Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dust Up: Supremacy Showdown

Not this kind.  Well, maybe a little.
Special Disclaimer: New ground is breaking in this very post.  Etna's Vassal and I doing something I've been thinking about for a long while, a double battle report.  This is different for me as I generally try to cover both sides, successfully or not, when I do a battle report, whereas this time it's (mostly) all from my side.  You can find EV's half of the story here

You'd never know it from this blog, but I've been playing a lot of Dust Warfare lately.  It took a decent amount of sniffing around and shuffling feet, but I'm now at the helm of a nearly complete collection of Axis forces, thanks in part to the Escalation league that's been running for the last month or two at Huzzah.  (Wednesday nights if you're a curious party.)  I've had a good time with Dust, which is quick and interactive, and am now starting to appreciate the depth of the system.  It's one of those easy to learn, hard to master things.  I've even settled (I think) on a scheme and approach, which should make a certain reader happy.  Once I get going on it of course.  The Huzzah league is wrapping up currently, with EV and I finishing up tied for first.  We hadn't played each other during the league since we get in a weekly game on Tuesdays, so there were no handy head-to-head tie breakers available.  The only way to determine a champion was to duke it out.

What Came Before

That's the broad context for the forth-coming battle report, but there's more specific, and recent, context that has bearing as well.  (I'll note now that I'm not going to explain much of how Dust works, I'll be assuming you know how things work.  I'm sure there are lots of introduction posts/videos around if you're curious.)  For most of the league I'd been steamrolling people, right up until last week.  I faced off against an Air Drop Fireball list, which I'd done before, but the fates were against me in that game.  I poured all my anti-tank into said Fireball, over multiple turns, and did nothing to it.  Meanwhile the Fireball munched straight through my army.  This was very frustrating, even more so since 90% of the Allied game was just the Fireball moving and shooting while the rest of the army hid.  I learned some lessons from that game (namely avoid Force Collision when facing an Air Drop Fireball), mostly about the importance of dedicated anti-tank assets.  Previously I'd been fine with the assorted Panzerfausts my infantry totes around, even against a Fireball, and I'd even taken a Ludwig to shoot down tanks, but none of that was enough to get past the Fireball's armor.  Thus the idea of taking more anti-tank was already simmering.

Jump to Tuesday and my most recent non-Huzzah game with EV.  He's running an Air Drop Fireball, after having abandoned it for a while, along with a Cobra.  The results here were mostly the same, except it was the Cobra that stymied me.  Again my Panzerfausts and Ludwig were ineffective, over many turns, and my inability to take out that Cobra kept me tied up long enough that I had no chance to win.  This time the Cobra was bunkered up in Hard Cover (which EV pointed out should have been Soft Cover later that day), so the one Panzerfaust that would hit per squad was shrugged off by the cover.  The Ludwig did some damage, but was scrapped well before putting any serious hurt on the Cobra.

Building a List

Mine will look something like this.  Someday.
The takeaway from these two games, accounting for two of the last three I'd played, was obvious: take more anti-tank.  I'd shied away from it in response to (what I feel a little silly calling) the local meta, which is infantry-heavy and unlikely to feature lots of armor.  I'd been moving a bit towards anti-tank already with the Ludwig, but it just isn't up to the task of taking out a heavy walker.  While the new weapon teams, at least the laser one, are intriguing they are not yet in my possession.  I could field a Wotan though, which is just about the biggest anti-tank stick I can wave around.  Previous experiences with the Wotan were satisfying...until all the armor was dead, then it became pretty unimpressive.  This was my experience with all anti-tank though, so since I'd decided to suck it up and include more AT I decided to go all the way.  With the new upgrade for Spotters, Pinpoint Observation, my hope was that I could get the Spotters to do their thing, then hopefully have both lasers hit (on blanks, thanks Spotters!), then maybe get some more hits on the bonus laser roll.  If I could sustain with the Wotan, which shouldn't be too hard considering its 36" range, then any tank hitting the table should have cause to fear.  Factor in that (with the upgrade, which you're going to take) it's a vehicle 6, yet still on a regular walker chassis, and you get a package that's compact, yet powerful.  A good place to start when building a list.

This was also a stumbling point for me.  As much as I like the Wotan in its role, I like the Flamm-luther even more.  It's great at killing infantry, which I like, and is no slouch against tanks either.  The problem is that the two share a chassis and I (currently) have only one.  After considering but discarding the idea of using other walker chassis to stand in, I went with a Lothar instead.  The Lothar is an interesting walker in that it's capable of killing most anything, but it also has to reload.  While you can work around this when firing directly, it's unavoidable when firing as artillery, which is one of the abilities that makes the Lothar attractive to begin with.  It's a piece I like but don't play much, so I figured I'd give it a twirl and see how it worked with the upgraded Spotters.  With the walkers settled I filled in the rest of the army.  A Sturmgrenadiere platoon was a given as it was the only way I could take the Lothar, plus Blitzkrieg is amazing.  I loaded it up with Soldier 2 units to open the second support slot, then took a Schwer platoon with the nigh-required Heavy Flaks to give my infantry some heft.  A pair of Snipers later and I was all set.  Walkers aside, this is a fairly standard list for me.

Dust Warfare - Force Builder
Faction: Axis ( 300 / 300 )

---  Sturmgrenadiere Platoon (189)
Command Section: Kommandotrupp (25)
1st Section: Battle Grenadiers [Upgrade] (20)
2nd Section: Battle Grenadiers [Upgrade] (20)
3rd Section: Recon Grenadiers (17)
Support: MPW III-A "Wotan" [Upgrade] (55)
Support: MPW II-D "Lothar" (40)
Support: Sniper Grenadier Team (12)

---  Schwer Platoon (111)
Command Section: Heavy Kommandotrupp (35)
1st Section: Heavy Flak Grenadiers (26)
2nd Section: Heavy Flak Grenadiers (26)
Support: Beobachter Team (8)
    + Pinpoint Observation (4)
Support: Sniper Grenadier Team (12)

Odd as it sounds, I was almost hoping EV would field a Fireball.  Since I was going in on AT I wanted to have something to shoot it at, and I was curious to see how the Wotan would deal with the heaviest target available.  I wasn't disappointed as he took nearly the same list he'd played on Tuesday.  EV got off a timed post yesterday with his list in it, plus some trash talk, so I won't reproduce it here since it's already up and I can direct traffic to his blog as well.  Double bird, single stone.  I was happy to see so little heavy infantry, and low numbers in general. 


The battlefield.
EV lost the battle builder roll and to my surprise didn't go for Force Collision.  We ended up with Key Positions (which we forgot about until halfway through turn 1) and Off-Target Shelling, a favorite of mine that always seems to come up.  Perhaps that's because I push the builder that way.  We did tournament/competitive style terrain placement.  There were no multiple story buildings available for my snipers, so my first priority was to set up some sniper nests as best possible in the form of two ruined cottage pieces and a small rocky butte.  Meanwhile EV was busy lining up buildings on a diagonal.  Towards the end I was trying to gum up Fireball routes with the low stone walls while maintaining fire lanes for my Wotan.  It wasn't until we were done setting up and EV said something about picking which side to deploy on that it occurred to me that I might be on the other side of the table.  While far from a disaster it would put me on the back foot since I'd been setting up "my" side while neglecting the other side, which is something I try to avoid.  Fortunately laziness won out and we stayed where we were.

EV's forces.
Because Dust does alternating deployment it's hard to accurately describe how it went.  Ideally I'd have a picture after each unit was placed, but that'd be ~20 pictures just for deployment which is far too many.  Instead we'll sum up.  EV deployed mostly in the center, with his lone heavy infantry out on a flank.  His Cobra was hiding behind a building (I waited on my Wotan until his Cobra was down), but despite the awkward angle it could still fire all over the place thanks to its turret. 

Germany's glorious troops.
My deployment was centered around two goals: maintain a 12" bubble of anti-Drop to keep a secured area and set up along the diagonals, bishop style, to fire on the Allies on the approach.  It's become painfully apparent over the last few games that the Axis' big strength is range.  Most of my guns are 16", while a lot of Allied and SSU guns are only 12".  This means I can shoot without getting reacted to, then react when my opponent advances to bring their guns into range.  Once that gap is closed then it's a storm of UGLs, shotguns, and flame/sulfur/acid throwers that roll an unholy amount of dice.  Keeping a healthy gap is imperative for the Axis, so I deployed the bulk of my infantry in the center to cover the two main alleys, supported by a flanking force meant mostly to push my anti-Drop bubble as much as possible, but also to guard against a push on my left from a redeploying Allied force.  I was pleased to find that the Lothar fit perfectly into on of the ruined cottages, with space enough for a sniper team as well.  The big piece was the Wotan, which would be hunting two targets.  I hoped to bait EV into dropping the Fireball on my right flank, which held no troops, or in the woods on my left.  Therefore the Wotan went where it could cover both of those angles, plus as much of the village as possible.

Both sides arrayed for battle.
The result was an Allied force that, to my eye, was primed to sweep right, while I had deployed in force everywhere except the right.  I wanted to keep the Wotan on the back edge in case I got the Fireball to drop on the right, but accepted that it'd be stalking the Cobra for at least a turn or two through the village.  I expected EV to advance on my right, keeping behind the buildings for cover, then push via the right alley or around white building on the right.  For my part I wanted to maintain the anti-Drop zone while also expanding it as much as possible.  The walkers and snipers would provide supporting fire while the infantry advanced in general, though I'd be looking for the Fireball and sending assets towards it as needed. 

Turn 1 Orders

EV "won" the orders phase by having the least.  He killed a sniper teammate with a Long Tom strike.

From way downtown.
In response my snipers gunned down a heavy trooper and a regular trooper.  I Blitzkrieged the left flank battle grenadiers forward to expand my anti-Drop bubble.  The Sturmgrenadiere command section was holding down the corner, so I could push the battles forward without losing coverage.  Gotta keep those Fireballs out of your backfield.

End of turn 1 orders.
Allied Turn 1

In keeping with how Dust works, EV got to go first.  There wasn't much going on, just the usual turn 1 advancing.  Of note, the Cobra made sure to hide from the Wotan behind a building.  Also of note, the Allied infantry more or less advanced in the open instead of hugging cover like I expected.  No Fireball yet.

Allied turn 1.
Axis Turn 1

My turn was a little more eventful.  I started with the spotters, who refused to do their trick.  Undeterred, the Lothar blew up a trio of advancing Allies.
Lothar doing its thing.
It was right about here that we figured out that we were playing Key Positions.  I went against type and picked a pair of terrain pieces in my deployment zone: the left sniper cottage and the center sniper butte.

When the action resumed, I took many careful measurements and decided I could advance and hammer EV's center infantry blob with a large part, though not all, of my own infantry.  I sent the recon grenadiers up to the stone wall to take cover and get ready to react to anything moving through the right alley, while the rest of my central infantry advanced and shoot up anything they could see.  When the dust settled I'd killed five guys and suppressed all the center infantry.

Shooting what's there to shoot.
In other news, the snipers shot another heavy trooper while the Wotan was mostly ineffective against infantry.  I considered moving it a bit to get a shot at the Cobra, but figured I'd wait until it popped out of cover next turn while maintaining it's position to cover against the Fireball.

Axis turn 1
I was fairly happy at the end of the turn.  EV sending his infantry up the middle was a stroke of luck for me as I got to shoot him up without being shot in return, or before.  I had to maintain my bubble on the left, which meant a decent portion of my infantry didn't do much, but keeping the Fireball away from places I didn't want it was important.  I moved the recon grenadiers up for the above stated reasons, but also as a lure to EV.  I'd created a small pocket "behind" my lines where he could drop the Fireball.  If he took the bait I'd have a clear lane with the Wotan with enough distance to get two rounds of shooting in.  Plus it would be trivial to shoot my Panzerfausts into the Fireball from my infantry.  While I didn't expect them to do much, they could chip in a point or two if the dice turned out right.

Turn 2 Orders

EV got the least orders again and kicked things off by Phasing one of my right Heavy Flakkers.  His Long Tom missed, which was nice, then he regrouped one of the center infantry units with his final order.

For my orders, one sniper finished off last heavy trooper, while the other sniper fired killed one of the recently regrouped squad.  I regrouped my suppressed Flaks and shot into the center some more.  After much deliberation, I Blitzkrieged the Wotan towards the center to line up a shot on the Cobra.  This took it away from my firebase of the Lothar and spotters, but it was close enough that I could string the spotters out and still affect both walkers.  Sending the Wotan over like I did made my right flank stronger, which I thought might discourage EV from dropping the Fireball in the pocket I'd provided, but I wanted to start getting shots at the Cobra and I could cover multiple fire lanes from where the Wotan would end up just as well as from where it started.

End of turn 2 orders.

Allied Turn 2

EV started by Phasing another of the Flaks, then shot them some more resulting in no deaths, but more suppression.  Then Christmas came early.  EV dropped the Fireball right where I wanted it.

Direct quote from my notes: "Victory!  Fireball drops in front of Wotan"

That was pretty much it for the Allied turn, other than some more running and hiding.  EV had a BBQ squad with Climb lurking around behind a building waiting to pounce, but had yet to pounce.  I was content to have them sit around waiting.

Allied turn 2

Axis Turn 2

Giddy with my good luck, I got started at the beginning.  First the spotters repositioned to cover both walkers, then failed to do their trick.  Next the Wotan stood where it was and sustained into the Fireball...and missed.  One opportunity down.

In the center the Schwer command section double Mediced the previously shot up Flaks, clearing all their two suppression markers and bringing both downed troopers back into the fight.  From there a hellish storm of firepower raked the Allied center, wiping out the squads there.  The Lothar shot at the lurking BBQ squad but failed to connect.

What's left of the center.  Stunt finger points to lurking BBQs.

My notes at this point are suitably laconic: "feeling good."  I had wiped out most of EV's infantry, the Fireball was exactly where I wanted it (well, not exactly.  I wanted it dead after a turn of shooting, or at least hurt, but it was positioned where I wanted it), and thanks to effective first aid on my side I had all my models on the table, having brought back the spotter and two Flaks that had died.  While both Allied walkers were untouched, I really only had three things to worry about: the Cobra, the Fireball, the BBQ lurkers.  I hoped the Wotan would deal with the Fireball in the coming turn, hoped the Lothar could put some damage on the Cobra, and was very willing to sacrifice one unit to draw out the BBQs.  They'd crisp something beyond death, but the bulk of my infantry would be in reaction range and would wipe them out in return.  I began trying to figure out which key positions EV had picked, which I figured were two of the right ruined cottage and the center pair of buildings (aka the ones with infantry hugged up on them).

End of turn 2

Turn 3 Orders

Surprising no one, EV again rolled the least amount of orders and got things started.  My newly repaired Flaks dodged the incoming Phaser fire, which was the only order EV issued.  I pondered for a while before deciding to shoot with the Wotan.  While I wanted to sustain with it I thought the chance of extra damage from firing twice, not to mention potentially shutting it down before EV's turn proper began, was enough to sway me into ordering it.  I rolled two hits, then another on the bonus laser roll, for a total of 9 damage, 7 of which made it past armor.  The damage result was Hull Breach, which (I think) meant no armor rolls for the Fireball and made all weapon at least 1/1 against it, which was essentially a death sentence.  EV conceded here, and the day went to the Axis.

Normally I'd have an end of game shot here, but since nothing moved in the orders phase it's the same as the above end of turn 2 shot.


After having a week to ponder the match-up, this was less an epic showdown than an epic anti-climax.  Sending his infantry up the middle, right into the teeth of my own infantry, was a deciding factor, but the real blow was the Wotan shot.  Since both my objectives were in my backfield, had the Fireball started rolling up my flank then things could have gotten messy.  I would have had another shot in turn three, plus an order shot in turn four, plus perhaps a regular activation shot in turn four if I somehow rolled less orders than EV, before the Fireball got into shooting range of the Wotan (EV dropped it a good 26" or so from the Wotan), assuming one turn of marching.  The flamethrower may not have entered the equation, but the machine guns would have been unfortunate while shooting my mens in the back.  While a long shot, it is conceivable that the Fireball could have rolled down my line, scorched the sniper butte clean, then cleared out the left cottage before disgorging the embarked Hell Boys who could then occupy the cottage to score.  Of course that would require EV to know which my key positions were, but I think he had as good an idea of mine as I did of his (they were the two middle village buildings).

This showed up under "Dust Tactics Cosplay."
 Since we're doing dueling battle reports (though it looks like I'm going to win the first-to-press fight) I won't do much speculating about EV's motivations, though I do want to point out one particular cluster.  Remember how we forgot we were doing Key Positions?  When EV went down the objectives path I was confused as I'd expected him to push for Force Collision.  When he didn't I was free to do whatever I wanted, which turned out to be Off-Target Shelling.  In the post-game I asked about terrain and his deployment, to which he said something about expecting to deploy in the corners and having set up the buildings to provide cover for the situation.  If you look back at the terrain picture up top and imagine EV deploying in the top left and myself down in the bottom right then things would have played out differently.  Instead of turning alleys into killing fields, I would have had to scramble to cover the top avenue, though my Wotan would have had increased fields of fire on the bottom.  The buildings would have been much more influential, and with all my troops bunched up into the corner the Fireball drop would be more troubling.  My approach wouldn't have changed much, the Wotan would have been in the corner with the infantry pushing the no-drop bubble out as much as possible, but it would have certainly delayed the meeting of our lines for a turn or two.

While there are still some stragglers with games to finish, the inaugural Dust Warfare league out at Huzzah is now decided.  I have some spoils of war coming my way, maybe some of the new weapon teams, and bragging rights for the next few weeks.  Come middle of January it'll be time for the inaugural Dust Warfare tournament.  Perhaps I'll find a bulls-eye shirt for it as I imagine I'll be getting everyone's best shot.  I've settled into a groove for the bulk of my army, but I have some new ideas I want to try out and I need to come up with some sort of plan for a double Fireball drop list, which is a good bet to show up at least once.  In the meantime I'll be getting the painting line up and running for my Germans.  With a small measure of luck I'll have a (mostly) painted army ready for tournament time.


  1. "In the center the Schwer command section double Mediced the previously shot up Flaks, clearing all their two suppression markers and bringing both downed troopers back into the fight."

    How do u double medic?

    1. You just do a Medic action twice. This is, admittedly, one of the bald spots in the Dust Warfare rules, but I've never found anything that says you can't do it. Unless/until FFG puts out a FAQ covering special actions, which I doubt at this point, my local group is playing it that you can do things like Medic and Pinpoint Observation twice.

  2. From the FAQ

    Unit Phase

    Can a unit take the same action twice,
    instead of taking a double action?

    No, a unit can only take any action (including special
    actions, such as Medic) once during its activation in the
    Unit phase, but it may take a double action (such as March
    Move or Sustained Attack). If a unit wishes to take the
    same action twice in a turn, the first must be taken in the
    Command phase (by issuing a “Take Action!” order), and
    the second during its activation in the Unit phase.

    1. We managed to miss this in my local group and fired off an email to FFG about it. Their answer came back that double, non-sustained actions were valid...which is a clear contradiction with the FAQ. Guess even the pros don't have a 100% grip on the game. I think we're on the right track now though. No non-sustained doubles, but "special" actions like Pinpoint Observation and Medic are now orderable.