Are we having fun yet?

///Are we having fun yet?

For the past few weeks, Monday night has been Deadzone night as Kev and I have been getting to grips with Mantic’s game and it’s various strike missions. This week however we tried something new; Fantasy Flight’s X-Wing and instantly loved the stripped back and slick game mechanics. It felt cinematic, tight and in no time flat we’d grasped the basics and our respective pre-painted X-Wing and TIE Fighters were weaving in and around asteroids exchanging blaster bolts. In other words we were having fun with the game straight off the bat. This is probably no surprise to those of you that have already tried X-Wing, however it did unfortunately highlight something for us that I had already begun to suspect; I wasn’t finding Deadzone much fun. I know that isn’t what you probably wanted to hear, but before you click/hit/swipe the back button let me just expand on that a little.

Are the rules flawed or poor? No, not at all. I really like a lot of the ideas behind Deadzone such as the opposing dice mechanics, the battle card boosters and the aggression system. A lot of the game mechanics share a synergy with how Dreadball works and I love that game.

Is it the miniatures? Nope, even despite my comments around some of the Rebel hit and misses I’ve had a lot of pleasure painting all of the factions and am really pleased how they’ve all turned out. Regardless what you personally feel about the material they are made in, Mantic really give you a lot of bang for your buck with the Deadzone factions and the terrain is superb.

Despite all of the above when the battle is laid out and we select our strike teams, draw our battle deck and check the mission card the fun just seems to exit the room and I’ve no idea why. Kev and I have discussed this only in the briefest of terms but we both agree Deadzone just isn’t engaging either of us as much as we’d hoped. Personally I feel some of the issues we’re having is around the mission criteria and victory conditions. They are just not that interesting in our view. The other potential culprit is in the movement (cube) system. It’s really quite ingenious and despite the simplicity, positioning your troops inside the cube definitely requires tactical thought. The trouble is I’m an old-school tabletop gamer at heart and I just like cracking out the tape measure and moving stuff ‘x’ inches. Whatever it is (and I’m grasping at straws here so don’t read too much into my comments above) it is just not pushing our fun buttons as a game, which is a great shame as I really thought it would prove to be a regular on the gaming table for me. I guess it goes to prove that games really are a deeply personal thing and sometimes there are solid, well produced games out there that just don’t push your buttons.

Getting back to X-Wing for a moment I know there must be at least a few of you thinking “but your a painter and X-Wing ships are pre-painted?”. That’s true, but there are times when it’s just nice to be able to go straight from box to table with miniatures that are instantly ready to go. Don’t panic, I haven’t turned to the dark side and hung up my brushes as there’s a very strong likelihood I’ll still add a further layer of my own painting and weathering and it’s not like I’m short of stuff to paint right now anyway.

On that very topic, I’ve just completed a full PSC Stug G combat platoon for my Flames of War Panzer Kompanie. Up to now, the only Stug miniature I have any experience with is the one that came in the Open Fire starter set and although that is a perfectly nice plastic version, the PSC set does look and feel superior in my opinion. It’s a little more fiddly to assemble however, especially the track sections but you do get a massive variety of Stug versions that can be assembled; four in total I believe if you count the 105mm assault gun. To be fair to Battlefront though, they have learned a lot about plastic manufacturing since producing the Stug and their more recent offerings are much more on par what PSC produce. The only changes I made was to swap the crew manned MG for a Battlefront variant which I found more robust and added a little extra stowage from the Halftrack spares.

Painting wise, these were done in exactly the same colours I used for the Panzer IVs as they are part of the same tank company (3rd Panzer Kompanie 2. Das Reich) and represent 4th Platoon assault guns 1-5, basically the third (optional) combat platoon in the force organisation. Other than a handful of platoons which are already assembled and primed, I believe I’ve pretty much got to where I want now with the European Axis forces, so I’m unlikely to be picking up any more. I have plans to start a new force in 2015 as Kev and I will be swapping sides and he already has an Afrika Korps list well underway, but that is going to be a long way off for me. Suffice to say it will be British (obviously), probably 8th Army and possibly constructed around an Australian rifle company list.

So there you have it, Deadzone isn’t turning out to be the barrel of laughs I’d hoped it would be which is a real shame. As I said at the start please don’t read too much into my own personal experiences with it as there are a lot of gamers who are getting a lot more out of Deadzone that an I seem to be. That isn’t surprising given the similarities the game shares with Dreadball which I think it a rip-roaring fun game and fiercely tactical to boot. It’s exactly for that reason I’m somewhat at a loss why Deadzone hasn’t tickled my fun-buds thus far. For those readers that are liking it fear not, I will continue to paint and post updates on the rest of the Deadzone faction miniatures (if and when they ever actually turn up!). Even if the game isn’t working for me, I can sure use the miniatures as proxies for Gates of Antares or Infinity. Funnily enough, on that very subject I literally just received an update about my Operation Ice Storm pre-order informing me that due to an overwhelming demand Corvus Belli are struggling to fulfil supply and the dispatch has slipped as a result. I can’t say I’m surprised as their new 2-player starter set has been widely publicised and seemingly very well received. Guess it will be a few more weeks then before I can delve into the box and immerse myself in the Infinity Universe proper.

Until next time, happy painting!

Carl

 

By | 2017-09-13T12:21:12+00:00 September 19th, 2014|Flames of War|7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Tyler Provick September 19, 2014 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    I’m not sure what’s leaving you so cold about the game. My experiences have been positive but somewhat lessened by my opponents. All my playthroughs have been with first-time players who really don’t like when make mistakes because of lack of game familiarity. Good guys, just rough to play with when they’re first learning a game.

    I think you should keep thinking about what you don’t like to try to figure it out. I’m curious what your true reasons are. I’m not sure it’s the movement.

    Perhaps it’s the board size?

    • Carl Woodrow September 19, 2014 at 5:23 pm - Reply

      I wish I knew what the reasons were myself. Board size is not a bad shout actually. Hadn’t really though about it before but what works for a sports game somehow feels a bit small for a skirmish. Maybe 3 x 3 might be better.

  2. Tyler Provick September 19, 2014 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    My buddies complain about the board size. It’s funny because it should make the game more exciting: no boring wasted turns walking towards the enemy. You’re almost starting “in media res”
    However that walking towards the enemy seems like an important part of the fun.

  3. Major_Gilbear September 19, 2014 at 9:15 pm - Reply

    I find it fascinating to see that your progression through the Deadzone experience so far has been a bit like mine actually!

    I have been tweaking the game and analysing what about it I find less “fun” than other comparable games, and it’s tricky to pin down.

    After considerable thought, I feel it’s down to a number of factors and not just one:

    1) I like the split between shooting and blazing away, but I find that blazing away feels unproductive and woolly. I get the BA should be a pinning action, but it just feels like trading a model’s “fun” for the turn in order to prevent another model’s “fun” as well… To put it crudely, it feels like c*ck-blocking, and not the sort of Special Forces hijinks action that I would expect.

    2) Conversely, shooting feels gimped unless you’re stacking loads of mods, skills, and cards for a one-shot kill. Partly, this is because models are ok/wounded/dead, and that leaves very little margin when resolving shooting between many models in the game. If you make the shooting too lethal, then Blazing Away and objectives are forgotten. If you make shooting too safe, you struggle mightily when you have to kill a model in reasonable armour, and that’s just frustrating.

    3) The model count for at least three of the factions’ forces is really rather low. Factor in my two comments above, and tactics feel more like fire-fighting than an elite fighting unit dedicated to completing an important mission.

    4) Procedurally-generated maps, setups, and missions are great for mixing things up… But they feel bland and generic as a result. I would have preferred to have set missions in the book (randomly determine which gets played), with cards for each faction adding themed secondary objectives. Each mission could also have some variables too, so that the there is some variety (things like weather effects, local hazards, a timer count down, etc). Fixed missions in the book also help both players to be engaged directly in a mission too, rather than both turning up to tootle about with their own (possibly disparate) agendas and maybe not needing to interact with the opposing force much to win. That said, the Containment Protocol missions look much more fun, and are closer to what I’ve just described as a preference.

    5) The models have very few actions really, and so without a lucky hand of cards, the game is a bit slow. I think that this is because many skirmish games like this don’t factor in how much slower movement is in dense 3d terrain compared to a sparse features on a mostly flat board like 40k or Warmachine typically use. The movement skill models therefore seem more “valuable” to me as they can get where they need to and still shoot or carry out another action as well.

    6) I think there is insufficient granularity in the rules and weapons to make the game feel distinctive. That is to say, there is a very narrow band of stats that work well, and things which fall too far outside that band cause trouble with the designed game mechanics, and are actually often best ignored – whether you avoid taking the model, or you avoid dealing with it if your opponent brings it. It’s not a great feeling when you look through the model cards when building a force and think “Nah, lots of hassle, and a cheaper guy will do as well – better because I can have three cheaper guys instead of two of the hassle guys”.

    7) The game seems to have been designed with campaign balancing in mind, and what’s good in a campaign might not be so much fun in a one-off game. A bit annoying for me, as I’d much rather play one-off games – the boardgamey appeal to me is that it’s quick to play and I can re-set with a different force and go again.

    What I find weird is that lots of people actually *like* all the above, but I guess I prefer my games to be more *decisive*.

    I find that adding in the later stuff from Wave 2 and playing 90pt forces (keeping the same VP conditions though) is more fun. There is a Code 13 version of the game, but that’s very hard to play and can drag on so long it gets dull – it basically makes the game 100pts a side, but you have to get more VPs than are possible with some missions in order to win.

    Overall it’s a good first effort from Mantic for this sort of game, and I do think there is a great game in Deadzone begging to get out. However, for that to happen, there does need to be acknowledgement of the game’s drawbacks.

    I certainly intend to keep at it and see if I can get Deadzone to open up for me (after all, I still have lots of new models, game types, and scenarios to get through yet), but I think that Infinity gets a lot more right in terms of making a game exciting – even with no missions.

    Anyway, apologies for the long ramble! I’ll leave it here for now, but I hope you give Deadzone a bit more time as well, and maybe see if you change your mind on it or not. =0)

    • Major_Gilbear September 19, 2014 at 9:18 pm - Reply

      Sorry, in #4, I meant Nexus Psi instead of Containment Protocol!

    • Carl Woodrow September 19, 2014 at 11:39 pm - Reply

      I think I pretty much agree with every point and concur that there’s a good game in there, I just seem to be struggling to find it. Well articulated.

    • Minitrol October 11, 2014 at 9:49 pm - Reply

      Major_Gilbear – I think you’re dead on. Each point you make is very much my feelings as well. Disclaimer: I haven’t actually played yet as clipping the models and cleaning them up was firmly placed in the can’t be faffed camp but I have been trying to drum up the enthusiasm by reading the rules and searching for blog posts…

      I can’t help feeling I should have saved my money and got Infinity instead but at the time the rules complexity put me off for Infinity but now I am no so sure…

      On the other hand I also got Mars Attacks and straight out of the box that game is fun and easy and a good BOARD game experience.

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