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!