Dystopian Wars Review

The Dystopian Wars are set in the 1870's, although it is not the 1870 we know. The Industrial revolution has already happened, and the technology has far surpassed what was available in our timeline.

It is all powered by a new Element, and the War is raging as the different nations and coaltions make moves to expand their land.

The backstory to the game is excellent, well written and well thought out. A lot of the information can be found on Spartan Games own website, it is useful in helping you choose a faction.

I was one of those fortunate people that fell in love with all of the models, so I didn't need any help as I aim to own them all!

Where to begin? Well the best way is probably their Exploding D6 mechanic. For those of you that don’t know this Mechanic is actually really easy. When performing attacks you need to get a number of hits on your enemy. Ships, Tanks and Fliers general have a Damage Rating. Once you have a number of hits equal to this you do 1 point of damage to the target, they also have a Crit Rating, when you equal this you get to roll on the Crit Table.

How do you get hits? Well you roll a number of dice equal to the weapon you are shooting with. Then in most cases you count up all the 4’s, 5’s & 6’s. Each 4 & 5 counts as 1 hit, each 6 counts as 2 hits and allows you to roll another D6, where another 6 allows you to roll again and counts as 2 hits (and again and again and again depending on your luck).

This mechanic means no matter how damaged your fleet is, no matter how small your Frigate may seem next to that Battleship, there is always a chance of getting enough 6’s to do some damage to it. You can’t ignore things in this game… if you do you have to be willing to take the hits they may dish out to you.

With the basics of the Exploding D6 out of the way the rest of the rules are pretty easy to pick up.

So the Turn Sequence well, this is pretty simple. At the beginning of the game (and each turn thereafter) you roll for initative deciding which player goes first (no choosing) if you win the roll you go first.

Once the player that has won the roll is decided they get to activate 1 Squadron from their force. That Squadron has to Move, Shoot, Board & Repair all at once. Once the player has completed all their actions with a Squadron, the turn moves to the opposing player who gets to do the same, activating 1 squadron. This continues until all the squadrons have been activated, and it does mean if your force has more squadrons you will get to activate them one after another until they have all had a turn.

This mechanic has been seen in many games, and I think works very well. It means you don’t have to sit still and do nothing for 10-20 minutes while your opponent obliterates your force before your eyes. It also means that if you made a mistake setting something up in a bad position, you get a chance to change it before too many of the enemy squadrons have exploited it.

In each Squadron's activation you get to move your models. Movement is pretty easy, with ships having turn templates, and fliers and Land vehicles having a set distance they have to move between each 45 degree (or part thereof) turn. Obviously it gets a little tricky with large squadrons of Frigates, but as no Squadron can be larger than 5 models it doesn’t take much to get the movement done.

After the movement phase your squadron gets to go into Combat this may be in the form of launching a gunnery attack or firing your torpedoes, or even both! Even the smallest ships in Dystopian Wars can have massive amounts of firepower, and if you can get into the middle of an enemy fleet you can be shooting, to your Port, Starboard, Fore and Aft with relative ease. Squadrons can also link fire among their weapons, increasing the chance for them to get Critical hits. Ranges are easy to determine in Dystopian Wars, with each Vehicle getting 4 range bands, and each range band is 8” long.

Boarding follows combat and works in the same manner as their Previous games. You get to launch your Marines to try and take out the enemy Vehicle. They have to Brave the Ack Ack fire that is launched at them as they attack, and then defeat the enemy boarders. Whoever gets the most hits wins, and if the Attackers win they get to roll on the Critical Hit Table. If they wipe out the enemy Marines they take control of the Vehicle!

When you do Damage to the enemy by reducing their Hull Points, you also reduce the effectiveness of many of their Weapons, so being the first person to shoot is always a bonus, Battleships might be able to absorb a lot of damage before being destroyed but you can massively reduce their effectiveness with some early damage.

Some of the Cruisers and Battleships can replace their turret weaponry with Generators. These utilise the new element that has powered the industrial revolution in this universe. These Generators can function as Shield generators which allow you to negate hits against you, reducing them below your Crit or Damage Rating. They can also provide Camouflage & other extra defences.

Given that the models turrets come as metal components its quite easy to think that paint up the ship and leave a couple of the turrets unglued so you can swap in generators are your choice.

The Fighters, or Tiny Tokens as they are called in the rules all have a fuel allowance, and certain things like moving at full speed, or attacking reduce the amount of fuel they have, if they ever reach 0 then the Token will die. Their fuel can also be reduced by enemy Ack Ack, which can also just outright destroy the fighters & Bombers. Bombers themselves are viscious and pity the Captain whose ship is attacked by a whole squadron of 5, as this means they are rolling 15 dice against them in their attack rolls.

The rules covering the Tiny Tokens can be a bit daunting at first, but if needs be you can have lots of fun playing with the Starter fleets and no Tiny Tokens until you get your head round how the mechanics work.

A recent update on the Spartan Games website, streamlined the Rules for Tiny Flyers. They now move as one, all in the Tokens in a Squadron in Base to Base contact, and tracking their fuel got a lot easier! With these changes Tiny Tokens became a lot less daunting and a lot more fun! To see the my review of these changes check out my post here.

Another neat new rule are for Break checks. Squadrons losing models have to take Break checks, and if you fail the squadron cannot do anything while its commanders try to restore order.

The Break checks are easy to understand and do not slow the game down at all, if anything they make you consider larger squadrons as a better option. A nifty set of Break tokens is given to you

You also have to nominate where your Fleet Commodore is, which ship he is using. This is both a good and bad thing as he grants that ships re-rolls in certain situations, and he makes it easier to pass break checks when in range of the Ship. On the downside if you lose his ship either to a boarding action, or to it being destroyed your entire fleet needs to take a Break check... and without your Fleet Commodore it is harder to pass!
There are also a whole host of Model Associate Rules or MARs for short. This section of the book covers all of the special rules that the vehicles and tokens can have. These might be something as simple as Experience Engineers which allows you to repair critical damage easier, or Fuel Reserves that mean ANY critical hit can cause a Raging fire (they are bad by the way).

You can also introduce the Fog of War by buying the deck of 52 cards. You get to draw 1 card for each squadron you control upto a maximum of 5 and these provide bonuses from the ability to put out D3 raging fires that are affecting your fleet, to getting +1 to hit on all attack rolls. There are four types of cards which effect different aspects of the game all of which are clearly labelled on the card itself.

All of the rules for building your Battlegroup are included in this book, and it has extensive stats on all four of their Launch nations models, including information on Land and Ariel units that are not yet released. The only bit about this that can be a pain are the percentages, your fleet is not allowed to have more than X% of its points spent on different classes of models. This can be a bit daunting to begin with, but given that all the Starter fleets are balanced forces its not even something you need to worry about to begin with. If both players have a Starter Fleet and Carrier then you are going to be so close in points that you are good to go for a balanced and fun game.

I have to say that reading this book really makes me think that Spartan games have hit the nail bang on the head this time. The book is chunkier than Firestorm Armada or Uncharted Seas, and certainly doesn’t have the really obvious errors the previous two did. There is an official Errata thread on their forums which allows you to see quickly which rules have been clarified and which were wrong in the initial print.

The Rulebook is also top quality, with decent background and pictures. The rules are well explained with lots of diagrams to help your understand. It also includes a quick cheat sheet with lots of useful information which is clearly labelled. This saves you having to flick through the rulebook for some of the rules.

The Deck of Cards are very nice, good quality sturdy cards that should stand the wear and tear of being played. They only cost £6 too and are not a requirement, but rather a nice bonus to the game.

For information about what you get in a battlgroup click on the link to take you to my photo's of the contents of the Prussian Battlegroup, and the Kingdom of Britannia Battlegroup.

In Summary:
This is certainly the best set of rules to come out of Spartan Games so far with (in my opinion) the best models. The rules flow well, and the simple mechanics mean it’s a quick game to understand without having to check charts to figure out hit and wound scores. This means you can focus more on building your fleet and learning how to play it than remembering what you need on any given D6.

Pro's: Excellent Models and Background, easily understood D6 mechanic.
Con's: The Rules for Tiny Tokens can seem a bit daunting to begin with, as can the rules governing building your battlegroup.

My Score: 9.5/10!

I hope this review is useful to you in deciding if you want to pick this game up, it obviously gets a big thumbs up from me, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes commanding large armies or fleets. Naval combat in this is very good and the models and gameplay really sets my mind afire the way I think a good wargame should.

See you all tomorrow for my slightly delayed post of the contents of the Prussian Sky Fortress!

If you would like to see anymore information about the Dystopian Wars, please visit my Dystopian Wars specific page. This will list all of the information I have on the Game, and it will also have links to other cool blogs and websites with information on the Dystopian Wars!


Greg said…
Thanks for the review. I bought Uncharted Seas from them and really enjoy it. It brings back the old GW Man o' War feel. My only problem is finding opponents. I've solved half the problem by buying a few fleets so I can bring everything needed for a game.
Kraggi said…
No problem Greg, I wanted to get this up as soon as possible as I figure the best way to get opponents is to get more people aware and playing, and like you I have bought 2 fleets, with the intention of getting the rest so I can get games in when I want.

I wish you good luck in finding more people to play, and I will keep this site up to date with my purchases, exploits and news as best I can.
RTGamer said…
Nice review.

It definitely makes me want to pick this up. Can't wait to see how the Prussian Sky Fortress looks coming out of the box. Everyone seems to be interested by this game and I am going to do what you guys have pick up 2 starters and the book and go to the nearest store to make peopel play.
Thanks for the review. I just got this game, and two fleets (as I'm the only one in my group who buys this sort of stuff) and I have to say, I'm also excited to try it out.

I'd also add that, although the rulebook is of very nice quality, and once I've got my head around the basics, I think it'll be a great reference, I've never purchased a rule book so full of typos! From the benign misuse of aphostrophes (tons of those) to diagrams and examples that are missing a word/letter or otherwise confusing and misleading. Certainly none of these issues are gamebreakers, but they were quite a surprise to me, given this is Spartan Games third offering.
Kraggi said…
hmmm I will be honest I was looking for the Page XX mistakes, so missed the others mistakes, but yes very excited by this game, having played it was enjoyable with the Air and Sea element, and I look forward to the land options coming early next month (or so the rumourmill says)
Max said…
Thanks for the review! I've been interested in this system since I first heard about it. Now the only challenge is actually finding other people to play with me...
Kraggi said…
No problem Max, thats part of the reason I am posting the review on as many forums as I can, and why I mentioned it to Belloflostsouls.

The more coverage the better in my mind, as it will make it easier to find players.

The Spartan Forums do have some info on where you can find players... might be worth checking that out, or if your wallet can support it, pick up a couple of fleets, once people play I am sure more will buy it :-)
Todd R said…
Nice review. What makes this different from their other offerings? Tracking "fighter" fuel and the generator elements are different. But it generally, sounds the same.

What I'm really wondering - why is this better than the others?
Kraggi said…
I have played both Firestorm and Uncharted and I think that this builds on the rules for Firestorm.

I felt that Firestorm built on Uncharted ruleset, adding extras to them (fighters, shields etc).

I think that Dystopian Wars does the same. Yes all three are very similar. I feel the background and models makes this game stand apart.

But the rules also add a different level to the game. There are so many options, so many different combinations to try.

I think that is why it is better. I appreciate that many people will have their reasons for liking the other two games, this one just blew me away with the models and history... the rulebook I feel is better, and I think the options for all three types of combat make it a far more interesting game.

It wont be for everyone, but I advise anyone that likes Firestorm or Uncharted to try it, because if you liked them then I believe you will love this.
Ray said…
Great review! I'm going to pick up a copy now!
Cory said…
Wow great review has enticed me to check it out in depth.
Kraggi said…
Thank you very much, the aim of the review was to hopefully get people interested, it is definately worth looking into, for the models if nothing else.