Publisher: Mantic Games
SFJY Rating : Four and a half plague mutated mutants out of five.
Brought to you by the combined fevered minds of Dwalin and Bifur, etched into the skins of flayed goblins and transposed onto the digital networks by the finest Technomancers gold can buy...
Deadzone….it’s a title loaded with menace and foreboding, what will it have in store for the likes of us?
The game itself is made by Mantic games and has been around for a little while, its been generally well received and so we decided to give it a try, I say we but I mean Bifur did. Here’s the man Dwarf himself to explain…..
The box contains a game mat, loads of modular scenery and two factions to battle with (the horribly mutated Plague and the heroic if slightly fascist Enforcers) so its ready to play straight out of the box.
I apologise now for the miniatures not being painted but, I’ll be honest, life in the mines has been busy and I wanted to play a few games before I made any decisions about painting the guys up.
So, will the box contents be painted in my own unique ham-fisted style? Or will the whole lot end up on eBay with a 99p starting bid cos its crap? Only one way to find out: Invite Dwalin over, drink beer, set up game, choose sides and battle it out a couple of times.
Jump forward to a gaming day and Dwalin has chosen to be the undesirable (but beautifully sculpted) Plague faction and I have opted for the staunch defenders of humanity, the Enforcers (also really well sculpted, seriously, you guys at Mantic, epic win.). Anyway, we played and here’s what we thought of it…)
So this game is billed as a skirmish game, that’s a sub-genre folks. Basically it’s a Wargame with less models that move independently of one another and it kind of bridges the gap between a role-playing game and a full scale ‘we have loads of models on the board that represent a whole army’ Wargame.
I LOVE skirmish games. Why? Well…
One of the things I enjoy about gaming is the ability to develop a narrative; focussing on characters, imagining action and really developing a sense that not only are you bending yourself to the whim of probability, luck and your ability to harness strategy to win a game, you are also actively participating in creation.
Honestly, what’s the point of playing a game that has any form of story surrounding the rules and miniatures if you are simply going to focus on trying to defeat your opponent; that’s why things like chess and draughts exist. These games are about immersing yourself in unreality, they are about unifying oppositional aims and objectives under a greater banner of a unitary goal, working towards creating a satisfying experience for both players that enables not only an engagement in tactics but a full exploration of individual creativity as part of a dynamic partnership, or group, setting.
Fuck! Bif is definitely going to kill me for this wanky waffle… (despite the fact I totally know he agrees). (Bifur – It’s true, I agree. But somehow I manage to express my sentiment in a more succinct fashion: Narrative gaming rules!!!)
Back on topic, all of this kerfuffle is basically what a skirmish game is geared towards. Lowering the amount of models used means you can really focus on who each character is, enabling individual movement and individual actions definitely helps to inject a sense of narrative into a game as you have to identify not with ‘here’s a squad of men all the same class’ but with ‘this dude does this, awesome’. Deadzone definitely emphasises this- Bif in general had about 5 characters on the table and I had around 6. Bosh. Character driven play with really cool opportunities to do cinematically driven actions.. check. Helped by the fact the miniatures, even in their currently unpainted state, look pretty fucking boss.
What’s also cool about Deadzone is it injects a little bit of dynamism through the way turns are taken; most Wargames you move your entire force (and generally shoot etc.) as part of your turn. With this game each character has two actions it can perform, meaning you have to pick what they do carefully, and you don’t act with your whole force in one go; play alternates between players one piece at a time.
It seems more realistic, in a way. It gives the game the sense that everyone is doing things at once rather than in a hyper structured way. It makes things more free flowing, allowing dynamics and strategies to change every minute or so. It keeps you on your toes as a player and adds to the cinematic sense of this game.
Indeed this game does something else a bit more like a traditional board game; it comes with a board laid out in squares.
Yup, this ain’t normal.
Most of the time with these kind of games you’re haphazardly trying to balance measuring tapes, rulers and length rods (hehe) all over the table without knocking down scenery, models or the entire table. By removing this and working with a really basic structure, that’s also quite small compared to most strategy battle games, Mantic have managed to make a game that feels ridiculously intuitive, fast in play and enables a fantastic manipulation of three dimensional space through envisaging the squares on the board not as squares but as cubes.
The game comes supplied with Ikea style flat pack terrain that fills these cubes, allowing for multilevel play, in addition things can be put together in different ways, ensuring the game feels new every time it is played, and is fairly easy to store and travel with. Seriously, this is awesome… apart from one thing.
There”s something about the way the modular terrain is constructed which means they are HORRENDOUSLY FUCKING DIFFICULT TO CONSTRUCT WITHOUT HAVING THEM EXPLODE AND THE LITTLE JOINY THINGS SNAPPING AND BREAKING.
Dwalin: We’ve been building these things for half a fucking hour! The game is only meant to take 60 minutes to play!
…pain in the ass they may be they enable things like this to happen
Yeah, that crazy mutant creature leapt up two cubes and ripped those gunman to shreds;
FUCKING AWESOME! Both Bif and I Love this evocative type of thing in our games… Deadzone served it up in spades.
The rules system consists entirely of tests taken on D8s (Bifur – eight sided dice for the non Pale-Kids out there…), which feels suitably new for us. We’ve never really used dice other than D6 for this type of game before (Bifur – At least not since second edition 40K and the occasional foray into the wider world of roleplaying). It means we’re not as on the ball with trying to work out averages as we normally are and it just seems to extend the differentiation in character types. Seriously, at this stage I am really liking this game.
Models also have pretty simple stat lines, re-printed on cards for ease, indicating not a level that you have to compare to other levels on tables and graphs but merely a really simple figure like ‘4+’. Meaning. Roll a 4 or more on the dice to do something. You also get a bunch of dice every time you roll, a heap of special cards that you can use all the way through the game to modify rolls, characters and even the mechanics of the game and board.
There aren’t too many drawbacks to this system… there are a couple that our three games have highlighted thus far, though. Firstly THOSE FUCKING SELF DESTRUCTIVE BUILDINGS. Secondly it feels a little bit like if one side starts winning early in the game then the game is pretty much done, but I think this may have something to do with the fact we are playing one off games with the factions straight out of the box and as we get a little more proficient at playing the game this will balance out a bit, especially when we start incorporating the campaign rules.
At first we were weirded out by the game mechanic that means the characters on the board have the same amount of wounds (Bifur – Basically when someone hurts you the first point of hurt causes a wound and the second kills you. This is true for the lowliest dog right the way through to the giant hulking behemoth that is the Plague faction’s 1A character…) BUT as we’ve played more games we’ve realised that there are enough variables in other things like saving rolls that, well, basically characters that are as hard as fucking nails need to take a good pasting before they lose those wounds and little wimpy characters (like dogs) can get bitch slapped to doom pretty quickly. So we’re over it.
All in all we think this game is exciting, it’s intuitive, it uses new ideas and places emphasis on being able to exercise a level of creativity that other systems don’t seem to integrate into their core ideals to the same degree. You know what, it’s a downright visceral experience to play.
We like this game so much that we find ourselves really wanting to explore it more in a whole host of ways, so that’s what we’re going to do…. stay tuned for battle reports, resplendent with further thoughts and further experiments in the world of Deadzone!
(Bifur – Shit…Better get painting…)
Sigmund Freud Is Judging those that don’t branch out to try other gaming systems!!!!!