A new Dust Warfare design diary post was released and this time it does say at least a few things about the design of the coming game. I’m pleasantly surprised to see alternating activations based on C&C (or at least I think so… I’m guessing it’s not alternate activation, rather just not letting players activate their whole armies every turn).

And also a limited reaction system which instead of limited in the things a reacting unit can do, it simply makes the player put a reaction token on the board to note the unit reacted and it cannot do so again. “We cannot let units react all the time cause… um…” Tell that to Infinity man.

Not elegant at all, but whatever works (and bear in mind it IS Andy Chambers designing the game… don’t expect anything too progressive or ground breaking).

So far it looks like taken straight out of Battlefield Evolution, but we’ll see.

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I have been reading with great pleasure two very different games. They do have, however, various things in common. I’m talking about Infinity and Force on Force. One is sci-fi, for skirmishes between 10 figures a side with every figure being a single unit. The other one is historical for skirmishes between squads of soldiers. They both share most notable a good system of action/reaction.

I honestly think this is the future of miniature wargames. Whether big players keep designing the same shit they did in the 80’s, or the older more “serious” players in the industry keep rolling on the old-school for old-school’s sake wave of new games with vague rules and lots of ink spent on “the spirit of the game.”

With Infinity and Force on Force (and I’m sure a few others out there I don’t know about) we get the newly paved way for dynamic gaming, a lot fancier and more elegant than THW’s tables filled reaction system. Players are engaged now the complete turn. Tactics become more realistic and less abstract, even with the normal abstractions we need to work around miniature terrain and such.

Every move now needs to be thought first on a logical level, and only then looking at model’s stats or dice probabilities. Terrain is gaining a lot more importance and games will look better because of that.

Same side gaming is becoming more and more “doable” and fun. I think it’s just what the stagnant wargame design scene needs.

On a side note, someone here decided they had too many zombies (“too many zombies”… I know, right?) so he decided to dispose of, let’s say, a couple of zombie horde boxes from Wargames Factory. Yes, the same zombies I ordered a year ago online when the company took a dive and changed my order for lots of Warmachine stuff. Well, those 60 less than stellar (but great to fill a table up) sculpts are now on my possession and yeah, I am designing a zombie game to use them with Dust Tactics figures. Because we all know the world does need another zombie game!

Pics of completely unrelated stuff coming this week.

Dust Tactics Unleashed
Rules changes for DT to do away with the board, by Guido Quaranta.

Most of these rules are variations to the regular Dust Tactics rules. You need to know the basic game, and most of those rules apply normally. The rules noted as “(extra)” are my own creation for different aspects of the game. More on them on the Designer’s notes at the end.

Remember this is a living document. I will update this post, and let you know via blog post when I do.

Latest version: September 2011

Distances: 1 square = 6 inches

Squad formation
Models in a squad must remain within 2 inches of a leader model. There must always be a leader model in the unit. If the leader model is removed as a casualty, immediately choose another model. When a hero starts the game inside a squad, he/she is the leader.

Line of sight and shooting
Every weapon line can shoot at a different target. Only the models with LOS (line of sight) to the target can shoot though. Distance is measured from the base of the nearest model with the weapon to the base of the nearest model in the target unit. Always measure from the models’ base edges. Every model shooting must have LOS to the target, but distance is only measured from and to the closest models.

Limited-ammo weapons can be fired by any model (as normal), but those shooting must have LOS to the target.

A player can remove any figure from his/her target unit taking casualties, even those out of LOS from the firing models (exception: Sniper special rule).

The models from an active squad do not block LOS to other squad members. Nor do they block movement (they can move through models in their own squad).

Squads block LOS to other squads (as in the normal rules). Consider the space between models of a single squad as a solid screen. For robots, consider their bases as blocking LOS.

Firing flame weapons
Make a template 2 inches wide by the needed length (6, or 12 inches, depending on the weapon). Place it against the nearest base edge of the firing figure, towards the closest model in the target unit. Any unit the template touches (except the one from the firing model) is affected, whether friend or foe.

Close combat
Close combat weapons have a range of 2 inches. If at least one figure from the active unit is within that distance from an enemy, they can fight using CC weapons. When a unit attacks with CC weapons, the whole unit fights (not only the ones 2 inches from an enemy). Also, every model from the target unit gets to fight back.

Cover and scenery
Area terrain: It’s represented by a small area (the size of a CD is perfect) where you place cover elements (tank traps, ammo crates, etc.). If half or more of the squad is completely inside an area terrain they gain the corresponding cover save.

Ruined buildings (extra): They block LOS to everyone like obstacles do. Walkers and vehicles cannot enter this terrain. They provide hard cover to squads inside. If there are several levels of height, it takes one action to move up or down a level. Squads in higher levels can trace LOS over squads, tank traps, ammo crates, but not over walkers, other buildings or obstacles.

Changes to skills
Agile: The unit moves 10 inches per move point instead of 6.

Activation roll (extra)
Every unit must roll 3d before activating. Heroes, or units with heroes attached to them roll 4d. Check the result on the table below.

0 hits: The unit doesn’t do anything this turn. Counts as activated.
1-2 hits: The unit activates normally.
3+ hits: The unit activates and has an extra action.

If the unit activates using Reactive Fire (or fails to do so) it doesn’t need to make an activation roll.

Armor saves (extra)
Only infantry squads get armor saves. The roll is made every time a squad takes casualties from a weapon line shot at them, as many times per turn as needed. This means that a unit targeted by another one, shot with 3 different weapon lines, will roll armor saves 3 times, and not just one after all the casualties have been added.

If the save succeeds, the unit doesn’t receive casualties. If it fails, the unit can still make any relevant cover save (if available).

Armor saves are made with 4d. The armor of the squad determines the result needed for a successful save.

Inf1: 4 hits to save.
Inf2: 3 hits to save.
Inf3: 2 hits to save.
Inf4: 1 hit to save.

Armor saves cannot be made in close combat.

Designer’s notes
So, I craved for two aspects of the rules that were very important when creating rules changes. First, to use only the numbers on the cards. No extra attributes or anything. Second, to use the DT dice. No need to get or roll other type of dice.

Now, the most obvious changes are the activation roll and the armor saves. Let’s talk a second about them.

The activation roll is mainly my first try to make it more enjoyable to solitaire play. When I play solo, I apply the activation roll to either both armies or just one, and add a bit of uncertainty to the battle. Other mechanisms would be needed to make it more enjoyable, and I’m working on that.

The armor save seems a bit strange. But already the game design has included the different infantry armor to its ethos, so I might as well use it. If you see clearly, the chances of making a save are very low considering most troops right now are Inf2. But still, they do add a tiny bit more survivability to the whole game. Why is this necessary though? Well, I believe that the board game is quick and deadly, and I love it. But when setting up a tabletop game, we usually go a bit larger. The play area is bigger, there is more scenery, if only because the movement and shooting distances are a bit larger. However, I still enjoy playing with few units, and this gives me a slightly longer game, and also another bit of unpredictability. I am developing a simple system for the walkers, not in the form of saves but in the different ways that they can be affected beyond the simple “alive” and “dead” states.

Hope you can try them out and enjoy them.

Wyrd’s Malifaux, McVey’s Sedition Wars, Incursion, Mercs, Rum & Bones, Anima Tactics, Dark Age Apocalypse, Infinity, Hell Dorado, WarCanto, Nemesis, Dust Warfare, Freebooter’s Fate, Eden, and a big etc.

There’s been quite an invasion of skirmish fantasy/sci-fi mostly character driven miniature games for the last 3 or 4 years. They have a lot in common like faction starter sets, most replacing the classic army roster for cards with model information and bookkeeping, some of them with free online rules, most tackle some kind of metagame resource management, most are aimed at painters as well as gamers.

There is little doubt Warmachine/Hordes will remain king in this niche of miniature gaming for a few years to come. I am one to think it has absolutely nothing to do with GW’s style of games, therefore no point in thinking PP will “replace” them whatsoever. But still the question lingers: how many of these games and miniature lines will survive the next 3 or 4 years?

P.S.: I understand some of these games have been around for a while, like Infinity or the original Dark Age. But it seems the fight is on right now in the overpriced skirmish miniature market.

Mantic’s Warpath beta rules. Sci-fi game, lots of shooting.

Page 6, cover section. Is it really that hard to devise simple, solid, clear rules for models behind cover without convoluted text, stupid suppositions and counting of models on both units, and finally a die roll to decide when people can’t work it out?

Some Italian designers go forward (hey Andrea!). Others are just stuck in the past.

Rules manuals have two basic purposes. They may have more, but without one of these the book is as useless as a chocolate teapot.

First, the book must teach the game. And by that I don’t mean it should have all the rules inside. I mean the text should guide the reader through the information in a way that gameplay is clear from the first page. You cannot find out, for example, there’s no spellcasting on the game by page 60. You cannot find out the size of the table required on page 30. Every game needs a solid, easy to understand organization so when the rules are explained the player has a crystal clear picture this is the game he wants to get into.

Second, it must be a good, clear, and useful reference tome. Once the players know the game rules, they should have easy access to the more complex, obscure, or less used mechanics. Rolling a die to see who’s right and then discuss it? That’s bullshit. A good rulebook has a comprehensive index in the back to find rules in a matter of seconds, read them out loud, and carry on with the fun.

I’ve been reading Malifaux. Beyond the obvious contacts with the Warmachine generation of games, it struck me that by page 50 I barely had a clue what was going on. Oh yes, I knew how to Place, Switch, Discard (discard what? the card rules aren’t even glimpsed before this), and all kinds of technical stuff extremely useful for experienced players to have clearly explained. But I was through my first read through.

Malifaux seems like an exceptional reference to experienced players. Everything is explained clearly without room for wacky interpretations. But fuck it is boring!!! I wanted to get into the world of Malifaux and all I got was how modifiers work, and not even knowing modifiers to what. It makes such a bad work teaching the game that at one point you accept the fact anything will only make sense through the second read, or even after being taught the game by someone else. And you start reading paying less and less attention when that happens. And suddenly you stop coming back to the book because it’s a job to read it through the first time to start understanding what the hell is going on the second time.

If you’re in the position to write a rules manual, not only worry about the rules and how clearly you write them. Think about the organization of your book. It doesn’t matter if the rules for shooting come before the rules for close combat for the referencing player. They are, however, important for the person reading it for the first time. Do you teach concepts in the shooting section that will be useful for later sections? Then put that before the rest, and go the extra mile to give more detail about your game. When you reach the point where you detail the rules for, let’s say, flammable terrain features, you will probably get away with simple, solid rules text, if the player is already engaged and knows what the hell you’re talking about.

Go check Warmachine Mk.2. Don’t just clone the mechanics. Take a look at the organization. It is a game about warcasters, correct? But their rules are almost the last section on the manual. Because you cannot start pushing all the warcaster’s abilities down the player’s throat if he/she doesn’t even know what a boosted roll is, what’s running and charging, or how the hell to cast spells.

[rant]And Malifaux, if you’re releasing your game freely online, protect your art all you want, but don’t be an asshole and strike down the examples. That’s just plain stupid.[/rant]

Hope this made some sense to anyone.