Been playing around with Dust Tactics. From the outside it’s an honest to god boardgame. You know, not a minis wargame. The box is sturdy and functional (to put the pieces back in it after playing… something you don’t do with, for example, your Warmachine starter battlebox). The figures are primed in two colors, grey for the Germans and green for the Americans. And of course it has a board to play in.

However, it is written mostly as a miniatures game. Yes, the square board is important, but the designers note (I might disagree in some of those notes) that the board can be expanded, the scenarios improvised, and even new rules added to create your game. It doesn’t give the vibe of a heavily balanced and enclosed boardgame which just happens to have miniatures, like Memoir ’44.

And the figures… wow. They are amazing. Some of the best miniatures in my collection by far, and the walkers are positively the most amazing kits (they are kits after all, they just come assembled!) I have seen in the sci-fi/www2 genre. So you’re left hanging in the middle there. Is it a boardgame? How long till I paint those gorgeous figs? And then what? Will I still want to play in god-awful carboard squares instead of a realistically modeled tabletop? Should I use them for another game system?

Well, the game is decent. I don’t see anything revolutionary yet, but it is easy to dive into and quite tactical. I still consider the robots are too easy to kill with just 4 “wounds.” But it’s definitely a game of “shoot first” tactics.

Now, I have to confess I am geometrically challenged. The LOS rules are confusing at best, and easily picturing lines of fire on the board is hard for me. And I know it’s just me. I’m sure lots of smart people out there are thinking “it’s just squares dumbass” and measuring from their centers is a piece of cake. I hate to admit it makes my head hurt. I’m a tabletop man, and at best a hexagons man as well. I love hexagons and they make life easier (and prettier… seen all those in Tron: Legacy?)

The future for the game looks nice as well. Robot boxes with 4 different weapon setups, infantry squad boxes, new models coming out, and quite a few campaign expansions. Not to mention the alien army that’s promised in the fiction. So what does it take to make the game tick for me? A simple adaptation to tabletop.

Real tabletop. Killing the board without killing the game. And I’ve been thinking about it. In fact, to the complete dismay of my girlfriend, I dreamt with rules for this on Saturday night (what… you don’t dream with wargames rules?). And I tried them!! A few very simple tweaks here and there, simple guides for the 3D scenery you will be using and it’s done. Played almost all of the scenarios from the basic game so far with these, and they’ve improved the game for me. Not only visually, but I don’t have a headache anymore!

I will keep tweaking them, seeing if there’s something obvious I’m missing. I haven’t checked the online activity for the game so far, though I have a couple of rules questions I will need to post at some forum. I don’t know if anyone adapted the game to be played without squares yet, and I will share my document soon after more play, but just in case, does any of the readers know of a good online community for Dust Tactics?

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