So last weekend I got some great gaming in. I had previously ordered the game Deadzone from miniaturemarket.com purely on impulse. They had it half off for a day sale and figured, "Why not?" It's got some really cool miniatures and some terrain that I could use for Infinity (some day ): ).
I read the rules only once through. They are simple enough and are based on a 3D8 mechanic. All stats are static, meaning that they never decrease or increase with modifiers. When modified it only adds or takes away the number of dice for the test. The majority of these tests are opposed, so if you are shooting someone you roll your shooting stat dice against their survive dice and the one with the most success wins. Sometimes the degree of success can alter the outcome, although for the most part I hardly saw any significant degrees of success other than winning (doubling or tripling was hard to get).
This will lead to my short review of the game, but first some disclaimers to any potential customers.
First, the contents.
Right off the bat I was missing at least 3 models for the plague, all of which were the shooting part of the force and one was a leader, which significantly decreases your command pool (more on that later). Oddly enough I got an extra bag of plague models that was for 1 extra Stage 1A (the big guy) and 3 2As (the medium guys) and 2 3Ds (the doggies). I won't complain for extra models, but you'll never need 2 of the big guys EVER and having 3 of the medium guys is already a lot considering they are 10 points each in a standard 70 point game so I won't ever use the additional 3. Now having 2 extra hounds is great, since they're fast and cheap and count as troop choices. Missing those extra shooting guys hurts something fierce though.
Upon assembly I also found that I was missing a leg for the Enforcer Engineer. Nothing huge, but I couldn't really put him on a base (at least not comfortably, it looks weird) which means I couldn't use the two sentries that came with him (you technically can I believe, but it's not worth it).
I have heard of these stories online and submitted a ticket about these missing models/pieces. I didn't hear anything for two weeks and had to send an email to someone there to get anything done, which led to a prompt package being received a few days later.
Missing those models wasn't the end of the world, and eventually Mantic Games made things right, which I greatly appreciate. However from the sheer amount of complaints I read about in regards to mispackaging it seems like you'd be lucky to get everything intact, and that is indicative of a greater problem.
Also in relation to the contents is the terrain. I've read plenty of reviews stating that you'd need to file the connector parts for a fit so I was prepared for that. It was originally intended for modular terrain on the go, and man did that miss the mark. I don't think anyone could use this as it was intended and build terrain on the fly without it breaking down or pulling out all your hair in the process. I knew before I received it I would be using a fixed build and gluing all the pieces together, but even that was a pain! I used a Dremel to speed up the filing process. At first I was about ready to kill someone. It was taking a lot of time and heartache to build a stinking 3 inch cube that didn't fall apart. Once I got the hang of it I was able to breeze through the build, so maybe it was just me being an idiot. But this leads me to another qualm...
...there are not nearly enough connectors.
I knew before hand that there weren't too many connectors. I used them as sparingly as structurally possible. In fact the building I made seems fiddly because of the fact that I only had one connector used in some places. Despite my efforts I ran out of L shaped connectors after making one 3" cube, an L Cube and one platform to connect them. I had leftovers ready for the sniper tower I wanted to make, but there were no L connectors left and few straight connectors.
At that point I was too worn out to care and just made some containers I bought from the Alien Wars line to use in the game.
Use this as a word of warning in regards to contents, but also with a grain of salt. I am not the world's best modeler, but being that I've been making models all my life and rarely ever get this frustrated should be an indication as to the obstacles you might face. Others have successfully put together this terrain without a hitch, and they are far better men than I.
I believe those are the only warnings I have for contents as everything else is great or has been discussed elsewhere. The rule book is beautiful and written well. I'd suggest looking up online for the quick reference sheet (I found it on BoardGameGeek) for play. The rule book is written simply enough to understand it when you read through it but it isn't great for reference during play as all the rules are kind of scattered throughout (not as badly as GW has in the past, but enough for you to be flipping everywhere). Really it's only because of the nature of the game and the thorough explanations they have made for every rule that makes this so. If you use the QRS you will be fine.
I do wish that they had an explanation in one place referencing what each counter does/represents. They show most of the counters' image in their corresponding rule section, but most board games have a section that explains every counter and that would have been nice for this game, especially since I have a suspicion that not all counters are shown in the rule book (although I am most likely wrong).
Now onto the game play itself...
As expected when reading the rules the set up is the most grueling part of the game, and can be tedious to try to show to a new player. I've demoed a few games in my day and this is one that you'd need to set up before showing someone how to play. Some games are fast with the set up (Warmachine/Hordes comes to mind since terrain isn't terribly intrusive and deployment zones are standard). This one is more akin to Malifaux, considering that every game will randomize deployment and missions, but this one adds random items and mutations to the mix. I had no experience with it so I was explaining the set up as we went along and I could tell I was losing his interest (although he has a short attention span at times so it wasn't a shock). Once all the fiddly bits and terrain and blah blah blah was set up we finally got into the nitty gritty of playing.
It was fun at first. I really enjoy the fact that there is no measuring tape, and I can move within a cube however I like. This flexibility is what drew me in to the game in the first place, along with how it includes everything to play. The 3D8 mechanic is simple enough to grasp and within a few opposed rolls we were getting into a groove and he quickly understood how to play.
But once we got into a groove I noticed something, and it was something that I found only one person said before online.
It is really hard to kill things.
A lot of the times this is what happened:
Him: I'm gonna shoot your guy here.
Me: Okay, I get x dice since I'm in cover and all
H: I'm gonna play x to get another dice and AP
M: I'm gonna play x to get another dice too
H: I rolled 2 successes
M: I rolled 3 successes
H: So what happened?
It was like that a lot. I mean, almost all the time. I understood before hand that you need to stack the odds in your favor to really kill something, like get 5+ dice. However if you are going against something with a 3+ survive, even 3 dice will give you a good chance on 3 successes, not counting cards or cover or anything else. On top of that a lot of things had armor, which is negated by AP but was less available than armor was. On top of armor you have rules like tough which ignore the first wound that gets through, and thus far I've only found that further wounds are the only thing that get past that (no negating tough). Then there's REALLY TOUGH. Ugh. Seriously?
So, to sum up, you're going to need to succeed 5 TIMES more than the opponent to get through Armor 2 and Really Tough. Let's say you have AP 2, which would negate the armor 2 for the optimum odds of the attacker. Now you need to have triple the success of the defender to kill him. So that means for every 1 success the defender has for survive you need to have 4 successes to wound (the 1st shooting success is negated by the 1 survive success, which means he takes 3 wounds from the remaining shooting successes, and the first two are ignored by really tough)! He'd be dead, sure, but that took 4 successes to his one. Did I mention that his model has a survive of 4+? Meaning on the base 3d8 alone he has good odds to roll 2 successes, requiring 5 shooting successes to kill! That's gotta be at least 6 dice, and getting a +3 modifier is gonna be difficult, or at least in the sense that it's not gonna be common. What's worse is that there's a similar model with a 3+ survive and high armor! Dear God, seriously?!
It was hard enough getting 2 normal troopers to kill each other in normal circumstances. I get that the way to do this is to gang up and use cards along with open sight to kill things, and on paper that makes sense. But in actuality it usually was resource intensive, requiring either multiple models to be in the same fight (which has a limit based on size) or having other models assist in your shooting, along with a card and/or item. Without all these things it was most likely not gonna have anything happen, short of crap rolls or crap stats.
The starter almost makes this harder as well. The plague shooters will have crap shooting against a highly armored basic Enforcer trooper. The plague has tough and really tough, so they'll be easy to hit but not wound. Now there are always exceptions to these sweeping generalizations, but this was my experience during the game.
This is why models like the Enforcer Sniper are well revered, because they have 5 shooting dice and long range, with their only trade off being the inability to move and fire and such. But this is negated with the command action.
Ah the command action. It is another resource in the game and is considered a long action. It is done on a 3D8 test and succeeds on 6s. I haven't found any modifiers for this test as of yet, but I believe there aren't any. You can either activate your own models (an additional one, mind you), disrupt your opponent by making them count as activated or draw extra cards. Now as an Enforcer, if you have the right set up you can make a Sniper fire twice in a turn, which is pretty sweet. However (using a starter only) this action isn't quite as useful for the Plague.
The commander for the plague is a beast. He has incredible stats. But he is also slow. This means he can only move one cube a turn. You can use a card to speed him up, but it's still a slow crawl. Being that the command action is a long action it takes up your whole turn and only your leader can use them. So you either make this ALL MELEE beast support units through command function and essentially leave him behind (which may work I guess if the opponent has something like infiltration for the mission) or you abandon the command function to keep him moving as fast as possible. I guess you could justify this fluff-wise easily, but it seems like such a waste. Along with this you need to succeed on 6s, and if you only succeed once it's a short range. I used it twice and failed both times. This made me furious.
Another qualm I had was items. Correct me if I'm wrong but I remember that if you had no shooting value you couldn't handle items, or at least use them. Most of the plague have a - Shooting value, which makes sense, but seems to stack the starter in the Enforcer's favor.
Now these are only my criticisms and you should take them with a grain of salt. Overall the game was enjoyable and we both had fun with it. There was a point where it slowed to a crawl because of things I mentioned and models only started to die once he put himself out in the open to perform the mission.
Next time we try it most likely will be better since I know how to stack the odds, but if the resources aren't there then I fear it will go the same way.
After we played that game I demoed Malifaux for him. I set up a quick henchman level game for him and gave him Taelor and 3 ronin against my Ototo and 3 torakage. I knew from previous experience that the crew I made had an uphill battle, but it's of no matter since it's not like I'm being competitive for a demo. Now this was a game he got into easily. The card mechanic is absolutely a blast. Even for something as mundane as a minion on minion duel becomes fun. It's hard to say that dice rolls are nearly as interesting and flipping cards and cheating fate, and it feels like every flip is significant. I also demonstrated to him another differentiating factor to this game in how you may be losing models but you are not always losing the game. I only killed one ronin and he killed one Torakage and Ototo (with a crazy shot from a ronin and Taelor smashing him to bits) but I came extremely close to winning due to moving a Torakage way out into the corner to deploy scheme markers unopposed. If the game ended on turn 5 I would have won by one, but since it got extended he won 7-6. It was an amazing game, and it showcased its ability to create a story even within the context of a small and quick game. He was so impressed by this demo that he and his father are both purchasing crews soon. In the mean time I will have him try out some of my other crews to get more experience with the game.
The game also showed me exactly what torakage can do. On paper they don't seem to do much and I deemed them as only objective grabbers. That is something they can do well, but although their damage spread is unimpressive it's the fact that they can give negative flips for shooting then positive flips on attacking is what makes them a sort of toolkit model. With the smoke and shadows upgrade they can be great at disruption or hit and run tactics.
Outside of that I've been painting a lot more lately. I'll post some pics soon.