It’s been a long road, but a Second Edition is finally coming to Dropzone Commander. The new ruleset, titled “Battle for Earth,” is an odd compilation of fluff (more on that in a minute), Dropfleet Commander updates and new units, and complete Dropzone Commander 2.0 rules.
The book is big, weighing in at over 300 pages. And it should be as it is trying to pack in a large story jump from factional skirmishes in the world(s) of Dropzone and Dropfleet to all out assault on the heavily infested human homeworlds around Earth. Oh, and also the full ruleset for 2.0 and the release of the Resistance faction for Dropfleet.
Let’s start with the story. Apparently almost two-thirds of the book is story detailing art and text of the prep and eventual invasion of the once thriving homeworld. This is a little disappointing to me. Story is nice but I can’t say I really jumped into the story of the original game. I knew “of it” but never really dove into the lore of the game. So hearing that this long-awaited rulebook is mostly filled with the designers fiction isn’t too thrilling. I didn’t get into Dropzone because I wanted to fulfill his fantasy of becoming a writer, I wanted to play his game and explore his world through the rules and design he’s created.
I can understand why they did it. Dude wanted to write a story and it likely wouldn’t have sold well if they created a standalone novel of the invasion. So I guess we’ll support his fantasy a bit with every purchase. I just hope the story wasn’t the reason why we waited around for almost two years.
Getting back to the meat of the book (or what is left of it), Dropzone Commander will have its rules out and that includes a standalone set of new Command Cards. This will replace the old set of cards each faction had with a homogeneous set all factions will use. Later, TTCombat is supposed to release faction specific add-on decks for players to customize with.
In looking at the sample images, the cards seem to show more rule changes than originally presented in the open Beta rules. This is… interesting as it is hard to say if they scrapped the beta rules entirely, fixed them based on feedback, or simply expanded on them. Other changes were noticed in some released unit stats that may indicate new ways to determine damage by removing the need to consult their original damage table.
One thing that likely cut way down on the book size is the absence of Dropzone Commander unit rules. All of those are scrubbed from the book and will be released as an online app. While I prefer to have a physical copy in my hand to peruse, I’m getting used to the concept since this is what X-wing and Infinity have done. Unfortunately, this could lead to the release of the rule book (June 14th) but not yield a playable system if the app release is delayed since you won’t have any unit stats to go with the rule book. Hopefully they have everything all lined up and the app will release with the book but it might be something to be prepared for.
With convention season coming, event exclusives are being paraded around as well. Here we have an old Earth walker unit that TTCombat diplomatically allows in three different factions: UCM, PHR, and Resistance. It is interesting and I know I’ll pick one up but I’m not overly wowed by the model. I’ll need to see it in hand to properly weigh in on it though.
Regarding Dropfleet, I assume the book will have quite a bit of content in there as well as they are releasing a brand new faction with Resistance joining the space race. This faction will be very unique in that you can build the fleet any number of different ways and each build is very WYSIWYG. This will make for a very complicated faction as the ships can be completely unique from other player’s builds within the same faction.
It will be interesting to see how this is received since most of the DropX Commander fanbase has a penchant for magnetizing the options for efficient use of models. It will be near impossible to do that with this faction. I see the learning curve being very high for this faction since you can likely build completely worthless ships and since they are all assembled, you’ll be stuck with some pretty but lame units. On the other hand, balance may also be very tricky since there will be so many options available, it might be that you stumble on some very overpowered builds and the faction dominates the game until errata is introduced to correct things.
This latter point was something I exploited heavily in an old defunct game called Arcane Legions. They created an online builder where you could mix and match elements with abandon and create any unit you wanted (within the confines of the system). While this sounded great on paper, the design was heavily flawed and didn’t stand up to open play. In the only tournament I saw at Gen Con after the custom builder was released, I exploited some obvious flaws in the builder and crushed the tournament. The game didn’t survive long after any way but that experience showed that unbridled freedom in unit building can completely wreck game systems.
To compound the concern on this open-build system, the unit stats and combinations are printed in the book. This is directly opposed to the fluid and “live document” style that Dropzone is adopting. It also means that printed portion of the book will be useless rather quickly as they work out the kinks in costs and power. An optimist may scowl at this negative commentary but the realist will realize this isn’t first time DropX has done this. Just look at the beautiful but useless Limited Edition rulebook they made a couple years back. That hardback beast came in a nice slipcover and had some great art only to see the stats and rules errata’d a week after its release. Needless to say, that completely killed all sales of the book and retailers couldn’t even give it away.
For Dropfleet, the event exclusive is an interesting “all faction” ship based on the lovably suicidal Pungari. Usually Pungari are found as fodder for the Shaltari faction but apparently, in Space, they are an “all-comers” species and will fight (and mainly die) for whatever overlord points them in the right direction.
So there you have it. June 14th is the big release day and while I may sound cynical or negative on the release, I am genuinely looking forward to seeing the fruits of all their hard work. Who knows, maybe I’ll even read their fluff… This weekend has a pre-release at the UK Game Expo so more information will likely hit next week as the public has their first look at the entire book.