The end of last week saw a lot of action drop for Dropzone Commander. TTCombat released an updated rule book and revised names/stats for almost every unit. Unfortunately, they bit off a bit more than they could chew as a server migration plus revamp of the website architecture behind their unit builder and the restocking of a bunch of models to their webstore caused some issues. Namely in the unit builder having issues porting in a lot of the updated info on top of layout/UI issues. These issues should clear up soon enough but lets move past that and look at what Dropzone 2.2 is looking like.

The easiest point to start with is the Rule Book. TTCombat summarized the main rule change points in their blog but I’ll put them here for reference as well.

  • Search requires 2 actions (pg 35)
  • Close Quarters Weapons are an exclusive attack (pg 17)
  • Mobile Objectives cannot be passed from inside a building to a squad outside the building or vice versa (pg 35)
  • Optional/Alternate weapon profiles must be the same across a whole squad. (pg 41)
  • Indirect Fire update (pg 47)

The changes seem pretty simple but as we’ll see, they have some pretty large impacts to the game. The first listed change addresses one of my biggest complaints about the switch from the original first edition to these later editions: games being decided in the first or second round.

Searching for objectives is something I’ve discussed before and the latest FAQ tentatively tried to address it by adding the optional rule to force search actions to take both of a squads possible turn actions. This meant that squads would have to set up the timing of their search more carefully. Once I saw this optional rule in the FAQ, I quickly adopted is as the de facto way the game should be played. I’m glad to see that it has become the way now.

The second item addresses another big pet peeve of mine in the game: the rise of “do-it-all” infantry. The rule to have infantry squads choose to either attack in close quarters or standard ranged attacks outside the building does a lot to rein back in their power levels. In the past, Infantry to get inserted into a building via an aerial transport, get to a building edge, shoot down at some ground forces while simultaneously fighting enemies inside the building in close quarters. While the action was simple (fight with all available weapon profiles), it really strained credulity on what could conceivably be done in a single activation.

As if it isn’t obvious, I’m also glad this is now a standard rule in the system.

Item three deals with another issue similar to the first item and is designed to slow the game back down. Having infantry search for one action and get a lucky find on round 1 was only half the story. Changing the search action to take both means that there is no way for infantry to search a middle of the board objective on round 1. The action now forces you to burn all of round 2 searching but this would really only delay the lucky round 1 wins to round 2 because a lucky search could then be tossed into a nearby squad outside the building and whisked away.

This new rule of removing the option to pass objectives in and out of buildings means that even if you do get lucky and find the objective in round 2, you’ll be stuck holding on to it until round 3 when you can actually leave the building. This is now bringing about significant slowdown to the game and removing the ability for entire games to be decided on the initiative roll winner of round 1 and followed by some lucky objective search rolls. By round 3, your opponent should have the opportunity to stop you from just running away with the game and bring back the tactics and strategy the game was known for.

I will say that my games with the latest rules in Tabletop Simulator did not have any round 1 or 2 wins but the threat that the situation posed was really too much for the game. No one would want to demo the game for new players only to see that happen and have everyone wonder what was the point of even setting up. While I think the change is necessary, I don’t think it goes far enough. I would like to see mobile objectives may only be carried by infantry units. I think having vehicles able to carry them, and even worse, be carried at the squad level breaks a lot of the realism of the game. But, maybe that will also come in time. For now, we are starting to real move the game back on course.

This next rule deals with a new style of unit organization TTCombat has created. With units now being consolidated into similar chassis and getting optional weapon loadouts instead entirely new unit names, they needed a clarification that units couldn’t mix and match within the same squad. This seems an odd rule to create as it didn’t seem like mixing and matching was an option anyway but the rule helps address the question before it gets confused.

There were already examples in the game where a squad picked a weapon loadout (like the Resistance Veterans) and had it apply to the whole squad but making a general rule likely helps in future proofing.

The last rules update deals with Indirect Fire. Initially, Indirect Fire was oversimplified and vague on how it behaved. Did it apply standard Line of Sight (LOS) penalties to the target even though it didn’t need LOS? It already had a built-in shooting penalty so was that representing the LOS penalty already? Was that in addition to? Did scout units assist like previous editions?

The FAQ came out for the previous rules iteration and cleared things but in the process made the weapons useless. No scouts did nothing and yes you applied LOS penalties on top of the built-in penalties. This basically guaranteed you always needed 6s to hit anything and it was no fun.

TTCombat must have gotten an earful as well so they revised things to bring the weapon option back to a more useful state. Unfortunately, they made it a bit more complicated so the user really needs to dive in to figure what is going on.

An Indirect weapon may draw line of sight from a friendly Scout unit instead of its own unit – simply check line of sight as normal from the Scout unit instead. This might mean targets are Hull Down – following the normal rules (judging from the Scout unit instead).

An Indirect weapon can instead choose to target an enemy squad that it (or any friendly Scout units) cannot draw line of sight to. If it does so, its Accuracy becomes 5+ before modifiers (even when targeting Scenery pieces). When firing in this way, the target does not count as Hull Down, but can benefit from Soft or Body Cover as normal.

Desktop Dropzone Rulebook v2.2.0 – pg 47

So to pair this down, you now have two shooting options: use LOS or don’t. If you use LOS, you can draw it from a scout unit (you still need to be in range) and calculate the shot normally (use the weapon profile’s accuracy value and add in any benefits or penalties). If you don’t use LOS (again within range), you start at accuracy 5+ and only add penalties due to soft and body cover.

It may matter for future units or other factions but Resistance Indirect weapons use Accuracy 4+ for all but the single shot Golgotha Missiles (like the ones on those flatbeds in the pic above). The only time I see using LOS for those units are when a scout can see the target completely (no Hull Down). We’ll see how much that comes into play but the biggest take away is the removal of the main penalty and Hull Down penalty for non-LOS shots. It may hurt other factions more but Resistance is all the better for the rules change.

All-in-all, I’m happy to see these changes come to the rule book. TTCombat seems to have listened to the player base even with the pandemic lockdowns forcing very little real game feedback.

While these changes do address some of the core complaints players have been voicing, there are still some gaps, notably in the close quarters attacks where the occupier is usually at a disadvantage, contrary to how battles play out in the real world. Fast mover units still seem to struggle as well and light dropships are still lacking their niche since standard dropship options still outpace them in overall troop delivery distance. If the current changes are any indication, it is showing that TTCombat is listening so there is hope that, in time, we’ll see them come around to these other issues as well.

Of course, these rules don’t exist in a vacuum and with the massive amount of changes to the units, it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. It’ll take some time to go through all the stat changes (mainly due to the fact that TTCombat doesn’t produce a change log and that there are issues with the unit builder at the moment). I hope to do a write up later on the new unit changes as well but the rules are looking to be more solid now and I look forward to trying them out on the table soon.