Review – Star Trek Adventures Beta Quadrant Sourcebook

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I am slowly warming up to Star Trek Adventures.  At Gen Con I purchased a copy of the new Beta Quadrant Sourcebook and thought it was worthy of a review.

This book is written from a Federation perspective – i.e., primarily if you are playing a Federation character.

Like the original rules book, this one is chock-full of sidebar material designed to fill in gaps in the Star Trek universe or provide adventure hooks.  While I like the concept, the sidebars in this book are not as good as those in the original.  Example:  One titled – “Friday Night Knitting Circle Yarn and Fiber Swap” It explores, “Vulcan spinning” techniques.  Shame on the editors for putting this in.  We all get it, the Star Trek universe is multicultural. I would have gladly traded pages of this fluff material for more information on the Beta Quadrant.

This sourcebook is good, but does not go into the kind of depth you might be looking for.  With FASA’s Star Trek (which I wrote books for) their Klingon boxed set went into immense detail on creating Klingon characters and all of the nuances of the Klingons.  This book gives you fifteen pages on Klingon culture et. al.  It is good stuff, well written, but not as deep as you might be looking for.  Personally, I was looking for some more on the Houses and their impact on character development.  It wasn’t there.

The material is pretty broad – including Enterprise’s Xindi – though for the life of me I still can’t find their worlds on the maps in the end-flaps of the book.  There are new lifepaths for the Benzite, Bolians, Efrosians, Klingons, even the Zakdorn (and others).  While not a lot of material, it is pretty useful.

I enjoyed the chapter on the Orions – which opens up some wonderful RPG options for players.  Likewise you get some additional starships with this book which is nice.  I would have liked some drawings/artwork of the ships themselves.

The Romulan chapter is solid as well, but again, lacks the kind of depth that I think a lot of characters may be looking for.  The Gorn material does not seem like a retread of known history of the Gorn, which makes it quite enjoyable.

We do get more information on the Shackleton Expanse, where a lot of Modiphius’s material on the game seems to be set – which was highly welcome as a reader/player.

So how would I sum this up?  The Beta Quadrant Sourcebook is worth picking up – it significantly adds to the material in the rules book for the RPG. It is laid out in a high quality manner with good artwork. It could have been better, but is a good launching point for any campaign you may be planning outside of the Alpha Quadrant.

Unboxing – Star Trek the original series miniatures from Modiphius Entertainment

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I pre-ordered the Modiphius Entertainment new Star Trek RPG and figured if I was going to get it, I might as well go hip deep and order some miniatures as well.  They arrived this week and I thought you might like to see what you get for around $50 US.

My initial reaction when I opened the box was, “what a lot of wasted packaging space!” You can see for yourself

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At first I wondered if something was missing.  

The miniatures are packaged two to a tiny ziplock.

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The box creates the illusion you are getting a lot more.

The mini’s themselves have minor flash on them, which is no big deal.  Obviously some assembly is required.

Actually the detail is pretty crisp, but since you can’t really pose them, I’m not sure (beyond the casting process itself) why I have to assemble them.

So what are my initial thoughts?  First, are they worth the price?  Well, unless Heritage miniatures returns and starts making minis again (yes I am dating myself) I think these are the best Star Trek character miniatures out there.  Of course, they are the only Star Trek miniatures out there.  They are worth it if you want them for your game – which I did.  People may gripe about the price, but it is no more gouging than what Games Workshop has been doing for years.  I am not disappointed.  We shall see after assembly and painting.

I think they are good – but I am curious why they are 32mm in scale when everything in the industry is 15mm or 28mm.  These will work with 28mm scale buildings, but come on Modiphius…get a clue.

I’m pleased.  I could be more pleased if Modiphius would release the crew in the Star Trek II uniforms – but I’m still happy.  Yes, they are pricey, but you don’t have a lot of options out there.

Now to assemble, prime, and paint…  Damn it Jim, I’m a writer, not of modeler…

Review of Star Trek Adventures RPG

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Put on your red shirt and prepare to beam down

I have to admit, I was excited that Modiphius Entertainment was putting out a new Star Trek RPG.  This stems from a few places.  First, I have been a Trek fan since the original series (yes, I’m that old.)  Second, one of my first writing projects in the gaming business was for FASA’s Star Trek RPG back in the 1980’s (yes, I’m that old part II.)  I wrote support books, rules, and scenario packs back in the day. I’ve even gotten to write game walk-thru books for several of the computer games for Star Trek. Third, we’ve been in a weird glut of Star Trek RPG’s.  There have been some good attempts in the past to rekindle this franchise into a game – but they all more or less fizzled.

So I pre-ordered the game and slotted some time to play at Gen Con. I lightly read the rules before Gen Con and I’m glad I played the game to clear up some of the ambiguity in the book.  That brings me to one point, some of the rules and examples are not entirely clear.  I struggled a bit with some of the core concepts until I played.

The rules can be a little confusing.  So if I made any mistakes, those are on me (and the gamemaster that led us on our adventure).  Once I got into the game there were some bits of brilliance here along with some, “what the hell?” moments reading/playing this as well.

Something brilliant – the use of momentum and threats poold.  This is a pool of points that you build by over-succeeding on tasks.  They are a group pool you can leverage to roll extra dice to try and succeed, or to up the ante (so to speak) on a certain situation.

The counter to that is the threat pool which his owned by the gamemaster.  This is the ying to the momentum pool’s yang.  The gamemaster can leverage this pool to his advantage, allowing him to toss in complications such as NPC’s recovering faster from damage.  The two pools interact with each other but are critical to the play of the game.  It does open up some questions from time to time as to whether a character should leverage the pool or not – but this forces good teaming with the players.

The game system itself is very simple.  But there are some strange things embedded in here.  For example:  The damage your phaser does is not just the weapons listing, but factors in your Security Discipline.  So if you are a red shirt using a phaser, you might do more damage than someone who has a low Security Discipline. This makes sense on a “to hit” roll, but not on damage.  Weird eh?

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Starfleet needs a new crew because these guys are dying

There were other things that seemed a little lopsided in play.  I had an Advisor Talent with my character, which meant I could lean over your shoulder and help your character perform a task. The thing was, there’s no real limit to it.  So I helped a pilot navigate an asteroid field, helped coach a fellow officer in disarming a bomb, and even acted as an Advisor when someone was shooting.  It allowed players to re-roll a die for a task but this simple Talent feels like it needs some boundaries.  There were only so many times I could say, “Atta Boy!” while being an Advisor.

The game isn’t about killing but incapacitating.  I am changing that with my players.  Red shirts die – look it up.  It’s an easy hop to turn the damage into hit points.

The rules have a lot of fluff text (easily 1/3 of the book).  It safely presumes you know the Star Trek universe.  While the system is set up to play in all but the new films eras, there’s not a lot of guidance about what is different from a gameplay perspective.  The fluff text is great stuff, wonderful little nuggets for Trekkers, but these nuggets take you all over the place.  There’s no comprehensive timeline to help players only familiar with one era to jump in.

The rules for starship combat work but are pretty abstract. Your skills apply to combat situations, so it does work.  I still long for the old FASA system and may revert to that for my players.  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of Modiphius Entertainment – or the one.

Some rules seem missing – or at least I haven’t been able to track them down.  When they talk about Reputation for characters, they have a table listing the number of Responsibilities that a character has.  They never really explain this and the table seems contrary to Star Trek, “I have the lives of 430 crewmen I’m responsible for!” According to the table Captain Kirk, you’re only responsible for 17-20…17 to 20 what, I have no idea.

Go to the index you say?  Yeah, good luck with that.  The index is one of the biggest weaknesses in this rulesbook.  It is only four pages-ish long and far from complete.  I hope Modiphius releases a comprehensive one online soon. As it is, this index is worthless and frustrating.

The book is graphically laid out with good artwork and a LCARs Star Trek interface.  That’s nice.  With a black background the white lettering can be a little hard to read at times.

One minor nit – there’s no ship blueprints here.  I don’t need a Constitution Class ship – I’d setting for a Danube Runabout.  Yes, you can score these things online with no problem, but it seems lacking. As a sidebar, the Danube Class ships are shown as a graphic image, but no game stats for them appear in the book – another minor nit.

Star Trek Adventures is destined to be hard to run.  Players that know Star Trek can go down a lot of rabbit holes and whip out a lot of technical stuff that can imbalance play (I know, I’m one of those people!)  It’s a big universe so things can get out of hand quickly.  This is one of the few games where your inside knowledge of hundreds of hours of TV and films can force your gamemaster to pull out his/her few remaining hairs.  This means you have to craft your adventures very carefully.

So is it worth $58 dollars US for the book.  I think so.  I heard a lot of people griping online that the game is too pricy.  It is no more than any other high end RPG.  There’s 384 pages of stuff here, so there is a bulk value.  I love the star maps in the end pages, which is very useful and kind of fun to read. You will pay this much for almost any game system out there these days and this is on-par with the Star Wars RPG, though I found that system more technical than Star Trek – which favors true role playing.

The manufacturer is releasing miniatures for the game – but seems to be skipping the Star Trek II Wrath of Khan figures, which easily had the best uniforms we saw in Star Trek.

I have already prepped two adventures for my player group to go through.  So I like the system enough to continue to play it.  I hope they (Modiphius Entertainment) are planning some good sourcebooks to refine the rules for the eras.

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Out of five stars, I would give this 3.9.  I love the momentum/threat pool system and there’s a lot of simplicity here that makes it relatively easy to learn.  I am hopeful they will supplement this system to fix some of the rough edges.

The Worthless Lessons I’ve Learned From Star Trek – Or Why I Would Never Beam Down Anywhere

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Let’s face it, we all have put on the red shirt at one time or another

A while ago I wrote a blog post on the leadership lessons I got from Star Trek  The Leadership Lessons of Star Trek I wanted to do a blog post at one time about the practical lessons you learn from watching Star Trek.  In other words, by watching Star Trek, what life lessons do you gain – mostly from a cynical perspective.

Let me begin by saying I’m a huge Star Trek fan.  By the same token, there’s some stuff that really drives me nuts about the universe.  When you objectively look at some things you notice as trends in the IP (Intellectual Property) you cringe a little. I know this is sacralidge with my fellow Trekkers, but let’s be real – some things DO seem odd.  These are things I’ve learned from my observations of the TV series and movies:

Most alien races are dangerous, evil, and should be attacked immediately.  Obnoxiously, most aliens that are encountered are not benign or even friendly. It is best to shoot first, negotiate treaties later.  Most of Deep Space Nine could have been resolved with a nuke-the-site-from-orbit-first approach.

The Prime Directive is hopelessly flawed and often ignored.  The Prime Directive is like the speed limit.  It’s a law, but everyone disregards it.  And frankly, it’s a douchebag law.  So the Federation has all of this technology and knowledge and does not share it with less advanced cultures.  Why?  What’s so great about them evolving naturally?  Remember, the Federation had outside influence of the Vulcans and that turned out okay, but they deny other cultures that same opportunity.  Seems pretty sleazy to me.  Killing the Prime Directive would have made Star Trek Voyager far more entertaining.  Only the Q seem to get it – they interfere in a big way.  The Klingon’s aren’t burdened with the Prime Directive and are just as powerful as the Federation – implying you really don’t get a lot out of having a Prime Directive.

All members of any alien race all act and behave the same.  All Romulans are all schemers.  There are no snowflake Klingons.  Only humankind (and the Ferengi) has any variation as a race.  So what’s with that?  There should be some redneck Romulans or some gangsta Klingons don’t you think?

All aliens speak the same language.  I’ve been to places in my own country where I cannot understand the language being spoken, but in space, it’s all generic.  Don’t whine about “universal translators” to me either.  There should be at least some different accents.  A little Creole Klingon would be cool – kinda like Swamp People meets American Ninja Warriors.

Mankind moving beyond the need for monetary gain, is still pretty much a bunch of egotistical, power-hungry asshats.  The Federation has removed money as a motivator, implying of course it is evil.  What has it gained?  Nothing.  The Federation has a number of corrupt leaders out after power.

A lot of the worlds we see in the franchise wouldn’t be worth visiting.  There’s a lot rocks and scrub brush, but few really beautiful places.  Most planets that we see on screen rate right up there with a tour of Death Valley.

With hundreds of worlds and seemingly endless resources, all governments are interested in securing more territory – more planets.  Why?  How many Class M worlds do you freaking need?  Is overpopulation an issue?  After the first dozen, why not say, “We’re cool.”  You could stop exploring, which we have seen is inherently dangerous, and focus on domestic programs.  Exploration equates to death in Star Trek, ask anyone wearing a red shirt…oh right, you can’t – they’re all dead!  Exploration brings on encounters with hostile races and apparently adds very little to your civilization.

The future lacks cars, tanks, boats, etc.  In a universe built on voyages, nobody has personal vehicles – only starships.  That seems, well, impractical.

Why would you ever beam down to anywhere?  It seems that with transporters and communications systems, it is much safer to just never go down to another planet.  The start of everything bad in the Star Trek universe begins with someone beaming down to some planet, ask any red shirt.  As we’ve seen, when you beam down you will be killed, accused of crimes you didn’t commit, kidnapped, tortured, killed, get sucked into a war, involved in a terrorist attack, lose your memory, get killed, get a deadly disease, get chased, travel in time, get poisoned, fall in love and have her die, get forced into an archeological dig, and get killed.  (I know I mentioned killed a lot, there’s a reason for that.)  The only reason you need a doctor on your ship at all is if you beam down.  Stay aboard the ship and call it in.

Technology causes more problems than it solves.  Star Trek has taught us that many of the hazards of space travel are caused by the technology.  The transporters is the worst.  I mean seriously, would anyone use one of these things given their unreliability and casual breaches between universes?  The stuff that technology does resolve in an episode is usually caused by technology in some way.  It’s as if there’s still a Microsoft in the 23rd century, forcing reboots of starships every so often.  Worse yet, technology is often the villain – i.e. the Borg.

While we’re on the subject of technology, aside from cloaking devices and quantum torpedoes, there is no new technological advancement in decades of the Star Trek universe.  Sure tricorders got 22% smaller, big whoop.  We had a genesis device that could make entire planets (which was awesome), but that supposedly just got locked away and forgotten.  Ships pretty much look the same and do the same things after decades of the series.

Starships are complicated and control panels are dangerously explosive.  The interface controls for starships is all buttons and touchpad controls.  Lots of buttons and controls that require physical interaction.  Wow.  That’s what we have now.  So you’re limited to the speed of human reaction.  In reality, interfaces would be massively simplified – even aboard something as complex and big as a starship by the 23rd century.  You should be able to drive a starship with your iPad.  On top of their complexity, in battle, these control stations explode.  It is probably just me, but that does not seem people friendly in their design.

The governments of the Star Trek universe are pretty stagnant.  Despite all of the wars in Star Trek, only the Cardassians ever really got their assess whipped, and they totally deserved it.

No one uses camouflage in space.  Why have a gray-white starship?  Wouldn’t it be harder to hit if it was, I don’t know, black?

The same thing with uniforms.  Oh, you’ve made it easy for me to identify and target your command staff by the color of their uniforms…thanks! And no pockets except for Star Trek: Enterprise.  These polyester unitard uniforms really seem too tight to be comfortable.

Time travel has been cracked, but almost nobody abuses it.  Assuming there is some parity between the governments in the known universe, only the Borg have said, “Screw it, let’s go back in the past and mess things up.”  For me, that would be my opening move the minute everything started to go wrong in an episode.  Apparently you can travel in time in any old starship, even a Klingon Bird of Prey loaded with two whales, but nobody does it.

Starfleet operations does a crappy job of assigning ships.  There’s far too much of this, “we’re the only ship in the quadrant,” BS.  Even a cop rolling up on a suspicious vehicle does so with backup.  It’s like StarFleet subcontracted United Airlines to arrange their flight schedules.  In Star Trek that concept seems to be lost on StarFleet Command.

Mankind is the superior race in the Federation…no alien race has actually elevated the Federation more than man.  Any substantive race in Star Trek is considered evil.  The Borg, who merely want efficiency and equality are bad.  The Klingons who favor a martial tradition are bad  The Romulans are all bad too.  Don’t even get me started on the Cardassians.  Only those races that are subjective to mankind (example:  Vulcans) are considered good.

Despite StarFleet, despite the technology, Earth and other words are virtually defenseless.  Oddly the only world that had a real defense was Cardassia and we all saw how that ended.

None of the real old civilizations survived.  There’s hints of other older civilizations that sounded pretty cool, but they all die out.  It’s as if the Mayans were trendsetters in the universe. The older civilizations and races just freaking disappear.

Every starship travels on the same plane of flight.  When ships meet in space, they are not askew but always appear to be flying on the same invisible plane.  Space, the last time I checked, is three dimensional.  (I double-checked – yes, it still is!)

No one is fat in the future (except Harry Mudd).  If you had replicators that could make anything, you’d be eating a lot of foods I’d think.

Somehow human names like Romulus and Remus are adopted and used by alien races long before contact with mankind.  That should raise a few eyebrows.  We certainly didn’t name things after the Klingons – BEFORE WE KNEW THEY EXISTED.

The only redeeming race is the Ferengi.  That’s right.  They run casinos and bars, have dancing girls, holosuites, you name it.  Humans are boring in Star Trek.  You want to have fun – it’s with the Ferengi.

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This reminds me of a motivational poster I saw in the office.  

I know the true-believers out there will tear me apart for this…I get it.  Star Trek is sacred to most of us.  But everyone should question their faith – in a TV series – every now and then.

Review – Star Trek Attack Wing – USS Enterprise B

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Silver?  Really?  Ugh! 

I haven’t written about Star Trek Attack Wing in a while – and with good reason.  Re-releases of existing models with new paint just doesn’t excite me.  I buy miniatures to play, not to collect.  Ever hopeful to have all of the starships named Enterprise, I had to pick up the Enterprise B

First – the mini.  It is silver.  Literally dipped in silver with two spots of red on the impulse engines, some black stripes on the nancelles, and some blue on the warp drive and deflector dish.  I could have painted this mini in less than two minutes, and most of that would have been me searching for my paints.  This mini reflects light it is so shiny. 

The NX class ships were silverish WizKids, but that ended there. What the hell?  Was your factory out of florescent orange or purple? Was there some sort of sale on silver paint?   To be kind, the paint job on the Enterprise B sucks dead lizard-ass.  You get the impression here that Wizkids is deliberately flipping off its customers when they release product like this.  It is a massive disappointment of Chinese molded plastic and likely lead-based paints put on by forced child-labor.  You can almost smell the painter’s tears of shame and sadness on this model.  Sniff. 

I calmed myself momentarily.  “Chill Blaine.  Be cool.  There are bound to be some good cards here.  I mean we can get another Captain Kirk or Scotty.  They were in Generations.   Maybe there will be an enchanced transporters card or a rescue card of some sort. It will be okay dude – just relax.” 

Fuc* a duck.  Even as I type this I pause and do a face plant.  Some cards are useful  Deflector Control – the ability to repair a shield is always welcome. Demora Sulu gives you an extra emergency move – which could be a lifesaver.  The improved phasers seem good – but with the timer…I wonder if they are even worth the points.  Resonance Burst is good but only has a range of one.  This could be something useful if it had longer range – mostly for decloaking enemy ships.  At a range of one, why bother. 

There’s a holo-communicator that lets you “borrow” another Captain’s skills within a range of 1-2.  That could be good for fleet engagements though frankly, this card seems to be just tossed in – we never saw this on the Enterprise B in Star Trek Generations.  Could you at least pick cards that have some relationship to the starship?  Apparently I’m asking too much.

Beating a dead horse, the cards that show the ship show it as white – not silver.

Captain Harriman is rated a two (which seems a tad high based on the film) and gets a free action.  His card barely warrants a yawn. 

No Kirk, Scotty, or Checkov cards.  Another wasted opportunity on the part of Wizkids.

While I await the Enterprise C miniature, I found this release of the B to be lacking.  I get the feeling Wizkids isn’t even trying any more.   Here’s a tip for not inciting your fans:  Don’t slap a sticker commemorating the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and put out a crappy product.   I give the Enterprise B a whopping one star.  

Non-Spoiler Review of Star Trek Beyond

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Yeah – that’s not going to buff out…

Disclaimer – I’m a Treker…always have been, always will be.  This new film is the third in the rebooted Star Trek universe and I was looking forward to it. I was not disappointed.

The movie finds the crew of the USS Enterprise in the middle of their five year mission and feeling the loneliness in the vastness of deep space.  Some relationships are strained.  Others are more solid than ever. You get a sense that these characters have been through a lot together – beyond the films.

The plot is solid.  This is not about starship combat – it is about loyalty, commitment, and honor.  The writing is almost perfect.  Bones and Spock have some wonderful one-liners between the two of them.  There was a lot of different pairing that takes place in this film that we haven’t seen before in a Star Trek film.  That made it neat and fun to watch.

I was not a big fan of the action/fighting scenes.  The way some were filmed I lost track of who was hitting whom because of camera angles and jostling.  It is a very minor nit to what is a top-notch film.

What I really like is this film stands on its own. It is not a sequel as much as a continuation of the story.  They incorporated the death of Leonard Nimoy perfectly, making it a key plot point in the film.  There’s even a homage to the original series of movies here with a single photo that says more than any dialogue in the movie.

I particularly liked the fact we saw an NX class starship here – albeit a precursor to TV’s Enterprise series.   I know a lot of people hated Enterprise, but I have come to like it quite a bit and this nod to that era was well done.

We got a new character, Jaylah, who was awesome as well.  I was a little disappointed that we didn’t see Dr. Marcus still with the crew – nor did we learn her fate.  Again, such a minor nit that it hardly is worth mentioning.

All of the internet hype about Sulu being “Openly gay” in the film was, for the most part, inconsequential.  In fact, if it hadn’t been for the hype I probably would have missed it entirely.  The internet breeds cynicism.  It turned out to be a big non-moment in the film.  Stupid internet trolls…

Overall, I give Star Trek Beyond a solid five stars.  A great film for a hot summer weekend.

It has never been a better time to be a geek

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Perhaps you’d like a squeaky ball to play with?

It hit me last night as I watched Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley, that this is the best time in mankind’s history for geeks.  Those of us dubbed nerds or dorks in high school have had to wait almost five decades for us to be the cool kids.  Even Hollywood is crashing the White House Press awards now.  For once, we rule.

First off, there’s a ton of entertainment out there for us – and it’s good stuff.  Supergirl, the Flash, GoT, Silicon Valley, Daredevil, The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, Big Bang Theory, Agents of Shield…and that’s just on TV.  Starting in December of last year we will get two Star Wars movies, a Star Trek film, Batman v. Superman (ugh!), Marvel Civil War, Doctor Strange, Suicide Squad, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Hollywood and the world has learned that the things we were mocked for as children are big bucks.  Putting out a superhero or Star Wars movie is like printing money at this point.

Moreover our tastes are being accepted by the masses.  I have to admit, it was kind of cool when it was just us geeks watching and reading this stuff.  Now that the cool kids are into it, it does take a little bit away from it.  At the same time, we get to say, “we were here first!” and not risk getting a swirly.

I can honestly remember having to hide my comic books at school to dodge ridicule and the random (and painful) Purple Nurple.   For years it was hard to find tee-shirts with geek culture on them.  You were hard pressed to find a Superman shirt.  Now freaking Under Armour makes athletic super hero gear.  Most of my wardrobe consists of super hero and TV shirts (much to my wife’s patient chagrin.)  I was in the gym the other day and saw two other guys wearing Captain America shirts – one even complimented mine.  If it was 1979 I would have gotten an Indian Burn for daring to show up with that kind of shirt on.

This Thursday I’m taking my hot wife to see Captain America Civil War and I know in line there will be dozens of kids decked out in the latest gear.  There will be some in costume too.  My wife, she will try and pretend none of this is happening.  Deep down she knows she actually ended up marrying one of the cool kids.  It just took decades for that to be known.  (Actually she would kill at the chance to purge my wardrobe and make me purchase “adult appropriate” clothing…but I digress.)

Geek culture has never been so popular and accepted – for which I am thankful.  Because it is so mainstream, the quality of the entertainment is fantastic too.  As I dive into writing a new BattleTech novel, I realize that we dorks are now the ones pulling the strings on entertainment and culture.  We are setting the tone and pace of what is in and what isn’t.

It’s a good time to be alive and geek!

 

Our Jumbo-Honking Star Trek Attack Wing Fight

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The Diet Mountain Dew has a movement of Three

On New Year’s Day four of us assembled for a big Star Trek Attack Wing fight.  We went in with 300 points each, which was larger than our usual force composition.  Keen observation #1, it takes two plus hours to just figure out your fleets.  It also requires a freaking calculator to keep track of the points involved.

Tim fielded a Borg fleet while I took Federation.  Kevin and Andrew both took a good mix of ships.  Kevin had fighters, which were the first time we’d played with them.  Tim took the big Borg Cube where I decided it was finally the right environment to try out my Deep Space Nine miniature.  I mean seriously, how often do you get to toss in the big ships in play?

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The starting positions

The big Borg Cube drew too much attention.  Everyone went after it, though I was more concentrating on hanging close to DS9 and going after Andrew’s Scimitar.  That thing was a beast.  The Borg Cube was the elephant in the room for the first part of the game, though Tim used his other Borg ships to wreak havoc.  Eventually the big boy went down, but it took a lot of firepower.

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Without the Cube, we had maneuver room

Kevin made a death ride with the Sutherland-class ship with Picard as Captain, coming right at DS-9.  Shooting at Captain Sisko only increased his Captain’s rating.

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Cube warfare! 

The fighters proved to be massive pains.  Even if you scored a lot of hits on them, you only seemed to whittle away at them a little bit at a time.

Kevin came at me with his Cardassian fighters and eventually took out DS9, as they were toasted in the process.  So the big ships were off the board.

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Is it Cardassians or Kardashians?  I can’t keep it straight

Meanwhile Andrew and Tim had been slugging it out.  Eventually all that was left was a Borg Tactical Cube, some Romulan Scorpion fighters, and the Enterprise (refit) under Captain Pike.

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The pursuit of the Borg Tactical Cube

Kevin managed to stave off death twice in the battle, and I pulled an Attack Pattern Omega on the Tactical Cube, which it shrugged off and was able to discard the warp core breach.  Argh!

In the end, two ships with one point of superstructure remained, the USS Enterprise vs. the Borg Tactical Cube.  The die were rolled and in the end, the Borg prevailed!  Apparently our resistance was futile.

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From Hell’s Heart, I stab at thee…

Some observations.  The fighters – way too powerful.  The big pieces, visually these are cool, but they are more cumbersome than fun.  Game balance – oddly enough, Wizkids got this right, the game was pretty fairly balanced.  Total playing time from start to finish was around seven hours…time well spent.

Star Trek Attack Wing Review – IRW Vrax

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I wasn’t sure about this miniature since we already had the Valdore Class ships from a previous release. My first impression was mediocre at best.  The folks at WizKids have produced this ship in a semi-transparent plastic.  I like that for some ships that can cloak, but to introduce it at this stage of the product release is just erratic and insensitive.  It’s almost as if the WizKids folks are making this up as they go along. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the miniatures is somehow different that the previous ship of the same class, but it just seems goofy to have it made in this manner.

In terms of gameplay, the Vrax is nothing dramatically new.  In other words, this isn’t one of those ships you have to add to your arsenal.  I do like that on the Vrax itself you have the ability to convert a four forward movement at the last minute to a banking maneuver (albeit it a red one).  That actually can give you some interesting options at the last minute.  Let’s face it, we’ve all had those moments when we committed to a move and howled, “Doh!” when we saw what the other guy was doing.  The penalty of making this a red maneuver can hurt you in the following turn, but you might be able to avoid a worse situation in the turn you employ it.  With the Valdore class having only two shields, it’s worth upgrading it to the named ship for two points to get that third shield token.

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The flanking attack card is interesting.  In the right circumstance, where you have the enemy in your sights but are not in theirs, it could prove to be pretty damaging.

The Tal-Aura card is useful for sniping off those pesky enemy crew cards that cause so many problems in the game.  Some of the crew cards in Attack Wing are a wee bit unbalanced.  This can negate that and can be done at range three.  Is it worth five points to pick it?  That depends on who you are facing and what they have crewed their ship with.

The Vrax comes with two torpedo options – Plasma and Photon.  Both use the new game mechanic that uses time tokens.  I like the mechanic.  My only real complaint is that they introduced it very late in the release of the game so now it feels clunky.  I’d rather use the older cards then mess with this mechanic, but that’s just me.  I think WizKids needs to look at an updated COMPREHENSIVE set of rules to rebalance some of the game mechanics, as opposed to these sloppy updates.

Other than the highlights I’ve hit upon, I’m not too dazzled with this ship.  Attack Wing fans will buy it no matter what.  Let’s face it, we’ve needed more Rommie’s in the game.

The Leadership Lessons of Star Trek

Trek Leadership
LEAD!!!!

I learned a lot about leadership from Star Trek.  Stop laughing, I’m serious.  We are all influenced by our cultural tastes and Star Trek was a big one for me.   I’m not embarrassed about liking Star Trek, but at the same time you won’t find me at Star Trek conventions wearing a homemade uniform either.  That doesn’t mean I don’t own a uniform…but that’s a different issue.

Setting aside the JJ Abrams rebooted movies and even The Next Generation; the best of the Star Trek movies is Star Trek II, the Wrath of Kahn.  You can debate me, but you’d be wrong.  One of the subtle themes in the movie is the concept of the no-win scenario.  It is a test for all starship captains (leaders) where there is no way to win.   A ship contacts you in distress.  If you go to rescue it, you have to violate  treaty.  If you ignore it, the crew dies.  If you do go after it, the Klingons attack and destroy your ship.  The movie opens with this test and the young trainee crew is all “killed” undergoing the test in a simulator.

Admiral Kirk explains that it is a test of character.  It is not a test that is meant to be beat, it is a measure of how a leader deals with a situation where there is no positive outcome.  “How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life.”

The no-win scenario has strong ties to managing in an IT department. Often times we are forced to choose the lesser of two evils.  Sometimes the solutions we pick are not a winning scenario, but one that simply works.

The lesson of the no-win scenario is to think, be creative, and turn a bad situation into a good one.  When confronted with what he did on the no-win scenario, Dr. McCoy piped in.

“Lieutenant, you are looking at the only StarFleet cadet to beat the no-win scenario.”

“How?”

Kirk: “I reprogrammed the simulation so that it was possible to rescue the ship.”

“What?”

“He cheated.”

Kirk:  “I changed the conditions of the test.  I got an accommodation for original thinking.  I don’t like to lose.”

“Then you’ve never faced that situation, faced death.”

Kirk:  “I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.”

Well, there you have it, from the words of a model in leadership.  James T. Kirk’s suggestion is simple, don’t believe in the no-win situation.  Find a way, even if you have to cheat, to make it a success.  Don’t accept that something is impossible.  You may have to bend a few rules along the way, but in the end what matters is the success.  No-win is not a situation that is acceptable.

There are a handful of other old-school Star Trek leadership lessons worth pondering, just in case you’re wondering…

The Prime Directive calls for non-interference.  From an IT Department perspective, it seems that the same should apply to end-user community.    We should all seek to be as much non-interfering as possible with our users.

Ultimately it is your friendships and relationships that resolve problems.    Everything is fixed if you know the right people.  You can have all of the processes and procedures in the universe, in the end it is people that get things done.

Always start out with your phaser set to stun.

Some missions are dangerous.  Make sure you don’t wear a red-shirt on those missions (don’t draw attention to yourself).  As a side note:  73% of the crew fatalities in the original Star Trek were extras that wore red shirts.   59% of these deaths were due to transporter (technology) failures…go figure.

When all logic fails, trust a hunch.

“Remember…”  Don’t forget your corporate culture or history.

Always have Scotty (a great tech) nearby if something is broken.

Engineers always lie about how long it will take to do something so they can appear to be “miracle workers.”

Remember the Klingon saying:  “Only a fool fights in a burning house.”  When you are in the middle of a “crisis” personal arguments will usually not solve the problem at hand.

A good friend will tell you when you’re behaving badly.   We all occasionally need someone to tell us we are not being good corporate citizens.  Kirk, Spock and McCoy were an excellent support team.  They shared frank comments with each other and kept each other in check.  We all need that kind of peer support.

Don’t put all of your ranking officers in one shuttlecraft.

Feeding the Tribbles doesn’t solve anything…it only makes more Tribbles.  (If you bring in bagels, you only get more people who want bagels)

Vulcans don’t lie – but they can exaggerate…so can co-workers!

Technology will fail when you need it the most — but almost always factors into being part of the solution.

“The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.”  As I have deployed technology solutions over the years, this little gem has gotten me out of a lot of potentially bad situations. You can expend a lot of efforts responding to “the one,” and sometimes lose sight of “the many.”

Don’t compromise your ideals.  We see this constantly in Star Trek.  Don’t give up on the values you hold dear.

Humans are illogical.  Don’t try and change or fight that.  Embrace their illogic.

Sometimes diplomacy involves a good fight.  Constructive conflict is how organizations grow and succeed.

“Insufficient data does not compute!”  Sometimes you need more information in order to proceed.  Captain Kirk didn’t kick back and wait for perfect information, he got just what he needed and took action.

If you’re going to go; boldly go…where no one has gone before…

Enemies are often invisible.    Often the things that cause technology problems are under the radar.

“I  canna change the laws of physics Captain!”  Best read with a Scottish accent.  No matter what, you can’t ask for the impossible.

There are times the Captain needs to beam down, and there are times he/she needs to let his/her people go down without him/her.

“You’re pushing Jim.  Your people know their jobs.”  There’s a good leadership lesson right there about micro-management.  Let your people do what they do best.

Anything can be fixed if you can travel through time.

The Vulcans have it right – “live long and prosper.”

Sometimes a Captain has to put himself/herself at risk for the sake of the crew.

Scotty’s great line from Star Trek III applies to any project:  “The more you over-think the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.”  Simple counts!

“Come, come, Mr. Scott. Young minds, fresh ideas. Be tolerant.”

Always explain complicated technological issues with a plain-English analogy so that people can understand what you’re talking about.