Dystopia at Last!

Had my first game of Dystopian Wars last night and you know what – it was a lot of fun.

We played using all the models from the starter sets, me using my Empire of the Blazing Sun and my opponent played the Prussians.

I won’t do a turn-by-turn battle report as it was a learning game and we only managed to complete two full turns. But what I saw, I liked.

There’s something about the game which seems to stimulate the imagination. It’s great to see a fleet of cruisers rounding an island as another squadron steers hard ‘a port to bring its starboard gun batteries to bear, while a couple of bombers swoop their way in to deliver their payload, hoping that the patrolling squadron of enemy fighters won’t fly in to intercept.

We probably played a few things wrong – the rulebook can be a bit patchy at times – and I’ll definitely need to go back over the rules and FAQ to get everything straight. But the game plays quite simply.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

In our game I learned about the way the different weapon types worked and began to see how the factions play differently.

Blazing Sun FrigatesFor example, my Blazing Sun ships seem to rely on rocket launchers and broadside gun batteries.

The rockets work best at longer range (they actually dish out more damage, the further away from the target they are), but rockets are susceptible to a screen of ack-ack fire. So it would seem the way to play Blazing Sun might be to wear down the ack-ack capabilities of my opponents – perhaps by getting in close with the nippy frigates – and then fill the sky with rockets from long range.

The Prussian fleet I was playing against tended to use heavy main gun turrets and rear/side mounted tesla batteries. The main turrets particularly could punch very hard at short/mid range, but their power, as well as ack-ack capability, diminishes as the ship takes damage.

Rockets don’t however. So while they only have a medium damage profile, they get relatively more powerful as ships get damaged (less ack-ack to shoot them down). Torpedoes work in the same way, but are counteracted by a defending ship’s concussion charges.

The game is very much an elaborate rock-paper-scissors exercise – which I’m guessing may be a reflection of real world warfare – and the resulting tactics come in manouevering the right squadrons into the right positions and picking the right targets, I suspect.

A good example of this was my squadron of fighters intercepting an equal sized squadron of Prussian dive bombers and decimating them in a very one-sided fight. I suspect that if those dive bombers had got in close to my ships it would have been a different story.

Pick on Someone Your Own Size

Another key concept in the game is that of linked fire.

This basically means that a model can combine its fire with other models in the squadron to make a single, but more powerful, attack. So this means that even the smallest ships can gang up and take down (or at least wound) a large capital ship. The way it works is that the linking models contribute only half of their attack dice.

By way of example, say I have three frigates shooting at a battleship and each is hitting for 4d6 (buckets of dice in this game!). Now I could make three separate attacks, but the chance of penetrating the hull of the battleship with each attack is remote. So instead I combine all three into a single 8d6 attack (4+2+2), which should be enough to penetrate the armour and may even be enough to make a critical hit.

Knowing how and when to combine fire in this way is going to be key in the game and adds an element of risk-management.

Blazing Sun Make the First Cut

So how did our game play out?

Well, we had a fairly simple terrain setup with three larger islands in a line across the centre of the (6′ x 4′) table. I deployed in two flanks either side of the central island and the Prussians mostly deployed on the East flank (to my right).

Ranges on the guns can be as much as 32″ so we actually started to engage on the first turn.

Blazing Sun Fighters AttackI drew first blood, with my small frigates and large bombers each taking down a few Prussian frigates on the West flank. My intention was to overwhelm the small Prussian contingent in the west, so I could come around the island and catch the main Prussian fleet in a pincer.

The domination of the west flank soon came to pass as we realised how powerful a squadron of Blazing Sun frigates could be if they got in close and brought their broadside batteries to bear. It appears that each frigate can combine their own main turret and broadside guns into a single high power attack, though we wanted to check this as it looked like it may have been a typo on the stat card (both attacks are listed as “secondary” weapons, rather than the usual primary + secondary).

Before long there remained a lonely Prussian frigate, morale broken and hull severely damaged. My own frigates were barely scratched.

Meanwhile, over in the East, the Prussian main fleet advanced steadily around the island to engage. It was reminiscent of the classic scene of the Death Star clearing the moon of Yavin in Star Wars, as the Prussian Battleship cleared the headland and more of its firepower was brought to bear on my Cruisers and battleship.

In the skies, my fighter wing successfully intercepted some inbound dive bombers, destroying many in mid air and causing others to ditch into the sea. The Prussian fighter wing was kept flying Combat Air Patrol (CAP) around his battleship, acting as an effective anti-rocket screen.

My defending frigate squadron were mostly destroyed and broken as the Prussian Battleship finally rounded the island and then levelled its main guns at my battleship. One frightening barrage from its guns caused significant hull damage and broke my rudder – meaning I could only sail straight until repaired.

It had gotten late though and we decided to call it a night there.

Hard to say how things would have turned out had we played to conclusion, but I certainly dished out some hurt with my frigates and fighters in the first couple of turns.

Most importantly though I had lots of fun, and look forward to my next game. This time fielding a fully painted fleet I hope.

Glad I’ve given the game a go and I’d heartily recommend it.

It represents quite a change of pace and scale to the other miniature wargames I play, and the starter box represents fantastic value – providing everything you need to get stuck into this exciting and fun game of steampunk warfare.

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~ by Max Von Deadlock on May 13, 2011.

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