Sunday, 9 July 2017

Dropzone Commander: From Boot Camp to the Front Line: Critical Engagement 17

Hello Commanders!

I am writing this entry fresh on heels of attending my first Dropzone Commander event; the Critical Engagement 17 tournament run at First Founding Club. I'm a relative novice at Dropzone, and well out of practice. In fact until Friday evening I hadn't even played a game this year. I'm sure there will be other blogs doing a blow by blow of the day (see the side bar for the likely suspects) so I've decided to scribble some thoughts about attending a tournament for the first time, in case any of you are considering doing so in future. It's all good advice for any game system.

So first up a lack of practice:  MegaMike from the Orbital Bombardment crowd offered to give me a refresher game and my UCM took on the gribbly alien Scourge. Despite the unfortunate scene below, the UCM prevailed and I squeaked out a win.

Apparently Alien Space Crabs will eat anything!
Mike gave a great piece of advice which was to stand me in good stead for the competition itself: "Play the Mission".

So this addressed my biggest concern going into the event; did I know the rules well enough to actually give my opponents a decent game.  Whilst some of the esoterica of when units can and can't leave buildings and other rules still leave me confused I know how to move, shoot and assault with my units (i.e. I've gripped the basics).

I also explained to all my opponents my scrubby status, and they were all very understanding, taking time to explain how various units in their forces work, and various rules I was unclear on. This is a really good example of how one of the common myths about tournament events and players isn't true; the vast majority of tournament players aren't Win At All Costs or unpleasant to play against. Tournament games are a lot of fun!

So if you know the basic rules, understand how your army works and explain your novice status to your opponents you will do fine at your first event!  Typically your opponents will be randomly drawn in the first round and then you will be matched by your win/loss record so you should play against people having a similar day to yourself.

And there are loads of other good reasons to attend these sorts of events:
  • Playing against different players and armies than your usual opponents
  • Lots of eye candy: it's always lovely to see other peoples armies and table layouts. This can inspire your own projects
  • Playing different missions
  • Improving your game. I made some mistakes at the event I don't plan on making in the future
  • Chatting to a bunch of like minded gamers/hobbyists about toy soldiers. Because family just don't understand.
So if you decide to attend an event what can you expect?

The calm before the storm (pic gratuitously nicked off OB Dan)
A lot of hard work going into setting up a hall of tables, terrain and so on.

Whilst I was focusing on my games, Kanan (ZeroOne photography) took some pictures which he's kindly allowed me to share here.  (These have been up on the Dropzone Commander Facebook group if they look familiar to anyone).  Here's a bunch of the lovely tables. There is a mix of standard DZC terrain, 3rd party suppliers (Dark Ops, 4 Ground and so on), plus scratch build, standing on a mix of mats/boards (the standard DZC mat, some nice vinyl mats, plus a Games and Gears plastic tile board).

A more traditional layout, but benefiting from scatter terrain. 

Alex's luvverly scratch build desert board.

This is the Games and Gear board
As you can see it all works really well together.

So how did I get on during the day?

My list was pretty simple (more good tourney advice: the simpler the list the better; less to forget), and I was one of 9 UCM players present!

The TOs were very organised and provided printouts of each mission on every table. Very thoughtful.

Game 1 Kanan, UCM.

5 Focal Points in bunkers with extra VP for taking the Focal Point nearing your opponent's deployment zone. Kanan had castled up in his quarter, so I decided to ignore his home FP, defend mine and go for the 3 neutrals. I had more infantry stands than Kanan and so was pretty confident he wouldn't be able to dig me out.

Turn 2 I was in the 3 neutral bunkers and waiting. We had some infantry push and shove in one of the bunkers but my 2 to 1 units eventually won out for me.  And then I waited for Kanan to push out from his quarter to start contesting/taking FP with tanks. Which never happened!

With the game finishing with 4 FP to 1, I mentioned my surprise and Kanan explained he thought only infantry could take the FPs. Doh! So another lesson: RTFM: Read the Fracking Mission!

Some more pics courtesy of Kanan below.

Kanan made a push on the right objective but...

...chose discretion and retreated his Phoenix
Game 2: Stephen, Resistance.

So game 2 sees me playing Stephen and his Resistance forces. Stephen won Critical Engagement last year, I've never played against Resistance before and we are being filmed for YouTube. No pressure then.

Stephen is very patient and explains his units to me. Can't believe how much stuff is on the table and how tough everything is. I make an early run on the Critical Location with the Phoenix to try and rack up a few VP, only to be battered by the Resistance AA. I play a Black Project on my poor commander with 4 DP left, and Stephen promptly rolls 2 6s to hit with a single gun wagon and then 2 more 6s to double out the remaining DP. Noooo!

But that was just dumb bad luck. My mistake was searching for civilians in a contested building when it was obvious I was going to lose CQB; I was just handing VP to Stephen. Salt rubbed in when he finds 3 more and promptly extracts a bunch of the table. Massive loss to me. Enjoy the video when it hits the Interwebs!

Game 3: Rob, UCM.

Rob has a list with units I'm familiar with, but has 6 battle groups to my 4. This is going to be a struggle.

I make an early push to claim the Flight Zones on turn 3, and grab a cheeky objective. Unfortunately the game goes to time without getting all the turns in and I secure a minor win from the mid turn dash. I feel really bad about this; if we'd gone the duration I'm pretty sure Rob would have taken it as the later turns were going in his favour.

Game 4: Alex, Resistance.

So game 4 is against Orbital Bombardment's very own Alex "Epitude Rusk the Terrain God" Randall on his very own desert board.

Another photo nicked from Dan (ssshhh don't tell!)
More Resistance nonsense; already developing a deep loathing of this faction. How can scrapped together bits of Mad Max junk be soooo good?

This is an objective search mission with a twist; the central building contains a hidden nuke and you score a load of VP for finding it and taking off your opponents board edge (presumably dropping it off in the centre of his broader base with a lovingly penned note).

Early game and dice go Alex's way with obscene amounts of demo hammering an objective building I'm searching in. In a minor fit of petulance I take the last DP off it (needing 2 bloody attempts) and drop it whilst it is full of Alex's infantry.

The quest for the WMD is not going well. Alex has dropped off Beserkers into the building who generate 70 CQB dice in a drug fuelled attempt to splatter my hazard suits. The Hazards are looking screwed.

But I have a cunning plan! When I activate the Hazards I make a cheeky search and roll the hallowed 6, finding the WMD.  But Varchilde you say! Remember game 2! Giving the game to your opponent!

Fear not. I'm holding Heroic Sacrifice, which allows me to split the two 2 stands of infantry, one remaining to be stomped by Alex's nutters, and one to bug out with the bomb.


Alex is holding a card as well. Improvised Trap or something similar. The bomb goes off in my face and kills off a stand of Hazards.  Leaving me with one. Who can't escape.


The Beserkers thank the Hazards for the lovely present before spreading them across the inside of the building like so much jam, and Alex promptly delivers the nuke into Minion HQ. "Game over man!"

The final reckoning.
So at the end of a good day's gaming I'm at 2 Wins and 2 Losses. I'll take that for a first event.

I'm a long way out of the running for Best General (not that I had any illusions there any way) but I am really surprised to win Best Sports!  So after 4 great games I also get to take home loot. The prize support from various companies was amazing with literally armfuls of goodies going round.

Obligatory Loot Pic!
From left to right that's:
  • Green Stuff Industries Template set
  • Dark Ops Terrain kit
  • A DP tracker (no makers logo)
  • A set of MDF counters (again no makers log)
Thanks for reading! Keep an eye out for the Orbital Bombardment and Epitude Rusk blog reports, plus the youtube BatReps (oh god, I'll sound awful I know it!). Oh and DZC Tournament Organizers, the benchmark is set; Crack on!

And I hope this inspires you to attend an event if you haven't been before. Give it a go; tournaments are great fun.


  1. Congratulations Bryan. 2 wins at your first tournament is really good, that is a lot better then I did at my first tournament.

    Best sports is something to be proud of, and well deserved.

  2. Very glad you enjoyed the event. With me only drawing two command cards per round, I was a jammy git drawing the improvised trap card at the right time. Well done on best sports. Alex

  3. Thanks for the comments chaps. It was a cracking day. More DZC in my future I feel.