With the Tabletop Simulator work going well (add some Shaltari units over the weekend), I starter thinking more about the latest ruleset and one of the biggest changes to the game- the distance or “threat” range of units. This range specifically ties to how fast infantry can get from the board edge and inside a building.
Getting into buildings quickly to claim or search for objectives is a major aspect of the game. The classic Dropzone Commander missions usually had some form of search and extract objective. This is because the game is at it’s best when it includes this type of victory condition. Kill ’em All style missions can work but don’t really speak to the games core intent of getting critical firepower and assets where they need to be quickly and back off the battlefield safely.
This type of victory condition is illustrated simply by the first and most common mission players will see, the Targets of Opportunity mission. It has three central objective garrisons all with centers 24″ from the player start edge. These garrisons are using large in size and, if using the paper building terrain, they will extend 2″ into both halves of the table. This gives us a 22″ range we need to cover to get into a build from our starting deployment zones.
To do a deep dive into the total range infantry can muster, we have to consider a few things. Infantry on their own won’t make it. The game utilizes dropships for a reason and these transports help extend the range of our key assets. In game terms, this is through transport movement and disembarking.
Whenever a unit disembarks, they get a free 2 inches of movement from the transport’s center. This free disembarkment movement will be a key component of the overall speed of a unit. The more transports you can chain together, the more free bonus movement you’ll see. Another consideration is that anytime an infantry unit ends their move within 2 inches from a building entrance, they can automatically enter the building. This is another free 2 inches we can exploit.
In the above example, the UCM Legionnaires can get inside any building 23 inches away from the map edge through six extra inches of disembark/ entrance movement. Using the same concept with their main dropship, APC, and line troops, the other factions stack up as follows:
- Shaltari: 28 inches
- Scourge: 26 inches
- UCM: 23 inches
- PHR: 22 inches
- Resistance: 22 inches
This all but guarantees all factions can get to a central building on turn 1. With Scourge and UCM, those figures are their fastest options (though maybe not their best option).
PHR can do some funky things with their with their Valkyrie squads. That unit is pretty amazing with a 9 inch standard move and an ability to act like a flyer but not take reaction fire like normal aircraft. It may seem a little weird but cramming them in an APC and launching from a larger aerial transport can them to any building in 29 inches.
When we get to Resistance, they get into shenanigans territory by exploiting their bikers and the large hovercraft transports. Since the hovercraft models are so big, units couldn’t physically disembark 2 inches from the center so they start their disembark from the model edge. For your standard Kraken sized transport, that 2 inch free movement becomes 3.5 inches if you angle you rectangular hovercraft to get the corner pointing furthest upfield. On the giant Leviathan transport, that range balloons to 5 extra inches. With the impressive 12 inches a Freerider can already move, launching from a Leviathan, they gain a total of 29 inches. This isn’t as impressive as the PHR Valkyries since all of this movement is on the ground and subject to terrain issues (especially for the oversized Leviathan model).
As is the case with most of the things in Dropzone Commander, if you have something, Shaltari can break it. Discussing the free disembark bonus earlier, the more units you chain in your disembark, the more movement you’ll cover. This is why “fast” light dropships are rarely able to compete with their big dropship cousins. The Shaltari take it up a notch by being able to chain 3 transports across the map:
Eden Gate (10″) >> Tegu (4″) >> Haven Gate (9″) >> Braves (3″) >> Building
Taking all the “>>” as standard 2 inch gains, a crafty Shaltari player can slinghot a contingent of Braves across 34 inches of table space and into a garrison. There is no place to hide from the space hedgehogs.
For all these reasons, I whole-heartedly adopted the current FAQ “experimental” rule requiring two actions to complete the Search action. This means that no faction can search on turn one and, even with the unit threat reach much farther than it has ever been in previous editions, the game can be played strategically.