Saturday, July 21, 2012

Somewhere in an Alternate, Alternate Universe

Dust Tactics and Dust Warfare take place within the same alternate late World War Two timeline, where there are aliens, VK, and no more Hitler. But there is a third Dust game that takes place in a slightly different universe.

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The Dust, Strategy Board Game (released in 2007) features some familiar faces, both Koshka of the SSU Sigrid of the Axis are featured on the box top, and yet the game shares little in the way of story with DT/W. Dust takes place in the late 30s, an sees the world fighting over the VK power-source, but it’s not an alternate World War Two in the sense that the war we know from history began, and then the Dust timeline branches off from there; rather it’s a completely new WW2, based on a political and economic environment that never existed.

However, despite its lack of synergy with the other Dust games it’s still a game that fans of the Dust universe should enjoy, and it takes very little imagination to swap out this game’s fluff for all the excellent background info provided in the DT/W expansions.

So now on to the actual game play for Dust…

Dust is a “guys on a map” game similar to Risk or Axis and Allies, and it’s defiantly one of the better games of the genera, it also has two different included rule-sets (Epic and Premium). (Note for the rest of this post we’ll be discussing the Epic rule-set)

A look in the box…

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The unique card based initiative and action limit system is by far one of my favorite features.In Dust you have a hand of five cards from which you pick one, and that card has a series of numbers and other info that determines if you can go first for a turn, and how many move and battles you can be involved in. Each card also grants a special ability, and a bonus to your unit production abilities.

A look at all the card types and the two different rule sets.

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A close up of some of the cards featuring familiar Dust characters.

Note: in this game Totenmeister’s art appears but the character does not.

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Movement is a simple affair, you can move any number of units from a starting location to any destination, so long as no enemies stand in your way. This is a separate phase from combat and allows you to reposition your forces before any battles take place. Combat is also pretty straight forward, during the combat phase you may make as many attacks on adjacent enemy territories as you have combat points shown on the card, you played at the start of the turn.

Combat is resolved by those 33%/66% Dust dice we have all come to know and love. Also, the unit types and colors.

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One of the other mechanics that make Dust a unique experience, is among all the usual values for the units such as production cost and combat ability (i.e. number of dice you roll), each unit also has a Tactical Supremacy (TS) value (0-1) which is used to determine who rolls first in combat (either the attacker or defender). When calculating TS if the attacker’s TS score for his attacking units is greater then the defender’s then the attacker rolls first in combat and eliminated defenders never get a chance to roll. So you can see that having a high TS value when attacking is very important, because if the defender has the higher TS score and rolls first, all your attacking units could be destroyed before they even have a chance to pull their triggers.

A world at war.

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The final positive I want to mention is Dust uses a cumulative scoring system, where at the end of each round your points are added to the points you already have, this really keeps the game from being too long, although no one’s going to stop you from playing for world domination. The score is based on a number of things all represented by tokens, which usually makes tallying at the end of turns pretty easy.

All the scoring tokens.

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And now the negative points…

Number One The map…

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Dust has a very cool and unique “puzzle cut” map, which in concept sounds like a great idea, but it warps and is a bit fiddly to assemble/disassemble. It’s great graphically though.

Number two, its out of print, yep, I just spent a whole page telling all about a great game that is getting really hard to find. However, you can still find it, and if you can get it for around $100 USD, I’d say it’s worth it as it includes all that beautiful Paolo Purente art we all love and 800 minis, that’s right 800!

Everyone here gives Dust a 10 out of 10, it’s a great guys on a map game, and if you’re a fan of the Dust universe or of games like Risk, it is defiantly worth the money and the effort to find.

The last stand of a nation.

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Full disclosure: My copy of Dust is a FFG demo copy provided to me by FFG.