If any miniatures game were to tempt our dedicated board gamers away from their first choice game, it would be the steampunk awesomeness that is Dystopian Wars. From UK outfit Spartan Games, Dystopian Wars is a naval combat game played using finely detailed resin miniatures.
The game takes place in an alternative turn-of-the-century world transformed by arcane technologies. In typical 19th Century brinkmanship, the great powers of the world find themselves engaged in a stand-off, waiting for someone to blink.
Forces are easy to bring to the table, thanks to the excellent fleet box sets, which give you all the models you need to learn to play and experience some tense naval combat with air support. The models are all single part resin (metal for larger bombers) with turrets that can be simply dropped into place.
The differences between the factions make the game especially interesting. The guns of Britannia are deadly at close range, while the Prussians excel at sending their tesla-gun armed troops to capture damaged enemy vessels. The Americans and Japanese both use rockets to attack at long range, while the American John Henry robot keeps the skies clear of enemy aircraft, the Japanese mecha squid prowls the surface, waiting for its moment. The Covenant of Antarctica (where all the mad scientists live!) brings ever more bizarre weaponry to bear.
Dystopian Wars is fairly straightforward to learn, and the rulebook provides all the turning templates and counters you need to guide your ships into the fray, and keep track of any damage they suffer. Expect to play for 2-4 hours, depending on the size of your fleet, and the number of times you need to pause and refresh your knowledge of a particular rule (a summary card makes this easier during game play). Five fleets are available now, as discussed above. Four more are expected to follow over the next yet – France, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, and Italy. Look out for a table or two at club meetings!