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.
- 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.
- An LP sized scenario book called 'Victory Bridge' which contains 6 scenarios.
- 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).
- Some 3D terrain pieces in the form of two giant tank traps and some ammo crates
- A double sided terrain poster, basically, 'the board' and a collection of cardboard tiles to change the terrain makeup of the posters.
- 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.
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!