Thursday, February 5, 2015

Dust Battlefield: Battle Report and Capsule Review

Dust is War!  Well, you know it has been a long time since I have done a blog post.  I do apologize but life gets in the way sometimes.  Today let's get the ball rolling for 2015 with a little love for a game I really like called Dust Tactics.  Dust has seen a number of iterations, first  a board game, tehna revised board game, then a tabletop game called Dust Warfare, then a new revision Dust 2.0, which has both board game rules and "Dust Battlefield" which is the board game rules brought onto the tabletop.  But what is it?  Simply put, a 28mm miniatures game set in an alternate universe where WWII did not end in 1945, and where weird science and technology have enabled the great powers, Axis, Allies and Sino-Soviet Union to create fantastic war machines.

I did play the board game of Dust Tactics and enjoyed it, but it was always a bit simple and extremely deadly for infantry.  Dust Warfare in my opinion went a bit too far in the other direction: it was dripping with chrome and interesting mechanics, but after playing it I felt I had done a lot of work to achieve a similar result to Dust Tactics.  When Dust 2.0 came out I was excited to see that it was somewhere in between.  It had more chrome than the original Dust Tactics but was not as dense as Dust Warfare.  In addition to all the basic rules, in Dust 2.0 they added in a suppression system and made infantry much more survivable.  They also streamlined the special rules which had sprawled across many expansions and consolidated them into one book.  They issued new unit cards and revised point values, and provided some basic scenarios (much familiar to Flames of War players due to Battlefront's input on the rules) to play competitive head-to-head games on the tabletop.

Well with the assistance of a new airbrush, I finally got some Sino-Soviet Union (yes they united in the world of Dust!) vehicles painted, and using my old trusty brushes some infantry as well.  So recently I got together with an old friend who also has Dust and we played a 150 point game of Dust Battlefield.  We played the scenario "No Retreat" which is almost identical to the Flames of War scenario of the same name.  The defender holds two objectives, one of which the attacker must seize to win the game.  The Defender wins if the attacker fails to have a unit in the Defender's deployment zone after turn 4, or if the game goes 8 turns without a winner otherwise.

My SSU army was as follows:

Nikolai (tank pilot hero)
Red bears command squad
2xFrontoviki infantry squad
Fakyeli assault engineer squad
Natasha mortar walker
Nina AT walker
Natalya flamethrower walker
IS-48 Beria heavy tank
Matrioshka KV-47 heavy walker
Striker gunship chopper
Walker Transport Chopper
Troop Transport Chopper

My opponent took the "Blutkreuz Korps" platoon build of the sinister Axis zombies and mad science:

Totenmeisterin (evil scientist)
Sigrid (German ace soldier)
Grenadier X (hyper-zombie)
Angela (German sniper hero)
2 x Zombies
Advanced Zombies with AT weapons
Advanced Zombies with MGs
Sturmaffen (giant apes with guns!)
2x Heavy Laser Weapon teams
3 Axis aircraft (2x Fledermaus tank hunters an 1x Adler air superiority fighter)
Laser Grenadiers

Here are some pre-battle shots of the armies:

Axis lined up for battle


SSU on parade.  I love my airbrush, did I mention that? 

 On Turn One, I had initiative.  I deployed my forces all across my table edge to advance as quickly as possible.

Did any comrade order a big tank?

The Axis were thin on the ground as half their units were in reserve, to arrive later, and one plane lurked in ambush, somewhere in the skies....with two more already in close support.

Axis air ready to pounce on my slow-moving choppers!

The view from Axis lines.  Two heavy grenadier laser AT teams were deployed in good firing positions overlooking my likely avenues of approach.

The SSU advance with their walkers and attempt to draw out the defenders.  

SSU air ready to deliver some heat.

Axis apes and zombies lurk in the ruins while the AT team scans for enemies.  

 Some desultory fire does little, and the SSU advance aggressively toward and objective with a helicopter carrying the sulphur (flame) throwing walker.  
 Axis air fails to down the chopper and out pops a KV-47 walker, who walks into reactive fire from the Panzerfaust-armed zombies!  

He survives, however, and his flame jets all but annihilate his target zombies.  (Actually it should have hit all of them and killed them due to the flame template but we are still learning!)

The Axis hold the objective with zombies as the SSU transport chopper advances with a cargo of sapper-engineers.

View of the advance from the Axis side.

The Axis AT team destroys the sulphur-thrower walker in revenge for its zombie-toasting rampage!

SSU attack chopper makes a run on the other zombie unit holding the objective, but downs only two...

Another Axis flyer swoops in, doing minor damage to the SSU chopper...

...and failing to destroy the AT walker which made a spectacular "damage resilient " save and would have exploded otherwise.

At the bottom of Turn One the SSU sapper-engineers make a dash for the objective, drop a whopping 24 dice on Sigrid and her unit...and leave 2 alive!  If this had work I would have actually won the game by having the objective with no enemy within 4" at the end of the turn.  Alas... I think it was worth the try!

At the top of turn two there is a huge furball over the center of the battlefield...Axis get to go first..what will happen?

Anticlimactically, Der Adler (the green fighter) appears out of ambush but failed to roll two activations, so rather than attack it maneuvers behind a building for safety!  In Dust Battlefield you need to roll two dice for an ambushing unit, and you get one action for each faction symbol rolled.  In this case only one success meant the plane had to make a single move action as planes must move every turn.  The Axis general's cursing shook the game store!

However, Sigrid and her one remaining zombie open fire on and assault the Engineers, wiping them out!

 The DShK machine guns of the SSU transport plane destroys a Fledermaus flyer using sustained fire (a special ability of helicopters is they can hover and take a sustained fire action, as opposed to planes which must move).  Splash one for the SSU!

The other Fledermaus tries to take revenge...but again fails to destroy any targets!  Here you can see my helicopter is "under fire" and the light AT walker "suppressed".  A suppressed model must make a successful rally roll when it activates or take a "nothing" action as its first action, greatly limiting its use.

In a stunning display of aerial supremacy, the Striker gunship targets and destroys Der Adler before it can fire its anti-air missiles!  What a break for the SSU!

Axis laser troops arrive from reserve and put fire in the Striker, but do only minor damage.

The SSU mortar launcher walker delivers a volley of rounds, eliminating Sigrid and her zombie pal.

Both SSU infantry squads fire machine guns in an attempt to down the last Axis flyer and do some damage.

More Axis zombies, led by the Totenmeisterin, appear from reserve.  

Using sustained fire from its single AA MG, the Matrioshka walker finishes off the last Axis plane!  Only its long-barreled cannon remains visible, spinning through the air after the explosion!  

An overview of turn two, as the Axis apes and SSU heavy tank advance on Weathertop, err the circular ruins.  SSU command fails to reactivate teh tank for a second movement, preventing a run on the objective.

At the top of Turn 3 the Axis heat laser AT team destroys the Matrioshka walker from extreme range!

SSU air support targets the warped gorillas, downing one.

Before it can move into cover, the mortar walker suffers a devastating attack from the other German AT laser team, and explodes.

"Wunderbar! Up yours, Ivan!"

After receiving heavy fire from, and almost being destroyed by, the AT-equipped gorillas, the Beria heavy tank manages to finish off the apes.

But Axis zombies descend up on the light AT walker in a frenzy of iron fists...

...and leave it a smashed wreck! 

At the very bottom of turn 3, SSU command orders the heavy tank back into action (my command squad can do this if it rolls well!) and the damaged tank advances.  My opponent forgot he had one other model who could have activated, which might have helped him!

The Beria's flamethrower automatically hits and kills all the zombies including Totenmeisterin! Is my opponent trying to make an editorial comment here?

At the top of Turn Four, the SSU have sustained heavy casualties but are poised to seize an objective.

Taking the initiative, the SSU sends forward the Frontoviki to dispatch the zombies.  Their fire only kills three, however.

The Zombies' retaliatory charge, by contrast, leaves no opposition alive!  

An Axis sniper picks of a poor SSU machine gunner!  Crack!

SSU Air converge on the heavy laser team, obstructing LOs to the tank and whittling the team down to one crewman!

Suffering from suppression, the crew break from cover and attempt to contest the objective!  But the heavy tank meets them, and once again the flamethrower answers all arguments with finality.  The SSU seize the objective at the end of turn four and the game is over!

A few battered SSU troops live to see another day.

What an exciting game!  I almost had a first-turn victory, but it was not to be.  I started taking heavy casualties and my gambit looked like it would ruin me.  Then, the tables turned in my favor when I down the Axis air elements in one turn.  But even after that, the remaining Axis ground my forces down to little more than a heavy tank and the helicopters.  With my air support concentrating fire, however, the last Axis defenders were unable to last much longer, and I was able to seize the objective with my armor.  

For the SSU, the choppers have to be the MVPs of the game.  They darted all over, took heavy fire, and made key contributions consistently.  On the Axis side, I think the heavy AT laser teams were the best, causing massive damage and annihilating my walker core.  They are particularly good in defense holding a position in cover with a good field of fire.  That was excellent unit placement by my opponent.   In this game my air got lucky, but there are many ground units available to counter air in Dust 2.0.  I am sure my opponent will include one or two more AA assets next time.  He did a great job of neutralizing my AT assets by having no walkers, by the way!

As you can tell, I really like Dust Tactics and the Battlefield variant.  It plays very quickly, has a good amount of "crunch" but not so much as to be cumbersome.  It simulates morale, overwatch fire and rapid maneuver without excessive rules.  Infantry have been made much more survivable (barring flamethrowers!) and the game feels well-balanced in terms of the armor, infantry, and air aspects. Dust 2.0 is a winner, the models are fantastic, and you should give the game a try if you would  like World War II, science fiction, and big. stompy walkers in one fast-playing and smooth game system!