Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Getting a handle on the Deadzone rules.

Over the last two days I have had the opportunity to play quite a few games of Deadzone so I feel confident to give a quick review of my current feelings towards the game. Will it come out as a replacement for Necromunda? Lets's find out.
2'x2,' some buildings of blue... and silver.

First up a quick overview of how it differs from the Skirmish games you are probably used to if you are a child of the 80's:
- It uses D8's and an grid of 8x8 3" squares for the gaming surface so you really can play this on almost any kitchen table (though there are a lot of counters and cards!)
- You use card decks to generate missions and abilities during the game so that each one is tailored to the faction you are playing.
- It uses the Dreadball opposed test system, usually three dice as starting point with +/- dice for modifiers rather than adding to an individual result. You then look up the number of successes.
The first set up saw decent amount of los blocking terrain my deployment edge  (top of the image)  so the Space Dwarves hid!

Here is what happens when you trade shots with a dude with an auto cannon

Luckily for me my mission was to sneak stuff off the board so I grabbed and ran, thus three dudes off the board with loot in three turns meant that I had won before Will got any real chances to open fire.
Game two saw me trying to get guys off the opponents board edge, thus this split movement with my heavy trying (and succeeding) in drawing a lot of attention from the Enforcers. Sadly my Huscarl (leader) was mowed down just near the board edge or I could have taken it to a narrow win/draw.
This was an experimental list as I had no leaders/strategists, meaning I had no command tokens an very little ability to draw battle cards. But I did have a Dreadnought type model and a mining laser.
The mining lasers view of the battle, this didn't change all game and neither did the fact that it failed to hit in all game. as it traded shots with the enforcer across the table.
My Big Tin-can had eyes for only one prize. The sniper! Shame he can climb up the terrain so had keep trying to kill it with heat lance (Multi-melta) with is surprisingly bad at killing people. 
This fight went on for a few rounds before the Enforcers broke away and the Forge Father (space dwarf) managed to find some decent dice and went all Mjolnir on their arse after they had ran off to the neighbouring cubes.
The things I liked:
- Really like the terrain though you absolutely have to use the walkways otherwise it favours shooting models way too much.
- The size of the games means that most games shouldn't take too long once you have the rules down and you can never afford everything you want (always a good sign for me as you need to make choices about the way your forces will play before the game).
- Using D8's is fun and allowed for a lot more variation in skills, having a shoot value of 4+ is pretty cool but it took me a while to get over the 'it's 50%' hang up I had left over from using D6s.
- The basics of the opposed tests for fighting and shooting is pretty smooth and intuitive as for every one I beat you by that's one point of damage, AP and Armour cancel before deducting the remaining armour from the amount of damage and one damage will injure you and two will kill you (unless you are injured then you are dead). Seems simple but we shall discuss this little more in the next section.
- The concept behind the battle cards and the Command actions is cool as it allows for your units do get themselves into better positions with extra moves or take extra shots or increase abilities etc, meaning that you can't be certain of what the other models are going to do.
- The restriction of the number of units you can activate before you have to allow your opponent to activate some is also nice as I'm moving away from the 40k alpha strike type turns (though it does force your hand in model selection somewhat, as you need leaders to allow you to have access to higher command values).

Things that made me go hmm:
- Way too much random at the same time. I think I could have coped with random small doses but having so many just left me feeling as though I wasn't in any real control of the game at points. For example, some actions require you to double or triple your opponents number of successes whilst others use the difference in scores. It doesn't seem much but it results in lots of looking up results on tables. It also means that if I roll no successes and you roll just one you triple me but if I roll one success you need three successes to get the same result on one test whilst another is just the difference so I have to keep checking which rule has doubles, triples etc.
-Exploding dice. This seems fun at first but here is why it doesn't work for me. The success nature of the opposed rolling is used to not just hit but determine the damage caused meaning you lose the ability to predict how much damage a weapon/shot will do. You can use high AP weapons to increase the chance of successes becoming damage by ignoring armour but of there is no armour the high AP has not effect, so one damage from a huge melta cannon is the same a a lucky shot from a pistol. Except to mitigate this issue they then create more special rules with more opposed test and randomness (in this example the It Burns rule which means you would then have to make an additional 3 dice 4+ test against the model and check a chart for the result of the fire)!
-Battlecards for each faction seem cool but it feels as though you have to use them to mitigate the suppression mechanics and poor skill level of some models, so if you aren't drawing the right cards its pretty frustrating, no add in the fact that each model has two command numbers (one the number of cards you draw the other the number of cards you can keep) and your choice of leader is pretty crucial. 
- Command points are spent to make a test where you roll a number of dice equal to your combined command values and each 6+ is a success. Then you have a set of charts that give you powers you can use to either activate your models, mark opponents models as activate (another mechanic I'm not a fan of) or draw cards. Neat Idea but the execution is too random for me as it comes down to the number of successes again. I'd rather they were a resource you simply spent but could choose the outcome based on the number of tokens you spent.
- Keywords. I know they are used so that you don't need to re-print the unit cards when you want to tweak a rule but I'd rather they used simple things like Fight +1 rather than Brawler, which I need to look up and learn as I have the cards on the table so use the space on the card to tell me the rules! It only becomes a problem in games when they keep piling more and more keywords in (40k, Dreadball) and so you get more and more book checking, which drags you out of the game.

Overall I feel this has the core of a very fun game as I did enjoy most parts of the games but in a few of my games (against each Will once winning and once losing) there were sections of the game that lost all the drama and energy as the randomness and inability to hurt the opponent stalled the game for both players. I'm looking forward to seeing how they change the rules for the updated edition later this year but I'll probably have t house rule a few bits to make them flow a bit better for me to want to jump in and really commit to the system long term.

Rating: 3/5 Daves, Lots of flash not enough bang

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