Article by Ed and Blake from Life After the Cover Save Podcast
This April, my podcast co-host and I were able to visit Mantic Miniatures headquarters. The lovely Ronnie Renton graciously let us tour the building and we got to see all kinds of awesome stuff that his company has been working on. He arranged a quick demo of Deadzone where Ed and I engaged in a fast and furious skirmish between the short, yet powerful, high-tech Forge Fathers and the ruthless military arm of the human Galactic Co-Prosperity Sphere – the Enforcers. To sum up our experience with the rules and models I can simply say: We were very impressed.
To start with, I can talk briefly about the models in the second edition starter set. My previous experience with Mantic models has been from the Dreadball line (a fun game btw) and I have seen a few other Warpath boxes used as proxies for Kroot and Nurgle zombies. To be honest, they were decent. They were not the multi-part plastic kits that I was used to, but rather dynamically posed game pieces. But the price point on the boxes made them very attractive.
The models in the Deadzone starter set are the best that I have seen produced by Mantic yet. No more single pose, one part game pieces here; these were full, multi-part plastic sprues that I believe, are just as good as anything else on the market.. And remember when I mentioned the price point on the models? A 10-man Blood Angels tactical squad will cost me $43 and a 20-man Forge Fathers starter faction box will cost me less that $37 – you can do the math on that one.
Also included in the box is sci-fi urban terrain; enough to fill up the 2x2 playmat that is also in the box. The terrain is highly-detailed plastic that seems to offer flexibility in how you can construct the buildings. They look fantastic when painted up and Mantic offers a large selection of futuristic urban terrain. I encourage everyone to take a look at their terrain line, I think they have a lot to offer us sci-fi miniature gamers.
Enough about the toys: let's talk about the rules and what I liked about them.
First off, Deadzone uses d8s, contested rolls, and dice pools. This is very a different system for those of us born and raised on Games Workshop and I think it feels wonderfully refreshing. Every test you make starts with three dice in the pool, but there are ways to increase the pool with in-game modifiers and the use of command dice (more about the command dice later.) Each player rolls their dice pool with a target number that is derived from the model’s statline. Then the players compares their successes and the result dictates what happened.
Here is an example: My Forge Father wants to shoot Ed's Enforcer. My model has a shooting stat of 3+ and his model has a survival stat of 4+, so my target number is 3 or more and his is 4 or more. The model I am shooting at is not in cover, so I get 2 more dice added to my pool for a total of 5 dice.
Ed makes 2 successes and I make 3 – the difference (1 in this case) dictates the number of wounds Ed's model will take. Of course the above example is very simplistic and the variety of different weapons, the presence of armour, and special abilities will shake things up.
Another feature in the game that I enjoyed was the movement system. Deadzone does not use units of measurements for moving a model around the table, but rather you use the grid on the playmat as a guide. A model can spend a movement point to maneuver inside that square that is started in – getting into cover or lining up a shot for example – or move into an adjacent square. Most of the models in the starter set have a move stat of 1, but you can spend a model's entire activation and perform a double move. Oh, did I mention that Deadzone has alternating model activation? I liked that too, because often times your plan for the turn would have to change because of you and your opponent take turns activating individual models.
The final rules element that I wanted to mention are the command dice. Command dice are special d6s with unique symbols on each side. A player can spend these dice at will to trigger a special effect in the game. Some of them are simplistic, like getting an extra move or an extra shot, or the ability to add more dice to a dice pool. But don't let the simplicity fool you: having an extra move or another shot can allow you or your opponent to do things that can seriously alter the state of the match. Other symbols include being able to use faction specific special abilities or the ability to activate another model out of sequence. Each game turn the players roll these command dice so a player can tailor the actions of his models for maximum effect. But like the Stones said, “you can't always get what you want,” so you may have to alter your plans depending on which command symbols you roll. But sometimes, you get what you need and you can bury your opponent's face into the blood-stained concrete of a Deadzone planet. Just like I did to Ed.
So to sum it all up: Mantic’s second edition Deadzone starter set is awesome. The models look great and the games are fast and fun. Ed and I are looking forward to getting our own starter set and fight it out. I hope you all take a look at what Mantic has to offer -- because they have something for everyone.
Words by Blake from Life After the Cover Save Podcast
Pictures by Ed from Life After the Cover Save Podcast