Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dystopian Wars: Initial thoughts on the Russian Coalition

I know that's an FSA BB, but I needed a flashy title snapshot!

So I've jumped head first into the Russian fleet for Dystopian Wars, and I'm a few games into learning how they fit in and function. Spoiler alert: I love them. They're different enough to feel unique, and the strength/weakness balancing issues are a fun challenge.

First things first: I love the aesthetic. The models are beautiful, and definitely show a progression in Spartan's digital sculpting talents from the original 4 fleets. As you've come to expect, the models are bristling with details. I continue to find little details I hadn't noticed before, especially after getting a coat of primer on them. Speaking of primer...

Sorry for the cell phone photos, but they still capture the magic that is Dupli-Color primer. I found this stuff at a local auto parts store, and I'm in love. Being automotive primer, I feared it might clog up detail, as most automobile primers are designed to help fill small scratches. Not a problem! The next crappy cell phone picture shows that fact.

The Borodino class battleship is shown in red, with the Moskva class dreadnought above it in bare resin. This shows just how close the two are in size, a departure from the other fleets where Dreads often dwarf battleships. You can also see the detail is left intact, not gummed up or filled in. This primer is a winner. It will serve as a great base coat to shade up to a bright, bold red. Likewise woods and brass will go on relatively easily over that base coat.

So they're starting down the path to being painted, but how do they fare in battle?

Last night we threw down a 4 player game, where unusual partnerships went head to head. Russia+FSA vs. Prussia+France. In this picture, Rees lines up his FSA frigate conga line, Robert looks on, terrified, and James gets a soda, while I snap a horrendous cell phone photo.

I didn't take bat rep photos or notes, but FSA and RC managed a win, by (tactically) evading both enemy Battleships until we  had to call it a night. My thoughts on the fleet are all over the map, so I'm just going to bullet them here.

  • Ablative Armor (AA), let's start with the elephant in the room. It's a wonderful rule that benefits the fleet without really tipping the scales too far. I hear people whining, but I figure they haven't played against Russians enough. Our ships can be cracked, easily. Four frigates in RB1-2 can easily crack a battleship. In this game, 2 Prussian gunships cracked all three cruisers in one activation without breaking a sweat.
  • In that vein, I've changed how I view AA as a rule. I don't see my ships as these unkillable juggernauts anymore. AA helps cut down on early game RB3-4 damage, when I've got no range to hit back. Once they close (because let's face it, they will close before you do) on you, it stops that first crit. As a Russian player, you can't look at having AA cracked as being a death knell. It just stopped a crit table roll. It reduced the damage you took. And now you should hopefully have multiple targets in range of your ridiculous firepower. Yes you're now easier to hit, but you get to start swinging in your sweet spot. Strike hard, strike fast, no mercy! Cobra Kai! Err...
  • Deployment is crucial. The BB is slow, it already has a long road to reach it's optimal position, right in the guts of the enemy fleet, opening up with guns and both broadsides. Don't make it's job harder by pinning it in with your own ships. Get it out in front, let it soak those early rb4 shots from mortars and rockets.
  • Destroyers are fun, and have the potential to be devastating with the hard impact MAR. They're also super fast, which helps get them into that delicious flanking position. 
  • That said, the frigates are cheaper, and insanely flexible. Having 360 degree move and fire arcs mean they can harass very different board sections every activation. The mortar ignoring intervening models for LoS while still hitting on 4+ is really strong as well, especially when they're hunkered down behind a BB.
  • Cruisers carry AA as well, but don't expect them to survive long out in the open, as a CR of 6 is not hard to top. The rule effectively gives them one more HP, by preventing that first crit. The unit caps at 4 and packs a serious punch. Generators are great at differing early threats as well.
  • The Battleship is a brute. I've taken the torpedo breaker more often than mimic lately, which helps (somewhat) take the punch out of that early suicidal Torpedo bomber run. I still haven't been able to ram anything with it, but I doubt that will come up in many games, as the ship is still blindingly slow. Unless I ally with a ship carrying kinetics...
  • For multi-player or multi-faction ally games, they pair nicely with armies that pack a long range punch, like an all-stopped FSA gunline. The Russians biggest weakness is easily fliers/rockets/torps, as the fleet has universally abysmal ack-ack and cc ratings. As such, the French might prove powerful allies, with those disgustingly powerful support cruisers. I know, I know, the fluff says blah blah about allies. We play in living rooms and dining rooms, and we play to have fun. Argue elsewhere.
All told, I'm really enjoying them so far. I commonly play against a ruthless Prussian fleet, but the local group has just started to branch into newer fleets, even sniffing at the land battle rules and models. The French have appeared, the KoBS recently appeared, and there's rumors of James pursuing some CoA tendencies.

Hopefully my limited views prove helpful to some of you. I'm definitely going to keep trying to crack this nut, as the Russian Coalition has proved to be more of a finesse army than previously thought. They're not merely a brute force, ram-down-their-throat kind of fleet, and I like the challenge that presents.

I'll post newer, less horrible pics as painting progresses!


  1. Did you get to use the bombers in your battle? Did you find it easy to bring all that forward firepower to bear? Thanks for the report.

    1. The bombers didn't make it to the table this game, as we limited each player to 450 points. An attempt at a "quick" 4 player game, as it were.

      I'm definitely eager to give them some table time. The hard shell MAR is effectively a victory point trade-off, so I want to know how much hurt they can dish out before dropping their noses. I see them hanging back with the big bruisers, out of harms way behind more tempting targets. That way, mid to late game they can pick on anything wounded that gets close, similar to my frigates.

      I generally avoid the notion of "making their points back" in wargaming, as I feel some units can play a vital role without ever getting a kill. In this case, however, they're going to be guaranteed points for your opponent if you hard shell them, so I'd like to learn what they can accomplish in the meantime.

      As far as forward-facing goes, that's one of the biggest traits you have to balance as a RC player. In general, your opponent will get to you first, so you have to be prepared for enemy ships in your wake. Most often, it will be the smaller, faster ships that sneak behind you, which gives your frigates some targets to chew on.

      If a larger threat does manage to get behind you, it's still possible to pull that BB close to (but not quite) 90degrees and at least train 2 turrets and broadsides into them, but be prepared to continue this death spiral for a few turns if you can't completely eliminate the threat. Regardless, it will seriously pinch whatever plans you have for your fleet.

      My previous fleet was KoB, so I'm used to "crossing the Tee" to make a conga-line of death. This still works with the Russians and allows full use of turrets and broadsides, but you MUST have a plan for where you'll end up, otherwise, again, you end up chasing your own tail.

  2. Thanks for the reply. I have been playing FSA and they are quite easy to play, I have now got Russians and this helps alot!

  3. I'm in Savannah, and am looking high and far for active Dystopian Wars players. Do have any leads on getting into a regular group? I wouldn't mind driving for a regularly scheduled meet. Thanks! Great blog too!

  4. I just picked up the Russian starter fleet today. I'm thinking about paring the Russians off with the KoB sence they lack the serious close rang fire power the Russians provide and the KoB can cover the Russians as they get close. Going to have my first real play test of this tomorrow vs Prussian Japanese fleet. All fleets are starter sets.