Dropfleet Commander finally arrived in Gothenburg. I and a friend, Westman, decided to play a game to try out the rules and get a feeling for the game. We decided on 600 pts and that we would play the introductory scenario Expeditionary Raid.
+++ Eden System +++
June 29th, 2670, D+23 (Theatre), D+23 (Reconquest)
+++ Operational Parameters +++
Expeditionary Raid to secure industrial and military sectors on Eden VII in Grid 067829 aka. The Paradise’s Outback. Naval Intelligence report minor Scourge activity in the surroundings. Scans of the target area show no active Orbital Defence Emplacements. Recommended approach is a Lightning Strike to secure essential infrastructure and operational military assets. Caution is advised. Navigational hazards are present, remnants from the initial stages of the Reconquest is still in orbit over the target area.
+++ Expected Losses +++
Naval Assets: Minimum
Ground Assets: Minimum
Star Elder Opochtli’s Personal Thoughts
Opochtli damned Ramses for assigning her to such an inferior task. What was the honour in hunting down stray Scourge just to clear a path for humankind? Humans which had no patience, who had refused to serve as her tribe’s frontline, which had no honour. She could not understand Ramses’ decision, but Opochtli knew better than to question her leader. Her time would come, riding on the backs of great victories. Let us get this over with she thought.
Her blood burned with fire as the prospect of battle came closer, even though this task was unworthy. It was not long ago, only a couple centuries, she was a firstborn hunting down enemy bombers trying to injure Ramses’ mighty flagship. Her many cycles of glorious and hard earned victories had resulted in a command of a raider fleet. The fleet had started with no name, now it wore her name and all the fleet’s victories were her victories.
As the raider fleet Opochtli’s Scythe dropped out into the void a presence was evident, like bright stars reflecting against a deep dark pond. A human fleet en route. The human’s fleet were slightly heavier than the Scythe with heavier ships and crude but efficient large calibre guns, in short, a worthy kill thought Opochtli. Not even Ramses could refuse a Star Elder the right to claim their kill if it strode into a hunting ground. First the human carrier, then the heavier cruiser and finally kill them all. The niftier Amethyst frigates went deep into the left flank; the four ship strong Topaz group went into the centre. The Turquoise speeding along the right flank and the Sensation hanging back ready to deploy warriors to the ground if the humans would think landing was a good idea. Opochtli was not worried the hasty assault would give away her ships position. Human technology was so rudimentary when it came to sensors that she could literally drive into close quarters range and open fire before they would even register her presence. The Hunt was on!
Commander Darya Pravda tensed up as Volgograd‘s ranking Sensor Operator tried to make sense of the sensor readouts. One second the sensors found something and tried to analyse it and the next second losing it. Disappearing as a ghost in the void. Newly promoted Commander Pravda remembered the warnings her training officers back at Ferrum Naval Academy had told about the ghosts in the stars. How Shaltari could appear from nowhere, striking before a ship like Volgograd could get a lock with her impressive array of railguns. If the ghosts were out there, waiting, Naval Intelligence would be wrong and this would not be a mop-up operation. Maybe it was just the nerves playing tricks on an inexperienced commander, the weight of responsibility making itself noticed. Better safe than sorry Darya thought. She pushed down the send button concealed in her right index finger activating the fleet wide broadcast system.
– Battle Stations! Bring the fleet into Line Formation. Strike Carriers prepare to do a combat insertion. The Shaltari are here, waiting for us. Stay strong, stay true to our glorious Reconquest. Humanity will prevail! Better safe than sorry she thought to herself.
– Humanity will prevail! sounded throughout the corridors and rooms of Volgograd as a New Orleans Strike Carrier reported massive system failure. Shortly after reporting it went dark and started to uncontrollable descend into the atmosphere. No lifeboats launched, 1700 sailors and soldiers lost in an instant. Darya’s anger filled her as she wished that it all would have been just nerves. Why could it not have been just nerves!? Damn treacherous turn coating Shaltari! Humanity will prevail! echoed through her mind as hell broke loose.
Westman brought the UCMF 3rd Ferrum Strike Fleet commanded by Commander Pravda from the CIC on board Volgograd, a Moscow-class Heavy Cruiser. I brought Opochtli’s Scythe a Shaltari corsair fleet led by Star Elder Opochtli resting comfortably within the Sensation, an Emerald-class Mothership. In order to have an interesting game with as many rule interactions and a good experience we talked over beforehand what we should bring to the table. We both brought balanced forces with Westman focusing on Cruisers as firepower and I on frigates.
|UCMF 3rd Ferrum Strike Fleet||Opochtli’s Scythe|
|594/600 pts||591/600 pts|
|Commander Pravda (AV 1) [0 pts]||Star Elder Opochtli (AV 3) [40 pts]|
|Vanguard Battlegroup [SR 10]||Line Battlegroup [SR 6]|
|Admiral Vessel Volgograd
Moscow-class Heavy Cruiser [163 pts]
|Admiral Vessel Sensation
Emerald-class Mothership [100 pts]
|Voidgate [15 pts]|
|Line Battlegroup [SR 5]||Line Battlegroup [SR 5]|
|Seattle-class Fleet Carrier [132 pts]||Turquoise-class Cruiser [115 pts]|
|Line Battlegroup [SR 8]||Pathfinder Battlegroup [SR 5]|
|Berlin-class Cruiser [105 pts]||2x Amethyst-class Frigate [96 pts]|
|2x New Orleans-class Strike Carrier [64 pts]||3x Voidgates |
|New Orleans-class Strike Carrier [32 pts]|
|Pathfinder Battlegroup [SR 4]||Pathfinder Battlegroup [SR 4]|
|New Orleans-class Strike Carrier [32 pts]||4x Topaz-class Frigate [180 pts]|
|3x Santiago-class Corvette [66 pts]|
My first impression was that I had an advantage as my Strategy Ratings were either equal to or less than Westman’s and on top of that I spent the points to get a higher Admiral Value. I knew then that I would probably win every activation which would prove to be a great advantage during the game. Westman thought his fleet would win the Critical Locations and lose the ground fight due to the flexibility in my Voidgates. I agreed with Westman’s analysis and thought to myself that I needed to eliminate his hard hitters early on to have a chance in the upcoming void battle.
Added 20161219: After reading up on the rules and reading discussions of the game I realised we played one thing wrong. We missed that Frigates do get crippled. This worked out in my favour as Shaltari due to having more frigates. I am glad to realise this as Frigates felt more durable than Cruisers. Just wanted to point out our mistake so the pictures and experience make more sense.
Turn One – Battleline Approach
Both Shaltari and UCM moved towards the clusters mostly using standard orders. Shaltari won every activation and forced UCM to go first the whole turn. I aggressively moved my Turquoise deep into the right flank not minding the minor Spike the Full Thrust order caused. Better to be in position than late to the party. My last activation was a Pathfinder battlegroup with 2x Amethyst and 3x Voidgates. I choose to move the Amethyst at Full Thrust and dropping into low orbit. Ready to pounce at New Orleans Strike Carriers as a first activation in Turn 2. At the end of turn 1 Shaltari were ready to insert into all three clusters. UCM positioned to insert into their centre and right flank cluster.
Turn Two – First Blood
I opened strongly and took out a New Orleans with my Amethyst. The Microwave Arrays cocked the electronics and people on board. Close Action (Beam) are strong, really strong. Westman hurried to get Strike Carriers into atmosphere and relative safety before the Topazes could be activated. We figured out that I could have eliminated at least one more New Orleans if I would have liked to before UCM could get into Atmosphere. This being our first game we decided that I would not, as we both were unaware of how far Shaltari’s effective range really is. Scan 12″ is far and could be Shaltari’s most powerful advantage. So I hit the Seattle instead, crippling it. UCM did no notable damage. I choose to withdraw from the left flank cluster as I would be outgunned in the centre cluster. Hoping to get back to it later and to avoid the three Santiago-class corvettes ready to charge in and attack. Red beads next to Shaltari ships represent Shields Up. Purple Ground Assets are Shaltari and Greenish are UCM. Red dice represent damage taken on Shaltari ships and orange dice represent damage taken on UCM ships.
Turn Three – Hell Is Let Loose
As Turn Three started I had already begun to focus my Ground Assets into the right flank and the centre where UCM still had two New Orleans dropping troops. I cannot remember which ships that caused the final blow to the Seattle-class Fleet Carrier but its Catastrophic Damage caused two Topazes to take two damage each. Volgograd suffered Crippling Damage during the turn and slayed the Turquoise-class Cruiser with a Weapons free. It was a mighty light show. An Amethyst was killed by UCM assets and the Berlin-class Cruiser lit up the Sensation. Cobra Heavy Lasers (Burntrough-6) are cool stuff. Slicing into and through armour as a hot knife through butter. Scoring was coming up and ships from both sides moved towards the Clusters.
A close up of the centre cluster. Sorry for the unpainted ships. But we were both eager to start playing and did not finish our fleets before the first game.
Turn Four – Scoring Time
Turn four would end Commander Pravda’s life and forced Opochtli to teleport into one of the smaller vessels. Shaltari only got two turns of Ground Assets inserted. A total of 6 tokens. Would it be enough to take the centre cluster in turn 6? Come scoring only one medium tonnage ship was still around, a Berlin-class Cruiser. On the ground, battles had been even and some clever manoeuvring made sure no one controlled the centre cluster. We both got 5 points from clusters and UCM scored 4 points from the Critical Locations while Shaltari scored 2. So far UCM had a minor lead with 2 points. UCM 9 – Shaltari 7.
Turn Five and Six – The Lost Turn?
I forgot to take a picture of turn five so we will go into turn six straight away. In the final turn we played, the Shaltari had hunted down almost all UCM fleet assets using everything available, even using the Defence Weapons in the right cluster’s military sector turning a draw into a win. Only a single Santiago-class Corvette remained together with two New Orleans-class Strike Carriers. I cannot remember what killed the Berlin-class cruiser but I think it was a combination of shooting from Topazes and an Amethyst. I used my numbers to secure two Critical Locations and neutralise the third. In the centre cluster we still controlled equal value sectors due to lucky dice from me. Once again we both scored 5 points from the clusters, but this time Shaltari got 4 points from Critical Locations and UCM none. The final score: UCM 14 – Shaltari 16. Shaltari won a narrow victory even though UCM took a lead in turn 4.
To sum it all up, some pictures of the scoring clusters.
Shaltari Right/UCM Left Cluster – Victory Shaltari
Center Cluster – Critical Location Shaltari, Cluster both contesting
Shaltari Left/UCM Right Cluster – Victory UCM on the Ground, Critical Location contested
Shaltari 16 – UCM 14
First off I should tell you that I was not excited about Dropfleet when it was first announced as I thought it would negatively impact Dropzone Commander as Hawks time and attention would be devoted to such a major project. Once the rules and models appeared I was sucked in. The campaign potential in conjunction with Dropzone Commander was to great and I got myself some Shaltari. Now to my impression of the gaming experience.
I liked the game and overall it was a good experience. All was not good however. Some things felt really weird and some wordings in the rulebook made us doubt we were playing the game right. Which is a shame on such a beautiful book and a bit disappointing. Hopefully an errata will arrive soon and clarify these instances of contradiction and unclear examples. The mechanics of the Shaltari Voidgates for example would benefit from some further explanations and pictured examples. A more in depth analysis of my thoughts about the game in general will be the subject of another blog post.
Shaltari felt really powerful and UCM a bit underpowered, but the Hawk forum discussions ensures me this is only due to the point level. Time will tell. I will most certainly continue to play and maybe even write some more battle reports.
If you made it to the end I would like to thank you for reading. I hope those of you still waiting for your Dropfleet pledges soon get them so you also can start to play. Please feel free to comment below.