In the world of Judge Dredd, the metropolis known as Mega-City One stretches down the entire eastern seaboard of the US. It’s a space of ruin, street gangs and police enforcement officers known as Judges. In the Judge Dredd Miniatures Game, this same city stretches across the length and breadth of your tabletop. In this space, players can stage face-offs between the opposing forces of crime and law. These running battles are only limited in scope by the players’ imagination, the space you have available and the models you have to hand to represent them. It’s designed for 2 or more players, with 2-4 being the recommended player count (I only played 2-player games during the review process).
Hitting The Streets
The ‘I Am The Law’ Starter Set is designed as a way into the world of this game. The world of Judge Dredd more generally. It includes everything you need to get playing. From a rulebook to a small number of miniatures, combat dice, the relevant tokens and markers, a selection of cards detailing special actions and armoury, and various pieces of street furniture. The set also includes a large, two-sided play mat, but I’ll say more about that later. Additionally, it includes a booklet containing three starter set specific scenarios that can be linked together to form a mini-campaign. This is with one player taking on the role of an increasing number of gang members, the other controlling two Street Judges. These missions are a way to gain a basic understanding of the game’s mechanics. They certainly whet the appetite for more action. However, they’re not without their complications.
The Rule Of Law
The first thing you’ll notice when opening the box is the size of the rulebook. This Starter Set does not come with a simplified set of rules to enable players to get their game up and running as quickly and easily as possible. Instead, it includes a book that’s 160 pages long and is filled with rules, lore, art and stories. To give you some idea of its scope, it has the feel of the D&D Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide combined, if not in page numbers then certainly in ambition. This is a little intimidating. There’s a LOT of information here.
In one way it’s brilliant - with this one book, you’ll have all the rules to play out any scenario you can think of, no matter whether it includes vehicles, mounts or even rooftop chases. The book will also help you develop a strong sense of the fictional world of Mega-City One. However, the downside is that if you’re not already familiar with the game, or at least with other tabletop skirmish games, the learning curve will be very steep.
The book’s layout doesn’t always help in this regard. The information you need for action - the rules, the weapon modifiers, the event outcomes etc - is often spread out across multiple pages in multiple chapters, meaning you’ll be constantly pausing to flick through pages whilst playing. As a newbie to this game, I certainly would’ve found it convenient to have a separate rules primer sheet or a series of additional stat cards alongside the core rulebook.
There is another slight frustration attached to this. In addition to the suggested scenarios in the rulebook itself, the Starter Set includes a specific mini-campaign. This uses the models provided in the set. This is, of course, very welcome. However, these starter set scenarios in no way require all the rules (they do not feature vehicles, for instance). I would suggest that as a beginner you look ahead and only read the rules you’re likely to need. That way you’ll have more chance of taking it all in.
The Judge Dredd miniatures game finds players controlling either a street gang or the Judges trying to stop its activities. The game takes place in a series of turns, in which players draw coloured chips from a cup or bag. If one of the Judge team’s chips is drawn, that player can activate one of their figures; if one of the gang’s chips is drawn, then their controlling player can choose to activate one of their models.
When a model is activated, the player can choose to take either two ‘single’ actions (such as move, fight or take a snapshot) or one ‘double’ action (more time-consuming actions such as taking an aimed shot). This is a relatively simple action economy. The fact that chips are drawn blindly means the order of play can change from round to round. This introduces a nice, if sometimes annoying, variation (there’s no equivalent to the DnD initiative order here). A round continues until all the chips are drawn and all the figures activated.
Combat is at the heart of this tabletop miniatures game, and it’s where the most fun is to be had. There are separate rules for ranged and close combat. The outcomes of an attack action are modified by a number of factors, from the character carrying it out and the weapon they’re using to both the evasive ability and resistance of the target. This relative complexity makes sense thematically but can slow the game down for a beginner as they check through the relevant stages of determining whether a hit has been scored and how damaging it was.
All of the combat events are resolved using the game’s custom dice. D6s with custom faces indicating hits and shields, with one ‘special’ face. The set also includes two standard D6s for use in some situations.
The presentation and quality of all the set’s components is very high. The rulebook is a handsome volume filled with great 2000AD art. The minis are highly detailed (but be aware that they come unpainted and require a little assembly). Equally, the tokens, chips, cards and custom dice are all solid, although some of the iconographies could’ve been improved in places.
The set also comes with a double-sided play mat featuring different streetscapes. This is of a generally decent quality. However, it doesn’t match up to any of the set specific scenarios! The terrain on the map actually introduced confusion into my own playthroughs of these missions. This is as it didn’t agree with the set-ups proposed. In fact, it makes little sense to use it as a beginner when starting out. This is frustrating given the intention of this set.
Some may be surprised at the limited number of minis actually provided in the set - especially when compared to the complex setups shown in the rulebook. It is, almost inevitably, impossible to recreate the kind of battles pictured with what’s provided here. Warlord Games have given the player just enough to be getting on with. However, if you really want to recreate the world of the comics then you’re going to want to invest in many additional models, buildings and props.
If you’re already a fan of 2000AD and Judge Dredd you’re likely to love this game. It’s a great way to place yourself into the fictional world of the Judges. You’ll be able to play through any number of campaigns with friends. If, on the other hand, you’re newer to Judge Dredd then this is a good but challenging entry point to the world of Mega-City One. There is much here to engage with and to enjoy. Just be aware that you may encounter some frustrations along the way, and may need to invest in additional minis.