Thursday, 28 June 2012

Review: Dust Warfare Rulebook




All behold Dust Warfare, the second coming, the saviour of wargaming... or is it just another tale of the Emperor's new cloths? Honestly I've sat amused the past few weeks, or months watching as many proclaimed Dust Warfare to be a Warhammer 40K killer. The next big thing. The best game ever. Will it be a Warhammer 40K killer? No I don't think so, the biggest threat to that particular franchise is Games Worshop themselves. Could it be the next big thing? Possibly, if Fantasy Flight games pull their fingers out and support it properly. Is it the best game ever? Well I guess you'll have to read on to find out won't you?

Product description

This little book is being touted as a hobby saviour by many, a way of salvaging something from the supposed 'inevitable' wreck that will be 40K 6th Ed, when it's actually a 143 page hardback rulebook, about the same size as a Games Workshop Codex or a Privateer Press army book. When I open it's pages choirs of angels can not be heard singing and I am not bathed in a warm light of pure goodness, the binding on the pages though is stitched and the quality is noticably higher than the books from many other game firms, so that's nice. The hardback cover of the book is a matte finish and the pages inside are fairly thick paper, finished in satin as opposed to high gloss, it is not a Holy tome descended from the heavens. The book contains a good level of fluff and it is interlaced with unit descriptions and special rules, it doesn't herald the dawn of a new age of enlightenment and prosperity for humanity. The core rules themselves start on page 26 and finish on page 50, meaning the rules themselves only take up 25 pages, so it's not as daunting a ruleset as the 143 page count might suggest. Special rules cover a further 8 pages, while battle set ups and scenarios take up 16 pages. The army lists for both the Axis and Allies factions take up roughly 14 pages each. At the back of the book are a number of pages designed to be photocopied and used as tokens and counters in the game. That's your lot, it doesn't give you the answer to the meaning of life, or cure caner or AIDs... it's a rulebook for a wargame, so can people please stop putting it atop a pedestal it's never going to be able to stay on?

Getting my Axis forces sorted
Gameplay 6.5 out of 10

I'm going to be honest here from the outset, I'm a bit of a fan of the work of Andy Chambers. Yeah I've heard the stories of him being a difficult bugger to deal and work with, but I've usually found his games fun to play and with a nice set of core mechanics at their heart. Plus the few times I've met him I actually got on with him quite well, so perhaps we're both just similar awkward buggers. I certainly think Games Workshop were left the weaker for him departing. I thought the core mechanics he developed for Starship Troopers were pretty solid too, what scuppered that game was a lack of factions and you can see the progression of some of those idea, both good and bad, here in Dust Warfare. However, I think many reviewers, gamers and possibly even Fantasy Flight Games themselves have done a certain Mack Martin a bit of an injustice by singling out Andy Chambers as the games designer. Putting his name solely on the cover may have been a good marketing move, but from what I can gather this game is as much a product of Mack Martn as it is Andy Chambers. So right now I'm going to open the review of the gameplay section with a thank you to Mack Martin as well. So thanks Mack, I appreciate your work... even if I think the product both Mack and Andy have produced is flawed.

Yeah, I think the game is flawed, but I want to start with a defence of the one thing many are taking pot shots at, see I told you I was an awkward sod. The dice mechanic in Dust Warfare is exactly the same as the dice mechanic in Dust tactics. And It's actually come in for a fair bit of criticism from some quarters, and while I can appreciate some of the complaints, I happen to think the mechanic on the whole works fine and is easy to comprehend and understand very quickly. The idea is that each dice has a target symbols on two of the faces, while 4 faces are blank, if it was a typical D6 you'd see the targets in positions 1 and 6. So rather than alternating the to hit roll required to adjust the level of skill or potency of weapons, the game just adjusts the amount of dice you roll. So a unit that rolls 12 dice as opposed to a unit that rolls 6 dice is twice as good in effect. I'm not quite sure why this has got so many up in arms over it. I don't think it's really any different to any other games that have 'fixed' values to hit and manipulate the probability by increasing or decreasing the amount of dice rolled. It actually offers greater scope for variance, than any 'to hit' chart could have, because theoretically I could roll an infinite number of dice. It also act's to speed games up and makes identifying how well an opponent has rolled really easy at a glance, no need to check whether that really was a 4 and not a 3. One thing I will say though is that I hate the Dust dice! They're too square and don't roll very easily, plus I find them too big to roll and they often knock miniatures or scenery out of place. An enterprising dice manufacturing company might make a killing off of producing some smaller dice with rounded corners... just saying! Hint, hint. Now somebody get on with making some.

Slowly my forces move up

So onto the meat of the game, I need to get this off my chest straight away. Can people, please, please, please stop saying this is the best game ever? Because it's not. It's a good game and has laid some pretty solid foundations on which, Fantasy Flight Games should be able to build a good solid wargaming franchise on top of, and eventually a more refined and better constructed game. If you enjoy it then that's great, I can see why many people would, because compared to some games out their, the more popular franchises, it does feel like a breath of fresh air. Make no mistake about it, Dust Warfare is fun to play, and it has a far amount going for it, but it is a flawed gem. Not so flawed that I don't enjoy playing it, but flawed enough that I won't play it all the time, but I will play it. Fantasy Flight Games have said they have pretentions for Dust Warfare to be a tournament game, and while I can see why they'd say that, and why they'd think it was suitable for such games, I think there are just too many loopholes within the game and the mechanics for it to be tight enough to ensure the best gamers will win 8 times out of 10. Once the random element of the game is having more of a say on proceedings than players tactical choices on the board, I feel a game is unsuitable for tournament play. I'd say the best gamers are likely to win 6 or 7 times out of 10 in Dust Warfare, at best. It's the initiative phase that causes issues, the initiative phase is too random, and at the same time open to manipulation.

School boy error. Ranges make such elevated positions pointless.

Lets though start at the beginning before getting to the crux of my concerns. I'm going to say that the standard game size has to be at least 400 to 500 points, because at any lower points levels you have the dreaded problem of potentially having rock, papers, scissors match ups. It's not as bad say as something like Malifaux can be at its worst, but it's still pretty bad at times with lower points values. Units are split between 3 categories of unit (troops / walkers / flyers) and these are then further subdivided and categorised, so you can end up with a force at say 150 to 300 points that just can't deal with some things your opponent might have brought to the table. Between 400 to 500 points you should have a balanced build that should be able to deal with most things and it'll be how you marshel your forces that determines whether you're successful. However, at 500 points and above the games core mechanic around the initiative and command phases starts to fall apart and creak a bit under the strain. But before I get there I do want to talk about something I think is a neat move... the Battle Builder. This is basically a table split between three things, Objective, Deployment and Conditions, each with in effect four levels, starting from 0 and going up to 3. Both players have two points to spend on arranging the battle. Now this is something I touced upon in my series of articles on game balance, the need for players to have some say on how the battle should be fought based on tactical choices made about their forces. This is a neat attempt to give players some control. It's not perfect because it just invariably means you end up with a set up neither of you wanted, or both players have control of one thing in their favour... but it brings a bit of balance to things.

An Allies walker skulks around at the back of the board

It's not a bad start though, or an attempt at solving a problem that has existed for a long time in most wargames, the bad match up. The mission your army just struggles with. Personally I'd have done it a bit differently and had a 'swing' style points attribution with the standard game type in the middle at zero and then plus and minus 2 options either side and allow people to add or subtract their two points. I might also have done a few other things differently with it... but, as it is though it's a good addition to the game and a workable one that hopefully other companies will try to emulate and perfect. This then leads us into the 'Initiative Phase' of the game. This is a really, really important part of the games core mechanics, and the first part of the jigsaw that starts to look a bit out of place for me. The idea is simple, you take a dice for every unit you have, and roll it. If you roll a hit you get an order to use in the command phase, but it is the side with the lowest number of hits that is given the initiative and gets to go first in both the Command Phase and the Unit Phase. That's a big problem for me, and it has tended to swing games massively that I've played and I don't think it works how the game designers intended it to. The fact that such an important mechanic in the game is left open to random chance isn't great. I get that as a side is being depleted, they should in theory be more likely to win the initiative and try to wrest some impetus back from their opponent, but it's not always that clear cut.

The Allies fall back after their lines take a bit of a hammering

You see the amount of dice you roll has bugger all to do with the points a unit is worth. So a 95 point Heavy Walker rolls one dice just the same as a 9 point unit of light infantry. I'm sure you can see where I'm heading with this right? Yep, elite builds are more likely to get the Initiative Phase than standard builds or horde builds, well on probability they are any way. You can also do clever things with targeting the opposing army. Whittling all their units down to 50% strength, because in the next Initiative Phase they'll still roll the same amount of dice because unit strength doesn't effect the dice rolled. I did this once, my opponent had effectively lost 50% of his army across every unit, yet I'd lost about 10%, all in one unit. I won initiative and obliterated him in my next Unit Phase. But is going first such a huge advantage? Well yes, in the Command Phase you get to target units that could be a threat to you first, either by taking them out or at the very least loading suppression on them so that your opponent has to spend time removing those suppression counters, or just use the regroup order to remove them, wasting their own resources in effect. That in and of itself gives the player who gains initiative the first time the battle-lines clash a massive boost. The fact this 'big' advantage is then turned into a 'HUGE' advantage in the Units Phase just seems unfair. You see by going first in the Units Phase you get to yet again pile more misery on your opponent by taking out their big threats with impunity. You get to use both of the two actions a unit gets and not have to worry about saving some for reactions...

More cowardly hiding tactics from the Allies... come and take your beating coward!

Unlike your opponent who is going second, who should they decide they wish to react to one of your units by either moving or shooting, will have to weigh that up with the fact that it will reduce what their unit can do in their own Unit Phase.  I get that initiative is meant to give the losing side a bit of a fighting chance to get back into the game, but it isn't certain is it? It's still random and it's still done on the roll of a dice. Having played the Cursed I was lucky enough to win the initiative the first time our lines clashed, this gave me the ability to absolutely smash two of his units and one of his walkers. Next turn even though he was rolling less dice he got one more hit than me in the Initiative Phase, from that point onwards playing the rest of the game just seemed pointless. I had in effect obliterated too much of his force for him to come back into it in any meaningful way, no matter how many Initiative Phases he won. The Initiative Phase can really mean games get out of control quickly and can get away from you, and once you find yourself at 50% of your opponents force with your walkers either damaged or obliterated the reality is all the Initiative Phases in the world aren't going to swing it for you. In my experience 70% of the games were won by the faction that won the Initiative Phase in the round the two forces got within the 12" to 16" range. That's far too big an influence on a games outcome for me.

Well two can play at that game... and I'm better at it. Take that!!

So while the idea behind the Initiative Phase was a commendable one, to try and keep the games close, and I'd applaud it on principle I don't think it has been implemented all that well, and I'm not convinced it works. It is open to abuse via list building, careful target selection and a few unlucky rolls is all it takes to screw you over. A far better system would be to have had the amount of command dice rolled linked to the amount of points still on the table. That would remove any benefit elite forces might get from gaining initiative or any bonus horde forces might get from having a lot of orders to spend in the Command Phases where what they do can't be opposed by reactions. If I can see these chinks of light in the system they've created you can bet your bottom Euro that some of the hard nosed competitive types have also already pulled the game apart in the same manner I have. It's not difficult. In fact I'd like to talk about how reactions work in the game currently. Much has been made of reaction orders by the games supporters, and how great they are, and I'll concede they do add a lot of tactical depth to the game. But they are not anywhere near as useful as ARO's are in Infinity, nor do they impact as much or in the same ways.

Eventually the Axis closed in on the battered remnants of the Allies forces

The reactions in Dust Warfare can only be triggered if what you see is happening within 12" of the unit you want to react, or if it's the Unit Phase, you can't react in the Command Phase. This means big guns that are there to lay down suppressing fire as things advance don't react in the way they should and neither do snipers. I get that it is necessary to keep the game fast paced, but it does seem weird to this gamer that a sniper in a crows nest isn't responding to troops running between cover... you know, as a sniper would. It's just another reason why the game actually feels like a 'game' and not a simulation or an interactive story, it's one of those jarring reality checks that break any suspension of disbelief that might have occurred. Now I know WWII ended, and I know we haven't discovered alien craft, but when in a wargame when you have those moments where you suddenly feel you aren't fighting a war, but playing a game it can sort of ruin the vibe of a game. It's a bit like vanishing rockets and grenades in Infinity... so I missed but where did that grenade go I just threw, or tried to, what happened to it? In Dust Warfare it's I can see it, it's in my range why can't I shoot it as a reaction? By limiting the range it does allow gamers to be more aggressive, but even that feels weird, running squishy humans in front of a heavy walker with impunity just feels unrealistic and wrong.

Gentlemen, can we please talk about this like mature adults? Dakka Dakka... no!

I also feel that any game that makes you consistently have to flick through the rulebook to look things up also breaks the illusion a wargame can often create, and Dust Warfare's over use of special rules and it's insistence on putting rules for one unit on multiple pages spread throughout the book just adds further to the feeling you're playing a game. Fantasy Flight Games clearly told the games designers that they wanted them to use the same unit profiles as were used in Dust Tactics the board game... except those don't really offer the same sort of nuance you'd normally find in a wargame. So Andy and Mack's solution was to add lots and lots of special rules. It's a move I can understand and one from a designers point of view I support. But, the way it is handled within the rulebook and how awkward it all is just leaves me thinking that Fantasy Flight should have left the games designers to just design a wargame, not a wargame with board game profiles. They got these guys in no doubt because they're good games designers, well just let them come up with good design. It's clear that the designers felt hamstrung by this and indeed the dice mechanic, as quite often they do things like 'invert' the mechanic so misses count as hits. They've worked well I guess within the limitations they were given, but it does leave you wandering what they could have achieved if those limitations weren't there.

Mental note to self... rocket fists and walkers don't mix!

Fundamentally though Dust Warfare remains a fun game to play with friends, if you don't take it too seriously. It's also not a bad first attempt at a wargame from a company that is more used to producing card games, board games and RPGs. Although hopefully Fantasy Flight will take the criticisms that I and others have made on board. Because Dust Warfare really could be a fantastic franchise for them, if they invest in it properly. The current rules are here to stay probably for the next 4 years at least I'd assume, and that's fine, they're perfectly serviceable as they are. However, the core rules currently only have army lists for two factions, the Allies and the Axis forces. A third faction the Sino-Soviet Union has just had it's rulebook released. Three forces are not enough for a wargame to thrive. It might be OK for a board game, but Fantasy Flight Games will need to pull their fingers out quicker than they are and get at least a fourth faction out in well under a year. Four factions are what wargames needs to survive, it's the bare minimum requirement, and whether this fourth faction is the Japanese, some other human force or the alien Vrill doesn't really matter too much, the game will need it to survive. As it stands with two factions and a third just released the game is only worth 6.5 out of 10. Add in another faction and that's probably a 7 out of 10, any further factions beyond the fourth and the score will depend on how well balance in maintained between the factions. Wargaming is a highly competitive marketplace right now, and I'm sure Fantasy Flight Games have already learned some valuable lessons. I'm still optimistic the game could morph into something that is really worth playing and that it might become a big player... just not in its current form.

The 'Big Three' need to be the big four or five before it can truly take off.

Detail 7 out of 10

The pages and artwork throughout the pages is just fantastic, and just flicking through the pages you get the sense that its a great book and clearly had high production values lavished on it. But, the book was laid out by a complete moron. The one detail a rulebook has to get right is how easy it is to use. Quite often you can be left searching three completely different sections in the rules to work out how a weapon or unit works. Here, let me give you an example, the profile for the HPW VI-A Königsluther is on page 130. However, you have look up its 17.3CM FPK Zwei Weapon on page 110 to see if it has any special rules... guess what... it does and you have to flip to page 58 to see what they are. Why? Why the hell can't you just put the special rule next to the weapon profile for Gods sake? Why do I have to flip through three different sodding pages to understand how one weapon in the game works? Honestly the blisteringly stupid way the book is laid out is the reason this rulebook gets a 7 out of 10 for detail as opposed to a 9 or even a 9.5. Whoever laid the book out like this needs to be punished severely, it's the worst laid out rulebook I can remember in recent history. Truly dreadful. Awful.

A typical sort of double page spread

Which, as I say is a huge shame, because the individual pages are fabulously designed. The pages are designed to look like they're part of a military briefing note, and the pages are full of artwork produced by the likes of Paolo Parente (obviously), Laurent Lecocq, Karl Kopinski, Dvide Fabbri amongst many pthers and it really does bring the world of Dust to life. The art direction on this product is brilliantly evocative of the world  Paolo Parente has created. Sure I've seen some of the artwork in various Dust Tactics rulebooks, but never presented this well, and in such a nicely bound book. The images of game boards are also truly splendid, and are the match of any better established firms out there, like Privateer Press and Games Workshop, so clearly no expense was spared. The tables they present in the rulebook do make you want to play the game on the most awesome looking boards around, they're really are that motivational, as all good game boards should be. The rules themselves are also littered with really good and descriptive diagrams that explain the rules really, really well. It's just a shame that the way it is laid out just makes it so difficult to use as a rulebook. If they want to look at how it should be done they need to look no further than the Freebooter's Fate Rulebook.

It's the walkers... they make me want to play.

Quality 9 out of 10

There is however no denying that this is a high quality product in terms of construction of the book itself. It has to be with all of the flipping backwards and forwards between sections you'll be doing when you play the game. The spine is a solid construction and the binding is stitched not glued, which means the pages shouldn't fall out as easily, and I'm grateful of that little extra expense having been spent. The cover is hard wearing and certainly durable enough for a wargames rulebook, but given my knack of spilling fizzy drinks on my books I was a little bit gutted not to see a high glossy cover, that is able to withstand me throwing fizzy pop all over it. Although the matte finish does feel nice and textured under your fingers. The pages though do meet my very high standards of being satin finish. I'm sure many of the regulars round here will know by now my penchant for satin pages, suffice to say they have almost all of the benefits of glossy and matte pages with none of the downsides. Why would anyone use anything other than satin finished pages? The book is full colour, and I do mean full. The pages are very lavishly designed and they make full use of the colour printing throughout the book, which is done to an exceptionally high standard, despite me thumbing through this book intently I have not once noticed any smudging or colour runs, and the pages still look as good as new, no dog ears.

If some enterprising company were to produce some decent tokens they'd make a killing.

Service 8 out of 10

I ordered the rulebook while it was out of stock at Maelstrom Games, luckily I think I ordered just as a new shipment arrived and I got the book about 4 days after I'd ordered it, and considering it was out of stock that's not bad for our industry! As usual it came in a suitably sized box and wrapped in bubble wrap, as I've come to expect.

Price 7 out of 10

This book cost me  £28.75 for a 143 page rulebook. Admittedly it's a hardback rulebook, but when I look at the fact the Warmachine hardback rulebook, which runs to 256 pages cost me £27 I have to question honestly why the Dust Warfare rulebook costs so bloody much? Warmachine Prime MkII costs me about 10.5p per page, meanwhile Dust Warfare is setting me back roughly 20p er page, almost double. It doesn't get better when comparing it with other companies rulebooks either. So far I haven't come up with a good answer to that conundrum as to why it costs so much. Maybe they're not running this rulebok on the razorblade principle of selling the rules cheap and then back loading development costs onto follow on sales with the mini's, because Dust Tactics remains the core Dust product around which, the business plan is built. It will harm them though with some. Because the more I compare it with rulebooks from other games like Dark Age or Infinity and the more it looks expensive.

Overall 7 out of 10

I want to be able to get sucked up in the hype surrounding this game I really, really do, but I can't. Do I enjoy playing the game? Hell yes, it's a blast once in a while, and visually it's a really appealing product on the table, and it's certainly evocative. However, the key phrase in that previous line was "once in a while", I couldn't play Dust Warfare week after week. I think it's flaws and it's grating foibles for me would just piss me off way too much for me to trest it as my go to game. So for me the question is why on earth would I spend nearly £300 getting a decent sized force for a game that I'm not going to play all that often? The answer is I wouldn't. However, I do own the original Dust Tactics Core set and the Revised Core set, which actually give me a decent amount of miniatures for both the Axis and Allies forces, so why wouldn't I play it when I already have two armies? The answer is I can't think of a good reason. Would I advise gamers to go out and buy into Dust Warfare if they didn't already own Dust Tactics? No, no I wouldn't. It's an acquired taste for me, and I wouldn't go around advising people to front the sorts of cash required on a game that might not be for everyone. Go get the rulebook by all means and see what you think, or have a demo game, just don't jump in with both feet before testing the waters. There are people who right now want to have an alternative to Warhammer 40k, and they hope that Dust Warfare might be it, on this evidence I think it still needs some polish, but if 6th Edition is rubbish maybe it'll not need it. Peace out!

49 comments:

  1. Thank you for the review!

    I was on the fence on this one.. I'll let it pass for the time being.

    Perhaps just buy a walker here and there ;) Because those just look awesome. Too bad the infantry isn't up to the same standard (in my eyes anyway).

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    1. I've held off because I really, really wanted to give it a fair go. It was case of the Eperor's new cloths. Everyone was saying it was fabulous but I just couldn't see it myself. The more I looked the more naked the game appeared.

      The game remains fun though, despite all the flaws. Will I be playing it all the time? No, but now I own roughly 400 to 500 points of Axis and Allies each I will play it for a mindless big battle game. BUT it is not the messiah and I think people need to get a grip.

      Yes the current two forces seem to have a nice balance between them, and yes the SSU don't seem to unhinge that as of yet. But I propose that it is quite easy to balance two forces, and only slightly harder to balance three. The real test for the system is when we get four or five forces.

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    2. Only time will tell I guess. In the meantime there are plenty of other games to play.

      But this whole '40k-killer' gets tossed around quite alot it seems. I've seen it used multiple times with Dropzone Commander as well, albeit in the future tense. I'm guessing the same raving will happen then as people can tend to see what they want to see.

      I don't believe for a second a single game will come along and 'kill' 40k overnight.

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    3. 40K's biggest threat will be Games Workshop themselves. They've got a really tough tightrope to walk, they need to evolve the game and keep it fresh and relevant without pissing people off too much... and they've got to make sure they don't play it too safe and let the game and supporting products stagnate and become irrelevant. 40k if it does ever fall will do so via a combination of GW screwing up and a death of a thousand cuts from other game systems out there. It's just too big for one thing to come along and topple it.

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  2. It's good to read a review that isn't fawning in its praise of Dust Warfare - too many reviews are more about how crap 40K is, rather than who good (or not) Dust is.

    Thanks for the review, up to your usual standards! Keep 'em coming.

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    1. Le sigh

      Yes I found that too. I'm no fan of 40K. I think it has flaws potentially bigger in some respects than Dust Warfare, BUT it is a complete product. Currently Dust Warfares systemic problems are compounded by the fact it isn't a complete product. We have three factions only.

      Plus while I can understand people talking about games by referencing other products, simply saying its not "4 tee Gay" and thinking that's saying enough about the game just wasn't good enough for me. It's just my way, I like to be thorough, I'm just sorry to you all for taking so long about it, but I wanted to be certain it was mediocre before calling it like I see it.

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    2. Yeah, I had high hopes for DW, but it's just not fun to play.

      Does your unit have flamethrowers? Just add some more dice to what you're already going to roll for your rifles. Huh? That's it?

      Their system is efficient, but lacks character and I just can't maintain my interest because of the blandness. Which is a pitty because I really like most of the miniatures, and the pre-assembly of them is awesome.

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    3. I actually don't mind some of the issues you raise there... some however I do.

      I think the game remains fun if played simply as a throw some minis on the board and roll some dice way. But in my household if we want to do that we normally just pick up a fun board game.

      I do however feel like the first edition rules of DW are a massively missed opportunity.

      Shame.

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  3. 40k is still crap so its ok.

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    1. PMSL

      Maybe, in your opinion. :P

      I don't think it's crap, I just think it's not for me. I can see why it would still entertain people and how they'd derive fun from it as a product. For me though I struggle with it's flaws, possibly more than Dust Warfare, because they're not only systemic in terms of the game, but also the company that produces the game.

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  4. i really appreciate the honest opinions, particularly on the game play, everything else i've read has glossed over the gameplay aspects and focused on all the other stuff, when really what i want to know is, is it fun and will i keep playing it. To be honest from the gameplay you described i cant imagine i would keep playing it.

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    1. Then I'm glad to of been help. I think many of the reviews I've read out there are from people who desperately want an alternative to 40K. Dust Warfare could be that come V2. But they'll desperately need to sort these issues out and consider breaking the systemic links with Dust Tactics a bit more. I'll come back and review the game with the SSU and any other factions they add because FFG getting into wargames IS a big deal and it IS exciting and I want to keep an eye on it.

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  5. I had hopes for this, but if its the same mechanics as Dust Warfare, i'll pass. Too bad. Another great set of awesome looking minis, that don't have a great set of rules to back them up.

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    1. To be fair most games out there right now are at least semi competent. Dust Warfare is competent, it's just that without the factions to play in with those glaring flaws will sadly feel heightened and exaggerated. It needs to be given time to grow, and the game should have launched with 3 factions, probably 4. It is worth getting a game of it if you get the chance though, because ther is a good game screaming to get out.

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  6. I've been on the fence for a while now about Dust Warfare and I think I shall be sitting pretty on it for a while longer. Maybe once FF releases a V1.5 or V2 of the rules I might be swayed, but until then I'm not going to buy into the fad.

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    1. that's sort of what I'm thinking. I have the stuff now and if the mood takes me I will play it, as despite its flaws it is fun. And it is quick to play. I'll be keen to see where they take the rules from here. what they decide is sacrosanct and is the core of Dust Warfare and what is up for discussion... I think it's the next phase of development that'll decide whether Dust Warfare has a healthy long term future.

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  7. Thx for the review. I have been glancing at this for a while, so it will help me and my buds make a descition.

    And all games are flawed in some shape or form, so no news there. And the hyping op games as the "new dawn" is annoying to read.

    And i might get flogged for it, but 40k is the wargame i enjoy the most after HoMachine. Flawed yes, but that is mostly due to horrendous codex creep and the notion that they need new editions of the game to reset the creep. Still loads of fun to play once you accept that it is not balanced and start to explore the "non internet wisdom spam lists"

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    1. I'm never going to shoot anybody down for saying they enjoy a game. Just not going to do it. If somebody tries convincing me a game is great that I think is poop, I will explain why I think it's poop. I dislike Dreadfleet for instance... just in case you weren't aware... but I can understand why some people enjoy it.

      As to DW, it's mostly frustrating because there's a good game wanting to get out. There are moments when playing the game you nod and smile because it does some things so well. Then it drags you back down to earth by doing something dumb... hey I've deleted 50% of your army and I've still won initiative, guess it sucks to be you buddy... If they wanted to give the losing player a leg up then that's fine. It just didn't need to be so random or so potent in my eyes. If the player who lost initiative got to go first in the command phase and the command phase was limited in some way I'd accept it.

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  8. Absolutely fantastic review. I've been humming and hawing over picking this up or dropping in for the sedition wars biohazard set (A case of picking up the tactics box set and the rules and having something now, or waiting for Sedition wars), and this review has helped me to make up my mind.
    Sedition wars it is (and just in the nick of time it seems... oh kickstarter.. you are evilly sublime).
    Now to focus on getting some of my other games/armies/etc. painted to completion.
    Thanks for the fantastic review.

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    1. Thanks. Glad you found it useful.

      The Sedition Wars Kickstarter is worth it for the miniatures, the game could be rank (it's not it's just a good solid game) and it'd still be worth the asking price.

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  9. Hehe.. I like your reviews.

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  10. You didn't really delve into the command/unit phase as much as you should have, and I'm wondering if you did it completely correct, because in the 20 or so games we've run the player going first has very little advantage by the time the turn ends. Here is why I say so.

    I have 10 units, you have 9 units. I get 4 hits and you get 2. You go first, you activate your 2 units. You can go do your thing and I cannot react. Maybe you suppress 2 units. My turn. I get 4 activations without any reactions to do my best against you. Now maybe I have suppressed 3 units? Hopefully I've suppressed some that you activated so that you cannot use them in the unit phase. Now in your unit phase, you have probably less units than you thought you were going to activate and I can react to those. During my unit phase you can react, but are also going to have less chance of that because of what I suppressed earlier.

    It's much deeper than you give it credit to being and isn't as unbalanced as you make it. He who goes first goes the majority of the time with less units than the second player. It balances really well.

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    1. No I checked I was playing it right from the get go because I just thought it was utterly weird. If you haven't found it a problem then great, I have, and I've played a lot of games... A LOT!!!

      I'm also thinking that maybe you might be playing suppression wrong. Because the way I read it all suppression means is I get one less action, wheteher it's one, two or three suppression markers, so I get to use one of my action always. Or that's how 7 different people have all separately read the rules. Although if your way of doing it is right that might change things slightly. Although on page 46 it clearly say a unit only ever loses one action. So I still get to shot you... or use the regroup order remove them all and then get to react to what you do in your Unit Phase.

      In your analogy though me with my two orders in the Command phase could suppress two of your units before they get the chance to suppress mine, so I go for the ones that could scupper me the most, your four orders are probably now not quite as useful are they? That's the problem for me, I'd have no problem giving the 'losing' player a genuine boost to keep the game close, but that's not what this does in my experience. Sometimes you're right it does work like that, and when it does it's great, but often it doesn't work like that at all.

      Perhaps I'm just a gamey sod and I've seen the loopholes that you haven't, or maybe the loopholes I've seen aren't there, but either way a closer inspection of the rules and maybe an FAQ could explain it. I just think the regroup order makes suppression almost redundant anyway in the grand scheme of things.

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  11. After reading your lengthy review, it appears to me that you are not giving this set of rules a fair shake because you have mis-interpreted the rules. Units can only have one action in the command phase for example as opposed to the two. I invite you to re-read the rules and try another game and you will see a significant change in actual game play.

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    1. Erm... where did I say units get to do two things in the Command Phase? I don't think I did did I? Perhaps you need to re-read the review, after as many games as I've played of this I know a unit gets to do one thing in the Command Phase... if you rolled hits of course. I've read the rules about 6 or 7 times now and I've tried to make sure I wasn't getting it wrong. Had it confirmed by plenty of people I'm not, so sorry if my opinion of the game upsets you, but I have given it a more than fair hearing. Far fairer than some reviewers have given it after reviewing it after one game, or in some case no games. I know the rules inside out and upside down by now. Perhaps I just happen to think a game you really like isn't that good. It is possible you know.

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  12. Thank you for the thorough review. I bought the book as soon as it came out and have had just about the same reaction you've written. It's an ok set of rules but no more than that. I very much wonder how it would have gone if they had dropped the two phase IGOUGO sytstem for straight up alternating activation.

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    1. Yeah my mate the Cursed wandered about the IGOUGO system. It would possibly make the command phase redundant though in some repects. Not that, that would necessarily be a bad thing though. Mayb the person who rolled less gets to activate the difference between the two rolls before their opponent satrts. So say I roll 3 hits my opponent 1. They get to activate two units to do a single action each without me being able to react, still costing them an order but giving them the opportunity to do something without feeling further pain? There are many ways it could have been worked. I have to be honest I'm 100% behind the principle bit 35% behind the implementation right now.

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  13. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I really like this game in spite of its many flaws.

    I know that you explore your experiences of the game in exacting and objective detail, but if anything, your complaints regarding the game's mechanics appear secondary to your issue with other people really, really liking it. It's just how you're coming across. Sorry.

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    1. In some respects you are right. One of my biggest pet peeves is people in our hobby willing to proclaim something utterly awesome without thought or reason. I've read reviews that say you have to by Dust Warfare it's the best game ever... and not even explain how the game works. It's just a stream of superlatives. So I'd like people to calm down and stop blowing smoke up FFG's ass. Lets have a proper discussion about the merits, or not, of the game.

      I do think that the game has some seriously HUGE flaws though. Not fatal or annoying flaws as it happens, just flaws that mean I don't personally think the rules produce what the designers or FFG wanted from how both have described their aspirations for the game. It's also not where I would have chosen to position the product. The rules sort of work, and at times I have had fun with it when it has all come together. But sadly I just don't think it comes together often enough for me personally. Maybe after more factions are released it'll hold way more attraction for me... I hope so as I have crap ton of Axis and Allies stuff now and I do love the walkers!!!

      Cheers for your thoughts and opinions.

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    2. If anything, I'm jealous of you.

      I created a whole blog, more or less dedicated to pissing off Games Workshop sycophants in the name of comedy and I've never had so much as a complaint. You write an honest, balanced review about a game that you clearly like and manage to rile the fanboys without even trying!

      Fair play to you pal. You speak your mind. Keep up the good work!

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    3. I've often found that if you hold an opinion then it is likely to offend somebody somewhere, and heaven forbid if you articulate that opinion in a rationale and reasoned manner... then you're screwed.

      I don't go out of my way to piss people off, sometimes I'll poke fun at thing because I want to and it'd get a bit poe faced round here if I didn't. Obviously that can rub people up the wrong way too, and is unintentional, but quite frankly I've found that most people will piss somebody somewhere off just by existing.

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    4. Agreed mate. I've been reading your blog for a while and I don't think I remember you ever going out of your way to annoy people.

      I on the other hand will continue to seek that elusive ' cease and desist' order! ;)

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    5. Well thanks for reading.

      And I hope you get your C&D order and anger people soon then... I think!!!

      :P

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    6. Hey thanks FG, you're a good guy!

      ...I think ;)

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  14. Thank you for the review. I love the game, but like anything it will have flaws. You mentioned page flipping for different stats and rules. Yes this is an issue solved by the gaming community. You can download and print all the unit cards and have them right in front of you, https://www.dropbox.com/gallery/13964498/1//Dust%20Warfare%20Unit%20Cards?h=52c0b1&p=2#/

    This will solve that issue. Why it was not offered by FFG is any ones guess, but they did allow us to create them. Yay!

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    1. I said it on TTGN, and I'll say it here... that link is a God send to Dust Warfare players, it really is, so thanks for sharing and I might actually do a brief article on that. Like you I just don't get why FFG didn't present the data like this in the book. Are you responsible for those cards as well? If so, excellent graphics work and top job on getting it done. Cheers.

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    2. Can't take credit for the nice work. Rodney Smith created it...http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/gs_comunity_wizard/gs_user_profile.asp?id_user=66050

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    3. Then Rodney Smith is a gent and a scholar!!!

      Cheers

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  15. I am a newbie. I have couple of boardgames some of them from FFG. My favourite one is Battlelore which FFG bought from DaysOfWonder to slap it's name on one of their own game and let it die. I don't have hard fealings for them I understand they are bussiness and their motivation is to earn money, but some of decisions they make are awkward.

    Dust Tactics is a game that introduced me to miniature gaming. Hefty box full of goodies and a good price too (revised ed was another great product). Easy to start, assembled and ready to play. Easy for beginner painter too, undercoating can be tricky sometimes I learned on my mistakes.

    Quick rules sheet... cards... I was playing the game 15 minutes after I popped the box open. Nice set of rules too, I mean they are a bit too simple for my taste but for the weight of the game which is easy/fast/fun I thought it worked nicely.

    When Anton Torres announced at GenCon they are working on Warfare I was so excited about possibilities to push Tactics to a level of a decent simulation, so they had a year to develop it, and still they delayed it.

    I was hoping that since they have an low lvl entry product Warfare would be aimed at gamers demandind more complex rulesets.
    I think Dust Warfare failed to deliver that, and I am fairly dissapointed.

    For me the rules feels cheap. Like they couldn't decide if it's still a board game or already a wargame. Like If bunch of people threw few good ideas to a pot and overcooked it.

    They based it on Tactics and faild to modify it. They've changed activation method to one which depends on lucky rolls, and based preety all the rules around it. Haven't realy improved the game in terms of actions you can take to get a tactical benefit, there is no difference betwen atacking and supressing, and morale doesn't work, you can actualy route an elite squad easier than rooks. Reactions that is killed by premeasure and 12' radius, it is only slowing the game down because everyone try to avoid it. Fact that it had so many mistakes, and balance issues in printed book is disgusting... BOOK God damn it.

    Using customers to fix their mistakes, and rely on them to make cards without which the game with how the rules in the book are laid out is unplayable is a cheap move that sadly more producers use, so then they can say, "but everybody does that".

    It is unfair for Tactics that it now has a siamese brother on his back.

    I hope they will fix that game, but I can't see myself waiting 4 years untill new rules as you said. I would rather play Tactics than Warfare in the state it is now.

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    1. You know what... I didn't think I'd agree with you. But Dust Tactics is actually probably the better of the two games. There I said it. What came in the original starter box would get a similar score and did I think on this Blog, but with add ons a nd unit upgrades I think that Dust Tactics is a much better game right now... and that's a shame.

      But I don't think Dust Warfare will drag Tactics down. If anything having two systems use the same miniatures range can only help support both games. As there is bound to be an increased marketplace now for the miniatures range. That's good news, even if Dust Warfare has left some of us a bit disappointed.

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    2. I am not saying the range is bad, I am just saying that it is a missed opportunity. Shure I enjoy Tactics but it is not a game for wargamers I am playing with. This one is good if you want to play with your son after sunday lunch, same as battlelore, very light and enjoyable, beautifull to look at.

      I took Battlelore to my gaming club once, where most of guys play 40K, Flames of War etc. and the reaction was...
      -"12mm figures in soft plastic are bad..."
      Realy? For me it's beautufull in how it looks, very cartoony fantasy feel... but they didn't even wanted to look at the rules, I thought that was strange.

      But the more I've played with them, the more I understood. They want to reanimate their miniatures that they cared so much about, painted beautifully, put them in an interesting scenery and watch them perform.

      So when I started playing Warfare, I had this reality check !!! thought. Like if you went to cinema and there was that annoing kid sitting next to you with a bag of crisps.

      Mostly it is so because of bonkers reactions like moving out of range to avoid atacks, and timing issues like charging for example, you can react at the end of my movement so when I am gonna come closer you can shoot at me before I could deal any damage. Ok that seems to be fair but this game is just as bloody as Tactics, Its easy to wipe out entire squad in one go. To give your units bit more longevity they've changed how cover works ,everybody now have to sit in cover if you want to stay alive, and they've gave them armour rolls, but there is a catch, tanks loose this benefit from behind, so a heavy walker suddenly looses all his armour, how many? 8 freeking dice? when atacked from behind... yeah but try to put a dent in it head on. Another thing is... because how cover works, weaker units in some cases with cassualties, can't even hurt units that sit in cover, so its not worth buying cheap units with weaker weapons. How they've fix that? give them unlimited granade launchers that cause cover to dissapear for every other weapons too,brilliant, people will love it? and not to mention some overpowered hero and squad combos.

      Things like that spoil the game for me, there is no connection betwen the game and my imagination, it feels unnatural, glitched, jittering, you name it.

      I know noone can satisfy everybodys wishes, but I would expect something better, more mature from "Leading publisher of board, card, and rpg games". This book is made to look nice on a shelf, how sad it is?

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    3. Oh forgot to mention that the game for me is too abstract to be a wargame. There is no area of effect for example, and movement with it's 3' limit for difficult terrain and no penality when on the move is strange, rules looks gamey and sometimes are against common sense making them hard to remember.

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  16. I'm not very impressed with this review. Granted, I am pretty happy with Dust Warfare and I hated 40k, so YMMV.

    However, I feel like you wasted too much time talking about how the game wasn't a "gift from the gods" that some uber-fanboyz have labeled it. It isn't a perfect game, it has some flaws, but at the same time, I think that if you would have tried to judge the gameplay impartially and come into it without unreasonably high expectations, you would have enjoyed it more for what it IS, now what it has been purported to BE.
    I also don't quite understand some of your comments. The little rant about "detail" was rather mind-numbing. Have you ever played a game where you DON'T have to flip through the rulebook constantly? I haven't. And after a while, you just memorize the special rules that are germane to the army you play.
    If the constant flipping back and forth makes you so "sodding" pissed, try out the FFG sanctioned, fan-made unit cards that you can find here: https://www.dropbox.com/gallery/13964498/1/Dust%20Warfare%20Unit%20Cards?h=52c0b1
    The cards have all the special rules written out on them, minus the fluff, plus all the stats for the weapons. They are the cure to flipping back and forth throughout the book.

    I do agree that they need to get more factions out for Warfare.

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    1. Then whatever you do don't read my review of Dreadfleet. lol. As for 40k the idea that I'm some rabbid GW fanboi because I don't think Dust Warfare is very good will have my regular readers rolling on the floor with laughter. You've clearly not been here before have you. ;)

      Firstly lets get some chronology things sorted. I've played this game since the rulebook was launched. Day 1. I've taken so long to review it because I wanted to be fair to it, and I think I have been. So my feelings about it being mediocre at best stem from before all the hype and bull that's been spoken about the game. Many of this bull has not come from FFG or indeed many of the reasoned players who enjoy the game, but it is there and it's really not helpful.

      My issue with people placing the game on that pedestal was covered in my intro, and like you i think it gives the game expectations quite frankly it's never going to live up to. I'm trying to dampen those down here. Because lets be honest here, the way the game is been spoken about in vague terms is not accurately representing what is a flawed game.

      As for judging gameplay impartially, I think I've done a way better job of that than the gushing and quite often misinformed praise the game has had heaped on it. Honestly the game feels like it has a split personality, part of me reads it and wanders whether Andy Chambers and Mack Martin got on... or communicated.

      Here's a heads up for you though, and its a big one that might come as a surprise to you... ALL reviews are subjective. No matter how objective I or anybody else tries to be about things, and I think I'm way more reasoned than most (my subjective view :P ), at the end of the day it's an opinion. I say as much in the about page and I don't claim my opinion is better than anyone else. I just give it and my reasons for why I believe it. Beyond that it's up to you to judge, which you clearly have.

      I've already seen the cards thanks, somebody linked them above. My question is why the hell did FFG present the information in that format first? As for games where I've not had to flick back and forth trying to work out what a single unit does... try all of them. We're not talking about working out what stealth is because the profile doesn't tell you, we're talking about flipping through the book to see the unit has stealth because it's not on a prfile. Honestly the way the information for weapons and units was presented over many different pages, and didn't even inform you of them or your need to look for them in the Dust Warfare book is one of the worst design features I've ever seen, wargames related or otherwise. It's stupid beyond words and the community shouldn't have had to solve FFG's cock up.

      Glad we agree about factions though, because extra ones are desperately needed soon if the game is going to survive, and for the record I do want it to survive.

      And that's just more of my personal opinion.

      Cheers

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    2. Er, I didn't say you were a GW fanboi. I would know as I've been reading your blog for quite a while now.

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    3. Then obviously I mis-interpeted your comment here:

      "I am pretty happy with Dust Warfare and I hated 40k, so YMMV."

      The YMMV led me to believe you were saying you liked Dust Warfars and disliked 40k and that I was the reverse. I was just clearing that up!!! I've been accused of being a GW and 40k hater, which I'm not. Despite me having choice words to say about both. :P

      Not being aggressive just clearing things up, because often when somebody says they don't like things in this hobby the normal response of those that do is either "you're playing it wrong" or "you're stupid and wrong". I accept people don't always like the things I do and vice versa. I ask why, rather than saying hey you're wrong. After 27 years (nearly 28) of gaming being a HUGE part of my life I feel I have a good, wide and varied grasp of gaming and a pretty strong base off of which, to base my opinions.

      Others disagree vehemently and that's cool too.

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  17. Here is the link for the cards as it looks like the first link isn't working.

    http://www.dropbox.com/gallery/13964498/1/Dust%20Warfare%20Unit%20Cards?h=52c0b1

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  18. I'm sure I haven't played as many games as you, but your complaint on the randomness of initiative seems silly. In many other games a single die roll for initiative is all you have, and is even more random than the Dust mechanic. In some games especially 40K, the right list and initiative wins the game hands down. Then you watch as 4 hours of your life ground away with no joy because of a single die roll. So not really seeing this mechanic is worse. I do agree with you that reactions range should be the same as the weapon weapon range possessed by the unit. I don't thing Dust is the end all be all, but it is fun and currently way better balanced than 40k. Hopefully in time they will refine it and grow it with out it becoming the like the unbalanced mess that other systems have become.

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