Dust Battle Report: Allies vs. Axis @150AP

On the 4th of July I was able to play a Dust Warfare game with BoLS's very own Lux on the Dust Warfare table from the 2012 Wargames Con. In case you missed that table - it will be back for the 2013 WGC. ^^

We played a game at 150AP (army points) each since we are both rather new to the game. I was playing Allies, Lux played his Axis. Using the battle builder we came up with the following scanrio:

Objectives - Break The Line
Deployment - Unprepared
Conditions - None

This was going to be a very difficult game as Break The Line meant we had to move into each other's deployment zone, but Unprepared meant that all units arrive from reserves in piece-meal over three turns. I had a slight advantage because my army didn't have any support units which would have arrived in turn three, so I was set to have everything on the table in turn two.

My list:

1 Ranger Attack Squad ("Hellboys")
1 Heavy Ranger Assault Squad ("The Hammers")
1 Heavy Ranger Attack Squad ("Grim Reapers")
1 Heavy Ranger Tank Hunter Squad ("Tank Busters")
1 British Paratroopers ("Red Devils")

So I had an all infantry elite army and I knew I had to be careful with my units as you need to be with just about any elite army no matter what game system you are playing.

According to the scenario, the Hammers and the Hellboys start the game on turn 1. As Lux was going second I decided to control the center of the table with my units. His units appeared on 11 o'clock.

Turn 2, everything from my army arrives. The Grim Reapers jump onto the roof of the house, but are still outside of firing range. At 12 o'clock, the Hammers jump into the last piece of cover before assault. On their 3 o'clock, the Red Devils come in with their parachutes and hide behind cover as well. The Red Devils are supposed to walk towards Lux' table edge to score mission points at the end of the game. The Hellboys move along the house in the center while the Tank Busters follow up behind them.

The Hammers at 12 o'clock are being eradicated by disciplined German fire despite being behind cover. The Red Devils move into their previous position instead. The Grim Reapers jump and go incover behind the house at 10 o'clock. The Tank Busters move into the Grim Reapers' previous position on the roof of the house in the center. The Hellboys continue to move along the house below them.

The Grim Reapers jumped onto the roof in front of the German positions and opened fire, but did only little damage. The returning German volley killed them all. The Hellboys attempt to break away from their building in the center and move towards the same building, but the precise German fire kills them as well. The Tank Busters move up and hide behind the wall. The Red Devils decide to just stay in cover and be pretty.

In our last turn, my Tank Busters jumped back to hide behind the building farther  away from the Germans so they can't be shot. At this point it was obvious that Lux' slow troops would never reach my deployment zone whereas any of my units moving into his zone would get shot immediately. Since he would win if he managed to kill all my units, by playing chicken I was able to secure at least a draw.

So this was my first "real" game of Dust Warfare. In conclusion I learned how important reactions are because pretty much anything of my army that got close enough to the Germans was immediately gunned down.
From a technical point of view, my problem was that I wasn't familiar enough with my own firing capabilities and those of the Germans.
From a tactical point of view, after securing the center, I should have sent a minimal detachment towards the Germans at 11 o'clock (just to keep them busy) whereas as many units as possible should have moved strictly towards Lux' table edge at 2 o'clock. That way I could have scored scenario points while potentially still be out of reach of his ranged weapons.

Dust Warfare basics

The center lane of the Dust demo table is dominated by a fearsome Königsluther. Allies try to move over the flanks.

Originally when I read the reports about "that new game" called Dust Warfare on BoLS I wasn't really impressed - honestly, I still think that the allied tanks that can jump like a frog still look pretty lame. Unless something happens like in the case with the 40K Orkz Battle Wagon or the Blood Angels Stormraven (I got used to their looks after a while), chances are high I will never field a Hot Dog/Pounder/Steel Rain/Mickey.

So when I got to the 2012 Wargames Con my attitude was rather negative, like I don't need another silly wargame. Well, two weeks later I have decided to shelf my 40K stuff at least for a while and pick up Dust Warfare as my secondary system next to Warmachine/Hordes. Very decisive in this process was the demo game with Mack Martin, the co-designer of Dust Warfare. Mack is a complete nerd (and I mean this in the most positive sense) who can talk with you for hours about various game systems - of course he knows all the important ones. However, he is also a great teacher showing how the very simple mechanism of Dust Warfare works, so you immediately get a hang of it.

The pictures in this article are from the Dust Warfare demo table at the 2012 Wargames Con. Mack was constantly hanging out there providing demo games for interested people. I hit the table on a slow afternoon and played for about 90mins; Mack needed 30mins to explain to me the basic rules and what was going on, but after 30mins I could "really" play my troops already.

Axis infantry is defending the Königsluther. The Königsluther is awesome against allied tanks and can hardly be taken down by them, but it really doesn't like allied infantry in its flanks.

So what is the real beauty behind Dust Warfare's simplicity. Well, I basically see three factors.

1) The game turns are very simple.

Every game turn has three parts:

  1. Command phase - officers in the field use it to assign special orders to their squads. Nifty add-ons like a radio-man in your command squad enhances the command range of your officer.
  2. Unit phase - in this phase, one unit after the other activates and performs its actions. It is pretty much the same as doing something with your Stormblades or Kriel Warriors in Warmachine/Hordes, so if you are familiar with that, nothing really new here.
  3. End phase - basically you just clean up tokens that expire.

Well, that's pretty much it.

2) Simple dice and simple math.

Ok, the math behind 40K and WM/H is not exactly rocket science, but simple addition and subtraction. Met a guy for a Warmachine game here in the US (I didn't blog about that), though, who took like 30s to subtract 6 from 13 saying that he prefers to do it on paper. Well, no matter whether math is your thing or not, easier is always more convenient.

Dust dice have only two values:

  1. Hit.
  2. Miss.

Dust dice have six sides whereas two sides carry the Hit symbol and four sides are blank for missses. (if you don't have Dust dice, use regular dice and 5 and 6 as Hits instead) In other words, your chances for a Hit are exactly 1/3. Once I picked up that information during the demo game I immeditaely realized that it is wise to optimize one's tactics for robustness against failure.

When you have a squad that fires in Dust, you simply add the number of hits and subtract the number of successful saves. (for a sucessful save, you need to score a Hit symbol on your dice too - in other words, chances are 2/3 you won't make it) Any positive integer then tells you how many models you have to remove.

Example: a Recon Rangers Squad (five men) fires at German Laser Grenadiere (five men, too). The Recon Rangers have 4 assault rifles (one dice each) and an MG (three dice) for a total of seven dice. After the dice are rolled there are three Hits. The Laser Grenadiere are level 2 infantry so they are allowed to roll two dice for saves; the Axis player scores one Hit. Since 3-1 is 2, this means the Axis player has to remove two models in his 5 men Laser Grenadiere squad. And no, it doesn't get more difficult than that.

3) Stat cards

Dust Warfare uses a system of unit stat cards similar to WM/H, so if you know WM/H you immediately feel at home, too. However, Dust Warfare stat cards contain *significantly* less text; mostly they are just tables telling you how many dice shall be rolled and what special rules in the basic rulebook are available for a unit. The number of special rules is rather limited and they are rather simple (like infantry with the Jump special rule - you guessed it - jumps), so you won't find yourself having to look them up too often either.

The stat cards are sort of unusual since they are not "real" cards like in WM/H as they are printed in the rulebook. However, just a couple hours ago OldHat published an excellent article on BoLS about what you (physically) need for game play that also has interesting links to a Dropbox where you can download fully colored stat cards. I guess I will simply load them onto a tablet , although flipping through the rulebook is quite efficient, too.

German zombies (that's what you get for using the Wiederbelebungsserum) move towards allied positions on the left flank as they receive cover fire from a Hermann and Ludwig walker.


Of course this was not the full set of rules, like I haven't talked yet about who goes first etc. However, these are just small and easy details that don't really require any effort. Once you understand how the game turn works, how dice are thrown and calculated, and how to look up the relevant stats of your units, you can play.


Hiatus or Exodus? Time will tell.

One of the earliest games of 40K 6th Edition played by the BoLS crew at Dragon's Lair in Austin, TX.

On Saturday June 30th 2012 Games Workshop released the new Warhammer 40'000 rulebook. I went into the Dragon's Lair San Antonio store, saw all the 40K fans eagerly flipping through the new rulebook, and then I calmly purchased the Dust Warfare rulebook. For the big wide world that the internet and the real world are this is a significant act, but for me it was a huge act. If you want to know the reasons behind it, you are welcome to keep reading.

I am a Blood Angels player and one thing I have to get straight out: I did not refuse to buy the new 6th Edition rulebook because I am upset about the nerf on Furious Charge and Feel No Pain - two concepts very fundamental to a Blood Angels army. I noticed that Jump Pack infantry in general got better and that my two Stormravens are now even harder to kill on the table. GW has always done that when they change rules; they take away things dear to your army and give something else in return. They reshuffle the cards to keep the game interesting - it's their bread and butter as a game company and it's good that they do it.

There are competing rulebooks on the market

The reason I purchased the Dust Warfare rulebook instead of 40K 6th Edition was simply that I got to know new games with rule sets that are better from my point of view and it seems like the number of people who agree with me is growing.
Originally I started out on Christmas 2009 with 40K as my primary game system and Warmachine as my secondary. However, the more I played Warmachine, the more I started to appreciate the simple and coherent rules that people were talking about on the internet in comparison to 40K. I started to understand why this ruleset provides better clarity for tournaments resulting in fewer disputes. In other words, Warmachine is easy to learn yet hard to master - you quickly pick up the core rules, yet the variety of armies and units never make a game boring and will challenge you for a long time.
In 2012, Warmachine definitely became my primary gaming system whereas 40K took a seat as the secondary gaming system of choice - until I had a demo game of Dust Warfare with Mack Martin at the 2012 Wargames Convention. Dust Warfare squeezed in as my secondary gaming system putting 40K on the third place - in other words, 40K is going to be shelved because I (like many other gamers) don't really have the resources to focus on more than two games at the same moment.

The Dust Warfare game table at the 2012 Wargames Con.

When I made the switch from 40K to Warmachine, I experienced the change of rulesets as a simplification of the game - but the great part was that simplification didn't mean a lack of options and/or tactics or bordedom. As a matter of fact, I think GW makes 40K increasingly complex to avoid boredom and sell more miniatures, of course - flyers and terrain, anyone? Warmachine goes a different route by making a small but cohesive rule book and then define unit stats on seperate unit cards. Dust Warfare uses the same approach yet they very consequently do it - Dust Warfare is a ruleset reduced to the max. It can't really get any slimmer for a wargame. 30mins of gaming with Mack Martin and I grasped the entire game except for a couple detail rules that were not used in that game (e.g. artillery strikes). Dust Warfare can be learned quickly and it can be played very quickly. If you are looking for a secondary gaming system (or even a primary) that has easy access and efficiently rewards you with tons of wargaming fun with little investment of resources, then Dust Warfare is worth to have at least a look at it.

Other game companies treat their customers better

There are GW haters on the internet not getting tired of pointing out how bad GW really is and then there are the fan boys who don't get tired of defending the company against any sort of criticism - even if it's brought forward in neutral language and based on empirical facts. My approach to this debate is that I don't care about it - as a customer I don't need to demonize a company, but I don't need to jump into the trenches to defend it either - I simply purchase from the company where I feel treated best as a customer. Privateer Press and Fantasy Flight know they are fighting an uphill battle against the industry leader GW, but rather than resigning they make sure to do anything to win that uphill battle and they allocate the necessary resources. This may change in the future as these companies get larger or GW gets to feel the sting of competition, but right now I see better customer relationship programs from PP and FF:

Privateer Press demo games at the 2012 Wargames Con - there were always people waiting to get a demo game in.

  • PP and FF sent their very own representatives to the 2012 Wargames Con to talk directly with the people. (GW does this, too, but only for its very own Game Days)
  • PP maintains a forum on its website.
  • PP gets people excited with announcements and previews (scroll down for Upcoming Releases).
  • PP lets fan sites run previews like over at BoLS or RHQTV.
  • PP gives a free starter box to anyone doing their demo game. At Wargames Con, some veteran 40K players really started thinking when they realized that they held a fully playable army in their hands - not just a squad, a fully playable army with the necessary stat cards included without the need to purchase a 33 USD army codex first. (although you better still buy the Warmachine rulebook, but you need the rulebook for 40K too)

Other game companies require fewer expenses to enjoy a game

At that point I should note that it's note the cost that prevents me from picking up 40K 6th Edition. I do have a Fortress of Redemption, I bought it when it came out. I do have two Stormravens. I have a total of around 12'000pts of Blood Angels with all kinds of equipment so I could flexibly adapt to the new ruleset no matter what's the latest flavor of the month/edition. The problem is, I simply don't feel like putting up with all that anymore when I see the alternatives.

Reasons that may still keep me in WH40K

GW still makes the best looking models, period. When I look at my unpainted Blood Angels or at painted Blood Angels on GW photos, then I feel the strong need to go to my painting table and continue my work on them.

GW background stories and settings (aka "fluff") are awesome, especially with the Horus Heresy. I will definitely continue to read the books from Black Library.

GW's game systems are still the most popular on the globe, no matter how you turn it. At Wargames Con, the 40K Grand Tournament is the tournament, at Adepticon and others I believe it's pretty much the same. This may be subject to change, but the sober fact is that GW still dominates the scene. Friends of mine have experienced what it means to play a "better" game system that has hardly any followers, so since gaming with yourself alone isn't that much fun, you probably switch back to what the majority plays again.

Unlike 1975, many people are connected through the internet these days

Wargaming definitely isn't the most important or most popular purpose the internet has been developped for. However, we observe that the internet greatly affects wargaming, too, especially if you see it as a retail industry, but also if you look at the gaming community.

When GW started in 1975, growth meant having a good product and deliver it through an increasing number of game stores. Channels of communication were mail and the phone, both for players among themselves, but also between players and the company and between various companies. Another (unidirectional) channel of communication was the White Dwarf magazine that gamers eagerly bought.

In 2012, the world has definitely changed. Players communicate internationally (blogs, forums, social networks), trends and developments in wargaming have a much quicker pace (discussions of the meta-game in said channels), armies are bought and sold on ebay, there are internet based army building tools and even platforms that allow you to play online rather than on a table top, and marketing can be delivered directly to relevant customers (e.g. youtube) - be it driven by a company or as a grass roots movement by fans all on their own. My Warmachine gaming group uses Google+ to share wargaming news and comment on them, Google Documents to collaboratively work on army lists, Google Groups for various discussions, and Google Events and Calendar for making gaming appointments. This is very different from a gamer in 1977 picking up the phone to call his/her gaming buddies - I didn't say it's better or worse, just different - and gaming companies start to feel the need to adapt to these changes if they still want to be relevant in the future. PP announcement of War Room is definitely a step in that direction, GW's release of Codex: Space Marines for iOS is a smaller step into the same direction, too.

The point behind all this is that it has become easier to find similarly minded gamers if you like a certain gaming system. The point is that the chances to be exposed to a new gaming system are much higher now. The point is that a company doing customer relationships well will be more likely to succeed with its product. In this context it seems like the underdogs are currently gaining momentum with innovative business models while GW keeps reselling us the same old concepts with tiny modifications. They recently redid their entire color range, but it's not like their old paints have gotten bad all of a sudden so that you can not use them anymore, right? (I still have painting pots from 1993)


The Dust Warfare rulebook (40$), an Assault Rangers Squad (Allies, $15), and Laser Sturmgrenadiere (Axis, $15).

So this is a lengthy explanation on why I purchased the Dust Warfare rulebook rather than 40K 6th Edition. I am totally insignificant, but if there are more insignificant guys like me, we may eventually reach a crticial mass (or have done so already). For everyone who bought the 6th Edition rulebook I honestly wish that they enjoy their games because after all it's a hobby we want to have a good time with. In the end, the game system is irrelevant as long as the players have a good time playing it. I just have found out that I for my part am happier in Warmachine/Hordes and Dust Warfare.

So, if you wanna stay with me on this blog for future articles on Dust Warfare, you are more than welcome to. If you prefer 40K news only, you are welcome to ignore Dust Warfare entirely, but I recommend to have at least a look at it to find out if you may like as well.