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Cardboard Children: Dust Tactics

Hello youse,

I’m delighted to be able to tell you that I will have something very nice for you next week. A special festive video called “RAB’S CHRISTMAS CARDBOARD CRACKERS” – which will see me recommending some games for you to buy for your loved ones this Christmas. Included in that special video will be some great games I’ve played recently and some from the good old days. It will be fun.

Seriously, I’ve played some nice things lately, and I’m just play-testing them hard before I unleash hard opinion at you.

Today, I’m pretty much going to be telling you about Dust: Tactics.

DUST: TACTICS

Seriously. Get outta here. Forget about it.

I’ve flipped for this game big time. I’m obsessed with it. It’s a miniatures wargame/board game thing, with a Weird World War II setting. Like, it’s World War II, but there are mechs, and jump packs, and zombies and gorillas. Oh, how I love it.

I bought the first base game in 2010, and only really dabbled with it. I was intimidated by it a bit, despite the rules being very simple and easy to learn. I was intimidated by the mere notion of an expandable miniatures game, because I’m one of those people with Warhammer armies that are still on the sprue. I didn’t want to go down that road with another game. It looked time-consuming and expensive and ultimately depressing.

It is none of those things. Here’s how it works. Here’s how YOU get into Dust: Tactics.

1. You buy a Core Set. The Core Set that is out now is different from the original base game, with all different units. I think the original release is marginally better, because it comes with cardboard map tiles, instead of a paper map. But anyway, you buy one or other of the base game sets.

AND THAT’S IT.

Everything you need to enjoy a lot of great games of Dust: Tactics will already be in your hands. But let’s say you want to go further, and expand your armies.

2. You buy some units. Ones you like. I recommend that your next purchase, if you like the base game, is a Command Unit. These soldiers don’t just give you extra fighting options, like most of the units do. These soldiers improve an already great game. They allow you to issue special orders to your troops, repair mechs, call in medics, and call in artillery strikes.

AND YOU CAN STOP THERE.

But let’s say you want to go further.

3. Okay, I said a Command Unit would let you call in artillery strikes. Only if you have an artillery enabled mech. So maybe you want one of those. Or how about a sniper team? Now we’re into choices. And choice is good. My next purchase was a sniper team. Why? Because snipers are cool, and they can target SPECIFIC SOLDIERS on the battlefield. That’s WAY cool, as Americans might say, in the 70s. But you might want those artillery strikes. Or you might want a squad of zombies equipped with power fists. Or you might want a gorilla.

AND THEN YOU CAN STOP.

The point is, with a game this good, you don’t stop. But not stopping doesn’t seem as harmful as the not stopping that comes with Games Workshop stuff. All these miniatures come pre-primed, so the pieces feel more playable, differentiated by the traditional Army Men green and grey. You really don’t feel like OH GOD I NEED TO PAINT THESE QUICK HIDE THEM I FEEL GUILTY, just a little bit I REALLY SHOULD PAINT THESE THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL BUT I’LL JUST PLAY WITH THEM RIGHT NOW.

(It should be noted that you can actually buy pre-painted versions of all the stuff. But it’s mad expensive. They look amazing, though. If you are rich, go for it. I won’t judge you.)

Okay then, okay. So, the game. Why did I initially ignore the game to a great extent and then fall in love with it?

Because I played it.

I PLAYED IT.

Guys, I played it. If there are girls reading, girls, I played it.

I played it.

Here’s how it plays.

You roll for initiative. A simple roll.
Then you and your opponent take turns each at ordering a unit.
You can take two actions. MOVE and SHOOT. You can MOVE and SHOOT, or SHOOT and MOVE, or MOVE and MOVE, or SHOOT AND SHOOT.
Each unit has special abilities and stuff.
There are places where you can get cover for your units. Tank traps and stuff. Corners. Buildings.
That’s it.

No, seriously, that IS it. What makes it fun is outwitting your opponent, using cover to gain saving rolls for your guys, all that stuff. Reactive fire and all that easily understood good shit. There are no headaches in the rules of this game. It is CLEAN.

And it is QUICK. It is a fucking slaughter. Last night I set up for a quick game, won, and put the game away again in HALF A FUCKING HOUR. Think about that. A whole battle played in the time it takes to watch an episode of The Golden Girls.

Sweet.

I dunno. I’m in love with the game. I love how you have all the information for each unit on cards. I love how BRUTAL the game is. I love that when two units meet face to face in the snow they will be firing shotguns, flamethrowers and slashing at each other with knives in the same vital, bloody attack. I love the design of the giant walkers, and the weirdness of the Axis units. I love that the upcoming expansion will have rules for fighting on different levels of buildings. I love that even as they add more and more rules and units, the game stays simple and easy to learn.

And here’s the clincher, if any of you have a PS3. It feels a lot like Valkyria Chronicles. I know. I know. SOLD, right?

Oh, and they’re bringing out some tabletop rules for it, too, if you prefer your miniature wargames with tape measures. Andy Chambers of 40K and Starcraft II fame is writing it. So, yeah, same miniatures and stuff. It’s all good.

Give it a try, maybe, and I’ll see you next week for the greatest bit of board game video you’ve ever seen in your life.

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Robert Florence

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