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1938: A secret German expedition to Antarctica discovers the ultimate weapon – an alien spacecraft with a living crewmember!
1950: Everything has changed. The Second World War rages on with no end in sight. There are no more nations, no more alliances. There is only... Dust.
A world where reverse-engineered alien technology has given us walking tanks, as well as fighters and bombers that look more like flying saucers than what we know today, the world of Dust is both very similar to the Earth we know, and also quite different. Players take control of the high-tech armies of this brave new world in a struggle for the future!
Including a large game board and over 800 plastic playing pieces, Dust features a card-based system that controls initiative, movement, and production, while combat is resolved quickly and easily with the included custom dice. Dust is a strategy board game for 2-6 players.
Fantasy Flight Games
Players: 2 - 6
Weight: 2,180 grams
Average Rating: 3.2 in 3 reviews
I am not a fan of Risk; I know that there are legions of folks who enjoy the game, but I simply find the luck too annoying, the length never-ending, and the player elimination not fun at all. I've played a lot of Risk "upgrades"; and while they add some enjoyment to the game, I still have been attracted to only a few of them. When I saw the box of Dust (Fantasy Flight Games, 2007 - Spartaco Albertarelli and Angelo Zucca), I was slightly interested but assumed that yet another Risk clone had been created.
I was completely surprised at how much I enjoyed the game and wanted to play it again and again. The game comes with two settings, "Premium" and "Epic"; and while the Epic game may satisfy those who want long marathon type games, the Premium allows all the fun ideas of Risk to occur in a shorter time frame. The game encourages diversity in units, fast attacking, the formation of and broken alliances, and simply has a sense of fun! With terrific pieces and an easy-to-learn system, Dust is a campy sort of game that is my first choice when wanting to play a game of world domination.
The board depicts a map of the world, made up of several land and sea areas (circles on the map) that are connected by various lines. Six of the land areas are capitals, and sixteen of the total areas are power source areas. Each player takes a pile of pieces in their color (tanks, mechs, fighters, bombers, and submarines) as well as six cards from a deck. Players use one of the cards to determine their turn order, and then take turns to claim one of the capitals and a fair share of all the land areas on the board, by placing tanks there. Players also get to put out some extra reinforcements, production centers, and take one power source token for each power source area they control. A pile of dice (with hit markings on two sides, and blanks on the other four) and the rest of the cards are placed near the board. The first round is ready to begin.
In each round, each player selects a card from their hand, revealing them simultaneously. Cards have five elements on them:
- Combat number - which determines the number of attacks the player may make this turn.
- Movement number - which determines how many non-combat movements the player may make.
- Production number - this number is added to the production points of a player each turn.
- Star(s) - these are used as a final tie-breaker when comparing cards.
- Illustration - giving the player a special ability they can use that round.
First a player determines their production value, adding their production centers, their capital, and their card value. However, a player's production centers mean nothing if they do not have a matching power source token for each. The different units have various costs for a player (and a player can also purchase more production centers and cards). Players can place these units purchased with their production value in any friendly area that contains or is adjacent to a production center. After this, players may make non-combat movements with their forces. Each movement takes movement points, and a few units have unique movement (such as the bombers). Finally, the player can make combat moves, based on their combat number. When attacking, each player totals up the combat value of their units. The player with the highest tactical supremacy attacks first. Some units, such as fighters, have a tactical supremacy number, making them useful in combat for just this purpose. Players roll dice equal to the total combat value of their units, with the defender given some bonus dice for production centers and capitals. There are some rules as to which units must be removed first, and how players can retreat; but mostly a unit is eliminated for each hit rolled. There are special rules for sea battles, amphibious attacks, bomber runs, submarine attacks, and missile attacks.
At the end of each turn, players score one point for each capital and power source they control, as well as one point for having the most land areas, or the most sea areas, or the most production centers. If a player has reached a certain amount of points (depends on the number of players), the round ends - with the player having the most points winning the game!
I've just summarized the "Premium" rules, which take about two or three hours. The "Epic" rules are very similar, with a few changes - mostly concerning scoring and production. Since players get fewer points in the Epic game, it takes about four to six hours.
Some comments on the game...
- Components: There's quite a bit packed in the large box of Dust.
The board is quite large and is made up of six puzzle pieces that fit
together fairly well, although I had to bend some of them slightly to
get them to lay completely flat. The plastic armies are incredible -
each player has 130 units that they can use (I can't imagine even
coming close to that number), and molds are nice, giving the game a
futuristic appearance. I do love plastic! Some nice reference cards
are included that give the stats for each unit, and everything fits
snugly inside a plastic insert. The dice, which are brown with target
symbols on two sides, are useful if bland; and the cards are of high
quality. I only have two small problems with production. One is that
the artwork is ridiculous (the soldiers look like European models),
and the other is that the card artwork, which is supposed to be
indicative of the special ability it rewards, is not obvious. There
is chart in the rulebook, and I find myself passing this around
constantly. Fantasy Flight should have put the meaning of each
special ability on the flipside of the reference sheets; it really
would have helped game play.
- Rules: Other than the special ability snafu, the rules are
actually quite well done. Each of the two rulebooks has the complete
rules written in them; and when the rules diverge from the other rule
set, they are printed in blue, helping one to quickly differentiate
between the two. I can teach the game in about ten minutes; once
players understand what the numbers on the cards do, the rest is
fairly simple. I did have to explain the several types of attacks,
but combat itself is simple.
- Epic vs. Premium: I wonder if the only reason Epic was included
was so that the people who MUST have a longer game would be happy. I
think the Premium game is far superior, as it highly encourages
players to attack one another, since the power source areas are so
important for scoring. Epic seems to do nothing special other than
bringing the game to a slow craw. Premium allows players to start
with a good deal of forces, and a lot of fighting is going to occur,
which is the point of the game, anyway. I'm not a big fan of
"turtling", something that occurs in many war games - in which players
simply tend to build up large forces and sit on their properties
defensively. (I do think that this "turtling" factor is something
that happens more often in the Epic game, since it takes much longer.)
- Players and Time: The amount of players in the game certainly
affects the length of the game. A full six-player game (which is the
most fun, in my opinion), will take a full three hours, but a four
players can likely knock out a game in two. Still, the more armies on
the board, the more exciting the game is; and attacks will be made
- Combat: The combat system is very enjoyable, because it's quick
and easy yet allows players some interesting choices when building
their armies. For example, a tank costs two production points and
gives a player a single die in combat, while a fighter cost three
production points, and gives a tactical supremacy of "1", along with
the single die in combat. So when spending fifteen production points,
should I buy seven tanks or five fighters? One gives me more dice
with which to attack, while the other allows me to roll first -
possibly a huge advantage! The diversity of armies is simple (there
are only five basic units), but it does give the game a more unique
feel - mech units feel different than a bomber. Combat is still
highly luck-based; but it does work smoothly and allows players to
roll lots of dice.
- Cards: The card system is the best part of the game - it really
works well, allowing a player to sort of customize their turn. You
can play a card with a high production value but with few attacks and
moves. On the flipside, a player may be able to make a pile of
attacks but have very little maneuvering power and low reinforcements.
But all of this might pale beside the special abilities a card gives.
There are eleven of these, which include:
- Diplomat: Force another player to become your ally for one round
- Ballistic Missiles: Make one missile attack this turn
- Mech Dropper: The player may place mech units in one target area on the board
- Sigrid: The player may reroll all blank dice in one battle.
- Power Centers: The power supply areas keep this game moving and
also help to differentiate it from other games in the same genre.
Because it's so important to control these areas, both for production
and point purposes, players are constantly fighting over them. They
are scattered throughout the world, including the sea areas; and
therefore, there is no "sweet spot" on the board, although North
America seems the easiest place to defend. The importance of these
spots also decreases the need to consolidate one's forces, although
you can still do this effectively. I found that having two powerful,
yet smaller army groups on the board was fairly effective; and
fighting on three or more fronts was not impossible. But most of all,
I was just happy that attacks occur on every turn, keeping the game
moving and exciting.
- Risk and Fun Factor: Because of the rules, it is difficult, yet
not impossible, to eliminate another player. At the same time, a
player can all but be eliminated if they are reduced to a sniveling
force on the board. That and the fact that the game is about world
domination will certainly give credence to the accusation that the
game is merely a "Risk" clone. But while the game has the same feel
as Risk and will also likely highly appeal to fans of that game, it's
incredibly better. Dust is by far the most enjoyable game of this
genre that I've played - better than Risk (or any version thereof),
Attack!, Axis and Allies, and more! It's fun, involving, and while it
still keeps the classic line "Why are you attacking me? He's
winning!" in the game, I don't mind.
I enjoy Dust because it's a very fluid game. Attacking and defending is simple, yet encouraged by the rules. The game has a set time limit (due to the victory point track), so it doesn't bog down much. The cards are clever, and the whole thing feels like a grown up version of Risk - yet still loads of fun. While the theme is a bit wonky, I don't mind; it's simply a world domination game. And it's currently the best one available on the market.
"Real men play board games"
If you're thinking of any kind of even small cooperation amongst players, this is not the game for you.
From the word "go", players must attack each other in order to win. Simple as that.
What is not so simple (and put it above RISK and similar games) is that we have fighters, bombers, tanks, submarines and mechas, each with its won combat value, cost and initiative. We have capitals, power sources and production centers.
The graphic aspect of the game is top notch, according to the high standards of Fantasy Flight Games.
There is a faster version, called "Premium", which can be played easily in less than two hours, and an "Epic" version which will last more than four hours.
If you enjoy throwing a lot of dice (maybe even 22 dices or more in a single attack!) this is the right game for you.
DUST is like "Risk", but a lot faster (if you use the Premium rules) and with better game mechanics. It's up to six players, another advantage. Card use is minimum, but important. Pieces and general graphic design are of the highest standard, which is usual for Fantasy Flight games. Another pluses are the simplicity of the rules and the quality quality and clearness of the rule book.
However, there's almost no subtlety here. Yes, you can make important strategy decisions deciding to buy between tanks, mechs, fighter planes, bomber planes or submarines and when to deploy them. Other than this, you must start attacking somebody as soon as the game begins. Otherwise, maybe you will not have another chance.
DUST will assure you a good afternoon or evening with your friends. But it would be good to have another game at hand after you finish your game session of DUST.