Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Feel the Heat - Downsync AAR

Having moved from New Jersey to Maryland, I haven't had many chances to play (or even paint all that much, honestly). It's tough to leave behind reliable gaming groups and friends, and then try to build all that back up again. 

I've been somewhat lucky, however, since there's a local game store that looks like it has a pretty regular crowd of gamers, and with diverse interests as well (no Games Workshop monoculture!). 

While I was scoping out the gaming scene, I met Carl, who was helping to run a couple games of his own rules, called Downsync, and still being worked on. As he described them, I was instantly intrigued; 15mm scifi skirmish set in a world heavily affected by climate change with some fascinating mechanics. He was kind enough to run me through a small demo game (with Joe as my opponent) a couple weeks later when I had some free time.

Blinds (or "pings", as they're referred to in the rules) feature heavily in gameplay. Your force starts out entirely as pings, which act both as stripped-down units and deployment zones. They come in three sizes (small, medium, and large), and they don't have assigned units as they maneuver across the battlefield. The only restriction is that you must deploy the correct sized unit to its corresponding ping; small to small, medium to medium, large to large. 

The game uses a modified set of alternating activations. The active player makes a "taskforce" from any number of units on the table and performs actions with them. The non-active player can chose units to react. Players alternate back and forth, each being the active player until every unit has activated or reacted. 

This creates an environment where players need to consider what they're activating and when. Units are designed to create combos with each other, ramping up their effectiveness against enemy units.

For example, take the faction I was playing during this game, the Republic of Terra. I had a combination taskforce of a Vector Squad, a Courier APC, and a Crusader tank. The Vector squad has anti-tank weaponry that makes Countermeasures (CM) (a unit's ability to defend itself and a series of saving throws) roll on a 4+ instead of a 3+. When an enemy runs out of CM, it's extremely vulnerable, which is where the Crusader comes in with its +1 to hit against enemies without any CM (and in a 2d6 spread, that can make a lot of difference). And finally, both the Crusader and the Courier can act as cover for the Vector Squad, allowing them to use their CM as the infantry lacks any native CM. 

Alternatively, look at the Harbinger recon vehicle and the Samson heavy tank. The Harbinger's main gun can Stun enemy units, and the Samson gets a to-hit bonus against stunned enemies. 

The Vector/Courier/Crusader taskforce ended up working very well for me, allowing me to knock out multiple enemy tanks. 

Though Joe's Coalition forces had some tricks of their own. His Phantom support vehicle has the ability to tag enemy units, decreasing their defenses, while his Virago tank gets an additional +1 to hit enemy units at short range. Working together gave him a +4 to hit my Courier, which quickly blew up. 

We ended up trading more units, with Joe's spider-bot infantry taking out my own infantry unit. Still, the Republic was left standing when the dust cleared. 

I enjoyed the game thoroughly enough that I walked out of the store with a Republic starter set, which I plan to paint up soon. Expect to see more Downsync on the blog, and check out the website!


  1. A great writeup. Glad you enjoyed the game enough to post it :D

  2. Thanks! And I'm looking forward to playing more.

  3. Great to hear you landed with some new people and they are open to different games.

    So, this Downsync game also has a line of models for it as well! Sounds combo-riffic. Carl sounds like he is living the game designer dream. As a fellow designer, I am jealous!

    1. Sorry for the delay in responding! Yes, I'm looking forward to seeing the game develop futher.