Dust Tactics: A Quick Overview

A significant amount of time has passed since the last time I wrote about my Particular Addiction. Much as Sherlock Holmes had trouble resisting the siren call of his seven percent solution, I occasionally fall victim to the allure of “plastic crack,” known to the wider world as wargaming miniatures.

Like many other, more serious, forms of addiction, the urge to fiddle around with plastic crack can go into remission for long periods of time, but the addict is never truly free of it. Sometimes a glimpse of some new product can trigger a collapse; at other times, the irresistible urge seems to manifest for no particular reason. And sometimes I simply cave in after a lengthy struggle against the gnawing idea that something new looks like a lot of fun.

It’s that last one, this time. “Dust Tactics” isn’t exactly new, but it has now officially arrived here in the Swamp Bunker. “Arrived” with a big thump, more specifically, because I recently snagged a good deal on one of the game’s “old style” core box sets, which ships in one of Fantasy Flight’s giant-sized game boxes.

Time to fight in Dust Tactics.

The Allies' BBQ Boys make quick work of the Nazi recon squad.

The original core set gives gamers a slightly bigger start on the system than the “Revised Core Set” that’s on retail now. Both sets include a hero and three different squads of grunts, but the original set includes two combat walker models where the revised core box has just one. The original set is a bit beefier with a game surface constructed from nine terrain boards, which are replaced in the new set by paper maps.

I’m pretty much ignoring the rules in the box and skipping straight to the “new” edition rules, which I found online. The new rules are better written and include many of the later rules added in the game’s various scenario expansion boxes.

It’s all pretty straightforward stuff. Players alternate activating their units; each unit can perform two actions when activated. The short set of available actions is easy to understand, and the square-grid game board eliminates fiddly measurements and things like “unit cohesion” rules. A squad or walker occupies a square, period. Actions are Move (usually just 1 square), Attack, Sustained Attack and Skill.

The BBQ Boys take on a Nazi "Ludwig" walker.

The rampage continues as the BBQ Boys finish off a Ludwig walker.

The only restriction to remember is that you can’t chain together two attack actions. Instead, you use Sustained Attack, which consumes both actions but allows you to re-roll misses. The Skill action lets a unit do stuff like call in artillery or use some other special function it might have available. None of it’s very complicated, which allows more focus on play with fewer rules look-ups.

Note, though, that Dust Tactics isn’t a “straight” minis game. Like another “nearly minis” game I’ve blogged about, Grindhouse’s Incursion, it is very much a board game — and it depends on the board game environment to generate much of the player interaction. A tabletop game for the miniatures range — Dust Warfare — is in development under the guiding hand of former GW guru Andy Chambers, but the two games shouldn’t be confused.

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