Miniatures Gaming (Tabletop and Board): Catch-all

Poly - dont think I am going to be able to do this afternoon. I dont foresee any uninterrupted time with my two year old being a tad under the weather and full of the mischief today.

sithcundman wrote:

Picking this thread back up since I am looking at both Battleships and Dust for some potential "light" miniature gaming. I'm also checking out Star Trek: Fleet Captains.

Did any of you folks get a chance to dive further into these games and do you have recommendations? I'm wanting something miniature based that can be played in a 1-3 hour time frame. I've read some reviews of BS that say it just turns into a race to the middle of the map that results in a final slug fest with little to no tactics; however, others say it's just fine. Dust looks like it might have more depth, but I don't want to get into the "you need to buy x more expansions for the game to shine" pit.

Any thoughts on other games are welcome, and if this needs to move over to the board game thread I can do that, but I'm looking for miniature games in particular.


Been playing both a lot more lately, so here we go...

I've posted about Dust Tactics a couple times in the board gaming thread and it seems like each time, I say, "I'd rather play Battleship Galaxies." I think the main difference between BG and DT is one of complexity versus complicatedness. BG might have less depth than DT—the base rules are really straightforward at least, which means you'll be up and playing in very little time. It's the tactics cards where the complexity comes from, as the nuances and depth are introduced card by card throughout a game. You'll have more and more tactical options as the game progresses and you're cycling cards through your hand. It really helps to keep the game fast and fun. And even if you miss a new rule that a card in play introduced, if you know the base rules then you at least haven't done anything fundamentally wrong.

In contrast, DT is complicated. It's not an organic complexity that grows from a system, but rather a complicated litany of exceptions. So before you can start playing you not only have to know the rules, but the two or three exceptions to every rule depending on which unit is trying to move where or hit who. This makes the rules a lot more brittle, because if you forget something then you've broken the rules. So playing DT when you're new means a lot of "Okay wait—" and double-checking the rule book. The positive outcome of this is a much more granular wargame than BG can offer, but because it's not systemic there's a steeper initial learning curve.

That's also only considering the revised core set of DT. I definitely like playing that set more than the impossibly large games I've played with every expansion. But I can't say how much mileage one will get out of the starter set. Even if you're content with the included units (1 light mech, 1 hero, and 3 squads of 3-5 units, for each side—no medium or heavy mechs), the terrain fold-outs might get too restrictive. So there's definitely the possibility that you'll have to buy more—I leave the value judgement up to the prospective owner.

BG, on the other hand, has to stand on its own as a complete game. So you get what feels like complete fleets (1 capital ship, 2 medium ships, 1 fighter leader, and 2 squads of 3 fighters each, for each side, and all with three levels of experience); and because the maps boards are space, you just need to litter it with some of the object tiles. (BG has left room for expansions, so I'd selfishly recommend BG because every sale means Hasbro is more likely to support it in the future. )

So I think I came across as really critical of DT and positive about BG. I hope if you can read past that, this was helpful! Maybe LiquidMantis can bring a pro-Dust Tactics counter-argument.

Until then, let's put it this way: what sounds cooler?

a) Stomping across a blasted snow-covered city in a 15-feet mech, firing 20mm cannons and dodging panzerschrek rockets from holed-up Nazi super-soldiers?

b) Being a commander in the depths of space, launching a squad of fighters from the hold of your capital ship, to engage the railgun-firing frigates that have sprung out from behind an asteroid field?

That will decide the matter.

polypusher wrote:

I have time this afternoon... :)

Yeah, sorry, I was scheduled to play the French in a round of Borodino. Next time!

Gravey wrote:
sithcundman wrote:

Picking this thread back up since I am looking at both Battleships and Dust for some potential "light" miniature gaming. I'm also checking out Star Trek: Fleet Captains.

Did any of you folks get a chance to dive further into these games and do you have recommendations? I'm wanting something miniature based that can be played in a 1-3 hour time frame. I've read some reviews of BS that say it just turns into a race to the middle of the map that results in a final slug fest with little to no tactics; however, others say it's just fine. Dust looks like it might have more depth, but I don't want to get into the "you need to buy x more expansions for the game to shine" pit.

Any thoughts on other games are welcome, and if this needs to move over to the board game thread I can do that, but I'm looking for miniature games in particular.


Been playing both a lot more lately, so here we go...

...excellent stuff went here....

That will decide the matter. :D

Thanks, Gravey! That's what I was looking for. I have Battleship on order. I was already leaning more towards it, but your opinion and the internets pushed me over the edge. I'm hoping the games will be short enough that I might be able to get some games going at work during lunch as well. We'll see.

I hope this thread stays alive. I really like hearing folks opinions and experiences with the miniature sets.

Poly - read the material you sent me - good stuff. Interesting mechanic - do they make/support other stuff like Mechwarrior with Vassal?

No idea Spy. I'm a Warmachine-head who is peeking at Vassal and want some other folks to try it with. I think there's a lot of modules for it but I haven't done any research.

polypusher wrote:

No idea Spy. I'm a Warmachine-head who is peeking at Vassal and want some other folks to try it with. I think there's a lot of modules for it but I haven't done any research.

There are tons from what I saw. Read the stuff you sent me. Love to play when I get ack from vacation.

Can I get that manual too? I got everything set up, but I am clueless as to what's going on. =) Perhaps we could all hop on vent some evening and do a tutorial run?

Sure: Warmachine rules:
Warmachine starter cards:
Hordes (same game but with beasts and slightly different mechanics. 4 unique factions here):

Ill be better available in Mid March. Im on vacation now and will be at GDC all next week.

Oh darn. I was going to suggest an orientation session this evening since my regularly scheduled game night got cancelled.

Ah well! Will read through the manual and whatever fluff I can get my hands on. Anybody else wants to give this a spin, let me know. Just know that I'll be learning both the rules and Vassal. =) Could be fun if it's the same for you, could be infuriating if you already know one or both.

There's a little overview of Vassal here: and a nice set of videos starting with this one:!

Ok my vacation and conference are up. I'm excited to try Warmachine on Vassal on Sunday if anyone is interested. Any number of us can try it, demo games with just a Warcaster and a 'jack or two are pretty quick.

Cool. I've been reading quite a bit about WM over the past couple of weeks, and have done everything short of going to get a starter set myself. (And that was a near thing.)

I'm up for Sunday, and could do tonight as well if you're able.

Fun times last night, thanks again poly.

Other interested parties should give this a shot, as I would love to get a GWJ mini-tourney going or something. I'm probably not at the teaching stage but I think I could help muddle through a game together with someone.

I think LockAndLoad was looking at getting into Warmachine last year; you might want to shoot him a PM.

Lock and Load was the name of Privateer's first big convention for Warmachine last year Last night's demo run of Warmachine in Vassal was a lot of fun. I've got some links for the beginning player that goes deeper into models, synergy, and a couple things to buy even if you never get a model.

List building
iBodger: iOS and Android - It's an army list builder with a lot of great features - an online army list builder
War Room - This is a Privateer Press product that should be released by the end of March. It'll have rules, list building, all of the model reference cards in the game (purchasable in faction decks just like the real product, for a bit cheaper) and other bells and whistles. This will probably be the perfect companion for a Vassal-only Warmachine player.

If you want to play for real, here's a couple good starter products:

2 player starter set. If you like the factions in this box (That's Khador - a soviet inspired faction, and Protectorate of Menoth a fiery faction full of religious fervor), you get some great models for both and a lot of the playing tools you'll need including a mini rule book that cuts out the fluff and faction model descriptions.

Battle Box - Each faction has a starter kit with a leader and 2-4 warjacks/beasts. They're good core models that you'll continue using as you grow into the faction. Here's an example for Cygnar

necroyeti wrote:

Other interested parties should give this a shot, as I would love to get a GWJ mini-tourney going or something. I'm probably not at the teaching stage but I think I could help muddle through a game together with someone.

I love these types of games and have been interested in Warmachine as of late. I read through the basic rules PDF provided on their website. Is that the same game you're playing online?

It is. Vassal just virtualizes the table top. Playing last night over the computer didnt feel much different than playing across the table from someone. The actions were the same, bumping models around the table, measuring, rolling dice, cheering at double sixes.

I'm late to the game here, but I've just stumbled across Dystopian Wars online and it looks amazing. Unfortunately I still haven't painted any of my Warhammer 40k units, and my wife would be understandably annoyed if I got another $60 worth of miniatures when my original ones are still gray plastic.

I may go for Battleship Galaxies though, my wife actually thought it looked interesting, and it would be nice to be able to play a miniatures game with her.

Man, is Dystopian Wars really unpopular or something? I was listening to the D6 Generation podcasts from a year ago and it seemed like it was very highly anticipated. I called my nearest three game stores (one of them miniature focused) and none of them had them (one of them didn't even know what I was talking about).

I decided to attempt to pirate the rule book so that I could decide on my army and order them (and the rulebook) without the extra three day turn-around. After a long period of searching (I'm pretty much out of the pirating scene right now, so I may not be looking in effective places, and that's not a request for info) I finally found a torrent with zero seeds.I looked for some sort of Dystopian Wars wiki (before trying to dl the rulebook actually) that may give me enough faction and unit information to make a choice, but was unsuccessful there as well.

I widened my store search to some stores I haven't been to before about an hour away, and actually got a hit! SO I went to bed feeling fairly hopeful. When I woke up I found that some kind soul had come along and seeded the file, so I got a (very mediocre) copy of the rule book. Between that and the spartan games site I was able to start winnowing down my choices.

I spent much of yesterday going through the rules and faction info, here are my thoughts and choices:

1. When the models first came out only Asia and Prussia had flying carrier models released, however the rule books had stats for many more models than were originally released (and have all been released in the last year) and every single faction has mobile land, sea, and air carriers, though the specifics of course differ.
2. Holy crap are the models beautiful. I just love them so much.
3. I thought that all of the land designs where pretty good, some of the air or sea nations had a style that didn't suit me, but I thought that pretty much every nation had sweet looking land troops.

My thoughts by nation (only looks, not rules or fluff).
1. My favorite land vehicle style. The huge center wheel with surrounding armor and gun emplacements makes them look like enormous tank versions of the space marine's motorcycles.
2. Unfortunately, for me, the ships leave something to be desired. They are large, armored battleboats, and I just can't get past the idea of paddleboats on the open ocean. I actually don't mind the models that have these paddles more internal, covered, or armored, but the bulk of them have very obvious paddles that I'm not a fan of.
3. The air units have more character than the Prussians, but I think they fall behind the other sides. The large airship and carrier especially have the complexity and texture that I enjoy, and hey, FLYING ROBOTS! but their scout airship is pretty bland, and I really like some of the designs of the other air forces, so this category has a lot of competition.
4. Overall I decided to give these guys a pass, mostly due to my dislike of the naval style.

1. Like I said, I liked all of the land unit styles, but for some reason these may have been the one that I liked the least. As a pro they really bristle with weapons, but they are also a little bit blocky for me.
2. The naval style is definitely a positive one for me. There is a very World War II flavor here, which I prefer over the civil war aesthetic of the Americans. I especially prefer the triple guns the Prussians favor over the single barrel gun over the Americans. That said these ships may have the least "alternative steampunk" feel of all the naval vessels, as they do look the closest to real ships we have seen.
3. The Imperium Sky Fortress may be the most-known model of Dystopian Wars, and it is pretty sweet, especially for someone that enjoyed Crimson Skies as much as I did. However, even for someone that loved Crimson Skies I think that they took the Airship motif a little far. Don't get me wrong, they are pretty cool, what they lack in model complexity they do have in style. Their large flyer exudes ruggedness, and I really like how tough the fins look. Perhaps my problem is the Prussian's reliance on Tesla Cannons, which do not look as visibly intimidating as cannon emplacements. In fact, my favorite feature on their Scoutship is their side cannon mounts. I do have to say that their small airships that come out next month look really nice. Very sleek looking, with some cool jet engines.
4. Overall I gave these guys a pass, not only from the fact that I didn't really love any of there three forces (though I liked all of them) but because I wasn't a huge fan of the short range of their Tesla Cannons (although the fact that Tesla Cannons can't be blocked by AA or CC fire does give them a leg up on Rockets and Torpedoes in that respect.)

1. Their land units are pretty cool. The medium tanks are kind of bland, but still not bad, and I really like the rounded ball look of the small tanks. Then there is their large walker, which is indeed very sweet.
2. I'm not a huge fan of the Asian naval style. They just don't seem very ship like, they are much more reminiscent of trains. Similar to the Prussian Airships, I think that another big problem is their lack of cannons, they instead favor torpedoes and rockets, which aren't as compelling. For example, while I dislike the look of the Cruiser in that last link (the middle once), this Gunship of the same style looks very nice. I would probably be remiss if I didn't mention that Asia had a mechanical squid wouldn't I.
3. Now I really like the air models that Asia fields. First off I'll give a shout out to the tiny fighter tokens, which I think look much better than the other factions. And while their Sky Fortress looks quite frail with the exposed rotors, the naval asthetic applied to the scoutship makes a very compelling train/submarine/spaceship looking model. I especially like the large cannon you can just barely see slung under that model. Their War Gyro looks even more rugged, with two wicked looking cannons (although it tweaks me a bit that they are on top of the ship, instead of below where I would kind of expect them to be. In addition unlike many of the other Asian models the rockets don't seem to be an afterthought. Three separate clusters on each side of the ship make them look imposing in their own right. Lastly we have some very nice looking small flyers that come out next month.
4. Overall I'm really thinking about these guys, I like the air units a lot, but the naval units are definitely giving me pause. This may come down to mechanics for me, if I decide that I want to use a lot of rockets then I'll go with these guys, as I far prefer them to the Americans (the other guys that use rockets).

1. Some very nice looking ground units here. An ode to World War I tanks, but of course on steroids. The real world basis doesn't bother me as much as it did with Prussia's naval vessels, maybe because WWI tanks inherently have more character than WWII ships, or because WWII units just seem more ordinary to me than their older brethren. Of course WWI does match the steampunk feel more so than WWII. The Landship is shown there with the command tower, but it has other, more military options.
2. I really like the look of Britain's naval units. They too harken back to WWI more than WW2, and seem to have more character than their Prussian counterparts. Fat and stockey, they feature large guns like the Prussians, and torpedo emplacements that seem somehow more threatening than the Asian versions. You also have to give them credit for the flat out audacity of their naval carrier
3. Now it's the look of the air units that I really, really love. Like. Holy crap. Their Sky Fortress may be my favorite of all of them, while (like with their sea carrier) I question the use of large cannons on something that should be avoiding a fight, it is pretty sweet to have two massive guns slung on the belly. It just looks like a beast too, rugged and metal plated, a sweet takeoff ramp for the places, a nice commanders cabin with a sweet view from the balcony. WANT. Next is the Scout Rotor, I prefer the Japanese model a bit, but this one still looks pretty nice. Has a flying ship look, with a single large cannon on the top of the ship. The other two weapons aren't particularly visible (it drops bombs and mines) but it makes up for that a bit by displaying the AA guns. Next month Britannia also gets some small flyers, which appear to be some nice anti-air gunships. I saved my favorite model for last, the Eagle War Rotor. It just looks freaking solid, riveted sheet metal everywhere, a no-nonsense shape that is both sleek and sturdy at the same time, the central bridge area includes large and imposing looking generators that must be powering the anti-grav field. Like it's younger brother the secondary weapons are (invisible? I haven't seen the bottom) mine and bomb dropping hatches, but it makes up for that with two massive turrets and some prominent AA batteries.
4. In writing this I realized how much more enthusiastic I was over Britain's forces than I was over Asia's, so I will almost definitely get them, but I'll take another pass through the stats to make sure, I have to admit that the idea of launching incendiary rockets around is pretty sweet.

This post has already taken a super long time and the comic store is open now, so I need to head out quick if I'm going to be able to prime and start painting today. To be short a lot of the Antartica units look really, really nice, but the main book doesn't have rules and stats for them and I wasn't able to find the Antartica book online. If the store has a non-wrapped version of the manual I'll sit down with it and possibly switch over to those guys.

You know you stayed up painting too late when you look at two different models that you could have sworn you used the same color combinations for, and they are very different colors.

Got pictures of your painted ships? I spent most of Sunday painting up a warlock for Warmachine. He turned out basically ok I think. I'm mostly proud of his head. I did a horrible job with his gems though. I might try those again and touch up some of the black bits of the armor.


Dystopian Wars is one of those games that I've seen out of the corner of my eye that looks interesting, but that I might not ever fully approach.

Looks killer! Who is that?

PS: off to Edmonton this week then I am hoping to get some more time to play again. Sorry I fell off the face of the earth.

He's called Supreme Aptimus Zaal, a warlock for the Skorne faction. He does ridiculously cool things with the Ancient Guardian statues Skorne can field and doesn't mind it when his own guys die because his feat brings them all back as damage boosts for his army during that turn.

I'd be happy to run another tutorial for Vassal and Warmachine this weekend if anyone is interested.

Damn, that guy looks really, really nice.

polypusher wrote:

Got pictures of your painted ships?

I've been taking some pictures during the process, I plan on posting them when I'm further along (I work very slowly with my hands, and not all that well to be honest).

Unfortunately I feel like yesterdays painting was sort of a wash. The detail on these models is so fine that I really need to stick with about a 50% thinner solution on my paint, last night I tried to get away with 25% and started to cover up some of the finer details. I think that I'll have to clean it off and redo it, any tips for cleaning paint off of resin models without destroying them?

Simple Green is an all purpose cleaner that's good at preserving resin and plastic models while getting paint off. You'll have to scrub it pretty well. What sort of paint are you using? I started with $2 Folk Art bottles from a craft store. It was cheap and I could get lots of different colors but it was very thick and I've noticed the paints fade over time. I switched over to Privateer Press's paint brand (P3 Paints) and Vallejo paints, which come in a drop bottle which is so nice for mixing colors.

Either of those two brands could be used straight from the bottle or with just a single drop of water for thinning.

I actually use Vallejo Model Paint, right after I posted I checked the packaging and it said that it could be cleaned with water or alcohol. A Q-tip with 90% rubbing alcohol started taking some paint off, so now I have it sitting in a solution of around 40% alcohol. A day of that will hopefully sort it out. I was surprised that the Vallejo paint ended up being too thick. I don't know whether that's because its more than a year old or because the details here are simply so fine. It was the windows and canisters that were coming out badly.

Dystopian Wars has been going really well. A coworker and I have been playing for a few months now and really enjoying ourselves, had my first game with a second coworker two weeks ago and he enjoyed it and we'll be playing again, and a third coworker is falling into the trap as we speak. It's been a lot of fun and I heartily recommend it for someone looking to try lighter wargaming fare.

Sorry I haven't posted any pictures yet. I have had a couple models 90% done, and a heck of a lot of models half done, but tonight I finished my first models, and I am liking them.

I bring you the Vanguard. Now there was a game awhile back that had a chainsaw on a gun, it was kind of popular and you may have heard of it. People were all "wow, a chainsaw on a gun, that is so unexpected and deadly!"

Pah! Back in the 1870s they didn't mess around. This deadly submarine is nearly the length of a football field, and is built to literally cut through enemy frigates. After tearing through the screening elements powerful forward torpedo launchers can be brought to bear on the larger ships in the rear lines, and a respectable broadside can lay into the frigates lucky enough not to be the main target.

The Vanguard comes in a pack of two surfaced vessels and two 'submerged' vessels. In game they can be deployed in squadrons of 2-3.


The paintjob definitely can't compare to many I have seen online, but if you aren't scrutinizing it too closely they look really nice (also in my defense the colors look better in person, the flash did not do that red any favors). I do wonder that they are too dark though, I am thinking about painting the conning tower and maybe the rudder as that red.

Those waves look really neat. Dystopian Wars is one that's been on the periphery of my consciousness. No one I know plays it but it is still intriguing. I see your faction details above, but can you give a quick gameplay review? One thing I'm interested in is how complex are the rules (how much time do you spend with a nose in the rulebook during a session) and how quickly does the 'average' game go?

As far as painting goes, one thing I would recommend is drybrushing a lighter blue color on before you paint the red. Take a big brush you dont care about, dry it off (wet brushes dont work for drybrushing ) Dip it in paint then brush it on a paper towel until it hardly leaves any color behind. Now you're ready. Go nuts on the model with the brush. The friction will pull paint off the brush onto all the edges and raised areas, giving you a quick way to really highlight the detail on the model.

You could do all of this now, just be careful around the red bits.

Man, looking at those pictures now I have to say, in person they do not look that terrible. After staring at them for awhile and thinking to myself "how on earth did I ever think these looked good" I went back to them to touch up the spots where you can see the light gray primer poking through, and it's really not noticeable at all. For my next pictures I'll need to set them up in better lighting so I don't need to use the flash.

I find it hard to give anything a quick review, so here is a long one instead :).

Dystopian Wars Review
Personal Background
I don’t have much experience in the miniatures gaming area prior to this, a little bit of Warhammer, but this is pretty much my first dive in. I’ve been playing for a few months now, with two different people.

General Overview
This is definitely lighter wargaming fare. I have seen several comments by more experienced tabletop gamers along the lines of “the rules and balance aren’t quite tight enough for real tournament play, but it is a fun casual game” there are definitely oddities and special cases with the rules (and those were even more prevalent before the 1.1 overhaul, when most of the complaints were addressed) so I can see what they are saying there, even without playing these supposedly more tournament-ready games. What I can attest to, however, is that it is a lot of fun in a casual setting, and I really see it being fun in a tournament setting as well.

The game takes place in an alternate 1870s where the discovery of a cache of mysterious and advanced technology has sparked a lopsided industrial revolution far before it occurred in the real world. In some ways the tech is just scaled up industrial fare, large turbines, cannons, rockets, etc, but without the precision and electronics that let you project power very far (aka bombing people from 20 miles away) in other the found tech far surpasses the current day, with ridiculously strong and light materials, anti-gravity, and more.

In short it’s steampunk in all its glory: chainsaw submarines, Iron Giant robots, Tesla coils, mechanical squids, airships, huge tanks, jetpacks, flying carriers, etc. The game just oozes atmosphere across land, sea, and air.

The Models
The models are all beautifully done. They are mostly resin, with only smaller and more detailed pieces like the turrets in… I think that it’s pewter. They are known for their very fine detail, good quality, and good pricing. That was a factor in my jump to this game, especially in comparison to the famously overpriced Games Workshop stuff. The naval starter packs have an MSRP of $55 (land are cheaper, air are generally more expensive because the bombers and small flyers are metal instead of resin). These are actually completely respectable starter packs, around 700 points total for a game that would probably come in at 2-3 hours if you knew what you were doing (and depending on the stopping point of the game, we’ve generally played to concession, not to annihilation).

The starter packs don’t have all of the unit types, but with ten tiny flyers, two bombers, a battleship, three cruisers, and nine frigates you have quite a flotilla with some welcome air support, it’s definitely not a joke. They are also generally not units that you will ignore once you get ‘better’ units. Battleships are all around good, so that’s always useful, and while you may want to use gunships instead of cruisers in some situations the cruisers will always have their place. The frigates are a bit more up in the air, as there is quite a bit of variety in the small category between frigates, destroyers, escorts, and corvettes, but even if you bring some of those others having a basic screen of frigates is important.

The individual unit packs are also relatively cheap, with the larger units coming in from $16 to $22 or thereabouts.

Basic Gameplay
Land, Sea, and Air units are available, with any type being used as the Core force, supported by units from other areas (at least 50% of your army must be your chosen Core force). This makes for really nice combined arms scenarios. So far the most interesting scenario we’ve done had one player escorting a supply convoy down the river, he had chosen a mainly naval force with a couple John Henry flying robots (he was American). I was the interdicting force, and had taken control of an Island connected to the bank by a sandbar, I had artillery, small tanks, and my large Landship kitted out with mortars (English Landships come in three variants) set up there. As support I had my Sky Fortress and War Rotor, which I immediately used to start mining the river. I have also seen some nice beach landings and island assaults online.

Each unit type comes in a certain range of squadron sizes, you alternate deploy your squadrons to the board, and then once the game proper starts you choose initiative afresh each turn and again move alternating squadrons. I find this far preferable to the Warhammer method of moving one entire army and then the other, not only is their less downtime, but you won’t ever lose half your army without any chance to stop it.

Each squadron activation proceeds thusly:
1. Move your squadron (separate turning templates for small, medium, and large units, then a separate one for air and land units)
2. Process collisions/ramming.
3. Announce all attacks.
4. Process attacks.
5. Announce boarding attempts (rocket pack marines, go!)
6. Process boarding attempts.

Each ship is kitted out with a variety of weapons, even the small frigates almost always have at least two Ordinance weapons, (In addition to their defensive Auxiliary weapons) and the dreadnoughts all have at least three turrets and a handful of other weapons. These weapons have a variety of firing arcs and do different damage at the four different range bands (8”, 16”, 24”, and out to 32”). I would definitely say that the number of different weapon systems is in the sweet spot between not having enough options on a ship to be all that interesting, while at the same time not having overwhelming complexity during squadron activation.

For multi-ship squadrons (pretty much all medium and smaller models) you can also link and combine your fire together, which is necessary to overwhelm the armor of larger targets, or insure killing blows for smaller vessels.

There is also a large spread in general tactics from nation to nation, from the Americans generally being able to hit exactly what they want with generous missile arcs (typically 360 degrees) and similarly nimble turrets, to the Japanese which have large numbers of fixed channel weapons which they must carefully line up with their special maneuverability advantage. With a little bit of trial and error you can probably find a Nation which corresponds to your play style.

Due to the alternating squadron activation having a large number of squadrons is desirable. If you have eight squadrons and your opponent has five, then even if you win initiative you still get two movements activations in the row at the end of the turn. That may not sound like a lot, but it can be quite a bonus. This adds another nice balancing act between dumping your points heavily into the larger, more expensive models and having a larger swath of smaller units. For example, in a large, 1500 point game a player averaging 250 point squadrons would only have 6 activations, while someone averaging 150 point squadrons would have 10 activations. (Carriers are also nice for this purpose, as in addition to the carrier you get two squadrons of tiny fliers).

This also provides motivation for a player to finish off crippled opposing squadrons that have lost units and can’t really focus a dangerous amount of fire. Alternatively it provides a reason not to throw these weakened squadrons away willy-nilly.

Probably the biggest gameplay element of Spartan Games is their “exploding d6” system. All dice rolls are used with d6s (although very, very occasionally they are used as d3s instead). Higher numbers are typically better, with a 6 being a critical success. When a 6 is rolled it “explodes” into two successes (as opposed to one) and then you reroll the dice, continuing in this manner if additional sixes are rolled.

This system has its detractors for the increased uncertainty introduces, but all in all I like it. I think that that increased uncertainty introduces a larger random element that I like in war games. I think in real life the “no plan survives contact with the enemy” adage is true from the random uncontrollable elements at least as much as what your enemy purposefully does to distrust you. Does it make it possible for a single corvette to destroy a Battleship? Technically yes, but that golden BB scenario is still really rare.

The way that damage is assigned goes a long way to controlling the randomness. First you pool all of your Attack Dice (determined by the weapons used, the range, the number linking together, etc) then roll them, continuing until all the exploding is done. You count up the successes (typically 4s, 5s, and two for sixes) if your hits meet or exceed the Damage Rating of the attacked ship you do a single point of damage, if your hits meet or exceed the Critical Rating of the attacked ship you do two points of damage and a critical effect, if your hits meet or exceed double the Critical Rating you do four points and a critical effect, and so on and so forth. Also note that exploding dice works on the defensive as well, Shields (protect against guns, rockets, and torpedoes), AA (protects against most boarders and rockets) and CC (protects against torpedoes and boarders from submarines) all have exploding sixes.

Because damage is allotted in these discrete thresholds getting an extra ‘explosion’ or two won’t lead to catastrophic results. An expected miss may luck into a hit, an expected hit could very well be a critical, but the odds of an expected hit getting lucked all the way into a double critical are really very low. (So far I don’t believe it has happened to us).

Suggested Methodology
All you really need at first is the book, which you can get for around $20. The book has unit stats in the back, but the stat cards I’ll link to below are more up to date with additional balancing and typo corrections collected from Spartan’s website. I’ll also link to the paper cutouts below, which you can print out. If you are more interested in the Naval game I would start out with the naval units from the starter packs (1 battleship, three cruisers, nine frigates). Leaving off the bombers and tiny fliers will mean you won’t have to worry about land/air rules (not to dissimilar to naval rules, but some special cases) and the tiny flier rules (a fairly significant additional element of complexity). In our first games we also ignored the morale rules (and we actually haven’t played with a Commodore yet, and I don’t have the additional playing cards). If no one is playing as Prussia or Antartica you could probably also skip the whole boarding section. (Prussia is typically very good at boarding, and Antartica quite poor, so if one of them is involved this could be slightly unbalancing, not that that really matters for your first game).

In our second game we brought in the bombers (and other flying units would be fine as well, aside from tiny fliers), and the diving unit rules are very similar to the flying unit rules, so you could bring them in as well. We also started using the morale rules in our second game, and if you wanted to you could start choosing your own units as well. If you wanted to do mixed force games you could do that here too, land units are simpler than air or diving units as far as new rules go.

In the third game you’ll probably be ready for carriers and Tiny Fliers, which are a lot of fun, and at this point you’re basically playing the entire game.

Spartan Games
I think an important part of reviewing a game system is also taking a look at the company as a whole, and I really, really like what I see of Spartan Games. They are based in the UK, and while their stuff doesn’t seem to be too big in the States, I have seen others with the units painting them at the stores here in the Philly area that carry them (Showcase Comics). They seem friendly enough, they have allowed people to freely post redone stat cards and paper cutouts of some of the ships (95% of what you need to play the game) without complaint. In fact the guy that has made free downloads of his improved unit stat cards (the most important part of the game) is a sticky in their main discussion thread!

Their thinking seems to be “Hey, we make super awesome models, people will want to buy them, if, in the interim this sort of stuff helps them play and pick out new models, more power to them”. With my group at least it has paid off, I started with the rulebook, and played a game with a coworker with paper models, eventually decided on Britain and started buying models, and at this point I have around $140 dollars in them. For context on the price that is at least one squadron in ever land unit, a total of 870 points (a medium sized engagement), almost one example of every naval unit (in total 1335 points, a quite large force, and examples of all but the small fliers (520 points, and I couldn’t run them as a sole force without the small fliers (or little square pieces of papers), but that’s a sizable supporting force attached to an air or land unit).

Basically for $140 bucks I could run a large land engagement and a large sea engagement at the same time. Are there non-Spartan games where I could have two large armies for that much money? (I am honestly asking, that’s not rhetorical J). Due to easily available paper cutouts may coworkers were able to easily alongside me, and now I have three converts who are about to buy a starter pack, and I am about to start working on a second fleet! (Probably French, which we were able to try before buying because of the player-shared stat cards).

I’m digressing a little bit, the other great thing about Spartan Games is that they are aggressively pursuing additional content. They first came out a couple of years ago with a 1.0 rulebook with stats for a baseline of units for four starting nations (Prussia, Britain, ‘Japan’, ‘USA’), although not all of those units were available as actual models. (For example Prussia and Japan started out with their air carriers available, and Britain and the US with their naval carriers) by their first year anniversary the four initial nations had all of their models available (so to continue the example Naval, Flying, and mobile land carriers for everyone!). They also released the completely new Antartican faction, and a 1.1 update to the rules that tightened everything up a lot.

In this second year they released the entirely new French faction, and small fliers for all (now six) factions, they recently also released a follow-on large campaign book with updated deployment rules, scenarios, etc, and this week the entirely new Russian Faction is coming out.

After the Russians we have the next two great powers to look forward to, the League of Italian States, and the Ottoman Empire. As well as a host of minor powers that will have a few units to supplement their allies, even though they won’t have the unit spread of the great powers (the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Chinese Federation, Republic of Egypt, Socialist Union of South America, Australian Independents, and Royal Australians).

Links and Resources

The aforementioned stat cards for each unit. The guy that keeps them up has already started collecting the Russian stats and will probably put them up soon.

The paper cutouts, the guy who has set them up has very nice cutouts for the starter packs for the first four nations, as well as escorts, destroyers, and corvettes for the first four nations. He also has more cobbled-together versions of Antartica, the bombers, and the small flyers. From these you can really get anything you need, the ship sizes themselves aren't that important as long as you are close.

As far as the actual purchases go, I've gotten a lot of my stuff at the local store, some from Amazon (not very good selection surprisingly, but usually very good prices) and the rest from The Warstore which carries all Dystopian Wars stuff except for the mega packs. If you are in the UK then buying directly from Spartan Games is a good option, otherwise their shipping is a bit much (although if you break 100 pounds there is free global shipping. My coworkers and I may go in four a naval starter four-pack from there in the next week or two).

Hope this was useful, if anyone wants to give it a try in the Philadelphia area send me a PM. I can bring everything we need (which means paper cutouts for you unless you want to play as Britain, or possibly French in a couple of weeks).