Dystopian Wars – First Thoughts

Hope you’ve all enjoyed Christmas and have recovered from all the eating and drinking etc.  We here at 6 Inch have enjoyed spending time away from the floating citadel with the company of our loved ones.  This hasn’t ment however that the gaming has stopped.  A few weeks ago Spartan games released its third naval game – Dystopian Wars.  I picked up a copy from my local gaming store and have spent the past week giving the rules and good read and felt that I should share my thoughts of my first impressions, so here we go.

The Looks

Dystopian Wars is set in the Victorian Era, but not the one we’re familiar with.  It all starts off when a half mad-half brilliant scientist by the name of Sturgeon travels to Antarctica in search of the mythical Vault which contains many scientific goodies.  He finds it and decides to share this knowledge with the world.  Humanity being what it is decides that the best use for all this new stuff is to blow each other up.

There are four factions currently available; The Kingdom of Britannia, The Prussian Empire, The Federated States of America (FSA) and the Empire of the Blazing Sun (i.e. Japan).  The picture above is of the British sorry Britannian ships.  There are also four other factions mentioned by name that I’m assuming will be released at a later date; The Covenant of Antarctica, The Ottoman Empire, The Russian Coalition and The League of Italian States.  If you’re wondering where France is it was conquered by the Prussians in 1808 and is little more than a puppet state.

The whole look and feel of the models is that of something familiar and yet slightly different.  The technology is more advanced and has a good steam punk look.  There are shield generators and tesla weapons, aeroplanes and even a mechanical squid.  I like it, even if the Japanese cruisers have the look of choochoo trains.

The Rules

For anyone who is familiar with Uncharted Seas and Firstorm Armada this is more of the same.  The core mechanics of the game haven’t changed much; your ships have range bands for weapons telling you how many dice you get to roll, 4+ is a hit with a 6 counting as two hits and allowing you to roll again.  There is linked fire and split fire, boarding assaults and ramming that is all familiar.  So what has changed?

Point defence has been replaced with Ack Ack (AA) against rockets and planes and Concussion Charges (CC) for use against torpedoes and submarines.  It can also be used every time such an attack is made against your ship/squadron (unlike one of the glitches with Firestorm where you could only use it once per turn).  You can also use both in your own activation as a shooting weapon against the respective units.  Oh and you can’t link fire your AA or CC from multiple squadrons, only from the one that is under attack, so there is no point clumping your ships together for mutual point defence.  Other big changes include break tests which if you fail will reduce the squadrons effectiveness with such things as preventing you from link firing.  Aeroplanes have a more comprehensive rules section and they appear to be really quite effective.

Another big change is that Dystopian Wars can be fought on sea, land and in the air.  The original release includes the naval models with a few aircraft, but there will also be models for tanks and land ships, blimps and sky fortresses.  The same rules are used for pretty much all of the models though.

There is also now more variation.  The rulebook includes complete fleet lists for all 4 factions; including all their naval, land and aerial units as well as static fortifications and other buildings such as comm towers and landing strips.  You can also upgrade many units with different options.  For example the Prussian Battleship can be taken as it is with three gun turrets or you can replace one of these turrets with a UPG generator, a shield generator or a tesla generator – essentially giving you 4 variations for the Prussian Battleship.

What do I think?

On the whole I like it.  I like the look and the genre.  The rules are still fairly simple and I get the impression that Spartan Games has taken on board a lot of the feedback from US and FA and changed somethings for the better whilst still retaining the games uniqueness.  One of the things I really like is that your ships (etc.) have more options.  In the previous games you really didn’t have much variation.  For example if you wanted to take a second battleship in your fleet your only option was one that was identical to the battleship you already had.  At least now you can make some changes.  There is also more variation between the fleets with special rules assigned to specific models that are often unique to a certain faction.

So what don’t I like.  Well as far as the game is concerned not much (except maybe the stupidly high firepower of the FSA battleship). I have been a fan of both US and FA and really enjoy playing both games.  My only real issue is the construction of the fleet lists.  The whole rulebook was nicely put together until that point, then all sence of cohesion seems to have broken down.  The lists themselves are good; comprehensive and give you a full list of the rules for each model, but what gets to me is the pictures that they’ve put with it.  They’ve illustrated the lists (good thing) but often not put the image next to the unit’s entry in the list (ahh).  For example the entry for the Britannian MK II Tank is on page 90, yet for some reason the image of it is on page 92.  Whats even more classic is that on page 96 there are 2 images of the Prussian Bomber (why 2 I do not know) and their entry is on page 99.  I know that not all of the models will have been designed when the rulebook was released, but perhaps it would have been better to leave the space rather than randomly placing images of some of the units all over the show.  I know its only a petty thing, but it does kind of ruin the book a little.

The other concern I have is that of production.  With a new game out and new models to produce will US and FA be put on the sidelines?  And how long will it be before all of the models for each fleet are available?  Only time will tell.  I’m sure this wont be the last post from 6 inch about Dystopian Wars.