Dust Warfare basics

The center lane of the Dust demo table is dominated by a fearsome Königsluther. Allies try to move over the flanks.

Originally when I read the reports about "that new game" called Dust Warfare on BoLS I wasn't really impressed - honestly, I still think that the allied tanks that can jump like a frog still look pretty lame. Unless something happens like in the case with the 40K Orkz Battle Wagon or the Blood Angels Stormraven (I got used to their looks after a while), chances are high I will never field a Hot Dog/Pounder/Steel Rain/Mickey.

So when I got to the 2012 Wargames Con my attitude was rather negative, like I don't need another silly wargame. Well, two weeks later I have decided to shelf my 40K stuff at least for a while and pick up Dust Warfare as my secondary system next to Warmachine/Hordes. Very decisive in this process was the demo game with Mack Martin, the co-designer of Dust Warfare. Mack is a complete nerd (and I mean this in the most positive sense) who can talk with you for hours about various game systems - of course he knows all the important ones. However, he is also a great teacher showing how the very simple mechanism of Dust Warfare works, so you immediately get a hang of it.

The pictures in this article are from the Dust Warfare demo table at the 2012 Wargames Con. Mack was constantly hanging out there providing demo games for interested people. I hit the table on a slow afternoon and played for about 90mins; Mack needed 30mins to explain to me the basic rules and what was going on, but after 30mins I could "really" play my troops already.

Axis infantry is defending the Königsluther. The Königsluther is awesome against allied tanks and can hardly be taken down by them, but it really doesn't like allied infantry in its flanks.

So what is the real beauty behind Dust Warfare's simplicity. Well, I basically see three factors.

1) The game turns are very simple.

Every game turn has three parts:

  1. Command phase - officers in the field use it to assign special orders to their squads. Nifty add-ons like a radio-man in your command squad enhances the command range of your officer.
  2. Unit phase - in this phase, one unit after the other activates and performs its actions. It is pretty much the same as doing something with your Stormblades or Kriel Warriors in Warmachine/Hordes, so if you are familiar with that, nothing really new here.
  3. End phase - basically you just clean up tokens that expire.

Well, that's pretty much it.

2) Simple dice and simple math.

Ok, the math behind 40K and WM/H is not exactly rocket science, but simple addition and subtraction. Met a guy for a Warmachine game here in the US (I didn't blog about that), though, who took like 30s to subtract 6 from 13 saying that he prefers to do it on paper. Well, no matter whether math is your thing or not, easier is always more convenient.

Dust dice have only two values:

  1. Hit.
  2. Miss.

Dust dice have six sides whereas two sides carry the Hit symbol and four sides are blank for missses. (if you don't have Dust dice, use regular dice and 5 and 6 as Hits instead) In other words, your chances for a Hit are exactly 1/3. Once I picked up that information during the demo game I immeditaely realized that it is wise to optimize one's tactics for robustness against failure.

When you have a squad that fires in Dust, you simply add the number of hits and subtract the number of successful saves. (for a sucessful save, you need to score a Hit symbol on your dice too - in other words, chances are 2/3 you won't make it) Any positive integer then tells you how many models you have to remove.

Example: a Recon Rangers Squad (five men) fires at German Laser Grenadiere (five men, too). The Recon Rangers have 4 assault rifles (one dice each) and an MG (three dice) for a total of seven dice. After the dice are rolled there are three Hits. The Laser Grenadiere are level 2 infantry so they are allowed to roll two dice for saves; the Axis player scores one Hit. Since 3-1 is 2, this means the Axis player has to remove two models in his 5 men Laser Grenadiere squad. And no, it doesn't get more difficult than that.

3) Stat cards

Dust Warfare uses a system of unit stat cards similar to WM/H, so if you know WM/H you immediately feel at home, too. However, Dust Warfare stat cards contain *significantly* less text; mostly they are just tables telling you how many dice shall be rolled and what special rules in the basic rulebook are available for a unit. The number of special rules is rather limited and they are rather simple (like infantry with the Jump special rule - you guessed it - jumps), so you won't find yourself having to look them up too often either.

The stat cards are sort of unusual since they are not "real" cards like in WM/H as they are printed in the rulebook. However, just a couple hours ago OldHat published an excellent article on BoLS about what you (physically) need for game play that also has interesting links to a Dropbox where you can download fully colored stat cards. I guess I will simply load them onto a tablet , although flipping through the rulebook is quite efficient, too.

German zombies (that's what you get for using the Wiederbelebungsserum) move towards allied positions on the left flank as they receive cover fire from a Hermann and Ludwig walker.


Of course this was not the full set of rules, like I haven't talked yet about who goes first etc. However, these are just small and easy details that don't really require any effort. Once you understand how the game turn works, how dice are thrown and calculated, and how to look up the relevant stats of your units, you can play.


  1. Good write-up! I am glad to hear that the system is as easy to pick up as everyone says. "Easy to play, hard to master." is a cliché, but it sounds true in this instance.

  2. Very nice review, man!

  3. Hey Philipp!

    Nice one. let me know if you want to crosspost the occasional piece like thison boLS. We are always looking for more coverage for the up and coming systems.