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Dropzone, Dropfleet, and their future potential.

Tell the world your Dropzone related trials and tribulations!
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Jaeger

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Dropzone, Dropfleet, and their future potential.

PostFri Aug 24, 2018 5:03 am

Consider the dominant force in tabletop wargaming: 40K.

What is the ubiquitous icon that any tabletop hobbyist readily associates with 40K?

It is, I would argue, the Space Marines. Regardless of medium, they are the poster-boys of the 41st Millennium. They are the most popular faction by far, with a large majority of players having at least some form of investment in power-armoured super-humans, regardless of colour or relative loyalties to corpse-worship.

However, do Space Marines account for the entirety of the setting of 40K? They may be prominent, but they most certainly do not. The various adversaries and allies and their interplay all add to the depth of that setting’s arguably greatest strength: the depth of its background and how this enables the scope of its gameplay. Although it is common, not every game of 40K is played with Space Marines vs. Space Marines.

Similarly, for both Dropzone and Dropfleet, the iconic representation of the setting is the fiery descent of a dropship as it brings its deadly payload to battle. Both games are entirely focussed around the core theme of airmobile units rapidly taking and holding core objectives, before rapidly redeploying again.

It is a strong and evocative theme, grounded (at least partially) in realistic science-fiction and Western military doctrines from the past two decades.

However, I do worry that both games may end up painting themselves into a corner as niche-games within a niche, because while other tabletop settings may have an iconic theme/idea/protagonist faction, they also expand beyond that initial ‘hook’, in depth or breadth. Infinity has a broad focus on squad vs. squad combat, and marketed as such, but the objectives of each game, faction gameplay styles, and the terrain upon which games are played vary widely.

After 6 years on the market, I haven’t seen that happen with DZC. The perception of the game, true or not, still seems to be just dropship-borne forces fighting over objectives in a Neo-Art Deco urban environment.

For one, this eliminates potential playing styles that could attract more players to the game. Dropzone is akin to a World War II game that focusses purely on German blitzkrieg tactics in the early stages of that conflict. Instead of using that as the springboard to possibly explore other areas and themes of note within World War II (and thus expand the base of interested players), this hypothetical World War II game decides to limit itself to that gameplay focus, despite the enormous potential of the setting.

What about situations in a protracted conflict where enemy anti-access or area denial tactics means that you can’t deliver your troops by dropship?

What if your supply chains fail, and the well-oiled logistical machine that allows for just-in-time dropship deployment breaks down?

What if, due to military stalemate, your forces have to dig in and fight under siege?


None of these three examples of thematic ideas can really be explored in DZC, I would argue, because they do not fit within the neat mechanical paradigms of the game. Units must have dropships to move around effectively. All forces follow this paradigm. There is no room for expanding gameplay beyond this paradigm.

Secondly, with regards to terrain - while I duly acknowledge that many players can and have gone beyond the basics with different terrain, different scenarios – the game still seems consciously or unconsciously marketed purely on that basis – you bring your airborne tanks and fight over a cardstock city. It seems a shame to me that neither HWG nor the various terrain manufacturers out there showed leadership by trying to deliberately expand public perception by providing DZC with non-urban terrain sets.

Yes, the enterprising gamer can go and find interesting scale terrain from model railway companies. But that is not the same as the original wargames company taking the lead, reducing obstacles, and actively promoting gameplay beyond the original selling point of ‘nice skyscrapers, bro, what’s this dropship game then?’

Eventually, as nice as something like chocolate is, if you have enough of it, you will eventually lose your taste for it and look elsewhere for variety. I fear that DZC is falling into that trap, especially now with the disadvantage that 40K has become more dominant.

For its part, while DFC is still in its infancy, I fear that it may yet go the same way – a niche game in a niche market. For Dropfleet in particular, every game played is D-Day – the arrival of assault forces to take a contested strategic objective. While some of the scenarios offer variation to the battlespace, the core mission remains the same regardless: deliver strike carriers and troopships to their target.

Ultimately, the focus of the game, contra immediate expectations, is not on space combat, but on how well you play the ground game. I would strongly argue that part of the appeal that DFC initially had was that is seemed to be promising the market a game that was the spiritual successor to BFG, in a market where the only real competitors either torpedoed themselves (Spartan Games with Firestorm Armada), didn’t care (GW with a BFG remake) or more casual (Star Wars).

Unfortunately, besides Kickstarter issues, I think DFC as yet is missing an opportunity to become the dominant space combat miniatures wargame, which it could seize if it took the conceptual leap of expanding beyond space D-Day.
Offer players the chance to simply duke it out in orbit. Or heck, in deep space. You mean to tell me that the defending side in a planetary invasion is always going to wait until the attackers are in orbit over their target to intercept them? What about convoy interceptions? Surely there are ways that can expand the scope of DFC’s gameplay.

Conclusion

I am not arguing for the elimination of DZC/DFC’s core theme. Rather, I believe strongly that if both games are to grow, they need to expand beyond their core gameplay offerings – especially given today’s tabletop market. I want to see TTC succeed.

The contested D-Day drop of DFC and the blitzkrieg airborne warfare of DZC should be the iconic gameplay ‘flavours,’ but I think they need to build on their initial success with an expanded menu of possibilities that the combined Dropzone setting provides. This may require a rethink of rules and concepts, but in the present context of DZC's 2.0 Beta and the slow relaunch, this seems like an excellent opportunity to take the Dropzone setting to the next level that it deserves.

To that end, I am experimenting with developing scenarios for DFC that, quelle horreur, have little or no need for strike carriers, and would help newcomers to the game learn the rules. I would be very interested in hearing what others have to say though, as I have been mulling these points for some time, and often wondered if others thought the same way.

As an aside, this post appears at my new DFC/DZC blog, Dynamic Entry. I hope to promote discussion and interest in the games from a humble Australian perspective.
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samspace

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Re: Dropzone, Dropfleet, and their future potential.

PostFri Aug 24, 2018 9:32 pm

I would agree with the idea that the games need more "ways to play." Which is essentially what GW is doing with all their games. Kill Team is really just a small scale 40k game, epic in the opposite direction, board game variants, sci-fi vs fantasy, RPG, etc. GW has hit that point of critical mass where there is bound to be something that appeals to you. That combined with their pricing model keeps the plastic crack flowing off the shelves.

I have big hopes for Battle for Earth. They said there should be a campaign system, that should be good. I've created my own joint dfc/dzc campaign system.

I would like to see campaign booklets like what Bolt Action does. Give me a booklet with five to six completely custom scenarios, special rules and events. Tell a little story specifically between two or three factions. I would be all over it. Make combined booklets of both zone and fleet matches and I think you could really start to get games that are way different than your typically tournament-style scenario.

I'm open but cautious to the idea of open space DFC. I understand why people want to do it but I think the D-Day is what makes fleet different in a swarm of space-based games. I don't want to see DFC become a game completely about killing each other, never take anything other than something with a big gun, basically a 40k in space. The strength of DzC/DfC is the combined arms and objective focus. Take that away and you might as well play 40k

I think it's possible to create a rules variant for this but it would still need to be focus on some other objectives rather than just kill each other. The one princess liner scenario where you have to escort the liners off the map seems neat. Maybe you add boarding to give frigates and strike carriers something to do, that brings back combined arms. More anomalies in space that some ships can do better against than others. It's an interesting thought experiment and I would be happy to work on a ruleset with someone.

Overall I've always seen DzC/DfC as a niche. They can do better but I don't Hawk/TT will ever tackle GW, they are just too big. People like their GW models, mathing their lists together and rolling tons of dice. That's fun at times but for me I think DfC/DzC have deeper strategies and especially tactics. I'm afraid an attempt to make them more like 40k will hurt these games in the long run. It will lose everything that makes these games special. I'm open to variants but I hope to keep the specialness intact with the variant rules.
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Jaeger

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Re: Dropzone, Dropfleet, and their future potential.

PostSat Aug 25, 2018 12:31 am

Thank you for the response samspace.

I feel that I must reiterate that I do not wish to eliminate the core gameplay of DZC / DFC. I merely wish to see the breadth of gameplay expand beyond that.

If I understand you correctly (please let me know otherwise), your concerns are that expansion past the present core gameplay would dilute DropCommander's (will use this term to encompass both games, methinks) uniqueness?

To me, I have more confidence in the fact that DropCommander has been built upon a dynamic, well-thought-out background that already differentiates it, and this would not be so diluted by opening up the game to other styles of play. I think the design of the factions, storyline, and homage to hard sci-fi is already unique enough to let DropCommander stand up for itself in the marketplace. Relative cost is also another differentiating factor to 40K.

In addition, I don't think that TTC/DropCommander should aim to be like GW /40K. It will never be. I do believe, however, that this is a very different tabletop market to the one where DZC originally launched, and that no miniature company or wargame can rest on its laurels while the dragon that is GW/40K has awakened.

And I fear that saying "DZC has this very specific niche and playstyle, everyone else can go play 40K" is both necessarily limiting and self-defeating in the long run.

The people are going to play 40K, because it gives them more things to see and do, and now does so better than it did when DZC first started out.

Do I think that we can compete with the 'critical mass,' as you aptly put it, that GW has? Not directly, of course not. But I don't see that as an argument to remain stuck in a conceptual rut. It doesn't mean that DropCommander has to stop growing.

In essence, what I am saying is that I believe that DropCommander has already grown past the stage where its initial, excellent hook is no longer enough to sustain interest, especially in the present market. The people who have been pulled in have already been pulled in after 6 years. Perhaps I am simply sad that I can see untapped potential there, but I can appreciate the desire to remain a niche game.

To put it another way, I relate this to the situation that occured to Pathfinder (DropCommander) when WoTC released D&D 5E (40K). When PF first released, it was functionally better than the 3.5 and 4E that it competed against. It became the dominant game in the tabletop RPG market.

However, with the release of 5E, WoTC clearly upped their game and, as with GW, saw masses of people return to D&D on the strength of its setting(s), recognition and better PR.

5E is now once again the dominant RPG on the market after a very brief time. Has Paizo reacted by doubling down on PF 1E?

No, they expanded their offerings with Starfinder, which allowed them to test and review what worked and didn't. Then, this month, they released 2E Pathfinder for public playtest, where they have clearly taken cues from what 5E did right and made appealing, while keeping the core feature of customisability that made PF popular. It looks darned good.

Unfortunately, I don't see the same willingness to adapt, improve and grow at present with DropCommander . As a result, I am fearful that DropCommander will stall (the issues with the changeover to TTC and the community have been very unhelpful), diminish and die.

Perhaps I am a pessimist, but even with Battle for Earth...I don't know. We were already given a joint campaign outline with the DFC rulebook. That seems like re-trod ground to me. :(
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samspace

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Re: Dropzone, Dropfleet, and their future potential.

PostSat Aug 25, 2018 1:46 am

I agree and disagree. I think its a saturated market with a lot of games that are all the same. A game company needs to find a way to stand out amongst the crowd. But I agree there is wiggle room to come up with variants and different offers. At the same time that ebb and flow between games I think will always be there. It's a market with so many games and too little time to play them all.

The other things that needs to be said is that the 40k business model isn't something to completely admire. They are very focused on getting new players in and less about maintaining them.

I think you are seeing the slump of the Hawk/TT transition. A few of the TT people commented on Facebook of all the transitional challenges they faced that they never would have expected to face. Lots of people I talk to don't really know what happened to Hawk, Facebook isn't a great medium for communication. The Talon program isn't up yet, no global campaigns. It seem's TT's focused has been the initial setup and selling miniatures. And perhaps they were right to do it this way but I can see how soon they need to transition to a player focus. Restart the talons, global campaigns, global scoring/ranking system, special events and scenarios. I think all of this would go a long way to getting it back to the glory days.

I would love to have more. I would love a 28mm squad commander, I would love campaign systems, variant rules, etc. But I understand they can only do so much. Hopefully the Carnevale kickstarter getting out of the way soon should free up more time. I do think TT needs to think about where their time is best spent. Managing five games may be too much for them. If they follow the money they should probably stick to drop commanders and their terrain.

In the meantime we just keep playing. I certainly don't play enough. I'm playtesting my campaign system. I would work with people for variants rules for fleet and zone.
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samspace

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Re: Dropzone, Dropfleet, and their future potential.

PostSat Aug 25, 2018 1:50 am

Also I think it's important to remember how much we have received in the last year compared to what we received the year before. Almost a consistent monthly release which has been really nice. Once TT's over that initial hump, Carnevale off their plate and a focus transition to the players I think things will get better.
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Re: Dropzone, Dropfleet, and their future potential.

PostSat Aug 25, 2018 3:29 am

I do agree to an extent that they really pushed the city terrain angle way too hard for version 1.0.

Even if you changed terrain so you were fighting in a forest or desert, most of the scenarios required just way too many buildings to make it believable. Which was a shame, because the 1.0/1.1 rulebooks had some beautiful photos of armies in a variety of environments.

2.0 looks to address that (at the very least by introducing the forest "structure"). Some new scenarios that aren't as focused on structures would go a long way IMO.
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purplehoob

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Re: Dropzone, Dropfleet, and their future potential.

PostMon Aug 27, 2018 11:21 am

Firstly I would just like to say that its rare for me to actually comment on anything Hawk these days.

I have moved on and I make no bones about it, before we had the transition we were in this area doing more than just the basic missions. We had a nice campaign running and were looking at integrating dropzone and fleet into a club based meta game.

This all stopped when the Talons did, again I make no bones about the fact that what made Hawk different apart from the rules and the fantastic models were the worldwide based Talons.

We pushed, sold and were invested in the game. It made people sit up and think and at least in my area we made inroads into the big Gorilla in the room (40k).

Company transitions are harsh, its bad when people loose their jobs and when a loved company gets taken over.

However we are coming up to nearly a year and I have looked at Dropzone 2 and I have looked at the new ships. I have to say that neither actually engage me on enough level to start playing the game again.

I have dabbled in the 3 clubs I actively take part in, however I have to say there is no excitement for me at least. I use Facebook but I don't use it for much gaming and I certainly don't use it to contact companies.

The Earth campaign seems like to me too quick, we went from recon quest to straight to earth. I looked forward to some special forces stuff not full blown battle. Its just seems too quick for me.

Momentum is something I talk about a great deal and to go back to GW something you have mentioned they have great momentum at the moment. Hawk TT had it then lost it. We were easy to sell easy to play and easy to get a game with.

So state of the game...

you decide .
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Re: Dropzone, Dropfleet, and their future potential.

PostSun Sep 09, 2018 9:20 am

I just wanted to start an "epic" scale (i.e. 10mm or less) game by years. I decided for DzC right for the whole dropship/redepoly part, just to discover that actually doesn't work. Well, first of all let me admit I'm a newb and I have just a handful of games under my belt, so I could be badly wrong, but the feel until now is that redeploying is too clunky and punishing to be worth it. It possibly costs you two turns of fire, that in a game lasting 6 turns max is huge (yes, I know in 2.0 you'll be able to disenbark and shoot, but I wonder how the game could get here without this issue being amended before). Having to halve movement doesn't help, either (so possibly causing a redeploy to take two turns instead of one).

As said, these are just my first impressions, and I have been already told to pay more attention to redeploy opportunities during my games. Nonetheless, this is my major gripe with DzC: it's a overall nice and fun game, it just seems to me it doesn't deliver it's main selling point.
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Re: Dropzone, Dropfleet, and their future potential.

PostSun Sep 09, 2018 9:02 pm

samspace wrote:Also I think it's important to remember how much we have received in the last year compared to what we received the year before. Almost a consistent monthly release which has been really nice. Once TT's over that initial hump, Carnevale off their plate and a focus transition to the players I think things will get better.


Next rule book, presenting DZC 2 rules, further integration with DFC and 20 new models is due Q1 2019, according to Dave.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dulmKq7 ... e=youtu.be

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