A friend has made it a tradition to host a day long session of Dropzone Commander for his birthday. While the timing of when we host this changes based on availability, it is a great chance to get a group together and explore more of the Dropzone universe. With the recent rules getting a much needed FAQ and Errata, we were finally ready to put the official rules to more use.
We built 1,250 point armies with the scenario to be determined. I decided to hack up my last list and pair it down to the basic concepts I wanted to explore with this new edition. This meant removing a lot of the standard units I usually play with like Krakens, Lifthawks, and Jackson APCs.
With the new edition, I lose all my previous UCM forces on loan like the Marine Force-Recon elite infantry and their swift Raven transport. I’ll have to get by with my Occupation Veterans now instead. Given some of the new rules helping the awkwardly large Leviathans navigate the board easier, I decided to double down on them and run them as my main transport groups.
We had three game tables open with six players. We were all going to run the Salient scenario from the BFE rulebook. I partnered with our resident Shaltari player. Our last game was really tight and fun, going down to kill points. I was looking forward to tumbling with his forces again.
The Salient scenario has a slew of buildings scattered across the map, each holding an Open Objective, with results determined by a roll on a table. No searching needed in this scenario so it would be one where speed is critical. Looking at my list with 5 different infantry squads against the Shaltari’s four, I felt like I had a little bit of an edge. My commander (the Pizarro Walker) also infiltrates so he starts on the board, giving me the initiative as well.
I didn’t want to commit my large Leviathan with troops to center building as I was weary of getting hit with a retaliatory strike by those nasty Shaltari Braves. My aerial transports (usually faster than larger transports chaining ground APCs in 1st edition) are actually a little slower now so I send my slowest skulltaker in to a closer building and drop them in.
Since the rules for Open Objectives only need a unit to be in the garrison, they auto-claim it and roll on the table. I get a 1 and find a nice booby trap. I roll to see how bad it is and find the building takes five E9 hits, almost the max damage it could take. Luckily, the damage splits 3-2 in favor of the building and I get by with losing only two soldiers.
Having yet to activate, I pile out of the building to avoid further collateral damage. In my ‘brilliance’, after dropping off the infantry, I moved my Skulltaker transport out of line of sight to the enemy but in a spot where it couldn’t land to pick up the soldiers. So they piled outside next to my infiltrated commander. The whole scene must have been highly comical to the Shaltari on the other side.
The Shaltari don’t mess around with their (as I would find) nigh invincible Braves. They split and took the center building and a close build opposite the one I almost blew up. Fate was far kinder to them as they both found intel, netting 2 VP.
My Tiltrotor transport is faster than the Skulltaker but not by enough to assault the Braves with my Berserkers so I get close enough to strike the center building next turn and do a quick run in on another building. The Berserkers, uncharacteristically, find some intel and net me 1 VP. The rules for transports are different now so for my Berserkers to exit the building and get back in their transport, the Tiltrotor has to land and can’t take back off again until their next turn. With so many of the new rules in this edition ignoring a simulatory approach to the rules for simplification’s sake, this seems overly complicated and awkward. Regardless, there they are. Grounded. Waiting for take off next turn.
Shaltari move in with their Jaguars and gunboats to secure the center building from future attacks. This is the only building in the game that makes sense to control as it also confers a bonus to aircraft attacks. I bring in my Leviathan to try and grab more victory points.
My Occupation Vets go into a close small building and find more intel for 1 VP (I’m now tied with the Shaltari).
My other fighters take the bus over to another small building and claim more intel (3 VP to 2 VP in my favor).
Knowing that the impending fight will be rough even with my Berserkers throwing a ton of dice at them, I decide to soften up the Braves by launching a flurry of RPG shots into the building from this group of soldiers.
My Leviathan’s AA cannons and Occupation Vets also get in the action and all told do a fair amount of damage, leaving the building with 18 damage points left. A lot of collateral damage comes down but it becomes obvious that it won’t do much of anything to the Braves as it needs a 5+ twice to do any damage.
The Shaltari put two more Braves squads into close buildings, landing one intel and one “materiel” score. They now have 4 VP and a mobile objective worth 1-2 VP. I’m sitting at 3 VP with my Freeriders outside a building in my backfield. I go in and score another intel bringing me to 4 VP. I realized earlier that I forgot to check my cards and I have an Underground Monorail in hand. Looking at the board state, there is one more building on my side that my Berserkers can threaten faster than my enemy but two buildings left on the Shaltari side. If I can gain initiative, I can underground to a building on his side first and have a shot at evening up the VPs or getting a mobile objective on my own to push me into the lead. But first, I have to try and brutalize some infantry.
I decide the central building is too rich of a target with all his assets huddled nearby. I pour everything I have into it: fully loaded Typhoon gunships, Leviathan Missile batteries, and all my Gun Wagon AA. I’m on my squads of Gun Wagons after a dismal showing with the Typhoons and an average attempt with the Leviathan. The building has just two damage left. The first Gun Wagon group is poor, only doing a single damage.
It’s up to my last squad of the round. The building has several collateral damage tokens left but that is a pretty low percentage play at best as they will randomly divide out the damage between the invincible Braves and the building itself. They will need 6s on top of that to land that last damage.
The Gun Wagons land four hits and need a single 4 to bring the building down. One die saves me. The building comes crashing down!
It does maximum damage to all nearby units and 4 hits to the Braves in the building.
The building wipes out the infantry gate and a gunship, puts 3 damage on one Jaguar and one damage on the other while a lone stand of Braves remains with one soldier left. A 30 story building falling on their heads can’t even wipe them out. Conveniently, they are 2″ from one of the open buildings in the back. Round one is over. Lovely.
I lose initiative for the start of round two and the Shaltari have an underground monorail of their own and get the in the building I had my sights on. They snag another intel for 5 VP (plus their mobile objective). Down by one and with Shaltari having two more buildings left in their back field, I’m going to need things to turn around for this mission to have any hope for success.
Nope. My Berserkers stumble across another booby trap.
Four hits to the building come their way and they are decimated. As is any hope of me winning. The Shaltari Braves that survived a building crashing on their heads walks into the nearby building and find another intel (6VP + objective). With my points sitting on 4VP and the only open building left sitting deep in Shaltari territory, there isn’t any point in continuing for the rest of this round and the next four so we call it. Shaltari victory!
That game was quick with me being mathematically eliminated on my first activation of the second round. We had a lot of day still left so I went checking on the other games.
Up in the loft, Scourge and Resistance were battling it out but it was also a foregone conclusion with the Scourge ahead and keeping an objective away from the Resistance’s hope of bring the points even. This was round 3 for them and they were mainly playing just to kill things at this point.
They had some fun stories to tell, like when a horde of Prowlers were crawling all over the last Gun Wagon and the Resistance shot an area attack over the mess. All the Prowlers died and the Gun Wagon remained unscathed.
The table next to us had a new player (playing Shaltari vs UCM). It was going a little slower as they got the new player up to speed on the rules. Though they were in round 1, they ended shortly after in round 2 to similar results as my table.
With everyone wrapped up earlier than expected, we broke for dinner and decided to play a massive grand finale with all (now) seven players throwing 8 starter armies out at each other. That report will have to wait for next time.