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Subject: Dirtside 2 (DS2) Review rss

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D. Patton
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Alamogordo
New Mexico
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Dirtside 2 is Ground Zero Games's entry into the micro armor miniature wargame. The rules are available as a free download from www.gzg.com as they are out of print. It cost me about $7 to have the local print shop make me a bound hard copy with plastic covers (just as an idea of how much it would cost you do to similar).

Micro armor refers to play in approx. 6mm scale, one of the scales of tank miniatures that GZG and a number of other companies produce.
DS2 is billed as sci-fi but works just as well for modern in my opinion. GZG models are not a requirement for play esp. since you stat whatever you have in your collection using the 'build' rules. If you're familiar with 40k Epic, Epic Armageddon, OGRE/GEV, CAV (Combat Assault Vehicle), DS2 is another option.

DS2's focus is on armored conflict but combined arms including artillery, off-planet starship batteries, air support and infantry including powered infantry are covered as well. A ton of wargame options (not everything is needed to play a simple game but it's nice to know you can do just about anything) are provided including minefields, paratroops or drop pod insertion, orbitall bombardment, and even nuclear weapons. Lots of options are in the rules sections but the game's still very playable using simple forces if that's your preference.

DS2 has a points system for 'costing' out each vehicle's abilities. Armor, mobility, firepower, stealth, etc. are all determined by a build formula that players can use to stat up the miniatures in their collection. The first three chapters of the rules cover dice conventions, force organization charts and the vehicle construction rules.

Dice conventions for DS2 are polyhedral based on the quality of the attribute. For example, a vehicle with exceptional stealth might roll a higher dice type (e.g., a d12 versus, say, a d6) when it is being shot at to reflect its stealthier design. In addition to models, tape measures and a place to play, you'll need d4, d6, d8, d10 and d12 dice.

Chits. One of the things most folks note (and a good portion dislike) about DS2 is it uses chits. Chits mark the unit's quality, its morale, potential decoy units and are also used in damage determination. Pulling chits from a cup is part of the DS2 experience unless you either work out a dice method for doing it or use a spreadsheet---some are available from fans of the game---that figures it for you. I am a fan of the chits but some folks dislike them.

Chapter 4 covers turn sequence. DS2 uses alternating activation. That means once I activate a unit, it's then my opponent's turn to activate a unit. Once we've activated all our units on the board, it's time to start a new turn. Alternating activation keeps players engaged throughout the process instead of the IGO-UGO method wherein I activate my entire army while my opponent watches (or doesn't) and then my opponent activates his entire forces while I stand by. I prefer this type of activation personally.

Confidence and reaction are reflections of a unit's morale. Higher quality units take longer and more difficult challenges before they become panicked or routed. The game models this with the chits and with quality based checks at specified events (e.g., a unit loses a tank) throughout gameplay. Units will not fight blindly against impossible odds without urging from their leaders---who may still fail to motivate them as needed. Overall, I like how this is modeled.

Movement is movement. Flying stuff can ignore terrain, for example. Wheeled vehicles are better on some surfaces than, say, tracked vehicles. Mud, snow, rivers and everything in between are possible factors that can affect your units' abilities to move where they're needed.

Shooting is done with dice and chits. First the shooter selects a target it can see and is within range of. Once that's chosen, both players roll dice. The shooting unit rolls a dice to reflect their quality (which may be a lower dice type due to movement, say). The targeted unit gets to roll a dice to reflect how easy it is to hit (signature). It may also get to roll an additional die to reflect cover, evasive movement or other factors that make it harder to hit.

Shooter rolls one die. Target rolls signature die (possibly along with a second die to reflect that cover, evasion, etc. if applicable). If the shooter die beats the target's highest die roll, then the target is hit. Otherwise, it's a miss. A successful hit on the dice results in a chit draw.

A chit sheet comes with the rulebook (or with the PDF download). These damage chits are all cut out and placed in a cup or other lottery type drawing container of your choice. If your shot hits, you pull a number of chits as indicated by the weapon you used.

The more deadly the weapon, the more chits. Looking at the chits, you then see if they are applicable to the target and apply the effects.
Damage effects range from mobility, to target vehicle's weapons being destroyed to complete destruction.

Overall, DS2 does micro scale armored combat very well. The chit system is the biggest complaint I've heard or read about and frankly it's easy enough to go around or to actually enjoy. This is a solid rules system. If you have a bunch of tiny tanks and infantry forces that you need to get into battle, you can do a heckuva lot worse than trying DS2 esp. since it's a free download.

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Ted Conn
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Lee's Summit
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I read this when you first put it on the Geek, but recently revisited it. Nice work. One thing, though. You forgot to mention that DS2 is compatible with GZG's other land-based game (in 25-28mm), Stargrunt II, as well as their incredible space combat game, Full Thrust. I know SG2 uses a lot of similar mechanics, but FT doesn't due to the differences in 'the beasts' (i.e., flight v land combat games).

So, you could feasibly have an invading force trying to drop forces planetside while battling (Full Thrust), have a tactical view of the invasion front (DS2) and fight sorties from that front in SG2. That, to me, is awesome!

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