From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.
Dropzone 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.