Dirtside II is an SF micro-armor miniatures game by Ground Zero Games (GZG) of England, using an earlier version of their proprietary FMA ("Full Metal Anorak") game system. ("Anorak" is a Brit gamer's term equivalent to "fanboy", referring to a paramilitary type of hooded outdoors jacket apparently worn by same.) The FMA system is based around opposed die rolls using the five major polyhedral dice (D4, D6, D8, D10, and D12) and plays much simpler and faster without losing too much detail.
Simplicity and speed are Dirtside's main advantage; a two-battalion meeting engagement (total 60-80 vehicles and 40-60 fire-team stands) resolves in 3-4 hours, instead of the at-least-a-day of monstergame miniatures rules. The FMA die-roll system also solves one of the problems of miniatures rules, where the attacker rolls dice for hits and damage for half an hour while the defender takes a lunch break out of sheer boredom. Under FMA, both attacker and defender roll dice against each other, the attacker to hit, the defender to avoid the hit; high roll prevails. Better fire control grants the attacker a larger die; a smaller target or better ECM grants the same to the defender.
Like Striker, Dirtside's scale is up to battalion-level, with one miniature representing one vehicle or infantry fire team; unlike Striker, Dirtside uses the 1/285th or 1/300th (5mm) Micro-armor scale instead of the 1/120th of 15mm miniatures, and a ground scale of one inch = 100 meters instead of 1cm = 10m. (This scale was sized for a game/battlefield to fit on a tabletop; nothing prevents a Traveller from using the Striker ground or miniatures scale.) The vehicular design and armor penetration is necessarily coarser than Striker, but still has enough detail and variety to retain most of the flavor. Stock Dirtside II does a good job of simulating Trav Tech Level 8-12, but a few tweaks allow full interface with the Traveller universe.
Dirtside II itself is currently out of print; the complete ruleset is available online as PDF-format downloads here.
Dirtside Overview: Vehicle Design
As a micro-armor game, Dirtside's emphasis is on armored vehicles; the game's stock vehicle design system is much simpler than Striker - about on a level with Book 2 starships - but maintains most of the variety and enough detail to be compatible.
- Size is on an arbitrary scale of 1 (ultra-light) to 5 (super-heavy); each size class has 5x its number in Capacity Points (one CP is approximately the size of a fully-equipped passenger; four CPs appear equivalent to one Trav starship ton). Powerplant, mobility, armor, and crew are not counted in vehicle capacity points.
- Powerplant is one of three types: CFE (internal-combustion engine or turbine), HMT (improved turbines, possibly the equivalent of Trav fuel cells or Striker MHD), and FGP (fusion powerplant). More advanced powerplants are more expensive, but allow more powerful energy weapons and better/more advanced mobility.
- Mobility is the equivalent of Striker chassis & suspension. "Stock" mobility types are Slow Wheeled, Fast Wheeled, Slow Tracked, Fast Tracked, Slow GEV, Fast GEV, Grav, VTOL (helicopter-equivalent), Aerospace (aircraft), and Walker (legged/Mecha).
- Armour is on an arbitrary scale; the maximum armor rating of a vehicle is the same as its Size Class. Two special types of Armour are available above and beyond the basic Armour rating:
- Ablative Armour provides additional protection against lasers.
- Reactive Armour provides additional protection against missiles and infantry anti-armor weapons.
- These two special armours cannot be mixed on the same vehicle.
- Weapons are also sized on a scale of 1-5; each weapon requires 3 x Size in Capacity Points if in a rotating turret or 2 x Size in if a missile, in a hull/fixed mount, or piggybacking on an existing turret. "Stock" vehicle weapons are:
- High-velocity Cannons (HVCs, size 3-5) - the basic direct-fire CPR "tank gun".
- Rapid-fire Autocannons (RFACs, size 1-2) - just what the name indicates; RFAC/1s are stated as being 20-25mm cannon, RFAC/2s 30-40mm.
- Hyper-kinetic Penetrators (HKPs, size 3-5) - higher-tech, hypervelocity CPR guns. No direct Traveller equivalent, but are intermediate between HVCs and...
- Mass-driver Cannons (MDCs, all sizes) - Mass-drivers/Gaussguns, even better than HKPs but with powerplant requirements. Size 1 & 2 MDCs are rapid-fire weapons similar to Trav's VRF Gaussgun (and are called GACs - Gauss Autocannons - in the later Stargrunt); size 3-5 are Gauss "tank guns". In stock Dirtside, MDCs are the best all-around high-tech "gun", as opposed to stock Trav's heavy use of energy weapons at higher Tech Levels.
- High-energy Lasers (HELs, all sizes) - lasers; unlimited range but little penetration and damage. Primarily a long-range "sniper" weapon.
- Direct-fire Fusion Guns (DFFGs, all sizes) - these are actually the equivalent of Trav plasma guns; energy weapons with massive damage but very short range.
- Guided Missile Systems (GMSs, size 1/light & size 2/heavy) - Vehicle-mounted tac missiles; the light ones are man-portable by heavy weapons teams. (There is no detailed breakdown of missiles beyond light GMS/Ls (fixed size of 2 CP) and heavy GMS/Hs (fixed size of 4); anything lighter is abstracted into the infantry kit.)
- Anti-personnel weapons (APSWs) - infantry-sized "machineguns" or equivalent, always one CP. (Not broken down by type.)
- Point-defence (PDS) and Area-defence (ADS) Systems - anti-aircraft/anti-missile point defense; PDSs defend only the vehicle mounting them, ADSs anything within range (6"/600m). They use a special fixed size; the better they are, the larger they are.
- Systems represent Stealth, electronics, and sensor packages; they cost but do not take up Capacity Points. Examples are Missile Guidance Systems, Fire Control Systems (non-missile), and ECM (defends against Missile Guidance). Except for Stealth (which defends against Fire Control Systems by reducing the vehicle signature to that of a smaller Size Class), all systems are rated at one of three levels: Basic (low), Enhanced (medium), and Superior (high). The better the system, the larger die you roll in the opposed-roll combat system.
- Costing is by an arbitrary point system, with no easy correspondence to Traveller MCr.
Oversized vehicles (Size Class 6+ - think Bolos/Ogres/AT-ATs), Artillery vehicles, Engineer vehicles, Aircraft (classed as VTOL - the equivalent of helicopters - or Aerospace - fast-movers), and Riverine Craft ("Brown-water Navy" craft, like Vietnam-era Swift Boats and River Monitors) use variants on the basic design system, with their own limitations and advantages outside the scope of this summary.
Dirtside Overview: Infantry
In Dirtside II, infantry is somewhat abstracted; the basic infantry unit is the fire team of four or five men, similar to Striker. Unlike Striker, Dirtside does not detail the fire team further other than classifying it as one of seven types:
- Rifle Team - your basic infantry fire team.
- APSW Team - heavy weapons team based around an APSW (heavy machinegun-equivalent); in addition, some Size 1 heavy weapons can also be manhandled around by a heavy weapons team.
- Anti-Armour Team - heavy weapons team based around a GMS/L.
- Local Air Defence Team - heavy weapons team based around a specialized MANPAD anti-aircraft weapon.
- Assault Team - close-assault troops (the original meaning of "Storm Troopers") armed with submachinegun-equivalents; only effective in "close assaults", where they get a bonus.
- Engineer Team - bonuses in mine-clearing, bunker-busting, demolitions, etc.
- Fire Designation Team - Forward Observer team of 2-3 men; adds to effectiveness of artillery.
Stock Dirtside classifies infantry into three main quality levels: Green, Regular, and Veteran. This basically affects the die type used for fire effectiveness and Confidence (Morale) checks.
Infantry is equipped to one of three levels: Militia (poorly-equipped), Line (baseline average), and Powered (Battle Dress). (Cavalry - animal-riding, NOT vehicular - is included for completeness, but this primarily affects mobility.) These three levels differ in their weapons range and HTK (hits to kill, i.e. hit/damage points):
- Militia - 4" range, 3 HTK
- Line - 6" range, 4 HTK
- Powered - 8" range, 5 HTK, plus a damage bonus
- APSW teams have a range of 12" plus a damage bonus
Infantry also have a limited anti-armor/anti-vehicle capacity with IAVRs (Infantry anti-vehicular rockets); these function similar to GMS/Ls except with less penetration/damage and very limited range.
Adaptation to the Traveller universe
Dirtside handles Trav tech levels 8-12 with little alteration; many of the technological assumptions are similar. Lower-tech (TL6/WW2) adaptations exist, but a true match with Trav/Striker requires some additional weapons and mapping availability by Tech Level:
- Basic Assumptions and Differences
Dirtside and Striker make many of the same military/technological assumptions:
- Emphasis on armored vehicles (including heavies and super-heavies) as a continuing decisive arm.
- Tech progression that climaxes with fusion-powered grav vehicles.
- Varying levels of system competence, possibly linked to technological progress.
However, the two also have some differences:
- In Striker, grav vehicles are universal above TL10, with a fairly-abrupt transition; Dirtside relegates gravs to an expensive "special case" and presumes an extended transition using GEVs/hovers/blowers (possibly in tribute to David Drake's Hammer's Slammers).
- In the Trav universe, gravs erase (or at least blur) the distinction between ground vehicles and aircraft; Dirtside maintains the distinction (with the apparent rationale that even grav vehicles would tend to optimize into hull-down ground-huggers and higher-altitude fast movers).
- In Striker, energy weapons (especially plasma/fusion guns) trump all other direct-fire weapons at high Tech Levels. In Dirtside, HELs have long range but poor penetration and DFFGs extremely limited range; the preferred high-tech "tank gun" is the MDC (or its predecessor the HKP).
- Striker, like all the Trav universe, is very dependent on Trav's Tech Level progression to where TL often becomes the determining factor; a higher TL means more advanced weapons, propulsion, armor, and systems trumping those of a lower TL. Dirtside is more like a "snapshot" of Trav TLs 9-12, with all the weapons and systems more-or-less coexisting.
- Adaptation by Tech Level
These differences are not insurmountable. The following adaptation primarily spreads out system availability and quality by Trav Tech Level, extending the quality range a few more steps and adding Trav-specific weapons and systems.
Tech Level 7 (Baseline) Powerplants available: CFE (internal-combustion) only Mobility types available: Wheeled, Slow Tracked
Maximum vehicle armor: Size class - 1 Maximum systems quality: BASIC (D6) Weapon systems available: RFAC/1-2 (CPR autocannon)
HVG/3-5 (CPR gun)
GMS/H (Tac Missile)
Best infantry kit: Militia (Range 4", 3 HTK) Tech Level 8 Mobility types available: Add Fast Tracked Maximum vehicle armor Size class (composite armor introduced)
Reactive armor introduced
Maximum systems quality: ENHANCED (D8) (Solid-state electronics) Weapon systems introduced: GMS/L (Light Tac Missile) Best infantry kit: Line-1 (Range 4", 4 HTK) (Body armor becomes standard-issue) Tech Level 9 Powerplants available: Add MHT (advanced turbines/MHD/fuel cells) Mobility types available: Add GEV (hovers/blowers) Vehicle armor: Ablative armor introduced Weapon systems introduced: HEL/1-5 (Basic lasers)
HKP/3-5 (Improved hypervelocity CPR guns)
Tech Level 10 Powerplants available: Add FGP (fusion) Mobility types available: Add Grav Maximum systems quality: SUPERIOR (D10) Weapon systems introduced: MDC/2 (VRF Gaussgun)
MDC/3-5 (Mass-driver guns)
DFFG/3 (Plasma A gun)Anti-artillery systems (see 2.3.4)
(PDS & ADS systems can knock down incoming artillery.)
Best infantry kit: Line (Range 6", 4 HTK) (ACRs) Tech Level 11 Weapon systems introduced: DFFG/4 (Plasma B gun)
Tech Level 12 Mobility types available: Add Grav-VTOL (see 2.3.5) Weapon systems introduced: MDC/1 (LRF Gaussgun)
DFFG/1 (Vehicle-mounted PGMP)
DFFG/5 (Plasma C gun)
IFG/3 (Fusion X gun - see 2.3.2)
Best infantry kit: Line+1 (Range 8", 4 HTK) (Gauss Rifles) Tech Level 13 Maximum systems quality: SUPERIOR+1 (see 2.3.3) Maximum vehicle armor: Size class + 1 Weapon systems introduced: IFG/2 (Pulse-popper - see 2.3.2)
IFG/4 (Fusion Y gun - see 2.3.2)
IHEL/1-5 (Improved lasers - see 2.3.1)
Best infantry kit: Power armor (APSW vs infantry, GMS/L vs armor, 5 HTK) Tech Level 14-15 Weapon systems introduced: IFG/1 (Vehicle-mounted FGMP - see 2.3.2)
IFG/5 (Fusion Z gun - see 2.3.2)
- Tables for new weapon systems
- IHEL - Improved Lasers (TL13+)
These are treated as stock HEL's, except they are *not* blocked by smoke (Smoke and Obscuration, DSII, p.44).
Point cost: 15 x Weapon Size Class
- IFG - Improved Fusion Guns (TL12+)
IFG/1 Close = 8", Medium = 16", Long = 24" IFG/2 Close = 10", Medium =20", Long = 30" IFG/3 Close = 12", Medium = 24", Long = 36" (X Gun) IFG/4 Close = 14", Medium = 28", Long = 42" (Y Gun) IFG/5 Close = 16", Medium = 32", Long = 48" (Z Gun) Point cost: 20 x Weapon Size Class
NOTE: All Traveller-universe DFFGs and IFGs require powerplant input as per the equivalent-sized MDC, HEL, or IHEL. (Stock Dirtside DFFGs do not need an external power source; they seem to use self-contained ammunition similar to Drake powerguns.)
- IHEL - Improved Lasers (TL13+)
- SUPERIOR+1 System Points Costs
These represent TL13+ systems with a quality beyond SUPERIOR; they roll a D12 instead of the D10 of SUPERIOR-quality systems.
FireCon: RANGE BAND SHORT MEDIUM LONG SUPERIOR+1 D12 D12 D10 Point cost = 8 x Class of largest weapon GMS/L: cost = 50 GMS/H: cost = 75 AREA DEFENCE SYSTEM (ADS): CAPACITY = 25, cost = 500 POINT DEFENCE SYSTEM (PDS): CAPACITY = 5, cost = 75 ECM: cost = 60 COUNTER-BATTERY RADAR: cost = 300
- Infantry Points Costs for new Infantry kits
LINE-1 troops: 20 points (as LINE) LINE+1 Troops: 30 points POWER ARMOR w. APSW & GMS/L: BASIC cost = 70, ENHANCED = 80, SUPERIOR = 90, SUPERIOR+1 = 100
- Anti-artillery Fire (TL10+)
Starting at TL10, PDS & ADS systems can fire in an anti-artillery mode, reducing the number of chits drawn in an artillery barrage; -1 chit for BASIC systems, -2 for ENHANCED, -3 for SUPERIOR, -4 for SUPERIOR+1. This simulates the "anti-artillery" capabilities of PDS/ADS used in Hammer's Slammers and Striker.
Point- and area-defence systems of TL10+ can defend against incoming artillery as well as missiles. This acts to degrade the effects of the artillery attack. A PDS defends only the individual vehicle; an ADS defends all targets within 6" of the ADS.
A Basic PDS/ADS subtracts 1 chit from the damage of the artillery attack; an Enhanced PDS/ADS 2 chits; a Superior PDS/ADS 3 chits, a Superior+1, 4 chits. All effects stack; the more incoming, the more chits; the more defensive systems, the less chits.
PDS/ADS cannot split fire; each system must declare when activated whether it is firing anti-artillery, anti-missile, anti-aircraft(ADS only) or direct-fire (ADS only); this opens up the possibility of defeating the PDS/ADS umbrella with synchronized artillery and missile attacks.
- Variable ADS Range Umbrellas
In Stock Dirtside, ADS systems have a standard defense range of 12"; the different systems differ only in die type rolled against incoming missiles (and number of chits in anti-artillery mode).
In reality, range may differ according to the type of weapon used in the ADS - RFAC, MDC, HEL/IHEL, DFFG/IFG. To reflect this:
- An ADS system has full effectiveness (stock die type or chit reduction) out to the CLOSE range band of its weapons; -1 effectiveness (one larger die type or number of chits) out to MEDIUM range; and -2 out to LONG range.
- A BASIC ADS is effective only to CLOSE range, ENHANCED to MEDIUM range, and SUPERIOR to LONG range.
- In direct-fire mode, an ADS is assumed to be a twin Size/2 weapon.
- Note that the stock ADS defense range of 12" corresponds to the CLOSE range of the stock direct-fire effect of a twin RFAC/2.
- Grav-VTOLs (TL12+)
- VTOLs at TL12+ are actually specialized grav vehicles, with the following differences from stock VTOLs (Air Vehicle Design, DSII, p.14):
- Direct Fire weapons can be any size, subject to the same restriction as for ground vehicles: Weapon Class can be up to 1 over the vehicle Size Class. Like VTOLs, all weapons of Class 2 and above must be in fixed forward-firing mounts.
- Armor is also as per ground vehicles, limited only by the vehicle Size Class.
- Grav-VTOLs fixed weapons mounts have an arc of fire of 90° (45° to each side of the line of flight) instead of the usual 30°; this represents the ability of a grav-VTOL to "slew" in flight.
- All TL12+ grav vehicles can do "pop-ups" for firing as if they were VTOLs. All grav vehicles can "high-fly" at VTOL movement rates (36"), but they cannot fire or evade while doing so (this is mostly for non-combat "strategic movement").
Auxiliary Page Links:
- Tech Level Conversion Chart
The above Tech Level progression in a single sheet.
- Gibson Alternate Dirtside II Infantry Point System
This is a detailed breakdown of Dirtside II infantry points costing dating from May 1995, allowing a greater variety of infantry than the stock DS types. By Steve Gibson.
- DS2 4 WW2 Adaptation for Tech Level 6
This is a World War 2 micro-armor adaptation of Dirtside II by Mike Elliott of England, adapted from an earlier Dirtside adaptation by a James Clay. Since WW2 defines Trav TL6, this extends the Tech Level chart for low-tech.
- Alternate Penetration/Damage System
Stock Dirtside uses a chit-draw system to determine penetration and damage for hits. This is a drop-in alternative system using opposed dice rolls (weapon vs armor) similar to the to-hit system.
"Amateurs argue tactics; professionals argue logistics."
The continuing bottleneck of interplanetary/interstellar operations is transport capacity; all the high-tech forces in the Imperium won't help if you don't have the starships to lift them to the theater of operations. This often limits "planetary invasions" to orbital blockades, "bomb run" missile strikes against the defending world's infrastructure, and "commando raids" on high-value targets using small but elite strike units.
Fortunately, GZG has a Dirtside interface for its proprietary starship-combat game Full Thrust (in the FTII supplement More Thrust) that can be easily converted to Traveller starships. This conversion is based on the size/tonnage of troop accommodations (conscious vs frozen), which the GZG interface has in the same proportions as a Trav double-occupancy stateroom vs. a Low berth.
- For Transport Purposes, a Dirtside vehicle occupies Three Trav Tons of hold per DS Size Class; a Size 1 vehicle takes 3 Tons, a Size 2, 6 Tons, etc. (In the original FT/DS conversion, a Size Class actually scales out to about 2 Tons; the 50% overage is to allow for irregular shape, maintenance/loading access, and movement into and out of landing craft.) Each suit of powered armor takes 1/2 Ton. Ammunition loads and other cargoes scale out to 5 Capacity Points per Trav Ton. Personnel are transported in double-occupancy staterooms or Low Berths.
- For Landing purposes, APC- or vehicle-based personnel are counted in the size of the vehicle (riding down in their vehicle as in the movie Aliens). Personnel without vehicles or heavy equipment ride down at 1/2 Ton per trooper. Power-armor troops may be dropped individually in drop capsules; in this case, the Tonnage is one ton for the initial capsule launcher plus 1/2 ton per trooper dropped. (Due to the risk of defensive fire, power-armor assaults are rarely dropped directly from the ship; a more common approach is to equip small craft with the capsule launchers and have them dash in to make the drop.)
Using these rules-of-thumb, a Dirtside unit can be rated in total tonnage needed for transport and assault-landing.
Starships & Spacecraft
From the above Spacelift Capacity figures, we can draw the following guidelines for adapting Trav starships/spacecraft to Dirtside II (handy when your mercenary company bounces a spaceport and the ships in port start shooting back):
- Ship Size & Capacity - 2 Traveller Tons = 1 Dirtside II Size Class. Always use "Oversize Vehicle" rules. If further detail is desired for hit location purposes, break down the ship's interior displacement as per the "Modular Oversize Vehicle" rules.
- Ship Armour - 12 Striker/Megatraveller armor points = 1 Dirtside II armour level. Atmosphere-capable starships have a minimum armor of 40 Striker/Megatraveller or 3 Dirtside. Armoured ships add one Dirtside armour level for every two High Guard armor points.
- Ship Performance - ships/small craft of 3-G or less move as VTOLs, 4+ G as Aerospace vehicles. All ships move as VTOLs for the first turn when taking off or landing.
- Ship Weaponry -- Traveller starship weapons are larger than those mounted in Striker vehicles; to reflect this, break the Dirtside rule limiting the maximum Weapon Size Class to 5:
- Book 2 Ship laser = HEL/6
- TL13+ High Guard Ship laser = IHEL/6
- Book 2 Ship missile = as GMS/H, but with no range limitations
- TL10 High Guard Ship plasma gun = DFFG/6
- TL12+ High Guard Ship fusion gun = IFG/6
- Typical Trav small craft conversions
- Stock Trav small starship conversions
Auxilliary Pages & Links
Dirtside has been adapted to World War 2 (Trav TL6) armor miniatures, to David Drake's Hammer's Slammers, and even to Japanese Daikaiju -- SKREEONK!!. Miniatures are available for all three (including toy items for Daikaiju).(link to GZG web ring here)
- Vehicle stats/Unit TO&Es (Standard Third Imperium b/g)
- Standard Traveller vehicles - Jeep, ATV, Hovercraft, Air/Raft, G-Carrier.
- Third Imperium Antrim APC & Thrasea Grav Tank with Imperial company-level TO&Es (based on JTAS 9 profile of the Duke of Regina's Own 4518th Lift Infantry Regiment)
- Zhodani Combat Group TO&E (based on Zhodani organization as per JTAS 11)
- Querion Batallion (TL9) (from the JTAS 8 scenario "Soft Bunk")
- "Zyran Thunders" mercenary company (TL10) (from the JTAS 11 scenario "Thunder on Zyra")
- Trantaxer Company TO&E (from GURPS Traveller: Star Mercs)
- Death's Head Hussars TO&E (from GURPS Traveller: Star Mercs)
- Rifles, Inc. TO&E (from GURPS Traveller: Star Mercs)
- Original-background stats/TO&Es
- "Transcanopus" Thylacine APC & "flying turret" Grav Tank
- "East Harn" TL 10-11 APC/vehicle family and company-level TO&E
- "Supersheridan/Zelda" TL9 vehicle family
- Corporate Mercenary light infantry company TO&E
- Britannic Empire TL13 Royal Marine Battalion TO&E
- The Merry Fellows TO&E (Glavion Cluster campaign)
Dirtside II is Copyright ©1993 by Jon Tuffley; Stargrunt II is similarly ©1996 and Full Thrust ©1992; all are published by Tuffley's small-press company, Ground Zero Games of Suffolk, England. Rulebooks are highly professional and well-organized, on slick paper in A4 format (the European equivalent of American 8 1/2 x 11).