Wargame Spotlight: 'Dropzone Commander'
"Dropzone Commander" is a brand new miniatures game that places emphasis on force movement via dropship. The game is 15mm scale which lends itself to large dropships, lots of tanks and mechs, and platoons of troopers. It was unveiled at Salute! 2012, a tabletop gaming convention in the U.K., and has drummed up plenty of excitement.
The quality of "Dropzone Commander" belies the fact that Hawk Games, the game's manufacturer, has only been around for about a year. The amazing thing is that nearly the entire operation is a one-man job. David J. Lewis, founder of Hawk Games, designed "Dropzone Commander," rendered the digital models for each unit, painted every piece himself, created all the terrain, wrote the rules, edited the rules, took the pictures, and taught himself about proper business management along the way. As the fruit of two and a half years of hard work, "Dropzone Commander" is sure to make a splash.
"Dropzone Commander" takes a few bold steps in tabletop gaming, and the crowds are rustling that this is a good thing. The most obvious distinction is dropship-focused movement – you'll need a speedy evac and reposition to get to hotspots and objectives in time. Every unit can choose to enter the game directly, in readiness (an off-board activation brings them onto the table from your edge), or in reserve requiring a dice roll to see if they enter.
Before each game turn, players roll to see who has the initiative which is calculated by adding the result to each unit's initiative stat. Once that's determined, each unit is activated in order of initiative one after the other. Shooting is fairly standard as each unit is limited by how far they moved, line of sight, arc of fire, and range. One interesting kink is that units can choose to move and shoot in either order, something not often seen in tabletop gaming.
Buildings play an unusually critical role in "Dropzone Commander." Objectives for each game are found within buildings, so it's up to infantry to find, seize and hold them. Rather than serving as a sometimes set-piece, buildings encourage players to fight over fortifications and serve as interactive elements to terrain.
The game also comes with a countermeasures mechanic and command cards. Countermeasures are active or passive declarations made in the activation phase which help protect units from damage. An active ability forces any enemy shooting at the unit to reduce their range from full to countered. Passive countermeasures give the unit saving roles. Command cards are used by commanders to delegate bonuses during the game. Each faction has their own deck and playing with them is optional. Otherwise, commander units have a sphere of influence which determine which units can benefit from command cards. If a commander does not attach itself to a unit with comms gear, then his sphere of influence is halved.
The setting to "Dropzone Commander" is fairly simple: humanity experienced a golden age of space exploration, found itself on the wrong end of an alien invasion, and the last survivors have regrouped to strike back hard. Unlike many other sci-fi franchises, Earth and her neighboring colonized systems are lost – humans are amassing on their frontier worlds under the guidance of the United Colonies of Mankind, which adds a nice touch of desperation. The aliens that kicked all of this mess off are called the Scourge. They're parasitic, mind-bending horrors that use other species as slaves if not as target practice for their burning plasma.
To spice things up, "Dropzone Commander" also includes two other factions: the PHR and Shaltari. The PHR started out as a group of humans who went off the grid as the golden age wound down. After centuries in reclusion, they're making their presence known as a faction of cyborgs whose society and culture are completely foreign to the UCM. The Shaltari are an ancient race of technologically advanced aliens. They're incredibly wise, incredibly powerful, and very dangerous.
Where to find it:
"Dropzone Commander" is only about one year old, so it's difficult to find in brick-and-mortar stores. Hawk Games sells all of their own products online in a very professional layout. The main problem you're going to run into is finding someone to play with. It may take some convincing, but spreading the love is part of the hobby!