Dropzone Commander: Rule Book First Impressions

Hey everyone, we got our Dropaone rule books in two days ago and I have been reading the book and wanted to talk about my impressions so far.

First of all, this isn’t an in-depth review, that will come later. Also please note, I have not played the game, yet. This is all theory.

This is my first impressions of the game after having given a cursory read-through of the rules. I am a fluff guy at my core, but the rules are what make or break a game, and the fluff is a largely subjective consideration. I will say that the story of the game is pretty cool, based largely around the UCM and their upcoming crusade to liberate their home worlds. The units all sound appropriately bad ass, and the setting is much less grim-dark and much more upbeat and high-tech.

The art in the book is excellent and the diagrams are all very useful. There is no index though, which sucks.

As for the rules themselves: I like them.

They are fast paced, simple and largely intuitive. The game requires far less die rolling than 40K for example, and seems to move at a quicker pace. For example, you roll to hit based on a fixed characteristic of the weapon itself (a 2+ for example), not the model firing it, and then compare it’s Energy to the target’s Armor, much like 40K’s Strength/Toughness ratio. If your energy is equal to the target’s armor, it is a 5+ to damage it, and it scales up or down from there. For example, if your energy is one below the Armor of your target, you damage it on a 6+ (and you can’t hurt a target beyond that).

If the target is hull down, you get -2 to hit it. So, if you would hit on a 2+, you now hit on a 4+. Super simple.

Weapon ranges vary depending on the target you are firing at. Most weapons, as in Heavy Gear, have unlimited range which makes sense from a realism perspective. However, in order to not have the game be a shoot-out, the introduction of the countermeasures rule means that units with countermeasures (most of them) will limit your weapon ranges. So, each weapon has a range against these types of weapons as well, typically 6″ to 24.”

Most of the units in the game are pretty slow, too. For example, the average speed of a MBT is around 5.” That tells me the game designer wants you to engage each other at close ranges. The fact that they essentially require you to have a large number of LoS blocking buildings to play the game combined with relatively short ranges means that the game is going to be about maneuver, which is awesome.

Most of the scenarios revolve around taking buildings and then finding the objective within them (on a random roll that gets easier the smaller the building and the longer you are in it). I like this mechanic as it allows you to have the drama of not knowing when you will get the objective. That’s the kind of random I like. The rest of the game seems to revolve around either delivering your troops into the buildings to seize objectives and defending them as they do it, while stopping your enemy from doing the same.

The units themselves are very rock-paper-scissors. Every army has essentially the same units (Main Battle Tanks, Heavy Tanks, Air, Support, Scouts, Troops, Special Forces, Tranports, etc.) but they differ from one another pretty significantly in how they function. This creates the diversity in the game while keeping it fairly even, at least at a glance.

For example, every army has their troops to take objectives, their special forces that kill troops, their APC’s to deliver Troops, Drop Ships to move everything, Air Support, AA, etc. They simply differ in their stats. This looks like it will be a lot of fun, and easy to grasp.

The Drop ships themselves are really fast for the most part. They allow you to rapidly redeploy your forces across the table which I think will make for a very fast paced, dynamic game.

I am very excited for this game and think it looks excellent so far, but only play-testing will be able to determine that for sure.

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About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

25 Responses to “Dropzone Commander: Rule Book First Impressions”

  1. Turn 7 Wargaming August 8, 2012 3:43 pm
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    Is there a mechanic to prevent one from simply bad rolling their way into no objectives? For example, what stops Steve from finding an objective really quick in each building because he rolls really well while Marty who rolls terribly despite better strategy never find any objectives?

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 8, 2012 4:15 pm
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      Off hand I can’t say. I don’t think, so. But, I hardly know the rules well enough yet to say with certainty. I will dig into it further and play some games once we get our miniatures and give an in-depth review.

    • Gargh August 8, 2012 5:28 pm
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      I don’t have the rulebook, but from what I’ve read there’s quite a variety of missions, not all of which are going to be randomised searches. Also, after grabbing the objective on the search missions you have to Get To Da Choppa (or go much slower on the ground) to actually take it off the map- so even if you luck into a bunch of objectives, if your opponent is playing better than you they might well be able to blow up your escaping units.

      Time will tell, though.

      • Reecius
        Reecius August 9, 2012 1:30 pm
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        You are correct. Most games use Victory Points and Kill Points. Victory Points are mission objectives, Kill Points are how much of the enemy you destroy and are usually used as tie breakers. The Victory Points you get from the various objectives. It looks like a cool, simple system.

  2. Sean Ireland August 8, 2012 3:46 pm
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    I was equally as impressed with the rules. Should be a fun game. For a first edition, looks like Hawk Wargames did much better than many others.

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 8, 2012 4:15 pm
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      The lead designer was heavily involved at Spartan, so he had an inside view of how running a game runs. I think it looks like really good fun.

      • Gargh August 8, 2012 5:38 pm
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        Yeah, I was worried about the rules since so much of it seemed to be done by one guy- I didn’t want the excellent minis to be let down by the rules. But from reading things online (see especially the unofficial forum at http://www.hot-lz.com, which now has a few short battle reports including one with great scenery)… it’s sounding great.

        • Reecius
          Reecius August 9, 2012 1:29 pm
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          I will have to check that out!

  3. Axientar August 8, 2012 8:54 pm
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    Any news on how long until the models arrive? Black Diamond Games got a bunch of their models earlier today, so it can’t be too far off…

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 9, 2012 1:29 pm
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      Sorry fellas, no news. BDG might have used a different distributor. Ours is still waiting on stuff stuck in customs.

      • Axientar August 9, 2012 3:44 pm
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        Alright then, thanks.

      • Kralizak August 9, 2012 7:56 pm
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        they said they used Efigs

        • Reecius
          Reecius August 9, 2012 8:59 pm
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          Hmm, so did we. I’ll ask Will to give them a ring tomorrow and see what’s up with the order. I know you guys are itching to get your stuff!

          • Axientar August 9, 2012 9:59 pm
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            Haha, yeah, can’t wait. 🙂 Thanks!

          • Kralizak August 9, 2012 11:42 pm
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            Clarification:
            on Facebook BDG posted a picture last Saturday of a person who just got their rulebook, and thanked Efigs for making an overnight delivery on it (since they are one of the apparently half-dozen stores in the US seriously interested). they didn’t specifically say that the models also came from Efigs, but one would logically assume so.

            I just checked, and they said the starter sets will arrive next week. So far they’ve had 2 waves of deliveries. They’ve already been charged for everything, including the starters, so they should come soon.

            sources:
            https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150226334189980&set=a.186676434979.23975.147071044979&type=1&theater

            https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150230570289980&set=a.186676434979.23975.147071044979&type=1&theater

            Clarification complete.

          • Reecius
            Reecius August 10, 2012 1:25 pm
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            Yes, Will called and ours will be here in a week or two as well.

            Almost there, guys!

          • Kralizak August 17, 2012 3:56 pm
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            so today BDG finally got their starter sets at about noon, which means they’re probably one week max from you guys 🙂 can’t wait

  4. Egge August 8, 2012 9:20 pm
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    Looking forward to a more in debt review! I seem to have pretty much the same opinion of the good and bad of 40k6 as Reecius and have really been looking forward to this game and the possibility to play it in a tournament setting.

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 9, 2012 1:28 pm
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      Yeah, the game looks awesome! We are just waiting on the miniatures to get here. Once we have them, we will bust out some videos.

  5. Tony August 9, 2012 1:21 pm
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    The models looked really nice in the pictures, but now I have some reservations about Dropzone Commander.

    The models, while very pretty, are tiny and rather high priced. They don’t have anywhere near the extremely good pricepoint of Spartan’s offerings, and the game is definately of a larger scale in terms of number of minis.

    The rulebook looks and reads a distressingly lot like a 1st run Spartan game, like their first Firestorm Armada book. This isn’t a good thing. There were several parts with clunky wording, or worse yet: Wishy-washy rules (‘This model can go over any ‘reasonable’ sized wall’ or ‘Line of Sight is drawn from where you think makes sense’.

    This could lead to a lot of problems in the future.

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 9, 2012 1:24 pm
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      I noticed that, too. There were quite a few rules that said: “do what is reasonable,” or “use your best judgement.” That can quite easily lead to problems. On the whole though, I liked the rules quite a bit.

      • Egge August 10, 2012 2:53 am
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        Is those rules that important or would it be easy to go with some kind of Internet standard for those things? I’m thinking tanks can move over things 1″ hight, LOS is always drawn from the center of the model and so on?

        • Tony August 10, 2012 7:09 pm
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          The issue is that of ambiguity.

          A well defined ruleset generally has fewer holes or questions for when weird situations happen. Likewise, it prevents players from going ‘I can totally see you!’ and ‘No you can’t!’ like one very major issue in 3rd Ed Warhammer, where each infantry model could legally draw line of sight from TWICE it’s height.

          Another is standardization. If very unambiguously worded, you can play the game anywhere, with any group, ESPECIALLY tournaments, and have people play the exact same game, instead of having sudden house-ruling arguments.

          • Egge August 12, 2012 9:55 pm
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            Crappy second language skills from my part. I meant if those rules are that important and game changing depending if one tournament would use one version of those vague-defined areas or would it be kind of the same result? I’m thinking about LOS for instance, will the game change much going from the center of the model or from the “eyes”?

          • Reecius
            Reecius August 13, 2012 11:16 am
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            Good point. I think only time will tell, but I can see some of these vague rules causing issues in competitive play. I much prefer tight rules with little to now ambiguity.