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Scope for a Dystopian Wars 3.0?

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The Writing on the Wall

One of the feelings that I sensed coming out of the DW 2016 thread was that there might perhaps be increasing scope for a 3rd Edition of Dystopian Wars, or possibly some sort of intermediate 2.5 version. The thought intrigued me, and I guess I wanted to get the ball rolling on some positive, constructive discussion.

For myself personally, I would love to see a ground-up rework of the game that would incorporate good ideas from Fleet Action and elsewhere, with a desire to see every current model usable and balanced, but also to see a retcon and/or expansion of background and alternate history that would give Dystopian Wars the depth its awesome setting deserves. Tight rules, tight models, tight setting - the triad that makes a tabletop wargame sink or swim.

That's the perfect vision, at least in my humble opinion. Realistically, we're very unlikely to see anything like that anytime soon. That being said, I'd very much love to see a player-led revision and rebalance of the game. I think that is certainly doable, especially with the success of fan-led projects in other tabletop gaming systems (particularly the 9th Age). So, first question to the ladies and gentlemen of the forum:

Do people think there is enough scope (good changes that could be affected) for a new edition of Dystopian Wars? Or is the game fine as it is?

Could it be something that the playtesters and players on these forums have a significant involvement in?

An Ideas Clearinghouse

A good thing that can be done, I think, is at least start talking about ways that DW can be improved upon. Crazy new outlandish ideas would be welcome, as well as many games' worth of tabletop experience. The playtesters have stated that they are casting about for interesting ideas, at the very least this could be a thread in which to assemble them in a semi-coherent fashion, and go from there.

Short of a new edition (or to be included in one) what do you think could be done to improve:

  • A faction (models and rules)?
  • General gameplay and rules?
  • Background?

I freely admit I may have no idea what I'm talking about, but hopefully this should at least stimulate some positive discussion and ideas for the playtesters. :P

 

Ideas Thus Far

I thought I'd start collating things. Please let me know if I misrepresent or misunderstand anything!

Factions

 

Gameplay / Rules

  • More individual fleet commodores that can significantly impact the way a force is played through unique, commodore specific rules over having a generic national fleet commodore (Richomack88).
  • The rules could do with greater streamlining and a better-to-understand layout (Zond).

 

Background

  • More information on individual classes of vessel; a paragraph or two of descriptive background and a selection of famous vessels a la BFG , along with incidental one-off background pieces like propaganda, short stories and art (Nicholas).
  • A deeper look into the societal background and history of Dystopia, with a clearer picture of the impacts of highly advanced technology, and the points of historical divergence from our own timeline. A better vision of the human aspects of the setting would be good, along with strong characters that players can appreciate and grow attached to (Zond).

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I think more background is a must. A short paragraph describing each (air/land) ship, and some famous examples and the battles they took place in, like the BFG rulebook for those that remembers it. When I first played the game I kept reading about how the Lord Hood has sophisticated targeting systems, but I can never find out where this piece of information comes from. 

Technical cut-outs of the ships, stories about the leaders of the world, maps, propaganda posters, artwork! I read through the campaign books and those are really great,albeit a bit dry. More of those would be great! 

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I personally find the game clunky and hard to understand in 2.0. However this does lead to me playing it very little so in terms of actual balance I can't comment. It does feel like the game could be so much easier to comprehend and I'd welcome a fan led initiative to create a new edition along those lines. 

My huge bugbear is background. Frankly there's not enough of it and what does exist id stale, dry and in my humble opinion focused on entirely the wrong aspects of the setting.

The best wargame settings have depth. Whilst it's nice to show me awesome steam to diesel punk ship models and tell me they have shield generators or the ability to distort time I'm left a little cold. What does this technology mean for the greater world? What is it like to be a normal person where massive robotic behemoths make the ground tremble, in a time period where in many ways the upper and ruling classes of nations oppressed the common people? With the automated revolution striking even earlier, do factory workers stand a chance if Britannian police can disrupt their industrial action by equipping shield generators and applying a truncheon directly to the problem with no danger to the establishment? The South won the US Civil War and yet emancipation occurred. Did this happen through radical Sturginium fueled change and what does  it means for the average FSA citizen? With time manipulation Covenant scientists can create bubbles where they have longer to work on a problem, or jump forward to see the fruits of their labour. Does this begin to make them something more or less than human? I'm spitballing ideas, and perhaps these questions have answers (buried in an old book or on a web page) but Dystopian Wars can be so much more than just naval, air and land theatres. It could also use some actual dystopia beyond very cut and dry sides in a global conflict. That's not to say we can't have compelling fiction about ironclad leviathans slugging it out, but we need a greater focus on the human aspects of the setting.

The setting also needs more characters. Big names with big exploits. There's a few lurking, threatening to be interesting but never quite making it. And again they shouldn't all be war heroes. Every successful wargame setting appears to have these personalities. I'm reminded of Battletech at the height of its popularity. The Clan Invasion had so many twists and turns, famous characters, alliances, betrayals and romances. At the same time the excellent manuals broke down what mechs were designed for, their successes and failures and hinted at how the technology would progress. We had an ideal blend of a human focused conflict with advancing fictional science to create a nuanced setting. The same can be said of Warmachine, 40k, Infinity and so on.

This is a flaw I feel is very pronounced over all Spartans game lines (excluding Halo obviously) and again, any fan steps in lieu of official ones to correct this would be greatly welcomed by myself.

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2 hours ago, Sebenko said:

The issue here is that it would require Spartan to actually pay attention to DW. So how long will it be before they get bored of Halo?

Well that's why I was thinking the players could drive things forward. We can at best give SG our opinions, which we have in the survey, but we can't control where their focus is at the moment. As players, there is nothing, AFAIK, that could stop us creating something for DW, especially in this glorious age of the internet. It can be done, if the passion and the will is there - and is SG truly going to get upset if players are making rules and background that encourage people to buy and use their models? 

I've read what you came up with for the Covenant - if we could have similar for the other factions, that would be a big step in the right direction I think.

---

On a side note, I'm really glad I'm not the only one that thinks the background is begging for further refinement and exploration. I think it's why I'm still here causing trouble - the potential of the DW setting is huge, IMHO. I don't want to see that potential wither on the vine.

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I think they should take the commander aspect from Halo FB and introduce it into DW.

Picking a commodore (nation specific), rather than having generic / rigid commodore abilities, that have their own unique abilities would be interesting.

For example: picking a commodore that gives you experienced engineers fleetwide for 100 points? Or a commodore that gives you repair abilities? Or even hiring a merc commodore that gives capital ship sustained fire for 200 points?

That might freshen things up if you run then alongside current nation abilities that already exist

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True - but if you play tac cards to the letter it becomes a game of cancellations etc.

There should be nation specific abilities - that's a given, but spending points on an admiral that can give you fleet wide repairs etc would be great.

(Plus an EOTBS fleet carrier......!)

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There is no need for a third edition anytime soon and the game does not need dumbed down.  If you don't like the full depth of Wars then go with Fleet Action. 

Spartan has promised all of this before and did nothing but waste our trust. 

  • Who here remembers the all important 3 factions books that were coming? 
  • Who here remembers when there was so much material in those books that it became seven nation books with combined books for each factions allies?
  • We had special commodores last edition and they never came back despite many repeated promises.
  • Special TAC's were promised again and again.  They missed a perfect opportunity to start when they released the bombardment boxes.
  • Even further back - who remembers the Canadian land carrier model and EIMC interceptor renders?

A year ago I would have loved to have more background and fluff for the universe.  They had even mentioned a possible RPG in the future.  Background wise, the release of the dread-bots means I don't even care anymore.  To fit in weapons that big, that complex, and developed that quickly (especially for the factions that showed zero prior interest/experience in robotics) would take a steampunk story from "rule of cool" to various levels of retardation.  I mean come on, sword fighting styles for a giant steampunk robot.

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I know, that sounds as crazy as ships carrying teleporters or generators that can cause storms ! 

I do think some of the main rules need to be looked at, on a player and nation level. Sustained fire (for the FSA) can be just too powerful and explosive ack ack (for the RC) can make your aerial forces pointless at a stroke - these sort of game "breaking" abilities (if you view them as this) should be available for each nation in my opinion.

I don't necessarily think dozens more models will improve the game if the foundations at not on point (not sure how Canada or Teutonic Order can be wildly different to other nations)

Do we really need an Egyptian nation with floating pyramid ships that have heavy flamethrowers and MAR's that cause enemy AP to turn against their own ship? Would a certain South American nation having an almost pseudo active camouflage MAR for their ships bring a more dynamic game?

Not without a good look at the rules bit by bit, not to make it a quicker and watered down game - just to eliminate some fluff.

I'm not calling for a fleet battles level of buffoonishness or watering down, but there are factors that can be tidied up - for example do we need a crushing impact AND Hull breaker Mar when in essence they result in the same effect?

My biggest bug bear with the game, and this might not sit will with some, are the downright clumsiness and out of place look the SAW's have.

I hate the way they play, the way they look and the way they can slow a game up - it's pretty regular that I play non carrier games as they just look so bloody awful. I like how they are utilised in fleet battles (as a weapon) though.

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5 minutes ago, Veldrain said:

There is no need for a third edition anytime soon and the game does not need dumbed down.  If you don't like the full depth of Wars then go with Fleet Action.

+1

Every time I play my KoB I'm missing those High Payload, Devastating, Faster Torpedoes, Incendiary, Corrosive, High Angle RB1 Land, Sea and Air Torpedoes - but do I think they should have them? NO!

I like the diversification through the ORBATs, not all nations having access to all types of models makes my faction individual.

What I would appreciate is a look over the ORBATs to make all models "usable". The problem is that this depends heavily on the meta your playing in. And I doubt this could be properly balanced for all players.

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What would be your definition of usable - how would I make a Nakatsu a unit to put in my line up alongside or in place of a Honshu or a Tanuki ?

Perhaps there are too many units, so would more fix the problem? Most likely not.

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I think wr have to be carefull about rebalancing.

While I do agree that some models or Orbats need work I think we should take a look at them without your own meta (which is pretty hard).

I've do think that it is good that not all nations have exactly the same types of units. This diversifies the orbats.

So I'm okay with the Eotbs not having a fleet carrier, the french not having a large flyer or the russians missing a sky fortress. 

I do think all models should have a place in their respectable orbats.

 

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I am by no means an expert on balanced game design but I would like to clarify my position somewhat.
 

I find the Dystopian Wars rulebook to be a clunky and ponderous tome. That does not mean I want the game dumbed down or streamlined. I want the rules to be more clear and precise. Some of that is due to clunky interactions in my limited experience, however the majority of issues come from clunky language, poor indexing and bolded words. That's what I want fixed mostly for a new edition. Call it 2.whatever at this point. I'm not interested in gutting the mechanics or playing Fleet Action. If we were stealing Armoured Clash mechanics however... ;)

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Right now there are three separate things being talked about, which all involve their own attention.

Background is pretty straight forward, we don't so much need ideas as we just need background itself.  This can be done completely independent of the rules and can be done without changing models, rules, or editions.  Right now we only have (at least that I've seen) a relatively simple sketch of each nation, and it would be hard to expand on that without some direction from Spartan on what they want to do.  But on individual conflicts, and ships and crew of note, we could easily do that and it wouldn't change anything.  We already have plenty of players that name their own commodores and ships and put stories to their game results.  We just need to flesh that out more.  Someone could write stories of their amazing crew and the wonderful things ship X did without changing the direction of the war or nation and you don't need rules to change.

 

The other two things are internal balance of ORBATs, and overall rules of the game.  While changing the base rules could have a very big impact on what units are powerful and which aren't, quite a bit of internal balance can be looked at on its own.  But even that should probably wait until the base rules are "fixed."

Then on the base rules, I would break it down into two main categories: base concepts and gameplay, and specific rules.  Specific rules might be something like "all movement based generators activate before movement, and all other/offensive generators activate after movement."  Individual MARs would also fall under this.

Base concepts and gameplay would be things like fixing activation Spam, SAWs being treated as tokens or models, or changing how TAC cards function.  Drones being fairly specific and limited to only CoA I could see that going either way, mostly depending how similar or unique they are compared to SAWs.

Making the rules easier to understand... that isn't really changing them as writing them more clearly.  I think that could be done by the community without actually having to change anything at all about them.

 

Fixing activation Spam, I think the main issue here is SAW as some nations have a much easier time getting a lot of them compared to others.  I think taking a lot of inexpensive units should have some advantage, but I think the cost of SAWs are too low for that advantage.  We've heard suggestions to having SAWs activate with the carrier that launched them.  Other options: I could also see all SAW activating at the same time, beginning or end of the turn, where each player still takes turns but when one is out of SAW the other moves the rest of theirs without making the player with less move normal models.  I've also seen games where you count activations on each side, and then split them as much as possible, so double moves happen for one side but not all at the end of the turn.  One side has 6 activations and the other has 10, the 10 side would have 4 times where they activate 2 each.  More activations still gives the advantage but it is more limited.

 

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What about if carrier point prices were reduced and SAW's cost points depending on their role? With new SAW squadrons being introduced ; boarding party paratroopers, kamikaze replacing dive bombers for EOTBS, or strafers that attack a vessels AP only (pricey in terms of points cost)

In regards to SAW's if they were reduced to the level they are in fleet battles (as a weapon rather than a unit) I wouldn't be fussed

I also like the idea of more specialist squadrons - could that be a way of including older models - for example a Mizuchi with two Nakatsu would potentially resurrect 2 "defunct" model types into a great medium / boarding squadron - your thoughts on new squadrons?

Or what if each unit had a squadron value, where you could combine different types of vessels upto a max value etc ? For example say a specialist custom squadron had a value of 8 and you decided that a Tanuki at value 5 and two Uwatsu at value 1.5 each would work ?

Just throwing some ideas out there 

I wonder if the overall points cost of a vessel is determined by an algorithm where the values and outcome are based on the stats, movement and extras the vessel has? 

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I think more specialist squadrons  would be nice.

I like how SAS are handled in the game and I do not like the way fleet action dumbs down sas.

 However I would like a SAS phase like in  ye gode ole Battlefleet Gothic. This would stop activation spam with SAS.

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27 minutes ago, Nicius said:

 However I would like a SAS phase like in  ye gode ole Battlefleet Gothic. This would stop activation spam with SAS.

Now this I would agree with

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I could see a kamikaze special rule for one or two nations rather than a general rulebook sort of change.  I don't think paratroopers would work though, as these are essentially bi-wing style airplanes, they can hold at most 2-3 people, nothing like the numbers on the normal ships.  Also as a cheap support roll type of unit, they really should be fairly limited in what they can do.

The bigger planes would make more logical places for paratroopers, though I'm not sure how functionally different that would be compared to normal boarding.

I like the idea that SAW are a tactical unit that is decided on the field as needed, it is rare to find that in TT games.  All other units are decided before you have any idea what you're facing and what the terrain is like, which puts their choice in the tactical side of things rather than strategic.  I could see it being easier to balance them and give them more variety if they had their own point costs but that takes away that tactical choice.  You might be able to get around that by giving them a Strategic Value sort of cost and leave their army list cost as free/included in parent unit.

 

At least so far, the big "overall" complaints with the system seems to be activation Spam, which ties in with SAWs, and a few other minor things with SAWs, and generator activation (and that is mostly just when certain ones activate).  Unless people come up with more that hardly seems worth a new edition.

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I would like SAS spam toned down but I don't think actually changing the SAS rules is going to do it. 

  • Activating them with the carrier - Parent first:  To powerful.  A fleet carrier would be able to slam a target with weapons and then after it degrades the AA it can launch two separate dive bombing attacks.  Playtest this once with the Zhanmadoa with 12 SAS upgrade and see if you think it is workable.
  • Activating them with the carrier - SAS first:  Still to powerful.  Take the medium carriers as a squadron.  They can drop 2-3 dive bombings on a squadron and follow it up with main guns and boarding.  Prussia, or again the Chinese, would love this.
  • Separate SAS phase:  Negates the use of bombers at all.  This removes the tactical use of bombers as deterrent or board control since they activate all at once.  I can move into their threat range but have the entire turn before they can retaliate.  In that time every nearby squad will be whittling them down with popshots.  Complete lose of tactics.

Spam is the problem and the easiest way may be to fix what makes it possible.  Every single carrier has Strategic Value and this mechanic is near useless.  Drop Strategic Value and add most of that value back into the model as straight point cost.  This would go a long way to leveling the playing field in competitive play *cough Ironclad *cough when you are fighting for Objectives and don't necessarily care about points killed.

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Activation spam is only really a problem in the first turn. In the second turn it is strong, but not overly so. Past that, then generally you don't want to waste activations on SAW squadrons first.

So my idea is quite a simply rule change.

Non-local-air-support SAW do not deploy during deployment. They are initially launched when their parent carrier first activate. They launch by being placed within 4 inches of their parent carrier in the command consolidation phase of the carriers activation. They are launched with an activation marker. After they are launched, they obey the SAW and carrier rules as they currently stand.

This neatly and simply eliminates the activation spam advantage in the first turn.

Second turn onwards, I am not against activation advantage having its effect, since points have been paid for it and the effect is no longer so overwhelmingly irritating.

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This sounds like a nice elehant solution!

However SAS strikes usually take place in our meta at turn three so this would effectfly shorten the range of SAS. I'm not sure about the impact of that.

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It depends how they are used. If the SAW move with their carrier (not unusual to keep them in carrier protection until they strike) then there should be little or no difference. If they are sent flying forward at maximum speed, then a lot of SAW action will be delayed a turn (depending on other factors). From advance deployed carriers, this should not have much of an impact on their timing.

Given the strike range of SAW, I don't think the change would have that must affect really. Particularly as they would most likely launch 4 inches ahead of the carrier's starting position. Something that could be looked at in testing.

 

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