The Dogs & The Dust: Dead Man Walking

Last week we gathered at Games Plus for our regular game night. Due to the availability of tables, our merry band was a bit scattered, and tucked away in the back corner were Josh and I, setting up for a game of The Dogs & The Dust, the sci-fi ruleset from the paint-addled mind of fellow club member Mattias.

We've played it a few times now, each time exploring a bit more of the game's design space. With this game, though, we decided to try a scenario. It occurred to me that the default mode of play for TD&TD (scavengers looting a battlefield) is a perfect way to game STALKER (that peculiar, post-apocalyptic video game that is just ripe with tabletop possibilities). Here's the setup for our scenario:

Dead Man Walking
Derzhensko Exclusion Zone
Area: Akulinin Industrial Sector

Once again, the lure of loot and artifacts in the Derzhensko Exclusion Zone has proven too strong. Two teams, outfitted and equipped to scavenge and survive in the harsh conditions of the area, crept into the ruins of the Akulinin industrial plant. A fortune in decrepit loot was scattered around the facility -- if the two crews could survive long enough to turn a profit.

I schlepped a plastic tub full of terrain (plus my gorgeous Zuzzy mat) up to Games Plus and set up a compact little 3x3 foot tabletop battlefield. In the center was a sprawling industrial complex (terrain created by fellow club member Karl) around which were strewn six objective markers. Our task was to explore and secure these objective markers -- but a random encounter table meant that each objective could hold both plunder and terror in (un)equal parts. Here are a couple:

Josh and I deployed on opposite table edges. He fielded his Wreck-Age Reclaimers, and I was trying out my newly painted Russian scavengers from Lead Adventure Miniatures.

Each figure in my crew has his own name -- written in Russian, of course. Here are Igor and Pavel gearing up to explore the zone.

As the game began, Josh advanced his Reclaimers and seized the first objective. One lousy encounter roll later, he found himself surrounding by fleshy, wet, glistening mutants, the result of some experiment gone terribly awry.

Not to be outdone, Volodya the Russian scavenger poked around a heap of abandoned equipment and drew the ire of a pack of mutants as well, eager to devour his flesh.

At this point, we realized that the scenario could really benefit from a gamemaster. Combat in TD&TD consists of a series of opposed rolls, so it was really a lot of extra work to basically insert a third faction (the  mutants) into the gameplay without a third player to roll the dice and move the mans. I would finish my turn, then play the zombies while they attacked Josh, then he would play the other zombies while they attacked me, etc. Just a lot of dice rolling. Not a shortcoming of the game, more like an oversight in the scenario.

Anyway, back to the action. Seeing that Volodya was in trouble, Zhenya unlimbered his double-barreled shotgun and waded into the fray, peppering the mutants with buckshot.

While I occupied myself fighting off the mutant incursion, Josh was busy securing objectives. We rolled randomly to see how loot and mutants each objective would contain, and the dice were definitely in his favor. Here is an objective that spat out one measly mutant while accounting for a huge chunk of victory points.

Meanwhile, my guys were having trouble securing even one objective.

Eventually we got close enough to begin exchanging fire with each other (in spite of the mutants). The end came when the Reclaimers caught Igor, the leader of my crew, all alone out in the open. He was trying to jimmy the lock on these computer cores and didn't even see the Reclaimers coming. Oh well!

But it was all in good fun, since Josh and I had a fun game of The Dogs & The Dust. This was something of a milestone for me, as it was my first regular game night since becoming a father three months ago. It was great to get back in the saddle! You'll see more of me on the blog, too.

-- Patrick, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

One response to “The Dogs & The Dust: Dead Man Walking

  1. Are the rules for The Dogs & The Dust currently available anywhere? You guys've definitely piqued my curiosity, at this stage…

    Also, greetings from The Great Abyss (although the maps all mislabel it as Northeast Ohio), from a former denizen who still wistfully daydreams of Lou Malnati's deep dish perfection, as well as St. Louis-style from "Mr. Pizza" in Pontiac, and still fondly remembers being stunned as a twelve year old by the sheer size and monster movie awesomeness of the enormous alligator snapping turtle at Shedd's back in the eighties.

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