Reecius here to relate the early stages of learning to play Dropzone Commander!
First of all, what is Dropzone Commander? We’ve been talking about it quite a bit on the site, but some of you may not yet be familiar with it. Dropzone Commander, or DzC, is a 10mm SciFi miniatures game. To give you a frame of reference, 40K is 28mm. So, a tank in DzC is about the size of a Space marine in 40K.
What that means is that the game operates on a larger scale. While 40K is a sort of pseudo skirmish/company scale game, DzC is definitely company level or lager in scale. That means bigger games with a larger feel to them. The minis also look fantastic! They’re cast in a really high quality resin and especially for their small size, are very aesthetically impressive.
DzC first appeared at Salute (Europe and the UK’s largest wargames convention) less than two years ago nearly fully formed out of nowhere. It was astounding that a single guy, Dave the owner and creator of the game, pulled this game seemingly out of his pocket! What a feat, to have rules, minis, art, everything all ready to rock and roll.
So far I must say that this is an absolutely awesome game. There are some first edition errors such as grammar issues in the rule book, but there is already a V1.1 rule book out that I believe addresses a lot of these minor problems. The game itself though, is brilliant. It is easy to learn but difficult to master which is what you want to achieve in most games. Whereas a game like 40K or Warmahordes are difficult to learn and difficult to master, DzC has some fairly simple rules that allow for a lot of creativity and flexibility in tactics which I like.
The game is fairly fast paced, too. It uses alternate unit activation (although in this case you alternate battlegrounps which are comprised of several units) which I feel is a more enjoyable and engaging system that the IGOUGO formats of games like 40K and Warmahordes. The reason being is that you aren’t sitting and watching the other player move and act with their entire army. They use a portion of theirs, then you a portion of yours, and back and forth until all battlegroups have gone. You then recycle the turn, rolling for initiative again to see who picks to nominate a battlegroup until all turns of the game have been played out. This means you feel engaged in the game at almost all times as you are not playing for only a short period of time. It also creates a tactically complex situation where you must choose which units should activate in what order while also planning for what your opponent may choose to do. You can get screwed if you are in an exposed position and you fail to win the initiative for a new turn which is annoying, but I think it is a fair trade off for the more dynamic format.
The game has a dynamic missions system as well. In some missions there may be a single objective, in others, 20! You can also play a straight engagement mission too, and try to destroy the other player’s army. The way you capture objectives is interesting, too. You have to get your infantry into buildings to find objectives typically, although in some missions your vehicles can also get objectives. Sometimes you have to then get the objectives off of the table. However, the dance is in getting your fragile infantry into the buildings, finding the objectives while simultaneously stopping the enemy from doing the same thing.
The game is very much about thinking two turns ahead, timing, and luck. While the rules are simple, they put important restrictions in place so that you have to really think about what is going where, when and how they will then get away if they need to. That is where the tactical depth of the game comes into play and I really enjoy that.
The other great thing about this game is that at this early stage, there seems to be a really good balance in the game. Granted, with only a fraction of the units that other games have, that is a lot easier to do, but, the job has been done admirably. Every army has units that are very similar to one another, like in an RTS. At first, it seems that they re hardly any different to one another. However, as you play the game more, you will come to see that the differences between units are subtle, but meaningful. These differences are not so pronounced as to throw game balance out the window, but not so minor that as to create a bland game. Some tanks hit slightly harder, while others are slightly faster, where others are a little more durable. It is a good mix. When you stretch these differences out over an entire army it creates a really characterful game that does not feel lopsided when you actually play it.
The setting of the game itself is also really cool. Whereas 40K is more of a fantasy in space setting (like Star Wars), DzC is more of a hard SciFi setting like Star Trek, but with a strong militaristic slant to it. It feels real in that everything seems to have been really well thought out. Some of the plot elements are a bit weak such as the Shaltari (think Eldar mixed with ET wearing power armor) and the White Sphere (think a more benevolent version of the Green SPhere from Heavy Metal) all coming to earth around the same time inexplicably, but, the plot does seem to indicate that this will all be explained eventually in supplements. In general, this is a fun, exciting setting that is well constructed if a little thin in content at this time.
I am thoroughly enjoying playing my UCM so far (think IG, but with actual advanced technology). As I have said many times, a great minis game has fluff to keep you engaged, rules suitable for tournament play, and gorgeous mins. DzC has all three.
If you want to pick this game up, we do sell it at Frontline Gaming which you can buy here!