Product: World War II has dragged on into 1947, and the three great blocs — Allies, Axis and Sino-Soviet Union — race for the rare and potent Vk ore to power their uber-weapons.
Dust Tactics is a squad-level tactical board game based on the world created by Paolo Parente and featured in the Dust comic books. Like all Fantasy Flight Games, the presentation is superb with high-quality art and beautiful components (which does make some of the minor editorial errors surprising and a little annoying).
Inside the large box are 30 28mm soldier figures, four 1:48-scale armored walkers, and two hero figures. These plastic models are detailed and come primed (either gray for the Axis or green for Allies) and ready for painting. The walkers even have some decals already applied. Also included are tank traps and ammo crates, nine cardboard gameboard pieces, terrain squares, stat cards and 12 dice.
Gameplay: Unlike many tabletop wargames that get bogged down in minutia, Dust Tactics is designed to give players tactical flexibility along with an accessible rule set for exciting games.
The gameboard can be made to resemble an artic battlefield or a base’s interior. It is divided into a 9 x 9-square grid; each square has a dot at its center. Squads, vehicles and heroes can move a number of squares each turn as dictated by their movement number. Similarly, weapon ranges equate to a number of squares on the board. So long a line can be drawn from the dot in the center of one square to the dot in another without going through a square that contains no dot (due to things like walls or vehicles), an attacking squad has line of sight. No measuring. No fuss.
Whoever wins initiative can decide whether to go first or have their opponent go first. From that point, one side activates a squad or vehicle, and then the other side, until both sides have activated all their available figures. Then initiative is rolled and the process begins again.
This sort of turn sequence can be frustrating at times, especially when trying to draw an opponent out into the open. Once a squad has been activated, all of its actions are finished until the following turn. That means if you move into position and an enemy squad comes around a corner, they can shoot at you, but you can’t return fire.
Which brings up one of the major challenges for players of Dust Tactics: to be successful you must understand the unique abilities of the models on the board and use them effectively. For instance, just because those combat rangers have a M9 bazooka doesn’t mean that they can stand toe-to-toe with a Panzer Kampflaüer II-B (a big nasty robot with 8.8cm guns). Similarly, don’t underestimate the destructive power of a demo charge against armor.
Dust Tactics provides eight scenarios to get players moving. They are multifaceted, and become more challenging the further along you get. Designed for two-player games, we’ve played with as many as four players. You could probably play with as many players as there are squads on the board. Even if a player’s squad or vehicle is eliminated, they can participate in strategizing.
Finally, Dust Tactics is all about the heat of battle. Hiding from the fight does little good, especially for those scenarios with turn limits. For players interested in quick setup and fast play, Dust Tactics is for them.
Marketing: Targeting an audience for Dust Tactics may be the hardest part when it comes to marketing the game. It comes with a hefty price tag that is likely to be a barrier for most casual gamers. On the other hand, hardcore tabletop miniatures gamers may hesitate to pick up another game system. Still, there is potential in both parties, as well as the customer new to miniature gaming.
Dust Tactics is a big game, with a lot of additional components and expansions either available or in the works. With a product like this, you can run specials using it as the focus. For instance, if you’re planning a Veteran’s Day sale or event, try an end-cap display of Dust Tactics, its campaign expansions and Allied forces.
Stock Dust Tactics alongside other miniatures games, such as Warhammer and Warmachine. It could attract the attention of those already into miniatures games, but such placement is a natural fit to get Dust in front of customers who aren’t yet married to any one game system.
Fantasy Flight Games has an organized play program for Dust Tactics, and there is a new revised core set on its way with a lower price point and exclusive models.
Product: Dust Tactics
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Stock No.: DT001
Other products: Operation “Cyclone” Campaign Expansion (No. DT008, $39.95); “The Boss” Allies command squad expansion (No. DT012, $14.95); “Kommandotrupp” Axis command squad expansion (No. DT011, $14.95)
Availability: Check with your favorite game distributor
Lots of action; very fast play
Plenty of support from FFG
Alternative to tabletop wargames