Well, I managed to actually play an expensive board game I own! Trust me, this is a rarity. I managed to lure Ian round with promises of pizza and free cuddles, and even though he wanted to do something dumb, like have a conversation about work and motorbikes (what a nerd), I managed to convince him to play Dust Tactics!
Despite its look, Dust Tactics is not a tabletop war game in the same way as Warhammer 40,000 or Warmachine (though there is another Dust game, Dust Warfare which is apparently more war gamey); Dust Tactics is really a board game with war game elements, if that makes sense.
So, Dust Tactics. It’s the age-old story of WW2 where Nazis with laser cannons fought the Allies and their rocket-launching mecha. The rules are blessedly brief (the rulebook is less than 25 pages), but solid and well-written, a staple of all Fantasy Flight games. The game follows the age-old “easy to learn, hard to master” ethos; there’s a lot of anticipation required knowing when and how to move units and manage unit tactics.
The core combat mechanic is very simple; each unit has an armour type and value (Infantry 2, Vehicle 3, etc), and a unit’s weapons have stat-lines that determine how many dice and how much damage they inflict on a unit with that armour type and value; it’s a very neat and simple system. As for dice, they’re normal D6s, but four faces are blank and two faces are hits. Roll a hit, and you’ve done some damage. In cover or have a crazy Axis superscience force field? Roll a blank or hit, depending how good your cover is, and you’re okay. Simple, elegant. A little simplistic, but it could be a lot worse. It could be Risk (shudder).
The factions have pretty distinctive playstyles; the Axis generally have small, elite shooty units with good armour, and the Allies have larger, faster units who are protected by tissue paper and prayers, and are better in close-quarters due to their fetish for flamethrowers, shotguns, and power fists.
In total, our game took about fifteen minutes. DT is a fucking brutally quick game, much like FFG’s other WW2 fighty-shooty-boardgame, Tannhauser. We had a few turns to maneouvre, but the shooting started on the third turn, and the game was over by the fifth turn, and both of us had been bled dry. From my limited experience, DT seems to swing back and forth, which is nice because no-one likes getting curb-stomped. Ian gunned down all but two of my commandos, who then went on to incinerate a whole Axis squad with their flamethrowers. I one-shotted Ian’s walker, and he turned my jump-troops into red confetti with his heavy flak grenadiers.
Ian eventually won when his flak grenadiers filled my Blackhawk walker – flush from murdering Ian’s butch Nazi murderqueen and her laser grenadier posse – with thousands of little holes.
And then because the game had only taken us fifteen minutes (including a few moments where we had to check rules) we played another quick game.
The Core Set game is pretty damn good if only for the amount of models you get; the two forces seem a little unbalanced on paper – the Axis seem to have the advantage with their flak guns and laser cannons – but things seem pretty fair on the table, as nothing is stupidly overpowered. I’m already considering supplementing these two forces with an extra mecha and infantry unit on each side for bigger, epic games. I’m also pretty tempted to pick up Dust Warfare and see what the more wargame-y version of DT is like, but we’ll see.
So in summary, give DT a try if you can. It seems perfect for a board game night, as it can be played very quickly, there’s plenty of replay value with all the different models and tactics on offer, and the game is very easy to adapt to team play, so it’s not only two people who get to have all the fun.
On the subject of board games, I’m very excited for a certain parcel arriving in the post for me soon. A certain heretical parcel…