Thursday, 30 July 2015

How Many Combat Drops?


The Resistance were out in force, and ready for a small six-man, three-game tournament this past weekend. What did I take, and why? Were they all be painted in time? SPOILER WARNING... no.
Aerial hunters take to the skies

Taking place at my local gaming club (where I play Infinity and all of the past SCTS Tournaments have been held), this weekend would be hosted by Simon, local Talon and renowned tournament organiser. It would be a small event, catering to the emerging Dropzone community that had grown in the last few weeks. It was set at 1,500pts, with a limit on Famous Commanders and with three different scenarios. My list had been developed and practised with three games by this point - once against UCM, once against Shaltari, and once against the PHR, achieving victory in all three games. Nice!

Following three practise games, there were tweaks I could (should?) have made, such as dropping the Hellhog for more Gun Wagons or swapping the Hannibal MBTs for Zhukhovs, but I have a reputation for sticking with my lists until they work or they break. This would continue - at least for this weekend. Afterall, I had only just finished painting my Hellhog, and not even built the extra Gun Wagons, so did not want to have that time wasted.
Painted so far... two Cyclones and two Lifthawks left to finish the 1,500pt army

Warlord's HQ
Mk.3 Alexander (Leader) carried in an AT-77 Lifthawk with AA Cannon
Two bands of Freeriders

Vehicle Detachment
Three Gun Wagons mounted in an NT-1 Kraken Hovercraft

Resistance Band
Three bands of Resistance Fighters in three Jackson Half-tracks, carried by an AT-77 Lifthawk

Resistance Band
One band of Resistance Fighters and one band of Occupation Veterans in two Battle Buses, mounted in an NT-1 Kraken Hovercraft

Rusted Fist
Two M9 Hannibal MBTs carried in an AT-77 Lifthawk with AA Cannon
Three AH-16 Cyclone Attack Helicopters

Fast Strikers
One J19 Hellhog Fighter Jet with Extra Ammunition

Breaching Drill
One Model 109 Breaching Drill

The list was pretty much the Resistance Starter Set with a handful of extras, including some of my favourite models (the Hellhog and the Cyclones), some needed models (extra infantry in the Battle Buses, though I do love the Bus models) and some units I would be foolish to forget (Freeriders). It was a balanced list, built for Objectives but with some good experience holding Focal Points


The first game was drawn against Simon, the local Talon and PHR enthusiast. I had played him the week previous where he ran an experimental list with no Type-4 Super-Heavy Walkers, just lots of smaller Walkers and Dropships. This time, his force was stronger, with two (!!!) Type-4 Walkers (a Hades and a Nemesis commander), a lot of AA and big guns. 

The engagement was initially brutal for the Resistance, as the PHR held the advantage with their longer range and strong armour. Nonetheless, the gap closed quickly. Utilising the cover of the buildings, the Hannibals and the Alexander ambushed and dragged down the Nemesis Command Walker, while the rest of the force hunted down the Phobos Battle Walkers and the Juno Transports, stranding the PHR infantry, The Cyclone Attack Helicopters and the Hellhog strafed their positions as the Alexander escaped their deadly railguns, but the Hannibals and Gun Wagons were not so fortunate. Though most of the Resistance ground forces were smashed, the infantry bands escaped with two of the Objectives, fleeing into the tunnels via the Breaching Drill. 

Simon and his forces were unlucky not to secure any of the Objectives, as the infantry were cut down and the buildings demolished by Resistance guns. Some poor dice rolls (especially searching for Objectives) left them empty-handed, while the brutalised Resistance infantry fled into the tunnels or sped off the board as fast as they could. It was a good game, and as usual Simon was a gracious opponent. It finished 4-0 on Objectives and 760-559 on Kill Points, giving me a 16 - 4 VICTORY


The second game was drawn against Chris, local gaming superstar and fielding the insidious Shaltari. His force included two Caimans, a Firedrake, Ocelot and Coyote Warstriders, a handful of AA and Main Grav-Tanks and a large number of infantry and Gates. Lots of firepower, but crucially very little AA - I would have the advantage in the air. The game was hinged on controlling five Focal Points, however, so boots on the ground mattered. 

The battle started badly as the immense firepower of the Shaltari demolished two buildings, crushing the Kraken with Battle Buses and killing everyone aboard, as well as removing a large amount of cover from my deployment zone. An entire Battle Group lost! My mood did not improve much until I had destroyed his Kukri squadron and dropped a building on him in turn, crushing a Caiman and removing several stands of Braves. Having lost his AA, Chris could do little but chase my ground forces and position for the end of the game, where the Focal Points would be scored. 

In my turns, the Resistance forces surrounded and cut down what Shaltari they could, eventually destroying the Ocelot, all of the Grav-Tanks and several Gates, and bringing down the second Caiman with a well-placed I.E.D. The Firedrake suffered several critical hits in one round of shooting, but lucky Passive Countermeasures saved it from an ignominious end. 

The game closed with several cagey deployments, as the Resistance secured the central Focal Point and one of the Shaltari Focal Points, while contesting another. Chris took control as his remaining infantry (who had stayed off the board all game) emerged from the remaining Gates and took both of my Focal Points and contested two others. The score sat at 6-8 on Focal Points and 688-634 on Kill Points, leaving the final result 8 - 12 LOSS

Chris is a very good player, but does not budge an inch on rules matters. I prefer a looser, more forgiving playstyle, and perhaps this is why I rarely beat him in games and in tournament placings. Nonetheless, despite a horrible start to the game it turned out quite enjoyable, and we both played an interesting game to secure the Focal Points in the closing seconds of the game. I consider it a moral victory to have scored more Kill Points, and will play closer attention to his Gates in future games! 


The third game of the day was drawn against Joe, an old foe I had played many times at Infinity and initially learned to play Dropzone Commander alongside. His appetite for Dropzone had been severely reduced in recent weeks, and he had proclaimed that this tournament would be the last time he played it as he was selling his army. Given I was his final opponent of the day, I guess this would make me his last opponent at Dropzone - I would try to make it painless and quick.

Joe ran the UCM, with a force that looked like two UCM Starter Sets, two Falcons, a Kodiak and a LOT of Ravens, carrying Praetorians, basic infantry and one squadron of Wolverines. His force featured a lot of smaller tanks, but none of the larger UCM vehicles that caused me so much trouble in the past. 

As usual, dealing with the AA was the priority, with the Cyclone Attack Helicopters scoring some early kills while the Hannibals and Alexander tried to get into position. The Resistance attack fell into place as usual, with the Freeriders working in conjunction with the heavy hitters to bring down several enemy tanks while the infantry worked on the Objectives. In this, they were wholly unsuccessful, as the Praetorians made it into combat and ripped them apart. Two Lifthawks, the Hannibals, the Veterans and their Battle Bus were all destroyed while the Gun Wagons tried to bring down some of the transports, and the game felt out of my control until the Hellhog appeared. Destroying a Bear APC as it sped for the backline with an Objective, the Freeriders moved in to sweep up the remains and secure the Objective, as the Alexander and the other Freeriders destroyed the Kodiak ACV to secure the Focal Point, though the Resistance leader was lost in the process. On the far side, AA fire brought down the Ravens and left the Praetorians and other infantry stranded, surrounded by enemy forces but holding the Objectives

The game ended with the UCM holding two Objectives and contesting a Focal Point, while the Resistance had secured two Focal Points and held one Objective. Finishing 5-3 with these Points and 1,042 - 718 on Kill Points, the game was a 14 - 6 VICTORY

One of the bloodiest matches I have ever played, this was a tough match. Even as he exits the game, Joe played well and was intractable in his defence of the Objectives. This game proved to me the importance of infantry (and having GOOD infantry) and reinforces the value of AA - as it was, I was very lucky to knock down the Ravens when I did, as had those rolls not gone my way, he would have sped off the table and scored much higher. 


The tournament was run as expertly as usual by Simon, and the timings, terrain and setting were all great. It was a good day for all involved, with good prize support and copious refreshments available on site.

At the end of the day, Chris finished first overall while I came in second! Nicely done for the Resistance's first tournament. Three tough games have shown the capabilities of the Resistance and their potential in different scenarios, as well as clarifying a LOT of rules issues we have been encountering in the local community. 

Two good wins and a close loss show they have the potential to do very well in the larger tournament scene, and I just need to polish a few tactics and tweak the list a bit. I have little doubt against opponents with a better grasp of the game or with more AA, I will struggle a great deal, but for now they are performing well. 

Looking over the list, I do not see much I would want to lose - even the Hellhog proved its worth when it Transitioned into Hover mode and started tearing up the enemy deployment zone. I do think I need more AA, however, and the easiest source is to drop the Hellhog for another squadron of Gun Wagons in a Kraken. This is something that will need playtesting! Another way to source points would be to drop the third Cyclone, but I do like that massive Barrage and twelve-strong rocket battery. 

I was the only commander today to run below CV4 - with only CV3, I lacked for cards and for initiative. This was not a huge problem, but it would have been nice to go first once in a while! The Feral Cards are... a mixed bag. I love the I.E.D.s, but the multiple CQB cards are often wasted (though I do wish I had kept them when Joe was killing my men in Game Three!). 

So how am I enjoying Dropzone Commander? It is a fine, fun game, with some cool mechanics and some decidedly not-so-cool rules. The game feels balanced, though Shaltari seem to have some serious advantages in certain missions. The main issue I have is the lack of dice - several squadrons and Activations will only result in a handful of dice being thrown - not like my favourite fun game Dystopian Wars! 

If I want to play a hugely tactical game where I care about Rankings and tournament placings, I play Infinity. Dropzone Commander and Dystopian Wars are my fun, relaxing games, but as it stands, Dystopian Wars still edges it. Nonetheless, I love the models, and the local community is there, so I will keep painting and playing. I enjoy the game a lot, and am glad to have invested, but will I go nuts and start a second or third force? I'm not so sure. 

In the mean time, the Resistance have my attention, and I have a lot of new projects for them ready to hit the painting table. Hopefully they will be ready for the next tournament!
Work In Progress - the second Lifthawk
Thanks for reading, 


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