Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Dust Tactics: Operation Icarus is changing things up!

FFG have released the PDF rules for Operation Icarus on their website and this is a big one! 

Potentially, there will be seismic shift in the balance of power between the three major Dust armies. The release of Zverograd unleashed the SSU and their dreaded helicopters into the universe and they have ruled the skies and the battlefields for the last 6 months. 

Axis and Allied anti-air assets have been found to be desperately inadequate and the 'Advanced Deployment' rule have caused lots of balancing issues, we played a game where my SSU helo deployed last, swooping in on Turn 1, won initiative for Turn 2 and took out my opponent's Rattler, Mickey and a squad of Reapers. 

The Allies also haven't had much in the way of love or major rule upgrades since Operation Cerberus a year ago, while the Axis and the SSU had their forces both expanded and fleshed out in the 2 expansion packs since. 

Granted, we've had the Cobra, Rattler and the new Commando/ FFL troops, but in terms of the ongoing arms race between the 3 nations, the Rattler is merely fulfilling the role that the Heinrich, Ludwig and Natasia walkers in other armies are doing and the phaser weapons are unreliable at best. Although, the Commandos look great and are much more reliable and will be useful and deadly paired up with Action Jackson.
New units and game changers
So what issues are addressed with the introduction of Icarus? 

In terms of new units, the introduction of Allied and Axis flyers mean SSU flyers no longer dominate the skies. (Gone are the days when Airblaster configuration helos can't swoop in, bomb your precious walkers and fly off or air transports to ferry troops into the battlefield with impunity) , 

Going down the list, the first thing that pops out is 'Air Alert', which allows two rerolls when specific AA units make sustained fire rolls... Which will make what I assume will be the 'Skysweeper' heavy walker, DEADLY to air units.

The Long Tom II artillery unit introduces 'Magazine Reload', which effective makes it an artillery unit that doesn't need to reload and can fire every turn or as many times as you have Artillery observers (?)

And 'Explosives Weapons' (sic), which appears to give the likes of Priest and the BBQ Squad a new lease of life against upcoming bunkers, but for now, they can clear the way for Walkers by being extra effective against tank traps. It allows you to give the enemy a false sense of security by bunkering in a BBQ squad in hard cover, scaring off any enemy units from getting too close while a walker gives it long range support. At the right moment, you can reliably destroy the tank trap and clear the way for the walker to move forward. 

All this and I still haven't covered the Mobile HQ, the USMC's HMG, mortar teams and we don't know what surprises Sergeant Victory will bring! Or what this means for the Axis and the SSU with their own undead surprises, VTOL jets and ridiculous firepower!

Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and we will really see and know how effective they are once the units are released in the next few months, but I think Allied players finally have something to cheer with this late Christmas present!
(It almost makes up for Grim Reaper squads being more fragile than Heavy Recon Grenadier squads for the same number of points! ...Almost!)

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everybody's 2013 will brings you all the joy and fulfilment you are looking in life.

It's been an eventful holiday season, my day job required a lot of my attention and has caused me to re-evaluate a my life and career goals, but gaming wise, I got in a few games of Geezers Shut it! and have been playing lots of Dust Tactics.

I managed to get a Dust Tactics League/ club setup in Hong Kong, with lots of help of course.

Projects for 2013 include:

1) Getting my Stalag Luft III (The Great Escape) miniatures to Dragon Painting Services and have them painted so my friends and I can have a game.

2) Organizing and playing that giant WW3 game of 'Cold War Gone Hot' with Russians vs. BAOR with American armour support. (Which will probably be March at this rate as I have just agreed to run Dust Tactics in February for a few friends who want to play!)

3) Painting up the Batman: Arkham Asylum and Judge Dredd miniatures I ordered over the holiday period, they will be a labour of love and will be something I just paint for myself because I want them done a certain way.

So many things to play! With so little time!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A BIG announcement: Forming the Asia-Pacific Dust League/Club

It's official, I'll be starting the Asia-Pacific Dust League here in Hong Kong. To start, for the first 6-9 months, we will be running monthly Dust days with different themes (Desert War, Eastern Front, Western Europe and when the miniatures are finally released, the American front. We will game Giant Walker and tank battles, Air war).

The club will be able to provide a large number of miniatures and models to members. If you're in Asia and plan to visit Hong Kong, please look us up!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Dust Tactics AAR: Recon in Force

The game was the very first game of Dust Tactics attempted by Tom and me, we wanted to iron out any questions and get a good feel of the rules before embarking on a larger scenario.

The AAR is told from the Allies perspective because I was playing the Allies.

The mission was simple, reconnoitre the area for suspected Axis activity, a part of town with a small, one storey building, like a hundred other towns and a thousand other buildings he had seen since signing up to make a difference in the war effort.

The Allies had the 'Death Dealers' squad, a Ranger team with a light machine gun and a Bazooka which could take the fight to anything the Axis might throw at them and the light walker 'Blackhawk' for extra anti-armour support.

The Axis chose the 'Sturmpioneer' squad and the Hans walker.

Turn 1:
The Sergeant gave the signal for the squad to hold, as they monitored an Axis patrol of Sturmpioneer moving to the left of the building. The sergeant signalled for the Blackhawk walker to take up an ambush position to the right of the building behind cover.

The Sergeant watched in horror as the Hans walker moving much more quickly than he had expected any Axis walker to be able to do, outflank the unsuspecting Blackhawk and blow it to smithereens with a well aimed one shot.

Realising his blunder, he ordered his men to make a break for the building, moving into the area, his squad stayed out of sight from the Axis walker's deadly rockets, he fired into the Sturmpioneer squad, effective rifle and MG fire reduced the Axis squad to three men.

Turn 2: 
The Sturmpioneer opened fire, a stray bullet went through Pvt. Kowalski's helmet, killing him instantly. The Death Dealers returned fire, killing the rest of the Axis squad. The pilot to the Hans walker stepped back and took up a position to fire on the Rangers.

Turn 3:
The Rangers rush into the building, thankful for the protection the building brought from the walker outside. Without their supporting mech, they had to rely on their Bazooka. The Hans fires a rocket into the building but with no effect.

Turn 4: 
The Rangers pop out and snapshot with the Bazooka, the Hans explodes as the other Rangers cheer. The Sergeant breathes a sigh or relief as he and his men live to fight another day.

Apologies, I only remembered to take a photo AFTER the game had ended.

My Thoughts & Two Cents
The game was great fun, short and deadly for both sides. I won initiative but let Tom go first, I wanted to see where he would deploy his walker but he deployed his Sturmpioneers first, I didn't want to give the game away that I had planned for my Rangers to rush the building in the centre, so I moved the Blackhawk to what I thought was a safe position.

Completely forgetting that the Hans had 'Scout ability', it rushed onto the battlefield and fired one rocket (One roll, one hit, one dead Allied walker!)

Fortunately for me, two good rounds of shooting followed and I was able to wipe out the Sturmpioneer before they could do too much damage. The game of 'cat and mouse' between the Rangers and the Axis walker made for two tense rounds, the hard cover from inside the building kept the boy alive for long enough to get a good shot on the walker.

The Death Dealers are great, the LMG combined with rifles means a good round of shooting will neutralise an enemy infantry squad. While the Bazooka makes the team self-sufficient and able to cause problems for enemy walkers that get too close.

The Hans is definitely nasty and a game changer, the fact that it can rush onto the Battlefield with its scout ability will take your opponents by surprise!

Up Next and Coming Soon... My thoughts on the rules and the AAR to the second game!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Dust Tactics Rev. Core Set (Prem. Ed.): Allies Review

What's in the Box (Allies Miniatures)?
The Allies miniatures add up to 128 points out of the box.
Compared to the Axis miniatures, only the hero Rhino, the Hammers and the Blackhawk mech, can really be considered to be unique to the revised core set, the rest are modified Inf. 2 units that are already available as expansions

Rhino (Inf. 3 hero armed with a jump pack and 'Rocket punch') and 'The Hammers' (Inf. 3 jump troops also with rocket punch), they are pure close combat troops and can do a lot of damage up close and personal, with the potential ability to destroy any hapless infantry squads and enemy mechs that lack anti-infantry weapons. (Out of the box, I would send them after the Laser Grenadiers). Rhino like all heros paired up with squads will add his number of wounds to the squad, making them much more resilient.  

The Death Dealers consist of five Inf 2. soldiers, they are essentially a Recon boys unit with a Bazooka added to the squad while keeping its MG. This is a a great unit to form the backbone of an allied army allowing it to deal with anything and everything the enemy can send their way. But as a 'jack of all trades' unit, they are a master of none and can potentially be overwhelmed by a massed infantry assault or heavier mechs who can shrug off the bazooka. Out of the box, they would do well pairing up with the Blackhawk, benefiting from using the mech as cover while providing longer range fire and protection for the short ranged light mech while it closes on heavy mechs or dug in infanty positions.

The Hellboys, are an Inf 2 squad with 2 flamers and 3 shotguns, they are great for holding objectives especially if supported by something that could whittle down incoming troops from a distance. i.e. The Pounder Medium mech. The fact that they have two flamers and 3 shotguns also make them the perfect squad for dealing with units like zombies and gorillas. 

The Blackhawk is a Walker 3, it's a nice and cheap all-rounder mech with accurate weapons (You get to roll lots of dice increasing the chances of hitting) that can damaged anything on the field (and on a good roll, destroy anything on the field). It is unfortunately severely limited by a range of only two squares. Like I said, I would pair it off with the Death Dealer infantry squad. 

Dust Tactics Rev. Core Set (Prem. Ed.): Axis Review

What's in the box (Axis Miniatures)?

The Axis miniatures total up to 127 points out of the box.
All the Axis miniatures, more so than the Allied forces, can be said to be unique and limited to the Revised Core set. You can't buy any of them separately from the shops as individual units, but you can find them on eBay.

Lara is an Inf.(3) hero(ine) armed with massive MG's, her weapons mainly allows her to deal with infantry hordes and gives her the ability to deal with any light aircraft. As an Inf. (3) heroine, she can join any Inf. (3) unit at the start of the game, as a hero she will add her wounds to the unit and add to their survivability on the field of battle. However, as mentioned in the other blog post, she is my 'all but one', a combination of issues, mainly to do with how her head is sculpted, (With the massive forehead, she looks like Peter Weller in Robocop!) as well as the lack of detailing in the gap between her torso and legs, the figure looks a little off, especially when you compare her with what's in the rest of the box.

The Heavy Flak Grenadiers, heavily armoured troops armed with Rocket launchers make them an ideal Anti-tank hunter-killer team, stalking enemy walkers or holding flanks and objectives by making the enemy commander think twice about moving walkers and aircraft towards them. They're beautifully painted and there's lots of detailing and shading on these figures making them 'better than what I can do' and justifying the painting costs.

The Heavy Laser Grenadiers like all 'experimental technology' troops in the game (Phaser armed Allied troops and Tesla weapon armed SSU units), have the potential to be game changers and game winners or incredibly frustrating. They have the potential to take out walkers and heavy troops dug in behind cover (Laser weapons ignore cover)

Out of all the troops, these capture my imagination the most. They're beautifully painted, look incredibly sinister and let's face it, they're armed with friggin' laser cannons!

They will definitely have a place in any army list I make!

The Sturmpioniere, are Inf. (2), they are one of many types of the PBI in the Dust universe and will form a backbone of any army, what make them special and different from other Dust units is the flamethrower. Apart from the Axis hero Stefan, Axis Inf. (2) troops don't have access to flamethrowers. However, as far as the makeup and miniatures go, it is basically a Recon Grenadier squad with its MG replaced with a Flamethrower. I would use them to hold objectives or escort the Light Walker that is in the box, as the walker lacks Anti-infantry capabilities. The 3 Panzerfausts that it carries will also give enemy walkers problems.

Hans is the centrepiece, it's a Light Walker, so it doesn't have a lot of wounds, the range of its weapons are relaively short and it's not very well protected, an enemy Inf. 2 team with a few anti-tank rockets would be able to take it out. However, this walker carries a very heavy punch with one of its rockets capable of knocking out any enemy walkers with one good accurate shot!

Also, this walker is incredibly well painted with some great battle damage and faux 'peeling/ bubbling paint/ rust' effect added to the body of the walker!

There's some really great stuff for the Axis side in the Revised Core set, anti-armour units, anti-air assets, a hero capable of taking on a few infantry squads by herself, a very interesting and nasty walker and heavy infantry unit that could change the game with a few god rolls, but it's far from a complete army. It's a great introductory set and everything here will be useful to most Axis commanders, but you will need to invest in a few boxes of PBI and a Medium Walker or two give the army more survivability and flexibility.

Dust Tactics Rev. Core Set: A General Review

I have decided to split my review of the Dust Tactics Revised Core Edition boxset into 4 parts (The general review that you're now reading. Two separate reviews into the Axis and Allies miniatures and a review into the rules after a few games have been played). This first part will deal a bit more with issues that might be on the mind of those who are thinking about buying into Dust Tactics or Dust Warfare and my thoughts into the game and the system as a whole.

Two things should be said: Firstly, Paolo Parente's DUST universe was first introduced to me back in 2007 through my friend's purchase of the Dust boardgame, I didn't get to play it, although the mecha and 'tank girl' inspired stylings interested me, the fact that is came across as a Sci-fi version of Risk meant I acknowledged it as something interesting, but not my type of game.

Secondly, since moving on from GW games, I have played what can mostly be described as 'indie miniature games'. Rulesets developed by creative individuals like: Arty Conliffe's Crossfire, Geezers Shut it! and Ambush Alley/ Force on Force/ Tomorrow's War, Phil Barker's DBMM/ DBR. I also dabbled in Flames of War before it became a juggernaut, I now use my FoW collection for Crossfire. Most of the games I enjoy, for the most part require individual and separate sourcing of miniatures online. Allowing me to pick and choose what I'd like to go into my games. Apart from Geezers, FoW and the odd 'boardgame with miniatures' like Hour of Glory and Space Hulk, I really haven't bought into a ruleset with a dedicated line of miniatures.

One of my friends based in the UK had started to collect Dust tactics, but being in HK I wasn't going to collect a bunch of new toys for the occasional game when he came out to HK. Then my local HK gaming buddies start to talk about it, about the gorgeous giant mechs and a few demo games being run at the LGS, but again I try to ignore it because I really, really shouldn't spend another chunk of change on a new game.

Back in August, I go into my LGS  to pick up a few pots of Badab black and Devlin mud before they run out. I decide to have a look at the Dust Premium Edition, put there to try and drive up interest and orders. Long story short, I was hit with shiny new thing syndrome and I am drawn back into the world of 'plastic crack', I placed my order for a pre-painted Premium boxset, justifying it as a one off out of the box game like Space Hulk and Hour of Glory that can be played over a rainy Sunday afternoon and that I can use the miniatures and 3D buildings for Tomorrow's War and other Sci-fi systems.

So yesterday evening, I went down to my LGS to pick up my box of goodies, having spent the morning and afternoon painting some Recon Grenadiers I had picked up from the Book Depository.

The miniatures were just begging to be reviewed and blogged about and I have dedicated two separate blog posts!

What's in the box?

As the LGS took their sweet time in placng their order, I spent a few weeks talking to my friend Russ and researching online about Dust Tactics and what else I needed to turn the starter armies into a more cohearent force. But what was difficult was finding a single site telling me what was already in the starter set and what they were, so I have taken it upon myself to fill that gap.

  1. An LP sized rulebook containing the basic rules and additional rules that can be found in the Operation Cyclone and Operation Sealowe expansions. The additional rules from Operation Zverograd and Operation Cerberus can be found online on the FFG website, the scenarios for obvious reasons have been removed.
  2. An LP sized scenario book called 'Victory Bridge' which contains 6 scenarios.
  3. The miniatures; I would say all but one (more on that later) of these figures are beautifully painted, the walkers (mechs) are done to a really high standard and the troops are done to a wargaming standard. Beyond what we saw with the AT-43 and Battlefield Evolution line of pre-painted miniatures.

    • The Axis miniatures add up to 127 points: Lara (Inf.3 heroine armed with Machine guns); Heavy Flak Grenadiers (Inf 3. with rockets, good for anti-aircraft and anti-tank); Heavy Laser Grenadiers (Inf 3. with Laser cannons, good for anti-tank and anti-heavy infantry or anything dug in behind cover); Sturmpionere (Inf 2, PBI (Poor Bloody Infantry) with rifles, they carry 3x single use anti-tank Panzerfausts and a flamethrower, the flamethrower's good for assaulting heavy units and allows the unit, along with its Panzerfausts to take out armoured units) and Hans (Walker(3) with some great anti-tank weapons that can change the game and take up mechs way above its weightclass, but unfortunately is extremely limited in its range.).
    • The Allied miniatures add up to 128 points: Rhino (Inf. 3 hero armed with a jump pack and 'Rocket punch') is 'born' to lead 'The Hammers' (Inf. 3 jump troops also with rocket punch, they are pure close combat troops and can do a lot of damage up close and personal, can potentially destroy hapless infantry squads and even enemy mechs.). The Death Dealers (Inf 2 PBI, 5 soldiers, one armed with a MG and one armed with a Bazooka, a very nice backbone unit that can deal with anything and everything.) and Hellboys, (Inf 2 squad with 2 flamers and 3 shotguns, great for holding objectives especially if supported by something that could whittle down incoming troops from a distance. The perfect squad for dealing with zombies and Gorillas). The Blackhawk (Walker 3, nice and cheap all-rounder mech which is unfortunately severely limited by range).

  4. Some 3D terrain pieces in the form of two giant tank traps and some ammo crates
  5. A double sided terrain poster, basically, 'the board' and a collection of cardboard tiles to change the terrain makeup of the posters.
  6. 8 dice for the game and an odd little plastic token that says 'Loaded' on one side.
Like I said, I justified the purchase of the boxset originally as a one off out of the box game like Space Hulk and Hour of Glory that can be played over a rainy Sunday afternoon and that I can use the miniatures and 3D buildings for Tomorrow's War and other Sci-fi systems and I will review the game based on these criteria.

Is it a complete game out of the box?
With Christmas another 3 months away, this may be a consideration for many parents/ grandparents out there. So, for the lay person, yes, the miniatures are already pre-assembled and ready to paint in the basic edition or pre-painted in the premium edition. The box comes with everything you need to start playing (Rules, scenarios, dice, terrain (Well, the poster map) and miniatures) on Christmas morning once you've put the wrapping paper in the bin and cleaned up the dining room table. 

For the more experienced gamer who knows his D6 from his drybrush, no. You can have lots of fun with these miniatures and get a good taste of the game, but there are balancing issues. Out of the box, the Allies are extremely good at close combat and when they get within 1 square of the Axis, they can cause a lot of damage. But they are crying out for something to provide covering fire from afar as they close in. You will find yourself wanting/ needing to buy more troops at some point, which is probably the idea in the first place!

The revised core set is like the difficult second album that fails to live up to lofty expectations set by its predecessor. There's no denying that the bigger 'original' core set that was released in 2010 is a better bargain and a more balanced set with four medium walkers (2 per side), 6 squads of PBI and 2 heroes. (It's still available here and there online or at your local hobby store.) 
But the revised core set does the job it's supposed to, introduce the gamer to the Dust universe and allow the gamer to have fun and want to buy more toy soldiers to add to his or her collection.

Can you play it over a rainy Sunday afternoon?
Yes, Dust tactics is a quick game, the rules are simple and a game can be played over an hour with an entire campaign done over an afternoon.

Can you use it for other game systems? i.e. Tomorrow's War
Yes definitely, with a wide range of troops varying from Inf. 2 groundpounders to Inf. 3 in power armour and 3 obvious classes of mechs and things like armored transport, Helos and flyers on its way, the miniatures can easily be adapted for Tomorrow's War or any other Sci-fi game.

The 3D tenement blocks are also a great cheap source of 28mm buildings for urban warfare.

For my thoughts on the miniatures themselves, please see the other, later reviews!