Thursday, June 12, 2014

Product Review: Dystopian Wars V2

So, now that it's been released and I actually have an official copy, I can talk about Dystopian Wars 2 from Spartan Games!

As a Beta Tester, it's certainly been an interesting experience.  Sadly, I'm under a "Non Disclosure Agreement" (NDA), so I can't tell you much about how things were done done or why.  Just present the end product.

So What is Dystopian Wars?

Dystopian Wars is a Table Top Miniature Wargame based on an alternative Victorian Age Steam-Punk Timeline.  New scientific discoveries have been found within the ruins of a civilization in Antarctica, including Flying and Anti-Gravity devices, Energy and Electricity based weapons, etc.

With all this wondrous technology, however, mankind's greed is as bad as ever.  A Great Global War has started, this time in the 1860's and battles are fought pretty much all over the world for resources, technology and pride. (There is very little honor, in spite what the leaders think.)

At "present" there are 7 "Core" Nations.  Britannia, Federated States of America (the South won the Civil War), Prussia, France, Russia, Empire of the Blazing Sun (Japan) and the Covenant of Antarctica (an enclave of scientists still working to reveal all the mysteries of the ruins located there).  A number of Minor Nations as well as some Mercenary companies and the Infamous East India Company have forces that have been released with others hinted to be released.

What's interesting about the game is that the forces can be Naval, Air Force or Army Based.  In fact, most forces comprise of a mixed force of 2 of the 3 branches of the military.  While it's not normally practical to join the Navy and the Army, there's no reason why the Air Forces can't combine with either or act on its own.  Usually games are played as "Naval" or "Land" Battles.  (I play "Naval" games, in case you hadn't checked the history of this site!)  ;)

The game uses an alternating activation turn.  Instead of all one player's forces move and shoot followed be the other player doing all their moves and shots, players activates 1 unit; move, shoot and board (close combat), then the other player activates one of their units and repeats the process, alternating until all the units on the table have been activated.  This makes planning and timing critical.  If you don't move Unit A before he moves Z, then it'll be blasted, but you might lose Unit B and Victory Points if you don't activate it first...  You really do need to plan your strategy and tactics knowing that you may not get to do everything the way you want to.

The other unusual feature is the "Exploding 6" concept.  All dice are 6-sides dice.  You roll a number of dice (representing the firepower of the attacker) and each success is a "hit", unless it's a 6.  A 6 counts as 2 hits AND (usually) rolls an extra dice, rolling as many times as the player rolls 6's.  The cumulative total of hits is then added up.  Damaged is caused by having enough "hits" to exceed a Damage Rating (DR) (usually 1 Hit Point of damage) or exceed a Critical Rating (CR) (usually 2 Hit Points and a secondary effect).  Exceed the CR 2 or more times in one attack and the damage will stack!

What has changed Between DW1.1 & 2?

Lots of tiny changes that will make a BIG impact overall!

The first minor change that everyone will notice is that when you divide anything, you round results UP!  This isn't a minor thing as this usually affects the number of dice you roll.  The more dice, the better the results (you hope)!

As well as rounding up, the way you calculate the number of dice in a "Linked" volley is different.  Linking was when you fired multiple weapons from multiple mounts or vehicles at a singer target to get more dice and a better chance of damaging your opponent.  Before, all the dice from a "Designated" (single) weapon, then half each additional weapon's dice for that vehicle.  Each additional Ships' dice totals were added up the same way and halved to contribute to the "Primary Shooter" (rounding each pool down).  Under V2.0, you get full dice on a single weapon, then throw all the other dice into a pool, and cut the pool in half (rounding UP)!  This is much faster and can make a difference where a ship in a squadron is damaged and linking with multiple other ships!  There could be No Difference in the totals if you're lucky!  Again - MORE Dice are GOOD dice!

An annoying factor in DW1.1 was that Line of Sight was NOT the same both ways.  It was possible to screen a large ship with a number of small ships, then the large ship could (and would) shoot the enemy small ships  and the enemy smalls could not shoot back!  Thankfully, this is changed!  If I can see you, you can see me!  Vehicles can fire with no penalty over other vehicles 2 size classes smaller than themselves OR smaller than their target!  While the height of Hills and Towns can "stack" and affect play over "land" by adding and subtracting to your Size Class, this doesn't usually affect Naval games (which is usually blocked or not blocked).  "Primary" Class weapons can shoot with over an object a single Size Smaller than themselves but count as Partially Obscured and suffer a penalty (1/2 your attack dice).

Previously, when playing a "generic" mission from the book, both players knew what the other's mission was.  This lead to some dishonorable tactics like hiding the last small choice behind the entire fleet, etc.  This usually resulted in players automatically declaring they would play the Default 70% of the Force's Value as prized, derelict or destroyed.  Now, missions are secret - your opponent draws a mission card or rolls a dice and does not tell the opponent what mission they drew UNLESS they decide they don't LIKE the mission and then publicly declare to go and destroy / prize / derelict 70% of the enemy's force value.  Now the opponent needs to try to guess and counter what mission you drew, hide what objective they drew, and/or go for his own objective.

Finally, Spartan Games is committed to the use "Living Lists".  At present, the 7 Core Nations Force Lists are available as a free download from the Spartan Game site, with promises that the Minor Nations and Mercenary Companies will join them soon (they're still in Beta Testing).  Rumor has it that Fleet Books will be available for purchase in the future, but in what form, and how many, I can't speak ('cause I don't really know anything but rumors here)!

One important thing to note about the new fleet lists: all previous models are supported!  Nothing was dropped, though some have vastly different statistics and primary purposes.  So while you may want to buy new models, you don't have to throw anything old away, either!

Bigger Changes of Note!

The whole concept on Base-To-Hit has changed.  In DW2, you start off with your base to hit value - a "4+" on surface level.  This Base changes depending where you are on relation to the Surface.  We now have 3 flying levels (Flying, Obscured, and a new Stratospheric).  Flying is Base 4+ to hit, Obscured is 5+ and Stratospheric is 6+.  Also, we have the Submerged level and Deep Diving Levels going down.  Again, 5+ & 6+ to hit.  Now you add your modifiers for various weapons capabilities or limitations as well as Model Assigned Rules (MARs) as positive and negative modifiers, not set values.  In V1.1, to Hit values were based on MARs, resulting in confusion if conflicting rules and MARS came into play.  This way, believe it or not, is more clean.  Interesting to note, while being Obscured in the clouds helps aircraft by being a 5+ base to hit, it also means they're at 5+ to hit someone else, unless they're shooting at someone higher!

Speaking of MARs - there's less of them!  First, all those Nation-Specific MARs got renamed a more Generic name so that the same effect is the same MAR for everyone.  This allowed them to cut down some.  Next, they moved Weapon Characteristics and Munitions to their own section.  So if it was a MAR that only applied to weapons before (such as "Concussive" or "Piercing"), chances are it got moved here.  Same thing was done with Model Functions and Classifications.  If it applied to a vehicle "type", it got put there.  This will result in some extra page turning & searching as players re-learn the book organization, but helps reduce and organize special rules a bit better.

Tiny Fliers are no More!  Instead, we have Support Aircraft Squadrons (SAS).  While the various special rules have kept the same names, how they work has usually changed!  Watch yourself the first few times you play!  Also, no need to track Fuel Usage per V1.1 anymore!  While most people used to take only the Torpedo Bombers or Fighters in Naval Games, the re-write of the Dive Bombers make them a more attractive choice now.  Usually, Dive Bombers get +1 to hit surface targets and Torpedo Bombers +1 to hit Submerged Targets.  Finally, Torpedo Bombers now have to be within 4" to drop their ordinance (putting them into Ack-Ack range of at least the target)!

Instead of just refueling Tiny Fliers, Carriers have been revamped and are valuable and useful commodities!  Besides giving you "extra" squadrons of SAS to deploy, Carriers can restock ordinance (Dive Bombers and Torpedo Bombers still get only 1 attack before they have to reload), replenish squadrons back to their original size (max 5 tokens per Squadron, but if deployed smaller, it cannot be increased in size) or REPURPOSE the squadron!  (Dang, I don't need those fighters, I wish I had Bombers - oh wait!  Now I CAN!)  This is done via Carrier Points.  Based on what you want to do, each function is worth a number of Carrier Points.  If the flight is within 4" of a Carrier when it activates, the Carrier can spend points to "fix" the fliers.  It is not uncommon for a squadron of bombers to make 2 attack runs in a 3-4 turn game now!  Of course, this makes the SAS squadrons and Carriers much more of a target, so protect them well.  If a flight squadron is completely destroyed, it cannot be replenished.  Antarctican Drones and their Carriers operate differently, but they too have their own limitations and weaknesses.

Remember STAR cards?  They were pretty much despised everywhere because of their random nature.  They're gone.  Instead we have Tactical Action Cards (TACs ).  Each player starts with a deck of 16 cards that can be modified depending on the force the player takes (Spartan says special cards will be released for special formations, famous characters, nationalities, etc).  Once the final battle size is determined, a player Chooses which cards to use from their deck, the number being determined by the size of battle.  Now IF a player uses a TAC card, his opponent gets the points listed on the card!  If an opponent wishes to stop the card's effects, they can dispose of an equal or greater value of cards (giving those points to the original card player).  So, you can keep the cards as an offensive or defensive (or any combination) mechanism!  Sadly, the cards are not available for download yet, but they are available in the new fleet boxes coming out soon.  Spartan has recently announced the option to purchase the cards from their website.

Assault Rules have minor changes for the most part.  What really was done was that the rules were rewritten to explain more clearly how the process worked.  One new change to assault is that the Boarder, if he failed to Prize or Derelict a ship, but caused more hits than the defender gets to roll a Critical Hit.  On the other hand, if the Defender has more hits, the defender gets a Second Round of Auxiliary Weapon Counter Attack against the Boarders as they try to flee!  This could be very costly for an attacking player.  No more "Just For The Heck Of It!" boarding!  Also, Crew Types are re-introduced and their modifiers are explained.


Other Rules Changes include Reserves, Flanking and Advance forces all being part of the main rules (they had been introduced in one of the Campaign books for V1.1).  All fleets got or are getting new models, most including a new Fleet or Assault Carrier (Fleets have 9 Carrier Points while Assaults have 6) and Heavy Battleships.  All fleets got "tune-ups".  Some people may not appreciate all changes to their fleets, but most changes seem sensible.  Usually it was a case of point cost adjustments and a weapon stat here, an Assault Point there, minor changes that make the entire nation's choices more useful and individual units more definable.  Game sizes tend to be more points, but most things are more expensive so the number of models is about the same.

The players I play-tested with and those that I've had a chance to demo the game to in the past week like the changes.  It's still a fun game and the rules have been cleaned up nicely.  The Models are great and Spartan appears committed to extending the range and still supporting all their old models as well.  Overall, a great buy for those with the older V1.0 or 1.1 rules!  If you've never done Dystopian Wars before, I strongly recommend you check it out at your Local Store or Gaming Group!

Keep those dice hot!