Sunday, February 9, 2014

Mantic's Deadzone: Two battle reports

Recently my friend Jormungandr and I played a couple games of Mantic’s new Deadzone.  This game was first available as a Kickstarter but is now out as a retail release. Not all the factions and models from the Kickstarter are out yet, so YMMV at the local hobby shop.  Jormungandr sent along his comments to help me write up the game, so I will include them here.  Thanks, man!

For those unfamiliar, Deadzone is a sci-fi skirmish game played (so far) on a 2’ x 2’ gridded board with 3-D terrain and miniatures.  The basic game comes with the Enforcers, a powered-armor elite outfit of the human Corporation, and the Plague, a bunch of nasty infected-monster types.  I don’t believe that Mantic has released the full rules for free yet as they are wont to do, but quick start rules are available for free here:

As a basic overview, each side gets a secret mission with goals that score victory points (VPs).  These could be infiltration, controlling objectives, killing stuff, looting, etc.  You win by reaching 10 VPs in a standard 70 point game (a “claimed” victory), or by tabling your opponent.  If a player runs out of the battle cards that also serve as a game timer, the game is called and VPs are counted.   Each turn a player can activate up to his command stat of models, and then play goes to the other player, so it’s a modified "Igo, ugo" system.  Actions such as shooting and close combat are generally resolved with an opposed die roll using 8-sided dice.  The basic roll is made with 3 dice, with modifiers only ever providing for additional or fewer dice, never modifiers to the number needed.  Each model has a stat card with a Shoot, Fight, Survive, and command stat as well as weapons and special abilities.  The players roll off and the side with most successes wins in varying degrees based on doubling or tripling the opponent’s total. 

Players determine deployment zones after setup and mission selection.  Jormungandr set up the table based on experience, as we did a much better job of having the terrain set up to balance all four potential layouts.  As a tip to players, you can't expect to just set up a typical linear table, but need to consider the fact that the set up can rotate.

In our games, I wanted to try out the Forge Fathers faction, a Squat-like race of space dwarves.  Yay, Squats.  Their rules are still in testing and can be found here:

My list for the first game at 70 points (the current default) was as below.  I took the less expensive leader along with Brokkrs including a Heat Rifle and one Missile Launcher to deal with the Enforcer armor.  

Forge Fathers:
Mission: Y Marks the Spot (Capture X and Z and Control Y objectives, and Scour-capture crates)
Brokkr w/ AP ammo
Brokkr with Heat rifle
Forge Guard with Missile Launcher

My Forge Fathers

For the first game, Jormungandr took his Enforcers.

Jormungandr comments: Enforcers were a pretty typical force.  I prefer the sniper to the missile launcher, just because I feel better about my chances with more dice.  AP ammo on the sniper means an AP2 shot at whatever's biggest and baddest, which when combined with a good shoot card is generally a kill.

Mission - Purge (Kill stuff)
Enforcer Sgt
Enforcer Sniper w/AP ammo
Enforcer Assault Trooper
Game 1 Action Recap:
 Brokkrs sprint out for objectives

 Can you see any Enforcers?  One maybe, as my opponent hid them well!

There they are!

Another view of the Enforcers.

Two objectives to the Forge Fathers on turn one!

Missile Launcher Forge Guard uses move card, sets Overwatch on high ground.

Enforcers advance...

...and fail to gun down a Brokkr in the open.

An Enforcer jumps up to challenge the Forge Guard...and eats a missile to the face!

But here comes the sniper...

...who takes out the Missile Launcher.   

More Enforcers move up.

The Huscarl maneuvers toward the final objective.

An Enforcer pins the Brokkr, who had previously tripped a booby trap.

Forge Fathers take the high ground but aren't doing so well.  The heat rifle Brokkr is pinned on the tower and a desperate pistol-armed Brokkr unwisely challenges the Sniper.

Crazy 8s explode as a Brokkr makes a huge save against Enforcer fire. All 4s or higher are success here.

But even though the Assault trooper failed to kill him, the Enforcer on the roof picks him off without trouble.

The Sniper takes a wound but kills the Brokkr on the rooftop!  Oy!

The Heat Rifle-armed Brokkr reminds the Enforcers that AP3 weapons aren't just for Rebs!  The Assault Enforcer takes a hot shot to the face.  

The Enforcers mass to protect the last objective.  I needed to occupy the objective cube and have no enemy models adjacent to the to claim the VPs.  The objective is that little red and black marker near the center bottom of the picture, by the way.

An enraged Huscarl manages to charge (perhaps illegally) the Enforcer on the roof.  He pulverizes his enemy and gets a free move into the next cube, where he downs another Enforcer.

The Huscarl does not manage to kill a third enemy in the one turn, however.

In the Enforcer turn the Assault tries to excuse himself only to earn some electronic-warhammer loving!

But sadly the dastardly sniper puts paid to the heroic Huscarl with a crack shot.  Jormungandr reveals he has scored 10 kill points and has won the game!

The Heat Rifle Brokkr looks on forlornly as his team morale cracks.

Results:  Enforcers win a claimed victory with 10 VPs from two 3-point kills and two 2-point kills.  Forge Fathers scored 4 VPs for two objectives.  Both sides had one model remaining at the end of the game so the game was very close, even though the final score was not.
Black Knight's Comments:  In the first turn I managed to grab two objectives for 4 VPs.  I also set up an overwatch with the Forge Guard with missile launcher.  Things went kind of downhill from there as I continued to lose shootouts with the Enforcers until my Huscarl went on a tear and killed three of them in a row in close combat.  I had some opportunities for the Brokkr with Heat Rifle to kill the sniper but the dice weren’t with me.   However,  I was not quite able to get the VPs needed to win and Jormungandr's sniper killed the Huscarl to end it all. 
Jormungandr's comments: The fast opening made it clear I needed to make it as difficult as possible to defend the remaining objective against a Control order.  After that, next priority was clearing the missile launcher.  Managed to do both on turn 1 (clearing ML cost me an Enforcer, but it was worth the risk), but couldn't take out the Brokkr closest to the objective.  A booby trap stopped the Brokkr when he paused to examine a crate on turn 2.  He tanked a bunch of shots from the Assault and an Enforcer, but went down in the end.  Sniper managed to tank several rounds of the other Brokkr's fire (taking a wound) and dropped him with a crazy pistol shot (8d - clear shot, sniper bonus, aim bonus).  Heat rifle fried the assault trooper; then the Huscarl came in and laid waste to me (technically, I think he may have climbed a non-existent wall (like I tried to do later with my Teraton) but whatevs, it was pretty cool) only to get finished when the Sniper got really, really mad at him and popped him with a crazy good shot (8d - clear shot, sniper bonus, aim bonus and something like 7 or 8 successes).  That got me to 10, just in time too as the heat rifle would probably have killed the Sniper on the next turn...
Game 2: For game two we went to 100 points, aka a “Code 13” mission.  In addition to the higher point value, this meant a side required 13 VPS to win a game.  I took the following list, adding another Forge Guard with long range rifle and upgrading my leader to the Forge Guard armor version.  

Forge Fathers:
Mission: All They Understand (Kill enemy units)

Huscarl in Forge Guard Armor
Brokkr w/ AP ammo
Brokkr with Heat rifle
Forge Guard with Missile Launcher
Forge Guard with Hailstorm Rifle

Jorumungandr took the Rebs faction, a rag-tag group of species opposed to Corporate control , and ostensibly and Forge Father mining operations.

Jormungandr: Rebs were based around two Desolators.  I knew Black Knight would have Forge Guard and Desolators are great anyway thanks to long range, AP3 + Tough.  Onslaught was a "what the hell" buy but Firestorm actually worked out pretty well for me.  At 100, Rebs definitely need at least one Teraton for surprise attacks.  Remaining models were the four troopers I needed and the Sgt for the extra command points.

Some of my Rebels painted up

Mission: Save What You Can (Kill leaders, scour, survive goals)
Rebel Cmdr
Yndij Sgt
Grogan Desolator
Grogan Desolator
Grogan Onslaught
3 Humans
Game 2 Action Recap:

The Rebels deploy behind plenty of LOS-blocking terrain.

Forge Fathers deploy their numerically inferior forces across the board.

The Missile Launcher Forge Guard manages only to wound the Yndij sergeant.  

Rebels advance, including a big honking Teraton! The Forge Guard with Hailstorm rifle only wounds a Grogan.  

The Missile Launcher Forge Guard suffers suppression, and would remain suppressed for most of the game.

The Forge Guard Huscarl takes up the fight on the roofop, but never managed to fell a Grogan.  The Brokkrs advance on my right.  

The Forge Guard with Hailstorm gets blasted by the Grogan with Desolator.

The Rebel backfield remains strong.

The Huscarl engages the Grogan to no effect.  Then a Teraton uses a combination of a Command action, a move card, and teleportation move to demolish a Brokkr with heat rifle.

The Grogan corps holds a commanding position.

The Brokkrs on my right hold out, killing an Yndij and a human.  But I have no answer for the Teraton in my backfield.

Here the Brokkrs have take the flank on my right, but heavy firepower awaits them.

A Brokkr charges the Teraton and manages to hold him up for a couple of turns. My Huscarl, being slow, cannot drop down to help out in a single move.  

The Huscarl fails to kill off the Grogan across the table in an extended firefight...

...and finally succumbs to the deadly Desolator cannon.

I missed a few pics but one of my Brokkrs tor up the flank and killed the Grogan on top of the building finally, but he missed a chance to get a second attack on another Grogan and ended up getting pinned down.

The Missile Launcher Forge Guard finally makes it off his perch but gets pinned again as the Brokkr trades blows with the Teraton to no effect.

And then my opponent opened up a can of 8s can rolled 9 succeses on the Brokkr, turning him into a fine paste.

The Teraton hides behind a corner as the Missile Launcher pokes his nose in...and merely wounds the Teraton!

The enraged monstrosity teleports out of cover and eviscerates the hapless Forge Guard.

The last Forge Father defiantly guns down the Yndij sergeant...

...only to be finished off by the second Desolator Grogan at long range.  

Result: Rebs win by tabling FF.  At game end Rebs have 9 VPs- leader kill, 2 scour VPs, 6 survive VPs. FF lose with 9 VPs-2 11pt-plus models and 2 1-6 pt models, and one intel (crate item) VP.

Black Knight's comments:  My plan was to pick off models and play conservatively for my kill mission but little went right for me in this one.  I had a hard time scoring kills and the Grogans with Deoloators had no trouble with any of my models.  It also doesn't help at all to have a Teraton running around butchering your troops, although a Brokkr heroically helped one off for several turns.  Jormungandr expertly neutralized my best assets with suppression, and by getting the Teraton in my face very early.

Jormungandr's comments: Stud of the game was the Grogan who nailed the Hailstorm and Huscarl (before getting his head caved in by a Brokkr).  Runner up was the Brokkr who killed him - that little bastard nailed the Yndij trooper, a Human trooper and the Grogan.
I didn't have a clear sense of his orders in game 2, but since Black Knight wasn't pressing hard for the objectives, I figured he had something else up your sleeve (some combination of killing targets and/or scour).  My goals were [a] killing whatever FF heavy weapon was firing at the Grogans, [b] keeping the ML pinned and [c] slowly moving the humans up to collect crates.  The Brokkrs gave me a hard time - they are awesome against Rebs thanks to Brawler and the 4+ Fight/Survive.
Conclusions:  So Deadzone is really working for me (and I think Jormungandr as well).  I enjoy the speed of the 70-point game, the clean mechanics, and the wide variety of troops and factions in what is essentially a newly released game.  Although it's totally subjective to say so, I simply find the games more satisfying than other sci-fi skirmish systems I have been playing.  I am not certain the balance is quite there yet between all the factions, but time will tell. Nor I am quite happy with games at the 100-point level, because as Jormungandr points out it's difficult if not impossible to reach 13 VPs, which means death matches.  I don't see that as a feature, I see it as a bug.  But "Code 13" 100-point battles are a work in progress so I'll give it time. Overall, I am very pleased with the rules of Deadzone at release, especially compared to the nigh-unplayable disaster that was Sedition Wars when I received it.