|The Armies March...
An Intro To Dust
|Dust | Published 19 November 2008|
Dust is a strategy board game of conquest and control. Seize power sources and capitols, develop your infrastructure, and build and wield vast, high-tech armies in your bid for global domination!
Two to six players will take the roles of alternate-history superpowers. Each player will claim one of six capitols on the game board and establish their empire from there.
Players will probably recognize the map as that of Earth, but what they will not see are any borders or nations. In the world of Dust, the unending war and the new technologies have altered the political face of Earth beyond all recognition.
The game map is divided into areas, both land and sea. Each area is either a normal area, a power source, or a capital. (Capitals are found only on land, but power sources can be found either on land or at sea!) Normal areas have no special traits, but they can be enhanced with production centers that allow players to produce their troops and more easily defend their territory. Capitals are easier to defend than normal areas and provide victory points. Each player starts with one capital and they are the core to any strategy. Finally, there are power sources. Like capitals, power sources provide victory points. Even more importantly, power sources provide the VK necessary to power the advanced armies used by the nations of Dust. A player may build units using the production points generated by his factories, but he may only count as many factories as he has power sources towards this total. Unpowered factories cannot produce armies!
Each area on the map is connected to other areas by clearly-indicated lines, and some of these adjacencies go from the far-left side of the board to the far-right side of the board, so the world depicted on the game board is, in fact, round.
Cards and Special Abilities
At the beginning of each turn, players select a card from their hand. This card represents their strategy for the coming turn and to a large extent dictates the actions a player can take.
Each card has three values printed down its left-hand side: attack, move, and production. The attack value determines the number of attacks a player may make on that turn and also determines the initiative order for the turn (ties are broken by movement value). The movement value determines how many non-combat moves a player may make during his turn. The production value is a number that is added to the production points generated by a player's production centers and power sources.
Each card also bears a powerful special ability, depicted as a character from the Dust universe. Whether it's the mech-drop's ability to place a mech unit in any friendly region or Koschka's ability to interrupt another player's turn, these abilities can mean the difference between victory and defeat for the Dust commander.
Cards are not simply refreshed when a player's hand is emptied — players must purchase cards when they produce units. Since players may only play one card per turn, buying too many cards is a waste of resources, but buying too few will leave a player without sufficient options to control his destiny.
Production and Armies
On each turn, players count up their available production points. They gain six production points for each capital, as well as production points for the card they played at the start of the turn. They also gain three production points per production center they control, provided that they also control at least as many power sources as production centers. If they don't control enough power points, they gain three production points per power source they control. For this reason, it's very important to control power sources on the game map!
During their production phase, players will spend these production points to buy additional factories and units. Each unit has its own cost, ranging from two production points for a tank up to an impressive eight to buy a bomber, and players may spend their available production points however they wish. A player who does not spend all his production points does not “bank” them for the next turn - he must spend them all each turn or lose the excess. (Note that additional cards cost only a single production point, so a player should never be in a situation where he cannot spend all his production points.)
Each individual unit type has its own unique statistics and effects, so players will have to carefully consider the composition of their armies. Units have both a combat strength, indicating how many dice they will enable their controller to roll in combat, and a tactical supremacy score. The party in a battle with the highest tactical supremacy will roll his dice first, so tactical supremacy can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Also, cheaper units such as tanks and fighters can act as a screen for their more powerful allies, mechs and bombers. A mixed force will often prove the most effective.
Combat and Conquest
When battle begins, tactical supremacy scores are totaled for both sides, and the army with the highest tactical supremacy rolls his dice first (in the event of a tie, the defender has tactical supremacy). The Dust dice feature blank faces and hit icons, so combat is fast and simple. Dice are rolled equal to the combat strength of the army, and each hit eliminates an enemy unit. The player rolling the dice may choose which units are destroyed, but he cannot choose a mech unit until all tank units have been destroyed, nor may he choose a bomber until there are no fighters remaining.
The dice then pass to the next player in the battle, who rolls dice equal to his combat strength and inflicts damage in exactly the same way. Before each player rolls dice, he may choose to retreat up to half of his units from a battle, which can allow an overmatched defender to salvage some units or an unlucky attack to not devolve into a complete disaster.
Players alternate rolling dice and destroying units until one side has been eliminated (either due to casualties or retreats) or a cease-fire is declared. If the dice come up all blanks three times in a row (and neither faction takes any casualties), then a cease-fire is automatically declared and the attacker's units retreat.
At the end of each game round, players score victory points for power sources, capitals, and majorities they control. The player who controls the most land areas earns bonus victory points, as does the player who controls the most sea areas and the player who controls the most production centers. The first player to amass a set number of victory points (varying with the number of players in the game — 40 points for a three or four player game) while also controlling a capital is the winner.
The victory point track also serves another purpose. Because the world of Dust bears some similarities to our own, it takes a truly audacious superpower to attack an enemy's capital city. Only once a player has amassed at least half the victory points required to win has he secured enough support to dare escalate the war to that level and attack an enemy capital. Once the war has been so escalated, however, then all players are free to attack capitals and things can get very interesting very quickly! Remember that a player must control a capital to win, but it needn't be the one he started the game with.