Playtime: 15-20 Minutes
What do you get when you take a Mad Max setting and add a bit of the ridiculous flair that you’d find in Adult Swim? You get Dustbiters, a fast-paced two-player card game about two car gangs fighting while outrunning a dust storm. This one is brought to you by a team of talented video game developers including Robbie Fraser (Broforce, GORN, Genital Jousting), Jan Willem Nijman (Disc Room, MINIT, Nuclear Throne), and Terri Vellmann (SLUDGE LIFE, Disc Room, High Hell).
How To Play
Dustbiters is one of the simplest tabletop games one can pick up. Each player is dealt four cards that sit face up on the table which acts as a vehicle convoy. The player that goes first has the four vehicles in the back while the second player gets the front vehicles. Four additional cards are given to each player facedown for the players’ starting hands. The remaining cards are placed on the table facedown as the draw deck.
On each turn, the players get three actions that can be used in four different ways. They can draw a card from the draw deck and place it in their hand. They can also use an action to build a car, which is done by placing a card from the players hand at the front of the convoy. Players can also use the Drive action, which allows them to move one vheicle one space forward or backwards, effectively swapping places with another car. Finally, they can use the power of one of their vehicles. All of these actions can be done multiple times in the same turn as long as the same car isn’t using their action more than once.
When all three actions are exhausted, the car at the back of the convoy is swept up in the approaching dust storm and is destroyed. All destroyed cards go into the face-up scrap heap pile. The game ends when one player runs out of cars in the convoy.
Pacing and Interactivity
Dustbiters shines due to how solid the game’s pacing is. It’s a fast-paced game with short turns and big tempo swings. Since a car is lost at the end of every turn, every action feels significant. Dustbiters has no downtime due to each player only getting three actions. The only thing that can slow down the game is the player’s strategic thinking before their actions.
Dustbiters has the ability to be a completely casual experience, or an intense chess match between the two rival gangs. Each car comes with a unique ability that can completely change the momentum of the game. They can interact with enemy cars or their own. For example, the Sniper card is a vehicle that can destroy any car in the convoy as long as the Sniper is in the very back. The Teleporter can swap places with any car in the convoy.
Every car’s ability feels significant, so the players need to be considerate of that they both have at all times. Almost every car interacts with another, sometimes in cutthroat ways. Dustbiters is a game full of interaction between the players so its rarely boring. I wouldn’t call Dustbiters a “mean” game, but the objective is to wipe out the opponent, so it is definitely one where players are aggressive towards one another.
Theme and Components
Dustbiters is a game that completely leans into its theme. The gameplay itself makes it so easy to picture the game’s Mad Max-esque scenario. The art is lighthearted and creative, with cute designs for the elaborate vehicles. Every car’s power fits its personality well, leading to a perfect marriage between theme and mechanics.
The game comes in a neat little package. The box we received is just a little larger than mint tin games. With only a few cards and a tiny rulebook, Dustbiters is a perfect game to throw in your pocket.
Dustbiters Is Great For Fans Of…
Players who enjoy simple yet competitive games will likely fall in love with Dustbiters. Anyone who likes games that are easy to learn but also strategic should enjoy this game. While it’s wildly different in theme and vibes, Hanamikoji is similar in that its a quick game with a surprising amount of depth and strategy. Fans of that game or any game with a sudden death mechanic will want to check Dustbiters out.
Dustbiters is a simple yet satisfying game that makes the most out of its theme.