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maandag 23 januari 2012

Monday Morning Gamer 23/1

Hello and welcome to this week´s Monday Morning Gamer here on Thunderstomp! Once again it is long past morning for me (have I even ever posted MMG on a Monday Morning?), but I like the alliteration of the title and therefore will keep it! I mean, if it works for Peter King, it should damn well be good enough for me! (Awesome weekly football column, that, btw. I’ve been reading it every week for years and years and it never disappoints. If you like NFL football this is for you.) Anyway! What have I in store for you today? Well, continuing on from last week I have some more stuff on Dystopian Wars for you, starting with some of my thoughts on the actual rules and general gameplay. Tomorrow I’ll dip an inexperienced toe in the ocean that is DW army/faction reviewing and run through my DW faction, the Covenant of Antarctica, based on the DW knowledge I have now. I’m sure my perceptions will change as I play more games, but I’ll just redo the review at a later time! I don’t have time to do a one today, so I’ll just promise to do it tomorrow!

Off we go!

Dystopian Wars – Some thoughts on gameplay

Now, let me preface this by saying I have only played a couple of games thus far. I am by no means an expert on the game. However, I feel this does give me an unbiased eye on the game and the way it works. Allow me to share with you what I have noticed so far about the game.

Alternate activation

One of the most basic rule mechanics of Dystopian Wars is the Initiative concept. Players roll off at the start of each turn, with the winner activating one of his squads first, then the next player, each player activating one squad at a time until all squads of all players have activated.
This mechanic is different from most all GW games (Fantasy, 40K, Necromunda, Blood Bowl, basically all the games we play here), where players start and finish everything in their turn before passing the turn to their opponent.
Now, the Initiative concept has as an obvious advantage that both players are almost constantly doing something. One of the drawbacks of, let’s call it GW’s way of doing it, is that for most of your opponent’s turn, I’m not doing anything. Taking Fantasy as a comparison, when it’s my opponent’s turn all I have to really pay attention to is the magic phase (deciding what to dispel, if anything) and the combat phase (where I can fight too, hurrah!). Especially if your opponent is a slow (thoughtful and considered or just excruciatingly slow?) player, this can lead to large parts of essentially waiting around, with nothing better to do than planning out what I will do in my turn. DW’s system eliminates this.
While it’s true that when your opponent activates something in DW, there still is very little for me to do, this is less of a problem since activating a squadron (even a big one) isn’t nearly as time consuming as moving a horde Skaven army around. I’ll have just a bit of time to think about your move and how it’ll affect what I had planned to do, even less time to think about the consequences of your activation (i.e. damage to my ships) before it’s my turn to activate something again. This makes for very engaging gameplay, for both players.
Another advantage the Alternate Activation system has is that it brings another level of tactical thinking to the game. Since I can only activate any given Squadron in my fleet once in a turn, activating something in the beginning of that turn will mean I will not be able to use that squadron again until the next turn. In effect, my opponent will not have to worry about that particular squadron again for the rest of the turn. So, which squadron do I activate first? If I race my Dreadnought forward and blast away with all its big guns (and it has a lot!), then my opponent will then have the entire rest of the turn to sail right up to my Dreadnought and blast away at it, without worrying about being shot in return. This then leads to a chess match of sorts, of my holding back certain units and my opponent doing the same, deciding on the opportune moment to strike. Good stuff!
Filler! A whole tub full!
However, this does lead to something else: the use of small, filler squadrons. If a player takes a couple of cheap, small model squadrons that have no real function in the army, he can then always use these squadrons to see what his opponent will do. Using these small filler squadrons will force an opponent (assuming he hasn’t brought any of these squadrons himself) to commit a part of his army before I have. Additionally, adding some of these filler squadrons will mean I will have more squadrons to activate than he does, and I’m sure that’ll be an advantage as well!
Of course, this all has to do with building the proper list and while I for one still have no idea what make a good Dystopian Wars list, I imagine I’ll include a squad or two of low-cost, low-count models until my opponents get wise to it! (actually, they’ll probably get wise to it very soon, as they all read this, but oh well!)

All-Air in RB 1

OK, so sometimes AA is effective...
Just asking, but how good is an All-Air army? All flying models can choose to become obscured during their movement (and will only be hit on a 6), which obviously is a great defensive ability. Sure, they’ll only hit on a 6 as well, but still. If you combine this with the fact that you can’t use most of your good guns on flyers that are in Range Band 1, and doesn’t this make an All-Air army… shall we say… very easy to play with? Sure, you can use AA fire vs. flyers that are close, but AA doesn’t compare to a ship’s proper guns! Maybe something to try out for our next game?

Viability of combining all three types in one army?

Stand still, damned automobile! I´ll get you!
I have been thinking about what would be cool for a DW campaign. This is one of the things that originally attracted me to the game, as it combines Aerial, Naval, and Land units in the same rules system, allowing each aspect to interact with each other seamlessly.
On paper, anyway.
What I have run in to (and I’m sure I’ll find a way to make it work) is that it is very hard to make an army and then use all three types. Not because it’s impossible to make a list like that, but mostly because it’s hard to envisage a board where you’ll be able to use this army properly!
It seems to me that the percentage of Land/Naval units in your army should roughly equal the percentage of Land/Water terrain on the table. However, by definition (almost) all Land units cannot enter the water, nor can the Naval units enter land (exceptions exist, of course). This limits the way in which you can use each part of your army.
If you use a board consisting of mostly water with a few islands, the land units will be confined to these islands. You’ll need bridges (or the teleporters from the book) to deal with the limited mobility options of your land units. Conversely, if you use a table with a small shore line and a river or two, with the rest being beach and land, your ships will be severely limited in what they can do.
It seems to me that, barring Spartan Games releasing transports of some sort, the only way ‘around’ this problem is to decide before hand if you’ll be fighting a Land or a Naval battle (with either islands or lakes) and make your army accordingly.
An interesting problem to take into account when thinking about campaign armies and how much of their armies you want the players to write done beforehand, or what kind of map to use in the campaign. Beach/coastline? Island?
As I mentioned I would like to do something where all three types are equally viable, so this will be a fun problem to solve!

Counters and counters and counters…

Man oh man, I’ve only played a few games, but I can tell you I can already see a problem arising with all the counters you need to use. Fuel, AP, HP, Damage, and whatnot. I foresee a shortage of 1 HP damage counters in most battles, especially the bigger ones. Maybe it’s time to dig out the shiny glass beads we used to use for life tokens and use those as damage instead?

Ok, see you tomorrow for the next part!