On June 29th 2012, Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) announced the first edition of the tournament rules for Dust Warfare, along with details of big DW tournaments coming up in 2012. The rules PDF lays out how DW tournaments should be run, and introduces a new Battle Builder, too.
After mulling over the rules for a week, I have some thoughts that I’d like to share. Let’s take a look at the rules and some of what lies within.
A rift in the metagame
For tournaments, FFG recommends an AP of no higher than 400, because, as they put it, “games above
400 AP will cause a dramatic shift in the ‘metagame’.” It’s true that going above 400 AP would allow a player to field more troops (and more heavy walkers!), but I think the biggest reason to stay under 400 AP is for time reasons.
The Tournament Rules say that DW tournaments should allow 30 minutes for every 100 AP of allowed army. So, a tournament with a 300 AP limit would run 90 minute rounds. 400 AP would see rounds of two hours, and a 500 AP tournament would have rounds of two and a half hours!
A 300 AP tournament with 4 rounds of swiss and a cut to Top 8 (another 3 rounds) would need about 11 hours in total to complete including breaks between rounds. Going higher than 300 or 400 AP means that the tournament would have to be spread over two days to prevent player exhaustion and to keep the venue happy!
Time gentlemen, please
I’m not sure why FFG decided to base the time requirements on time per X AP, rather than just set rounds of X time per round, e.g. 60 minutes per round. I also wonder if the time per AP method could be tested: play a 100 AP game and see if you can complete the game in 30 minutes.
I’d prefer to see rounds based on a set time per round. I’d choose 60 minutes per round, which would be easier to organise, take less time and so would cost less for TOs who have to hire a venue for their event (especially in the UK where venue hire costs are generally insane).
Going back to the example I gave earlier, a seven-round 300 AP tournament would take eight and a half hours to complete if the round time were 60 minutes, with an additional 15 minutes between each round for set up and breaks. That would mean a tournament starting at 10am would finish at 6.30pm, instead of 9pm under the current rules. A significant difference!
Pick your spot
Now let’s have a look at the new Battle Builder introduced with the Tournament Rules. This is by far the biggest addition and also subtly shows where FFG seems to be going with tournament play.
Firstly, let’s look at what’s in and what’s out in the new Battle Builder:
IN: Critical Positions in Objectives, Fubar in Deployment, Radar Support in Conditions.
OUT: Break The Line in Objectives, Unprepared in Deployment, Secured Area in Conditions.
Some existing things were also changed around. Close Engagement and Off-Target Shelling stay in Deployment and Conditions respectively, but are now both 3 points instead of 2. Close Engagement bumps off Unprepared, and Off Target Shelling replaces Secured Area. Key Positions moves to 0 points in Objectives, replacing Break The Line.
Hold at all costs
The newcomer to Objectives is Critical Positions. This variable is similar to Key Positions, but with a subtle difference: you can’t nominate a piece of terrain inside of your own deployment zone, nor anywhere that your units have initially deployed into if you’re playing Fubar.
This is a subtle balancing move that will make this variable a bit more fair to both sides and will prevent a “battle of turtles.” As Key Positions is on 0, it’s easy to move that along, but at the same time you lose a point for another part of the builder.
It’ll be interesting to see if players go for Critical Positions, or decide that other variables are more important. It’s decisions like this that make the Battle Builder look so simple, but make it so agonising at the same time!
Beyond all recognition
Fubar is the new variable in Deployment. In this scenario, each player alternatively deploys a unit into an area of cover (i.e. near terrain) until all of the terrain has a unit nearby. Then, all undeployed units gain the Reserved special ability and deploy from outside of the battlefield unless they have Air Drop or a similar special ability.
This variable feels like a cleaner version of Unprepared, doing away with the unit type rules and generally tidying up the scenario. An important thing to note is that units can deploy into any area of cover, not just cover on their side of the battlefield.
Some people have expressed concern that an army with heavy walkers might be too good if this scenario is picked, especially if they’re running a non-heavy army; they’re worried that they’ll have to deal with a Konigsluther or Fireball on their side of the table right from the start.
If you’re worried about this, play it smart. Force your opponent to put his units where you want them to. Make it unattractive for him to just drop a heavy walker into your backyard and start shooting away. Besides, while heavies are tough, they’re not invincible.
They’re on our screens
Finally, let’s look at the new variable in Conditions: Radar Support. This lets each player nominate a single unit which then gains the Artillery Strike ability. This seems simple at first, but actually provides some important new tactical options.
For example, The Chef just became a lot more useful! His special ability, “Who’s Side Is He On?” means he cannot be attacked until he makes an attack. With some clever movement, he could potentially provide line of sight to every enemy unit on the battlefield, even units who think they’re cleverly out of sight!
Similarly, a sniper team could be nominated and suddenly their insane range is even more deadly (but, at the same time, they become a bigger target that you have to protect).
The removal of Break The Line and Unprepared is a good thing for tournaments. Break The Line says that each player has to get as much of their army into the opponent’s deployment zone as possible before the game ends, but Unprepared says that there are no deployment zones and armies enter the game from off the table. Although both players would have to want this combination because Unprepared was 3 points in Deployment, it was still a broken scenario and its removal will prevent many headaches for TOs.
The worry for tournaments has been that heavy walkers would dominate, and that it’s really hard to win without them. In the new Battle Builder, the emphasis has shifted towards holding terrain, instead of outright annihilation.
Heavy walkers will still be strong, but if a unit is behind an objective building they’re meant to hold, you have to get your walker into a position to shoot them. A lot of the time, it’ll just be easier to take smaller, more mobile units to do that job.
The inclusion of a new Battle Builder is interesting, because it’ll keep players on their toes. Instead of building armies with the same old Battle Builder, players will have to use a new one every so often which will keep things fresh and prevent someone from always building armies “tuned” to one single Battle Builder.
Along the same lines, a new Battle Builder every so often will prevent the need for composition rules (rules that prevent the same army lists from showing up to every tournament). It seems to be a given in wargaming that, eventually, every game needs to tackle composition, and hopefully Dust Warfare has done that now at the start.
A good start
Overall, I’m happy that FFG has taken the step of releasing tournament rules and supporting organised play this early in the game’s life. Player support is important, of course, but the publisher also has to support their game and help to carry it to better things.
Some things could be improved, though. As I said earlier, I’m not a fan of the X time per X AP formula, and would like to see a simpler X time per round method used. In fact I’ll probably run tournaments with the latter if I do organise an event, because 11 hours for a seven-round 300 AP tournament is far too long.
Also, I’d welcome simpler versions of the player sheets at the end of the PDF. Even if printed in black and white, those sheets will consume a lot of ink. I can see a lot of tournament organisers (TOs) sneaking out, USB key in hand, to use the photocopier at work, or using the work printer!
But now it’s down to players and TOs to organise and support tournaments in their local area. Don’t worry too much about what’s happening globally, just focus on your area and get a healthy Dust Warfare scene up and running. FFG has played the ball into our court. Let’s play it back.
Over to you
What do you think about the new tournament rules? Are you happy with them? Do they need more work?