April 26th, 2010
Classic Review: Devil Dog Design's Dogs of War
In the PC gaming realm tactical small scale military games have been in for a while now, as the Rainbow Six line and countless others like Novalogic’s Delta Force series allow players to play out real-world-like scenarios from the safety of behind their computer screen as part of small groups of specially trained soldiers and counter-terrorists. While we’ve seen our share of military miniatures games over the years, as there’s really no lack of military miniatures games, however, those taking place in the real-world setting of right now and today are a bit scarce.
Devil Dog Design looks to capitalize on that fact, and it looks like they’re doing a pretty good job of it. Designed by a USMC veteran, Dogs of War is not only a labor of love for he who designed and brought it to life, but also it’s a game that does a fine job of depicting the realism and hairy encounters of modern day warfare, only on the four-man fire-team level.
The miniatures are pretty nice overall, and the range continues to grow at a steady pace. They offer everything from Delta Force, Army Airborne, Marines in MOPP gear, Marine Force Recon, Marine MEU, Mogadishu US Army Rangers, Mog Col. McKnight, US Army Special Forces and Fire-Team and Command versions of many of the types of units offered. They’ve even started to create British, German and Soviet specialized forces miniatures as well.
In the way of baddies at the top of the list is Osama Bin Laden and his specially trained Al Qaeda Fedayen body guards, other units include Al Qaeda commandoes I and II, Taliban Militia, Taliban Regulars, Iraqi Republican Guard in Alphas, Iraqi Republican Guard in Fatigues, Iraqi Republican Guard Officer, and the largest set with a total 10 figures, the Somali Militia. Russian Spetznaz are in the works, and who knows what else they have up their sleeves, as they know that there’s a huge demand for Navy SEALs too, and they’re continually working on new miniatures.
In terms of figure design, they’re almost all one piece castings, as only some of the recently released Iraqi figures really require any true assembly work, but Devil Dog Design has made it clear that they may just stick with the one piece design, since it’s less troublesome in terms of the production and packaging process.
In terms of quality the figures are definitely some of the best out there. Granted some of the face sculpts leave a little to be desired, however, in terms of accurately representing the real-world military uniforms, gear and such they’ve done a fine job, which I think is what counts most being that this is a game of tactical military combat at the skirmish level. That’s also not to say that some aren’t great face sculpts, as the Osama Bin Laden one is really good, as are many of the others found throughout the entire range of miniatures.
More recently they’ve released a Recon ATV and US Scout Motorcycle w/Rider models, and rules for expanding to allow armor and vehicles into the mix are already in the works, so before long we’ll no doubt see the debut of Bradleys, Hummvies and other real-world fighting vehicles in Dogs of War. It has been also tossed around that a conversion kit for the 1:48th/1:50th scale models that are already out there for the Hummer is in the works allowing for vehicle crews and mounted weaponry.
At present the game plays out from the four-man fire-team level. However, players can control any number of fire-teams, but they’ve kept them organized in groups of four, aside from the Somalia Militia, which is a 10-man group of crazed Somalia militia-men.
One of the special rules for the Somali Militia is rolling at the beginning of the game to see if they’re high on Khat or not, if they are they’re then allowed to ignore morale checks. Since they’re so high on Khat they’ll fight to the bitter end, completely overlooking the dangers of doing so. Another controversial rule is the Jihad special rule for Al Qaeda forces, as it’s a similar rule, and allows them to ignore checks as well, as they’re fighting a holy war in their minds and will die fighting for their holy cause.
The game utilizes the D10, and the abilities for each figure are as follows…
Weapon Proficiency (WP). To roll for a hit, players roll a single D10, and if the result is lower than, or equal to the WP of the figure (after any relevant modifiers are added), then it’s a hit. This ability pertains only to those weapons the figure is trained to use.
Weapon Knowledge (WK). This ability comes into play when you want to pick up and use a weapon taken from the battlefield. Some soldiers will be very skilled, while others not, and it takes so many Action Points to even attempt a WK check against the WK value.
Close Quarters (CQ) .This one is self explanatory, the means to fight in hand-2-hand barehanded, or by picking up weapons from the battlefield.
Strength (ST) Once again, this one too is self explanatory. It comes into play when performing tasks like seeing if the figure can withstand a back blast from a weapon detonation.
Fortitude (FT) A fortitude roll is made when trying to figure the outcome of soldiers over exerting themselves in a combat situation.
Health Points (HP) Every soldier has so many health points to begin with, once they’re used up the soldier is rendered unconscious, and eventually can die if they fail a Survivability roll or run out of HP slots.
Armor Rating (AR) Many soldiers won’t have an Armor Rating, as some don’t utilize helmets and body armor, but those that do can make use of this stat for an Armor Save when hit in an area that’s protected by body armor or a helmet.
Morale (ML) Used when figures needs to do a Shell Shock or Morale test. It’s a D10 equal to or lower than the ML value.
Command & Control (CC) This stat represents a soldiers’ means to stay in communication with other soldiers that are within the Command and Control range. Once outside the CC range you can no longer command that soldier, and he must take a Courage test until he manages to get back within the proper CC range.
Most everything that is to be done in the game costs Action Points. At the start of every turn each soldier (all four figures essentially) has 10 APs to spend how ever the player sees fit. For instance, walking 1-inch costs 1 AP. Going prone is free, but standing from the prone position costs 3AP. Jumping an inch costs 2AP per inch, at a max of 2-inches. While some actions have a per-turn-limit, other actions are allowed to be repeated as long as you have the APs to spend to conduct the action repeatedly. A single rifle shot costs 3 APs, while a 3-shot or 5-shot burst costs 5 APs, and Full Auto a whopping 6 APs.
Some figures can only fire in 5-shot burst or full auto, like a SAW gunner. Bandaging a wound also costs 5 APs, but is an essential action, which most players will get really familiar with fast in this game. Bandaging a wound can be performed by a soldier if he has an arm that isn’t wounded, or by another member of the fire-team. A soldier can also move so many inches, shoot and keep moving taking cover behind something, which overall makes for some very realistic gameplay, but when moving and shooting, there’s modifier penalty to represent the inaccuracy of firing on the move. That’s a nice touch.
As you can see there are a variety of modifiers to consider. In combat a variety of situations can occur and to simulate this Devil Dog Design has put together a number of modifiers for the most common combat situations, while not going too overboard and still keeping the game moving along fluidly and keeping it fun to play.
Shots can be taken while walking, but you’ll take a -2 modifier to hit that way. An aimed shot will cost 2 AP/Per Shot, but allows for a +1 to hit modifier when doing so. Some soldiers, like the Somali Militia can’t even make aimed shots, which is the advantage of our armed forces military training. Ranges come into play too, as short range produces a +1 to hit, Medium 0, and Long Range a -1 to hit modifier. Firing in Burst mode also produces a negative modifier of -1 to hit, and full auto a -3 to hit modifier, but offers a corridor of a 3-inch across path of lead being spewed at the enemy, so anything within the corridor can be subject to being wounded by stray bullets.
Day or night also has an effect, as at night, without the use of special equipment (Laser Targeter and NVGs), you’re automatically getting a -1 for targets less than 10-inches away, and a -3 for more than 10-inches away. There’s even a modifier for a Target Walking and a Target Running, as a walking target produces a -1 to hit modifier, while a running target a -2 to hit modifier.
Another nice touch is the wound chart, as hits can be made almost anywhere on the human body, and once you find out where the figure is hit, you then roll to check the severity of the wound. Once again, making for a very realistic damage system, as you can be shot in the leg, and then incur anywhere from a near miss to three wounds and requiring a Shell Shock test, depending on what comes up on the severity roll.
The online rules are free, but lack some of the info found in the rulebook. The rulebook itself isn’t so complete either, as some of the roster sheets are MIA, but I will add that they recently posted rosters for the Mogadishu US Rangers. Also on a more positive note, they do make available all of the rosters and stats of all of the models they’ve created since the rulebook was printed, which are readily available via their website in .PDF format to print out and use.
In terms of understanding the rules and difficulty in learning the game; it’s not that complicated, but there are a number of areas which do need clarification. Devil Dog Design is aware of this and is working on putting together a FAQ to help shed light on some of the issues at hand. None are real show stoppers, as we were able to add a few house rules here and there where needed to keep the game flowing until a FAQ is posted
What needs to be put into perspective is that this is a fantastic game, put together pretty much by two people, both of which are about 1,000 miles apart from each other, and for a two-man crew, they certainly have done well so far, as the game is absolutely one of the best skirmish-level games depicting modern-day military combat at the four-man fire-team level, and it doesn’t take long to pick it up and get started playing. Actually many of the DOW enthusiasts are working on modifying the DOW rules to accommodate Vietnam scenarios and weapons systems. One could also easily use the DOW rules to play the game with other popular modern military miniatures in the 25mm-28mm scale from the Assault Group, Britannia and the like.
Overall, Dogs of War is one of the most fun new miniature games to hit the market in recent years, and offers literally hours worth of fast-paced skirmish-level gaming action. Even with just two four-man fire-teams pitted against each other, using the free rules there’s a lot of fun to be had with DOW. Once you step up to running multiple fire-teams, it gets even more intriguing, especially if you’re one for creating your own modern-day military scenarios.
What’s more, playing Dogs of War is a fairly realistic representation of skirmish-level real-world modern-day combat operations, and best of all it’s not at all cost prohibitive, because most four figure sets run about $10 or less, and you can download the rules for free in .PDF format from the website, but I’d highly suggest getting the rulebook, which itself is only $25, and is well worth it.
This review was originally posted at GamingReport.com in 2003. Since then, the Devil Dog Design crew is missing in action, as is their website. It's rumored that they closed up shop in the summer of 2005. Upon digging around the Internet, I've learned that there's only one retailer selling the product now Pacific Sky Games. It's been rumored that they bought out the remaining stock, and the line from DDD, but I can't confirm or deny the rumor.
Based on this retailer's website, it's hard to tell if they're even in business, as I emailed them about further info concerning Devil Dog Design, and the Dogs of War products and I'm yet to receive a reply. The majority of the most popular and commonly used figures from Dogs of War are listed as either Out of Stock, or as Pre Order, which is strange since the items listed as Pre Order were released 7 years ago. lol The rulebook however is in stock and listed for $25. I also found the rulebook at NobleKnight games for $20 slightly-used in stock.
This is sad, because this is a fantastic game, one that I'd like to play again today, but when I left the miniatures genre for a couple of years back in '05-ish, I sold off everything I had, my Dogs of War stuff included.
Upon doing some more digging, I found the original free rules at the Pacific Sky Games website. The link is below, definitely download them and try this game. If you can't get the DDD figures, there are other modern military 28mm options out there that can be used just as well.
I plan on giving it a try again, and you should too. There are so many other great 28mm figure options out there today, so now is a good time as any, and the free rules could even be modified to accommodate a variety of scenarios I'm sure. Dogs of War is still on my top 10 best miniature games of all time list, even if the company who created it no longer exists. It wouldn't be the first awesome game to be orphaned, and it certainly won't be the last.
Dogs of War Free Rules .pdf
Pacific Sky Games Rules page with other DOW aids