Dystopian Wars is a tabletop wargame made by Spartan Games. Set in 1870 with the industrial revolution having happened decades earlier than in our own history. There are seven core factions in the game that dominate geopolitics as superpowers, and appropriately these factions receive the most attention in the lore as well as the twelve allied nations. The game uses similar rules to its sister games Firestorm: Armada and Uncharted Seas.
The game is played with 1/1200 scale resin models.
Spartan Games declared bankruptcy in Late August '17, but Warcradle Studios announced that they picked up all of SG's licenses. They have now announced that the Dystopian setting has been moved to WWX, leading to some outrage as the land game changes scale, the South won the Civil War, everyone is infected by an alien parasite and the Covenant are now mad scientists who own Robo Slaves. Also there is no war, only tiny skirmishes.
- 1 Background
- 2 Getting Started in Dystopian Wars
- 3 Core Nations
- 4 Allied Nations
- 5 Mercenary Factions
Singapore, 1864. The East India Company had become world leaders in trade, and didn't like the Japanese traders coming onto their turf and made their opinions known. The Blazing sun representative ignored everything, was caught with his pants down, and was evicted along with his delegation from Singapore. Suicide shortly followed and his name was stricken from Imperial records.
The mans uncle was a newly appointed commander in the Imperial army, and personally begged Empress Shizuna to allow him to restore his family honor by striking at the East India Company. He was given command of the Third division of the second Imperial army, named Wani, and went straight to Singapore, also casting off his name until family honor was restored. People would remember him as Oni. The city fell in a month, but Oni wasn't satisfied as the East India Company was still active. Empress Shizuna called him back before he could destroy more cities. Two weeks after the fall of Singapore the Britannian 45th Expeditionary Force, led by Lord Duxford, landed in Malaysia demanding reparations. Lead by Oni, Blazing sun forces destroyed the 45th, though Lord Duxford managed to escape.
Britannia declared war on the Blazing sun and sent its full military might into Malaysia. Empress Shinzua sent envoys to the Prussian Emperor Frederick Grunder. One month later the Prussian Empire launched assaults on Britannian colonies and gassed London. While Prussia, Britannia, and the Blazing sun slugged it out, the Russian coalition attacked the Prussian borders, managing to drive far into the Prussian Empire before being stopped. Prussia called on the Republique of France and League of Italian states to attack Britannia and the Russian Coalition respectively while they rebuilt.
At this point, the Federated states of America decided to expand their control of the pacific and sent the fourth federated fleet to invade Japan. The fourth fleet ran into a Russian Coalition fleet intent on the same thing. Both fleets attacked, thinking the other to be part of the Blazing sun. Hours later both sides accused each other of provocation and declared war on each other, forgetting about Japan. The Covenant of Antarctica, outraged that advanced technology that they helped develop was being used for war, promptly declared war on everyone and went on a war footing.
tl;dr: Shit went down in Singapore, everyone declared war on everyone else WWI style.
Forget all that cool stuff though. Now its just a proxy war between the great powers but some reason people are still fighting with giant battleships, and because nobody lives there they are having giant tank battles in Africa as part of a proxy war. The Covenant of the Enlightened didn't find sturginium but invented some great batteries that allowed the tech jump.
Getting Started in Dystopian Wars
Games of Dystopian Wars are generally played on either a 4'x4' or 6'x4' surface, using 1/1200 scale miniatures produced by Spartan Games. Dystopian Wars accommodates war at land, sea and air, and while it is certainly fine to have all 3 going in a single game it is more often the case that games end up being either navy + airforce or land + airforce. Generally, naval games are far more popular and are the main attraction to the game for most players. Which is probably why the land element is now separated into another game.
Is it expensive?
The game is quite affordable.
The core rules, now in edition 2.0, are the only ones you need in order to play. It contains all of the core rules and special rules in the game at this point. It also contains army lists for the core nations, but you can ignore these since Spartan frequently updates the army lists and releases them as free .pdfs on their site.
The 2.0 rules can be bought in three ways if you want a hard copy. The free edition is now avaliable at site. The Commodore edition, which is hardback and comes complete with background information, costs 30 pounds. The Admiral edition is thinner and only contains the rules, costing 20 pounds. Alternatively, the Admiral edition rules are included in the Shadow Hunter 2-player starter set which costs 80 pounds and comes with two respectably sized navies for Japan and America as well as some extra models related to the special scenarios designed for the starter set.
If neither of the forces in the starter set take your fancy, another fine place to begin is with a Naval Battle Group for any of the major fleets and some minor fleets as well. This costs 45 pounds RRP and will get you 850-900 points worth of models. For context 700 points would be enough for a tactically satisfying small game, 1200 points or so might be about average and 1500 points would constitute a larger game, though sometimes it is played all the way up to 2000. For context, a small frigate will cost 25 points, an aircraft carrier about 130 points, and a massive dreadnought can cost from 240 points to well over 300 points.
Is it complicated?
Some of the rules are laid out in a peculiar order in the book, plus it has a strange habit of bolding a quarter of the bloody words in each sentence which is the most annoying feature of the rules.
The core rules are very simple, and the basics of the game can be quickly grasped by someone who has never played a naval wargame. However but there are lots of situational factors, attributes and special rules that can make the first few games daunting or confusing. The 2.5 Ruleset was released just before Spartan's demise; yet is more or less the same as 2.0 with two major differences. First: The rules were totally re-edited to bullet-point form for easy referencing. And second, Carriers can now re-spawn downed fighter craft. Oh, and that stupid random bolding is gone.
What are the models like?
Highly detailed resin for almost everything except bombers and turrets, which are pewter. These things have heaps of detail on them, with portholes, piping, planks on the decks and rivets in abundance, as well as including details such as life boats. And the resin isn't too brittle so you don't have to worry about snapping anything off most of the time. Errors do creep in to models from time to time, being resin, but most of them are under the ships where they can't be seen and so make no difference to the appearance or integrity of the model. If something is broken or miscast Spartan Games has a good record for sending replacements. If you lose pieces or want duplicate pieces like turrets or such Spartan may be happy to sell these if you send them an email.
The models range from very practical and realistic with over-the-top guns bolted on (Prussians, Australians) to flying Mosques (Ottomans) and floating oriental fortresses (Chinese). The overall theme is fairly stylised steampunk, with the wackiness limited to a few of the more exotic robots available to the factions like the giant squid, the crab mech and the floating Chinese dragon.
These are the main playable factions in Dystopian Wars. They all have plenty of models for naval, aerial and ground warfare.
Covenant of Antarctica
Currently led by Lord Barnabas Draynes Sturgeon, the chap who discovered the incredible element 270 (Sturginium), responsible for the all leaps in technological advancement over the past decades that has seen the rise of gigantic vehicles and weaponry. The Antarcticans have seen the abuse of science in the creation of destructive new weapons by the nations of the world, and plan to employ their own forces to try teach them a lesson and save humanity from itself. The covenant have limited forces, but compensate by using the most advanced technology in the world. They have a weapon capable of bending time.
Tactics: The Covenant fleet plays a very elite and destructive game compared to most other factions. Overall they focus on a long range duel style. They have a plethora of template weapons that fire out to RB3-4, energy weapons and SAS drones. Considered one of the strongest factions generally, playing a maxed out list of these guys will get you the dreaded "That Guy" label. They do have some weakness to boarding and close range tactics, though, so are not undefeatable.
Empire of the Blazing sun
Currently ruled by Empress Shizuna.
Blazing Sun ships have a very distinctive aesthetic reminiscent of steam trains. Japanese boats are very maneuverable but suffer from restricted firing arcs on their broadsides, requiring precise positioning. The Japanese employ a lot of incendiary weapons and have some very nasty aerial units. They are generally a strong boarding faction.
Theme: Looking like a cross between a bullet train and a steam boiler, Japanese ships have a fast and clunky air about them. They have a giant robotic squid, and hovering squid, and a Pacific Rim Jaeger sized robot that can bring either a huge Naginata or rockets out the ass.
Tactics: Out of the gate, the Empire is a strong faction. Tons of incendiary munitions, crazy fast engines, and the highest base Critical Ratings in the game. A smart enemy admiral will learn quickly to chip away rather then go for a hay-maker shot, as those high CR values will leave them frustrated time and again. The fleet has a various amount of tactics to play with, from long range rocket bombardment to quick and deadly boarding actions. However, they do use a lot more Tertiary weapons compared to most factions, which can be rather hit or miss. Overall a fun faction for those who like to outmaneuver and outlast your opponent.
Federated States of America
Current leader is President Nathaniel Adams.
The second largest nation by territory (the largest being the Russian Coalition), the FSA is the result of the South winning the American Civil War. Slavery had already been abolished by 1825 though, so it was being fought over other issues. The FSA has experienced rapid economic and military development, and now stands to oppose the old Empires of the world in the struggle for supremacy. Adams is particularly determined to make the FSA the most dominant force in the Pacific, regardless of the British, Japanese and Russians attempting the same.
Theme: The ships of the FSA are enormous paddle steamers. Imagine Samuel Clements wet dream powered by nuclear reactors and your getting close. A fair amount of bunting, especially on the newer models. They also have some more average looking style of ships, such as the WW2 style submarine or the flying Goodyear-style blimps.
Tactics: The FSA probably boasts the most impressive long-range firepower in the game, with mountains of rockets and gunnery. Their true strength is consistency, with re-rolls to many of their shots, helping tip the odds in their favor of spiking sixes. Expect to shoot first, shoot later, and then shoot some more with this faction.
Kingdom of Britannia
Currently ruled by Her Britannic Majesty Queen Victoria of the House of Hanover.
The Kingdom of Britannia commands the greatest maritime empire in the world. Although not as large overall as the FSA or the Russian Coalition – at least not yet, according to the Kingdom’s more belligerent politicians – its holdings are present everywhere apart from Antarctica. The Britannians exert control over the entirety of Canada, India (through their semi-independent vassal organisation, the East India Company), the western and southern portions of Australia, New Zealand, many of the Caribbean island chains, the tip of South America, the Indochinese peninsula, half of the East Indies islands and large tracts of territory along the western and southern coasts of Africa from Morocco to the Cape.
Tactics: The British have very good mid range gunnery (RB 2-3) and excellent torpedoes. Average toughness and speed, but every ship has a special rule that means taking damage does not reduce the effectiveness of their shooting as much as it would for the other factions. They also have submarines with giant chainsaws for tearing ships apart.
Borders France in the west and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the east, also owning Norway and Sweden. Currently led by His Imperial Majesty Frederick Grunder. The Prussian military consists of a council made of five men. The master of military is Heinrich Grimm, Sire Tannhauser commands the Navy, Sire Sigismund leads the Land ships, Sire Helbrecht commands the aerial forces, and Sire Jaeger commands all Infantry regiments. Makes extensive use of Tesla weapons that kill enemy crew when they fire successfully.
Tactics: The Prussians have very fast frigates and are the strongest boarding faction. They need to get in close before taking too much gunnery first. The faction features an enormous Zeppelin that shoots lightning and doubles as an aircraft carrier.
Republique of France
Ruled by elected President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, stepson to Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte who died circa 1808. France's army was the terror of Europe in days of the Emperor, but after his death a series of disastrous military involvements crippled it and reduced France's Continental territories to somewhat less than it had before the Revolution, and it lost many more colonies besides. The nation has had a revival, and seeks to reclaim its prestige and glory.
Tactics: The French navy is famous for its flying ships, fitted with anti-grav engines. They have unique heat beam weapons of debatable consistency. If you don't Crit the enemy vessel, you can still roll a "light" Crit, but they do not take as many Hull Points worth of damage. This leads to their AD pools being smaller to compensate. The entire fleet features very high Ack-Ack stats, meaning that they are effective at staving off attacks by tiny fighters, rockets and boarding troops.
Ruled by Tsar Vladimir I Nikolaievich Rurik-Novy, the Russian Coalition is the largest nation in the world, claiming an entire sixth of the world's land. Its vast holdings girdle half the northern hemisphere, from the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth to the north-eastern tip of Asia; the Coalition even has borders with the FSA and Britannian Canada, as it also claims the great wilderness of Alaska at the north-western edge of the New World. Its northern border brushes the Arctic, while in the south it abuts the wastes of the Gobi Desert, China and the Ottoman Empire. It also features by far the larges population in the world, except perhaps for China.
Tactics: The Russian Navy features very resilient ships. Most of their fleet has almost no long range gunnery and very limited medium range gunnery, but devastating firepower at close range. They have very low stats for their Auxiliary weapons, making them vulnerable to aircraft and torpedoes. They have masses of low-quality boarding troops. The Russian airforce is generally lacklustre compared to other nations. Overall, the Russian fleet's resilience and firepower encourage straightforward aggression to overwhelm the enemy.
Sandwiched between the Prussian Empire and the Russian Coalition, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth has always stood in a precarious position in the volatile political intrigues and territorial disputes of central and Eastern Europe. The Commonwealth is not inconsiderable in size – its lands stretch from the Baltic to the Black Sea coasts, with Riga its northernmost city and Odessa the southernmost. Formed from a union of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Commonwealth has a unique system of governance; the elective monarchy. The ruling King of the Commonwealth is elected by a parliamentary body known as the Sejm, which holds the real political power in the nation – in the past several kings have been dismissed from office by the Sejm which felt that their rule was proceeding counter to the best interests of the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth has some nasty flamethrowers and incendiary weapons spread over a limited number of ground and aerial units.
Once thought to be a power in decline, the Ottoman Dominons have staged a remarkable recovery in their fortunes over the last century. Dominating the eastern end of the Mediterrenean, the Dominion occupies the crossroads of the Eurasian continent and as a result holds enormous influence on all overland trade between Europe and Orient. The Dominion’s central Asian territories also hold vast quantities of mineral oil – black gold whose significance is just becoming apparent to the other major powers. Long considered militarily backwards, the Dominion has recently undertaken a major overhaul and modernisation of its military forces under its dynamic new Sultan and his wise and experienced Grand Vizier.
The Ottomans have access to a nice variety of naval units and some air support. They have a lot of tricks they can pull with weather manipulation, moving sea mines, mortars and powerful broadsides. Their ships are a little on the expensive side, though.
League of Italian States
Of all the great powers of the world, perhaps none are as skilled in the arts of political chicanery and deadly focused violence as the Italian League. The fractious Italian peninsula has long been the scene of wars, dynastic struggles and political infighting, and such matters still exist today, although to a lesser degree, as the one thing that unites the otherwise disparate forces in Italian politics is their desire for territorial expansion – the League fancies itself as the forerunners of a new Italian empire dominating the Mediterranean basin. The Italians spent many years capitalising upon the weaknesses of their neighbours, taking only what they could wrest without provoking outright war.
Possessing all the requirements of a true superpower – population, resources and an overall central governing body – circumstances have consistently combined to prevent the Federation from joining the ranks of the great empires. Battered over the course of the centuries by numerous invasion attempts by the Russian Coalition, and with the Ottoman Dominions and the Empire of the Blazing Sun often chewing at its eastern and western extremities, the Federation is also plagued by destructive internal politics – the Mongolian Khanates of the Iron Horde who hold the Federation’s northern border regions with Russia are particularly fractious. The Emperor, although in theory the absolute overlord of the collection of kingdoms that comprise his nation, in fact has to rule with a combination of shrewd diplomacy and political ingenuity, playing off one kingdom against another in order to further his own goals. In addition, the Federation’s strong and well-justified distrust of foreigners and their intentions has prevented it from acquiring overseas aid in its industrialisation process, resulting in comparatively slow progress compared to the rest of the world.
The Chinese have enough models that they could almost be considered another core faction. They have lots of naval models and upcoming releases promise lots of new aerial and ground models as well. Their capital class ships are a little slow. They have lots of low-quality boarding troops. Their boats are quite resilient to taking single points of damage and to critical effects. Almost all of their weaponry either kills crew, starts fires, or corrodes the enemy over time in addition the regular damage they do.
Republic of Egypt
These guys don't have models yet.
The models were included as part of the expansion Kickstarter that ran in November/December 2016 but has not shipped yet.
Socialist Union of South America
And neither do these.
Dominion of Royal Australia and New Zealand
The 1840s witnessed many Australians rebelling against their British rulers for independence. Not all states supported independence though, and some supported the crown. The states of Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia maintained their old loyalties to Britain and stood against the rebels. The Rebels attacked Victoria before being repulsed, and the loyalist counter-attack never came- having learned of the devastation of the American Civil War a diplomatic solution was reached instead, granting rebelling states the right to secede as a separate nation with little blood spilt over the matter.
The Dominion of Royal Australia and New Zealand provide food and mineral resources to the Kingdom of Brittania in addition to troops who fight in her many wars abroad. Standing armies seldom remain on the continent in the aim of maintaining the mutually agreeable peace that stands on the continent.
Commonwealth of Free Australia
A new nation birthed from the states of Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory that seceded after the brief Australian Civil War. Their independance was granted on provision that the new nation did not attempt to influence the loyalist states to revolution and that they maintain peace with the loyalists. The Commonwealth has moderate agricultural and material resources, but its main source of wealth are the mercenaries it provides to nations around the world, particularly to the Empire of the Blazing Sun. This has lead to tensions with Brittania, as the Japanese are at war with them in the Pacific, meaning that Australians have fought each other in the field. It is also known that they are one of the last allies of the Covenant of Antarctica, who supply the Australians with scientific support and advanced weaponry.
There are several mercenary factions that will work for anybody (or almost anybody) for the right price. This boils down to a force being able to take a Merc faction as allies, but they always come from your Non-Core selection, limiting you to only 40% of your force able to be taken from a Mercs faction. There is nothing wrong with making you main fleet a Mercenary faction, however, and several of the factions have been getting more love lately.
Led by Captain Vladimir Nikonov, a former Russian submarine captain who went AWOL with an experimental Russian submarine because he wanted to be a pirate when he grew up, the Black Wolf is a well funded and large scale Mercs faction based primarily out of a secret base in Greenland. However they have bases all over the world at this point, and raid and pillage when not being contracted out by warring nations. They hold a particularly fondness for destroying Russian shipping, due to their previous ties.
Tactics: If there is a faction that captures a fast and hard hitting raiding force, this is it. With Devastating munitions on almost every gun, a plethora of super-torpedoes via experimental submarines, and a new airforce made to swat opponents from the skies, the Black Wolves can lay a beatdown on any fleet in the game. However, their emphasis on balls-out firepower shows, and they lack many defensive measures. So either hit first and hard, or be taken apart through attrition. Such is the life of a pirate!
For a game that only started in 2010 it already has 20+ factions and several hundred unique models. There are so many bloody factions that no mortal can keep up with them. In addition to those above, the British Raj, East India Trading Company, Kingdom of Denmark, Prussian Scandinavia, Protectorate of Belgium (not really a faction, since its models are simply considered to be from the Republique of France), and Dominion of Canada all have models. There are also various mercenary units that players can field as well.