Dropzone Commander Battle Report #6 Ferrum Test #1


Hello everyone!

My name is Cameron, and I make Dropzone Commander battle reports (several of which have featured previously on this blog).

This battle report is a little bit different from the typical battle reports I post, so I wanted to add this explanation. In this report, I am trying out a spam list for the Ferrum.

If you’re someone who is a current or former 40k player, the words “spam list” may make you cringe. You might be wondering, is Dropzone Commander just turning into another game like 40k? Are spam lists beginning to dominate?

Let me assure you, they’re not. Dropzone Commander is an exceptionally well-designed game, and in general running spam lists is not effective at all. The game rewards balanced lists, intelligent play on the table, and combined arms tactics.

Unlike the Games Workshop design team, the creator of Dropzone Commander (Dave) listens to community feedback and makes changes to the game to respond to existing competitive balance issues. If a unit has thrown off the competitive balance, he is not afraid to make players go into the main rulebook with a pen and change unit stats or core game rules. Players are not left waiting for several years for fixes to basic, game-breaking problems.

Dropzone Commander also beta tests its units by issuing experimental rules, which can be refined several times before the actual release is printed. In other words, balance changes can be implemented at any time, and the creators care deeply about game balance.

This brings me to the UCM Ferrum. The Ferrum is by far the most contentious unit in the game. Unlike almost all Dropzone units, it is an all-rounder, capable of performing many different roles in on the battlefield. It fills a force org slot (support) that is relatively common in its army’s force org chart, which makes it easy to spam or fit into any list. Multiple forum threads over the past year have gone on for dozens of pages debating whether or not the Ferrum is broken.

For their part, Hawk have already nerfed the Ferrum once. A new version of the experimental rules was released in January. Even this nerf has not quieted the debate though. Simon (from the Hawk dev team) has posted that Hawk intends to nerf the Ferrum further, and has offered some vague details about what the changes that Hawk is considering.

However, there is still a sizable group in the Dropzone Community (myself included) that believes that these proposed nerfs still do not go far enough, and that the Ferrum is unbalancing the game.

Despite the pages and pages of conjecture on forum threads, one thing that has been largely missing from the debate is evidence. To date, only one battle report has been posted that utilized a spammed Ferrum list (using proxied models). Everything else has been theory.

In this vacuum of evidence, and inspired by Reece and Frankie’s 40k test videos for new 40k rules releases, I have taken it upon myself to assemble a Ferrum spam list and test it out. I want to add some data to the debate.

While this video tests the list out against Shaltari in a 999 point skirmish Targets of Opportunity mission, my plan is to test out the Ferrum spam list at different points levels, on different missions, and against different armies. This one test is by no means definitive, and you can expect to see more tests in the future.

And while I do have a hypothesis about the Ferrum (that it is overpowered), I don’t have a vendetta against the Ferrum or a wish to see it made useless. My goal is for the game to be fun and balanced, and if these videos show that the Ferrum is balanced and a spam list isn’t effective, I think that will be great!

Anyway, here is the battle report. I hope it’s helpful:


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20 Responses to “Dropzone Commander Battle Report #6 Ferrum Test #1”

  1. TinBane June 4, 2014 4:51 pm #

    TBH, I was pretty impressed with the game balance displayed. You took over half your points, in the unit you are spamming, against a list that wasn’t designed to counter it, and while it performed well, it didn’t dominate. You were lucky to have espionage when he tried to monorail.

    You had to concede half the battlefield, and if he’d had more infantry, got the monorail off, or made terra gates, or any other of a number of options he’d have run away with the game. Likewise, one countermeasures hack is all it takes to lose a ferrum early!

    I’m not overly concerned with ferrum spam, I think once the next set of adjustments comes out, it’s going to be fine.

    My stance has always been, that taking one ferrum has a bigger beneficial effect (per ferrum) than taking two. One set of annoying drones, gives you plenty of edge, and covers a few bases. However, the kinds of lists you’ve been making have glaring weaknesses. It’s not crazy to expect that your 1500pt list is going to come up against packs of coursairs, and other scary options that will eat a ferrum each turn – your drones can’t reaction fire at all.

    • Cameron June 4, 2014 5:44 pm #

      Yeah, I think this list will have the most problems on focal point missions where you need to move ground units to other parts of the board. The ferrums are too slow.

      Brian and I have been re-hashing the optimal way to play this mission with these lists, and I think in retrospect it would have been a better move on my part to spend a turn killing his AA (probably turn 3), then work on taking down the building on the right. This would have made it impossible for him to find that second objective. It’s not like that first objective was going anywhere after his spirit gates got killed…

      Also, if he had monorailed, it wouldn’t have been a runaway… it just would have potentially tied the game at 2-2 (had he found the objective and kept that one squad of infantry alive).

      I’ve thought about the Corsair list. I don’t think they would be great at taking down Ferrums, since I could clump up the Ferrums and get a fair amount of reaction fire AA shots from the point defense launchers. The main threat from the corsairs would be taking out my infantry transports. I would need to stay clumped up near the Ferrums, which are very slow.

      • TinBane June 4, 2014 8:34 pm #

        Cameron: It would have been a run-away. With him popping your ferrums, you wouldn’t have won on killpoints. Or am I missing something?

        • Cameron June 5, 2014 6:28 pm #

          The Ferrums popped on turn 5 and 6, and I only lost 2 due to poor deployment. With better positioning/optimal play it should have been only 1 (probably on turn 5).

          The kukris would go down easily in one turn. Since the drones have AA fire, I’m hitting skimmers on 3+, and if I focus up to E10 I’m killing on 2+.

          That gives me 3 turns to kill a 20DP building and the infantry inside, which with 2-3 squads of drones, 3 sabres, 2-3 ferrums, would have happened easily. He probably wouldn’t have been able to score the second objective, and if he did, I think I still would have won in kill points.

          • TinBane June 5, 2014 8:32 pm

            Good point, forgot they negated that penalty.
            In any event, it’s still a generalist list against a super-specialised one at this points bracket.
            Every list has access to AA, which could be used to reduce the effectiveness of your ferrum list. Look at how much AT that list packed on. I’m guessing your local meta is light on flyers?

            I’m not having a go at your Shaltari opponent, but he’s taking a list which if anything is biased against AA power lists. He would have performed well in demolition, and well in AT battles, but it’s got AA the equivalent of a starter (500pts) set.

          • Cameron June 6, 2014 4:40 am

            Yeah, he’s light on AA. 999 points is tough though… if he took another AA squad, it would really reduce his ability to threaten my Ferrums in the backfield. He would probably have to drop the Dreamsnare and 3 Tomahawks (although he would have a couple of points left over to maybe take an Eden gate or something). My Ferrums aren’t going to be that scared of 3 Tomahawks in the backfield.

            Since this is skirmish, there are no fast movers… but there are definitely scourge players around here who run a Desolator and multiple Reavers at 999 points. You’ll need some AA to deal with that! 999 points in general is tough to build a balanced list around.

            His list is great at extracting objectives from buildings while he dominates a tank battle in the center. A formation of 6 Tomahawks with a Dreamsnare is pretty tough to take down, even for my PHR.

            My Ferrum list gets to kill tank lists or ground-attack flyer lists easily. I’ll definitely need to try the Ferrum list out against a list with heavy AA, but looking at the math I still feel like I would be able to match up against 2 full AA squads at 999. That just seems too versatile and powerful to me.

  2. Joshhodg June 4, 2014 7:41 pm #

    Only one problem I see. Dave from Hawk Wargames specifically said at Valhalla that he likes the Ferrum as they have it in testing. Which the only difference from whats on their site is a Ferrum can only replace 3 drones per turn instead of 4. If your going to test it do it with that.

    • Reecius June 5, 2014 11:19 am #

      Yeah, we’ve been playing 3 new drones a turn.

    • Cameron June 5, 2014 6:31 pm #

      Yeah, I can start testing that way. Quick questions:

      – Which video is that from? I’ve seen the long outdoor interview video, but haven’t had a chance to watch all the bat reps yet. If it’s in the interview I must have missed it.

      – When you say “as they have it in testing”, do you mean the 1.1 rules published online, or the changes that Hawk Simon talked about on the forums? (which is what I’m testing with in these videos).

      • Reecius June 5, 2014 7:06 pm #

        I just go off of what Dave said =P

        • Cameron June 6, 2014 4:19 am #

          If I go by the 1.1 rules, the Ferrums are going back down to 160 points and are re-gaining focus fire against fliers. That makes them MUCH more powerful… even with the 3 drone replenishment.

          Where is Dave’s comment? Which video is it?

          • Egge June 6, 2014 2:26 pm

            First rumour was no focus fire against aircrafts and 4 drones only respawned per turn with a slight point cost increase. Then in the battle report with nafka Vs Dave it was mentioned that the Ferrum could only spawn 3 drones per turn.

  3. TinBane June 4, 2014 8:40 pm #

    I personally think the whole Ferrum issue isn’t one of balance, it’s one of fun.

    A ferrum spam list, doesn’t scare me because it’s hard to beat. It scares me because it’s boring to play, and even more boring to play against.

    If you come up against a list with decent AA, your drones are going to do so little damage it’s not funny.

    Even if you get 8 drones in, and lose none of them, against scourge you hit on 5s (you’d be lucky to get 3 hits), and against shaltari you hit on 5s and your opponent then rolls a dice for each hit to block them.

    Killing their AA, isn’t going to be trivial. If you lose a couple of drones from each squad, your odds of getting enough hits to do E10 just keeps dropping!

    Against buildings there are better options (longbows). And honestly, you can ruin their christmas with fast movers.

    Don’t you think more tanks, some fast movers, more true AA, some longbows, and one ferrum is going to perform better than your 4x ferrum spam at 1500?

    • Egge June 5, 2014 9:19 am #

      The drones have AA so they hit skimmers as well on 3+. Or did you mean Ferrum reactive fire?

    • Cameron June 5, 2014 6:34 pm #

      Hitting skimmers on 3+. Kukris and reapers go down pretty easily.

    • Cameron June 5, 2014 6:42 pm #

      And honestly, I wish it were like you were describing. I don’t think the drones should have AA at all. It’s too versatile. I think they should rebalance the Ferrum around being a ground attack/scout unit, maybe with a points cut.

  4. Crisp Mini June 5, 2014 11:35 am #

    gates follow their weapon profile, so the spirits get 1 shot. Edens 2, and Gaia 3.

    Thanx for the report, I look forward to more.

    That Shaltari list is interesting. If it works for him great, but it’s not the list I’d put down for 999pt TAC.

    I feel the Ferrum spam lists are scarier to look at than to play. If you have AA cover I’ve found you can thin the horde out. Yes, your AA becomes dedicated to that and allows the UCM player to be more brave with his other aerial units, but if they’re spamming Ferrum, they don’t have much else.

    As TinBane said, Ferrums have a decreasing return on them, and I think having 1 or 2 depending on point level is better than all out spam.

    • TinBane June 5, 2014 8:43 pm #

      I have to +1 this. I’ve tried some mock-up lists with Ferrums in larger quantities.

      The drones really drop off when you thin them out, because they can’t combine firepower.

      The ferrum is the inverse of the other “big bad” units. The big scary units have 100% effectiveness, and lose it only on death. The ferrum loses effectiveness from the get go (every drone killed reduces your odds of getting a good number of E10 or E13 hits) but can regain it slowly.

      It’s pretty easy to drop 3 drones from a squadron with reaction-fire AA. Once you do that, your opponent is going to struggle to get two E10 hits off in a turn from their ferrum. Alternatively that’s one E13 hit, which while annoying isn’t really good “payoff” from the ferrum.

      The ferrum isn’t fast enough to run. Once committed, they are committed. Further, you are (presumably) stuck in bears/medium dropships, because any opponent running flyers is going to massacre light dropships, because of your lack of functional AA.

      If we both to to the LVO next year, maybe we can run this game 🙂

      • Cameron June 6, 2014 4:20 am #

        Yeah, that would be fun! I imagine they’ll change the rules by then though.

  5. Egge June 6, 2014 2:27 pm #

    Overall the Ferrum is tested in targets of opportunity and recon. It should be more tested with focal points of when the mission is “get over to the opponent’s side”. The missions in DZC is really a balancing factor.

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