Thursday, 4 January 2018

Deadzone: a Noobie's First Thoughts

Over the last week my brother and I have played somewhere between 7 and 10 games of Deadzone, using only the models that come in the starter box. We did start with a little more terrain than the box provides, since we added most of a Battlezones Sci-Fi Defence Line, as well as a smattering of sci-fi resin crates and the like. After finally playing a game where we made no rules errors (that we know of!) we've gone ahead and ordered reinforcements for our factions, so that we can mix up our games a bit and start a campaign. While we wait for those to arrive, I thought it'd be a good idea to share my thoughts on the game and the starter box, from the perspective of a long time lurker, finally turned noobie player.

The Box

The starter set is fantastic. I love the fact that it contains enough to really experience a full game of Deadzone. Yes, it may lack elements like vehicles and size 2+ soldiers etc., but what it does include provides far more than just an introductory tease of the game. As far as included models goes, I think it's an excellent deal.

That's not to say that I couldn't be happier, however. While the included terrain is great, a real pleasure to work with, there doesn't seem to be enough for what Deadzone requires. I think part of why my Enforcers appeared to have an advantage over my brother's Forge Fathers was the way my superior numbers could always find firing lines (we played with all the current errata btw).

Also, I think the box was perhaps a few dice short, 2 of each type for a minimum split between two players. They can of course share, but in a game where players role off against each other I think a couple more would have been ideal.

However, what does come in the box is at an extremely reasonable price (delicious hardback!). Given the inevitable impact of including more dice and terrain being a higher entry point, I think Mantic made the right choice.

The Game

What can I say about the game that hasn't been better said a million times before? It is superb, a blend of speed, simplicity, and depth that I've come to expect from Mantic. I often get overwhelmed when trying to pick up new rule sets, with the result that learning to play some games, that otherwise appeal, quickly becomes too much like work (*cough* Batman *cough*). Not so with Deadzone. Not even remotely so.

Rather than wax lyrical about its a great features (no tape measures, the command dice, fast and brutal gameplay), I'll talk about my main disappointment: the scenarios.

"Patrol" and "Search and Destroy" are great, as is the newer "Occupy" mission. They are similar to each other, but the variation in deployment areas and targets squares is enough to mix things up.

The disappointments are "Scour" and "Breakthrough". Not long into our first game of Scour, we paused to ask ourselves why we would ever run healthy soldiers off the board for such a pittance in VPs. We agreed that if a unit was injured it might be worth denying VPs while securing some, but that was a) situational in the extreme (that the injured unit would have an item and be in a position where running was an option) and b) not particularly relevant to the Forge Fathers, at least when led by a Huscarl with the healing splat. After that game we set up for Breakthrough, where we found ourselves asking much the same questions. In both games, this objective was largely ignored in favour of straight up kills. Perhaps with secret objectives or recon effects (neither of which we were using at that point) things might be different, but from reading those rules I kinda doubt it. I really, really hope I'm missing something here (please tell me if I am!), but I just can't understand how similar questions/issues weren't raised in play-testing.

We also tried the updated "Deadzone Overkillier" version of Scour, which was an improvement, but not nearly to the degree that the focus shifted away from killing. Perhaps this is down to a Kings of War player's perspective, where I'm used to the Kill missions and elements of victory being majorly downplayed when compared to other objectives. Maybe a similar approach just isn't possible in Deadzone.

Overall, the above issues really do very little to dampen my enthusiasm for the game. I'm delighted to finally get on board with Mantic's sci-fi setting, and plan on taking my Enforcers all the way up to large-scale Warpath. And the timing, it seems, couldn't be any better, given the plans for an expansion to the game later this year, as well as a summer campaign!

What a time to be a wargamer.


  1. Nice write-up and about the same thing I felt when rediscovering DZ. Smooth, fast, fun. It's true the scenarios Scour and Breakthrough are a bit meh. I just see Scour as a Search and Destroy with more loot. There's also a few scenario's in Unearthed Intel from the Deadzone the Podcast guys. Other members of the DZ Fanatics page periodically add scenario's (Frank Lei springs to mind). I'm also hoping for more scenario's when the expansion launches. Short version => Scour = Lots of Loot S'nD. Breakthrough = ?.

    1. Thanks for the info, I'll check out Unearthed Intel and keep an eye on the Fanatics page. The new scenarios are probably what I'm most looking forward to in the expansion.