Review: Dust Tactics

Stats

Type: Tactical minis/board game
Players: 2
Suggested Ages: 10+
Play Time: 30 mins
Cost: $99.99

Extra Info

Play Style: Tactical movement, dice-rolling, turn-based, wargame
Complexity: Low
Learning Curve: Low
Similar To: Classic army men, chess
Links: Official site, Board Game Geek
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary

It’s 1947 and World War II rages on, fueled by alien technology found at a crash site in Antarctica. Dust Tactics is a tactical war game stripped to its simplest elements. It plays fast and fun, with enough tactical meat to engage a thinking player without the minutiae of more complex minis games. Add in a simple, engaging story and lots of low-cost expansion options and Dust Tactics is easily a mainstay for quick one-on-one fun. The only drawbacks are the size and initial price of the box.

How to Play

The board is made up of several square, gridded tiles. You can add terrain features like crates or tank traps. The game comes with scenarios, or you can play simple skirmishes.

Each side has a number of units made up of typically five soldiers, often with at least one unique weapon among them. There’s also usually one or more walking tanks and a single hero soldier. Each unit has a stat card showing its movement, weapons, armor and the like.

Each player activates one unit at a time, back and forth, until all units have moved, attacked or both once. Movement is counted on the grid. Soldiers have some flexibility to move on angles, while tanks can’t cut corners. On its turn, each unit can attack with everything it has against a single opposing unit. The game comes with custom 6-sided dice showing hits and misses. Count the hits, dish out damage based on your stat card, and remove any kills.

Special weapons like flamethrowers and rocket launchers add spice to the battle, encouraging careful movement and deliberate choices to get the right weapons to bare on the right targets. The game includes line of sight and cover, hand-to-hand, unit special abilities, and a few other nice tid-bits.

My Experience

I really got my tactical geek on with this game. I’m a longtime chess player, and the differing movements between units and tanks really tickled that nerve. I was able to engage, tactically retreat, draw my opponent into traps, and spring the kill. All this for the low time-sink of about 30-45 minutes.

It was also refreshingly easy to pick up and learn. Complexity-wise, we’re talking Hero Quest territory. The only initially-daunting aspect was looking over all my unit cards, and even that was hardly a mental stretch. I went from total newbie to grokking in about 15 minutes.

I only played a quick skirmish, but it left me really wanting to dig into the campaign book and try some scenarios. Not to mention pick up another unit or tank box, as the game is expandable by buying individual units.

Final Analysis

I have precious little time for a game these days, and even less energy to give to complex options. This was both satisfyingly tactical and refreshingly simple. The limited scope of options let me concentrate on a few important decisions without getting overwhelmed. You can play a pick-up game in under an hour, including set-up and break-down time.

The only significant drawback is the cost: it’s just under a hundred bucks for the main box. My suggestion: find a play buddy and split the cost. The box is a bit big to carry around, but did you know Battlefoam makes trays specifically for Dust Tactics?

If you and a friend love pushing models around a battlefield but the big minis games are either too complex or time-intensive, this is the game for you.


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