18 Apr 2013

Dust Tactics - First Impressions

The forces are deployed and the first turn is well underway (Photo by Lars)

Last night I had my first game of Dust Tactics.

Dust Tactics have been on my radar for a long time; I mean, what's not to like about huge Axis mecha-death-machines wielding dual 88's walking across a war-torn Europe? Zombies, that's what. Zombies and then the simplicity of the game. And did I mention the zombies? I hate zombies.

Being a long time wargamer and having played a whole host of different wargame rules (as my overburdened bookshelves will attest to) I have slowly formed my own opinions on what makes a great wargame, and like any wargamer of renown I have also become set in my ways and will always scoff at the notion of anything new and exciting. I think you can't help but develop a certain level of cynicism after having dedicated yourself to playing, demoing, thinking, writing and breathing various "indie" game systems time in and time out - but that's a rant for another time.

As I was saying; one of my key complaints for Dust Tactics is that it wasn't (and isn't) a proper wargame. Where's the home made terrain? Where's the home-made boards?  Where's the sweeping charges? Where's the unpainted hordes of half-assembled miniatures? In either case, it went under my radar as a game that looked cool (to an extend) but also a game that there was no way in hell I was going to invest in yet another "indie" system only to watch it burn out and never get any play-time around here. Been there (yes, Warzone, Void, Vor and Starship Troopers - I'm looking at you!), done that.

Fast forward a few years. I became heavily interested in boardgames (or just games in general), joined up in a couple of local groups over on Facebook and what did I find? A couple of gamers who had invested quite heavily into the Dust Tactics game system and asked me if I would join up.

The German sneak-attack, moments before the "Ludwig" jumped out of cover and blasted the SSU artillery walker to kingdom come!

Now, as you can see from my pictures I joined up and got a couple of games in. Two quick "Learn the basics"-scenarios and then a big three-way battle. I played the Axis and went for a Walker heavy set-up (I just like big, stomping, death mechs!). It was a bit of a nailbiter, with highs and lows for the Axis and SSU (and mostly lows for poor, poor Lars who had the most horrendous dice rolling karma!) but in the end, the SSU prevailed; despite their early setback.

The rules themselves are simplistic; line of sight can be a bit weird at times (it took me four turns before I finally got my head around how you determined line of sight in and out of buildings!) and the Initiative roll-off system is awful (a whole lot of re-rolls, especially when playing three persons; we quickly house ruled a solution to save ourselves a lot of time); and finally, the scale of things seems a bit off for any wargaming purist - as I mentioned to Lars; I think I would have been all over this game, had the miniatures been in 1/100 or similar scales and been on a company level rather than this weird half-way-platoon-half-way-company level.

But I had fun. I had great fun.

The game is simplistic for a wargamer, yes. And I would get bored, in the end, if I only ever played Dust Tactics. But it works for what it is; a simple introduction to wargaming that stays fun on its own and isn't some feeble Games Workshop introduction to the hobby. And, most importantly, I met some cool guys from the local area who are interested in wargaming and I got to play wargames as well - so it's a win-win all around!

Now all I need to do is to lure both Lars and Peter into playing Warfare as well... 


  1. As long as my Allied forces get out in the light I don't care if it's Tactics or Warfare :-)

    Thanks for a fun evening, I'm happy that you basically like the game and look forward to play with you again (and again...)

    As you mention in your posting it's a game made for board gamers who like cool minis. If you then like to try wargamming you just use the same minis but with a different ruleset (which has to be bought seperately). I've been playing board games on/off since I was maybe 13-14 years old (yes, board games actually were invented at that time) and to me this is one of the best experiences: Cool minis, a pretty simple ruleset which leaves space to just dive in and have fun. Even with the relatively simple rules it's still a game with a lot of thinking (especially on larger maps) and planning ahead depending on the line-up. It's also a game that will never play out the same twice. So I basically love the game for what it is.

    .. but I really look forward to try Warfare too as wargaming is a brand new thing for me.

    Last but not least: Keep up the postings on the blog, I like your postings (and not only because you like Dust Tactics) :-)

  2. I'm not very fond of Dust. I tried it at Horisont and it seemed a bit tedious to me.