Saturday, February 20, 2016

Dunland, arise!

"The horsemen stole your lands!  They drove your ancestors into the hills, to scratch a living off rocks!  Take back the lands they stole from you.  Burn every village!"

The Dunlendings strike a village of Rohan

The few defenders are sorely outnumbered...

...and they burn rick, cot and tree.

None shall be spared in the whirlwind of revenge spurred by Saruman.
 Thrydan Wolfsbane, Thane of Dunland, strikes!

"We will fight...

we will die, for Saruman!"

"Death to the Forgoil!"

"Rohan, my lord, is ready to fall!"

Thursday, February 11, 2016

DUST: Top secret plans revealed!

To:  SSU STAVKA Intelligence HQ
From:  Field Agent XXXXX XXXXXX
Source:  XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX (unconfirmed)
Date 2-11-46
Subj: Future of DUST Operations

Tovarisch General XXXXXX-

Overview: During my recent mission to XXXX as part of Operation Babylon, I uncovered a valuable source of intelligence on future developments in the world of VK technology and the respective war plans of the three major warring powers.  What follows is my report of these highly probable predications from my unconfirmed sources. I have organized the intel by general subject matter.

Faction Dispositions:  All three factions continue to battle over the previous VK resources and technological caches left by the XXXX civilization in the Middle East.  Each is expected to deploy reinforcements to the region soon.  Axis Fallschirmjagers have already arrived with Raketentruppen.  More Luftwaffe reinforcements are inbound and will be launching a new Operation, code name Kondor. As you know, our Steel Guards will be deploying in greater numbers and accompanied by the Steel Guard hero XXXX.  In addition, a separate detachment of Chinese soldiers of the SSU will be arriving not long afterward. The USMC continue to deploy to the Babylon theater of operations, though it is believed that their major detachments have already been identified.

In addition to the deployments suspected above, a major new addition to the conflict is expected to arrive by the end of the year or early next.  The Japanese Empire is sending massive submarines holding their Vk-powered walker and infantry forces to reinforce Axis positions.  However, rumours indicate a split in the Japanese ranks between Army and Navy forces. Navy forces appear to have rejected the Emperor's submission to the Axis hierarchy. Japanese naval forces should be considered rogue and their exact agenda unknown. Japanese forces will likely consist of very heavy walkers, elite infantry such as the Special Naval Landing Force, and a new mechanical soldier our SSU Czech agents call "robots".  We also expect to see manifestations of the peculiar Japanese suicide tactics in theater.  Finally, Japanese saboteurs known as "Ninja" have begun to arrive and are already infiltrating and spreading chaos. 

Rules of War:  As STAVKA and all intelligence agencies are aware, the rules of DUST wars have shifted several times over the past few years.  This has caused unintended casualties and weakened the structure of our world overall.  However, the powers that be are on the verge of agreeing to a new set of the rules of war, meant to last at least three years.  Sources indicate these rules for gridded and free-range war should be finalized by March of this year, and will be available as a free publication on the "internet" of global communications. In addition, the profiles of all weapons, squads and notable individuals of the DUST world will be revised and made similarly available.  This should allow all current and future participants in the wars of the DUST world to join the fray with minimal impediment.  Print copies of these materials will be available for purchase through traditional channels. Future campaign dossiers, however, will still be available only for purchase as is currently the case. 

The rules will not be changed too much from the current version. Changes will include improvements to the suppression mechanic. In addition, aircraft will now gain cover saves whenever moving, getting a "faction" save for normal moves and "faction and shield" save for march moving. There will be a refocusing of "platoon" structures into "army" structures.  Army structures will reward "pure" army composition (e.g. having all Spetsnaz troops) with an extra 10% point bonus that can be used for purchasing heroes.  For example, an all-Spetsnaz army of 100 points would get an extra 10 points for heroes. Neutral and Merc units would not count against this faction purity bonus.  This will likely replace the potentially imbalanced "platoon" structures of the current game. 

Balance of Power: The current faction forces appear relatively well matched.  My sources indicate that the powers that be will see that some troops such as Panzers and Death Dealers will decrease in their effectiveness.  In addition the dominance of the Panzer Prince and Wotan will likely be curtailed. SSU Steel Guards will likely gain the Damage Resilience rule.  Some other units with obvious overcosts or underpowered weapons will be addressed, such as the Babushka. But overall, most units should remain the same in terms of cost and effectiveness.  One exception is commanders and heroes.  Heroes will now be cheaper to field, but will not usually have officer abilities unless that is their primary function.  Most heroes who fight will lose the officer action and focus on fighting.  In addition, it appears the ability to call reinforcements and replacements may be curtailed or eliminated.  

Logistics:  It is also no secret that the world of DUST has suffered logistical and distribution issues which have disrupted the flow of supplies globally.  The powers that be are working on a new distribution plan to engage major distribution networks in order to restore the prior level of market access enjoyed by DUST products. A new distribution officer has arrived from France and is on the job. 
The Future:  Although this information is the least confirmed in this report, it seems possible that the world of DUST will undergo a transition sometime after the next three years.  The battles of the DUST world will likely change in the future, perhaps growing to resemble a three-way "Cold War", should hostilities prove inconclusive in the instant struggle for VK and XXXX technology dominance.  At some point, if we are unlucky, the human forces of our planet may find the XXXX aliens have come to our very doorstep!

Summary:  All of the above information is unconfirmed and subject to change and the vicissitudes of war.  Any errors are my responsibility.  However my source is very reliable.  The future of DUST is war, Comrade General.  New troops, new campaigns, new rules of war, and more are on the way! Let us put our trust in our strong arms and the will of the people, so our world of DUST may prevail! 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

DUST World Expo 2016 AAR-Game 3 and Beyond!

GAME 3-The final round of the tournament saw me facing off yet again versus another SSU player. Clearly there was a lot of treason and counter-revolution in the desert.  I can only presume vodka rations were also at stake.  At any rate I faced James from California, with his more-elite SSU army, containing 2 of the dreaded Mao tanks and some very good infantry.

The mission was No Retreat, where the defender has to hold two objectives with only half of their force against the full might of the attacker, and hope for timely reserves.  James won(?) the roll to be the attacker.  We also had a high chance of sandstorms so I expected short range mayhem for this game.  The defender wins if, after Turn 4 or thereafter, there is no attacking unit across the center of the board or at the end of Turn 8.  The attacker wins by seizing an objective.

Turn 1:    Sandstorm!  I set up my defenders, holding Nikolai and a Matrioshka in ambush.  All other units are in reserve.

James' troops set up on one flank.

I quickly get reserves as James advances.  

Nikolai springs his ambush from behind the palm trees, but fails to kill the rightmost Mao, leaving it with one damage point.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

DUST World Expo 2016 AAR-Intro and Tournament Rounds 1 and 2

This past weekend I attended Dust World Expo (DWE) 2016. DWE is an annual celebration of all things Dust, a game of alternative, sci-fi flavored WWII.  DWE is typically attended by the most  hard-core Dust players as well as most, if not all, of the Dust design team.  As many gamers know, Dust has been on the ropes a bit recently, having suffered a Kickstarter meltdown.  I have my opinions on the matter, but suffice it to say I love the setting and the game(s) and think the company are good people, and I am sticking to my support for it.      

Last year I attended Gencon and really enjoyed the Dust tournament and meeting the team.  So I decided early on I would attend DWE.  It is held at Falcon Field, Arizona at the Commemorative Air Force Museum.  The site is just fantastic.  Here are a few shots of what's there.

Front entrance

A MiG, comrades!

The inside of the museum where the events take place.  Quite a setup!

Some of the local Dust color.

The Expo consists of two days of events.  Saturday is for tournaments.  There are separate ones for Dust Tactics, using the gridded play board, Dust Battlefield, using Tactics rules on the tabletop, and Dust Warfare, which was a separate system designed by FFG.  I counted about 20 tournament players overall, with perhaps 40 attendees all told.  The theme of this year's event is "Operation Babylon" the Allies attempt to destroy Axis forces in the Iraqi region of the Middle East, contested of course by the SSU who are also out to control the region.

I play Dust Battlefield these days, and so that was the tournament I chose.  As the theme of this year's event was desert battles, sandstorm rules were in effect, meaning that LOS and range could be severely curtailed.  Also, any flying units would be grounded and unusable.  This meant no one risked taking flying units in the tournament.  My favorite faction is the Sino-Soviet Union (SSU) and I took the following 100-point list:

2x Matrioshka heavy walker
1x Mao Zedong heavy tank
1x Spetnaz Saboteurs squad
1x Spetnaz Heavies squad
1x Spetnaz Killers squad
1x Sisters of Demolition mercenary squad

My thinking was I would need plenty of heavy firepower but also lots of close-ranged support and warm bodies for contesting and seizing objectives.

The first mission was Encounter, a meeting engagement.  Both sides place 2 objectives and of a player can control an enemy objective at the end of a round, the game ends.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Antares: Ghar vs. Concord in Rogue Drones!

Once again it's time for Antares theater. This week the noble forces of the Concord Combined Command face off against yet another incursion of the mighty yet backward Ghar Empire.  We chose 750 point lists and selected the "Rogue Drones" scenario from the rule book.  In this scenario the players are trying to secure one of two rogue weapons drones which hold valuable intel or at least some loose change.  The two drones start in the middle of the board and activate randomly, occasionally shooting at the player's forces or zooming about randomly.

The Consuls' CCC consisted of:

1x Drop Command Squad
1x Drop Squad
3x Strike Squads
1x X-launcher team
1x Light plasma support drone team

My Ghar consisted of:

2x Ghar Battle Squad
1x Ghar Assault Squad
1x Outcast COmmand squad
1x Outcast squad with Disruptor cannon team
1x Flitter Drones shard

Turn 1:  Half our forces moved on from the board edge on unit at a time.  The other half waited in reserve until the second turn.  None of my suits were in range but the Consul's x-launcher dropped "net" ammunition on the assault squad, causing 3 pins to start off the game right!  The squad passed their morale check (for having pins equal to command) but were already heavily suppressed.