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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Some thoughts on Dust Warfare

Let's do this.

I was reading through my Dust Warfare rulebook today and I just wanted to share some thoughts on the book.  I will talk about the gameplay design, the units, initial thoughts on unit design/balance, some theorycrafting and some random shit that'll probably pop up in my head as I write this review.  Keep in mind this is not a gameplay review.  I have not played the game yet but I'm hoping that I'll be able to this coming Tuesday because my friend's got an assload of minis.  This review will primarily capture what I think of the rules.  Alright, let's begin.

I read the background fluff on this once and I was decently impressed.  Historically, it's got all the right pieces in place with some major alterations done to fit the theme of this alternate reality WWII world.  I'm not a huge fluff fan, but I'm a huge historical buff.  In terms of connecting major historical events with the storyline, kudos to FFG for not screwing it up too badly.

Now that my review of the fluff is done, let's talk about the gameplay.  From what I gather, the game looks pretty easy to play.  By easy, I'm strictly talking about playability.  It's not a shitstorm to read through like Infinity and a lot of the combat system is streamlined.  For example, everyone gets dice that says you hit (or rather, Combat, or "do shit") or you don't.  If you don't use their Dust Warfare dice, you will just use 5+ on a standard D6.  Pretty easy right?  Yes it is.  When you get into some other features, you'll notice that some weapons or special abilities will let you count the misses as hits instead (for damage purposes, or something else), so if you needed 5+ to hit, now you need 1-4.  That makes for a very easy system to wrap your head around, but I'm not too impressed with the statistical flexibility of the game system itself.  Since I'm a old-time GW fan, 2+, 3+ and the like up to and including bullshit Pendant of Kaleth Inverse Ward saves are all too familiar.  From a dice standpoint, that's just one thing I noticed.

Sorry, I ranted a bit on the 5+ to hit system (I'll go back to this later), but back to game playability.  When I said easy, I actually mean what I say.  I rarely had to read rules over and I understood most of the rules perfectly.  There's Initiative where the player with the fewest models normally has the chance to go first in a turn.  This is done by rolling Hits (5+, just going to say Hits for now) for the # of units he has left on the table.  The fewest goes first.  Second, there's a Command Phase, and most importantly, the # of Orders he can issue during this phase.  Keep in mind that this game is an "interactive" minis game; meaning, you go, I go kind of thing.  One player starts it off and then players trade Command Phases, followed by Unit phases, in combination to opposing players being able to react during the active player's turn.  This makes for a very enjoyable and interactive playing environment.  No more of the you go, watch me get my shit blown to pieces and I go with nothing left on the table kind of deal that you see in 40K sometimes.

Anyways, the Initiative phase is when the player with the lowest # of orders rolls Hits.  Lowest # of hits means he goes first, but the Hits also represent the amount of Orders he has to issue in his Command Phase.  Command Phase happens with the player that has Initiative and he pays these "Orders" to make his units do stuff that the opponent can't react to.  I may move, I may shoot, but which ever of these I choose, I must spend a Order.  In addition to this, if I do something in this Command Phase, it takes up one of my actions in my Unit phase.  Every normal unit gets 2 actions during his Unit phase.  These actions can be.. move and then shoot, shoot and then move, or spend 2 actions to Sustained Attack (re-roll hits) or march (double move).  Simple right?

The big thing here is that when you do something in the Command Phase, your opponents can't react.  Player reaction is very important because once something you control gets within 12" of an enemy unit, they can pay an action to do something (considering this is the normal unit phase).  You can choose to fire at an enemy coming close to you and pay an action point on your unit on his turn, or you can choose not to fire at the enemy and on your turn, you can Sustained Attack him for more damage.  This also means you can choose to move away and gain some ground, or you can stand close to draw him into more fire.  What is this?  Both players have to think on the same game turn?  This makes for some great mindgames, tricks, bluffs, and a general asston of gameplay-related tactics.  Another thing to note about the Command Phase is that whoever is barking these Orders have to be in-range of a unit to give them.  This actually makes unit formation important as certain strategies can only be executed within the right range.  Another reason to bait various units out of formation ho ho ho.

I guess the next big thing to talk about is Suppression.  So let's say one of your units gets shot.  Which by the way, is an incredibly easy system in this game.  Everyone hits on 5s right?  So let's say you have a gun that has 1/1 vs. Soldier types 1 and 2 but not 3 or 4.  That means he shoots once, (and if he hits) for one damage, and it only works on Soldiers with an armor grade of 1 and 2.  He can't hurt 3 and 4.  Pretty easy to understand.  So if that number reads 2/1 on Soldier 3, it means he can shoot twice at Soldier 3 for damage purposes.  Yeah, that's basically how combat is done in a nutshell.  Back to Suppression:  If any unit gets hit (doesn't even matter if he's doing damage), he gets a Suppression counter on his unit.  He can get more Suppression markers if say, 3 units shot (and hit) his unit, but for the purposes of actual suppression, nothing really changes.  A unit with one or more suppression markers cannot make reactions and get 1 less action during the Unit phase.  That means if I Command Phased shooting at one of your units, and you can't react to it, I can pin one unit down completely if I shot it with 2 units.  Likewise, if you only have 1 Suppression marker on the unit and you chose to do something with that unit on your Command Phase, you have no more moves with that unit during your Unit phase.  What really matters is that a unit with more Suppression markers than it has remaining dudes in the unit has to fall back.  Suppression makers can be removed though so its not the end of the world.  When a unit is activated, the controlling player can roll a combat die for each Suppression marker on the unit.  For each hit (5+), a marker is removed.  Also, at the end of the turn, each unit that has a marker on it removes one.  To really get a unit's shit back together, you can Order them to "get it together", also known as a Regroup Order.

Sorry, I know I'm jumping around with this, but they're all connected.  Back to combat really quick:  Say a Soldier 2 gets hit by that rifle that did 1 point of damage to it.  Being Soldier 2, that means you have 2 chances to save for your squad.  Roll 2 dice, if any are 5+, the damage is resolved.  If it goes through, one of your dudes take a damage.  There are units in the game that can take multiple hits (beefier units and Heroes for example), but the vast majority only has 1 wound.  The combat system works the same for vehicles and their bigger guns, as do the range of their weapons measured in inches.  The only difference for vehicles is that there's a vehicle damage chart that you roll on depending on how much damage your vehicle has already taken.  Much better from the 5th Ed. 40K rules where a LR can get stunned 40 times (note that I said 5th Ed :o).  There's also cover in the game denoted by Soft and Hard Cover where Soft Cover automatically saves one of your wounds.  Take 2 wounds cause from failed armor saves but is in Hard Cover?  No problem, no damage.

There's a bunch of other shit in here that has to do with special rules on units, weapons and Heroes, but I'm not going to spoil too much.  The books cheap as chips for a BRB, so IF alternate reality WWII is for you, I'd suggest picking it up.  However, I must say I do have some suggestions/complaints.  First, checking out the units and trying to decide why you want to take them must be the biggest pain in the ass I have ever seen in a minis book.  For example, I want to take a Heavy Laser Grenadier squad and I'm looking at the unit entry..  I see a special rule that takes me back 50 pages so I can read WTF it does.  Not only this, but did you know the weapons they're carrying also have a special rule associated with them but is NOT listed under the unit's Special Abilities?  Now I have to go back to see what Laser does (in some other section of the book, "USRs" are all spread out).  There's tons of examples of this throughout the book, but it makes army construction a pain because I have to skip around all the time.

Second, some of the things here doesn't make sense necessarily.  This is kinda hard for me to explain, but the best example would be:  When you roll the Combat dice for results, you don't actually "hit" your target despite the giant crosshair, it just means Combat.  Otherwise, it doesn't makes sense that your MG fires more times at a lesser armored target than a heavily armored one, or why your 17 Pounder gun would shoot 7 times at a Armored 1 vehicle.  Think of the Combat dice strictly as a possibility generator and use your imagination to derive everything else.  I mean, it's confusing because even the combat system: hitting first, then armor saves modified by cover saves, denotes the concept of "hit" when it actually doesn't.  I don't know, it's just something my GW-spoiled brain hasn't wrapped around fully yet.  Whatever, 5+ equals Good.

Third, the concept of Fearless troops vs. merely "confident" troops.  You know, something like Flames of War.  I want the concept of morale and motivation to actually mean a little more in this game.  Imagine a Space Marine wearing a suit of Terminator Armor being "suppressed" the same way as a Guardsman in Flak armor.  Is that outrageous or what?  Well you know what?  It's this game.  Units only need to be "hit" to be forced the Suppression marker regardless of what they got going on.  To make matters worse, because more elite units are smaller in unit size, they actually have a greater chance of running away from being overly suppressed.  Talk about nonsense!  Take this into consideration fluff where the Axis troops are supposed to be borderline fanatical and have the best veteran troops in the world (seeing nearly a decade of war) and I find this prospect highly ludicrous.  I might need to houserule some shizzle in for this, because this is just something that needs fixing, or is overlooked due to time, or Andy Chambers never heard of Flames of War, in which case I question this entire book.

Last, and this is strictly from a theory standpoint, but what if you purposely take smaller units to gain Initiative advantage while playing within 16" of the enemy units?  You get to go first, maybe inflict serious damage and if you keep your distance outside of 12", your opponents will never get to react.  You could potentially devastate your opponent's army before he can do anything and all of a sudden, you'll be playing a GW game.  I don't know, but it seems like something good players can accomplish with pre-measuring and a good army list.

Overall, just from reading the book and not having played a game, I'm really excited to test this game out.  I love the setting and environment, the idea of interactive turns, and facets of deep-decision making on a simple to use game system.  Sure, there's some kinks, but I think the game is well worth a try.  I've heard a thing or two about the miniatures being kinda rubbery and prone to bent gun barrels, but honestly, in a time where a Land Raider costs 80 bucks because GW has nothing better to do, I don't give a rats rear.  When you can buy the biggest thing in this game for less than half that cost, I think it's time to experiment.  The most your going to lose is a few bucks and a couple of hours of your time because this game plays fast, keeps you engaged and you know you're not going to be bored.  Here's to hoping the SSU will be out soon (3rd faction) and continued product support will be on its way.

TLDR: MUST TRY, even if it's just for the game mechanics.

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