21 September 2009

Turn to Dust

Spotlighting another staff favorite: Dust!

Dust, box, frontIn 1938, a German scientific expedition to the Antarctic uncovered something that would alter history. Fighting fierce winds and bone-chilling temperatures, a team of motivated researchers worked tirelessly to claim a mysterious and powerful prize for the fatherland: the remains of an alien starship, with a still-living member of its crew! The military implications of this discovery would usher in a new era of strategies and weapons.

An underground war, running parallel to WWII, was soon underway. Master spies launched covert operations, fighting to steal control of the alien technology, as the brightest minds in the world pursued the new science. Ultimately, it was discovered that the alien visitor had come to Earth with the intent of harvesting a massively powerful energy source known as Vrill Kultur, an element pooled in rare mines beneath the Earth’s crust, and capable of creating unimaginable destruction. Armed with this knowledge, as well as the new technological advances brought about by the alien discovery, the superpowers of the world dissolved their old alliances in a desperate grab for control of the VK mines. Borders have been erased, and a destructive new dawn is about to break... It is the dawn of Dust.

Welcome to another spotlight on a staff favorite: Dust! Eric Hanson, the office technology guru here at FFG, enthusiastically recommends this area control game set in a gritty and war-torn alternate history. “Dust is greatly under appreciated. It has much more strategy than more popular global domination games but without tedious complexity.”

In Dust, 2-6 players command vast armies of technologically advanced tanks, submarines, aircraft, and “mechs” (essentially massive piloted robots), all produced at factories which can be purchased and placed. To win, players must take territory through dice-based combat, controlling the most “power centers” in order to finance the expansion of their forces. By controlling the most of these power centers, along with the most capitals, players score victory points. The first player to score a set number of victory points claims the win.

This built-in game timer, along with a few other mechanics, keeps Dust somewhat shorter than other epic games of global conquest. As Eric points out, “Turns don’t take forever as the games go on, because in each player’s turn, there is a cap on the amount of building, moving, and attacking they are allowed to do.”

This per-turn cap is achieved by a mechanic that forces players to start each turn by choosing a card from their hand. Each card allows for a different number of resources, non-combat moves, and attacks on a given turn; at the same time, the cards dictate turn order, and have a special ability that can come into play and enact game-changing effects. At the start of each turn, therefore, each player must carefully balance his personal goals for the round with his available cards. Do you choose a powerful game effect, but risk going last in the round? Do you choose aggressive attack options at the cost of building new units? Compelling strategic choices abound in every game. And if you don’t like your choices, buy more! Resources, in addition to buying new units to fight the war, can be used to purchase more of these cards, giving you more options in future turns.

Dust’s universe is deep and immersive, and its artwork by the incomparable Paolo Parente is stylish and distinctive. Said Eric, “I dig the art, and the components really add to the immersion of the overall experience. I also like the fact that it gets away from the idea of controlling all of a certain area... Australia, for example. Instead, you need control of the power centers, which are spread across the map. It really creates the feeling of a war without borders.”

Thanks Eric! Check out our article “The Armies March: An Intro to Dust” to learn more about the captivating universe and innovative mechanics of Dust!

Dust is a board game of land and resource control for 2-6 players. Based on Paolo Parente’s gripping sci-fi comic, Dust immerses players in a dark alternate history of global conflict and devastating weaponry.


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