1 hour
Epic 1,700gp 288 1 day

Potion of Distant Audience
This ghostly white liquid allows the imbiber to hear as if he were within a distant area. The area to be listened to must be declared upon drinking the potion. If the area is not known to the imbiber (i.e. he has never been there before), he must pass a normal saving throw, or nothing is heard. Adventurers particularly like these potions to listen behind doors for monsters awaiting them, or to eavesdrop on the plans of villains. 

Tier Cost Distance Duration of Potion Effect
Adventurer 125gp 5 metres 30 Seconds
Champion 250gp 30 metres 5 minutes
Epic 500gp 100 metres 30 minutes

Potion of Spider Climbing
This potion, almost always made from the blood of giant spiders, allows the imbiber to climb walls and ceilings as if he were on the ground, with little risk (short of the potion's effect running out at an unfortunate moment!)

Tier Cost Duration of Potion Effect
Adventurer 100gp 5 minutes
Champion 250gp 30 minutes
Epic 425gp 2 hours

Potion of Dragon's Breath
Many alchemists lost their lives perfecting these volatile mixtures, which allow the imbiber to breath fire, freezing cold, acid, lightning or poisonous gas over their enemies. Each is a specific type of potion, declared when acquired, with a different damage keyword, although the damage done is the same regardless. Drinking the potion is a quick action and releasing the breath is a standard action which must be done on the same or next player turn.

Attack: level + dex/con/cha mod (pick highest) vs PD against 1d3 nearby enemies in a group.
Damage: See table. Additionally the following effects apply:
Fire Type - Miss deals half damage
Cold Type - On a hit of 16+ the target is stuck, save ends.
Acid Type - On a hit of 16+, the target suffers ongoing damage equal to 5/10/15 depending on tier, save ends.
Lightning Type - On a natural even hit the target is also dazed.
Poison Type - This gas does half damage but the target is also hampered, save ends.

Tier Cost Damage
Adventurer 210gp 4d6
Champion 425gp 5d8
Epic 650gp 6d10

Potion of Awesome Strength
Popular amongst feeble nobles desiring to impress at short notice, these potions provide a quick burst of strength for those who need it. 

In combat, they allow the bearer to do extra damage in melee, depending on tier. Outside combat they give the bearer a bonus to strength based skill checks. Either way, no matter what tier the potion is from, it lasts either 5 minutes or one combat. 

Tier Cost Bonus Damage Bonus to Skill Checks
Adventurer 350gp 1d6 +5
Champion 650gp 2d6 +7
Epic 1,300gp 2d12 +9

Let me know how you get on with these. Could they be tweaked at all? And if you have any interesting adventures with them let me know! 


Thoughts on... 13th Age

Type of Hobby:  Roleplaying Game
Number of Players: 3+
Authors: Rob Heinsoo, Aaron McConnell, Lee Moyer, Jonathan Tweet
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
Price: £29.95 RRP

13th Age is what you get when two industry stalwarts; Jonathan Tweet, lead designer of 3rd Edition D&D; and Rob Heinsoo, lead designer of 4th Edition D&D, team up to create the fantasy roleplaying game that they want to play. Comparisons to D&D are inevitable - this is D&D in everything but name.

D&D players of all editions, but particularly 4th, will find a lot they recognise in 13th Age. Yet, there are several elements that set this game apart from its spiritual predecessors; the icons; one unique things; backgrounds; and the escalation die. Each of these ideas helps bring story to the focus in a game that is still, in its heart of hearts, still a dungeon adventure game in the spirit of D&D. 13th Age tries to be the best of all worlds; perhaps the ultimate fantasy RPG. And largely, it succeeds.

Iconic Fantasy Roleplay

The most important concept in 13th Age is that of the icons. So much so that the first thing in the book is the icons, before character generation and long before any other background is given. These thirteen powerful NPCs represent instantly recognisable archetypes - the High Druid, the Orc Lord, the Dwarf King, to name a few - that every character will tie themselves to. 

Players will often find that the DM has written a wealth of background material; but they find it hard to connect their characters to it and find ways to invest themselves in that world. That can be frustrating for both sides. Icons instead connect players to the world from the start. As a part of character generation assigning which icons your character is allied, or enemies, with immediately invests you in the world and lets the DM know exactly what you, and your character, want from the game. 

This works brilliantly as a storytelling tool - icons give characters motivation, and let's the DM tailor the story to your needs. And as icons are more than just a single NPC - they represent a whole network of power - there are myriad options and opportunities for the DM to get them involved and to shape the game around how the players interact with them. 

Yet even more so than this, there is also a storytelling mechanic at play here. At the beginning of every session the DM calls for the players to make story guidance rolls; one d6 for each point invested in a given icon - and for every five or six on a d6 that icon will be involved. This does require the DM to be confident in improvising, but there is massive leeway in terms of scale. The effect can be as simple as the agents of a heroic icon gifting the player a magic item to help them on their quest - or as complicated as a villainous icon becoming the sessions main antagonist.

Icons could easily have become powerful NPCs that dominate the game and take away from the players - a la the worse aspects of the Forgotten Realms - but instead they facilitate players stories and provide motivation. They're a game changer.

Truly Unique Characters

13th Age's character options will for the most part seem very familiar to fans of D&D. The standard assortment of dwarves, elves, halflings and such are there; along with a few more esoteric optional races for fans of various editions and settings in D&D such as the dragonborn dragonspawn. So far so D&D.

The classes available are also standard D&D fare. Each offers a unique playing experience with its own subtle twist on the mechanics. Rogues strive to keep up momentum, while sorcerers must choose whether or not to spend a turn building up power for more powerful attacks, and fighters are incredibly flexible. Even within these classes there are several options; each class picks at least three talents from a set of options. It is unlikely that two rangers, for example, would be the same in a group. Best of all these choices are nowhere near as restrictive as 4th edition D&D's character builds, meaning that there is a lot of flexibility in building your character. Given all this it's a shame that the druid class is missing from the core book, but it is going to arrive in a coming supplement.

Characters are allotted one feat per level - which means most will have 10 by the end of their careers. 13th Age has very few feats that might be considered traps; there are only a couple that do not play directly off of a spell or talent. There is a move away from a 'feat tax' too; you won't find any feats that simply give a +1 to hit! 

Beyond the mechanics, characters must come up with One Unique Thing. Alongside the icons this is another element of the game that helps flesh out characters from the off. The OUT can be anything, as long as it doesn't give require a mechanical benefit. Examples range from the mundane ('I really like grapes') to world changing ('I am the only paladin in the world'). 

Although it's just a single soundbite about your character these little, or not so little, details are great. They give the DM a vital bit of information that can help him build stories around and involving your character. It also helps the other players build an image of your character in their minds. At a demo game I played at Dragonmeet I was left in no doubt by the time we'd all come up with our Unique Things exactly who my party was. 

13th Age also eschews the traditional skill system for something much freer. Rather than a long list of skills, there are instead backgrounds. A background is a description of an element of your character. Rather than having to painstakingly work out how to allocate your skill points to best represent playing a Blackwater Assassin brought up on the streets by a dwarven scoundrel by the name of Buckfast Monkdrinker, you'd simply give yourself 5 points in Blackwater Assassin and 3 in Brought up by Buckfast Monkdrinker. Done. 

That freedom is incredible, and I fell in love with it at first sight. It does come with a couple of caveats, however; it requires a DM willing to make snap decisions about what a given background can be used for, and some discussion during character creation about what the player intends the background to cover. Even then if a player can justify it and it furthers the story a background should be able to cover a lot more than seems obvious at first. During one session a wizard with the 'library scholar' background justified using it during a stealth check because he was so used to trying not to make any noise while walking around the library!

Equipment is also extremely streamlined - characters don't purchase equipment during creation and simply choose what they want to wield from very broad categories. Some classes, such as the wizard, will find penalties if they're using a more martial weapon but what small weapon they choose to wield is up to them (although the book suggests a dagger) - they're still only doing 1d4 damage with it! (what are you doing trying to stab him? Zap him with a spell, you fool!) That same dagger, in the hands of a rogue, is going to do 1d8! While I think a lot of players will miss equipment lists, I've often felt before that they've really held back character concepts at the conceit of realism. No longer are warhammers the black sheep of the weapon options (1d4+1? What?) and no longer will a rogue feel he has to eschew the dagger in favour of the short sword to do more damage! 13th Age wants you to play the character you want to play. That's brilliant.

Just 10 Levels, But No XP

There are only ten levels in 13th Age, instead of the twenty or thirty of other d20 fantasy games. At first this might seem like sacrilege but in reality it fixes problems present in both 3rd and 4th edition D&D. 4th edition in particular suffered from severe options bloat - even by 15th level characters had pages of powers, and that's not including ones granted by magic items. 13th Age deftly avoids this by keeping the number of levels to 10. There is always just enough options, but never so many that you're overwhelmed by choice.

There are the three tiers of play, first introduced formally by 4th Edition D&D. Paragon tier has been renamed 'Champion' tier, though. These as much thematic as they are mechanical, and I think they're still a useful tool for the DM to let him know roughly what the scale of threats and types of locales should be.

13th Age also puts when you level up squarely into the DM's hands. Many DMs over the years have chosen to simply level up when it seems appropriate to the story and 13th Age embraces this philosophy. XP might have been a sacred cow for some but in reality it was just another number for players to keep track of; in my experience, only a couple ever did accurately anyway. I don't miss it and I am grateful for the ability to control the speed of advancement in my game to something that suits the pace of the story.

With only ten levels and advancement at speed of DM, there is potential for stagnation, particularly if the DM favours a slow progression through the levels to better simulate the length of a traditional D&D campaign. 13th Age allows the DM to avoid this through incremental advances, little bits of your characters next level! Go on, take a spell, or a feat, or those hit-points; they're good for you!

The Grid is Gone!

Combat in 13th Age is everything I wished it was in 4th Edition D&D. It's fast, engaging, not a headache for the DM or the players, and you never sit there clock-watching hoping a monster will drop while everyone throws at-will powers at it ad nauseam. And yes, the grid is gone! And it's fine!

No grid doesn't have to mean no miniatures though - in fact I think I'd still recommend using them for clarity if you have more than a couple of players - but there's no more measuring things out in 5' increments or worrying whether a diagonal should count as one move or one and a half. There is of course maneuvering to worry about - you don't want to risk being intercepted when you charge in - but it feels much looser, more free form and actually, more realistic because of it. With imaginative players combat in 13th Age is very fun indeed.

Combat also showcases another of 13th Age's real innovations, something that solves problems that D&D has always had - the escalation die. This is a cumulative modifier that represents the heroes building up momentum and wearing their enemies down. Gaining an ever increasing bonus to hit every round means that combats avoid dragging on and on - by round seven you're getting the maximum +6 to hit. That makes a huge difference! It also helps discourage the alpha-strike - players are more inclined to hold off on their showy once a battle or day powers if they think they can get a better chance to hit later on! This helps the latter half of battles feel more climatic, rather than the drudge of simple attacks that was often the scourge of D&D. Most monsters don't get this bonus either - and players should certainly fear the ones that do! (Dragons do. Of course dragons do!)

Plenty of abilities play with it as well - some abilities become easier to use if you use them later, for example. I really like the escalation dice, but I think that some players might find the fact it's purely mechanical a bit of a drawback; there's no reason that it isn't mechanical for its existence, it exists purely outside the game world. However, the problems it solves and the fun ways you can play with it make it a worthwhile addition.

Monsters take a lot of inspiration from the stat blocks of 4th Edition D&D, which is great. They're vastly improved too, running almost on auto-pilot; the dice-roll itself tends to determine exactly what the monster is doing. For example, if a drider hits with its lightning bolt spell and the dice roll is even, it makes another attack as the lightning arcs from one enemy to another! This means the DM can concentrate more on what's happening in the combat and filling it with awesome descriptions and heroism, rather than worrying about exactly what his monsters are going to be doing. Anything that frees up my brainspace at the table is valued by me!

It's Not All Perfect

There are some things in 13th Age that either don't quite work for me. Full heal-ups are one of them. While simply saying you get all your stuff back every four encounters solves the problem of wizards with powerful daily powers being better than characters who do more consistent damage, I've found players often given me an odd look when I tell them they can't have their powers/recoveries back after an eight hour rest. As written, the rule works, and it encourages the players to keep pressing on rather than stopping and resting, but every so often it can break verisimilitude.

Monsters are tied to levels too, which is fine as a balancing mechanic and it's just as useful to be able to quickly select some and expect a roughly fair encounter, there's still the worry that players will expect battles to be fair, which shouldn't always be the case. I found that in 4th ed D&D a lot. Thankfully, the game is explicit that some monsters, dragons particularly, just aren't fair to fight so hopefully my players won't fall into this trap of thinking again.

I also wish there was a more robust system for treasure, and equipment in general. Treasure is just a flat system of x gold per player per full heal-up. I understand why they felt the need to move focus away from looting but it just feels tacked on  - and I miss treasure tables! Even the optional system only rewards potions and consumables, of which their are only a measly four different types to chose from! Earning money and having nothing to spend it on has been a problem for me in all editions of D&D and I'm really disappointed to see it made even worse here when the rest of the game is so imaginative.

These are all minor niggles though, ultimately, and I'm hopeful the community will come up with more treasure and that some more potions and consumables will appear in later supplements.

Too Hung-Up on the Dragon Empire

The book comes bundled with its own core setting, the Dragon Empire, from which the icons and all the background is derived. It's an interesting enough setting - I've enjoyed running in it - but quite deliberately generic. Honestly, I wish it wasn't there. I usually play in my groups homebrew setting and while the majority of the rules can easily be separated from the Dragon Empire some elements are much trickier; anything to do with the icons in particular. Irritatingly, this also impacts on some class powers, especially those of the bard and sorcerer. When I write my own icons I need to make sure that it's going to be simple to just switch the names around or I'm going to have to do some real work to make sure they still function.

If you're not running the Dragon Empire most of the description in the book is completely useless and just dead space.

I wish that the space devoted to the Empire had instead been filled with advice for DMs, as there's very little in the book. It would be really helpful if there was a section on creating your own icons, describing the core archetypes, offering alternate ones and how to mix the icons up and still keep the classes working. The icons are so utterly core to the game I think they deserved a section like this. The lack of this kind of information might make it somewhat off-putting for some DMs wishing to use different settings, especially those moving on from D&D to 13th Age. 

Having said that, the Dragon Empire does have a lot to recommend it. It's full of lots of hooks that are just vague enough for the DM to do whatever they like with them. It's clearly a setting designed for collaborative world-building and that fits the game perfectly. It's very well done, with some really interesting ideas, like the migrating behemoths that wander the land and living dungeons (which are a great way to fit in the utterly nonsensical dungeons that D&D is prone to!)

This 'do what you want' philosophy does hurt the section on monsters in the book though; most of them get barely a couple of sentences of description, and none of them have illustrations. That's probably the poorest area in the book. I think there's a lot of assumed knowledge there, which a new DM isn't going to have.

Magic - Rare, but not That Rare

It wouldn't be fantasy roleplay without some sort of magic items and this is very true in 13th Age as well. They are described as rare and precious and usually unique. Which is awesome! That's just what I want from my fantasy - the ten a penny magic items of 4th edition D&D were not for me. Unfortunately they're mechanically required and this mechanical requirement seems incompatible with the idea of magic items being rare. This is just a personal taste thing, however; it fits with the standard fantasy assumptions quite well.

Despite this though, I really like everything else about magic items in 13th Age. The default assumption is that they're all sentient, even if they can't directly communicate with you. Further, if you possess too many the whims and quirks of these items will overwhelm you, manifesting in often bizarre personality traits unique to the item. This is a great, and fun, way of preventing your players loading up on too many items! There is potential for hilarity when a greedy player, taking all the items meant for other players, suddenly finds those players describing his characters new, and often undesirable, traits! 

Something brilliantly freeform is how ritual casting is handled in 13th Age. Characters can use their spells to perform any logical effect - from using a fire spell to start a bonfire to using a hold portal spell to trap a demon inside a vessel. There are of course complications; the more complex the effect, the harder it is to do and the harder the components will be to find and the longer it will take! Particularly campaign changing rituals could even inspire subquests all of their own. I really like this; it lets spell-casters be as flexible as they probably should be, but the DM can rein them back in to make sure they can't simply solve any problem with a clever, outside the box, use of a spell, making everyone else look pointless and silly. Rituals can't be used in combat either (they take too long to cast, this doesn't mean a combat can't happen while you're performing one!), which limits their use somewhat and goes a long way to stopping spellcasters overshadowing anyone else. In combat the wizard is no more or less valuable than anyone else, which is how it should be.

I Hope the 13th Age isn't the Last

13th Age is a game that tries very hard to please everyone, but particularly players who want a more story focused game, rather than a complex tactical exercise. This suits my tastes perfectly, and I think there is enough depth in the mechanics for most players to get their teeth stuck into, if they want it. The game takes D&D away from simple dungeon crawling, killing monsters and taking their stuff, and acknowledges what most of us knew all along; these games are about the story, first and foremost.

I wish 13th Age wasn't so tied to the Dragon Empire, and I wish there were more options for treasure. It's not suitable for the beginning DM either (although it is very, very suitable for beginning players!), and it does openly acknowledge this. The focus on characters and story though is superb - this game gives DMs and players so much to work with in terms of creating a collaborative story and world. Icons mean the DM is never going to be frustrated that characters aren't engaged with the world again! One Unique Things will inspire some truly unique characters! 

13th Age is my fantasy game of choice for now. It's certainly going to be my favoured 'edition' of D&D for some time. I can't wait to see where it goes. 


What I've Been Working On: The Sons of Russ

"We may be few, and our enemies many. Yet, so long as there remains one of us still fighting, one who still rages in the name of justice and truth, then by the Allfather, the galaxy shall yet know hope"
- Ragnar Blackmane of the Space Wolves Chapter

1,000 points of Space Wolves, ready to bring the fight to the enemy.
For two years, off and on, I've been working on a little Warhammer 40,000 project: Space Wolves of Harald Deathwolf's Great Company. Last weekend I finally finished off the last piece of this puzzle; Wolf Priest, Hrolf Moonstalker. 

I came to start the project partly through nostalgia - my main opponent as a child was a friend's Space Wolves and I never forgot them - and partly because I fell in love at first sight with the Thunderwolf Cavalry models. The Wolf Lord on Thunderwolf is an even more characterful model and I can't wait to assemble and paint mine as Harald Deathwolf himself! 

The Space Wolves have been a real labour of love for me and I've endeavoured to imbue each one with the individuality and heroism befitting the Sons of Russ. The Space Wolves kits have really helped with this - the sheer amount of stuff you get has made each one a true character and whilst I didn't quite manage to avoid duplicating heads I came pretty damned close - there isn't a single duplicate head in the 14 man strong squad of Blood Claws!

Grey Hunter Pack Grendel and their assigned Rhino, Geri
The first thing I painted was my Grey Hunters and they've acquitted themselves on several occasions. They operate primarily as tank hunters, with their melta-guns searing through the armour of any foe.

Geri, the Company's 3rd Rhino
Time and again Grendel Pack have relied on their Rhino to take them to battle and glory. and it proudly bares their Pack insignia as well as that of Harald Deathwolf.

Blood Claw Pack Skinfaxi and Wolf Priest, Hrolf Moonstalker
No Space Wolves are more frequently underestimated than Blood Claw packs. These recruits, still learning what it is to be a Space Wolf and to control the wolf inside them granted by the canis helix, act as shock troops in a Space Wolf army. Foes only make the mistake of dismissing them as inferior to their more seasoned Grey Hunter brethren once!

Skinfaxi Pack studies under the tutelage of Hrolf Moonstalker himself, the Warlord of this detachment. Under his guidance they learn to stalk like a hunter and approach the enemy using patience and stealth, like a wolf. And, like a wolf, strike with deadly force when the time is right. 

Wolf Priest, Hrolf Moonstalker
Hrolf Moonstalker bears the saga of the hunter and is oathbound to stalk his prey. While the bulk of the detachment surges forward to bring the fight to enemy, Hrolf watches from the shadows, waiting for the moment to unleash his fury and bring swift death to the enemy.

Thunderwolf Cavalry, part of the Lord Deathwolf's Wolf Guard Pack Fenrir
Swift, deadly, and capable of taking on any foe - the bigger the better! Even amongst the Space Wolves the cavalry of Fenrir Pack are legendary for their fearless assaults and will frequently make a direct line for the largest and most dangerous foe on the battlefield. Brother Sigvuld in particular, with his thunderhammer Ragnarok, is famed for cracking open the hulls of the enemies heaviest armour; there is no tank, it is said, he cannot destroy.

Fenrisian Wolves 
The armies of Harald Deathwolf are almost always accompanied by packs of Fenrisian Wolves. These beasts the size of horses prowl alongside their armoured companions, charging in to rip the companies foes asunder. Every bit as terrifying as the Space Marines that they accompany, it is perhaps fortunate for their enemies that they are not similarly armoured.

Brother Wulfgar Wyrmsbane

A Dreadnought assigned to the Company, Wulfgar Wyrmsbane earned the honour of his Mark V Dreadnought when he suffered a mortal wound destroying the fell wyrm, Fafnir. His sarcophagus bears proudly the blade he slew the beast with, as well as weapons of flame emulating that foul beast's fiery breath.

A drop-pod, launched from Harald Deathwolf's Battlebarge Spirit of Winter
Brother Wulfgar is called to battle via deep strike, so that he may  bring the Allfather's justice where it is best needed.

Jurgen Spirithunter
And, last but not least, an honourable mention to my Rune Priest, who is infrequently called to battle; Jurgen Spirithunter. Rumours are that the winds of the warp have come into the ascendence of late, however, so perhaps he will see much more combat action in future!

And thus ends the telling of the Saga of Harald Deathwolf's Company, for now at least. Reinforcements are the horizon and there are many great deeds to perform! 

I for one can't wait to get to it.


Thoughts on... Star Trek: Attack Wing

Type of Hobby:  Board/Miniatures Games
Number of Players: 2-3 (Officially) 4+ (In Reality)
Price: £29.99 RRP (Starter Set) / £11.99 (Expansions)

I am  a Star Trek geek. I'm someone who can tell you that a Galaxy-class starship has 12 Type X phaser arrays and  2 torpedo tubes (one fore, one aft), giving it near complete coverage and no real weak spots. I'm someone who can see a screengrab and be able to tell instantly the title of the episode, the season it's in and possibly, if I'm on a roll, the production number. I'm someone who can tell you what season an episode is from by Doctor Beverly Crusher's hair. 

Season 7, before you ask.

All this meant that Star Trek: Attack Wing was the most exciting thing ever. Fantasy Flight's X-Wing, only with my franchise of choice. I was, admittedly, unsure that the fighter on fighter gameplay of X-Wing would translate to the capital ship combat of Star Trek but, after watching some YouTube videos I was pretty convinced that this game was pretty great. So I bought the Starter Set, which was fun and seemed a pretty good proof of concept.

Core Mechanics

I'd already played the system in Star Wars: X-Wing, so I knew the ruleset was solid. The manoeuvre templates and dials worked really well to  create an exciting, dynamic feel. The system was, overall, fast, quick and easy to play, with the one action per ship economy creating some interesting choices in play. None of that has changed here. I was worried that the system, designed originally for  fighter planes in Wings of War, then again for fighter ships in X-Wing, simply wouldn't feel right for the larger, slower, Star Trek ships. For the most part though my concerns were proven wrong, although in some ways the designers have added in some strange balance issues, that X-Wing doesn't possess, due to a rigid adherence to some odd ideas.

The Starter Set comes with a whole bunch of stuff and it's just the tip of the iceberg.
The system has been adapted to Star Trek in some really cool ways. There's a greater focus on characters, with each ship having to chose a Captain and the majority of the upgrades being crew cards. Being able to assemble your dream team of ship, Captain, and crew is really a key part of the enjoyment to me as a Star Trek fan. Being able to make-believe what might have happened if Picard, or even Kirk, had got command of the USS Defiant is just so much fun that it's almost worth the price of admission alone.

Other upgrades include weapons and special technology and most of these mimic X-Wing pretty closely, although Attack Wing does have an ace up its sleeve here; disabling. Rather than simply discarding cards such as Photon Torpedoes, you can instead chose to spend your precious action on reloading, allowing you to keep firing. This gives even more depth to X-Wings action economy in a really cool way, with even more decisions to ponder, increasing the depth of the game.

Strange, Rigid, Design Decisions

That's the USS Odyssey firing backwards; it's not just the Enterprise that can do it!
Despite being a fan who can quote completely useless facts and statistics about Star Trek, I was prepared to be pretty easy going when it came to inconsistencies between the game and the show. The show itself rarely presented starship combat in a consistent way; as special effects technology improved over time, so did the nature of combat within the show. What begins in TOS and TNG as a pretty static affair soon evolved into a dynamic, fast moving, display of firepower. 

However, there are some strange decisions that I felt really hurt the game. There seems to have been some very rigid thinking involved in the design. The first thing I noticed, especially after buying a few expansion packs, is that almost all the ships have the same manoeuvres. This has the weird effect that a large cruiser ends up being more or less as manoeuverable as a small ship like the Defiant class. These same 15 manoeuvres are repeated over and over and I wonder why this is. Part of what makes the X-Wing ships feel so cool and different is each one moves in a totally different way. The Y-Wing is like taking your dads old Volvo out for a spin while your mates are throwing handbrake turns in their Tie-Fighters around you. It's really cool and fun and, frankly, the reason the system of dials and templates works so well. It's really unfortunate that it's only occasionally Attack Wing takes advantage of this, as it really makes the game feel bland in the movement stage. Some strides have been made here with the newest Borg ships, but it's too little too late and other ships are still coming out with these exact same manoeuvres. 

Another example of this rigid thinking is within the points costs of the ships. There's a very basic formula at in play - add up the stats, multiply by two - and it just doesn't work. It completely fails to take into account the special abilities of the 'named' ships like the Enterprise or the manoeuvre dials. I wonder if this is partly why the dials are all copy and paste jobs, to keep some strange balance with their devised formula. The game would have benefitted greatly from some diversity in this area, and individual points costs should have become apparent through playtesting. This a change from X-Wing which is definitely for the worse. 

There are some very odd choices being made in the firing arcs of the ships as well, which again I think is due to this rigid adherence to the formula. I wouldn't expect a fully 360° arc of fire from all the ships - although it could be done it would harm the manoeuvring aspect of the game which is so key - but some have been given a 90° arc when it really makes no sense at all. Why, of all ships, has the Galaxy Class been given a 90° arc? Or the Intrepid? Whilst others, like the Miranda and Constitution have much more reasonable 180° arcs. The Enterprise-D has the ability to fire 360°, which is great, but all that does is make the 90° arc on the generic Galaxy that much more incongruous. The effect of all these 90° arcs is to make the game feel less like you're firing capital ships and more like fighters. It seems odd that the design can hit the target with some of the ships, making the game feel just right, and not with others. 

You Can't Have All The Ships

Don't get excited - you can't buy this.

My favourite ship class by a long shot is the Nebula. I love how compact it is, and how it has cool looking torpedo pod. It's my favourite and I waited with baited breath for it's announcement in Attack Wing. 

I wish I hadn't.

Wizkids, in their wisdom, have decided to give some ships away exclusively as prizes in tournaments. Honestly, I think this sucks. It means that, short of going to eBay and spending silly money, you can't have a complete collection. Even if they were to release a Nebula Class in future (although there is still no sign of this), I know that the USS Sutherland and Captain Data et al will be forever out of my reach. This is particularly frustrating as a fan who just wants to collect all the bits of Star Trek lore and use them in the game. I think this is another area that X-Wing  beats it's Star Trek cousin in, as their prizes are just ships that are due to be released at a later date. That seems like a much better idea to me. 

Boldly Going...

Even this is just a small amount of the things you can buy! Seriously, there's a lot of stuff.
Star Trek: Attack Wing is a game that comes so very close to being the perfect Star Trek miniatures game. The diversity in cards, the fact that it vastly improves on some aspects of X-Wing mean that it should be great. Some strange design decisions and the fact that a complete collection is impossible for most means that I just view it as a missed opportunity. It's still fun, and worth a look if you love Star Trek. But it's just good, not great, and I think Star Trek is still looking for a game with as much care and attention as X-Wing. I hope it isn't looking for too much longer.