Sunday, July 3, 2011
Dystopian Wars- Lovely Incoherent Fun
Some time ago Spartan Games out of the UK released Uncharted Seas, a fantasy naval combat game. I enjoyed Uncharted Seas- it was simple and fun. It did suffer from being set in a vaguely defined fantasy world that didn't provide enough gripping backstory to really pull you in. That, combined with pleasant but not incredible miniatures, left Uncharted Seas on the "yeah I should play that again some time..." table. Recently Spartan Games released Dystopian Wars, a semi-modern naval combat game. How does it fare in comparison?
Dystopian Wars (DW) is set in the early 20th century in some alternate "steam punk" universe. There are ships and planes but also giant robots, energy weapons, personal jetpacks, and super scientists living in a buried utopia in Antarctica. The backstory is completely jumbled and appears to be written by a committee of manatees holding science textbooks and atlases from the 1920s. It's improbable and not in the good way.
That being said, the game play is surprisingly... realistic. In a game of DW you marshal a force of tanks, blimps, ships and what-not and battle another player. In our trial games we used ships, dirigibles, and aircraft. The rules are simple and involve taking turns moving squadrons of vehicles and then firing. I hadn't read the rules carefully and so just tried to play as though I was commanding Napoleonic ships and Great War aircraft. The result was historically appropriate! DW rewards players who use careful formations and manage air and sea assets realistically. Granted there were few (well, zero, really) battles combining sail and torpedo bombers But if there had been then DW would simulate those encounters pretty closely. I think its a good sign when you can score well in a game not through knowing every small rule but rather by playing historically.
Further, Spartan Games has really stepped up their game in the miniatures department. The figures for DW and well crafted and designed, look good, and paint up well. These miniatures will look good when beginners paint them and they'll look great when good painters get at them. And at $50 or so for a usable force they're priced pretty well in the world of miniatures gaming.
I'm looking forward to playing more Dystopian Wars. While the backstory is loopy the product is affordable, of great quality, and fun to play.