I have enjoyed playing the first edition of Mantic’s Deadzone and was a kickstarter backer. The follow-up Deadzone Infestation kickstarter was originally billed as opportunity to consolidate the ruleset which had become increasingly sprawling from the expansions, add to the excellent hard plastic battlezone terrain and to add new models in hard plastic in preparation for Mantic’s play towards releasing a full army scale game in the form of Warpath.
Along the way the rules clean-up ended up being quite a bit more radical than I (and other players) were probably expecting:
- The cards have gone: no faction specific battlecards, mission cards or stat reference cards.
- Battlecards have been replaced by a command dice mechanic and faction specific special ability that can be activated if you roll the special ‘Mantic splat’ symbol.
- The innovative, but occasionally mechanically clunky ‘Blaze Away’/aggression level fire suppression rules have been stripped down.
- There is no overwatch mechanic now.
- There is no ‘checkerboard’ close assault attacks.
Aside from the game mechanic difference, most of the core miniature range have now been moved to hard plastic and while they aren’t on part with modern GW kits in terms of quality they are still a massive improvement over their older restic counterparts – so that is all positive.
The Deadzone v2 campaign rules are also revamped and the army lists designed with much more list tinkering/customisation in mind. So how does the new edition play and most importantly does it still have the distinctive flavour of the last edition:
- I still find myself missing the stat cards for quick reference. This isn’t too big a deal as you can always make your own, but this does slow down the ability to quickly build a force if you are just doing a quick casual game. I get a feeling that if you are more of a war gamer then you will probably welcome the added flexibility of the new weapon customisation options, but if your are coming from more of a board gamer mentality then this is more likely to be a negative.
- Much of the older v1 campaign material is now deprecated or at the least may need some clean-up to make it work under v2 (I think). I guess you could try the v1 AI solo play deck using the v2 ruleset, but I’m not convinced it will translate well.
- The dice work well in my opinion: the battle cards could be very frustrating in many circumstances in Deadzone v1, for example when you set-up a heavily stacked suppression crossfire, only for someone to throw down a card and completely ignore the suppression result never felt right. This is a much simpler and quicker mechanic than the old order system which was a little clunky by comparison.
- The toning down of suppression fire combined with the loss of overwatch seems to make things much faster to play. A typical game of around 70-100 points in Deadzone v1 seemed to usually play out in around 1-1.25hrs and my first game of v2 only tool 45min and required less reference book flipping despite only a cursory glance of the rules in advance.
- Faction range is now significantly expanded over the original release.
Overall this feels good so far to me, I’m tempted to reboot the Contagion Co-op campaign I that I was playing though with a friend to see if the Plague Zombie rules work with the v2 ruleset. It will be interesting to see how the flavour and play style of the different factions has been tweaked – I have no idea if things have been successfully rebalanced, but I remember that in v1 the Rebs really seem to struggle so hopefully they will be a bit more viable now.