Last time, you decided that dynamic music is better than hex grids. Heart won over mind, and honestly I myself would struggle to know which to follow. Given that hexes aren’t going anywhere and dynamic music is scarce, sure, let’s celebrate dynamic music and hope for more. This week, I ask you to decide between two very different types of attack. What’s better: overwatch reaction attacks (not Overwatch the game, okay), or the ridiculous gunfire overload that is dakka?
Overwatch (not Overwatch)
It’s a simple thing in turn-based combat games: a choice to sit and watch and take a shot if the enemy moves into range during their turn. With real-time violence abstracted into taking turns, overwatch (not Overwatch) is a cautious half-second pause to wait and see. Perhaps nothing will happen, perhaps no one will attack at all, but if they do, overwatch will have your back. Might have your back, given that overwatch attacks often suffer an accuracy penalty. Hopefully has your back.
Overwatch can let you play risky, advancing hard and fast with the knowledge that if needs must, you can roll the dice with overwatch. Overwatch can also punish you if your opponent had the same thought. Ride the rim, push as far as you dare. Overwatch can also be a comfort. When times are too hard, put your back to the wall, hunker down, and set your army to overwatch. Overwatch can be a little too comforting in some games, a little too reliable, which I do find a bit of a disincentive to master it, but hey, every part of a game can be mistuned—and maybe sometimes I want to be all cosy with my warpals.
Overwatch is a little prayer. Please let the enemy not advance but if they must, please let me catch them. At this point, all you can do is react and hope luck is on your side. It is a prayer fraught with tension. You know this can happen, you know it might work, in your mind you can see exactly what you want to happen. And yet, both the uncertainty and the stated odds tell how it might go wrong. Whisper the word as you click the button: overwatch.
I’ve struggled with putting a name to this thing. Clunky chunky wonky guns? Loud and maybe unreliable guns? Joyous gunfire? But I think the world of Warhammer 40,000 names it best with an onomatopoeia: dakka. As in, dakka-dakka-dakka. It is the loud and attention-catching gunfire of a gun whose trigger you wish to hold down and never let go.
40K, unsurprisingly, is big on dakka. It’s an ork word and those master bodgers have phenomenal dakka, loud guns which shake and rattle, held together more by belief than engineering. I’ve been playing the WH40K: Darktide beta this week and those humies certainly do dakka too, with great chunky guns that kick and ride and go dakka-dakka. Many video game machinguns are dakka, spraying wildly and loudly. Flak cannons are dakka, whether blasting into the skies of World War 2 or spraying out the side of the Battlestar Galactica as a wall cutting through spaceships and missiles alike. Belt-fed ammunition and multiple rotating barrels are dakka. I think I might here include Far Cry 2’s rusted automatic weapons, which have a giddy thrill from the very real risk of them exploding in your hands. And shmups, oh shmups can have cracking dakka.
To me, dakka is very physical, mechanical, and maybe a bit risky and a bit dirty. At dakka’s best, you should feel like you might lose a finger from firing it. A smooth-firing expensive assault rifle is not dakka. A laser gun has to do a lot to become dakka. A silenced gun is never dakka. It is a proud puerile joy of loud and ridiculous things. Dakka is a video game saying: yeah, this is children’s playground make-believe wrapped in expensive artwork and a B movie script, what of it?
But which is better?
God, I want to say dakka. I really do. But overwatch is… no but DAKKA is… ah, this is another question I must leave up to you. What do you say, reader dear?
Pick your winner, vote in the poll below, and make your case in the comments to convince others. We’ll reconvene next week to see which thing stands triumphant—and continue the great contest.