Game Review – Dropzone Commander

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For the last two GenCons I’ve hovered around Hawk Wargames’ booth to salivate over their Dropzone Commander game miniatures. This last GenCon they finally were announcing a starter set.  Starter sets are important for a game like this, otherwise you get caught not knowing what you need to get into a new system and end-up purchasing stuff you don’t need.  When I was given a chance to review this set, I hopped all over it because the minis I saw at GenCon were, well, sexy.

The box I got was deceptively small…don’t let that fool you.  You get a ton of stuff.

United Colonies of Mankind Starter Force:

3x Sabre Main Battle Tanks

3x Rapier AA Tanks

3x Bear APC’s

30x Colonial Legionnaires (on 6 bases)

3x Condor Medium Dropships

The Scourge Starter Force:

3x Hunter Main Grav-Tanks

3x Reaper AA Grav-Tanks

3x Invader APC’s

30x Scourge Warriors (on 6 bases)

3x Marauder Medium Dropships

Starter Urban Battlefield:

2x Urban Streets Posters, will join together in 4 different ways to create a 48”x33” road layout

10 x Pre-cut, pre-folded card buildings in 10 different designs

Rules and Accessories:

Full sized Dropzone Commander 1.1 Core Rulebook

UCM and Scourge reference sheets with stats, army composition and quick reference tables

Starter scenario and turn sequence prompt sheet

10x 14mm D6 black dice

1m/38” Hawk Wargames tape measure keyring

Full set of card templates and Scenario Object tokens

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Okay, I want to talk about the miniatures, but I’ll jump into the meat of this – the universe and the rules. Mankind has reached the stars but it didn’t come with risks.  A mysterious orb appeared and warned the human race that an enemy was coming.  Mankind was given a set of coordinates to pack up in and flee to.  Some did, and when they left on this exodus, they were attacked by those that wanted to remain behind.  They bugged out leaving mankind to face the Scourge.

The best way to describe the Scourge are parasites that use other alien’s as their host.  They came and opened a can of kick-ass on the humans that remained behind.  Man was driven to their colonies.  But man was not alone.  Some aliens the Shaltari helped, as did the now Borg-like cybernetic survivors of the exodus fleet, the Post Human Republic (PHR).  The fight is on in the last bastions of mankind.

The universe is sound, we have four factions, each very distinct and different technology/weapons.  In the starter set you get the United Colonies of Mankind (UCM) and the Scourge.

Let’s talk rules.  First, the rules and universe book is big – 156 pages, filled with color photographs of the miniatures.  There are a lot of different weapons types in the game.  Railguns, missiles Gatling cannons, lasers, Plasma cyclones, acid streamers, plasma cannons, and ion storm generators.  Ranged combat is pretty sound.  You fire – taking into account countermeasures and enemy defense posturing – scoring a certain number of hits.  You then determine if any of those hits did any damage, factoring in the target’s defensive armor and the weapon’s energy. The unique weapons add some distinctiveness to the play, some are much more devastating to a particular type of target (Plasma sprayers against infantry for example).  I found after a few test rounds of play, once you get the system down, it’s pretty easy.  My only gripe was that that target’s movement didn’t seem to factor in much.  If paintball has taught me nothing is that it is hard to hit a moving target, harder if you are moving too.

Close combat is, well, dice intensive.  It is a good system, but be prepared for a lot of dice rolling.

The rules for urban combat are pretty hefty but some of the best I’ve seen in the last few years.  Bear in mind the starter set is a big urban battlefield. I also enjoyed the rules for fighters.  They come rip-roaring over the battlefield, wrecking havoc, getting shot at along the way.

Dropships play a big role in getting your forces onto the map.  I like the feel of them, the rules are pretty sound.  The miniatures actually are designed to hold the units they are bringing in – which is both unique and awesome.  Some of the minis you can purchase that don’t come in the game are very devastating from what I can see.  Razorworm Packs are nasty little buggers designed for urban combat. My only critique to the book is there is no images at all of the actual aliens in the game. The descriptions are good but some images would have given some good context.

Alright I have to say something about the miniatures.  They rock!  These are model-quality plastic minis which take some time to assemble and paint, but it is time well spent.  The Scourge are very Alien-appearing (alien as in Alien the movie).  Bioorganic armor, they almost have a creepy look about them. There are a lot of details on these pieces, even on places you don’t see like the bottoms.  There are painting guides in the rulebook too.

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I’m not the best painter – but this gives you an idea of scale.
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Some unpainted infantry on one of the two map board along with units from both sides. Notice the dropship coming in with a tank?

The UCM minis are pretty typical – they tend to favor actuated arms with different weapons on them mounted on traditional tank.  These are still loaded with a lot of detail.  I love the APC’s (Bears).  Each race has some pretty distinct look and feel to them.

The battlefield that comes in the box consists of cardboard buildings that you fold into place.  These are remarkably well detailed.  When you fold them they make a little rooftop edge to them.  These are great.  I found in play the only issue is that they are very light.  Plan on using some tiny pieces of transparent tape to hold them on the maps, otherwise they tip over pretty easily.  Having said that, I was stunned at the level of quality and depth of this urban battlefield.  It was a risky choice for Hawk Wargames to go with that in a starter set.  The safe play would have been a wilderness battlefield.  Doing this is a game changer – and Hawk and upped the ante for other game companies with their starter set.

I like Dropzone Commander a lot.  This is more than enough to get you off the ground with this game at a pretty reasonable price.  Looking to expand?  I love the look of the PHR units – very sleek and flowing.  They are very smooth looking.  Best yet, the urban battlefield in the box can be used for a wide range of miniature games.  I’ve showed the mini’s to a few of my BattleTech buddies and they are the right scale and add some options for custom ‘Mechs.  Yes – this system has ‘Mechs!!  And because they are plastic, BattleTech fans can do a lot of customizing here.

I give this five out of five stars – a solid hit.

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