Amongst the various games that caught my eye recently during my perusing of the manifold options offered by the world of Wargaming is Dust Warfare, by Fantasy Flight Games.
Dust Warfare is a tabletop-based evolution of the Dust Tactics boardgame that is now in it’s second edition. Both are set in a re-imagined sci-fi version of World War Two in which the Axis and Allies continue their struggle with the aid of lasers, giants walkers, jet packs and gorillas.
I’ve never been one for historical gaming. Maybe it doesn’t offer the sheer escapism that fantasy of sci-fi gaming offers, maybe it’s the feeling that you are constrained by the real events of the vague sense of it been perhaps a bit disrespectful. It doesn’t help that historical wargamers are stereotyped as the sort of people who will sneer at you for painting the bootstraps on your model the wrong shade of brown. This can go double for games set during the Second World War as the events are relatively recent in the public consciousness (certainly compared to say the Napoleonic wars) and I imagine more than a few wargamers must feel a vague pang of discomfort about the idea of taking on the role of Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy, (or Stalinist Russia for that matter).
Dust Tactics/Dust Warfare subverts a lot of these problems by making it very much an alternative universe version of WW2, much like Dystopian Wars and other steampunk games give us an alternative universe version of the Victorian era. The infusion of a vast amount of discovered alien technology breaks the world of Dust away from the real events quite nicely. It also helps that the two sides are the somewhat generic Axis and Allies factions rather than picking out the specific nations from those two sides.
It’s difficult to carry of an idea like this without a sense of humour. Fortunately I think the people at FFG do have one, with the inclusion of the Axis War Gorillas being just one example. Unit names such as ‘BBQ Squad’ and ‘Laser Grenadiers’ show that this is a game that is not taking itself too seriously. Of course, FFG didn’t invent the idea of re-imagining WW2 with shiny sci-fi bits and there’s a rich genre out there to ‘borrow’ ideas from. The recent Captain America film is just one example of our society’s fascination with the idea of raygun Nazis and jetpack Allies (and which perhaps helped Dust capture my attention so soon after seeing it). West Wind Games’ Secrets of the Third Reich is another take on this idea.
All the signs are that the two games will be compatible, which suggests that players will have the chance to get the hang of things playing the Tactics starter box before committing themselves fully. Plus the option of playing ‘big’ and ‘small’ versions of a game is a welcome one when so many gamers are often pushed for time/money/space/etc.
The miniatures seem to be of pretty good quality and some of the designs, such as the assorted walkers and units like the Allied ‘Grim Reapers are extremely good looking models.
FFG have a reasonably good reputation as a producer of boardgames, RPGs and card games and have been granted the licence to produce games based on a wide variety of IP from films, books, TV etc. The most recent example would be FFG recently acquiring the Star Wars licence and announcing an X-Wing miniatures game, but they also produce games based on Lord of the Rings, Battlestar Galactica, Game of Thrones, and Starcraft. Not to mention the RPGs and boardgames based on GW IP such as Black Crusade or Horus Hersy. Say what you like about GW I doubt they would licence their IP to just anyone. FFG clearly have form, and the fact that veteran games designer and ex-GW alumnus Andy Chambers is designing the Dust Warfare rules is another sign that this could be a really good game.
I’m not sure that I’ll have the chance to give Dust a try, being rather too busy with other projects, but I think credit is due to FFG for creating a genuinely interesting and appealing project, that was only narrowly edged out by Warmachine as a game I would have liked to try.