This past weekend saw Adam and I journey up to the Grim North (okay, Midlands...) for our biggest Dropfleet Commander Tournament yet - the 24-strong Midland's Maelstrom in Worcester. This would be the first Tournament since Elysium Rising, our own event headed by Adam at the local gaming store. This one would be significantly bigger, with a wider variety of opposing Factions and a higher points value to boot.
|Clearing the skies|
The decision to go to the tournament was made about a month before - we had debated this as Worcester is a long way from where we live, we could not go up the night before due to other commitments, and we would probably have to get up at some ungodly hour of the morning, drive for three hours and then drive back for three hours afterward. Not a relaxing weekend away! In the end we bit the bullet and bought some tickets. There are not many players in our area, and frankly we are both pretty desperate for some games! This tournament would be the perfect antidote.
Adam and I played three practise missions before the tournament. These would be our first games at 1,250pts - time for a real game of Dropfleet. Before this we had played nine or ten games from Starter Box up to 999pts.
I developed a fleetlist and used it for all three practise games, while Adam used three different builds and settled on the last one for his tournament list (admittedly, he had submitted this list before our last practise game, so kudos to him for playing blind!).
So here we are;
Task Group Carthage
Six Launch Assets
Vanguard - SR11
Avalon-class Battlecruiser (Level Four Admiral incl. bonus)
Jakarta-class Aegis Frigate
Line Battle Group - SR11
San Francisco-class Bulk Lander
Jakarta-class Aegis Friga
Line Battle Group - SR10
Two New Cairo-class Light Cruisers
Line Battle Group - SR9
Two New Orleans-class Strike Carriers
Two New Orleans-class Strike Carriers
Pathfinder Battle Group - SR6
Four Santiago-class Corvettes
Two New Orleans-class Strike Carriers
Pathfinder Battle Group - SR3
Three Taipei-class Missile Frigates
Thoughts from other players focus on the lack of Lima-class Detector Frigates and the size of the squadron of Taipei-class Missile Frigates - four seems to be fashion. I simply could not afford that many without dropping something important, like a Jakarta or New Orleans, and frankly most players will be running a small Battle Group of Frigates or Corvettes, with a Strategy Rating of Four. Three Taipei's have the edge here - and this paid off several time! The amount of firepower they throw out make it worthwhile to me.
The rest of the fleet is pretty standard for UCM - two Carriers, an Avalon-lass Battlecruiser, some New Cairo-class Light Cruisers, four Santiagos and half a dozen Strike Carriers. Nothing I didn't see in other UCM fleets present. I did not run any Madrid-class Cruisers, something I would like to have one, but there simply were not the points. I play a lot of games against Adam and his PHR, and that demands protection from Launch Assets - hence the two Carriers and two Aegis Frigates. I also favour the Burnthrough Lasers - though the Taipei's bring some shots when required. We would see how this combination worked against some new opponents!
The first practise game was a Mixed Engagement, with Adam running a nasty list featuring eleven Launch Assets (courtesy of a Priam, Bellerophon and three Andromeda). The game went well and the result was a Draw, but we were playing late in the evening and only managed four turns - had we continued playing I think it would have gone his way.
The second practise game was Defence Grid, which we mistakenly played with the full-strength Burnthrough Laser armament (now amended to be less game-breaking). This played a crucial part in the game, ripping ships from both sides from the sky - Bulk Landers, Battlecruisers, and even crippling Adam's brand new Battleship. This game was a solid win for me - my first against Adam! His fleet was led by the Bellerophon and the Battleship, which both suffered from poor dice and failed to cause much damage, while the rest of his fleet was overwhelmed. This was the final nail in the coffin for the Bellerophon in Adam's mind, and he did not run one for his final tournament list.
The third game was a simple Take And Hold, with Adam using the list that he would run at the tournament and myself with the same as before. His new list was tight and efficient. I played poorly, making two big mistakes that cost me hugely - first pushing the Taipei's way too close to an Ikarus and Orion, destroying them and causing a chain reaction that obliterated all of the Taipei's. The worst part was this decision was that I had an Orbital Targeting Matrix Command Card in my hand - I could have easily moved the Taipei's above their targets and avoided the ensuing explosion, but chose not to play it. The following turn I made almost the opposite mistake - my Battlecruiser moved into a higher orbital layer, played the Orbital Targeting Matrix and caused another chain reaction that finished off one of my New Cairo-class Light Cruisers and then engulfed the Battlecruiser - leading to massive chain of crippling damage that destroyed him!
It was later, at home in bed, that I remembered he was one a different orbital layer and should have never been touched. Unbelievable.
These losses prevented me from controlling the sky and the ground was lost to some hideous close combat rolls, as well as a very accurate defence laser Adam dropped. The result was a rather disgusting twenty-nil loss - not the best result to head into the tournament with!
|Pathfinder squadrons prepare for rapid response|
Midlands Maelstrom was hosted by the Worcester War Games Shop, in their well air-conditioned and rather spacious basement. There were at least twenty five of us down there all day, and it never felt too crowded - we even had space either side of the gaming table! Really useful for Dropfleet.
On display were a variety of players with hugely varied experiences of the game - I felt Adam and I were somewhat in the middle, with roughly a dozen games' experience but only against each other aside from our small six-man, three-game tournament. We had never faced Scourge or Shaltari, which would be a hell of a learning experience!
Faction-wise there were (I believe), there were nine UCM players, seven PHR, five Scourge and three Shaltari - as expected the UCM and PHR would be the most popular, but I was surprised by the number of Scourge - hopefully I would draw at least one of them as I was interested in starting that fleet next.
The first match was drawn against Ian and his Shaltari, a fairly veteran player (I think?) and the supplier of a huge number of mats for the tournament - I think every game had a different mat design, which was really great to see. His force rather rather intimidating - three Motherships, a Diamond-class Battleship and Adamant-class Battlecruiser, four Jade-class Frigates, six Glass Corvettes and ten Voidgates.
At first, I was holding my own. The ground game was roughly even and I had the advantage in the sky. Some good rolling saw a Mothership taken down early, and both the Jades and the Adamant were destroyed, albeit at the cost of my Battlecruiser. By Turn Four was winning by a small amount, somehow! This changed as the Battleship entered the fray, and began knocking out my ships with impunity. A particularly lucky set of rolls saw both New Cairo-class Light Cruisers destroyed in one round of shooting, from full strength! It felt like every time I suffered a Crippling Damage roll it would result in a dead ship, and by the end of the game I was down to a small handful of Frigates. Ian had lost a lot in turn, with his Diamond crippled and only one Mothership left with a few Voidgates, but it was enough to turn the battle and it ended an 8 -12 LOSS.
This feels like a fine result for me - Ian was a good player and I made some poor choices (such as the placement of the New Cairo-class Light Cruisers), as well as the horror of the Crippling Damage table ruining my ships. His Charged Air was another nightmare - denying me any drops on the port-side Cluster with some amazing rolls. Given it was my first game against Shaltari I feel it was a respectable result.
I was pretty distraught to see Shaltari opposing me for a second time, this time in the hands of a slightly less experienced (at least to Shaltari) player named Simon. His force a bit different - a Platinum-class Super Carrier, Basalt-class Carrier, Palladium-class Battlecruiser, two Motherships, five Glass Corvettes, eight Voidgates and four Amethyst-class Frigates. This amount of Launch was horrible, but with Moonshot I soon realised the fleets would be split, and the power would only affect half of my ships.
The tournament organiser decided to go for Column Approach type for this mission - potentially disadvantageous for me as I'm slower, but I wasn't too worried as it would also delay his forces. Crucially, in the First Turn my opponent did not Max Thrust with the Voidgates, meaning that my forces managed to get to the Clusters first.
The game, as with most Moonshot games, split into two. On one side, His Supercarrier and lesser Carrier moved towards one Cluster, destroying one New Cairo-class Light Cruiser and the entire Carrier/Bulk Lander Battle Group, but not before they managed to land some troops onto the Cluster and gain a Contested bonus in Turn Four - as well as holding the space above.
On the other side, the Avalon-class Battlecruiser, Seattle-class Carrier, four New Orleans-class Strike Carriers, the Santiago-class Corvettes and the Taipei-class Missile Frigates tore into his Motherships and Glass Corvettes. Later in the game, his Battlecruiser arrived with an Opal escort and was similarly dismembered, with the biggest losses coming from the Taipei's venturing too close to a detonating Mothership. Simon had an unfortunate setup with his Voidgates and they arrived at the Cluster in a staggered deployment that allowed me to pick them off and secure the ground early, almost uncontested.
As the game progressed the Platinum-class Supercarrier began a leisurely attack on my space station, not quite reaching it but allowing the surviving New Cairo to secure the space above his Cluster, while on the other side I secured his space station and cemented my foothold on my Cluster. The game ended badly for the Shaltari, whose had been struggling to catch-up on objectives from the start of the game. The Kill Points were roughly similar, and the final result was a 15 -5 VICTORY for the UCM! Huzzah, my third ever win!
A good win in Game Two left me in the heady heights of Table Five, against a delightfully brutal UCM force. Luke was running something vaguely familiar - Avalon-class Battlecruiser with Lima-class Detector Frigate, five New Orleans-class Strike Carriers, four Santiago-class Corvettes, three (!) New Cairo-class Light Cruisers, two Seattle-class Carriers and the last group with a Madrid-class Cruiser and San Francisco-class Bulk Lander. Similar to mine in many ways, his force was nice and I liked the Madrid-class Cruiser, but it was also incredibly specialised - every Battle Group did one thing - one thing very well, to be fair, but it made them predictable.
Distant Approach would mean his New Cairo-class Light Cruisers would arrive on Turn Three - hardly a problem as they could react to how the game as it progressed. My entire fleet would be deployed on Turn One and Two. Forced to act first, I deployed the Santiago-class Corvettes and Taipei-class Missile Frigates centrally, while the rest of the fleet followed up - the Strike Carriers going for the Clusters on the flanks while the San Francisco ran up the middle.
A key move came early, as my Taipei's took the initiative on Turn Two and obliterated the enemy Corvettes, then allowing my own Corvettes to dive into atmosphere unhindered and begin harassing the enemy Strike Carriers. Luke began lighting up my ships with his Lima-class Detector Frigate, and I took a big gamble in running a Seattle-class Carrier forward, Active Scanning one of his Seattle-class Carriers, and the obliterating it with a subsequent volley. I lost my Seattle in turn, but it brought his fleet forward and, by the end of the Turn, destroyed both of his Carriers a cost of one of my own.
On the starboard flank, two of my Strike Carriers and the Corvettes skirmished with four of his Strike Carriers, while the New Cairo-class Light Cruisers and Taipei-class Missile Frigates took on his larger squadron of New Cairos - my fleet prevailed but it cost me one New Cairo and all three Taipei's - once again the majority destroyed in a brutal explosion. Luke played well to position his ships close to mine to maximise collateral damage.
On the other side, four of my Strike Carriers were securing the starboard cluster almost unhindered, until the Madrid arrived and obliterated one of the Sectors in a single bombardment! Brutal. His San Francisco arrived late to the objective, only managing to drop once before my fleet cut it down. Down the centre of the board, my San Francisco rolled down past the three space stations, taking each one in turn. Supported by the rest of it's Battle Group, it enabled me to hold and capture all three by the end of the game.
The main event in the middle of the game was the Avalon-class Battlecruiser face-off. I gambled to take out his second Seattle-class Carrier, exposing my Admiral to his from behind a debris field. He had lured out my Espionage Command Card with a Taking The Initiative ploy on the New Cairo-class Light Cruisers, and then dropped Overcharge The Lasers - uh oh. Two rounds from the Viper Super Laser left my Admiral on four hit points, but unfortunately for Luke, alive. I swung about, and in concert with my surviving Seattle-class Carrier caused serious damage. The next turn he was unable to fire due to overcharging the Burnthrough Laser, allowing my fleet to pull it apart.
In the closing moments of the game the Madrid-class Cruiser finished my Admiral but was reduced to one Hit Point, while the rest of his fleet was slowly hunted down - only a pair of Strike Carriers survived.
The game was in my favour from the outset, having got the jump on his Corvettes, smashed both Seattle-class Carriers early and won the duels between the Light Cruiser squadrons and the Admirals. I took a few gambles, and they paid off nicely. The result left me dominating one Cluster and holding orbital superiority around all the Critical Locations. The game ended a solid 16 - 4 VICTORY.
|The recovery and repair ships never cease in their work|
At the end of the day I had totalled a respectable 39 Tournament Points, putting me in THIRD PLACE. Holy hell! This was not what I expected! UCM also placed Second (with a list featuring a New York, nice), and Shaltari in First - not one of the fleets I played against. Honestly this was a bit of shock - at the start of the day I was hoping to finish in the top eight, but this was something else.
Two big wins and a small loss added up nicely, and the amount of Kill Points scored no doubt helped with any ties around the Top Five. I know Adam scored 36 Tournament Points and finished around Seventh or Eighth, so the race to the top must have been very tight.
The Top Five featured all four Factions - I think in order it was Shaltari, UCM, UCM, Scourge and PHR. Really impressed to see that balance.
There were a huge variety of very fine prizes - for me a certificate, some vouchers, a gaming mat, a lovely hand-painted bronze trophy and tokens/markers from Blotz. Cool! An Athens-class Light Cruiser would also go very nicely with my fleet.
Following this, I also won my real target for the day - the Best Painted award, as judged by the owner of the shop. This was my real aim, and I am really proud to have achieved it. There was some stiff competition, especially a lovely blue/purple Scourge army.
This added even more prizes - another mat and a bundle of good quality paintbrushes - very useful as I was needing some! There was some trouble with the announcement of the Tournament Results (for a brief time I had come Second!) and a guy I know from previous tournaments named Chris was knocked down from Third Place to Fourth. I gave him one of my mats as consolation, and I hope he finds a use for it.
Leaving the tournament with an armful of prizes was a real treat - they did a great job with prize support and lots of players walked away with something.
|UCMS Rocinante stalks through the burning debris|
This was a big day for my fleet - their second tournament and the second opportunity to play somebody other than Adam and his accursed PHR. It was also a brutal lesson in Shaltari - playing a race I had never faced was a good experience and made me both respect them more and realise they are not the unstoppable boogeymen of Dropfleet.
I did not really know what to expect against Shaltari so a narrow loss and a big win feels good, but the fleet definitely performed as I hoped it would in Game Three - UCM are my favourite foe and the opposing fleet fell apart quickly as my plan went entirely my way.
Overall, I was very happy with the performance of the entire fleet, with each Battle Group doing their jobs well and the general split of the fleet feeling natural. I never felt outmanoeuvred with my Strategy Ratings, and the small Taipei-class Missile Frigate was especially brutal - always taking initiative and throwing out a LOT of shots.
At this size of game I felt I had a good balance of Launch, Drop and Gunnery. Discussions afterward, especially on Facebook with our fellows on the continent favour more Drop, usually at the expense of Launch in the case of the UCM. I think a list like that, with a dozen or more Strike Carriers, would work well and probably win a lot of games, but it would be profoundly boring to play, and I have no interest in that. It may also struggle in space station games.
The Tournament was a blast - nicely timed (okay, eight thirty start is pretty horrible when it takes two and a half hours for us to get to Worcester...) and with three good missions. The decision to go for Column Approach on Moonshot was fine, though it seems six out of nine UCM players lost that mission - perhaps it was to our disadvantage? I loved the fact that (I think) every game was on a different mat, and that all the terrain was at least a little painted. Gluing down the Sectors to the Clusters was a genius move, and every table had a good supply of everything we needed. The prize support was massive, something I appreciated! Bit of a mix-up at the end with some results led to some confusion on the final top spots, but it was resolved pretty quickly.
Would we go again? I think Adam and I will have to discuss transport, but it was a really good day of Dropfleet, and it has undoubtedly put us in the mood for future tournaments!
PICTURES FROM THE DAY
All credit to Matt Purdle (organiser of the tournament) and the Hawk Team for the following photos from the day - somehow I managed not to take any pictures! For shame.
|The tournament! Twelve tables in two rows down in the basement of Worcester War Games|
|Surprisingly spacious and well air-conditioned, thankfully! Great venue|
|The Post-Human Republic flagship surveys their next target|
|PHR on a war footing|
|The sinister Scourge attempt to slink past the PHR to outflank them|
|Scourge and UCM encircle the orbital plaforms|
|The striking red and white livery of this PHR fleet really stands out|
|PHR and Scourge fight at close quarters|
|Two UCM fleets on a training exercise|
|Strike Carriers move to deliver their cargo and secure their objective|
|Battlefleet Carthage engages the enemy|