Mr Visa has kindly provided another new shiny wargame project, the Dropzone Commander Starter set. Now I already have two of the starter faction boxes, so this was a bit of an extravagance, but as it's such a great deal, it was hard to refuse. Besides, I might try and rope someone from the club to help paint these up. Btw, Mr Visa is great for this kind of purchase, coming just before payday, but he does have an annoying habit of demanding to be paid on time! Come on, lighten up...
Dropzone Commander has been out for about a year now and, judging from various forums and the blogosphere, has gained a fair player base. Despite a lot of positive reviews, DZC initially drew attention to itself by simply being very expensive, in terms of cash, to get into. The resin starter sets were a touch on the pricey side, but the big issue was the range of resin buildings (no need to go over old ground, but they were phenomenally expensive.)
Hawk Wargames, the publishers, have obviously taken this to heart and, over the course of the last few months, taken steps to mitigate these criticisms. Firstly, they reduced the price of the resin buildings; still expensive but a welcome decision. Secondly, they released templates for gamers to print out their own card buildings and table at home, for free, great stuff. Thirdly, they released a card building and terrain box for those who couldn't or wouldn't print their own. This new starter box caps this off this process by producing two of the four starter factions in plastic.
To illustrate the saving, the RRP of this starter set and any of the original faction boxes are the same, but this new box gives you double the number of miniatures as well as all the extras. As I understand it, Hawk Wargames are, or were, originally something of a one man band, so I can only commend them on producing a fantastic game.
So, what do you get in the box? Well, first off there are the two sets of miniatures, the United Colonies of Mankind (UCM) and the Scourge. Each force consists of three dropships, six tanks, two APCs and six bases of infantry. The miniatures are identical in design to the original resin models, but the detail to my eyes is slightly shallower on the plastic. In particular, the infantry seem to suffer from this more than the vehicles. Bear in mind that DZC is a 10mm scale game, so on the tabletop, you won't see any different between the two materials.
In addition to the figures is the rulebook. It's an updated 1.1 rulebook, so those of you who own the original rulebook will notice some changes. Just so you know, all the rule and unit stat changes in the new rulebook are and have been available on the DZC website, so you're not missing any crucial information here. The rulebook itself is pretty lush (do the kids still say lush?) 156 pages long, 53 of those being introduction, rules and scenarios. The remainder covers the game background, the individual factions and their army lists. Plenty of gamer porn is on display; some of the displays are gorgeous. Topping things off, the rulebook has a brief contents and a comprehensive index. Nice.
The two paper maps are placed next to each other to create a 4x3' urban table, on which the ten card buildings can be arranged to suit. The buildings are all from a fairly hard cardstock and, although they stand up on their own, will need glued together for an actual game. DZC has a distinctive, almost art-deco style for the buildings; I personally think they look great, but I can see how they wouldn't be to everyone's taste. The buildings are a fair old size too, not like the old card Epic 40K buildings, the skyscraper is a good 9" tall. As this size of a building has an impact in game with the different flying units, it's good to see this this in the starter box.
The tokens are a handy addition. Although many gamers will have a fair collection of tokens and blast markers (GW?) their inclusion here makes that a moot point. I'd have preferred a thicker cardstock here, but that really is splitting hairs. There are plenty of tokens, more than you'd likely need for even a large game.
Rounding off the box is a bag of ten D6s and, charmingly, a miniature Hawk-branded tape measure. A lovely touch.
In my opinion, this is easily the single best starter box available for any wargame, ever. The Warmachine/Hordes are pretty close, but the fact that everything you need to start playing is here, terrain included, coupled with the price, means this is a real winner. Actually, not only does the box have everything you need to play a small game, but there has been enough attention to detail for you to easily play a small game; tokens, reference sheets, scenario, even a tape measure. Great stuff.
Obviously I haven't yet touched on the background or the rules mechanics; I'll have another post at some point covering these. Until next time...