DropZone Commander – Playtesting


A week later than I intended but my work/life balance has been out of check and this has affected my free time, so better late than never…

So it was, an early 5.30am start, Zombiepirate and I started the long journey to the sunny south of London.Leaving the rain behind us we had the additional excitement of erratic navigation and traffic in the centre of London, always a treat.

We arrived at Hawk Wargames around 10am and were swiftly greeted and escorted into the central hive. It’s quite an experience being surrounded by Dave and all his superb miniatures. What a fantastic start to the day as we got to look through and fondle all of the miniatures as well as getting the chance to once again look over the examples that Dave has painted; were so loved by visitors to Salute and are pictured on the website. We were also treated to painted examples that will be in the rule book, by various excellent painters. I cannot wait to see them again and for you all to enjoy them, there are some interesting colour choices that I would not have thought would work but clearly do. You will have to wait and see…

So with a bit of a chat to Dave and the guys from Shellcase we moved into the game room.

The table was setup with two forces, the United Colonies of Mankind (UCM) and The Scourge. Both of which happened to have been the large armies as available for pre-order from Hawk Wargames; as well as a host of buildings also from Dave. The buildings were lavishly painted and lots of complementary “Ohhhs” and “Ahhhs” were made as we looked over the exquisite design and painting.

UMC v The Scourge - Playtest
UMC v The Scourge – Playtest

Then we looked over the miniatures for the army we would be using for the days games. There was a colour coding system that Dave explained would help us with which units belonged to which command group. These were done with good old round stickers but as ZombiePirate pointed out he would add a trim colour to his units to have the same effect (see he’s bought them already hehe.). Dave spent some time going over each combat group and how they work and the basics of deployment and the game turns, initiative etc. We broke into two groups for the game, a member of 6inchmove and the Shellcase on both sides.

Now I am not going to give you a blow by blow account of the game as we have been asked not to give all the details as of yet as there is still play testing going on and changes and tweaks to be made, in fact some tweaks were made during our game which I hope make it to the final version. Hopefully meaning that we can all have a smug feeling that we made a difference to how the game plays. That would be awesome! So I will cover what I thought was important and what you may want to know, if you have any questions please ask them below and if I can I will answer them. Right… on with the show;

The aim of the game or scenario we were faced with was the capture and retrieval of five key objectives that were located somewhere in 5 buildings spaced on the battlefield, the only method of getting to the objectives was to enter the building and search with the infantry units. Some of the objectives were fairly close to our deployments lines (wide side of the table about 6×4) and the rest were closer to the middle. There was no deployment zone’s, not in our game at least, as you come on via dropship, strange that 🙂

Phil and I ended up on the side of The Scourge and ZombiePirate and Lee were on the UCM side, Phil and I were both looking at getting the PHR force, which sat on the side looking at us all lovingly but these were the sides we started with for this game. ZombiePirate got a chance to play his beloved UCM so he now has an unfair advantage when he plays me, which I shall use as a defence if I lose!

Army Break Down & Game Plan

We had 2 medium dropships each carrying 2 APCs each with 3 units of infantry, human souls converted to work for The Scourge. One large dropship which carried the armour combat group consisting of 6 MBT tanks and 3 AA tanks. Two light dropships that were part of the command combat group that carried the 8 light AA floating blimps, best description and the awesome commander himself in the Desolator! We also had two ground attack fighters.
Dave told us that The Scourge are fast, lightly armoured, with some units with devastating weapons but short range. The UCM were slower, had a better range and heavier armour. Our advantage we decided was to utilize our speed and get to the objectives as fast as possible and get them off table, we would only have to get the three for a win! Sounded simple enough…

Scourge Desolator
Scourge Desolator

The Game

We went first and chose to deploy the dropship carrying the medium infantry, these rushed on a good distance and deployed the APCs which were able to go a little further and so did the infantry and got into the building, the UMC tried the same, our second unit tried the same and fell short. So this is how the first turn went, a scramble to get towards or into the objectives and get the heavy, slower dropships as far forward as possible to protect the force. The lighter AA ones went further to cover the heavy’s etc. This was matched by the UMC which moved less but managed to get to similar points.

The game progressed with the infantry trying to get hold and leave with objectives, armour providing anti-armour and fire support, AA fending off dropships and aircraft and setting up no-go zones. APC’s laden with a precious cargo of infantry and objectives trying to leave the table, we never thought about using our dropships to pick them back up! That is at a guess the crux of the game and my initial thoughts about why dropships and 50% of your army are useless dropships and taking no further part in the game proved that it’s just not true!

Dropships

Dropships unsurprisingly in a game called DropZone Commander are essential. Not only do they allow a flexible deployment, or the ability to move across the table to get to objectives, they allow you to also pick combat groups back up and move them from point to point or even move them off table to return later! This gives you a fantastically flexible game which keeps your opponent constantly assessing where you may or may not plan to strike and almost forces him to deploy forces to setup zones of control with AA and other assets.

Infantry, APC’s & Buildings

Infantry are key to the game; you may think that dropships would be, but infantry are the only units that can capture objectives, protect them at all times! Another point, infantry in the open equals dead infantry! Close combat is devastating, at least it was in our game and Dave explained that it’s meant to be that way, short, brutal engagements. Remember though that I think Dave said 40% or 50% of the cards are for close combat, so watch out for the enemy pulling a card on you that can swing combat their way, this happened to us, we thought we had the upper hand and the opposition played a card to stop them and gave us a good kicking.

APCs move your infantry around quickly and offer your infantry some element of protection from the devastating firepower blasting all over the battlefield. Protect the APCs as best as you can or use a driopship to move them around quickly.

Buildings, at least in our game, were a large part of the game and I really like how they affect the battlefield and can funnel targets into kill zones etc. Infantry hold buildings and they give the infantry some much needed cover in game. Shooting the infantry in the windows is a futile task in my opinion, it’s much better to blow the buildings to pieces; however that is not as easy as it sounds. We used buildings given a medium classification; I guess there is light for urban areas, medium for city blocks etc and heavy for very large, fortified buildings and bunkers. There are specific weapons that do masses of damage to buildings, unless of course your roll pants like I did, hmmm. 🙂

I can see buildings being an important part of the game and as such that is one reason Dave went for 10mm. As previously mentioned N scale is close to 10mm so you can get cheap railway buildings if you shop around, Dave is producing some of the most amazing resin buildings which will be available soon. However if the price of those or the thought of that makes you shiver Dave has thoughts in mind to make them more accessible and cheaper, more than that I cannot say, but stay tuned!

UCM Command
UCM Command

Armour

While our armour died a horrible death, due to great tactics by the UCM players, these are your heavy hitters and if you have not got many targets to hit, buildings can be a good target for them. Remove the enemy armour and then concentrate on the enemy APCs!

AA

Anti-air assets are very important, some units are only AA based and other have a ground attack weapon as well, AA units can ONLY attack air units, I guess this seems like a problem, but there was so much stuff zipping around the board there is always something for them to have a pop at. Their key though is area denial IMO, preventing air strikes and defending against interceptors! Don’t leave home without them.

Interceptors & Aircraft

So you want to make a bombing run or strafing attack, yep not a problem. Draw a line from one point on the table to another, crossing over your objective, sounds familiar and works well. Roll to see if you turn up, HA! Not ours! We rolled ones all day. See what AA assets are in the area and in range before you attack and see the results, make your attack and then see what AA may catch you on the way out! Sounds simple and it is, then add to this interceptors cutting your line of approach and now you have a problem. Not a game problem or rules, but watching your carefully planned ground strike unfurl before your eyes.

Command and Scouts

In our game we used the army commanders that came with the large army deals. The UCM have the Kodiak ACV and The Scourge have the awesome Desolator. The Kodiak has a nice little strike package that UCM players will love and the Desolator is an incredible war chariot for the Scourge commander who can shoot a direct weapon at short range and a devastating electrical weapon with a huge template! I would recommend every army fear this weapon, nothing could be worse than fighting two of these beasts; thankfully there is only one in the army and that includes the Mega army. There are no scouts for The Scourge that we used (they are available) but the UCM scouts we thought would be useless proved to be a right thorn in our side, sniping away and directing the UCM army commander’s strikes.

Never underestimate these scouts, they maybe lightly armoured and easy to kill but if you don’t have the assets to deal with them they can cause you all sorts of issues, their AA guns took down one of our drop ships and AA cover. Little pain in the arses!

Scourge - Dropship attack!
Scourge – Dropship attack!

Cards

I did worry about the addition of the cards. Cards can be a good thing but, it seems mostly they allow players to over stack a situation or break rules (Spartan anyone?) gladly these didn’t. We sat around while Dave put some dinner in the oven (nice bloke Dave) and read through them, there are humorous quips on the cards but over all as we read some of them out to each other there seemed to be a balance to them all and nothing stood out as being too powerful.

I would like to point out though, I/we did not read them all and you don’t get their game implications by just reading them, Dave told us that he spent a lot of time working on them and hates games with cards that affect the overall balance of the game, which was good to hear. I can see them being a handy addition to the game but not a dreaded game changer.

Rules

Well, worried would be a word I used a lot prior to the play test, worried that these amazing miniatures could be let down by mediocre or even bad rules and I would have to hunt down a suitable set as a replacement. Let me just say right now, I personally have no worries about the game or the rules. Yes there are a few tweaks to be made prior to release, as there always are, but I think Dave hit the last coffin in the whole rules doubt when we talked at length about how rules sometimes need changes or to address un-foreseen issues after or prior to release, Dave explained that was one of his biggest bugbears about systems. The fact you bought a game or rule set and it was not supported by the designer/writer or if it was it would take a long time for them to be addressed. I get the impression that Dave would use his site not only for the growing FAQ’s and rule changes but spend a day with his many customers like he did on Facebook helping the gaming community understand and address any issues. Couple with that his support he offers to us mere bloggers and what he allows us publish.

United Colonies of Mankind (UCM) - Army Advances
United Colonies of Mankind (UCM) – Army Advances

Conclusion

The game is a true combined wargame, your army and its composition will only be as good as the forces you’re using in combinations with each other. Getting an effective balance of ground units, AA and infantry for objectives is essential. Moving those assets around and getting them setup in time to provide cover, attack or defence is the key. Throwing all your forces into a meat grinder will throw them away against an opponent who utilises the correct force on force. Add in the great way interceptors add a new dimension and unknown factor to the developing game and strategy coupled with the very well thought out command cards can help to give you an edge but it is a double edged sword, as your opponent can pull these same things against you.

I consider myself very fortunate to have been invited to Hawk Wargame, meet Dave and play this fantastic game, I cannot wait until it’s out and I can get my miniatures on the table! I ordered the Premium mega deal and made my payment so now I sit back and wait for my beloved PHR goodies to arrive on or after 23rd July, time goes so, so slowly…

Thank you Dave.

Carabus

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2 thoughts on “DropZone Commander – Playtesting”

  1. I’m so excited!!!! Great summary. Happy you guys got to play, and even happier you’re sharing the experience. Glad to hear something about the “cards” – I was worried a bit about that, too. The clock can’t tick fast enough. I’mj already thinking about my second wave of units and I’ve not even got my first round, yet. But this has given me the boost to resist 6ED a bit longer:)

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