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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - the DDI Dust Warfare Tournament at Gencon

So last Friday at Gencon was the first major tournament run by DDI, the new fan-run organized play group for Dust.  A bunch of the Indy guys participated, and with a couple days of thought - here is my review of the event.

The Good:
  • Terrain - The terrain for the tournament was pretty good -- very good considering how difficult it can be to bring in tournament for a big non-wargaming-specific event like Gencon.  The play mats were a nice touch -- they were much easier to transport and set up than full gaming tabletops, but made the tables feel more full and 'real'.  There was a very reasonable amount of terrain - much more than many 40k tournaments I have been to, and Ken did a great job coming up with some themed terrain with the trains.  
  • Battle Builder / Missions - Everyone I talked to really enjoyed the battle builder for the tournament.  It was sufficiently different from the 'normal' battle builder that it was interesting, and really made for some fun, but difficult missions.  I particularly liked that many of the 'normal' conditions and missions were still present, but much harder to get to.  This resulted in alot of missions that had some familiar elements, but really required you to give the game and your approach some thought - which was really fun.  The conditions seemed to really favor infantry heavy lists, and it might have been nice to have a bit more variety so that it didn't favor a specific build type - but, overall it was excellent and very fun.  If you haven't - I'd recommend heading over, downloading the tournament packet, and playing a couple games with the battle builder - it's fun.  :)
  • Advertisement - While the event was a little 'last minute', I felt like it was well advertised.  The tournament packed was available early enough for people to know what they were getting into, and was well presented.
  • Prize Support - The prize support for the tournament was very good.  I am a big fan of cool trophies for tournaments - anyone can go out and buy an expensive retail model, but a cool themed trophy is unique.  I discussed it in the last post on the tournament, but the top prize was REALLY cool.  It looked to be cut from the side of an aircraft, and is the kind of unique, interesting prize that -- I think -- really makes winning an event an exciting and enticing possibility.  The other prizes - a custom TableWar case, Dust Premium models, military style ribbons, Babylon patches for all the participants, etc -- were all very fun and themed.
  • Great Attitudes - I didn't see or hear any arguments or issues.  All the participants seemed to be very good sports and the tournament organizers were helpful and fun. 

The Bad:
  • Terrain - While the terrain was good, there were a lot of small terrain objects. Given that we used the competitive terrain placement, this ended up resulting in very few unobstructed lines of sight on many of the tables -- certainly, this isn't the worst problem in the world, but it ended up meaning that vehicles were more survivable than in our typical games.  Personally, if we were to use the competitive terrain placement (and it isn't very common locally), I would use a few more larger items and less smaller - so that there isn't a terrain item every 4 inches on the entire board.  Alternatively, it might work well to group a set of smaller items and a player places them as a unit without the inter-object spacing requirements.  Also, the terrain mats were slightly undersized for a typical Warfare board - a mistake that was very quickly realized and the DDI and Battlefront reps said would be resolved shortly.
  • Distribution of Prize Support - The Indy40k crew has been running 40k and Dust tournaments for over 5 years in the Indy area, and recently we have pretty uniformly decided that we prefer giving more 'smaller cost' prizes at tournaments than a few 'larger cost' prizes.  While the prize support was excellent -- excluding trophies, there was over $500 worth of prizes at a 16 player tournament, which is excellent prize support for a tournament of that size IMHO -- if we were running the event, we would have probably given most of the monetary prizes in a raffle or randomly, and given cool trophies to the 'Best' players in the award categories (Best General, Best Painting, Best Sportsman, etc).  Now, I know this isn't the norm, but we have found that it reduces the likelihood of players beind jerks in the later games (ie, people tend to be more willing to be good sports when a trophy is the only outcome of winning or losing, but bigger jerks when there is money involved), and gives everyone -- whether they believe they really have any chance of winning the overall tournament -- a good reason to come and have fun.  Overall, we feel like this just helps to foster a fun environment for all participants while still rewarding those who do well in the competition.
  • Transparency of Paint Scoring - There was no communicated scoring or description of the paint scoring rubric used in the painting competition.  The Indy guys won all 3 painting prizes - so, its definitely not that we didn't do well - but we prefer to know how we did and why.  We would have preferred that there was some sort of rubric - even if it were qualitative - and it were included as part of the tournament package.

The Ugly:
  • The DDI Proxy Rules - Per Paulo, this one seems to already be in the works -- he said that the new proxy rules would allow armies that contain no more than 25% non-Dust minis, but the current DDI proxy rules are too restrictive to allow players to really 'make their armies their own.'  Currently, the DDI rules explicitly state that proxies are not allowed, but it isn't clear if that excludes ALL models that are not significantly based on Dust Studios models or something less restrictive.  It seems like it is less restrictive, but the wording is not really clear and has led to some confusion and disagreement in the online community.  In my mind, this is a very key change, as wargamers want to be able to 'make their army their own' and the rules should support that, but ensure that people aren't proxying their Allies as Axis or something equivalently confusing.

I really enjoyed this tournament - it was well run, the players were fun and good sports, and I had a great time meeting everyone and playing some fun, challenging games.  There were a few small hiccups, but overall -- especially for the first event DDI has run -- I felt like the tournament was quite a success.  Everyone involved really seemed to want to make a great event, and continue to progress and be better.  This was the most heartening thing about the event -- that everyone was genuinely interested in doing a running a good event, acknowledging what didn't go as well as they wanted, and genuinely wanting to fix it next time.  I am excited to see what they do and what the next events have in store.

A few other rumor tidbits gleaned at the tournament:

  • I heard this second-hand, but supposedly Paolo had alluded to the possibility of releasing the models unassembled in the future - to allow for more personalization and customization.  As a player coming from a wargaming background - I am really excited about this, but I wonder if some of the Tactics players will like this.  I didn't hear if this was for all releases or just another way to purchase the models.
  • As mentioned before, Paolo mentioned that the proxy / conversion rules are likely to change to allow something like 25% non-Dust models in an army as long as they are recognizable as what they are converted / proxied to be.
  • John Paul Brisigotti from Battlefront dropped by to check out the event, and said that GF9 and Battlefront were considering releasing some Battlefield In a Box terrain that was Dust themed.  He was also asked if we were going to see a 15mm version of Dust in the future, and he said that he had '15 developers back in the office who thought it should be the top priority,' but tempered that by saying that they had alot of existing projects that needed to be completed.  I had also asked Paolo the same thing earlier in the weekend, and he had said that they had discussed it - but that there wasn't anything currently in the works but it may be sometime in the future.  I know that I would be EXTREMELY excited about this - I love the scale and look of FOW games, but would much prefer to play in the Dust world.  My wallet is already feeling lighter.  :)
Finally - as promised - a few action shots from the event.  Unfortunately, the pictures are more SSU-centric than I would like, as not everyone took pictures of their games and I forgot to get pictures of other games.  At least Winter Child is photogenic.  :)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dust Warfare Tournament at Gencon 2013

This past Friday, the Dust Devils International put on a Dust Warfare tournament at Gencon 2013.  They said that they would post the results of the tournament on the DDI website, so I will not put the results here - other than saying that, while the Indy Dust Warfare guys put on a good show, we didn't bring home the title.  :)

Speaking of titles - the prizes were very cool - plaques for the top 3 winners, a custom Dust Tablewar case, and quite a bit of Dust Premium models.  My personal favorite was the award for the top place finisher -- a really cool painted award that looked to be cut from the side of an aircraft.  Sadly, the picture below is as close as I will be coming to it -- maybe better luck next time.  :)

There were 13 attendees from around the country - 6 from Indy and the other 7 from around North America - including North Carolina, Detroit, Atlanta, and Canada.  There was a good distribution of armies - 6 Axis, 4 Allied, and 3 SSU (if I remember correctly).

Seemingly, the tournament went well - everyone seemed to have a great time, I didn't see or hear anyone being a jerk, and there seemed to be lots of close, but fun, games.  In particular, the battle builder for the tournament seemed to be well-received - it was created by the tournament organizer, Major Malfunction, and it was interesting since it moved many of the 'common' missions, objectives, and conditions up into the top of the battle builder results.  So, while it was possible to get to them, it was difficult and, in almost all cases, you were going to get something unusual elsewhere in your game.  I know I really enjoyed it as did several of the other Indy players.

Paolo was wandering around, and came by to check out the tournament a few times - including doing the judging of the painting competition and posing for pictures.  He also very generously signed some items for some people - including drawing some sketches, like the one below in my (now retired from active playing) Dust Warfare Rulebook.  :)

Here are some pictures of (most of) the armies there:



Finally, most of the Indy guys stuck around to help clean up.  Since the tournament took most of the day - the exhibit hall was closed when we took all the terrain and equipment back to the GF9 / Battlefront booth - below is a panoramic pic of the exhibit hall after closing.  It was a pretty amazing sight, especially given how ABSOLUTELY packed it is the rest of the time.

All in all - it was a great time and a great tournament -- it was particularly nice getting to meet some of the people we interact with online about Dust - ItsUncertainWho, Major Malfunction, Ken, etc.  Like all good tournaments, I walked away excited for more gaming, with some new ideas for armies, and looking forward to the next Dust tournament.  Many thanks to the DDI guys for putting on the event, and all the players for coming out, having fun, and embodying the first rule of gaming.

Tomorrow - I'll try to get together some pictures from the games.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dust at Gencon 2013

So today at Gencon Wienas and I got a chance to sit and talk with Paolo for probably an hour or so at the Dust table at Gencon while he set up the teaser models.  He was very accommodating of our excessive number of questions about the future of Dust, and told us a couple very interesting things.  Note that these bullets are my memory of abour 90 minutes of discussion so they may not be 100%.  :)
  • Around Christmas this year, there are going to be 3 new boxed armies to support the Babylon campaign, which will be taking place in North Africa / the Middle East - the Axis Afrikakorp (NDAK), the Allied Marines, and the SSU Spetsnaz.  It sounded to me that all of these boxes would have primarily Infantry 1 models for each of the factions.  The new models he was showing were the Afrikakorps,  which can be seen below.  The Axis boxed army is supposed to contain 3 infantry units (although we discussed it and there were 4 shown in the pictures) and 3 walkers.  Paolo said that these releases would originally be boxed, but that most of the models would be available separately later - implying that some of the models may be limited releases.  Also, from our discussion, it sounded like the Spetsnaz line would be getting Infantry 2 models at some point.
  • Along this same line - he described that several of the existing walkers will be getting the 'desert' treatment like the medium walker in the picture below - open cockpits, sand filters, extra armor, etc. 
  • Of the 'new' models in the pictures, if I remember correctly, the Axis command squad and the Axis heavy walker were going to be released separately and the other new Afrikakorp models were going to be part of the boxed set.  The only new Allied model shown is the Infantry 1 hero, which will be in the Babylon campaign box.  The gorillas with the gas masks are evidently alternate NDAK heads for the Pionere squads.
  • The next faction will be sometime next year and will be the Japanese.  I inquired about the Japanese being described as part of the Axis in the background, and Paolo said that a faction of the Japanese are / have split off and will be the new faction.  In this same discussion, he mentioned that the campaign will move into the Pacific for this release.
  • The Vrill were described as being 'sometime' after the Japanese - it sounds like Paolo has some interesting ideas for the models and said that it was an 'engineering problem' to be able to produce them.  For example, he said producing the new SSU Steel Guard took 6 months to get right, and he described it as a similar design and engineering problem in getting the design and production correct.
  • Paolo reiterated that starting with Babylon, the Dust Warfare rules will be in the campaign boxes.  When I asked about the Warfare rules for Achilles, he said that we should see them 'soon' and implied sometime this month or next, if I remember correctly.
It was awesome getting to talk to Paolo, and he was very accomodating of our incessant questioning - I can't wait to see what else he comes up with.  Also, earlier in the day, Mack Martin also dropped by the Dust table trying to find Paolo and we also got a chance to chat with him about the game and his thoughts on its design - it sounds like he is very much looking forward to Battlefronts contributions to the game.  Some days, its good to live in Indy.  :)

Here are the aforementioned pictures:

First the new Afrikakorps models:

Then the Wave 2+ Achilles units:

I'll probably try to put up a post tomorrow with pictures from the Dust Warfare tournament.