A Damn Expensive Hobby…Or Is It – Deadzone

Each of us has our own passions for aspects of the hobby, models that were eagerly awaiting or products that were virtually vibrating with anticipation for…it might be a new edition of Warhammer Fantasy, Warhammer 40K or Malifaux, a new Forge World Primarch or a version of the Firestorm Armada rules that actually work…

For me it was Mantic Games’s Deadzone…

…admittedly this is hardly the way to start an objective review of a product, lol.

As Games Workshop no longer supports any of its skirmish games then we can’t really use them for comparison purposes in this example. However, if you were a fan of Necromunda…you’re going to bloody love this…and if you weren’t…you’ll probably still love it…just for different reasons…

Rule-Set and Gameplay.

Deadzone is a skirmish game played on an 8 by 8 grid of 3″ by 3″ squares (or cubes technically as it’s possible to go up as well as across if there’s something to climb) with each side having a ‘Strike Team’ bought with a points allowance (70 is the standard game size). As is to be expected each model varies in quality in proportion to its points value so a 6 point 3rd Generation Plague Trooper is obviously going to fill a different role to a 26 point Plague Teraton. A force can consist of as many Leader and Trooper models as you wish but the number of the Specialist, Rare and Unique models can not exceed this number. You can also add a Mercenary model to your force though there are some restrictions (Wrath won’t work with Enforcers for example).

The rulebook is very clear and has detailed descriptions of each rule with clear and concise examples in each section with diagrams where appropriate. The artwork and pictures are of an extremely good quality (as is the whole book) and is included in the starter box along with a great deal of other stuff…more on that later though…

It’s such a great rule system she’s even taking notes…

The game mechanic itself uses both cards and dice. For each basic action you have a pool of D8’s (usually three) and a target number based on the models skill in that area. So a combat monster like a 1st Generation Plague would hit on a ‘Fight’ value of a 3+ whereas a significantly less deadly 3rd Generation one would require a 5+. Modifiers add dice to the pool rather than modify the target number so a Corporation Trooper who aimed first would roll 4 dice instead of 3 with any eights allowing another dice roll. Each model can either take two Short Actions or a single Long Action though the same Action can’t be taken twice in a row….some bonus Actions do break this rule though…

If the Action is an opposed one (Fight Vs. Fight or Shoot Vs. Survive) then the target gets to roll his own pool of dice (with it’s own modifiers of course and as with the attacker any eights allow another dice roll) and successes are compared. Bonus’s are gained should you double or even triple your opponents successes and these depend on the Action being taken. Cards can also be played from your hand that can enhance your attacks (amongst other effects) and each faction has their own set representing their own particular skill set.

Each faction also has their own set of Mission cards and the mission is chosen randomly though you can reject the first one drawn if you wish. Your stuck with the second choice even if it’s a worse fit than the first one so be careful when changing your mind.

A unit leader decides how many cards you draw based on their command value and this value also decides how many models you activate before the turn passes to your opponent. A plague General has a Command value of 2-2 which means he draws two cards and can keep 2 (If it was 2-1 he’d draw two but only keep one) and the value of the two added together is the number of models that your ‘Strike Team’ can activate each turn. Should this Leader be killed then the model with the next highest Command value is the one who’s total decides number of cards drawn and a number of activations done. When there are no cards left to draw or play then the game ends…

Model Quality.

Each Faction has it’s own style and the model quality is excellent across the whole range. The usual mould lines that as hobbyists we all know and love are of course there but can be simply removed with a sharp hobby knife (personally I found this a better method than filing with these models) and the detail is excellent and is especially good when compared to the price…but we’ll discuss that in a bit. One of my initial concerns was that the models might be difficult to convert due to the way the joints link together (The joints are a particular shape that fits an appropriate slot in the model) but I was pleasantly surprised to find that this is not the case and that conversion is fairly simple by just removing the tab and re-angling the joint.

The one on the right is in the default pose…the one on the left has been converted slightly…

You currently have a choice of Corporation, Plague, Marauder or Reb Factions with two more (Asterians and Forge Fathers) coming early next year. If your one of those people who is still nostalgic for the long abandoned by Games Workshop ‘Squats’ then your going to absolutely love the Forge Fathers. The Asterians are Space Elves so I’m ambivalent towards them though many of the local players can’t wait for them, lol. It will be of no surprise to any-one who knows me or reads my blog that I’ve gone with the Plague as my primary faction though I intend to have a Strike Team from each one…even the Asterians…

Background.

The Deadzone game shares the same ‘Universe’ as Mantic Games’s Warpath and Dreadball game systems. As a relatively new company their background material obviously hasn’t had time to develop the same depth and quantity as something like Warhammer or Warmachine but what material there is has been well written and is characterful with just the right hint of humour where appropriate. Enough material is available on each faction to allow you to immerse yourself in your model choices without the kind of overly precise ‘this is how it is’ shackles that you sometimes feel with systems such as Games Workshops ones. Sometimes it is possible to have too much information…especially if you have your own ideas about the feel your looking for in your Strike Team and in this respect the guys at Mantic appear to have got the balance just right.

Cost.

I’d like the eighteen books it now requires to play a game of Apocalypse please…

Here’s one of the areas where Mantic Games score remarkably well and Deadzone is a particularly good example. The starter box is around the £65 mark though some retailers will undoubtedly do it cheaper and each faction Starter is around £20 (The Starter box comes with Corporation and Plague ones). The Starter box itself gives you everything you need to start a game and with enough scenery to easily fill enough of the game board (also provided) to make for a pleasant gaming experience.

Though there are other game companies whose starter sets enable you to play a game pretty much straight out of the box (Dropzone Commander being one) there are many others that presume you have certain hobby items already available (scenery and whatever) which increases the start up cost of those systems significantly. Though if you already have terrain for one system it can in many other cases be used for others it’s somewhat of a hidden cost to beginning miniature war-gaming. The scenery included in the box clips together so it can be disassembled should you wish though I imagine most people will leave it assembled…especially If they’ve painted it…

Picture courtesy of Titan Games.

Conclusion.
The game scores well in all areas. It’s reasonably priced, comes as a complete game system, has nice models and a more than adequate amount of background material and is remarkably easy to learn and simple to play. This simplicity disguises a satisfyingly tactical experience where player skill is as important as unit selection and most importantly is tremendous fun.

Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.

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