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Monday, 21 May 2012

Dust Warfare - Some Additional Thoughts

Monday, May 21, 2012

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Nicked pictures again... looking good though!

So I wrote down my first impressions of Dust Warfare a few weeks ago and since we're playing again tomorrow I thought I'd put down some of my additional thoughts as I've been reading and digesting the rulebook a bit more. I was fairly impressed after our first game as it flowed nicely, had nods to realism (like suppressions and reactions) and most of all was quick to play. However there were a few thoughts rattling around in my skull that didn't sit quite right and before I had the time to develop them properly Jody over at Frontline Gamer did it all for me! In his recent article about Dust Warfare he pretty much summed up those nagging little worries that I felt myself (thanks mate!). Namely that getting the initaitive and going first is a massive advantage and that this might lead to certain a certain kind of list building, ie small elite armies. It's been a couple of weeks now though and I'm hoping that these apparent flaws actually have built in counters in the system. It kind of seems like it after reading the book, but then again this is all conjecture and theory at this point. Tomorrow's games (#TwoBattlesAndASkirmish!) should help confirm or "debunk" these ideas of mine.

Let's look at getting the initiative and going first and the advangateges and disadvantages that brings. By winning the initative you get to first in both the Command Phase and the Unit Phase. This will allow you to get all your shots off first and basically hit your opponent before he has a chance to react (no pun intended). In close range firefights where your opponent is able to react this might not be such a large advantage but when attacking from afar (which is easy to do with pre-measuring) it can be a serious blow to a squad or walker. In addition to casualties inflicted you will be able to suppress your enemies. Winning the initiative will also enable you to take three actions with your units. Basically units that aren't activated in the Command Phase (and getting a Reaction Marker for it) will be able to take their two actions in the unit phase, say a Sustained Attack, and unless they get suppressed from somewhere during their own Unit Phase will be able to react in the opponents Unit Phase, effectively giving them three actions across the entire turn.

This looks like quite an edge, but I've been thinking if perhaps it isn't as big as it looks. There are a couple of things that might help balance it out. First of all you won't be able to remove any of the suppression your opponent might put on your units during his Command Phase. This might be a big factor as your opponent can completely lock down any of your units that acted in the Command Phase by suppressing them. I also think this might be the counter to the tripple actions. Going second also allow your opponent to use the Regroup Order in his Command Phase to remove suppression you applied during your Command Phase. Perhaps not a big thing as you go first in the Unit Phase anyway and can just re-apply it, but it does allow him to react properly.

Going first is certainly an advantage (as it's supposed to be) but perhaps it's not as bad as it looks at first glance. I'm hoping it's simply the flow of the game as you play more some of the meta-gaming that might not be apparent at first will start to shine through.

The SSU choppers. I'm starting to warm up to them...

As for the second matter about low model count, elite armies consisting of heavy infantry and walkers basically. When rolling for Initative the player rolling lowest get it. You roll as many dice as you have units hence the smaller army is more likely to get the initative. It's a way of giving the outnumbered, ie badly mauled, army a bit of an edge to level the playing field. However you could presumably use this to your advantage by creating an army with a few expensive elite units, making it easier for you to get the initiative while still retaining the firepower to smash your opponent. This is certainly what it looks like on paper; sure a horde army might be able to give more order during the Command Phase, but if my elite Schwer Platoon gets to go first in every turn and blow your weak Armor 2 troops away before you can react that won't help you. This would lead to cookie cutter armies that forced you to take as small forces as possible.

First off, going first might not be such a great advantage as we've talked about above, but the real counter to this I think is the Battle Builder. It's a way for the two players to create the parameters of the game before setup (but after having seen eachothers army lists). There are three different categories, Obectives, Deployment and Conditions, with four options in each category. The players take turns placing (or not placing) points in these different categories, changing the game as they do. Naturally you want Obectives/Deployment/Conditions that works to your advantage. If you have a close combat heavy army you'll want to use the Close Engagement Deployment option, preferably combined with the Limited Visibility Condition!

I think this can be a great leveller against cookie cutter army like the one mentioned above. The Battle Builder changes things around and as it's not just about killing everything you see you might be able to make it harder for your opponent by spending your points at the right places. For example, against a small elite army you might try and push for the Assassination Objective as your opponent is unlikely to have more than one command squad, whereas your horde army might have two! Or perhaps Off Target Shelling which would it make it difficult for a small elite army to remove Suppression Markers, while it's easy for you as you have several orders in the Command Phase. Or the Unprepared Deployment option might be the way to go, where both armies arrive piecemeal, only your pieces will be a lot larger than his!

In fact the Battle Builder might be the most innovative thing about Dust Warfare. Reactions and suppression we've seen before (and better handled) but the Battle Builder feels fresh to me at least. I think it will help make sure that most armies will be reasonably balanced. As Motoko Kusanagi put it "It's simple: overspecialize, and you breed in weakness. It's slow death." - except it might very well be a quick fiery death in Dust Warfare! That doesn't mean that you can't try out all kinds different armies, but I think balanced, tactically stable armies will dominate in tournaments etc.

Dust Warfare is certainly not the second coming of Jeezy Creezy, there are many other games out there who are more innovative and well... better. However (and this is a big however), it could definitely be a big shakeup in the 'mainstream' gaming community I think. There simply aren't that many large(ish) scale army wargames on the market today so a new one popping is big news. All the people who've only ever played 40k who might be swayed by the positively awesome looking walkers and hence might discover a much more fluid and simply more modern game. FFG is certainly one of the big players in the gaming market and they rarely do something half-assed. This is their third attempt at a miniature wargame after AT-43 and Mutant Chronicles, and I think they've learnt from their mistakes. Sure, they bungled the release of the new Sino-Soviet units (the Dust Warfare rules for them is still probably a couple of months away) but it seems like they're fully behind the game and we'll see the fourth faction at GenCon. My guess is we'll see the alien Vrill first and then perhaps the Japanese later this year.

Speaking of the Vrill, we're not quite sure what they'll look like or... well, anything, but in 2008 Paolo Parente commissioned Kallamity to make a Vrill robot walker garage model and it looks spectacular! Just look at it!


This was five years ago but I really hope that Parente has kept this vision for the Vrill as I think it's awesome in a creepy, whirring kind of way! There aren't many of these weird almost bio-mechanical robot armies in 28mm so it would certainly be a unique look. We'll likely see Armor 1 and 4 infantry in the Vrill forces as well as there aren't any yet. And it makes sense in a way, small scuttling things and large lumbering things with thick armor. Mmmm... will be interesting to see how they turn out...

Oh well, thanks for reading my ramblings. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Dust Warfare whether you've played it or not. Tomorrow me and Anders are meeting up for at least two more Dust Warfare battles and hopefully a test of the Judge Dredd skirmish game. I read Hendy Badger's first impressions of it over at Tales of a Tabletop Skirmisher and got inspired! The rules are actually pretty cool and I think it could be a great step up from Necromunda. Check it out, it's free!

AAR tomorrow or the day after...

8 kommentarer :

  1. Fantastic little write up and a good article to point people who are curious or new to the game towards. Good work mate

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  2. @Anon - Thanks! Dust Warfare is an interesting game as it has elements from more progressive but smaller, less well known games that it tries to apply to a larger scale army game. Things have been simplified, but overall I think Andy Chambers and Mack Martin have succeeded fairly well. Glad you enjoyed the read. :)

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  3. Martin, sadly I think the Elite army is pretty mean. The other army which is mean is the Horde army with big heavy walkers as support. Pump all those lovely command phase orders through your heavy walkers that can't be suppressed while your opponent can't react is bloody horrid. The range of the things has meant I'm often deleting units in the command phase.

    I really love the idea of the Battle builder, but the reality is you both get to effectively choose one element that suits you. It's unlikely your opponent will help you out and give your army perfect conditions to take them apart, and you can be certain they'll be setting a condition up you're less than happy about.

    Having played it a few times now I can same that Andy and Mack have had a damn fine first stab at the game. It's not bad and it is fun to play. But it'll need a lot of FAQ'ing I reckon over the next few months and I think the second edition of the game will see an additional stat added... comamnd value. Add up the command value of the army on the table to decide initiative.

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  4. Also, realize as you take casualties you will effectively lose command points and end up going first more often. Like a catch up mode in the game.

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  5. @Frontline - There certainly are issues, and I think your analytical mind is keener than mine. Still, I'm hopeful these issues might not be as big as you'd think at first. Will need to play more games. Although, seeing as my regular opponent is as far away from competitive as you can get I don't think I'll see a true beardy army. Haha!

    In any case, I like the game so far. The battle yesterday was a blast!

    @Regino - Welcome to Fire Broadside! That's definitely the whole idea with how initiative works; an artificial way to give the underdog the upper hand as it were. The dice are fickle though and with only one or two dice different I don't see it having a large impact. But yes, I do like the idea of it. :)

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  6. Actually, winning the initiative (and by winning I mean rolling more successes than your opponent makes you go SECOND in both, Command and Unit phase, not 1st)

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  7. @Ariano - Yes, you could say rolling better=winning. But is that actually how they phrase it in the book? If so that sounds very backwards and counter intuitive. I don't have it with me at the moment so can't check for myself.

    Either way I think my meaning of the phrase in the text is plain to understand.

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  8. This is what I think of Dust warfare. The main ruleset is like a fine cut of dry aged ribeye steak. Unfortunately, FFG over cooked it with overpowered unit combos and dunked it in the cheap BBQ sauce of min max able army lists. In the end they only managed to take the worst aspects of PP and GW games and desecrated an awesome ruleset. I wish I stopped reading the rule book at pg 79.

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