Monday, August 27, 2012

Why you should play Dystopian Wars

Is that a Giant Squid or are you happy to see me?

A quick blurp about why Dystopian Wars is awesome and why you should play it.

Movement is King

Dystopian Wars, in a nutshell, is a naval steampunk version of Chess.  Movement is absoutely crucial in this game and correct usage of your fleet's movement, postioning and deployment will win you the game.  At first, you might think that this is a game that will force you to roll up to your opponent and roll dice.  God knows the combat system is really smiple and the opportunity to roll huge amounts of dice (which can explode into more dice) is always the way to do it.  While for many people this seems to be the case, this is not.

Movement is different for almost every single ship in the game.  Their sizes dictate how much they can turn, they might have a special rule (MAR) that allows them to turn on the dime, or they might have greater movement values in general.  Knowing how each of your ships move around the seascape is what really matters.  The reason for this is because collision, ramming, blocked LoS, and blocking enemy LoS all matters in this game.  If you fail in how you deploy, your movement will not be fluid and thus, your combat potential and strategy will not be fluid.  If you get too itchy and make shoddy maneuvers with your fleet in hopes of bringing all your guns to bear, you might block the firing lanes for your other ships.  The list goes on and on, and it's one of the most realistic and unforgiving elements that makes this naval wargame great.

Activation is Important

Once you determine who is going first every round, the order at which you activate will be most important.  If you have more units than your opponent, you will have the opportunity to move the "less important" units first.  This can be used so you can move your "more crucial" pieces after all his activations are over.  You can also assume that some of these activations are bluffs, and clever admirals will not take the bait in moving the pieces you want him to.  Some players might move units just so your opponents will see a juicy target.  If he takes the bait, it can potentially set off a chain of events that'll lead to the destruction of his entire fleet.  In a system where it's you-go-I-go, the damage that can be inflicted either works like a ramp or a downward spiral.  This is why tempo and momentum is very important in any given battle.

The order of activations will determine how damage is being dealt most of the time.  If you wish to get the jump on his ships in terms of damage, you will probably activate your bigger ships first.  However, in doing so, might leave you exposed to counter-attacks from smaller ships who can close the distance quickly.  With this in mind, it becomes clear that all activations are equally important in the long run.  Your bigger pieces are capable of doing more damage from different directions, while the medium and smaller elements of your fleet can act more like a scalpel compared to your hammers.

Firing Arcs and Directional Combat

Last, but certainly not least, I'll cover firing arcs and directional combat briefly.  Here is where the game really gets interesting.  Once you factor in movement with the order of activations, the game gets pretty exciting.  Throw in different firing arcs, sweet spots and damage mitigation, and the game becomes excellent.  Just like movement, different ships have different weapons.  Some might have fixed arcs, some have turrets and others have broadsides.  To make things even more interesting, some ships have all three.  In order to maximize the amount of damage you can inflict on your opponent's ships, players must utilize every weapon in their disposal.  They do this by activating them in the correct order, moving them into the exact location where they'll do the most damage, and bring all their weapons to bear to inflict maximum damage.  This in turn, can mean their ships can be exposed to flanking manuevers, boarding, and most famous of all, getting their T-crossed by the enemy's heavy hitters.

Firing arcs is important also because of Line of Sight.  Firing lanes have to be opened to generate the most effecient attack and your opponent who's trying to reverse the momentum of the game knows this.  You can move your ships in front of other ships to block the amount of damage coming in, or to act as shields for enemy torpedos, or to deter enemies from boarding you.  Add in the fact that your Large and Massive ships can shoot over your smaller ships and all kinds of defensive damage scenarios can arise.  Ultimately, its up to the admiral in charge of his fleet to deal the maximum amount of damage, and maneuver in a way that he'll receive little to no damage in return.

Shallow yet Deep

If you look at the individual systems themselves, Dystopian Wars is a very easy to learn system.  You roll up,  you aim your guns, you roll dice, and hopefully something bad happens to the enemy ships.  However, once you combine the elements of movement, activation order, and firing arcs, the game gets incredibly complex.  Don't panic when I say complex, I mean it in the best of ways.  I really enjoy games that are easy to learn, but hard to master.  I've only played a few games of Dystopian Wars so far, and every single time I can look back in confidence knowing I could of played better.  The best thing about DW is that all of the above game mechanics are entwined.  Smart activation gives you more opportunities to maneuver, and this in turn leads to better damage from clear firing arcs.  It's been a long time since I've played a naval game this deep.

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