End of Year Update

It looks like this year I won’t be putting out any “Best of” lists mainly because this year was a pretty slow year for me gaming-wise. Also, I didn’t get to play many solo-only games so I didn’t get a chance to revisit some of the older games I played, and didn’t get to play some new ones (Battlespace, you’re looking at me!) like Sword Weirdos which I backed from the Kickstarter.

In its place, I will do a quick review of the 2 new games I actually did play this year: Dystopian Wars and Battletech

First up, Battletech.

My history with the game, as I mentioned before was way back in this edition here, whichever it was.

I loved it, but soon grew tired of the bookkeeping and switched to a digital version, where I was able to focus on the game and combat tactics and not bookkeeping. 

Finally, my FLGS was pushing the game and I gave it a try. As mentioned, I do like the online app that keeps track of stuff for you, so you can focus on the mech tactics.

My game play report is here.

I do need to try out the Alpha Strike version since its a totally different game: actual 3d terrain vs flat hex maps; measurement using rulers; simpler stats and combat, simpler bookkeeping.

My TL; DR take on it was: I do like the game now, and if you like big, stomp robot shooting and beating the crap out of each other, you can’t go wrong with Battletech. (There’s also Horizon Wars which does allow you to play with big stompy robots and it focuses on combined arms as well, so mechs, tanks, and infantry if that’s your thing. Combat there is more abstracted into units and not individual mechs like Battletech). 

Caveat: however, if you dislike using an app to track damage and heat and love the crunchiness of bookkeeping for yourself... then go ahead and play Battletech as it’s meant to be played. For those that don’t want to use an online app and are not sure about the bookkeeping… give the game a try at your FLGS and see for yourself.

Next: Dystopian Wars!

I think I’ve made my love for Steampunk pretty clear in my earlier posts. Twisted Steampunk comes to mind, along with the SMOG board game from CMON.

I always wanted to try Dystopian Legions but sadly Spartan went under before I could get my hands on the game, and when Warcradle took over, they pushed the naval combat version out first, which is Dystopian Wars.

Now, I’d never been interested in naval combat at all, preferring to push little toy soldiers around on the table, but seeing the game being played out for the first time in front of me made me go: geee… this is a FUN game!

As mentioned earlier, I picked up the Sultanate starter, and started assembling it. Then I added a Suleiman Battlefleet box, hence the massive twin deck carrier and extra ships below. 

In the meantime I also got in 2 games for myself (using the Commonwealth faction from my FLGS) to learn the game. Very much fun.

Now, let me the count the ways why I like the game.

First up: Aesthetics. That’s what drew me in, of course. Steampunk ships with ray guns and mirage and portal generators. What’s not to love? Flying armoured zeppelin carriers… hovercraft… zippy mini zeppelins flying all over the sea… it’s a steampunk lover’s dream come true!

The rules: The rules are free, as are unit stats etc. so you can check it out for yourselves. The game’s divided into several Phases and you do different things during each phase. For example, you begin with the Special Ops Phase where you can launch your planes off your carriers and do other shenanigans according to the capabilities of your faction. Then you move your unit, then you fire your unit, taking into account firing arcs, ranges etc. Then there’s an Assault phase for units that qualify (boarding actions) where you ever deal havoc on the target, or you get beaten back, sometimes with negative consequences, then you attempt to repair any damage on your ship etc. A ship typically has 2 states: Battle Ready where it's functioning at full capacity even after taking some damage, and Crippled which (obviously) means its capabilities are reduced.

It’s alternating activations so that’s good.

Damage is calculated differently. There are 2 types of damage. One is straight up damage where you chip away at the outer hull of the ship, dealing damage. The game uses special dice for hits, heavy hits and exploding hit (roll extra dice), blocks and heavy blocks with a single blank all on d6’s. You count the total hits you deal on the enemy, vs the target’s Armour value (typically 6 or 8) and for each multiple of hits to armour dealt, the target takes 1 damage. So a ship with armour value 6, receiving 24 hits would take 4 damage.

Then there’s what’s called the ship’s Citadel, which represents the deepest, most protected parts of the ship: engine rooms, magazines, etc. The Citadel value is typically higher: 12 or 16 or 17. And for the same number of hits dealt (say 24) you compare to the ship’s Citadel value and those are Critical Hits that have their own special dice that do bad things. You do get a chance to repair critical hits and you do want those to be removed if possible because multiple critical hits do bad things to you, including Catastrophic Explosions that deal another 2 damage (think of the internal of the ship exploding because you caused a direct hit to the magazine/armoury). The black dice in the photo below represent critical damage that is rolled randomly.

If it all sounds complicated… it is, and it isn’t. Once you get the basic game concepts down (and they are pretty same at heart), all you need to do is remember your various ship capabilities and weapons systems and how they interact. It’s all very reminiscent of Infinity where each faction has abilities that break the core rules. Th only thing about Dystopian Wars that rescues it from Infinity level complications (for me) is the number of UNITS (since you activate units) is less than in Infinity. Also the table is sparser compared to Infinity and there’s no AROs so you have less mental overhead to worry about.

I got the game concepts down after watching just one game and playing another one myself, so it's pretty fast to pick up. Jus take sure you know ALL the capabilities of the ships you're taking in your battle fleet is all I'm saying. It's too easy to overlook some small detail that potentially COULD have prevented your ship from sinking in Turn 1.

TL;DR: all in all, Dystopian Wars is a fun and refreshing game compared to the typical miniatures skirmish games I normally play and it’s why it’s the game du jour for me this month (and maybe for the whole of 2023). It helps that my FLGS is pushing the game and more members are hopping on the game. 

So that’s all for me now. There will probably be a final post at the end of the year where I detail the outcome of the narrative campaign the players in my FLGS are currently playing using the Cyclone of Shadows campaign box from Warcradle.