Dropzone is a balanced game. Basically as long as you have a army that has a balance between it’s type of units it will always give each player a chance to win the game. It comes thus down to skill.
After an amazing tournament in Sandviken (part 1 and part 2) I came to realize it is easy to miss a lot of things when it comes to army building. So I thought to give you an introduction to what a typical 1500 points army includes by describing the units you need. Hopefully experienced players can link to this so that beginners understand what kind of units they should buy, especially after the starters.
The main reason for this article is to let new players escape some of the beginner traps. Because in Dropzone commander you might find yourself without any tools for the basic jobs if you make one of these mistakes. This is very frustrating and can ruin a game pretty fast. However the balance between units worth the similar purpose is more a choice of style and preference in models. For instance you can use the Shaltari Tomahawks or the Tarantula for basic AT units but you will need at least one. But you can make either work.
So this is a list of checkpoints you need to follow (kind of) in a 1500pts army:
Battlegroups: Always maximize your battlegroups. Dropzone is a game of position and maneuvering and a vital part of it is to disclose your position as late as possible. So for 1500pts you need 6 Battlegroups.
Commander: You must have a commander and you will want to have a commander with sphere of influence purchased to that model. You will want to have some addition to the initiative roll and some command cards. At the very least you will need a CV 3 leader (though experienced players have success with lower CV it is always to think you need a lvl 3 as a minimum in the beginning) and could initially think higher until you are more set in your CV preference.
Anti Aircraft: As a basic rule you will need 2 squads of efficient AA. With that I’m taking about solid shooters of several AA shots (or harder shots). Many uses more and some uses less. But it is simpler to start with at least two squads. This can be a bit harder to define the units so below is what I take as solid AA (and in brackets units that you might not expect to fulfill a full solid AA units role on the field):
UCM: Rapiers and Archangels (Ferrum, Wolverines, Falcon, Snipers, Flak teams, Legionaries and Phoenix command)
Scourge: Reapers and Ravagers (Minders, Corsairs, Vampires, Warriors, Overseer, Harbinger).
PHR: Helios, Phobos and Athena (Janus and Immortals).
Shaltari: Birdeaters, Kukri and Warspear (Yari, Totem, Panther, Braves and Jaguar)
Resistance: Gun wagons and Zhukovs (Hellhog, Leviathan, Veterans, Fighters, Gun technicals).
Some units are often questioned if they are part of the main or secondary AA (mostly fast movers) and the resistance have their amazing Lifthawks that I have ignored as they should be considered bonuses to any AA you decide to have. Same with shaltari gates.
Now a minimum of 2 units should be chosen as AA. And each solid squad is 1. And the ones in brackets can be arguable be considered 0,5 squads. So take at least 2 of those in brackets to compensate for 1 solid squad.
The amount of AA is always under discussion and you need to find your balance. But 1,5 to 2,5 is the basic principle of any army. Less you will feel heavily outmaneuvered by a player at the same skill level and more you might miss out on needed AT.
Infantry: This is also under debate. A basic principle of 4 squads is good. Or 1+ 1 for every 500 points in the game. But you can manage with 3 (Shaltari) and sometimes need 5 (Resistance). Also it is worth considering some light dropships. At least 1 of your infantry should be infantry that somehow are tougher in CQB with some exceptions (UCM can manage without the Praetorians).
Scouts: Every army at 1500 points need at least one scout unit. You will notice that most scout squads have a dual purpose (for instance Scout+Infantry, Scout+AT or Scout+AA) and so it usually add double effect to your army. Some like to have 2 thus. But 1 is kind of mandatory.
Dropships: The mainstay of any army. When you do your list start with assuming you need a dropship for basically all units and plan for that. At a later stage you will find which units which does not need transports but the list below are the ones you will most likely not consider a dropship for:
PHR: Hades and Nemesis
Shaltari: Aim for 4 Eden gates, 4 Havens and 2 Spirits. Some use more and some less.
Other than the above units start with assuming that any unit that can have a transport will need one. Again otherwise you find that a unit of yours does nothing in a game.
So after you have bought the small starter set you need to aim for:
- Starter set.
- Command cards
- More infantry (at least one squad exotics)
- Another Anti Aircraft squad
- Fill with Anti-tank units and cool stuff.
If you follow the above rules you will find yourself with a playable and balanced Dropzone commander army that you can build on. While some people will have other specific preferences I think absolute most people will agree that it will be a very playable army you have and will be enjoying the tough as nail games that Dropzone commander provides. After some games you will be able to fine tune your army as befitting your style.