I picked up the new Dropzone Commander rule book, Battle for Earth, and have had a little bit of time to start reading through. Of course the first thing I did was flip to the back of the book to go through the new 2nd edition rules. This has been a long time coming and with the force builder out, these rules helped fill in some gaps the unit stats were showing.

The read-through of the new rules was pretty quick given the sparse 47 pages of rules (and that is likely generous given some art spreads covering most of the pages in sections). The feeling I get from the rules is they really wanted to streamline and simplify the system. Unfortunately, it looks like they also tried to simplify the language they use to describe the game mechanics and this simplification leads to some parts of the rules that are simplified to the extent that they are unclear. While concise instruction is a good thing to strive for, there is an issue with being to concise and therefore not describing enough of the detail to have the user understand what is going on and actually apply it in the game.

For instance, there is a section devoted to how to attack aircraft in the game but never once talks about how to actually target the model. There are sections regarding determining Line of Sight but by virtue of having a separate section on how to treat aircraft, it would go along way to confirm that you target them the same. Right now the target audience for this book is the existing player base and they’ve been taught for years that aircraft models don’t matter and you consider them an abstract “point in space.” To undo the baggage from 1st edition that most of carry around, the authors need to confirm that this is no longer the case (or admit they left that part out of the book).

short rule books don’t always make for a simpler system.

While this is one example, the book just feels like I need more information to really play through this game. I hope to put the game to the table and find where the holes lie and if they are there but simply obscured by my previous edition baggage or if this sparse rule book needs a bit more heft to carry a system as complicated as Dropzone Commander.

I quickly grew tired of trying to hold up the last 15% of a 300 page book so I went to FedEx Office and had the spine removed. I would have also spiral bound the book as well but their machine broke and I’ll have to find another place to get the book bound.

the rest of the rule book…

Even though I’d prefer more meat to the rules descriptions and more examples, I do like what I’m seeing in the system and think it has promise. There are some items I’m skeptical about like the removal of infantry vs infantry close-quarter fighting and replacing it with you-go-I-go activations but I’ll need to put that on the table to really see how that plays out. I figure these things will iron themselves out as the publisher seems eager to make sure things are corrected quickly.

The force builder is evidence of that. While the online system isn’t very pretty and the UI is a little unwieldy, they are making regular updates and corrections to get things release ready (disregarding the fact that the launch date was last week and we’re still in “beta” for unit stats). As things start to settle into a more permanent state, the actual stats for units are going in a direction I’m liking, at least for the Resistance faction. That is, with one exception: UCM crossover forces.

Units like these Archangel Pathfinders aren’t in the force builder for Resistance. These were models shared by the UCM faction with some story to go along with why they were in the faction and why they had better stats but they were no where to be seen. I first thought it was a mistake but it has all but been confirmed that those models are no longer part of the faction.

Along with the loss of the Pathfinders are the bigger loss, the Marine Force Recon. These were the best infantry the faction could offer and now there is a pretty big hole in the army that no existing unit can fill.

In addition to the loss of these units for the faction, there is a physical disappointment that figures I purchased and painted are now no longer valid and are pretty useless to me. I’m not sure how well that is going to go over to all the other Resistance players but I doubt it will encourage much adoption.

With this loss, I’m actually diving into those 200 pages of background fluff to see if the authors address how or why the UCM pulled support for the faction or why the faction would give up those units so easily. I’m only a little way in but hopefully the answers are there and it eludes to better days ahead.