Scent of a Gamer

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Dropzone Commander Review

DZC_Logo_white_web_grandeDropzone Commander is a new 10mm scale science fiction miniatures game of epic battles in urban environments. Its release marks a massive achievement for the game’s creator, David Lewis, who has written the rules and designed the line of miniatures for the game’s four factions. Ultimately this is a solid game that is let down by a couple of poorly conceived rules, and by not quite living up to its own billing.

The Universe

Dropzone Commander is set in the 27th century, where humanity has been evicted from Earth and nearby planets by the vicious aliens known as The Scourge. The game opens with the beginning of the War of Reconquest as the United Colonies of Mankind finally mount the counter-offensive to win back what was lost centuries ago. Oh yeah!

The Factions

The UCM or United Colonies of Mankind are the ‘main character’ of the storyline. The look and feel of their forces is very resonant to any science fiction fan. You’ll be able to look at any model and see what its purpose is without having to read the description.

The Scourge are the enemy, and their ships look suitable alien. Their look is manufactured rather than organic as such, but they stand out from anyone else in look and feel.  These are the enemy.

Desolator-The-Scourge

There are two other factions, the Post-Human Republic and the Shaltari. These are more mercurial and unpredictable  Allies, or enemies? The post-humans have spent years hiding from the Scourge only to reveal themselves now, much to the disgust of UCM forces. The Shaltari are a numerous alien race who can nevertheless be bargained with under some circumstances. Both will have a part to play in the war to come.

Miniatures

The models for all four factions look great. They are packaged in an intelligent way too – it still has to be noted that when a games ways it’s selling you a small army, you are actually buying a legal army for use in the game. Dropzone Commander sells you usable models in the numbers you are going to use them. The small and medium army forces for each faction are a great way to start playing. No waste.

Gameplay

Games are scenario-based, with most scenarios assumed to take place in a crowded urban environment where lines of sight are blocked. To succeed you need to cleverly position your troops to check the enemy’s advance, and be prepared to redeploy quickly to snatch key objectives  This is where we reach the game’s biggest problem, and its fundamental disconnect from its own purpose.

Problem Rules

Dropzone Commander is a six turn game. It is described as being “designed around the rapid deployment and redeployment of your forces…”  which sounds great. It would be great if it were true, but it isn’t. Embarking, moving, and disembarking take a full three turns. That’s half your game gone. You can move once, but never again as there simply aren’t the turns in the game to allow you to do so. Also your units are offline for half the game if you do move them. Not good. Not rapid.

You can’t say a game is about deploying an redeploying when its impossible to do both in a game. For example; deploy your tank in turn 1, that’s your turn over, nothing else was possible. Decide to redeploy in turn 2, that’s turn 2 over. Transports move in turn 3. You get back out in turn 4. Turn 5 is now the first turn where you get to do anything else. Turn 6 is the final turn (except for one scenario which is 5 turns instead of the usual 6.

This needs to change.

The other rules problem worth is one of too much niggling depth for no reward. The close combat rules for infantry are tedious and overlong. Something that should be over in a couple of dice rolls take minutes of reading, comparing tables, and allocating hits across multiple stands. Again, this is something that needs to change for the better if this game is to grow beyond its initial audience.

Additional Resources

The rulebook includes 12 scenarios, which will provide for a huge variety of game play. The Dropzone Commander website contains lists of errata and rules clarifications. It’s great to see such a swift response to address the little misprints that can creep into any document. I found almost every “what the…” moment I had while reading the rulebook was answered clearly and concisely in either the clarifications or errata. Good job here from Hawk Wargames.

In addition to these documents the website also has papercraft versions of the buildings seen in the photographs  The buildings themselves look great and are available, but if you don’t want to pay full price, there is a papercraft alternative.  (For some reason my spellchecker wants to correct ‘papercraft’ to ‘spacecraft’. I like the way you think, spellchecker!)

I should also add that the quality of the rulebook is top notch. The presentation and photography are excellent throughout.

Summary

Dropzone Commander is a solid addition to tabletop miniatures. If the troop combat and transport rules issues can be solved, this game will be exemplary. Even with these issues however the game is eminently playable and well worth trying out.

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3 comments on “Dropzone Commander Review

  1. Erik Robertsson
    February 4, 2013

    Nice review. Thanks!

    For me there are some other issues worth mention. There is a lot of things to keep track of. I now got 10 or so games under my belt and we have still remembered everything in a single game. Which base was damaged, who belonged to which battlegroup, when to play the cards and so on. That takes the game down in my opinion.

    However, I must protest against the complaint at rapid redeployment 🙂 . I had a problem with this at first as well but I was stuck in the “unit are only really active when they can attack”-mindset (gotten from 40k) which dissapear after a while. A UCM tank can move 2″, board a dropship (within 3″) which moves 10″. Next turn the dropship can move 10″ and unload within 3″ and then the tank can move 2″. That is 30″ redeployment over 2 turns which is actually pretty good. Granted that many times I don’t do this redeployment with every unit but many times the decision to make this move is very important for the end result.

    I think that the main point is that units are very deadly and infantry need only to stay in buildings for a very short time that means the action on a single flank usually only last for a few turns and so, with some experience, you can deploy, attack twice and then move to the other part of the battlefield and attack once more where it is important to get reinforcements. I feel that the units are more deadly than in DZC so the sacrifice of two half-descent attacks is well worth sacrificing for a one really good possibility to attack.

    Just my opinion, though… Anyhow, again; Nicereview!

    • davekay
      February 4, 2013

      Thanks Eric! I agree that having to keep track of each individual troop base is tedious and unnecessary – just have remove a base per 5 hits, then you never need to track hits against more than 1 base.
      There were one or two other rules issues that I would put under “first edition issues”.
      I chose not to mention all of them as overall I have a really positive view of this game and I think it’s a great achievement on the part of its creator, and I wanted that to come through in the review over the niggling rules issues.

      • Erik Robertsson
        February 4, 2013

        Yeah, I agree on the “first edition” problems. Feels like it a lot of things that will get a bit more streamlined in any next edition. I have actually gotten really into the game lately. The low amount of missions (for two players with equal starting points) are a bit of a let down, as well as we have been able to see many games already over at turn three. The game needs something worth fighting for to the end of the last turns. However, I have gotten some really surprising moves against me that has won games at the end with two or three turns ahead-thinking. As a 40k player I have always only reacted on the current turns and only have had a vague idea how to act in next turns depending on the dices. A win in dropzone is rarely because of luck but more because you have successfully outmoved the opponent – as a cool wargame should be.

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This entry was posted on February 2, 2013 by in Miniatures, Tabletop and tagged , , .
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