Dropzone Commander – The PHR

The Post Human Republic – PHR is the second faction I’ll look at here. Hawk again provides some good background here

 

PHR Logo

 

. The PHR have been categorised as the Battletech faction of DzC – they have Mechs, lots of them. There is the class 1 mechs – these are the MBT equivalents, 1 for each role of Anti Air, Anti Tank and Anti Infantry. The Type 2 class are the heavy ones, these are categorised as being either command or special weapon variants – they all have some form of passive save (saving throw) making them tough to remove as well. Type 3 are specialised walkers, there are currently 2 variants, one is a fast flanker unit (the Apollo) which can make long range jumps around the battlefield; the other sports a suite of advanced ECMs which degrade enemy to hit rolls depending on how physically close they are to the enemy unit firing. Type 4s are the big daddy Walkers of the PHR – there are 2 variants, one Command (Nemesis) and the other a Heavy (Hades) option – both inspire utter dread for opponents when they are on the field due to the number of hit points they have, their range, and their firepower!. The PHR also sport some limited skimmers as well but they are slower than the Scourge and the Shaltari.

The Good:

  • Most of their units have multiple hit points.
  • Some real versatility in their battlegroups – e.g. you can mix Anti Air and Anti-Tank walkers in the same Squads of a Battlegroup!
  • Psychologically, they can be very daunting to fight against – the reputation of the PHR is one of a faction who is hard to get off the table, especially when  they bring a Hades!
  • Some of the best infantry choices in the game! Siren (one of the best CQB units in the game!), Valyeries (fastest infantry in the game so far, and they count as scouts!), Medusas (anti-infantry and Anti-Tank all for 100 points!?! Yes please!), Immortal Long Reach Teams (snipers) and Immortals – each has a speecialised role and they all perform them wonderfully!
  • The latest release has brought some really good new units to the fore – from the Thor bombard to the Angelos A2 flame thrower capable troop transport skimmers!
  • Despite some modification, the PHR command deck is still considered one of the strongest, and for good reason; it has cards in it allowing you to force enemy units to conduct friendly fire or prevent movement!
  • Passive Saves on Type 2 Walkers make them really very tough!

The Bad:

  • Anti-Air options – the PHR struggles in the anti-air options game, both in terms of cost and options at present they have 2 dedicated AA units (the Phobos Type 1 walker, and the Helios support skimmers), they have a couple of multi role options here too namely infantry (basic Immortals, Janus scout walkers and the costly Athena Air Superiority Fighter).
  • Some units are now almost defunct in terms of their usefulness – notably the Mencht Anti-Infantry walker – its just too short ranged and slow to get where its needed and then do anything effectively; and the Tanaris MLRS heavy choice (too short ranged and a third of the time fails to even have a demolisher capability).
  • Poor building demolition – the PHR have really suffered in this field; on release they were considered strong at it with the Enyo and Tanaris heavy options, both of which sported Demolisher; as the game progressed though the other factions caught up and then surpassed the PHR in this capability, both in terms of cost per units capable of it, number of shots per capable unit and lack of new capable units for the PHR.

The Ugly:

  • PHR is the slowest faction in the game – and in a game where the focus is on speed and ability to deploy around the field quickly and effectively, that’s a real worry! Most PHR units will need a dropship to be effective, and PHR dropships are not cheap either!
  • PHR are almost always numerically outnumbered, this is true in firepower and units on the field. Given the number of high strength shots they have on units, the number of damage points each unit has, and the reasonably good armour the units have, this is not a surprised, but does mean when you miss, it hurts!
  • Weakest faction in the game in terms of air power – lets be honest, drop ships aside, the PHR do the worst at this. Their current options for aircraft are the: Mercury Drones (not armed, not fast, but do help with searching for objectives, and holding Focus Points (they are unique at this for aircraft), and are scouts), the Athena Air Superiority Fighter (very expensive, can only fire one of its 3 weapon options a turn), and currently the Triton-X (technically a dropship for the Medusa – and you need the Medusa to include one in your army), but can do some limited gunship duty. Hawk plan to add in an Assault Dropship (basically a Poseidon heavy dropship, with less carry capacity, but with missile launchers and will be called the Njord) in the next few weeks. Ultimately though the faction is really weak here.

 

First purchases – assuming you have the starter box army, my recommendation is that the first pickups should be:

  • Zeus – your commander – I’d choose the Zeus over the Nemesis for a couple of reasons; the first is you can add in Odins to the same squad. This is a massive benefit as the Odin and the Zeus combined provides a unit which, once in position is just horrific to remove and painful to expose yourself to.
  • A second starter box – this will give you much needed dropships (plus for the cost of 3 dropships bought seperately, this get you those plus much needed extra tanks and infantry!)
  • 2 Blisters of Triton A1s – I can’t stand the Juno APCs the PHR have, they are slow, have the same carry capacity as light dropships and frankly contribute little that the faction hasn’t got in spades elsewhere. The Triton A1s give the infantry much needed mobility.
  • 2 blister of Odins – You’ll want 1 from 1 blister for going with the Zeus and you want a couple for sticking in a heavy group with a Neptune to cause merry hell for enemy ground forces.
  • 2 Blisters of Apollos – the Apollo is flanker unit with 2 variants (anti-Infantry and Anti Tank) regardless these are fast and can help get to back table units like Ferrums or get to late game Focus Points.
  • 1 Blister of Helios – these will give you some much needed additional Anti-Air units.
  • 1 Blister of Valkyries  – some Scouts to improve range for command cards.
  • Command Deck – same as UCM really, these help the army.

That will generally push you up to about 1500 points with a commander factored in – the usual size of a game (leftovers here will be 1 Neptune, 4 bases of Immortals, 4 Type 1 walkers, 1 Odin, 1 Zeus, 4 Juno APCs):

For Example:

  • Standard Army
  • Clash: 1496/1500 points
  • PHR Standard Roster [1496/1500 pts]
  • Hand of the Sphere [276 pts]
    • Command Squad: Zeus(Battle Vizier), Odin, Neptune [276 pts]
  • Battle Pantheon [225 pts]
    • Battle Squad: Ares, Phobos, Neptune [145 pts]
    • Apollo Squad: 2x Apollo-A [80 pts]
  • Battle Pantheon [225 pts]
    • Battle Squad: Ares, Phobos, Neptune [145 pts]
    • Apollo Squad: 2x Apollo-A [80 pts]
  • Immortals [202 pts]
    • Immortals: 2x Immortals, Triton A1 [101 pts]
    • Immortals: 2x Immortals, Triton A1 [101 pts]
  • Heavy Pantheon [330 pts]
    • Heavy Squad: 2x Odin, Neptune [170 pts]
    • Helios Squad: 2x Helios, Neptune [160 pts]
  • Pegasus Group [238 pts]
    • Valkyries: 2x Valkyries, Triton A1 [119 pts]
    • Valkyries: 2x Valkyries, Triton A1 [119 pts]

Dropzone Commander – UCM

In my last post I gave a brief overview of the game, the next logical step would be to discuss the factions. So lets start with the United Colonies of Mankind (UCM).

Hawk has published a good blurb on their fluff here: http://www.hawkwargames.com/pages/united-colonies-of-mankind

So I won’t linger on that, but I will discuss the good, the bad and the ugly for the UCM.

The Good:

  • Most balanced faction in terms of – good armour, average/slow mobility, good firepower.
  • Has the most air power of all factions (Ferrum drones, light gunship (Falcon), heavy gunship (Eagle), interceptor (Archangel),  bombers (Seraphim and Retaliator) , Command (Phoenix))
  • Most versatile basic AA unit – the humble Rapier – it has 2 modes of fire, reasonable speed and good armour . It lets you get into someones face and shutdown air corridors and causes havoc for skimmers. Cherish it.
  • Financially, the UCM will cost you less than some factions as its one of the two factions in the starter box.

The Bad:

  • Infantry – whilst they now have more specialised options, (Legionnaires, Praetorians, Snipers, Hazard Suits, Mortar Teams and Flak teams) they have no solid answer to the other races CQB specialists. This means if the UCM troops get caught in a building by the other races CQB specialists, then you can kiss them goodbye in most cases.
  • UCM tanks – whilst they have reasonable speed (4″/6″), good armour (9/10), and reasonable guns (E9/10) they mostly have 1 hit point, this means in battles of attrition against hard to hit skimmer armies such as the Scourge or Shaltari, or against the multi hit-point armies of the PHR, they will suffer more – not disproportionately more, but enough that you will want to make constant use of cover.
  • Drop capacity  – not a massive issue but when you have squads with 3/6/9 options in terms of models per squad you quickly find that to bring blocks of 6, you need 2 medium dropships and a squad of 9 needs a heavy dropship, or you are driving on. This is only really viable for the light tanks in the faction (Fireblade and Katana) otherwise you are limited to a top speed of 6″ on roads and then, with no shooting. Additionally, like other races light drop ships, you can only carry 2 bases of infantry per dropship; unfortunately while you can stick 2 bases of Legionnaires on a Raven, its a poor option compared to what the other races can manage with basic troops in those dropships.

The Ugly:

  • Scout options – you either have to take a Ferrum Drone base (and why wouldn’t you for a great AA/AT unit , downside is that if your oppo has brought good Anti Air, you will lose those drones fast, and if they get the Ferrum itself, you lose all the drones immediately!), Praetorian Snipers (unless you plan to turtle in a building, these guys need a drop ship and a willingness to never shoot to be useful here), or Wolverines. Scouts are important – they extend your command radius for card usage, and they act as spotters for the artillery (Kodiak and Longbows).
  • Heavy options – currently the UCM have only 2 heavy tank options – The Gladius and the Scimitar. Both of them are slow, and compared to the other faction heavy choices both feel quite stilted in comparison. The Scimitar’s laser can shut down a lane but once its on the table, don’t expect it to do much other than sit there and hit a couple of buildings or the odd poorly placed opponent’s tank. The Gladius, again, really slow but with a drop ship, it can at least get forward to do some good. Overall though they are just not filling a niche that the UCM have covered elsewhere.
  • Command Deck – whilst this has improved since the game was first released, I’d still personally argue that it feels like the weakest deck out of all the races. The options they added in, have certainly added more punch (which was badly needed), they will still struggle to find solid situations to deploy them well.

 

First purchases – assuming you have the starter box army, my recommendation is that the first pickups should be:

  • Kodiak – your commander – a reasonable all round choice now – plus it gives you an artillery shot with a blast radius if your have scouts that can spot for it – or a very inaccurate blast if you don’t.
  • A second starter box – this will give you much needed dropships (plus for the cost of 3 dropships bought seperately, this get you those plus much needed extra tanks and infantry!)
  • Then 2 blisters of Katanas (6 of them in total)  – this is a personal choice for me – Katanas are fast, slightly less durable than Sabres but have double the number of shots – also you can drive them on! (Find rules for these in the reconquest book).
  • 1 blister of Falcon gunships – these give you some good fast AT mobility which are also now really hard to hit, ideally you want 2 of them in an army (and you get 2 in a blister iirc)
  • A Ferrum  – its rare to see a UCM list missing one of these since they hit ground and air targets hard, and act as good spotters for the commander thanks to the drones being classed as scouts! (Find rules for these in the reconquest book).
  • Command Deck – not really necessary, but can be sometimes helpful – plus if you don’t have one, your opponents may well moan as you are crippling their armies – plus its necessary for competitve play.

That will generally push you up to about 1500 points with a commander factored in – the usual size of a game (and some left over models – 6 Sabres, 2 Condor Medium Dropships):

For Example:

  • Standard Clash UCM Army
  • Standard Roster [1480/1500 pts]
    • Field Command [368 pts]
      • Kodiak: Kodiak(Captain) [203 pts]
      • Ferrum: Ferrum [165 pts]
    • Armored Formation [287 pts]
      • Katana Squad: 3x Katana [111 pts]
      • Rapier Squad: 3x Rapier, Condor(+Missile Pods) [176 pts]
    • Armored Formation [287 pts]
      • Katana Squad: 3x Katana [111 pts]
      • Rapier Squad: 3x Rapier, Condor(+Missile Pods) [176 pts]
    • Legionnaire Corps [269 pts]
      • Legionnaires: 3x Legionnaires, Condor(+Missile Pods), 2x Bear [151 pts]
      • ^ Sharing ^ Legionnaires: 3x Legionnaires [78 pts]
      • Falcon Squad: Falcon [40 pts]
    • Legionnaire Corps [269 pts]
      • Legionnaires: 3x Legionnaires, Condor(+Missile Pods), 2x Bear [151 pts]
      • ^ Sharing ^ Legionnaires: 3x Legionnaires [78 pts]
      • Falcon Squad: Falcon [40 pts]

The only downside with this is that its only 5 out of a possible 6 battle groups for games of this size, but its a great start.

Dropzone Commander

Its been a while since I last posted, but thought I’d write up a few bits on what games I’ve been playing over the last few years. I’ll do a bunch of posts about each of them, but to start off, one of my current favourites – Dropzone Commander.

Dropzone Commander Boxed Set

Two years ago, I (and family) attended UK Games Expo and stopped by the Hawk Wargames stall. I had a quick demo game, looked through the displays, and that was that; I was hooked. A small car loan later and we left with the starter box, a PHR army, and a Scourge Army….

If you’ve not come across DzC before, let me briefly explain….

Dropzone Commander is a 10mm Sci-fi Wargame (Epic 40k was 6mm iirc). The game has (at present), 5 major factions:

  • UCM (United Colonies of Mankind) – Basically what’s left of humanity – all round generally good force, good armour, good firepower, tad slow but dependable force.
  • Scourge – Parasitic, nomadic aliens with bio-based technology; they rocked up, kicked Earth’s ass, and reduced humanity to an enslave race with a few fringe colonies – glass cannons – fastest race in the game, best at dropping buildings, some really heavy firepower, but can’t take a punch.
  • PHR (Post Human Republic)- A splinter group of humans who left the core worlds before the scourge appeared. They left with an alien AI and have since re-emerged with cyborg impants, mechs and a bad attitude – slowest faction, some really powerful guns, lots of heavy armour, units usually have multiple hit points.
  • Shaltari – Fractured alien race with advanced technology (skimmers and walkers), originally wanted humans for cannon fodder, now just enjoy the odd punch up – unlike other races, these use teleportation and shields for deployment and fast re-deployment of troops. Weak armour, but shield give everything saving throws.
  • Resistance – What’s left of humanity on the Scourge occupied Core Worlds (think Mad Max meets Falling Skies) – the newest faction to the game, very eclectic mix of units, usually cheap, hordes but with some surprising punches! Love their hovercraft and drills for deployment mechanisms though.

The mechanics are pretty simple – models have a straight forward stat line including, movement, hit points, armour, and counter measures. They also have weapon profiles which include  number of shots, energy, range (countered and full), hit roll, max move/fire and any special rules.

Models belong in squads, which are part of battlegroups. You’ll have command, armour, infantry, heavy, scout and air battlegroups which may or may not contain transports. You and your opponent will take alternating turns to activate battle groups. Activating and resolving all squads in a battlegroup before yielding to the opponent until all battlegroups are done. Then initiative is re-rolled and away you go again. Line of sight, range and intervening models makes a big difference in this game. Additionally, structures are destructible – so have fun removing your opponents cover, or dropping buildings on tanks and infantry alike!

A lot of the games of DzC work around objectives – whether its take and hold missions, intelligence gathering missions or attacker/defender type missions; the mission’s victory conditions do not always mean wiping out your opponent is the best way to play.

The starter box gets you a basic Scourge and UCM army (3 Medium dropships, 2 APCs, 3 tanks, 3 anti-air and 6 infantry bases for each), along with rule books, dice, templates, scenery and reference materials. The basic armies are about 500 points a piece. Games are played at 3 different points levels:

  • 1-999 Skirmish
  • 1000-1999 Clash
  • 2000-3000 Battle

Most games I’ve ever played have been at about 1500 points, which takes about 2-3 hours to play through. The different levels change how many, and what type of battlegroups you can include in your army. In later posts, I’ll go through some of my army compositions to explain how it works and why I chose what.

Cost wise, taking the starters to that level (1500 points), you are looking at about £100-£150 investment (ymmv), but this may include a second starter boxed set (for extra basics like dropships), a command unit, some scouts, some heavy choices, the faction specific command deck (not necessary but adds some nice options to your army), some Exotics and maybe an aircraft.

 

Mantic’s Dreadball

Last year, on Kickstarter I pledged in on Mantic’s Dreadball. Now, I love Bloodbowl and the chance for another miniatures based game even remotely like it thrilled me to my core. What I got, was a surprise – depsite the vids I’d watched, the research I had done and the conversations with mates; Dreadball was a much more different beast to what I was expecting. It was way more awesome than I thought it would be!

Ignore Bloodbowl for a moment, maybe you remember an old, old game that some of you might have had on an Amiga, this game was called Speedball. Take that, put it on a  board, make that hex-based, add in some alternate races (Orks, Humans, Rat-men, Dwarves, etc.) and that’s Dreadball!

This is a game where you can use the ball to attack other players. This is a game where Star players on really get used in tournaments. This is a game where you can paint up the human team like this!

Ok so the basics:

  •  Each team gets 6 players on the pitch (you can stick more on but be prepared for your opponent to call foul!. There are three main types of player (Stryker, Jack and Guard) – there is a fourth (Keeper but they are special!)
  • Each turn each team gets a set of counters for actions  – you can spend an action token to stand a guy up, bring a guy on from the sidelines, run/dash a player, throw a pass/score, slam a player, draw a card. Now where this token thing gets interesting is that some of these actions can trigger other actions depending on how successful you are or what type of player you are. Eg. A stryker can declare and spend points on a pass and also get a run out of it as well. A Guard can declare a slam and also get a run.
  • I mentioned cards before, well they can be used to gain additional actions instead of spending a token), showboat (chance for fan cheers) or encounter a new event – which can do odd or even fun things like break balls!)
  • Tests in Dreadball are fairly simple – roll a number of d6 (usually 3), modified dependent on action and sort of player (Guard, Stryker, Jack) and any cards you play. Roll those dice and for each one that scores higher than the stat being tested (skill for pickups, dodges and passes; Strength for slams, move for extra squares, etc. etc.) you count as a success. 6s explode upwards – so count it as a success and roll again – get another 6 and it’s lather, rinse, repeat.
  • There’s plenty more but I’ll stop there.

Mantic’s Kickstarter went so well, that they managed to fund two additional seasons for Dreadball (each season adds more teams and star players). The teams are fun; each plays in a unique way so switching between them will give you an entirely new experience.

Personally, I can see that this game will continue to grow and build momentum – I hope you’ll give it a chance and try it out.

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Privateer Press – Warmachine

Last August (2012) I decided to finally get off the Games Workshop bandwagon and give some other wargames a go. Now I’ve always liked the look of Privateer Press’s Warmachine game, so I figured what the hell?

I approached my local Press-ganger and asked him to teach me how to play.

Now I don’t know if you know much about Warmachine, so forgive me if I repeat stuff you already know. Warmachine is a steampunk esque game mixing giant steam powered robots with magic. The factions are pretty straight forward, you have the gunline and electricity loving Cygnar, the undead soul munching Cryxx, the relgious ‘burn the heathens’ Menoth, the Soviet-esque brute force and cold Khador and the ancient and shielded Scyrah. Each faction has its own favourite weapons and tactics, but somehow its all really well balanced. (As a separate aside, Hordes, PPs fantasy wargame, is completely compatible with Warmachine – the only differences are in damage and the primary power mechanic – focus for Warmachine, Fury for Hordes. However if you know how to play one, you can play the other! The other really ncie thing is you CAN play Hordes vs Warmachine and it is still balanced though with different power curves; however I’ll talk about Hordes and the power curves in a later post).

So for my demo game, I grabbed a Cygnar whilst my Pressganger grabbed Menoth. We used the basic ~£30 battlebox (each contains a warcaster and a 2-3 Jacks – Jacks are the steam powered robots of awesome).

Anyway, my press-ganger did his job, was suitably enthusiastic and explained the mechanics and rules really well, I even won the game. So I signed up for our local wargames club’s Journeyman league.

A Journeyman league is a fantastic way to get into Warmachine/Hordes. It’s a 6 week league with points for games played/won and points for painting your models (I love this idea)! Basically choose a faction and buy the battlebox – in week 1 you use this. In week 2 you now have a budget of 15 points (A battlebox is about 15 points, some just slightly under) so you can add a solo to the team if you wish but you must still use the models in the battlebox. Week three bumps the points to 25 – still using the stuff in the battlebox, but now you can add some neat stuff like infantry, some more solos, maybe even another jack if you want. In Week 4, it remains at 25 points but you can replace the warcaster from the battlebox with any other warcaster for your faction – you still have to keep the rest of the box though. In Week 5 points climb again, to 35 (pretty much what I think is standard points for most games), you can use either of your casters but you have to keep on using the battlebox. In Week 6, the final week, you can go nuts 35 points, free for all on the faction model choices.

Now, I was the newest player for our league,  was outclassed by everyone else who was playing – I won 1 game out of the 8-9 I managed to fit in over that time but I came first for the painting ( decided o go with purple over the usual Cygnar blue – see the bottom of this post for some examples (I’ll discuss the paint scheme later too)). The points that got me propelled me to 2nd/3rd in the league – not bad for a noob, plus I learned a on about playing Cygnar.

In terms of how Warmachine compares to 40k, well, I like both. 40k has a simplicity of tactics that makes it much easier to learn; generally you go towards the enemy and first one to charge usually wins, in my experience this is not true for Warmachine. However, as with all warames, the movement phase is the most important. In 40k you can be sloppy and the game will forgive you; in Warmachine the movement for each of your models, the order in which they activate (each model gets to move, then do an action like punch someone, cast a spell, shoot, etc. before you do the same for the next mode, until all  your models have activated), all of which can be critical and Warmachine does not forgive you for making mistakes.

It may sound like Warmachne is just plain nasty when described like that but I’d argue that its closer to the equivalent of going from playing with duplo to lego – both are fun, but we all know that lego is for the big boys and gals, who know the basics of how it should fit together.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to insult 40k – what it does, it does really well, but for me, and this is just an opinion, I’m drifiting away from it, mostly on principles but I’ll discuss that in a later post I think as it’s a tad to detracting to put here.

In any case, don’t take it from me – get out to your local clubs, find out who your local press-ganger is and ask for a demo game – join a Journeyman league. Just give it a try.

Oh, and by the way, now is a good time to do this. Privateer Press announced a new faction earlier this month – looks kinda like cyborg spell casters to me – all very awesome looking and as part of it, PP are doing a year long story campaign split over four seasons, each lasting a month, to introduce them. Go check out the preview video for the Convergence of Cyriss on youtube.

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