A miniatures game being developed and marketed like a board game .
I don’t work for a game store , nor do I work for a game company of any kind , I am not a member at this time of any demo programs , I am just a very excited gamer that really liked what I saw and read on the internet about this , and took it upon my self to go out there and do the work !
Since getting my hands on a copy of DUST TACTICS about a week and a half ago , I did 2 demo sessions at the local con that week end , then 7 straight days of demos at my FLGS over 35+ hours this week . I played/officiated 47 games during that time to 32 people directly , as well as those that stood around and watched each demo .
It should be noted that several of the nights I went to the game store to demo were CCG nights , and they are a very different crowd to average gamers . That noted , though it was a tough crowd , I STILL had some of the CCG players come and play a demo , then come back between rounds to start another game , pause it when they had their next match , and come back to finish when their match ended .
I have seen some people voicing their disappointment with Dust Tactics , and I have noticed that most of them only played one scenario a few times , or if they did play more than one scenario , still gave up after only 2-3 games . After having watched/played so many games , I can tell you that I have seen the issues they complained about play out on the table , but only as a very very small portion of the total games played , and for each time I saw their issue arise on the battle field , I saw it proved wrong 2-3 times . Their complaints in general were simply the results of that one game , not indicative of the game as a whole . I would argue that they gave up too soon on the game without taking the time to really give it a try . It took a couple games before the newness wore off and I really felt comfortable and understood the game and all of its nuances and tactical decisions . And it must be noted that each person who played brought their own tactics and play style to the table , so it really does change based on who you play and how you play .
Now in my waaaaaaaaaay too many years of gaming ........some where around 20 I think ......... I have played many games covering pretty much all the genres except LARP because I may be a geek , but I’m not THAT kind of geek !!! But among some of my most over board games were battle tech , WH40K , AT-43 , shock force , adeptus titanicus , war zone , cronopia , all the heartbreaker mutant chronicles board games , heroscape , hero quest , and the list just keeps going of games I bought and pimped out spending untold fortunes and hours of customizing minis and terrain and , and , and ..........
So lets break this game down .............
What it is : the first 20 ............. and last 20minutes of Saving Private Ryan but without the smells of urine , vomit , and that weird cream style corn smell that comes from a freshly opened body cavity .
Win lose of draw , the body count is stupendous !
This game is fast . You can set up the game in just 2-3 minutes for most of the scenarios . You can play a game in as little as 10 minutes or as long as 45 depending on your opponents and your play styles ……………… and your dice luck J
Economical , you get everything you need for 2 people to play full games (not JUST the scenarios , but FULL games ) and have all the options currently available for $100 . The 2 armies are balanced ; DIFFERENT , but still balanced . That cant be said for a lot of games . If you look at most of the starters out there , yeah they may have more figs , or be fully painted , but when you look at the contents of those starters , they are usually horribly unbalanced so that the ONLY way they can be played straight out of the box is to play with the enclosed scenarios , which handicap one side or the other to make it work . So in order to be able to play , you have to spend tons more money . The first person I showed the game to was a teen that was at my FLGS while I was unwrapping it . After 2 games , he regretted wasting $100 on his WH40K Tau army that he still needs more pieces to be able to compete with , and DUST is now at the top of his XMAS list .
Tactical ......... I see a lot of people posting that the game is to simple , I could argue that of most games out there , perfect example : I watched a game of WH40K a few months back . The space wolves had just come out I watched a player unload 20 of them from a land raider , and proceed to close combat a squad of 5 of his opponents troops ........ 20 space wolves getting dumped out of the tank and into close combat with 5 guys rolled 80 dice , and in reality that’s what 40k has come down to is just moving your squad close enough to another players troops to compare the # of dice rolled and remove casualties . Dust is much more refined . You and your opponent take turns activating units , you have to decide which unit you will activate , what it will do , and how its activation will leave it : exposed and at risk , or safe . Based on the position of units , you have to guess how your opponent will act , where will his units move , and how can you exploit it ? I saw some where that some one complained that they played 2 games , and each time the tanks died on the first turn , they moved them on the table and the tanks got shot right away ..........so use the terrain to your advantage . Move your tanks behind blocking terrain . And keep in mind that tank don’t always carry the day , as each side has 2 squads capable of hurting the tanks , and which I have seen carry the day as they KILLED tanks . If you think about it , chess only has 6 different pieces on each side , so you only have to learn 10 different moves to learn the game , it’s the complexity of mastering the use of those 9 moves that makes the difference between novice and grand masters , the same can be said of dust , except that as dust progresses , more units will be released , and all the options we have now will grow exponentially .
Straight forward and cheese free , what the card says the figure has is what it has , you cant modify them with vortex grenades and orbital bombardment and and and and ........ Like you can in some games where creating broken armies and all the cheese are used NOT to make the game it self better , but rather to force players to buy more figs . In Dust , the heroes are nice , but not necessary to win , and by no means over powered . There are no army books to buy , so as new figures and unit packs are released , you buy what you want to play , not just what an army book tells you you have to so you can have a "legal" army . Inside of 10 minutes , you pretty much know the game itself without having to flip between rules and charts and 3 or 4 different books , inevitably resulting in asking some one else who knows .
A rich full game universe , my understanding is that Parente has put 10 years into the creation of this universe through the comics and models and games . Right now its just the beginning of the dust tactics game line , but he has already said he wants to explore the supernatural aspects later on , and has created the foundations for a games that could expand for years to come without the need for a second edition , just based on filling in the factions and releasing new units .
Now that said , there are a few minor irks here for me .
My self and several other have felt the 3X3 boards were to small of a playing field , it would allow more tactical options if your field was bigger , even if just set up in say a 3X5 set up . Now for me its not a big deal as I have posted elsewhere , seeing this product several months ago online , I and some of my players prepared , we took full size twin bed sheets from walmart and grided them off to match the squares in dust , as a result , our battles can cover an area of almost 6X8feet . For other people though , its easily fixable , spend $1 on 2 sheets of poster board and $2 on a light blue fine point sharpie and grid it off , the light blue sharpie is perfect for arctic colors . If you want other colors than just the white poster board , you can go to a craft store like hobby lobby or Michaels and buy sheets of paper in various colors of the same size as the poster board .
I know some of you have been chomping at the bit for the table top battle rules , but we felt here that the grid was the best possible idea , it keeps things straight forward , you know exactly where a squad is and how far it can effect through move and shooting , and it keeps things clean , I’m sure we have all seen or known at least one player that had shady movement , where 6 inches turns into 6&½ and such , and it compounds as the game goes on giving an unfair advantage and is essentially cheating . The grid keeps it all simple and clean . I mentioned that they were working on the rules for table top gaming , and without exception , every one felt it would be better to just keep the grid , and make 3D terrain to fit it . They all just liked the simplicity and fairness the grid brought in the game , and felt it contributed to the fast furious play of the game to just scoop up a squad and dump it in a square rather than having to measure and move them all .
We also didn’t like the 2 d terrain . While perfect for its purpose in the starter , we all felt the game needs 3d terrain . Our solution is to build terrain to fit the grid . Which some of us are doing . And some of it will require some house rules and such , but we plan to K.I.S.S. I also noted that the cardboard is thick , but it still warped some so ............
And while its not an irk for any of us here , I know it is for some : the light duty plastic . I have seen a lot of people on the boards complain about how flimsy they feel the tanks are . While not as sturdy as say a GMW dreadnought , with all the years of minis experience I have , I am not worried in the least about these . I feel perfectly fine transporting them in a tool box , without foam . Being that I’m not a chimpanzee , I can carry a tool box without throwing it at people I see walking around or jumping around throwing it in the air . From my experience , a tinny bit of care is all it takes . While they may be delicate , in general they aren’t THAT delicate . The only issue I have had at all is with the machine guns and flood lights , but as I have so much experience with minis over the years , I know how to fix them so they wont snap off . During this week and a half of demos , I transported it all in the box , without the plastic insert . I just put every thing in the main box , and set it on my truck seat where it set from leaving the game store in the evening , till arriving at the game store each day . The models are all fine , nothing has broken or bent so they may be delicate , but as I have said before , they are not THAT delicate .
Now all that that said , let me follow up with my observations on some of the units .......
First , infantry in general , I have seen to many instances of infantry refusing to die against heavy vehicle fire , and I have seen infantry kill vehicles to many time , so despite what some people have said , losing a walker doesn’t mean you lose the battle , it just means you lost a walker . Anyone who tells you differently either lost and didn’t look at all the factors , or lost a walker and just gave up .
First , let me start out with the BBQ squad , seen by some as too weak because of their low range , I found these guys to be my favorites . Even got a lucky roll on a tank one round and killed it outright ! The thing to remember is that they are just one squad , out of 3 in the starter . And as such , they are not always the best for every situation , so as the commander , you have to make the choice : in or out , is this the best squad for the goal of this mission ?
The Laser Grenadiers : I have seen a lot of people complain that the laser grenadiers are just way to powerful , with their laser abilities to re-roll hits to try and get more ......... I have seen the games , its not all that . As per the rules , the laser grenadiers end up rolling 1 die each against any of the other troopers in the base set ( they are all armor 2 ) , so that squad of 5 guys will roll 5 dice , each with a 2 in 6 chance of hitting . Believe me I have seen them miss all 5 die all to often . I like them , but they are by no means the all powerful game breaking unit some have painted them as . I have faced them , and I have played them , they are just another squad , and in reality the advantage they have over the recon grenadiers is that their heavy weapon will (if you are luck at rolling ) do at least some damage to a armor 4 vehicle , but in an anti-infantry roll the recon grenadiers are slightly better .
The walker Ludwig : I have seen a lot of people claiming this walker is just way over powered , and I can only presume they are playing the walker wrong . While the model has twin 88’s , the stats on the card are for the combined attack of the 2 together (confirmed via email from dust ) , so it only gets to make the one shot per turn , not 2 . In that light , it is actually slightly less effective when compared to the allies "Pounder" because for the same points and role in their respective armies , the Ludwig gets 1 more die against armor 4 walkers , and one less machine gun attack . That may not seem like a big deal , but the pounder essentially gets 1 less die against armor 4 vehicles and can make 2 machine gun attacks for a combined total of 6 dice against infantry . When you look at the stats , and believe me I have seen it in all the games , the Ludwig is really just equal to the pounder , neither is really better than the other .
“Hotdog " : I just love hotdog , but its got really short range . That means I have to really look at my mission objective and decide if its right for the mission , and if I can really put it to use . On a map the size that comes in the game ; if you think through your actions , its not that hard to get it to the other side of the board where it can do some serious damage . While it may only roll 1 die , that one die is capable of killing an armor 4 walker outright . When you look at the other walkers , and that they have to roll multiple dice , each only capable of doing one damage each , its really about the same odds of doing damage/kills either way you go .
Luther : I have seen complaints about it having self repair and charge , I have also seen it miss those rolls all to often . While it lacks the punch of the Ludwig , I kinda like it better simply because of the weapons load , it is more effective to me because its capable of damaging other walkers , but its also really good at tearing apart infantry , which I have seen kill vehicles in a spectacular fashion too many times .
I have seen some people complain about the points costs , that they aren’t diverse enough based on perceived abilities of each unit or walker , for example the Luther vs. the Ludwig , they are both 4 points , and some people don’t think that’s fair , but after watching and playing so many games over so many days , I can tell you , despite what you think when you look at the stats and read the rules , after playing so many games , they really ARE very equal . Even the hotdog vs. the Ludwig playing them all out so many times , they are all still very equal , different yes , but still equal .
You cant judge this game based on any one game or even a few games , you have to judge it based on the total experience of several games , and to get the most experience out of it ; against at least a few different players .
Some strategies or ideas you might want to consider .
Be aggressive , but not foolish : don’t get all upity and just put units out to put them out , use blocking obstacles and cover , don’t just throw a tank or squad into an open fire zone unless you are fairly certain it wont get shot up right off the bat , OR unless you can attack an important enough target on its first deployment to make it worthwhile .
Pay attention : you must keep track of what units your opponent has and has not activated yet , and you need to know what those units can do . You want to be able to expect and counter any possible moves your opponents makes to put your units either in a safe position or in a place to threaten and scare off your opponents units . You need to think about the current turn , and consider what you are doing . You need to double plan for the next turn , so that regardless of which side goes first , you at least have a plan of what to do .
Use the gambit , take some risks : the dice are fickle , as such , I look at what my opponent can do this turn and the next ; I am willing to move one of my units this turn into a position to leave it open to an attack on the following turn knowing that my opponent will move to attack it , likely wont score enough hits to kill it , and will leave his units open to a sustained attack from my unit . This is especially good for killing tanks . Some times the gambit doesn’t work , but more often than not the unit will survive and take some serious vengeance on your opponent .
Take NOTHING for granted : Get some games in and get some experience , and don’t underestimate the kill potential of infantry . I have seen them kill tanks at least a little more often than I have seen tanks kill tanks , you need to sit down and put a little thought into how to use them , and realize your opponent probably wont think of them as a big enough threat to panic as they go tank hunting . And if you lose your tanks , realize that you haven’t lost the game , you still have some infantry that might do you proud .
Experience counts : if you play the same person over and over , you play mostly the same game strategies over and over . Get as much experience as you can playing different people , so you learn and grow . You might see someone or try something new that you can use for your own games .