Sunday, 31 July 2011

Do I get into Dust?

It most certainly can't have escaped most of my regular readers notice that I've been on somewhat of a board game binge of late. I'm sure I must have mentioned this a few times. Thing is I really am a wargamer and I told myself that after Gear of War, Super Dungeon Explore and Dungeons & Dragons: Legend of Drizzt that for me that would be it for quite a while, well unless Kingdom Death suddenly pops up at very short notice. You see although Descent Journeys in the Dark is beginning to be extremely tempting, as is Claustrophobia (if I could find a copy) I really don't want to divert my gaming away from what I love and that's painting cool miniatures and playing wargames. Although the Dust Miniatures are exceptional in some cases, its not really been enough for me to take the plunge. Plus on this blog I want to get back to writing about Infinity and few others a bit more.

Thing is the amazing alternative history world of Dust has always kinda had me interested. I've read some very mixed things about Dust Tactics though some people tell me its great, other people tell me its average at best, its this mixed messages I've been getting coupled with the expense of buying the game that put me off. However the world created by Paolo Parente and the miniatures themselves have always intrigued me. Because I think its fair to say they are a significant step up from the usual board game fair served up normally in that horrible rubbery plastic. No its more than fair to say that the Dust Tactics miniature range provided by Fantasy Flight Games is on a par with some of the best plastics on the market from more typical wargames companies.

The boxed game itself can be picked up for around £70 if you shop around a bit and to be fair that's a pretty reasonable price considering the components you get in the box and for what's in the box that's a very reasonable price. However there is another reason I was always drawn to Dust Tactics. There was a the rumoured wargame that was supposedly in joint production with Dust Tactics and would use the same lovely miniatures as Dust Tactics, in a proper tabletop wargame, it was believed to be called Dust Warfare. Initially I kept a close eye on the world of Dust waiting to see if this Dust Warfare would ever surface, and until very recently I'd have to say I was very disappointed with the fact it hadn't yet shown its face...

...well I need worry no more. In fact having dismissed Dust pretty much from those games I was interested in a few months ago, the announcement of Dust Warfare has got me way more than interested again in this alternative WWII history game. I guess its the possibility of having two games for the price of one in some respects but the other part of it is that one of my own personal wargaming hero's is actually behind the production of Dust Warfare, Andy Chambers. Now I know some people hate ex-Games Workshop Design Studio staff with a passion and rage that should be reserved for mass murderers, sex offenders and current Games Workshop staff... but I happen to think many of them have been given a raw deal by fans of wargaming in general... that's Games Workshop staff and not the mass murderers or sex offenders, they actually deserve the bad press!

I actually liked much of what Andy Chambers did at Games Workshop and whenever I got the chance to speak to him he always seemed really insightful, intelligent and most importantly enthusiastic. He was also very friendly and willing to chat to people. I know he's stepped out of the world of miniature wargaming for a fair old while now working on computer games at Blizzard entertainment, but seeing his name of the Dust Warfare rulebook certainly made me sit up and take notice. Go on click on the picture on the right and in the bottom right hand corner you'll see his name. Now for some I'm sure this will be meaningless, for some it'll bring you out in hives but for me it actually gives me a glimmer of hope that the wargame for Dust might actually be worth playing after all. That means my bank balance could be in for some further punishment if it is. You see this really is big news for me because I genuinely thought that wargaming had lost one of its leading lights to computer games, it was the same worry I've had about many others who have left the Games Workshop over the years too.

So what about the game? Well I wish I could tell you more than the fact its written by Andy Chambers, but really I can't. You can find the full press release for Dust Warfare on Fantasy Flights website and read it all for yourselves. Picking out the salient points though Fantasy Flight say they are at the Beta testing stage and will be running demo games at this years GenCon so if you're there definitely try it and get a look at it. The other point they are keen to hammer is the point I made earlier on that you are essentially getting a single range of miniatures to play in two game systems, one a board game that has a smaller physical footprint the other a wargame to be played on your standard 6' by 4' gaming board. I think though the biggest thing for me is that Fantasy Flight Games have actually taken the conscious decision to move away from their normal market of card games, board games and RPGs. Trust me that's a big deal.

Of the game itself the article touches very briefly on a few things such as the game having a command phase and that the spending of command points is important and that these command points might actually be a finite resource or at the very least limited. This is an interesting mechanic because I'm noticing this sort of thing more and more in wargames, its like there is an almost RTS resource management element creeping into the industry, be it focus in Warmachine, Soul Stones in Malifaux, Orders in Infinity or Mana in Anima Tactics. Its the use of these resources in these games that very often determines who is victorious, and who just plane old sucks. The fact that Dust Warfare has its own resource management mechanic just emphasises to me just how ubiquitous this sort of gameplay mechanic is becoming now and it makes certain games from certain companies seem antiquated in comparison.

Another interesting thing to note is a comment about the 'unit phase', now by the sounds of things the unit phase is your standard move, shoot and bash over the head with the butt of a rifle phase, however one phrase did catch my attention and that was 'reaction mechanics'. Now Andy Chambers is no stranger to 'overwatch' rules and the active and reactive mechanics they bring. My current favourite game of all time TM, Infinity is obviously a great exponent of this and its ARO system although criticised by some, is for me still the best active and reactive mechanic on the market. It is also another trend that has slowly crept into wargaming, and that is the 'always playing' mechanic. Many games try to do it in many different ways but I think we're slowly seeing the death (hopefully) of the your turn my turn mechanic whereby for half the game you're basically an interested observer.

I know its really not much to be going on at all, well it really isn't anything to be going on at all. However its clearly got me all excited, mainly because I'm looking at those lovely miniatures and thinking 'aha' (in my best Alan Partridge impersonation) I might actually have a game worth using these nice little miniatures in after all. But more importantly I hope its a return to the industry of one of its greatest protégés Andy Chambers and I hope its a return to form. Almost as exciting as that is the fact that Fantasy Flight Games has finally got its collective arse in gear and is now looking to publish its first proper wargame, they've actually been producing lovely miniatures for a few years now for some of their games and its about time they stepped up and took on a proper wargame. With them at the helm  it could be a huge success because all the foundations are there. It also sounds like Dust Warfare was always part of the plan, but that they've been waiting around to see how successful Dust Tactics was and how well received the miniature range was, that sounds to me like this has been a very serious decision and one they've thought out very well and for such a well run company that should get others in the industry sitting up and taking notice. Peace out!


  1. It will be fun to see what Andy does with this, though I think it only fair that it's judged on its merits as a game, not whether or not you liked his work for 40K, etc. Even if he was the spawn of darkness at that point (or the guardian of truth), he may have reformed :)

    Personally, I like the Dust background and love the mechs, but the infantry seem lacklustre to me. The more heavily armoured (ie more like mechs) they get, the better I think the models get, and the more love seems to have been lavished on the sculpts. Can't see me buying it because of the infantry (and the price).

    Regarding the Dust Boardgame - the rules were available as a pdf so you can see for yourself whether they suit or not. As far as the tabletop version is concerned, I'm sure we'll see lots of happy bloggers posting comments on it during and after GenCon.

  2. @Quirkworthy, I kinda agree with you on the bog standard troopers not being the best looking but then again I find that's the case with pretty much every game on the market right now. Don't you? I think they're functional enough and not dreadful.

    I've seen some people using some of the Dust miniatures with other rule systems as well and I agree with you the mechs and heavy infantry really steal the show though. For me I look at them and just think ooooh I could get the hair spray out and airbrushes and go to town on weathering effects and pignents. Get some oil paints out and get those pistons looking dirty... yep I'm nerd!!!

    As for judging the board game, I've read the rules for a fair few board games recently and though 'this looks good' and then plonked it down and played it and though... well maybe its not so good. What I'd really like is to find someone who could run me through a game of Dust Tactics without me having to spend a small fortune buying the game!!!

    As for Mr Chambers and judging Dust Warfare on its merits rather than the person behind them... I'm more than sure I can be objective about it. After all I was with DKH:DR and I can't stand you!!! lol :P , just kidding you're not that bad really. I am however looking forward to seeing what he has done with the rules though.

  3. When I read the rules it felt very reminiscent of AT43, which would hardly be surprising given its lineage. I haven't put Dust on the table though, and don't know anyone who's forked out the cash. I'll wait and see.

    My comment about judging Andy's work was really for the people you mentioned in your piece who may not be as charitable and even handed as you. I would expect nothing other than fairness from your good self :)

  4. You know what I hadn't thought about AT43... d'oh. But I guess you're right. The thing with Tactics for me is that price point has stopped me really picking it up. I see they're producing a new revised and smaller boxed set of the core game which might be a good idea for sales. As for me being objective, I think its a fallacy that anyone can be truly objective because we bring so much personal baggage to everything we do. For instance I actually brought DKH:DR in the first place because I wanted to see what you'd been up to... luckily for me its not a half bad game you know. Thing is as long as I'm aware of any potential bias I might have I should be able to counter it and as long as I mention it and am honest in any articles and reviews the reader has all the information to hand to make their own minds up!!!

  5. I was very happy to see Dust Warfare as a complete supplement and not just a pdf as was rumoured when DT was first released. I love the idea of being able to play it either as a board game or as a full on miniature game depending on space and time, or mood for that matter.

    The new revised boxed set combined with the announcement of Dust Warfare has pushed me a bit closer to taking the plunge. The only problem is that my friend who's into the game is also mainly interested in the Germans so we would sit on a German army each. Kind of boring.

    Also glad to see Andy taking the lead on this. His GW games were definitely the ones I played the most (Necromunda, Epic 40,000 and BFG). I've only heard good things about Starship Troopers as well so I'll follow this closely.

    Also, looking forward to the Russians!

  6. All reviews are invariably biased in one way or another (assuming they're written by humans). It's unavoidable. That doesn't make them unhelpful.

    "not half bad" :)

  7. Hey Martin. Yep I think you're pretty much like me, except I want the allies. The first thing me and my mate spoke about was the fact that there were currently only two factions in the background. True the Russians will add a bit more variety but if the game is going to take off I think they'll need a minimum of 4 but I've seen games survive with 5. Thing is can you think of any other factions? Japanese maybe? Or Chinese? Beyond that I'm struggling. Its something to keep an eye on though.

  8. Yeah, four is the magic number isn't it? :)

    There are aliens right? So I'm sure they'll turn up. And like you said some Asian faction seems likely, probably Japanese considering the setting.

    I don't know if you've noticed this thread on BGG where mr CEO himself, Christian Petersen, makes an apperance to try and clear up some misapprehensions about Dust. It's an interesting read even if you don't care about Kris as it gives an insight into FFG in general and DT (and to a certain extent AT-43) in particular.

    Too bad we're not neighbours, then we could split a box. Hehe!

  9. Well Martin, perhaps I'll have to hop on a plane and kick your Scandinavian arse sometime!!! On the battlefield of course... in real life I'm a wimp!!! lol. If they do 1950's style flying saucers for the aliens count me in. I'm sure 3 is supposed to be the magic number but for wargaming i think its actually closer to 4. Still, it'll be good fun to see where FFGs goes with it.

  10. @Martin, I read through that thread and it was really interesting and actually quite impressive that Christian Petersen actually took the time to respond and more importantly did so in such a comprehensive manner... oh yeah and that Kris who the hell is he? Sounds like somebody has a serious case of delusions of grandeur!!!

  11. What an intriguing thread at BGG! Nice of Christian to deal with it, though I can see why he felt he had to.

  12. @Quirkworthy that's exactly what I thought. The internet offers great opportunities for companies but also great perils... insofar that tossers like me can go 'off message' and potentially really screw things up for you as a business. However I think its best if businesses embrace the good with the bad and just view it all as an opportunity to explain what they're all about and for clarification. I for one think Christian deserves a massive amount of credit for what he did there.

  13. It's quite a bizarre read, but like you say, Christian stepping up and taking the bull by the horns is praiseworthy. Kris seems to be a talented modeler who loves Dust Tactics. But he's way to emotionally invested and now he's simply a detriment to the community as he's more or less entered trolling mode.

    Also, you're welcome any day to the sunny north! Hehe!