Monday, December 15, 2014

Starter Box Battles: Dropzone Commander Starter Box

Starter Box Battles is a series of battle reports where we try to showcase either the starter box of a game, or a game played using only two basic faction boxes.  Today's Starter Box Battles is The Second Class Elitist versus Ali Alcatraz in Dropzone Commander.
A couple quick ground rules for SBB.  First, we know in many (okay, probably most) cases the SBB won't be a "legal battle" by the rules, but it will give you a bit of an idea for how the forces in a game are supposed to be played.  No entry substitution is allowed, but where possible, wargear or other abilities may be added- just not more models.  Earlier or alternate sculpts of models are allowable, so long as only the content of the starter box is played.  I think that's the list.  If not, we'll add more as we go along.

Since half our table was still set up for Dropzone Commander from my game with Merek, and Ali hadn't tried to play it yet, we decided to start off with a little 10mm action. The forces for the Dropzone Commander Starter Box Battle were real easy to decide on:  after all, the UCM is my chosen force, and Ali- the evil army loving, necromantic squid player that she is- was obviously more interested in the Scourge.  

The board was set up according to the insert in the starter box.  The objective of this mission is to search the three buildings on the centerline for the objectives (those red counters) and claim them. The game times out in six turns.  You score one point for each objective controlled, and two points for each objective you escort off the table via your deployment zone.  I win initiative, and decide to go with the left side of the board. 

Dropzone doesn't have you move models by unit, or individuals, but by battlegroups- models coordinated for a specific task. Since the task at hand is to try to collect the objectives, the first thing I did was activate my Infantry group.  The Condor dropship flew in and touched down just short of the building, allowing the Bear APCs to roll out.  One parked up on the building so the Infantry could start searching, while the other started to speed off to the center building.   

Ali goes for a similar tactic, moving her Marauder into position for the middle building.  Not sure yet where my armor and anti-aircraft are going to come in, she wanted to make sure she kept everything well hidden. Her Invader APCs disembark.  One deposits troopers into the central building, the other waits for a chance to roll out when the coast is clear. 

Realizing that she intended to try to go for the middle and North objectives (oriented from our original picture) I maneuvered my Rapier anti-aircraft towards that edge to try to pin down her dropships.
Ali smartly counters my AA placement with her Hunter Main Grav-tanks, positioning them to try to eliminate the transport's threat.
And then to counter her counter, my Sabre Main Battle Tanks set down where they can whip around the corner next turn to rain shells down into Scourge armor.
Finishing out Turn One, Ali brings down her Reaper anti-aircraft in position to threaten my infantry dropship next turn.  In the End Phase, we check the victory conditions (which don't kick in until turn six), and search the two buildings, finding nothing yet.
Ali wins Initiative, and decides to strand my infantry first and foremost. Her Reapers move foreward past my Bear APCs to get a clear line of sight, and absolutely tear my defenseless Condor to shreds.
My Sabre MBTs activate next, drawing bead on her Hunters. Lots of shots, and even though the Hunters don't get their Skimmer advantage yet (having just disembarked they weren't moving fast enough yet), but only one shot strikes home.
The two remaining Hunters fire at the Rapier Anti-Aircraft, and fortunately for me fail to penetrate my armor.
Figuring that things are going to start going bad for me fast, I re-embark the Rapiers, and lift them forward with their Condor, actually dropping them behind the enemy line in position to attack the Marauder dedicated to the infantry next turn...
...which skips around the side of the building to remain out of sight.  This was part of my plan, actually... either it stays where it was and my anti-aircraft take out the marauder, or they turn the corner move into range of my Sabre MBTs which take out the Invaders needed to board the Marauder.  My Infantry battlegroup then activates (not pictured).  The guys in the building stand pat, and the other Bear starts cycling forward to the middle building. In the End Phase, Ali finds the objective in the middle building, and my infantry still haven't managed to successfully search the smaller one.

Turn three, Ali wins initiative again.  Objective in hand, the infantry load into their Invader (before my Sabres can draw a bead on it), mount up into the Marauder dropship which manages to skip away just out of range of reactionary fire from my Rapiers.

My Sabres instead decide to shell the crap out of the Hunters.  Or, perhaps I should say, the area completely surrounding the Hunters just beyond any potentially damaging blast radius, as not a bloody thing manages to connect.

Turn Four begins with Ali again dominating initiative.  Wisely, the first thing she activates is the only thing that matters- the objective laden Marauder. Rather than stand and give me a decent parting shot at it, it runs for the hills (or, in this case, the table's edge) as fast as its little xeno-engines can manage.  Due to the inability of the UCM to cover enough territory to manage a tie at this point, we call the game 2-1 in favor of the Scourge.

THOUGHTS ON GAME MECHANICS:  For a game with a lot of tactical complexity, the actual mechanics of Dropzone Commander are very simple.  The d6 system is never cumbersome, and has a short list of always/never conditions to remember, making everything else reasonably quick to pick up.  The movement rules get a little sticky at points, but since movement and positioning is in fact the entire focus of the rules set, it makes sense, and it's what gives the game its flair.

THOUGHTS ON THE UCM:  If you really want to play real-world armor, but your club focuses on scifi, the UCM is the faction for you! Everything in the list has a very realistic modern or near-modern feel to it, and it's "tangible tech" that easily makes sense.  There's no end to painting options as well, which really seems to be the norm in 10/15mm non-historical games.

THOUGHTS ON THE SCOURGE:  Fast, and hard hitting, but a bit of a glass cannon honestly,  If you want an all-or-nothing playstyle, you'll enjoy them.  If you like evil aliens, you'll enjoy them.  If you want a force of evil aliens that can take a pounding and keep're gonna have a bad day.  As with the UCM the options for painting are immense.  They're definietly a viable faction if you like playing aggressively. 

THOUGHTS ON THE STARTER SET:  Get it.  Don't even think about it.  If you and a buddy have any interest whatsoever, it's worth it.  First of all, the models are worth more than the box.  And then there's the FULL SIZE rulebook.  And a small table's worth of terrain.  And a freaking tape measure!  Seriously, this thing is jam packed with everything you need to play.  Grab a floor or table and this guy, and you have everything right there, no waiting.  As far as beginner boxes go, this is the most complete one I've ever seen on the market.  

Hope you enjoyed this Starter Box Battle!  Also, don't forget to go vote for either Dropzone Commander or one of the other games we're offering up in our 2015 Campaign Contest.  You could even win a Scourge or UCM force of your very own!

See you on the other side of the table,

The Second Class Elitist. 

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