Monday, December 9, 2013

I'm a bit fed up...

I really enjoy 40k, but for me and what I want from the game, the last several releases have started something of a downward spiral of unpleasantness that has me very dissatisfied. In the last two GTs I've attended, the lack of variety in top-table performing armies was really disappointing... other words, if you're not Daemons, Tau, or Eldar (or some combination there-of), you may as well not even try.

These new Advent Calendar digital releases have me even grumpier. I don't want to play mini-Apoc. I don't want to see every army including a detachment of Tau. I want to see more armies being more viable, more internal and external balance between army books, and a more reasonable representation of all armies in tournaments.

I love Chip, and I know this is not his intent, but seeing how uncompetitive most of the non-new army books are (and even some of the new ones! Sorry, Dark Angels!!) in the data from Torrent of Fire is really the final nail in the coffin.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not rage-quitting or anything. But I'm simply not excited to play competitive 40k. I will. I hope to go to Templecon, I'll do Nova, local events that Brendan runs at Gaming Etc...

...I guess to simplify my thoughts and feelings, I don't expect 40k to be my "main game" anymore. At least until thing get a bit more even-keeled!

So what will I play? Good question, I'm glad you asked...

A new gamestore just opened very close to my house...Gamer's Gambit. No GW product at all (that should tell us all something...), but a seemingly vibrant "out of the box" Warmachine community already is active there...they've done a Tournament already, and are looking to grow to multiple game nights it seems! So, I expect I'll do a bit of Warmachine (Hordes, Skorne tortured baby elephant needs some table-time!)

But what's REALLY calling me now is Dropzone Commander by Hawk Games!

It's a relatively new game (out about a year, I believe) that seems to be getting nothing but positive reviews, including from me!

I bought the starter box. For ~$75 you get a full size rulebook, two small forces for the UCF (humans that survived having Earth taken over and are fighting to retake their "homeworlds" from the evil aliens...) and the Scourge (the evil aliens). But also, you get two fold-out maps and 10 pre-folded cardstock buildings to make a complete game-play surface.

The rules are simple and straightforward. The rulebook is kind of big, but the rules for the game are really only about 25-30 pages long. Simple, straightforward, and tight.

Each army is divided in to battlegroups (analogous to platoons in Flames of War) , which include squads of units (a unit being a 'base' of infantry or one vehicle). The types of battlegroups, what kind of squads and units can be included, and the number of squads and battlegroups and units is detailed in a FoC that varies based on the points level being played.

At the start of each turn, which player has the initiative is determined by a die-roll (modified by the command value of your leader...higher CV costs more points!). The player with the initiative chooses who goes first. That player then 'activates' one of his battlegroups; moves/shoots or shoots/moves each of the squads in that battlegroup.

Then the other player does one of his battlegroups. And this alternates until both players' battlegroups have had a turn. Then you roll for initiative, and do it all over.

The focus of the game, as the name suggests, is Dropships delivering the ground forces to the battlefield. These dropshops are, for the most parts, the only things in the game that are fast. Designed for a 4' x 4' table, infantry have a movement of 2"....and a range of less than 12". Some vehicles move quite a bit faster, but the fastest ground vehicles are still moving only 12" or so. Similarly, ranges are pretty short...against non-infantry targets, most guns are limited to less than 24". This means that in order to really apply the force that you have, being able to maneuver and redeploy using your speedy dropships is the key to the game.

It looks like most of the missions involve having your infantry (the only unit type able to do so) search through buildings to find objectives (worth 1 point) and if possible, getting them to carry it off the table (or giving it to another model...a vehicle can carry, just can't search a building)...getting the obj off the table gets you 2 points. This means infantry is very valuable, but interestingly they are for the most part very soft and squishy when no in a building, buildings are relatively easy to blow up (killing all inside), and infantry's firepower is pretty insignificant (for the most part...there are of course exceptions). Melee fights don't really happen, but there are Close Quarters Battles fought between infantry in buildings...think room-to-room fighting with grenades, etc. Very deadly, very decisive, quick and fun!

It looks to me like each faction (there are four: The UCM, described above; the Scourge...evil parasitic aliens that take over other lifeforms and use their bodies; the PHR...Post Human Republic...humans that fled earth before the Scourge, disappeared, and showed up at UCM planets a few hundred years later with freaky cybernetic add-ons and super high technology; and the Shaltari, another alien race with super high tech and a love of combat.

All the races have the same unit archetypes: Main Battle Tanks; Heavy Tanks; AA Tanks; Infantry; APC/IFVs; Fighters; Bombers; etc. But each race has it's own unique flavor.

For example, the UCM has middle of the road firepower, range, and toughness, but is pretty slow. The Scourge are fast, have very high firepower, but low range and low toughness.

The game also includes very potent Air Support, Anti-air units, Artillery, and some fun 'specialist' infantry for each faction (the UCM have Praetorians...hyper-trained soldiers that repel from dropships directly in to buildings where they do a far better job in Close Quarters Battles than the regular UCM infantry).

All this put together means the game seems to encourage and reward well-rounded lists that have "enough of everything" to not be dominated by any one 'branch' of the opponent's army. Armor is good at killing AA vehicles which are good at shooting down Aircraft which are good at killing tanks...this kind of rock/paper/scissors seems to me to be well balanced and keeps the focus of the game where I think it's meant to be: on maneuver and planning instead of overpowering with a spam of the most point-efficient unit and/or throwing the most dice downfield (I'm looking at you, 40k!).

I've ordered a second Starter Box, and am hoping to get it painted up soon, and apply to be a Hawk Talon (like a Press Ganger) for Hawk Games...get some Demos going at some regional clubs/stores, and see if I can get a bit of a community going here in the area!

Also, there's a DZC tournament at Templecon...maybe I'll get in on that while I'm there for 40k! :)

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