Tuesday, 28 April 2015

A First Look at Dropfleet Commander!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

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Hello there, dear readers! I've been a bit absent around here as my analogue life has been a little hectic. There are some The One Ring reviews waiting to be published, some Infinity mini impressions as well as a bunch of other stuff. As things wind down here and we're back in Sweden I'll hopefully soon be back up to speed.

However, right now I want to talk to you about something really exciting and that is the upcoming spaceship battle game from Hawk Wargames called Dropfleet Commander. Or at least that seems to have become the official title after only being an internet moniker. Hawk Wargames is of course the producer of the 10mm sci fi wargame Dropzone Commander and that they have a spaceship game in the works has been known for a long time. It's also been known that Andy Chambers is the main designer behind it and as I think that he's one of the few innovative designers coming out of GW (and actually making good games while actually working for them!) it certainly made me pay attention. The last game designed by Chambers that I have played is Dust Warfare which I enjoy quite a bit.

Until now the details have been fairly sparse - having battles taking place around gravity wells rather than in deep space and most of them being centered around actually landing all those troops you play with in the ground game. Still, not much talk of mechanics and even less about what the actual ships will look like. Well... with one exception of course. For a couple of years now a huge spaceship model in 10mm scale has accompanied Hawk Wargames to various conventions. I'm sure you've seen it. If not, below are some pics courtesy of the great guys over at Orbital Bombardment (check out their podcast if you're interested in DzC!). The Avenger is a New Orleans class strike carrier in Dropfleet Commander and we have been told it's one of the smaller ships in the game. Each of the blue hangars contain an UCM Condor ready to drop.

So yeah, it's big. And now we finally know what a couple of other ships will look like, as well as the Avenger in fleet scale. At Salute Hawk Wargames brought some UCM models for the upcoming game and talked a lot more about the scope of the game and some of its mechanics. First, let's have a better look at the modes. There's a nice picture at the top of the page and here you have individual shots of the ships:

This is a Beijing class battleship and according to Dave this is about as large, or at least long, any of the ships will be. Some (dreadought!) will be more massive, but they won't get into "silly territory". I'm reeeeally glad to hear Hawk are actively taking a stand against the oversized monstrosoties from Spartan Games. Of course, speaking of oversized... those guns... they grate on my optic nerve!

Berlin class cruiser (in the middle). You can see that it, and the bb, have some big fixed forward gun.
Moscow class heavy cruiser.

And here's the New Orleans strike carrier in a slightly smaller format. I like how different it looks from the larger ships as it is meant to actually enter atmosphere and offload ground forces. More streamlined to not immediately burn up.
Paris class cruiser.

Apart from those cartoon looking guns on the larger ships I think they look really good and have style all of their own. While not super hard sci fi, they have more of a realistic feel to them than most other spaceship  models out there (not counting the guns of course). So we have the small New Orleans Strike Carrier that  drop troops from orbit, two different cruisers and a battleship.

Now the real juicy bit as far as I'm concerned is not the models but that talk about the actual gameplay, which sounds very intriguing! Here's an interview with Dave and Andy Chambers where we finally get to hear what the game will actually play like.

If you don't have the time to watch, here's the tl;dw:
  • It's a completely new rules system and NOT a re-skin of Dropzone Commander (hear that Spartan Games?!).
  • It's an Orbital Combat Game - not a deep space combat game. It will take place above a planet and a ground combat zone the size of France or Spain.
  • You interact with the ground and actually drop troops into cities while ground and space defences try and stop you.
  • There are three levels of play; high orbit, low orbit and atmosphere. 
  • Things move slowly in atmosphere - "like moving through soup".
  • You don't win by destroying the opposing fleet but by dropping enough ground forces.
  • Avenger is frigate size and although one of the smaller ships in the game it's about the largest that can enter atmosphere. Larger ships burn up if their orbit decay.
  • Points wise, similar to Battlefleet Gothic but the smaller ships have a lot more damage points (instead of just one).
  • Weapons don't have a range value (or rather, they're all infinite) but ships have a Scan value (the example given by Dave is 9") and a signature value and it seems like you add these together to see if you can hit. Larger ships have larger signatures of course, and it also goes up when using lots of energy (firing weapons, changing vector). You can also ping enemy ships or try to run silent to not get detected.
  • Missiles can only be taken out by counter measures when entering within actual Scan range. This seem to imply that missiles will be actual counters a la Battleflett Gothic. Missiles can and will be taken out by countermeasures automatically when fired at long ranges, so they only work up close (inside your own scan range).
  • Andy pointed out that he didn't want to make yet another Age of Sails in space, like BFG, but something more modern with the emphasis on ECM vs ECCM rather than broadsides (I heard Andy took inspiration from the old naval wargame Harpoon when designing this).
  • As for visual design Dave wants to really tie it all together and there are many small details in regards to this. Take the point defence lasers at the rear of the Avenger. They're just little nobs on the DfC model but if you look at the large 10mm model you see that they're actually the same cannons as the Orbital Defence Laser you can buy as a scenario model for Dropzone Commander. Very cool!
  • There was some mention of campaign play, but no solid info.
  • Release aimed for late 2015/early 2016, but Dave said he don't want to rush it.
And some additional info from Andy Chambers' Facebook page (thanks jgcpalmer from the Hawk forums):
  • It will have slightly more ships per side than Battle Fleet Gothic.
  • If everything goes to plan, there will be demos going on at GenCon.
  • Internal testing is going on right now, but there will be some external testing too, and Andy Chambers will "send up a flare" when the time comes.
  • Someone asked, "will the game have carriers and actual fighter/bomber miniatures?" and Andy Chambers replied "Of course!"
And finally from Hawk Wargames newsletter #40, mostly confirming the above, but with a couple of bits of new info:
  • Dropfleet will be an Orbital Combat game in which the vast majority of your games will take place in orbit above a planet's surface. The game has been designed for this from the ground up by Andy Chambers and is an entirely new and unique ruleset.
  • A typical gaming table is 4'x4' and will show the surface of a planet rather than the more typical 'starfield' style space combat table. The area covered will be around the size of a large European country/US State.
  • Delivering your troops to targets on the surface will be crucial for victory and most missions will be tactical and objective focused. Space stations, static defences, ground troops, cities and other scenery play an integral part in the game.
  • Three altitude layers (High Orbit, Low Orbit and Atmosphere) are present in games and have various effects. Only certain ships (such as Strike Carriers) can go atmospheric and each layer has advantages and disadvantages in different tactical situations.
  • Weapons range is neither absolute nor fixed. It can change based on the power of your ship's scanners, the enemy ship's signature and the enemy's actions (firing several weapons greatly increases a ships signature for example). Stealth is frequently crucial!
  • A framework for linking games of Dropfleet and Dropzone will be present in the rulebook, opening up many exciting possibilities for campaigns and narrative settings. 
  • We still have a lot of work to do on fleet balancing and sculpting before release although the core ruleset itself is 90% complete. At this point we anticipate a release date around the end of this year/early next year as none of us want to rush this exciting and ground-breaking project! Stay tuned for more information and previews throughout this year.
  • The image at the top of this article gives you an idea of the size comparisons between the various ship classes. A typical tournament-sized fleet will be around twice this size. 

That's about all the info I've been able to find and to me pretty much all of it sounds spot on what I want from a spaceship combat game. Sure, the planetary invasion bit wasn't on my wishlist per se, but I was desperately craving something other than lining up two fleets in deep space with some asteroids and a nebula for cover and this is certainly different! It also gives the game 3D space in a fairly elegant way without it getting too complex for large fleets of ships. 

I think it sounds really cool and I know for sure now that I won't be investing in Star Wars Armada until I know more about Dropfleet Commander. The scan and signature bit alone made me squeal in delight as it is one of my favourite parts in Lightning Strike. To also have this game be constructed from the beginning to integrate with ground game has me thinking that I'll finally be able to play out those large campaigns that I used to dream about doing with BFG and Epic back in the day.

Overall, this has gone from "need to know more, because it might be cool" to "this sounds almost to good to be true, and the models are fantastic as well!" which means I need to get my friends into Dropzone to kind of make them ready for Dropfleet. Hehe!

When I know more about it I'll let you know.

Oh, and don't forget that Fire Broadside is on Facebook now too. That's where I post most of the small newsy stuff as soon as I see it.

UPDATE 1: Check out Brückenkopf Online for some really great pics of the ships (like the one below)!


At GenCon we got our first look at the Scourge ships and they are real beauties as well! We also learned that Dropfleet Commander will be launched through Kickstarter to fund the making of plastic moulds enough for two player starter. J. D. Welch on the forums has this to report: 
"Finally, don't know if this has been reported yet, but there will be a Kickstarter for Dropfleet, coming this fall (October, probably), with an April target for delivery. Dave mentioned a couple of things with regard to this, namely that the Kickstarter will only be for the 2-Player starters (or "core kits", not sure of the exact wording here) so that retailers don't get screwed out of sales of all the other ships that will appear in DfC; and that he "wouldn't be able to sleep if we were even a week late with the promised delivery date" for the Kickstarter, whenever that ends up being."
So make sure to save some money for October! Now here are those ships courtesy of Gemana and BlackLegion...

10 kommentarer :

  1. I'm really disappointed that I couldn't make it to Salute this year and see this up close. Hopefully with Hawk Wargames being a major sponsor at the UK Games Expo they're going to be showing us some shinies there.

    I must admit the timing is unfortunate, what with HALO fleet battles and Star Wars Armada coming out the same year!

    1. Things seem to be going well for Hawk, so I would be surprised if they don't make it to Games Expo.

      As for the timing, I think it'll probably be ok as the release is still eight months to almost a year away. By that time the big hype around SW/Halo has probably died down a little and those people who played and didn't find those games to their liking might be on the lookout for something else. Besides, it seems like DfC might be different enough to make people interested anyway. :)

  2. Great account of it all so far! Although you mixed up the picture of the heavy cruiser and the Beijing class battleship.

    1. Ah, right you are! Do you perhaps know the class of the other ships? New Orleans, Beijing...

    2. According to pictures on the Heavy Cruiser is the Moscow Class. The regular Cruiser is Paris Class and there is a variant of it with a single big fixed-forward gun underneath called Berlin Class.

    3. Excellent! Thanks! Some of the best pictures I've seen of the ships so far as well.

  3. "Missiles can only be taken out by counter measures when entering within actual Scan range. This seem to imply that missiles will be actual counters a la Battleflett Gothic."
    I think you misunderstood this one. Missiles can and will be taken out by countermeasures automatically when fired at long ranges, so they only work up close (inside your own scan range).

    1. Thanks, mr Anonumous! Made a correction in the text. Any extra info you might have would be most welcome. :)

  4. Those battleship & cruiser models have a stunning, fresh, & original look to them. Very cool.

    1. They certainly do! I'm really happy to see something non-blocky (like Spartan Games) and non-gothic. While they don't really make sense from a totally hard SF perspective, they still have a certain vibe to them that I really like. Very curious to see the ships of the other races!


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