Review: Dystopian Wars 2.0
Company: Spartan Games
Dystopian Wars, the alternate history, 1870’s war game. The world is at war, this game allows you to control a mixed Sea, Air and Land force in 1:1200 scale miniatures.
Spartan Games latest release for Dystopian Wars 2.0 is their Admiral Edition. It contains everything in the Commodore Edition except the Force Lists for the nations, which can be downloaded for free here. The Admiral Edition is also softcover, where the Commodore Edition is hardcover. The other bonus is the book is half the cost of the Commodore Edition, which for those conscious of expense or just wanting to see how the new edition changes work, is a great thing.
As mentioned, the book is softcover and standard A4 size and contains almost everything you need to play, which I’ll explain further down. All the rules are contained in the book. They are well laid out and the examples and pictures are very good and explain the concepts of the rules well. There is also an index that is reasonably comprehensive and well laid out. This is a huge improvement over the V1.1 rules and just these small things cannot be overstated. Another improvement is the layout and order of the chapters, they mirror the steps of the game turn, again something not seen in the previous edition but which helps immensely.
The rules changes themselves make for a much more streamlined game, and remove a lot of unnecessary options from V1.1, while retaining the Dystopian Wars feel. The main improvements in my mind come from:
- the removal of the ‘split fire’ option. The only dice pool I can remember being split is defensive boarding parties, and then only if you are boarded by multiple ships.
- The removal of stacking ‘half AD’ penalties. In all bar one instance this halving only occurs in one situation. Combine this with the ’round up’ rule and you get a much more streamlined, quicker method of determining dice pools. It also generally means a higher dice pool will be rolled, allowing much more to happen in the game.
- Improved ‘tiny flyers’, now called SAW/ SAS. This really makes the game a lot more playable in my opinion. Using tiny flyers is now no longer an onerous part of the game. Add to this the changes to how Carriers work and this is a much improved area of the game.
- Adding infantry to the base rules. I am sure there were reasons, but I believe not adding infantry to the core rules in v1.1 was an oversight. This has now been corrected and the forces now ‘feel’ more like an army.
- Organising forces and starting the game. The method of organising your forces and army for a game are now much better. While there is a bit of a process, I feel it gives a much better indication of an organised army, given the core force of your choosing.
- Tidying up and improved description of the rules in general. The good diagrams and rule descriptions, combined with an index, really makes this version easier to follow and understand.
Now, about the ‘almost everything needed to play’, there are some disappointing features of the Admiral Version of the rules:
No tokens. I am not sure if these exist in the Commodore Version, however there are no tokens with the book. This is fine if you own v1.1, but without it you are stuck. I see no ability to purchase tokens, except for Operation Shadow Hunter, and it also seems like there are none available to download.
EDIT: So, it turns out my brain wasn’t working properly when I looked at the Spartan download page. There are plenty of tokens to download from there,
- No templates. Repeat the above, except there are perspex tokens available for sale (with many third party options). There are none available for download, and the templates shown in the book are not to scale. Again without v1.1 (or maybe Commodore Edition), or further purchases, you don’t have the necessary templates to play the game. I might be missing something on the website here, but it seems like a serious oversight as the templates are critical and integral to the game.
EDIT: Looks like templates come in some of the boxed sets, along with token sheets. I think I would still have liked to see a downloadable set.
- No TAC cards. These are essentially command cards. Again the above applies, except they are again available for separate purchase. To be fair they aren’t needed to play, and our trial game played perfectly fine without them, but they do add something to the game. It is also worth noting these cards are different to the v1.1 STAR cards.
- No Mission Cards. There is mention in the rules of drawing a card from the ‘Fleet Orders’ deck (in other words, missions) but that is the last reference. There are no cards available for download and none for purchase, unless they exist in the Commodore Edition or the TAC card deck.
I find the above very surprising. Unless a lot of this stuff above is contained in the Commodore Edition, then you have to make at least 2 more purchases just to play the game – the Templates and Tokens (if tokens are available to purchase individually). In addition you need two TAC decks, one for each player, and you will need to manually make mission cards. Alternatively you can roll dice for the mission, but as they are generally supposed to be kept hidden, this is makes it difficult. I will say again, it is possible I missed something on their website, in which case if someone knows more about this, please let me know.
Something else worth noting is that the book is very ‘wordy’. A lot of descriptions and condition lists are used for the rules. This makes a lot of things very clear and unambiguous, but it can be a bit of a slog to get through. The good thing is that it is usually a lot of words on the paper for a very quick mechanic, so once you play the rule, you will most likely remember it and it will be quite speedy. There is a lot to remember and know when playing Dystopian Wars and with no playsheet or quick reference guide, it is left to the players to make their own or grab some that others have thankfully made freely available. There are a number of good ones out there, so you can take your pick.
We found that having played Dystopian Wars v1.1 really helped. We felt like we were still playing Dystopian Wars but v2.0 was much more streamlined, easier and because of that, a lot more fun. We both really enjoyed our playtest.
For those who are worried about such things, Dystopian Wars does use, and require, a lot of tokens. It is not unusual for each model to have 3 tokens assigned to it, after blows have been landed. This really only feels excessive when you have each ship in multiple squads damaged. Of course this is personal opinion, but I feel it is in the mid/ high range for token usage.
All up I feel Dystopian Wars v2.0 is a HUGE improvement over v1.1. I actually am keen for further games and our trial game didn’t leave me with a headache and feeling exhausted. With the new streamlined rules there is also less chance of being beaten by the rules as there is now much more consistency between phases. Unless you play a lot, I really feel as if a cheatsheet or quick reference is needed and will help a lot. New players may struggle, especially with just the purchase of the book, having no templates or tokens. In that case, new players with no forces yet may be better off with the ‘Operation Shadow Hunter’ box set which contains everything that 2 players need to play.
While Dystopian Wars v2.0 is a mixed bag, both Troy and I really enjoyed the trial game and we look forward to more games, and I think it is a good chance to kick off the ‘Hurricane Season‘ campaign again.
I would rate Dystopian Wars v2.0 as a solid 7/10.
It was an enjoyable game to play and a massive step up from v1.1. Free army lists are excellent but the lack of templates, tokens and TAC cards is a problem. Even being experienced with v1.1, the wordy book meant our trial game went for about 3 turns in a 3 hour game window, for a 1000 point battle. I expect we can get this down to a much quicker 30 minutes per turn. If that can happen, and some of the other resources become available as a download, I would even be comfortable increasing the score to a 7.5, or an 8.
Publisher: Spartan Games
Contents: 147 pages, full colour, softbound book
Game Style: 2 or more players, alternate unit activation. D6 dice system, roll to beat target number.
Price: get a price on Dystopian Wars 2.0 Rulebook at Amazon.
get a price on Dystopian Wars: Operation Shadow Hunter at Amazon (currently 20% off).
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