40K Got you Down? Check Out Dropzone Commander

All the craziness with 40K got you down? Maybe it’s time to see what else is out there.

Hey everyone, Reecius here from Frontline Gaming to discuss an alternative miniatures game that I really believe is one to watch. GW feels like its being run by Senator Palpatine at times these days, and a lot of folks are losing their interest in our favorite pastime. While we still love 40K and hold out hope that they turn the ship around with this new edition of the game, we are also practical.

Shaltari Walkers and Infantry

So what is Dropzone Commander? DzC (in internet lingo) is a 10mm SciFi miniatures war-game set in a dystopian future where the human race was crushed by a species of conquering parasitic aliens known as the Scourge. Fast forward roughly two centuries and mankind (the UCM) has built up an armada of mammoth size to retake their home worlds from the Scourge. In this mix you have the highly advanced Shaltari aliens and the cybernetic Post Human Republic (PHR) working to achieve their own ends plus the soon to be released Resistance faction, which consists of humans left behind on the conquered worlds whom carry on the fight against the Scourge using grim determination and whatever weapons they can find.

PHR Walkers

What I like about this game is that it is so masterfully crafted. The miniatures are fantastically detailed and even at the diminutive 10mm scale (where a tank is roughly the size of a Space Marine), these models have an incredible amount of detail. Each faction has a very distinct, unified aesthetic and you can see the attention and skill that went into making them. They are both easy to paint to a good standard if you want to just base/wash/drybrush and get them on the table, or, you can really go to town on them and put a serious amount of attention in them. The only downside here is that there really isn’t a lot of room for conversions which is my only complaint with the models in comparison to a game like 40K.

UCM  Gladius Tanks

The game’s background is in its infancy, but the story is interesting. The game opens with mankind having just launched their massive effort to retake their home worlds. It feels like the beginning of a momentous moment in history. As the game develops, that story will progress and grow. What we have now though, is well crafted. The game definitely has more of a hard SciFi feel where everything feels grounded in science and is thought out and explained logically, which I love. Its a bit like reading an Asimov novel where you can sense that the person writing the story knows what they’re talking about and has done their research.

Scourge Prowlers

Where the game really shines though, IMO, is in the rules. I love all aspects of miniatures gaming, but for me, playing the game is my favorite. This game has an incredibly tight rule-set. It is written to be balanced, and balanced it is. No faction is clearly better than another. They are all different in subtle, meaningful ways that create distinct, fun play-styles. In the dozen games I have played so far, it has usually come down to the last turn with something dramatic like my Special Forces soldiers fast roping from their aerial transport into a building to blast some alien scum at close range and then make their escape with a vital objective! If you do manage to really pull ahead, the other player typically still has a chance to get back in the game through clever tactics and the use of command cards, which give small boosts to your units during critical moments if used well.

Shaltari Gate

The game uses the much preferable (IMO) alternate unit activation turn structure wherein a portion of your army activates, then a portion of your opponent’s and back and forth until you finish a turn. This way, you are only ever not playing the game for a few minutes at a time. This helps to keep you engaged and you are far less susceptible to alpha strikes. It creates a more fluid and reactive game where you have to think about order of operations in unit activation, try to impose your plan on your opponent while simultaneously attempting to predict their actions and react to any surprises. It creates very dynamic games.

PHR Athena Strike Fighter

The game also revolves around objectives, with only a single Kill Point mission to keep players from spamming troops (which are best for taking objectives). The objectives vary wildly in number and type. In some missions you can have over 20 objectives on the table or only one! They vary in the way you interact with them too, ranging from simply touching them to score to having to hold them, take them off of the table or even find them in a large building wherein your infantry can engage in close quarters fire fights over them. This emphasis on objectives and diminished opportunity for alpha strikes, means that taking an army that only does one thing, such as spamming certain units or all out offense, aren’t as likely to succeed. You truly need to take a balanced, well rounded army in this game to consistently win the wide variety of missions you will be presented with.

UCM Archangel Fighters

The game also provides you with a wide variety of tools to use. At first it seems very rock, papers, scissors in that you have units that are good at fighting certain other units. For example, Flak Tanks that are good at taking down Flyers. However, each of these units is subtly different and has multiple uses if you can see them. The UCM slow, heavily armored Rapier, for example, seems like a dedicated AA tank but is also great at pulping light buildings, infantry and skimmers. Compartively, the Scourge Reaper is not as versatile but is faster with lighter armor and hits harder. While both of these units fill the same primary role, their secondary roles and slight variations create really different play-styles. As you become more experienced at the game, you will learn to see and take advantage of these nuances to really find the tactical depth in the game.

Scourge Desolator

Almost every unit is also cool in some way, but with specific drawbacks to keep it from being overpowered. The Desolator, pictured above, is pure death at close range. It literally fires an Ion Lightening Storm down on hapless units beneath it in a devastating AOE attack. It is also a flying unit which means it is hard to hurt and it has a boatload of damage points (wounds) which makes it a truly scary unit. However, it has weak armor so that when you do hit it, you hurt it, and it is an HQ unit which means that losing it can be a devastating blow. You want to just throw it forward with some escort units, but to do so could cost you the game. You have to be careful with it. It is little touches like this that you see in all aspects of game design that really make this a balanced, fun game to play. There is no such thing as a deathstar in this game, even units like the massive Hades walker will die to concentrated firepower.

Shaltari Skimmers

The game is very easy to learn but difficult to master, which is great. In comparison to games like Warmachine or 40K which are hard to learn and hard to master, DzC is very friendly for a new player to pick up. In just a few games, it comes together. Mastering the subtlwties though, is an ongoing experience and one of the things that I love about any minis game. You always want to feel like there is something new to learn in a game with tactical depth, and so far, I feel that way with DzC. No matter how many times I think I have memorized opening moves, or the right tactics for a situation, the highly fluid nature of the game and changes in my opponents actions or reactions have had my thinking on the fly to make adjustments. That to me, is great. It keeps things fun and avoids becoming stale.

The Two Player Starter Set is a great value, too. It comes with two armies that are around 600-700pts (a tournament army is 1,500pts), a map to play on, terrain, a rule book, dice, tape measure and templates all for under $100! It is an incredible value. While individual models are more expensive for this game than others, an army is typically cheaper. For $200 to $300 bucks you can build a big army with tons of options which in the wargamer world, is a bargain.

PHR Juno

Lastly, the game is well managed on the business side of things. Having spoken to Dave (owner and creator of the game) at length while in Valhalla, I can tell you he is a guy that knows what he is doing. I feel that this is a business that is not in danger of going belly up which so frequently happens in our industry, and will continue to grow and thrive. They release updates in the Privateer Press style, as I refer to it, where every faction gets an update with every release which is awesome. No one gets left in the dust waiting years, even a decade at times, between updates. This keeps each faction fun and fresh and new releases balanced against one another as they are developed and play-tested alongside one another.

Scourge Hunters

As I have said many, many times, the three factors I believe make for a successful miniatures game are: beautiful miniatures to inspire us to paint and model, a compelling background to keep us interested, and a tournament tight ruleset to make the game fun and fair. DzC has all three of these. If you want to pick any DzC goodies up, you can do so over at Frontline Gaming at our webstore.

Here’s an interview with Dave from Hawk Wargames!


About Reecius

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

29 Responses to “40K Got you Down? Check Out Dropzone Commander”

  1. TinBane May 14, 2014 2:10 am #

    Can’t do anything more than agree.
    Having played DzC it’s almost painful to read GW’s rules :/

    If there’s a lesson or two they could pick up from Hawk, it’s that if you take care of the game, then the players will know and appreciate it. Balance, staggered releases, and trial rules for new u its, are GREAT ideas!

    • Reecius May 15, 2014 1:11 pm #

      Totally agree. Plays-testing rules in advance, then getting customer feedback seems so painfully obviously a good idea.

  2. Weidekuh May 14, 2014 6:34 am #

    Even tho i think 7th edition will be great, those batreps and interviews on Dropzone Commander really impressed me. Will have to find someone to play some testgames.

    • White925 May 15, 2014 6:56 am #

      We have been playing a bunch of dropZone at the shop and will get some battle reports soon.

  3. Crisp Mini May 14, 2014 6:47 am #


    If you have ever felt disenfranchised with 40k, but haven’t made the jump to warmahordes b/c the style and figures didn’t suit you, you owe it to yourself to give this game a try. The new Sci-Fi game where games tend to be close and I’ve yet to walk away feeling like I got tabled by some over powered rules. It’s also great as the best army lists are balanced and can be built with totally different units, so you are never painting a bunch of the same thing. Some people have written articles about trying to spam things to break the game and have found that spamming results in an unbalanced list that cannot perform well, as it is not covering all it’s bases.

    Never thought of the lack of conversion, though there is a guy working on converting a bear to a Kodiak, since the starter comes with a spare.

    • Reecius May 15, 2014 1:13 pm #

      Exactly, the games are almost always close. So far in a dozen games, I have had one big win. I am sure as the skill gap grows between the vet and the novice that will increase a lot, but in general terms, the core mechanics of the game encourage close matches.

  4. bonesaww666 May 14, 2014 7:46 am #

    My gaming group and I are actually going to give Bolt Action a trip’round the block.

    It seems to have some well thought out mechanics with suppression fire and the interesting turn mechanic, just waiting on my stuff to arrive in the mail!

    • Hargus56 May 14, 2014 7:53 am #

      Bonesaww where are you based out of? My buddies and I are also getting into BA.

      • bonesaww666 May 14, 2014 10:17 am #

        I’m out of Niagara Falls, Canada.

        As of right now it’s looking like just me and my friends are the only locals, but someone’s gotta be the first to take the plunge!

        I was going to do the IJA as I think the tenacity, ferocity and suicidal fanatasim that they clung to the Bushido code was awe inspiring (despite it most likely being a key catalys to their rapid decline), plus they handed the Brits some heavy handed defeats.

        Alas I opted to go with the US of A, I want to make and replay some of the Devil’s Brigade’s actions throughout the war (my Great Uncle was a part of these crazy bastards!), and the Screaming Eagles have all the equipment options to match their historical kit.

        I picked up the USMC starter set, I liked the way the models looked (was also an excellent deal) and the new plastic kits seem flushed with versatility, I’ll pick up some GI’s later in life.

        We have a player doing the British (Scottish infantry with armoured support, family service), Nazi’s (Heer also family history) and Italians (my freind’s Grandfather) so we can take some family pride and grab some first hand knowledge of stories and the like.

        It’s going to be an epic time me thinks, I love the game mechanics so far and with the new armour rules rolling out this summer it’s looking to be a great year to hop in my time machine!

        • Hargus56 May 14, 2014 10:38 am #

          Yeah it looks great. USMC is amazing the box set is really nice to have that many BARs in it. I got the AoN set and have a box of Rangers and Pioneers on their way to flush them out as well as a Chaffee, Puma and some MMG and mortars for each. Another buddy of mine is going British and the other Soviet, I am already having army ADD and ordered up the French book as well.

          Game looks really solid, I did the 40k thing for a bit but didn’t care for GW’s policies and went to Warmahordes but that is designed as a competitive game and missed just the moving bodies and rolling dice of GW games but am very happy with my move to BA.

          Reason I asked for location is I am near Frontline and was hoping others in the area were picking it up as well.

          • bonesaww666 May 14, 2014 11:08 am

            Understandable man!

            I tried Warmachine and Hordes but couldn’t really get into them, the model design bothers me far more then it should.

            Bolt Action’s turn mechanic and the Pinning system are triumphant, the models are coming around (the tanks look absolutely gorgeous), the reserves/outflanking is fun, hell even popping smoke is a seriously debatable action, it’s ability to cover an advance is excellent!

            The Faction/Army balance seems well implemented and really characterful, with such “simplistic” stats it’s hard to unbalance the game too heavily.

            The theatres of war are great for recreating battles but the game balances well as just a straight up table top strategy game, I know some people are rather rankled by the Historical Genre, don’t let that scare you away!

            I don’t know, It’s just cool putting some humanity behind your wargames.

            In the Grim Dark, shit can’t get any worse, everyone is a bigger evil then the last cunt.

            As the Allies we stand to turn back the tide!

            As the Axis they get a chance to re-write history.

            It’s going to be an amazing time!

          • bonesaww666 May 14, 2014 11:45 am

            Also, much as stated above with DZC the dynamic turn sequence prevents a solid/lucky Alpha strike from ever happening, minor errors with maneuver and unit placement can be more easily mitigated due to the fluidity of turn sequence, while the Tactical Tempo keeps always upbeat for the ever changing Plan A to B to C, as the enemy can always react before it’s too late if the order dice don’t turn up exactly as planned!

            Warhammer once a trap is sprung you must weather it with a clenched anus, in this, you can always think twice before picking up the soap.

            As the aggressor you have to be wary of over extension due to a bad run of dice being drawn, always have a Plan B (like all them ladies I buy drinks for ;p)

  5. Meat_Hulahoop May 14, 2014 3:14 pm #

    You make a convincing argument for DzC Reece. Damn you! 🙂

    • Reecius May 14, 2014 9:58 pm #

      Muahaha! My evil plans bear fruit! =P

    • Fister May 15, 2014 4:45 pm #

      He had me at “special forces fast roping in through the skylight, blasting alien scum, and escaping with the objective”

  6. Fister May 14, 2014 7:13 pm #

    I’m moving to Austin. If there’s a following, I’m quite interested in PHR.

    • Reecius May 14, 2014 9:57 pm #

      Pretty sure you will be in luck!

    • anonymou5 May 15, 2014 12:45 am #

      I live about 45 minutes north of Austin, so you’ll have at least one opponent! (just moved here myself)

      • Reecius May 15, 2014 1:13 pm #

        Austin rocks! I love that city.

        • Fister May 15, 2014 4:48 pm #

          I’m stoked! The woman wouldn’t move to SF so I took Austin as an excellent alternative.

          • Reecius May 15, 2014 6:01 pm

            I love Austin. It is such a fun city for night life, music, food, and gaming. I could live there for sure.

  7. Mister Shine May 15, 2014 5:11 am #

    Great article, aside from spouting UCM propaganda. Scourge are the heroes that saved Earth, can’t believe you’d use a term like “parasite”

    That’s our word and nothing gives you the right to use it

    • White925 May 15, 2014 7:00 am #

      Scourge are a lot of fun and hit like a truck.

    • Reecius May 15, 2014 1:13 pm #

      Lol, guess it just all boils down to perspective =P

  8. thebeggarking May 15, 2014 9:31 am #

    Yeah nice article and it’s hit the spot brilliantly! GW Getting is getting us down. My gaming group pretty much not happy. To be honest we are furious with such a quick 40k update. Current edition is great as we feel and play, it’s not even 2 yrs old….. We are not tourney players and just play for fun amongst ourselves, with mostly fluffy lists. And feel 40k is as good as it’s ever been, We loving 6th edition, rules, models and options. This new rulebook release has left a very bad taste in the mouth. As long time players, collectors and lovers all stuff GW for 15+ years, (Games, minis, fluff). We really feel they have kicked us right in the guts. We will still continue to play 6th as is currently is now. But are now exploring other companies and systems. For 15 years pretty much my groups money has gone virtually on exclusively Gw products. Now we going to try all the other great stuff out there and all our hobby money is going elsewhere.. Dropzone commander, All quiet on the Martian front, Deadzone. And I’m really really itching to get into Bolt action! looks great. Bring on the new worlds. 🙂 Exciting times.

    • Reecius May 15, 2014 1:16 pm #

      Hey thebeggarking, yeah, I feel you. This edition change was too fast. However, I hope that it means we get a refinement of what we had and a better rule-set. If so, I can live with it.

      But for folks who don’t have so much trouble with the rules the way tournament guys do, I can imagine that it would be a super bummer. I feel your group.

      But like you said, perhaps there is a silver lining? We have branched out and are happier for it. I love DzC and other games too have been great fun like Infinity and such. Perhaps in the end your group will be having more fun now than ever!

      • thebeggarking May 15, 2014 8:23 pm #

        Hey Reecius. Yeah guess they made it too messy with all the data slates and Escalation and stronghold assault. Thankfully I didn’t buy either of them expansions or i would be even more annoyed, lol. Maybe your right and they will get the rule set down. Then hoping they then leave it alone for 3- 4 years. Just seems they really didn’t have a plan for 6th and it’s seems a big messy joke. Really question their direction other than to sell models. We will see how it plays out, and eagerly await some of your teams batreps with 7th. Will get the book eventually but just the rules. Yeah think new games be awesome for my group. And dropzone commander I’m really feeling the love for the PHR models. They look very sweet. Also like the idea of cyborgs.

  9. Painjunky May 15, 2014 1:27 pm #

    Hey Reecius

    I just read this article on bols and learned from the comments that you personally were the one that ruined 40k!

    You dirty son of a bitch!

    • TinBane May 15, 2014 9:02 pm #

      Yeah, I noticed that as well.
      How dare someone that promote a filthy, competitive view of 40k, turn around and say it’s broken because of balance issues!
      Before FLG, everyone played friendly games only, tournaments didn’t exist, and nobody abused the rules. Then Reece had to open his big mouth, and talk about it online, and now everybody is doing it, and it’s all ruined.

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