BtA Plays: Unboxing the Dystopian Wars 3rd Edition starter set

Those who follow us on facebook know we have a spin off page called “Breakthrough Assault plays:” to allow us to document our non-Flames of War/Team Yankee wargaming (and model making) hobby.  That has been quite successful and the next step seemed to be expanding this to long form content such as review articles.  In the short term, we are going to experiment with an irregular series of such articles, no more than one a week, under the “Breakthrough Assault Plays (BtA Plays)” banner.  If reception to these is well received then we will look at a separate spin off site in the long term
Those here just for the Team Yankee/FoW content can rest assured that the site’s main focus will be on these two games.
– the Breakthrough Assault team.

Andy kicks off the “Breakthrough Assault Plays” content with a review of the new Dystopian Wars 3rd edition playset.

I recently purchased the Dystopian Wars 3rd edition starter set and thought for a change I might do an unboxing article, so here goes.

Box front and back

The Story so far

For those that don’t know, Dystopian Wars is a steampunk naval warfare game, set in an alternative late 1800s, where science has run amok thanks to alien technology recovered from a crashed spaceship. Basically, take those Victorian dark satanic mills and their lax workplace safety rules and give them atomic energy and lasers.

I spent literally 3 minutes making this picture

As I mentioned, this is the 3rd edition of a game that has historically played fast and loose with its numbering system. Originally the game was made by a company called Spartan Games, and they produced 1st edition, which was followed by edition 1.1, then 2nd edition and finally edition 2.5. This all ended when Spartan ran a kick starter for 2.5 and the company sadly collapsed halfway through fulfilling it. I have played since that very first edition and was one of the lucky ones who got most of what I had backed on kickstarer. Many people were not so fortunate.

The rights to the game were then purchased By Warcradle ,(makers of Wild West Exodus,) and it has spent a few years in development, complete with delays due to the ongoing plague.

The setting has been tweaked slightly by Warcradle to tie it in with their Wild West Exodus game, but not by much.


Before I dive, (pun semi-intended) into the box set, I thought I best quickly mention the factions in the game.

There are eight main factions, which are, for the most part, groupings of smaller nations. These are:

The Commonwealth – made up of Russia, Poland, Lithuania and other eastern European nations
The Empire – made up of China, Japan, Korea and other far Eastern nations
The Crown – Basically the British Empire
The Sultanate – Ottoman Empire, Egypt and other regions in the Middle East
The Latin Alliance – France, Italy and Spain
The Imperium – Prussia, Austro-Hungary, Scandinavia and few other bits of central Europe
The Union – Basically the USA, but extending a bit further south. (Side note-in the original version of the game, the South won the civil war, but Warcradle changed this to be the North)
The Enlightened – the maddest of all the mad scientists who predominantly live in Antarctica at the site of the crashed alien spaceship.

Enlightened surveillance drone

Anyway, on to the actual unboxing part!

What’s in the box?

The box contains everything two players need to play the game, and I mean everything save a flat surface to push the models round on. That you will need to provide yourself.

The box contents, nicely tided away vs all laid out


You get two starter fleets, one for the Commonwealth and one for the Enlightened.

The Commonwealth fleet is made up of one resin battleship, five hard plastic cruisers and ten hard plastic frigates-all fairly straight forward.
The Enlightened fleet is a bit more weird. You get a ‘generator ship’ and a ‘control ship’, both of which are resin. These are roughly the same size as the Commonwealth battleship, and effectively do the same job, but the Generator ship gets to add three generators, which adds various special rules to it, whereas the control ship fires remote control cyborg whales at its enemies. I’ll just let that last line sink in….. Ready?
The Enlightened also get three hard plastic Cruisers and nine hard plastic frigates.

The hard plastic ships for both sides come on sprues and you get plenty of options. The Commonwealth cruiser for example can be built as four different types, and then each type has several different options when it comes to weapons loadout.

Commonwealth sprue front and back
Enlightened sprue front and back

The Resin Ships are nice crisp moulds with plenty of detail. The only flash on them is round the bottom and easily shaved off. One thing to note is that these resin ships don’t come with any turrets-you need to use spares from the plastic sprues, but you do get plenty. Also the Enlightened player will need to pinch some generators off the Commonwealth player for use on there generator ship.

The resin ships top are for Enlightened and bottom one is for The Commonwealth

These two fleets add up, very roughly, to 750 to 1000 points each.  I say “very roughly” because, if you wanted to, you could build all your Commonwealth Cruisers as heavy cruisers and then load them up with expensive extras. This would push the points up to nearer 1200, but might not be the most sensible build.

That brings me onto the other odd omission from the set: there’s no model stats. To find out what your models do, you have to go online and download the relevant ‘Orbats’ for the two factions. Again, this isn’t a big issue, but it does mean you have to put a little bit more effort in then just plunging into a big box of shiny things. The reason Warcradle have given for this is that the stats might change over time with balancing. This is perfectly understandable, and it’s better to have a nice PDF online that’s updated for you rather than having an out-of-date army book and multiple pages of errata to carry around, (glares at Games Workshop,) but it would have been nice if they had included some ‘get you by’ stats in the box, with just a caveat that the official ones would be online.


Rule book and campaign book

The box comes with a full softback rulebook, which is about 150 pages long and contains all the rules for the game, except for the stats as mentioned above, and any faction special rules, which are also on the Orbats. The rules are the first 40 odd pages of the book and the rest is game fluff. I won’t go into the rules here, that’s an article for another time, but the fluff is quite entertaining. There’s a brief overview of the setting and then each faction gets covered in detail. A nice touch with the faction fluff is that each faction’s entry is written from the point of view of someone else, so for example the section of The Crown is written in the style of a Prussian intelligence officer who is submitting the history as some course work in his intelligence exam, complete with examiners notes. The rulebook also contains those two rarest of beasts when it comes to wargame rules; it has both a contents and an index. Having one is nice, having both is practically spoiling us.

Dice and Templates

Lots of lovely dice plus template and cards

The game theoretically uses custom dice, although it would be easy enough to substitute regular d6 as the custom dice have six different faces. You get two different types of custom dice in the box, 12 Critical dice and 40 Action dice. The critical dice are nice and chunky, which is nice as you’ll only be rolling a few of these at any one time. The action dice are a bit smaller, but as these will get rolled by the fist full that works quite nicely. The faces on the dice are embossed so wont wear off. You actually get both types of dice split into two sets so you can just hand one to your opponent and go “these are yours”. Well, you could if you were actually allowed to go near people at the moment, but that’s not Warcradle’s fault.

Cards and Tokens

Everyone loves punching tokens

The game has a card mechanism known as Valour and Victory. Basically you will have a hand of cards, and these cards can either be used to score you victory points if you meet the criteria, or they can be used to give you a one time benefit and are then discarded. They are also used to determine initiative in a round. You get 2 decks of these cards in the box, both identical, so it’s designed for 1 for each player.

Most wargames use some form of token, and Dystopian Wars is no exception. You get a pair of Identical sheets of tokens to track things like damage and criticals. There is also a third sheet of tokens which has icebergs and pods of cyborg whales on it.

Other bits

The last couple of things in the box are three bases for the tiny boat swarm miniatures that are on the Enlightened Cruiser Sprue – these are known as Short Ranged Squadrons and have their own separate mechanics. There is also a short campaign guide for playing four linked games using what’s in the box that gradually adds in rules as you play through it.

Final Thoughts

The RRP of this boxset is £85, but you can get it online a bit cheaper if you look around. The models included in the box look fantastic and go together very nicely.

Some assembled Commonwealth ships
Some assembled Enlightened ships – picture courtesy of Neil Young

Given the amount of stuff you get in the box, I’d say its great value and a good place to start. If you wanted to play as one of the other factions, then Warcradle have said you will be able to get a ‘Rules and Gubbins’ boxset next month, and they will be releasing a new faction box every month or so until they are all out.

Your thoughts?

So, did you like this unboxing? If you would like more things like this, just let us know.

2 thoughts on “BtA Plays: Unboxing the Dystopian Wars 3rd Edition starter set

  1. Great review – been looking at this for a while but unsure whether it be popular enough to pick up games. Do you think it will be a tournament game in due course?

  2. Thanks.
    I dont play tournament game so to be honest I have no idea. Warcradles other big game is Wild West Exodus (WWX) so might be worth seeing if there are tournaments for that. Just togive you an idea

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