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Dropfleet Commander – first impresions
Because I played only a few games these are the first impressions more than a full-fledged review.



About me

I was discovered wargaming three years ago, and as I was always fascinated by space battles I focus on such systems. Comparison of Dropfleet Commander with other games of this type can be found at the end of this text. I'm more powergamer so I prefer analyzes the available strategies and tactics in the mechanics of the system than the aspects of modeling or fluf quality.

Dropfleet Commander in brief


- Tactical battle focused on objectives to achieve through sensible used system of control certain area of battlefield
- Well implemented system of weapons range
- Strategic initiative not linked to the random dice
- 7 different commands to choose from, each differently affecting the ships on the battlefield
- 3 levels of the battlefield adding more depth to combat
- Ships act as battle groups which affects their movement on the table
- 4 fractions with actually different style of game
- Very detailed meticulous models
- Expanded fluf (about 150 pages) that describes not only the ships, or race, but also the history of the universe, the course of operations of war or the technology used
- The gameplay is smooth and quite fast (2-3 hours per game)
- system of fleet build which give much room for choices

- Models requires some more 'skills' to get the miniatures prepared
- The destination format seems to 1000-1500 points (starting fleet is about 600)
- Movement is simplified but fast and elegant (with the exception of the 3 levels of the battlefield)
- a certain degree of randomness associated with the mechanics of burnthrought weapons (this weapons are used by 3 of 4 faction in the game).

Models
- Plastic
- Unpainted & needs assembly
- 4 UCM Frigates, 3 UCM Cruisers
- 4 Scourge frigtes, 3 Scourge cruisers
- can be magnetised for modularity



What distinguishes the Dropfleet Commander from other games?

Objectives systems


In many space systems, each game comes down to a big clash in the middle of the table with throwing dice. For this reason, I've always liked scenarios with specific objectives to pursue. In Dropfleet we not fight in order to rout the enemy fleet, but we have a specific strategic objective. Skirmishes take place on different orbits of the planets, and players in addition to standard cruisers, battleships and aircraft take also landing ships and bombers designed to acquire or destroy specific targets on the planet.

There always a few critical locations on board, and ground combat for them is a kind of "separate game”. In most scenarios, the aim is to occupy ground or destruction from 3 to 5 towns. they are scored diffrently. The first decision will be the how separate forces for each of scenario goals. Focus on one target will give you greater chances of taking control, but the opponent who divide his forces for more targets will be closer to Victory (more VP). This approach forces the planning and tactical aproach especially that you get points for secure clusters only in 3 last round of the game.
Additionaly players also score VP for critical location in space so you must build a balanced force to win.

More about this aspect of game http://solaris7.pl/2016/12/21/dropfleet-commander-walka-nazi...

Activation


In most scenarios, none of our ships did not start the game on the table. You choose rather points out of hyperspace, assign our combat formations of the appropriate numbers and using a special deck of cards, plan all our turn.

I really like the mechanic activation battle groups. In many systems, the sequence of activation depends on the initiative referred to roll of the dice. Often one roll has a big impact on the outcome of the fight, because, for example you damaged battleship is destroyed before it can be activated and destroy the enemy ship. In Dropfleet each of the ships has a "mass" which is equivalent to not only displacement, but also the reaction speed of the ship for orders. The mass of the entire battle group determines the speed of its response to the commands called "strategy rating".
More about this aspect of game can be found here http://thehotlz.blogspot.com/2016/11/tactics-guide-all-about...

Players before each round of the game put all their deck of battle groups then in the phase of iniciative at the same time reveal the overall card. The player with less "strategy rating" battle group chooses who will start first in the activation his group or opponent. With the activation of another group procedure is repeated. Players must therefore perfectly plan the movements of their formation and ships, to anticipate the opponent's moves and that throughout the whole round.

Orders


Players have a choice of up to 7 commands the base, we are choosen during the activation of groups of our ships. Each of the command determines whether the ship can turn this activation, how many weapons it can use, how fast it may move and whether as a result of the order loses or gains emissions (spike). Certain ships and factions have their special orders. But they are not free. Every time you perform some action overloading the ship drives, it receives a penalty in the form of an increase in emissions of their signals. Thus it becomes a much better target for the enemy. Something for something, whether it is worthwhile to do an active scan to get a better bearing on the cruiser frigate exposing yourself on purpose? Is it worth it to go to the full during that quickly fly to the drop zone, risking that the opponent shoot down so valuable aircraft carriers assault or tropships?

Weapons range system


The creators came from the assumption that the limit range weapons will not be the most important in the space. In vacuum, the problem does not lie within range, but accuracy. Each vessel has a sphere 6 '(or more depending on the fraction), in which the sensors work well and are able to capture all. To add a range of sensors the size of the ship opponent - small corvettes or frigates are difficult targets for radar, so add only 3 ", once for example cruiser adds 6".

But that's not all. Overloaded ships (ie, eg. Using the full power of weaponry or full speed) are gaining spike, which causes that they are more visible to the enemy sensors. The smaller spike adds + 6 "to the signature of the ships, two small transformed into a larger spike that adds up to 12" (max ship may have one more spike). Players can also make an active scan the enemy ships (by adding his signature to a smaller spike), but she will perform the same action becomes much more visible target (+ bigger spike).
Thanks to this system I can for example make a situation when I have better lock for the ship on other side of table that the ship which stand near my forces. The range in Dropfleet is something like the players have impact in the time of the battle.



3 Levels of space


Dropfleet provides three levels of battleground - high orbit, low orbit and atmosphere. Layer affected in various ways on the battlefield. The atmosphere hinders the movement by slowing ships, some action may be carried out only with a certain level of battle. In addition, the enemy located on a different altitude than the attacking ship is harder to hit. Each faction has ships that better exercise on certain level.

Rules above are the ones that really caught my attention, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Ships and weapons each with 4 factions available in the game are various interesting special rules (easy to remember), giving room to maneuver when choosing the fleet. Various formations and battle groups also increase the possibility (for example, whether it is better to go in a "lighter" faster reacting formations, or take heavier ships with more firepower and being condemned to aswer on movements of the enemy?). Deployment of the battlefield and ships is fast and efficient. The game is based on standard d K6, but they are used in a meaningful way. The ships are quite strong and really need a strong fire to at least one completely eliminated from the fight. On the other hand, removing half of the points of strength of the ship causes throwing critical effects, and there are many different epic efect.


Movement system

When the group is activated, all ships from in its composition it can move. Group does not necessarily maintain formation during movement of each ship can be moved separately. Only at the end of the movement is checked coherence between the ships. Going beyond the communication range (3 inches for frigates, 6 for large ships) does not allow the use of other orders than standard.

Thrust


The ship can move on the table to the value of its thrust (or twice for the full thrust command). To show the mass and momentum, ship must normally use at least half of its available thust within (rounded up) to move after each activation.

Station keeping


The ship, which uses command station keep, can use the 0-1/2 Thrust. It may also be completely stationary, if desired, as well as to turn in place.

Turn

The ship can normally make one rotation to 45 degrees at the start of its movement. Using special orders changes are as follows:
1) ships carrying special order: silent running, active scan, or full fire can not turn at all,
2) ships using the command change of course may turn twice at any point in their movement and can connect the two phrases in one turning to 90 degrees instead of 45 degrees.

And ships in Dropfleet can (under certain conditions) rams!

Final thougts


I like this game, even that I do not like to assemble (it is not that hard) and paint models, mechanics rewards me the trouble. Starter set is good for learning the game and for the first few battles, but you can see that eventually you have to invest more (On the other hand, it will not be the pursuit of a "new wave" as I see in the FFG systems). Battles due to the mechanics of creating battle groups and mission objectives are demanding both at the strategic level (selection of ships and dividing them to battle groups) and tactical (decisions during the game). I only hope that support (and more important release schelude) will be maintained as Hawk already announced battlecruisers, Corvettes, space stations, tactical cards and legendary admirals, I must say I'm looking forward to it...


Dropfleet Commander compared to other games


Firestorm Armada (about 20 games)


DFC is way easier to play and faster, the ships are made of tinfoil and go down pretty fast. In FSA you have better choices of races and ships and can configure them by updates. The boarding also add some tactical options. Unfornatelly battles in Firestorm Armada takes too long (about 4-6 hours) and system does not have the backing I wish (the fluf in almost not existing). Spartan is also spread pretty thin for too many systems as once.
You can read more about these games comparision here http://mannmomo.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/dropfleet-commander-f...

Halo Fleet Battles (about 20 games)


I played this game a lot, and then sold off all my stuff, because I found it to be clunky and lacking in tactical depth, with all weapons being functionally identical and no units being meaningfully customizable. The ability of commanders and boarding offer some interesting options, but new commanders are show too slow to give more tactics in game. HFB was still limited to 2 factions and Spartan are pretty bad at supporting their games.
More http://mannmomo.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/2017-what-will-it-bri...

X-Wing (2 games) and Star Wars Armada (8 games)


X-Wing it's a very fun and casual game. SW Armada is a very different game. It's not a fleet game as Dropfleet Commander. You won't have as many ships on the table.

At this moment (Dropfleet will have more ships, tactal cards and admirals in the future) the meta in both this games is much more complicated (and probably less balanced) with the lots combination of crew, upgrades and captains. Unfornatelly from some time most of the FFG games are slowly being rather a pay to play system with the cards you need, and pretty much it becoming a deck building game with miniatures.

In both X-Wing and SW Armada are SO MANY tokens on the table. You need special dice, special measuring tools, special tokens, upgrade cards, and an elaborate base for each ship. All that slows down the game and clutters the table.

DFC is somehow more tactical for me trought objectives systems, 3 layers of battlefield and the way in which range system works.

Full Thrust (2 games)

Leaving aside the issues of availability of models, a few general observations: Full Thrust have more realistic mechanism of movement in space, it has various factions and different weapons systems. However, the mechanics of goals, way to create battle groups, layers makes that DFC give you more tactical choices. DFC was developed with the community and tournaments in mind, you have all the rules in one place. In FT we have many different rules, different rulebooks and you need spend some time just to check which rules you should use to play. However, even then the balance is not sure.
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James Palmer
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Great to see some comparisons to other similar games out there.

I was leaning towards Star Wars Armada until I heard the announcement about Dropfleet Commander, and once I saw it's unique aspects, like orbital combat, and the range rules, I knew it was the game to go for.

Tonight I play my first game, so here's hoping my first impressions are as positive as yours!
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Christopher Senn
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Some of the components are a mixed bag. I was watching a playthrough and I thought they were using a prototype because of the turn order cards. Its basically paper.
 
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Rocy7 POL
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Grove123 wrote:
Some of the components are a mixed bag. I was watching a playthrough and I thought they were using a prototype because of the turn order cards. Its basically paper.


Activation cards are made for tin paper, because you will use a lot of them. I secured some my cards by laminating them but because I often change my fleet composition cheaper (thiner) versions are better for my wallet.

Component overviev http://www.beastsofwar.com/dropfleet/beginners-guide-compone...

 
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James Palmer
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Also, in the video, they're likely using the starter set cards, which are lower quality versions that you have to cut out yourself. The actual deck is higher quality. I sleeved mine though, and use wet-erase markers to write on them so I can reuse the cards. If you sleeve them, the quality doesn't really matter.
 
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Keith Anderson
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Felkor wrote:
Great to see some comparisons to other similar games out there.

I was leaning towards Star Wars Armada until I heard the announcement about Dropfleet Commander, and once I saw it's unique aspects, like orbital combat, and the range rules, I knew it was the game to go for.

Tonight I play my first game, so here's hoping my first impressions are as positive as yours!


Did you get your game in? If so, what is your first impression? Thanks!
 
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James Palmer
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GamePlayer wrote:
Felkor wrote:
Great to see some comparisons to other similar games out there.

I was leaning towards Star Wars Armada until I heard the announcement about Dropfleet Commander, and once I saw it's unique aspects, like orbital combat, and the range rules, I knew it was the game to go for.

Tonight I play my first game, so here's hoping my first impressions are as positive as yours!


Did you get your game in? If so, what is your first impression? Thanks!


Ugh. Just spent 5 minutes writing a response and BGG messed up and it didn't submit. Here's a short version, I'll expand on anything if you'd like:

Pros: All weapons feel really different. Every little choice is important. Ramming is so much fun. Love how the real points revolve around what's going on on the ground.

Con: More complex than is necessary (every rule seems to have an exception). Lots of ambiguities in the rules that need to be resolved by Hawk. Our first game with starter sets took 4 hours.

Overall loving it, and looking forward to playing again on Thursday - we'll have either a 3rd person join us, or we'll be bumping our points up to 800.
 
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Anthony Kopah
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Felkor wrote:
Also, in the video, they're likely using the starter set cards, which are lower quality versions that you have to cut out yourself. The actual deck is higher quality. I sleeved mine though, and use wet-erase markers to write on them so I can reuse the cards. If you sleeve them, the quality doesn't really matter.


Hawk makes nice plastic minis, but the rest of their components are very sub-par. Aside from the mentioned paper "cards" that you need to cut apart, the dice are common d6 (no branding or special glyphs) that are also on the small side, the tokens and sector terrain objectives are punched from an exceptionally thin cardstock, and the stickers are paper (not vinyl or waterslide). The paper poster printed to be used as a game board comes in 2 sheets, is permanently creased from being folded and is much smaller than needed for the 4'x4' scenarios provided in the rulebook (they measure 33"x23" each).
They make much of including a quality tape measure in the set, but it looks like the kind of thing you would find in the 99 cent bin in a hardware store checkout line.
 
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James Palmer
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8thDay wrote:
Felkor wrote:
Also, in the video, they're likely using the starter set cards, which are lower quality versions that you have to cut out yourself. The actual deck is higher quality. I sleeved mine though, and use wet-erase markers to write on them so I can reuse the cards. If you sleeve them, the quality doesn't really matter.


Hawk makes nice plastic minis, but the rest of their components are very sub-par. Aside from the mentioned paper "cards" that you need to cut apart, the dice are common d6 (no branding or special glyphs) that are also on the small side, the tokens and sector terrain objectives are punched from an exceptionally thin cardstock, and the stickers are paper (not vinyl or waterslide). The paper poster printed to be used as a game board comes in 2 sheets, is permanently creased from being folded and is much smaller than needed for the 4'x4' scenarios provided in the rulebook (they measure 33"x23" each).
They make much of including a quality tape measure in the set, but it looks like the kind of thing you would find in the 99 cent bin in a hardware store checkout line.


I really can't disagree with this. I wish they would up their production values on some of their non-miniature stuff.

Their 3-D cardboard buildings for Dropzone are pretty nice for the price though. They aren't going to last forever, but are an economical way to have some terrain.

As far as thin counters for Dropfleet go, I can say that thinner is actually better in this case... having your ships try to balance on thick counters would be tricky. I'm using their map, but am putting non-glare acrylic plexiglass over it, which makes it nice and flat, and I put the various counters underneath it and it works quite well.
 
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8thDay wrote:
the dice are common d6 (no branding or special glyphs) that are also on the small side
thanks to that I'm not forced to spend addiitonal 12$ for more special dices as in other systems
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