|It's finally here!!!|
Dust Warfare is yet another game I guess that I've already sort of brought into, not directly mind you. More vicariously in the shape of Dust Tactics, the skirmish based board game that I own, and reviewed a few months back now. In it I discuss how I felt the game looked kind of strange to me on the board. Although I didn't think the game was bad per se, I didn't think the first edition starter set that I had was a very good introduction at all. I also felt that the game would have been just better accepting that it needed to be a wargame, instead of some weird board / wargame hybrid. So I did do a little dance and smiled when I saw that Fantasy Flight Games were releasing Dust Warfare finally. I actually think the profile cards for Dust Tactics actually have a lot of scope for variance and character, it's just that's not going to be fully realised on a board... the game has also been designed by Andy Chambers. He's sort of a personal hero of mine too.
|Painted up the miniatures looks as good as anyone's|
Company: Really? You need me to tell you who Fantasy Flight Games are? Where have you been for the last decade or so? OK, here goes. Fantasy Flight Games are based in Minnesota USA. They were founded in 1995 and have since gone on to become one of the biggest names in Board Games, RPGs and Card games. They have an increasingly impressive roster of games and have produced some highly popular games based off of Games Workshops IP, and continue in this Blogger's opinion to make better, more inventive use of said IP. They also have many other license agreements with other household name brands... well household names for geeks like me, such as Game of Thrones, Arkham Horror, Gears of War although the biggy they own, Star Wars, should be a household name for everyone. So seeing them make a move into wargames proper is a pretty big deal... well I think it is!!!
|I think visually as a wargame it works better that Dust Tactics|
|If you already own Tactics it's going to be cheap.|
Game: Now obviously Fantasy Flight Games has produced one of their usually high quality videos explaining the basics pretty well, and oh look here it is!
Any way enough of my whinging. The way you build a force in Dust Warfare seems interesting at first glance, but I haven't spent an inordinately long period of time list building yet and trying to get bent lists. The first thing I've noticed about the platoon structure is that thank the lord it appears to have eliminated the 'spam' issue that so plagues certain other grimdark products. Each Platoon has a number of 'slots' you can fill with units, they just can't all be death ray wielding soldiers of doom. I do though get the feeling that although the platoon structures are indeed meant to force you to take balanced forces, and a bit of everything that there is good scope for optimisation and being a total stats geek about things. In short I can see there being 'optimum lists'. It's also worth noting that units do still cost you points though and games of Dust Warfare do have points ranges. I'm not too sure what the actual average points level will be for a game of Dust Warfare, but looking at what I might want to field in a game myself personally, I'd be happy to play games between the 300 to 500 point range. 500 points being a pretty large game by the way.
|My commander's an idiot, why did he put me here?|
Moving on to the mission set up was quite interesting as I've got a bug bear with how most games organise missions... I'm cautiously optimistic about the Dust Warfare approach to it all. The mission set up actually has a good number of variables, and to change them you have to spend your set up points on them. You could just have a gentleman's agreement about what sort of game you want to play, but Andy Chambers has come up with this nifty little system and it'd be rude not to use it! It covers victory conditions and set up amongst other things and both sides only get two points to influence proceedings. I quite liked this aspect of the game and I can see it working well at Tournaments. We ended up playing a game with Normal Visibility with an Eliminate the Enemy objective and Close Engagement set up. After we'd rolled for who got to set up first and table edge we went for initiative. Here's the first note of caution I'd sound about Dust Warfare for me (there will be others), initiative is massively important and very random. You take a number of dice equal to your units on the board and roll them for initiative. We both had 5 units and rolled our 5 dice each to see who went first...
|Oh my. What a big turret you have...|
You're looking to see who gets the least hits on the special Dust Dice. Now as I got the most hits that meant I got to go second, while The Cursed went first. It's not a major bonus to go first in the first turn or so I'd guess, but later in the game it will be. You see initiative means you're going first in both the Command and Unit Phases of the game. It seems almost like a double penalty to the poor schmuck who actually rolls the most hits. Now I guess this mechanic is there to try and keep games balanced and close throughout proceedings, as it invariably means that the side with the least units on the board will be going first and will get the opportunity to redress the balance. There are a number of problems though, firstly in the early exchanges we were evenly matched and it was therefore down to blind luck as to who got the initiative when the lines eventually got close enough to each other to deal damage. Obviously I won the crucial initiative roll and I felt really sorry for my opponent as there was little he could do to stop me butchering units he'd placed carefully... why? Because the much vaunted react mechanic isn't at all like Infinity's ARO's!!! In Infinity if you see the order being performed, you can react regardless of range. Not so in Dust Warfare.
|...all the better to shoot round corners with. COWARD!!!|
There is a 12" limit on reactions and to be brutally honest that's not far enough when you can pre-measure and your opponents weapons have a range greater than 12", oh say like 16" or more. Yeah I abused the pre-measuring and yeah I abused the weapons range to obliterate the first two units. From that point forward, regardless of whether or not my opponent got the initiative he was struggling to get back into the game. At the start of the game the forces were shockingly similar in performance, but one medium walker down, his second walker damaged, plus his devastating close quarters BBQ unit gone he was forced to go very defensive. That meant that when on 5 dice I rolled 2 hits to his highly unlucky 3 hits for initiative, he was screwed. True that was highly unlikely to have happened, but because the games mechanics leave it down to chance it's certainly a possibility for sure. The second issue I have with initiative is that it is SO powerful in the game. Seriously going first in Command AND Unit Phases with everything in your army and being able to pre-measure just seems very unfair to me and I have to admit... open to abuse.
|Well two can play at that overly defensive and boring grind of a game!!!|
Which is my third issue with the way the initiative roll works. I've only had a quick scan of the various units in the game. However, even I'm not dumb enough to notice that there are some highly effective units in this game that cost a bit more than your bog standard units. What's the problem you ask? Well I can see people taking the more expensive hitty things and keeping the number of units they have on the table at the start to a minimum. Why? Because when the two lines close on each other they'll more than likely have the initiative over horde armies and more balanced lists and will get the first round of shooting off and deal enough damage to probably put there opponent at a double disadvantage. Even if they don't, suppression markers will mean they're hunkering down and will probably struggle to get shots off themselves. The problem is that initiative allowing you to move all your forces first is just too powerful at points. If it was alternating activations I could see it working out fine. But it's not. So when the lines eventually clash there's going to be some games that are very likely to be decided on this highly crucial initiative roll... I'd like to see it's importance mitigated somewhat.
|And now the end is near, and so I face the final barrage!!!|
The thing is I'm not going to judge Dust Warfare on this single, solitary game, simply because the forces we took were highly similar in performance and we set the board up badly. There's also the fact that judging the game on one game would be highly unfair, and I'd like to have at least played a few more games before committing to a judgement on it all. However, what I will say is that it's not as perfect as the world wide web would have you believe it is. True it is actually a really enjoyable fast fluid game, with plenty of strategic scope... it's just not the second coming or anything like that. The other thing that they need to sort out is the profiles of the various weapons and vehicles. The rules for many of which, are in 3 different places. For instance the weapons statline is normally with the unit section. You then have to look in the weapon rules to see if that weapon or unit has special rules attached to it, and if it does you then have to look up that specific special rule... COME ON!!! The other thing I'd like to see is some Dust Dice that actually bloody roll, the current sharp edged square dice that I have have a tendancy to slide. Personally I'm tempted to play the game with standard D6's having 1's and 6's as hits.I still But just to be clear, despite my whining, it was still fun to play.
|I love the Sherman tank look of the Allies walkers.|
|The Axis walkers do look pretty awesome as well.|
Background: As with most Weird War II back stories the background is based around some fantastical break with our own timeline. I haven't really read enough to be able to tell you exactly where that break occurs in the Dust back story, but I can tell you briefly how it differs. For starters I can tell you that WWII is still raging in the Dust Warfare back story in 1947, two years after it actually ended. Secondly I can tell you that most of the technology in the game is derived from some alien source found by the Axis powers at some point during the war. There's also some rare fuel everyone is fighting over to power these things called VK. Apparently Hitler was assassinated and the Nazi Party thrown out, so the Axis powers aren't all that evil anymore apparently... but they still have zombies and mind controlled psychopathic gorillas... so they can't be the good guys either methinks. Look, do you really need any more excuses to play with WWII walkers and alien powered laser guns in a Weird War II setting? I don't.
+ It's Fantasy Flight Games, and they're unlikely to go under anytime soon.
+ It's already got a fairly large range of miniatures ready to rock and roll.
+ As a product Dust already has a pretty large and fervent following from Dust Tactics and indeed the comics.
+ Some of the miniatures (walkers) are really, really good.
+ The games are actually quite slick, Ive not played enough of it to know if it works as well as it could, but so far I've not descended into any nerdrages with it.
+ It's two games in one... sort of!!!
+ The miniatures come pre-primed and pre-assembled.
- It's not quite as expansive of quick as I'd like, and I feel that unless I was missing some vital rules certain aspects don't make a great deal of sense.
- There's currently only two factions, sure the SSU will be out soon but what's next? The Japanese? Then is that it? Are four factions enough to keep gamers happy and interested long-term?
- It's at a scale and size that will put it head to head with HoMachine, Warpath and the big boy in gaming, Warhammer 40,000. Can it entice enough people away from their poison of choice?
- Not all the infantry miniatures are brilliant, and there are the odd duffer in the range.
- Is this the focus for the Dust universe is it Tactics? Potentially the two games could get in each others way and step on each others toes.
I'm a bit keen on Dust Warfare from a miniatures point of view if I have to be honest, you see it might actually give me a game to use those really nice heavy walker tanks in that I got in my Dust Tactics box set. That's got to be the biggest plus for me, the fact that I love the mini's and I have in effect got two decent sized starter forces to play with already. So if you're like me sitting on a fair old collection of Dust Tactics stuff why wouldn't you give it a blast? There are a lot of people out there right now with Dust Tactics armies who are ready willing and able to play games of Dust Warfare. That's the genius of it you see, Fantasy Flight Games don't just have a ready made product line to wheel out, they've also got a ready made player base. For a mere £27 I'm suddenly a Dust Warfare player too. I still have a few reservations about certain play mechanics, and the book could be a lot easier to bloody navigate but it's not a bad starting point, and it's an interesting first step into wargames for the Minnesota based firm. In short, for now... you can count me in. Peace out!