Friday, 31 May 2013

Deadzone - The Game For You!

Friday, May 31, 2013

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 The recently revealed Rebel Terraton Brawler!

Well... the Robotech kickstarter didn't pan out as I had hoped. Or rather, in the end it DID include loads of minis and the rules seemed decent enough, but I simply felt that I wouldn't have the time to get into another miniature game at yet another scale. And being the only guy in my group investing in it to boot! The huge amount of stuff included also, paradoxically, made me wary - I'm not big on large wargames and painting that amount of large miniatures would have taken ages!

Now... Deadzone on the other hand, I'm behind 100%. I'm going to try and explain why in this post and see if I can't make you realize that it's the game for you too!

First off, Deadzone is produced by Mantic Games and is a part of their expanding Warpath universe. If you are now thinking "Eurgh... Mantic" I understand you completely. They made their name by making cheaper almost IP-infringing models that could be used by people who didn't want to shell out the crazy money GW want for their models. I've bought some of their models in the past; the ghouls and zombies are great looking and makes for excellent conversion fodder. My eyebrows also went up when they released their Corporation troopers and Enforcers for Warpath.

As far as I was concerned Mantic made decent looking knock-offs and had some kind of phone-in version of a rules pamphlet for their Kings of War and Warpath "games". But then... as I started looking deeper into Deadzone I realized that they are actually trying to carve out their own little niche of IP and more original stuff has started appearing. While I would have been a lot happier if the Marauders were simply Marauders (instead of Orx) Asterians were Asterians (instead of Xeldar) and the Forge Fathers were Forge Fathers (instead of Sxuats) the fluff Mantic is writing for them makes me ok for me. And no they are not actually called that... except for the Orx.

The Marauders!

Sure the Asterians are a dying race and blah, blah, blah, but the cool upside is that they only send one actual Asterians to fight - and she controls a bunch of mechanical drones! Pretty cool! The Forge Fathers are good artisans and blah, blah, blah, but the cool upside is that they use their superior technology as a way of controlling the lesser races - providing enough tech for them to get by, but not actually releasing any of their trade secrets (also, not all of them have beards). Marauders are big and strong and like to fight, but that's about where the similarities end - they were once on the payroll of the Corporation as shocktroops, until they one day realized that they could take care of themselves, revolted and became mercenaries for hire. They are not the mindless goons of the GW settings but rather a lot more like the Krogans of Mass Effect.

All I need is a Phantom and a Mech and I've got my own Cerberus army!

Speaking of Mass Effect - the Enforces that could easily have become a facsimile of the Space Marines have a lot more in common with the sinister Cerberus organisation from the video game. Even down to the units they can field and the paintjob Mantic has given them! They are the true stormtroopers of the Warpath universe, unquestionably obeying the will of the corporation. In response to the oppressive dictatorship in the Co-Prosperity Sphere humans and all kinds of aliens have formed motley crew of rebels. This seems to be the most popular faction thus far and I can see why, as the models look pretty cool - having a kind of Firefly plus Babylon 5-vibe to them.

Finally there's the Plague. Again something Mantic could easily have made into their version of the Tyranids
instead became something a lot more akin to the Necromorphs in Deadspace. An alien(?) virus that transforms its first victim to a huge behemoth who then proceeds to create second generation monstrosities who in turn create third (and final) generation plague, who still retain some humanity. There are also the plague zombies - the victims who weren't killed by the virus but didn't turn either. While the third generation models are a bit so-so (as far as I'm concerned) the first and second gens are great looking! And the plauge teraton that has just been unlocked looks like it could be spectacular looking!

Plague reinforcements...

Wow... didn't mean to write so much about the fluff. What about the game? The game, dude!!?

If I know my dear readers I have feeling that many of you used to play GW games (and some of you probably still do) and while you have slowly been more and more turned off WHFB and 40k you still have a special place in your heart for the GOOD games, like Necromunda, Mordheim, Blood Bowl, Epic and Battlefleet Gothic. Am I right, or am I right?

After Epic Space Marine, Necromunda is by far my most played GW game. When that was released pretty much all other miniature gaming activity ceased as we just played it to death (I guess we managed some games of Blood Bowl as well)! Most of the people in my group painted multiple gangs and we had several campaigns going with loads of off-table chatter between games. Basically, it was pretty much all I had wished for in miniatures game.

There are great deals on some Antenociti terrain as part of the Kickstarter as well!

So why don't we simply dust off our old 'Munda minis? Well, the system that worked well for us then feels a bit dated and clunky when looked at today. And getting everyone fired up about getting their old minis out from the attic has proved tricky. Not to mention that it takes up a lot of room and the paper terrain (that I love personally) have turned one or two buddies off the game.

Enter Deadzone. This is Mantic's attempt to fill the void left by Necromunda and Deadzone. However it actually is something new, rather than simply carbon copying an old ruleset and peddling it to people stuck in the nostalgic late nineties. Just like Dreadball proved to be a solid game in itself, and a very different beast to how Blood Bowl plays, Deadzone is aiming for a particular gap, but is bringing new ideas and ways to play with it.

The way I see it, Deadzone is not filling the skirmish game gap. There are loads of those around these days and many of them are truly great game (Infinity, woot!). The gap being filled is instead of the campaign game - something that has been missing since 'Munda/Mordheim were murdered slowly. Sure there are games like Judge Dredd that are trying to fill that niche, but I think the setting is a bit too specific and Mongoose don't have the clout to really make it into a "mainstream" game. Mantic on the other hand have an excellent opportunity to create a large fanbase with the kickstarter and thanks to the success of Dreadball I think miniature games are starting to take them seriously as a miniature games company, rather than simply a miniatures company.

Another gap that Deadzone is filling is one of accessability. While I love Infinity and would recommend it to anyone, it is a game with a bit of a threshold when you start out. The naming conventions are confusing, there are loads of different skills and pieces of equipment and even the tactical depth can be intimidating! Even my friend Anders, who once asked "Why play anything other than Infinity?", grew disinterested of the game when I pressed on a bit too quickly and he had a hard time keeping up in the "arms and rules race". I hear Malifaux is similiarly tricky to get into at first, and so is Heavy Gear.

Rebel scum...

Deadzone on the other hand is fairly straight forward with the dicepool and versus rolls. Another HUGE thing is that you play it on a 60x60cm gridded mat and don't need a measuring tape! While I was initially sceptical about this, as I found Dust Tactics too abstract and boardgamey, the way it works in practice pretty much combines the best of both worlds and it plays quickly while still retaining the importance of terrain and positioning. Of course, you can expand on this and play on four mats put together, or six mats - some of the recently revealed stuff (like a mortar!) are specifically aimed for larger games. But the core game is played on a small board, crammed with terrain and you are normally done within the hour. This is accessibility.

The terrain is another big draw, and it's actually the reason I had a look at Deadzone in the first place. I wanted to see if the terrain would be suitable for Infinity. Well, it's suitable for pretty much anything considering it's modular and you can build what the hell you want with it! Is it the best looking terrain available? No. There's a lot of beautiful stuff out there and more is being produced everyday in the form of MDF stuff. On the other hand, it's not bad looking by any stretch of the word - it's solid looking hardish sci-fi terrain that could be used to create any kind of battlefield. I would love to get an Infinity table crammed with Warmill stuff, but I'm more than happy to use the Deadzone tiles instead. Cheaper and more flexible.

This is what we're aiming for, or actually with a little bit more terrain.

Alright, I'll try and round off this post now. Getting a bit long...

I've been blathering on about Deadzone, the different factions, the rules and the filling of gaps, but what really convinced me was when I got to try the Alpha rules and got the same kind of feeling that I used to get when playing Necromunda fifteen years ago! Tight, scenario based skirmish battles in a cramped environment. Little stories and vignettes being told as you played and knowing that your guys were getting better the more after a battle. The ease of getting into when there are only a handfull of models needed to play and rules that can be explained in 10 minutes.

It's pretty cool stuff. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty cool stuff. And right about now on the final stretch the Kickstarter is starting to explode. Yesterday it jumped more than $32,000 and it's already passed that amount today, with more than half the day left! I wouldn't be surprised to see the meter tick past $800,000 by tonight and that's still before the 48 hour email goes out. Dreadball pulled in $133,000 on its last day and I don't see any reason why Deadzone would be any different. Will it break the million mark? With 53 hours to go I'd bet on it...

5 kommentarer :

  1. Darnit, I had resisted up till now...

  2. I got into the DeadZone kicktarter with a mind to use the terrain for Infinity as well. But as I've watched the factions and the game rules evolve I've become convinced that this might be a great game in its own right.

  3. @Minijukie - Hehe! A good thing to be sure. I really think this has the potential to be a great skirmish. Get on the train! :)

    @Angus - I think this has been the case for many of the backers. It goes to show that there the game itself really does have something to offer. I still can't decide between Enforcers and Rebs though...

  4. I played a demo game of Deadzone at the UK Games Expo with one of the designers last weekend. I'm still writing up a blog post on it but it was a great game; quick to learn and play, no rulers, nice dice pool mechanics and the prototype miniatures look really nice.

  5. @Steve - My experience exactly! I think the gridded gameplay in particular is a stroke of genius as I've never really liked the need precise measuring in miniature games. This takes away an element of uncertainty as well as speed up the game.

    Looking forward to reading your thoughts on Deadzone. :)


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