Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dust Warfare: Initial Impressions

Last night I got together with a friend to play Fantasy Flight Game's Dust Warfare.  I had been waiting for this game to come out, since I really like the models. About a year ago I picked up the Dust Tactics board game based strictly on the models.  The board game was fun. But I didn't play it that often. I was hoping the new miniatures rules would give these figures a new life.

I don't actually have the rulebook. So my friend laid out the game rules for me and I tried to keep it straight in my head.  I'm really better off learning things by playing through a few rounds.  The game had some interesting ideas and rules that I've seen in other games.  Tops for me is initiative rolls for each turn that are based upon how well you are doing in the game.  I also like the command phase, which I'll try to explain below.

We only played one game, and didn't get to every rule. For example, we never did any sort of assault, which is usually a big part of the these types of games.  I'll try to explain what I remember and what I did during the game. That should give you an idea of the flow, but shouldn't be taken as the "final word" on the rules.

First you pick your force, just like any other game.  There's a loose force organization you conform to, and being a certain type of force brings special abilities. Choosing your platoons is quick and easy.  I only had models from the big starter box.  So that part went fast.  Then you generate a scenario.  This was very interesting and unique. You make some rolls and get points to spend on mission generation objectives. You can end up with a lot of different combinations.  Our game scenario was that we both picked two secret locations that we had to control at the end of the game.

Once you have forces and scenarios, you set up according to the way your scenario dictates. We were in opposing corners for our game.  Then you are ready to start.  You roll initiative, using one die for each unit you have on the table.  Every "hit" is totaled and the one with the highest total goes second... which is advantageous in this game.  (I forgot to mention you use their special dice with hits or blanks.... but same thing can be done with regular dice by just counting 1 & 6 as hits)  The total of your hits also determines how many orders you can give in the Command phase. Which brings me to.....

...the Command phase, which comes next. In this phase your leader issues orders to any unit within 12". He has as many orders as he has "hits" from the initiative phase. During the normal turn, your units can take two actions which could be: double move, move & shoot, shoot & move, or double shoot. During the Command phase, you can take one of these actions if you want. So you could shoot once or move once.  The key difference is your opponent cannot react to anything you do during the command phase.  During the normal turn, if your unit comes within 12" of an enemy, the enemy can react by interrupting your action. But there's one last thing to know about the command phase.  If you get an order during this phase, you cannot react during the normal turn.  That's a very important consideration.

Once the command phase is over, where both sides issue orders if they want, it goes to the standard turn and initiative order. This is basically maneuvering into cover, shooting at stuff, trying to get your objectives.  The shooting mechanic is pretty easy.  You consult your roster and see what your weapons do to the type of enemy you're shooting.  If you hit anything, the enemy will get saves which are modified by hard or soft cover. Nothing really different for an experienced war gamer.  I will say that for the most part the fighting was straight forward, uncomplicated, and fun.

When your unit gets hit, it takes a suppression marker. If it takes wounds, you pull models that are eligible targets (no shooting around corners in this game). Suppression markers can be removed by passing tests and one can be removed at the start of a new turn. But while you have a suppression marker your unit can only take a single action. Ouch!  If you get more suppression markers than you have models left in the unit, the until breaks and starts to move back toward your board edge.  If they reach your board edge before removing all their markers, they are gone.  It's an interesting morale mechanic that still gives a weakened unit a chance to come back to the game.  It didn't come up with my game, though.

So that is about it for the basic rules.  I'll walk you through the highlights of the game we played last night.  I played Americans versus Germans.  Everything was from the Dust Tactics big box, not the new starter box currently on sale.  We each had three units (called platoons) and two walkers, plus a hero.  There were different special abilities for each side. But the forces were about equivalent, and represent about 100pts.

Sorry for the crappy phone pictures.  I normally take crappy pictures with a different camera.  Here is the set up at the start of the game.  My secret objective is the big center building plus another building off camera to the right.  I have to control them at the end of the game for added points.
After a turn it's obvious the Germans also want that center building.  You can see them cutting across to another building in their corner.  I advance my Ranger and Recon platoons up with my Hot Dog flamethrower walker for support. My big gun, Pounder, stays put to get a good firing position while my BBQ Squad (close combat assault with flamethrower) cuts out of this picture to grab my other objective.

Over the next turns my platoons in the middle exchange fire with Germans coming from the other side. Once the Germans get within 12" my grenade launchers wreak havoc with them. My Rangers get shot up pretty bad but manage to hang on.  Hot Dog takes some hits; you can see wound markers in the second picture. But he cuts over to the German second objective and burns them out of their building.  In fact, Flamethrowers are more powerful against vehicles.  But Hot Dog still did his job!

The battle continued with the big gun walkers dueling across the battlefield.  In walker combat, whenever you take a hit you roll on a damage table in addition to taking wounds.  We didn't remember that until later.  By that time, Pounder lost his duel with the German big gun walker and was destroyed.

Here you see some of my forces hustling across the view of one of the German walkers.  Luckily the walker couldn't react to us, being out of 12" range! 
By the end of the fight I had lost my big gun walker and one of my platoons had been reduced to one man.  On the German end, there were only the two walkers and the lone hero.  We called the game there with a victory for the Americans!
I love these models and the whole "Weird World War Two" theme!  The rule book was a nice hardback with full color slick pages.  I will definitely be investing in the rulebook, and plan to pick up at least two command platoons for each force.  Looks like I'll have to start painting these models soon!


Mike G. said...

The only thing to add, Jerry, is that there is no "assault phase." Essentially, if you are within 3" of another unit, you can use your close combat weapons. Nice and simple. The same rules as any other attack.

Scott said...

I like the look of the walkers... I may use them as a basis for some my proposed GASLIGHT stuff...

Jerry said...

@Mike: Maybe that's why I didn't remember doing any assault phase! I seem to remember that from the board game, though DW is really quite a different game.

@Scott: The walkers are what sold me on this stuff. I think they'll fit into your Gaslight games nicely.

Itinerant said...

I keep coming back to this game - must resist - biggest reason - I'm too cheap to want to pay for terrain. The models are quite cool though...

btw, is there a way to follow your blog? I want to subscribe, but can't find it.

Jerry said...


Dust Warfare is a cool game. I've only got one friend who plays, but it's worth the buy just for the models.

I added a subscription link at the top of my blog. I always thought one was there! Maybe that's why I have so few followers!