Monday, December 1, 2014

What the. . . Star Trek?

Star Trek?!  Surprised? My Butterfly Brain takes wing again. . .

Some background. . . and a WARNING: this post is text-heavy and riddled with personal opinions - if you read on feel free to disagree with any or all : )

The original Star Trek TV series was a real part of my childhood, and I turned into a fan of TNG (The Next Generation) begrudgingly, of course. Who would dare try to replace Captain James Tiberius Kirk? Picard made it work, but l lost interest with the onset of the later series. And I like the new "prequel" movies, presumably because they hearken back to the original TV series, but with all the new modern CG thrills. Outside of the Borg in TNG, for me it's all about the Federation stand-off with the Klingons and the Romulans!

I've always kinda wanted to game ship-to-ship in the Star Trek world, but all the games I was aware of were way too complicated for my taste. None of the models I saw appealed to me, either. Very important point. I love the ship designs from the original TV series-era through TNG and none of the metal castings - even painted - seemed to do them justice.

And there's that pesky scale problem. Well, two problems actually. First, the ships fight at distances measured in thousands of kilometers. How do you represent that on the tabletop?! You don't, really. You live with an abstraction of distance, or you can't put decent models on the table. So the models have to be small enough to represent a feeling of distance, but big enough to be worth modeling. Second, the ships have to be in scale with one another. They just have to be. It's part of the coolness factor in playing with model ships.

So where is this going? A couple weeks ago I happened across the WizKids Star Trek Attack Wing (STAW) game in the LHGS. STAW uses the same game engine used in the Star Wars X-Wing game, licensed from Fantasy Flight Games. It's a simple, fun system that works great for dog-fighting, so is a good fit with Star Wars and its "lots of fighters zipping around." X-Wing is not for me, though; I don't find the Star Wars universe compelling at all, and for dog-fighting I'll stick with Crimson Skies. And why the hell aren't I playing Crimson Skies, anyway? Maybe because I haven't asked anyone to play. . .

Getting back to STAW, the Attack Wing adaptation for capital ships - the Star Trek universe - is actually pretty clever, but just doesn't quite capture the feel of the big capital ships, partly because the distance scale looks wrong. (And speaking of scale, the model ships are not in scale with each other - not even close! Ack!) Finally, I don't like all the TV and movie characters being tied up with special events and crew capabilities. It works as a game mechanic; I just don't like the feel.

In tooling around the net looking for reviews of STAW (you can download the rules from the WizKids site) I happened across the release of the new ACTASF: A Call to Arms: Star Fleet on BoardgameGeek

You can get it for free (actually "pay what you want") for a limited time on WargameVault, so I won't bother with a review. I will say that it has more of a "wargame" feel, but is still low on the complexity scale, with a good feel for scale (still abstracted) and the differences in the ships of the various factions. So far, all of the ships are pre-TNG, but I'm ok with that. The capital ships of this era were generally similar in size and comparable in technology, so it's a good place to start. I would play this game. In fact, I'm thinking pretty seriously about playing this game.

So are there models for these rules? Yup, on the Amarillo design Bureau site. But they are metal, and I think these ships, at this scale, just look better as plastic model kits. A plastic model kit I found at a Michael's Craft store started this whole butterfly trip: a 1/2500 scale Enterprise D (from TNG). Round 2 Models has been releasing 1/2500 scale models of the ships from the TV-series and movies as part of their MPC/Cadet series. The original Enterprise is just over 4" long in 1/2500 scale; Enterprise D in this scale is over 10" long! That scale thing again. . . you start to get a sense of how big that Galaxy-class starship is supposed to be when you set it next to the original Enterprise.

After a little research, I found some more plastic model kits - all in 1/2500 scale - apparently the One True Scale for Trek. A new (?) trend seems to be extensive decal coverage simulating the "aztec" patterning on the Federation hulls. Looks really good if done properly.

Some good sources for models:

All-Scale Trek has a listing of all "known" Trek models.

Deltra Quadrant makes resin 1/2500-scale models. I bought a couple and they are very nice; good detail, very crisp casting and minimal flash.
Federation Models is another good US source for more 1/2500-scale models.

Anyone want to play some A Call to Arms: Star Fleet? I'll add it to my project list : )

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