Review: Deadzone / Designer: Jake Thornton / Publisher: Mantic Games / Release Date: Out Now
Games manufacturer Mantic are seen by many as the clear rival to model-making giant Games Workshop. Though GW have many rivals who happen to be much larger, Mantic are based in the same city and also happen to employ a lot of ex-GW staff, so the rivalry seems a bit obvious. This is compounded by the similarity between the two companies' product lists. Mantic’s last offering was the hyper-violent sci-fi sports game DreadBall which drew many casual comparisons with the hyper-violent fantasy sports game Blood Bowl, regarded as one of GW’s classic games. Their latest game, Deadzone, is a scenery-heavy skirmish game and therefore draws some comparison with classic (and utterly unsupported and out of print) gang war game, Necromunda.
Luckily for Deadzone, it only bares a passing resemblance to a game that is almost twenty years old. It’s far more cinematic and has much smoother game mechanics. The game is set in Mantic’s Warpath universe, a sci-fi world. The broad plot covers plague-infected monsters invading an area and heavily armed and armoured Enforcers going in to purge the horrors. The rulebook is crammed with references to a broader world and though it could do with a little more flavour text, it does work as a nice development of the Warpath world.
Games designer Jake Thornton has crammed in many clever little mechanics such as line of sight and exploding dice. (Which means rolling an 8 is actually exciting). Despite being essentially a war game, Deadzone has many board game-like elements. Everything takes place on a 2'x2' rubber mat and movement is divided into ‘cubes’. The boxed set comes with lots of scenery so you find yourself moving up and over crates and gantry ways looking for a tactical advantage. With movement simplified to cubes it makes actions very straightforward. Added to this, action is divided into discrete lumps, meaning that it’s never too long before it’s your turn so you won’t get bored or distracted.
In addition, various cards allow special actions and bonuses, most of which enhance the action movie feel. It’s an interesting blend of board and war game and the more complex elements (such as special rules for special models) are handled through the careful use of counters and cards. Thornton has tried to make this game as smooth and as simple to play as possible.
Deadzone started out as a Kickstarter and people who subscribed to that campaign received lots of goodies. The regular retail set has less goodies (23 models and a whole pile of scenery, counters and the like). This probably explains why the box itself feels a little roomy. There’re plenty of models in the regular set and it’s good for its price, but the box is huge. Deadzone is a worthy addition to anyone’s gaming collection, but you might have a problem fitting it on the shelf.