Thursday, 7 September 2017

Elysium Rising - Dropfleet Commander Tournament Report

Roughly two months ago, my friend (and semi-regular blog contributor) Adam had decided to bite the bullet and start playing Dropfleet Commander. We had both pledged on the Kickstarter in the distant past and had sizeable fleets, which by this point were both fully painted!

It was a shaky start. Dropfleet is a game that takes a lot of getting used to, and is dense in rules. Best to take it piece-by-piece, and learn through playing. We were both hooked from the beginning, though our early games bear little resemblance to how we play now!

We played six times in the following weeks, beginning with the Starter Fleets and then expanding up to 999pts. The first four games were all Take and Hold, featuring a huge variety of misinterpreted rules and miscalculations. For all of our blunders, it was nice to get some interest generated in the local store, and soon enough Adam was approached by the owner and asked to run a small event - it was time to take it to the big leagues and not only attend an event, but run one too!

A quick Facebook event and a thread on the forum, and we had a small amount of interest. Dropfleet is still a relatively small system, but it looked like we would be able to have at least six attendees. Nice start! Adam had a lot of experience running Flames of War events, so there was little to worry about on that front, just acquiring the materials and scenery pieces.

Adam organised the event itself, and then we decided on the scenarios. Practising once each Moonshot and Mixed Engagement, we found these were easy scenarios and not too much of a strain on our terrain collections. Nonetheless, we had to put some work in to finish up a good number of space stations and find some suitable markers for the Large Solid Objects. There was a last minute emergency as we realised we would need six stations instead of three, but this is where my asteroids would save the day!

Board-wise we had three nice mats that would suffice - two Dropfleet-specific mats and an ocean-based mat (called Waterworld) all from Deepcut Studios. I had made a big investment a few weeks earlier, just in time. We had the boards, markers and terrain sorted. It looked like we would have a modest six players, enough for a fun day of gaming!

I make no secret of the fact that Adam has smashed me in almost all of our practise games. I may have held my own and scored a good number of kills, but so far he had won five of the six games, and we had drawn the other. Not a great record.

Nonetheless, we learn more from our mistakes than our successes, and by the end I had come up with a list that I was quite proud of. I did not get a chance to run this list out against Adam before the tournament, so we would have to see how it performed on the day.
The Vanguard of Battlefleet Carthage, led by the UCMS Rocinante

Battlefleet Carthage - 999pts
3 launch assets

SR11 Vanguard Battlegroup (227pts)
1 x Avalon - 195pts - H
   + Captain (20pts, 2AV)
1 x Jakarta - 32pts - L

SR12 Line Battlegroup (307pts)
1 x San Francisco - 111pts - M
1 x Seattle - 132pts - M
2 x New Orleans - 64pts - L

SR12 Line Battlegroup (240pts)
2 x New Cairo - 176pts - M
2 x New Orleans - 64pts - L

SR7 Pathfinder Battlegroup (205pts)
4 x Santiago - 88pts - L
3 x Taipei - 117pts - L

I felt this had a good blend of Battlegroups, with a fast strike force in the Pathfinders, a nasty amount of Burnthrough Lasers in the New Cairo squadron and the Avalon, and a solid support force in the Seattle/San Francisco group. The Drop capacity was distinctly average, but I was unhappy with the amount of launch assets - I felt more comfortable running at least six, but this was the compromise and at least the Jakarta would be able to defend the Avalon. The Strategic Ratings were comfortable - hopefully the Pathfinders would be able to take the initiative if required, and the rest were in the mid-range of eleven-twelve so would be able to outmanoeuvre the larger enemy squadrons, and enter the game at a good speed in the Distant Approach Type.

GAME ONE - Take And Hold versus PHR
The first game of the day was drawn against the dreaded PHR - this time in the hands of a gentleman named Greg. His force had a lovely grey and turquoise scheme, with some really nice and neat squares of colour across the hulls. His force was a little different to Adam's usual choices, but still featured six launch assets and a pair of Bulk Landers - oof. This would be a tough one if I couldn't stop the Bulk Landers quickly. The biggest standout was his Flag Battlegroup - a Leonidas-class Battlecruiser and a Bellerophon-class Heavy Cruiser - a huge amount of firepower with launch assets to boot.

The game started well, with the Taipei-class Missile Frigates bringing down the Theseus-class Light Cruiser and badly damaging one Bulk Lander over the port-side Cluster, before the New Cairo-class Light Cruisers moved in to cause more damage. On the starboard side, the Santiago-class Corvettes raked the Medea-class Strike Carriers as the Seattle-class Carrier and San Francisco-class Bulk Lander moved in to deploy. The centre was held by the Avalon-class Battlecruiser, which was bearing down upon the second Bulk Lander.

Early successes were mitigated as the Burnthrough Lasers crucially failed to finish the two Bulk Landers in time, and Greg secured the Clusters with a staggering number of troops. His Flag Battlegroup then arrived on the scene and swiftly destroyed my San Francisco-class Bulk Lander, denying me the chance to keep up with his deployments.

Concentrating on the kills to dominate the space overhead, the UCM were outgunned and outclassed. They still gave the PHR a bloody nose though, destroying the Leonidas-class Battlecruiser, one of the Bulk Landers and all of the Strike Carriers - all too late, but satisfying. Further highlights toward the end of the game saw the Avalon-class Battlecruiser destroy the Ikarus-class Vanguard Carrier in one round of shooting, while a well-played Command Card saw one New Cairo-class Light Cruiser dominate a Critical Location against the mighty Bellerophon. 

The last moments of the game saw my Taipeis and Santiago-class Corvettes smashed from the sky by a wave of bombers, denying me one of the Critical Locations. It was a close finish, but the sheer number of troops Greg had managed to land meant he had the Clusters, and in this mission that counts for a lot! Final result, a 8 - 12 LOSS. 

GAME TWO - Mixed Engagement versus UCM
The second match of the day was drawn against the blue UCM of Chris, a good-looking fleet with a pair of Seattle-class Fleet Carriers, San Francisco-class Bulk Lander with four New Orleans-class Strike Carriers,  squadron of four Toulon-class Frigates and the ubiquitous Avalon-class Battle Cruiser with a pair of Lima-class Detector Frigates.

The board was set with a pair of Clusters and a pair of space stations, so the aim would be to secure the targets early and then hold on to them! I allocated a pair of New Orleans to hold the station while the second pair were sent for the starboard Cluster. The San Francisco would have to dominate the portside Cluster alone. Later in the game I would be prepared to reinforce whichever side needed it with the New Orleans from the space station.

The game started messily, as the Toulon-class Frigates got the drop on my Santiago-class Corvettes and destroyed three of the four. His Seattle-class Carriers and Avalon hid behind a debris field, waiting for me to make my move. The counter-attack destroyed the Toulon squadron and crucially the New Cairo-class Light Cruisers drew a bead on his San Francisco-class Bulk Lander. Lit up with Active Scanning, the enemy lander was hit by a multitude of shots and ripped from the sky.

On the backfoot objective-wise, Chris went for the kill and unleashed his pair of Seattle-class Carriers against my flagship. Their launch assets were barely repulsed by the Jakarta-class Aegis Frigate and my own fighter screen, and in turn my Avalon unleashed hell with an Overcharged Lasers Command Card! One Seattle was brought down, and the second followed as the New Cairo squadron turned to face them.

Chris' flagship finally revealed itself, bludgeoning through the debris field to open fire on my own Battlecruiser. His shots were well on target, but I survived on a single hit point! The reply destroyed his flagship. His own ships were hunted down and overwhelmed in the final stages, leaving him with a scattering of damaged New Orleans-class Strike Carriers. I had only lost the Santiago-class Corvettes, leaving a solid win on Kill Points and a 22-10 result for the Objectives. This left it a 15 - 5 VICTORY.

GAME THREE - Moonshot versus UCM
The last game of the day was drawn against Russ and his red UCM fleet, a massive force packing a good amount of firepower. His fleet consisted of a San Francisco-class Bulk Lander, Seattle-class Fleet Carrier, Berlin-class Cruiser, two Osaka-class Light Cruisers, two Toulon-class Frigates, two Jakarta-class Aegis Frigates, four New Orleans-class Strike Carriers and an Avalon-class Battlecruiser.

The game began with us splitting our fleet around the Large Solid Object dominating the middle of the board. Down one side he sent two New Orleans-class Strike Carriers, a lone Jakarta, the San Francisco and the pair of Osakas, against which I sent four New Orleans-class Strike Carriers, the Santiago-class Corvettes and the Avalon-class Battlecruiser with Jakarta escort. Here the battle went decidedly my way, as although two of the New Orleans were knocked out, the Avalon destroyed the San Francisco and both Osakas without suffering too much damage in return, and the Santiagos destroyed one of the New Orleans. The second fled, leaving my force to redeploy and begun attacking the rest of his fleet late in the game.

The other side saw the big hitters of his list - the Avalon, Berlin, Toulon squadron, Seattle, one Jakarta and two New Orleans Strike Carriers take on my substantial but outmatched force of two New Cairo-class Light Cruisers, three Taipei-class Missile Frigates, San Francisco and Seattle-class Carrier. My force concentrated on denying him the objective and destroyed the pair of Strike Carriers, and then cut down the Berlin-class Cruiser, one of the Toulon Frigates and caused a significant amount of damage on the Avalon, but he had the advantage in firepower and managed to destroy all of my ships on that side of the Moon.

At this point it came down to securing the Sectors, and nobody had landed anything on the starboard Cluster. Russ moved his last surviving New Orleans away from the port-side (which was undoubtedly mine by this point) and managed to reach the unclaimed objective in time to score. My Santiagos pursued, but could not catch him and so turned their attentions to the Avalon. At the end of the game, my Avalon managed to turn about in time and destroyed his Seattle-class Carrier, but his flagship survived with a single hull point left!

The game ended with both of us dominating one Cluster each, and my fleet winning on Kill Points by a mere 25pts. Not enough to influence the game! A hard-fought 10 - 10 DRAW. Russ played well to secure the Draw with his last-minute dash from the lone New Orleans, but the game was always going to close given how we had deployed our fleets - forced to split past the Moon, we had sent our best fighters to opposite sides of the table, with not enough time to reposition. In the future I will approach this mission more carefully, and not expose my ships too early with Maximum Thrust orders!

Finishing with a respectable 33 Tournament Points, I had finished Third overall. Cool.

It was refreshing to finally play some Dropfleet against someone other than Adam, and nice to get my first every win with my fleet! I had a real blast running the UCM this day, and especially enjoyed my Burnthrough Lasers. The list felt a lot better to use over the course of the day, with a balanced mixture of weapons, drop and launch capacity - I'd still like more drop and launch, but you can't have everything in this size game.

Only three of the six players were running Corvettes, and all three of us finished in the top three spots. Not sure on a connection there, but being able to seriously threaten the enemy Strike Carriers in Atmosphere is crucial for many of the missions. I also ended up using my Santiago squadron to cause damage to bigger ships later in the game, and found it to be well worth it.

It was especially good to get some games in against new people, as we could learn so much more about how the game should be run. The problem with myself and Adam learning to play is that we essentially did it from scratch, with no guiding hand. We missed a lot of rules, or interpreted them incorrectly - and learned a lot today!

For the future, we are aiming to run more tournaments, get more people involved in the local area, and both of us are already planning out our second fleets! 1,250pts with our current fleets is the next plan of course, as well as working on some terrain to make the other mission easier to run. Luckily I already have more than enough models prepared to take the game to higher points values, and I know Adam is already putting the finishing touches on a Bellerophon-class Heavy Cruiser.

The first Line Battlegroup. Running a pair of New Cairo-class Light Cruisers is especially risky in this level of points, but they cause a lot of damage over the course of the three games, best used sparingly and held back for the killing strike rather than running forward too soon. I found running them up the flank against enemy Bulk Landers was a good tactic, allowing them to turn and attack the centre later in the game, when the enemy fleet was closer. They are still relatively fragile, and a pair of Berlin-class Cruisers would probably be a worthwhile investment

The flagship, UCMS Rocinante and the Jakarta-class escort. This vessel never fails to impress, especially in conjunction with a pair of New Cairo-class Light Cruisers and with the Overcharged Lasers Command Card! It survived two of the three games, and claimed a number of important kills, including four or more enemy Carriers over the course of the day. It also managed to destroy the enemy flagship in two of the three games

The second Line Battlegroup, acting in support of the rest of the fleet. The Seattle was worth every penny, while the San Francisco was useful when not sacrificed too early in the game. In the future I will be running more Strike Carriers and more launch assets courtesy of more Seattle-class Carriers 

The Pathfinder Battlegroup earned their stripes in all three games, causing havoc for Strike Carriers and bulky Cruisers alike. I don't plan for these squadrons to survive the game, so it was always a plus when some of them survived past Turn Three! 
Adam's PHR take on Russ' UCM in Take and Hold

Chris' UCM  take on the eventual winner, Michael and his PHR

Greg's PHR fleet descend on the targeted cities against my own Battlefleet Carthage

The Taipei-class Missile Frigates rake the Theseus-class Light Cruiser as the New Cairo-class Light Cruisers prepare to fire on the enemy Bulk Lander

The second round, Mixed Engagement

Round Three, Moonshot - the central board featured a broken moon formed from several asteroids

Thanks for reading,



  1. Looked like it was a blast! I'm preparing for my first Dropfleet tourney in October!

  2. Good report George. Ships and mats look awesome! We're actually planning our first Dropfleet Commander tournament in October in Worcester, we'd love to invite you and your other players along if you can make it?

  3. Thank you kindly! Adam and I were certainly looking at that tournament, not too sure if we'll be able to make it but it caught our eye!

  4. Glad you're interested at least! :) Anything holding you back from coming along or just the usual real-life getting in the way? haha. Be awesome to see your fleets in the "flesh" as it were.

  5. I certainly enjoyed the tournament (event if you did destroy me in game 2). It was a good learning opportunity as well as I've not managed to get many games in yet

  6. Good read and excellent pictures. Thanks for sharing

  7. VERY good looking ships, i especially like the idea of small craft alongside the big ones on the same base. spartan games did it for their halo ships, but your execution is very well done.