Who’s up for a bit of a sci-fi skirmish? Well, Mantic Games have you covered with the 3rd edition of their innovative miniature game Deadzone coming out on October 25th (now available to pre-order HERE).
Rob (good old crazy Bobby) and the gang kindly sent us a copy to look at, so we cracked it open and dived straight in – all for you lovely folk, of course. And naturally, there’s a copy of the full £90 2-Player starter for you to win, as well as the result of last month’s Mantic contest to win a copy of Overdrive!
A quick bit of game background: Deadzone is a 28mm sci-fi skirmish set in a near-future that’s corporate, multi-species, and fraught with danger – neither cyberpunk nor grimdark, but with recognisable elements – where teams fight for control of resource-rich but unstable, quarantined Deadzones. It’s a very 3D game, where terrain is key (boards are busy in DZ) but manages to be one of the simplest, most streamlined systems I’ve ever played in 30 years+ of geeking about the place.
The accessibility of this game can’t be understated. I’ll freely admit, the “simplicity” of it put me off in earlier editions, but seeing my boys dive into the box and start playing in under 5 minutes (admittedly with bases and proxies) was enough to make reconsider. There are no rulers in Deadzone: everything is cube-based, with the table split into cubes for movement and shooting, and true line-of-sight (imagining model base to height as a volume you can target) within that for cover etc. It’s so unbelievably easy that it massively speeds up play and minimises arguments (again – very good with kids). Cubes can fit up to 4 “size” of models per player, up to a maximum of 8 total (which can lead to shenanigans, naturally), and the wealth of frankly lovely terrain in the box is designed to be modular and “cube-up” as you see fit.
The starter set pitches the human soldiery of the GCPS (Galactic Co-Prosperity Sphere) against the skittering alien rodent hordes of the Veer-Myn. Each faction gets a lovely new resin Hero – the Veer-Myn in particular get a great hulking bladed brute – along with a set of modular plastics, 10 basic troops with multiple loadouts plus a further 2 chunky heavy troops for the Veer-Myn (as their basic troops are that little bit cheaper in game). I can’t stress how quick and easy the game is to get up and running. My eldest and I had the intro scenario models and terrain off-sprue, glued and played TWICE in just over an hour. The intro playmat has everything you need to get going. It’s a great thing, totally intuitive and streamlined. This is not a rule-heavy game, though that’s not to say it’s not tactical. It’s fast, brutal and bloody good.
In the box, you get enough terrain to happily populate a board, along with a playmat – the reverse of which has a complete intro scenario and how to play guide, which is great but honestly it’s so intuitive the kids skipped straight onto playing the full game. The 2 rulebooks collate all the fluff, rules and errata from previous editions in one place (again, something I found previously off-putting), plus 16 scenarios, along with a separate volume of force-lists. There’s been a lot of streamlining of terminology and keywords, just as increasingly is the trend in recent years in tabletop gaming, and the introduction of a simple Health Points system for all means it’s much easier to track damage (which was, arguably, my biggest gripe with 2nd edition).
Both books can also be picked up separately for a very reasonable £30 (CLICK HERE), or £50 with lovely acrylic tokens and new scatter terrain (CLICK HERE) . And of course, with the Mantic EasyArmy Webapp getting a Deadzone update means that list-building will be a breeze (and for a small subscription fee, you can print out lists with special rules too). You also get the ubiquitous token sheet (though to be fair, there aren’t that many) and dice, both a set of D8 – running off D8s gives a more interesting range and curve than D6s – and TWO sets of Command Dice. I love that you’re given enough for both of you, and that’s vital as they track bonus actions each turn.
In terms of the fluff, there’s now nearly a decade of development into the lore of the Warpath universe (the Mantic sci-fi setting), and it’s an accessible and engaging world. Granted, myself and the kids are coming at from playing Dreadball, so having some familiarity with the in-universe sports entertainment, but that’s by no means necessary. There are ten factions in the game, including the GCPS and the Veer-Myn, with many getting an excellent £25 entry-level Strike force straight out of the gate for 3rd ed. The others are:
Asterians: there’s aloof elves, there’s aloof space elves, and then space elves so aloof they don’t even appear on the battlefield. Asterians use mecha-style drones, primarily, so if you’re digging the gundam vibe, this is your jam. They get back up from Matsudans, armoured reptilian space samurai, and Kalyshi, female Asterians clad in little more than warpaint.
Enforcers: nanite-augmented super-soldiers, armed and armoured with the best gear in the galaxy. With access to everything from jetbikes to robot dogs, they rock the elite sci-fi vibe.
Forge Fathers: doughty space dwarves, the forge fathers strip mine planets for their resources and build heavily armoured suits with a great norse vibe running through the aesthetic. Slow, steady and hard as the rock they mine.
Marauders: rampaging hordes of green-skins, these are no comedy relief – hard-hitting even with their sometimes clunky tech, and with the added bonus of working as some-time mercs for the GCPS.
Mazon Labs: if shambling reanimated corpses and mad science are your kind of sci-fi, then Mazon is the Lab for you! Mazon Labs is a little thin on units just now, as they appear primarily as the antagonists of Star Saga (the in-universe dungeon-delve boardgame), but there’s a lot more coming for them in 3rd, plus if like me you have hordes of Cyborgs for Dreadball they… transplant (hehehe) across well. Also, they can use GCPS as private security forces, so effectively you can test them straight out the starter box.
Nameless: hulking, unknowable, semi-aquatic aliens from a place beyond space and time? Oh go on then. The nameless are cthulhoid monstrosities with the ability to fry your brain and eat your soul. I mean, what’s not to love?
Plague: if a fast, lethal horde of mutants and monsters is more your thing, spread the love of plague with the Plague. What they lack in subtlety they make up for in sheer weight of numbers. And, like, goo.
Rebs: Not everyone wants to be part of the lovely corporate universe, and many disparate races, alien and human alike, come together to fight the GCPS and its dominance over galactic civilisation. Whether it’s the giant tortoid Teratons, the feline Yndij, the squamous Sphyr – the most versatile and adaptable faction of them all, Rebs have something for everyone, including just some of the most damn well-conceived aliens you’ll ever find in 28mm.
As mentioned, you get some amazing new hard plastic terrain with brilliant (and admittedly more cyberpunk) add-ons like sushi signs and awnings which will sell well to the Infinity, Munda/KT and Stargrave crowd also. As Deadzones are locations under quarantine, I really like that it’s not just yet another urban ruin – but because of its modularity, it CAN be.
There’s lots of expansion sets available (CLICK HERE) and great launch bundles up on Mantic Direct also (CLICK HERE). The terrain is not only modular but designed to be collapsible, so you can disassemble and reconfigure to your heart’s content should you wish. Occasionally the connector tabs can feel a little weak but that’s a perfectly reasonable trade-off.
Just to finish up, I should give a mention to the excellent 3rd party terrain that is available for Deadzone from Uncertain Scenery also, which we’ve reviewed before and you can see the pics below:
Crucially, it’s pre-marked in cubes so works with DZ as a whole. Indeed if I have a criticism of DZ it’s that, scatter aside, some folk will feel their existing terrain is redundant. But that’s a minor niggle: DZ is a fantastic, murderous, accessible skirmish game with real tactical depth and extraordinary playability. #deadzoneislife !
Oh, you want to win a set for yourself?
Just tell us in the comments below which faction you most like the look of!
And finally, the winner of our Overdrive contest is…
Phil’s Music Mods
Congratulations! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange your prize!
Till next time,