Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Prelude To Dust

Demitra and I are about to take the plunge into Dust Warfare. Well, I am any way. My order will go out on Friday and will consist of; 1 box of Corps Officers, 3 boxes of Grim Reapers, the Allies character box, 3 boxes of Red Devils, a sniper/observer team box, and 2 LAW (Light Assault Walker) boxes. The idea is to build a 300 point army quickly so I can game with it while I paint it. I've joined the Ordo NOVA board as well as the local Dust mailing list. I'm lookin' to jump into this game with both feet. That plus free shipping.

Demitra, on the other hand, is more hesitant. He wants to start with less stuff so he can buy in more slowly. I can understand this point of view.

I myself have fallen in love with the game (on paper) and I'm hoping to get in some (at least semi) regular games. I'm not looking for something every week, just something to blow off some steam every now and again. Since the regular night for the game is Tuesday (while I'm here at work) I'll be needing to schedule games with people over the message board or mailing list. While this poses some problems, hopefully they're minor.

The reason for my passion for the game is simple- the game is simple. As somebody coming from a Hordesmachine, 40k, and Infinity background this is refreshing. The core mechanics are solid, and the special abilities units have aren't things that bend and break the rules left and right. The core of the game remains intact, and this is a very good thing. Does the game have markers and states to keep track of? Yes. Are ten billion markers needed to monitor the various states? No. This game does have its share of markers, but not a ton of little personalized ones like in say, Hordesmachine.

There's another bonus- I love the morale system. You can see a squad's combat effectiveness gradually ebb away until they break. This is a very refreshing change from things like the GW system where you never know when a unit will run screaming from the board. Command sections can issue orders that get a broken unit back in the fight, and that again adds a wonderful degree of predictability to the morale system. I do fear this system, however. My units are small, meaning their morale drops rapidly. They're tough as nails however, and my Grim Reapers are highly mobile, which hopefully means I'll be dictating where the fight happens.

Weapon ranges are my next point. They're relatively short (between 40k and Hordesmachine) and you can pre-measure them, which again adds a degree of predictability. The short ranges offer an advantage over games like Infinity where not only can you not pre-measure (I guess all that targeting equipment is just for show) but the ranges on weapons are so long that the game often rewards you for standing still and shooting things as they come to you. On boards without enough terrain (and Infinity calls for a TON of terrain) this turns the game into a shooting gallery where every time a model tries to change its position it gets shot to death by weapons fire. Shorter ranges encourage movement and maneuver, and this makes the game more tactically challenging. Can stuff in Dust hang back and pound away? Yes, but those weapons are very few and far between.

Then we come to reactions. This is the bread and butter of this system. Sure, Infinity has the ARO system, but being able to react to every last thing you see happening on the battlefield is not only unrealistic, it's absurd. In Dust a unit gets to react to a single enemy action that happens within a set distance of them. This tones down the "defense is king" mentality so prevalent in Infinity (again, where there is not enough terrain). There is also the possibility for harassing fire in the game, as long as you stay outside the reaction range. This allows you to pin down key enemy units with longer range fire while other elements advance. Then choices have to be made. React to unit X? React to unit Y? Wait and see what comes of their advance? Choices abound in this game, and that's also very cool.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not hating on Hordesmachine, Infinity, or 40k, just pointing out what are, in my opinion, flaws with their systems. Dust has them too. The miniatures come pre-primed, which in itself is okay. The but attached to that statement is this- what about mold lines? What are you supposed to do if the model needs to be cleaned up? prime over the primer? In the same vein, the miniatures already have their decals on them, and if you want to do any real painting you'll be covering them up. Correct me if I'm wrong, but there doesn't appear to be a way to get your hands on more decals to replace the ones that got painted over.

Then there's the weapon statistics. Models are rated in classes- Infantry 1-4, Vehicle 1-7, and Aircraft 1-3. Every weapon has a profile for each and every one of these fourteen classifications. That's a lot to remember / write down / memorize.

Finally, there's the issue of special rules. They're scattered all over the book. Luckily the miniature that has said special rule usually has a page reference so you know where to turn to to find a given ability, but not so with weapons. They're clustered together in their relevant sections. The Allies' weapons are part way into their section, and the Axis ones are a few pages into theirs. This calls for some aimless flipping through the book. It's probably my biggest annoyance with the system.

Well, there you have it. My initial thoughts and pre-game review of the system. Hopefully my stuff will arrive soon (after I place my order I mean) and I can get to painting. I've got some idead I've been kicking around, and I wonder which will win. We will see.


  1. I think the real nut buster in Dust is going to be the weapon vs target charts. There are 13 different target options I think, maybe 14, and while I appreciate what it brings to the game it's cumbersome at best. That's really my only complaint at this point though.

    To split hairs a bit, it's not that I'm hesitant to buy in as much as I want to see what stuff does before committing to a particular direction. For example, if I was running your above proposed list and found out that phasers didn't work like I wanted them to, I'd be none too happy about shelving half of my army. Granted phasers probably won't disappoint and the units are cheap enough that it isn't a huge deal, but I do despise wasted effort. Also I'd prefer a bit of a ramp up to what appears to be a standard game size instead of zooming there straightaway so we can get a firm grip on basic things before all hell breaks loose.

    All that said, I keep putting things in virtual baskets and checking prices. If not for the looming price tag that is the Nova Open I might have stuff on the way already.

    1. Ah, yes. I misrepresented your position a bit there. You still have a more, uh, controlled buy-in method than I do, which was kind of what I was trying to say. I guess hesitant was the wrong word there, eh?

      As far as game sizes, I'm okay with starting at 150 points I suppose. That's a full platoon, and should give enough wiggle-room so I can try out pretty much everything other than Action Jackson.

      It's sort of a shame about the NOVA Open thing. I'd like to be trying out the game here soon. I understand priorities, however.