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STAW Is Definitely Pay-to-Play And That’s A Good Thing

November 3, 2017

This post assumes an understanding of Star Trek Attack Wing (STAW.) See an introduction to it here.

Question: Which would win: a great player with inferior tools, or an inferior player with great tools?

For many of you, you’ve already decided if you think STAW is a Pay-to-Play game. You’re reading this to figure out if I agree with you, or see where I’m wrong if I don’t. Pay-to-Play is the idea that if you are wiling to spend enough money, you can win even if you are not very good.

Star Trek Attack Wing is absolutely a Pay-to-Play game.

To understand why, we need to go back and read the posts from the last two days: Chronological Chaos OP: An Unbeatable Build?and Throwback Thursday: Winning the Klingon Civil War OPs and more unbeatable builds.

We talked about four specific builds

  1. The Rabbit
  2. Romulan Science Vessel Swarm
  3. The Build Complex Version – Developed by Fletcher, Van Der Jangt, Cobey
  4. The Build Pure Version – Developed by Tucker Cobey

Each build was more or less unbeatable. Some, like the Rabbit and the Romulan Science Vessel Swarm were designed to win a specific OP. The last two, examples of The Build, are pretty much unbeatable in a head to head battle. Let’s dive in a little more and look at these builds in another way.

  1. The Rabbit:
    Ships: U.S.S. Raven, U.S.S. Stargazer, Enterprise NX-01, U.S.S. Enterprise E, U.S.S. Reliant, U.S.S. Excelsior, U.S.S. Prometheus, U.S.S. Yeager, U.S.S. Lakota, U.S.S. Constellation (2x), U.S.S. Hathaway, Deep Space 9, U.S.S. Intrepid, H.M.S Bounty, U.S.S. Montgolfier
    Cards: Emergency Power
  2. Romulan Science Vessel Swarm
    Ships: Apnex (12x), I.K.S. Drovana (2x)
  3. The Build Complex Version:
    Ships: U.S.S Pasteur, Val Jean, U.S.S Dauntless, Scout Cube, I.R.W Haakona, I.R.W. Praetus (x2), Sakharov, Ti’Mur, Krayton, I.S.S Defiant, U.S.S. Hood (2x), U.S.S. Hathaway (6x), U.S.S. Grissom, Reklar, S’Gorn, Akorem, Dreadnaught (2x)
    Cards: Admiral Q, Diplomacy
  4. The Build Pure Version:
    Ships: Assimilated Target Prime, Val Jean, Soong, Scout Cube, I.S.S. Enterprise, I.S.S. Defiant, U.S.S. Duantless (2x), Delta Flyer II, Ti’Mur, Gavroche, DS9 GenCon Promo, U.S.S. Hathaway (6x), Starter Set (2x), Denorios, Akorem, U.S.S. Intrepid, S’Gorn, Dreadnaught (2x)
    Cards: Full Reverse

The Rabbit requires 16 total ships, including a prize ship that is only awarded for winning an OP, and a blind booster that is randomly awarded for attending an OP, and a ship that was awarded at a convention.

The Romulan Science Vessel Swarm requires 14 ships.

The Build (Complex version) requires 25 ships plus a couple of special cards awarded for attending an OP.

The Build (Pure version) requires 23 ships, plus two copies of the Starter Set, and a special card for attending an OP and a ship awarded at a convention.

The retail version of a typical ship costs $15. Rare ships, typically those that were only available at an OP cost much more. The U.S.S. Lakota, for example sells on eBay for over $120. The Deep Space 9 model retails for $100.

My point is that each of these fleets would cost a lot to build. The cheapest is probably the Romulan Science Vessel at about $200 if it was purchased at retail. The versions of The Build not only require a lot of ships, but many of them are rare or prize ships. You could easily spend $400 to $500 dollars for those builds.

We have already established the fact that each of these builds gives a player, even an average player, an advantage almost impossible to overcome. Spend enough money and you too can win: Pay-to-Play.

I mentioned in the title that STAW being Pay-to-Play is a good thing. How could that be? Who would want to play a game where the rich get richer and the poor have no chance of winning? In a word: you should.

Pay-to-Play conjures images of some rich kid with $1000 sneakers being able to beat Lebron James. It’s not. It’s the acknowledgement that better equipment gives you an advantage. Magic, The Gathering is a game that is often compared to STAW. And yet, in Magic, players acknowledge that cards have value and you can buy a great deck that will give you an advantage.

Do you know a game that is not Pay-to-Play? Monopoly. And Risk. And dozens of other games. But, those games do not have a community. They do not have tournaments. They do not have regular updates that people want to buy and add to their collection. They don’t have world rankings. They don’t have people who write articles about them.

The way that STAW is designed virtually guarantees that some players will have better fleets. But, having a lot of ships doesn’t ensure that a player will be able to put together a superb fleet. Naturally some players will be better than other players at building fleets. Some will be better at flying fleets. Some will be better at strategy.

But, the fact that STAW rewards players who have more is not a symptom of a problem. It’s an indication of a living, breathing, growing community. Don’t complain about the Pay-to-Play nature of Star Trek Attack Wing. Instead, enjoy the fact that STAW has created a community that continues to grow and evolve.

This is the final in a series of posts about Star Trek Attack Wing:
An introduction to Star Trek Attack Wing
Chronological Chaos OP: An Unbeatable Build?
Throwback Thursday: Winning the Klingon Civil War OPs and more unbeatable builds
Friday: STAW is DEFINITELY Pay-to-play. . .And players should be grateful it is

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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  1. While I agree it is and has pretty much always been pay to play… Do you think this is a good thing? For our local group in Champaign/Urbana IL it absolutely killed the game. Apparently they are bring it back, but not sure how many if any of the older players will bother to pick anything up or even play it…

    • I agree. If a group of nba players showed up at your local gym and dominated the pick up games, eventually it would drive people away.

      WizKids must make sure there’s a way to feed the pipeline with new players. Our flgs has a similar issue. My son’s profile I have won every OP we’ve participated in. Our group is small and pretty experienced, so I’m not worried about driving the regulars away, but it would be challenging for the new guy with a starter pack and a couple of ships to compete.

      The players have a responsibility to not be jerks about winning. If my flgs had a non-prize OP night geared toward new players, I would hope we’d all dial back the competition to encourage participation.

      Not everyone can do that

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