We are happy to add Dropzone Commander to our Sci-Fi Tactical Ground Combat picks. Hawk Wargames has done an outstanding job with the game.
We are also pleased to finally add the Meeples & Miniatures podcast to our list of top Gaming Podcasts. It has been a long time coming but Neil and gang have really pushed things over the top the past couple of years.
With the holidays upon us it is time once again for us to look at some goodies. This has been another great year for gaming and there are almost too many high quality releases especially on the miniatures front. Maybe not so surprising, there has been a lot of progress in the same systems as last year.
Below are just a few items you might want to add to your list…if you’ve been nice! ...
- Front Towards Enemy is Multi-Man Publishing’s upcoming tactical Vietnam boardgame. Looks interesting.
- Operation Mercury: The Invasion of Crete is another MMP title. This is in their grand tactical series with seven maps and over 1,000 counters. We’ve always found the battle of Crete an interesting topic.
- Star Wars Armada from Fantasy Flight Games is better than X-Wing in many ways. With the new Star Wars movie out very soon you’ll want to pick this up if you have not already.
- Heroes of Normandie from Devil Pig is 15mm miniature gaming as a board game. If you like WW2 tactical gaming this is a lot of fun. Don’t miss the computer version either. The new Shadows over Normandie adds even more variety. Fight through the hedgerows in just a couple of hours.
- Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth is actually not a bad game. It debuts the new HH plastic minis to boot. Worth a look if you like either. It remains to be seen if the game itself will have the legs of Space Hulk.
- Dropzone Commander continues to be an excellent game with great minis. It is almost impossible to beat the plastic starter sets. Hawk Wargames keeps making a great game better. And don’t miss the new 4Ground 10mm buildings either.
- Firestorm: Planetfall from Spartan Games gives a lot of the feel of Dropzone Commander but at a much faster pace and slightly grander scale.
- Dropfleet Commander funded on Kickstarter in a matter of minutes. It will ship in mid 2016 and is essentially a must get for any spaceship combat fan. Hawk’s twist is the game takes place in orbit over a planet instead of deep space. The miniatures look amazing.
- Halo Fleet Battles from Spartan Games is probably the best mass battle spaceship game out there. If you want to see 100 ships slugging it out look no further. The plastic minis are great.
- Deadzone is a unique take on sci-fi skirmish. A couple of Kickstarters have brought (and will bring) nice plastic minis to replace the restic. A new version will make a new game even better in 2016.
- Mercs 2nd Edition. Coming very soon along with the boardgame Mercs Recon. This should give the system a nice reboot.
- Infinity 3rd Edition saw Corvus Belli improve a good set of rules. Lots of new support and upcoming supplements will give players more of a good thing in 2016. We’ll also use this as an opportunity to mention 4Ground’s great new 28mm Jesserai sci-fi building range useful for any sci-fi system.
- Maelstrom’s Edge funded quickly on Kickstarter and should ship very soon. The minis seem ok but the real treat is going to be the rules. From the sound of it this could be THE ruleset for grand skirmish (~50 figs) sci-fi gaming. Moreover, it has great support with novels and audio books already available.
- Beyond the Gates of Antares beat MEdge to the starting gate. It probably has better minis — and now some core sets in plastic — but, while the rules are good (a derivative of Bolt Action), we’ll see if they can stand toe to toe with MEdge or not.
- World War Two gamers are not left out. Both Chain of Command and Bolt Action continue to be excellent skirmish games with great support. And Warlord keeps making great new plastic tanks. And of course 4Ground once again has you covered for buildings and Crescent Root Studio does even better.
- Modern gamers are being well taken cared for as well. Coming soon from TooFatLardies is Fighting Season a modern version of Chain of Command. Available now from Dish Dash are the new Skirmish Sanguin supplements with a new mini range coming soon. Osprey Publishing’s new Black Ops skirmish rules are quite nice as well if you are looking for a quick play set of rules. If you want modern miniatures don’t miss Empress Miniatures’ great 28mm line.
- Team Yankee might be the title we are most excited about. The Cold War is one of our favorite topics and an area that doesn’t get much wargame attention these days. We would have preferred 12mm but the new modern 15mm plastics from Battlefront look great. Battlefront is also releasing a range of modern era terrain as well. There has been a slight delay but we should see the first items in time for the holidays.
- Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm Player’s Edition is certainly at the top of the list of computer wargames to check out. Excellent Cold War action and now with the new Germany Reforged expansion.
- Combat Mission: Black Sea gives you more modern warfare with the CM engine moving to a hypothetical conflict in the Ukraine. Available now.
- Space Hulk: Ascension will scratch the sci-fi corridor itch. It got a few nice updates this past year.
- XCOM2. Delayed but probably well worth the wait. This will burn away a few hours…ok days…in 2016. An all new version of the venerable sci-fi tactical game.
- Wars and Battles still has perhaps the worst name ever for a wargame but for the iPad it is still one of the best wargames to date. The past year has seen new campaigns added and 2016 will see more.
For the PHR we had one unpainted model. It was actually a proxy for an Hyperion. We also had to proxy in an A-Wing for an Athena. We chose two mixed Ares and Phobos squads that we think worked out quite well. Walkers and skimmers are based on Litko clear acrylic bases.
For the Scourge we had everything painted and no proxies. The extra infantry came in handy. Skimmers and walkers are based on custom Litko acrylic bases. For the skimmers we use 3mm thick bases to give them a hovering look and also add a touch of mass.
For both forces we used an ID system of a colored square on the left of the stand/unit for the battlegroup (HQ had none) and a colored dot on the right for squad association. This worked out very well and makes it easy to keep what transport goes with what straight during the heat of battle.
For the table we used Frontline Gaming’s Urban Zone F.A.T. Mat with a mix of Hawk card buildings, 4Ground 10mm and Kato N-Scale buildings. As you can see they all mix together just fine. All the buildings have their own advantages and disadvantages. The “traffic” are N-scale model railroad cars and buses. The various smoke and flame markers are from Litko.
To our surprise the fast movers more than made back their points. Sure there were a few cases where they didn’t show but they often came in and had an effect at critical points of the battle. In one case the PHR were about to move an objective off the table and the Scourge Corsair came in and shot it down at the last moment! In one game the Athena shot down the Corsair early in the game and then enjoyed strafing the Scourge almost with impunity thereafter.
If you have any interest in sci-fi tactical gaming you should give Dropzone Commander a shot. It plays great and all games are fun and often come down to the wire. Just remember to keep your eye on the mission objective!
It has been a busy few months with lots of random progress.
I’ve been focusing the most on Dropzone Commander recently. I’ve finished my Scourge, except for some of the new units, and am making steady progress on the PHR. Up next is the UCM. Hawk Wargames continues to impress with their releases. Related items:
- The Frontline Gaming Hi-Tech Mat is very nice.
- 4Ground continues with its great 10mm releases. The latest District 1 Hab block units are much quicker to assemble than the District XII units that take a good 5-10 hours to complete. The new District 1 units do not have any window frames or headers with which to fiddle.
- Craig Gallant on one of the recent D6 Generation podcasts mentioned N-Scale Kato buildings from Japan. Well sure enough Amazon has a bunch of them with free shipping. They are perfect for Dropzone Commander. N scale is 12mm but because DzC units generally represent larger sized vehciles they fit just fine. Moreover the larger N-scale buildings are also quite passable for 15mm gaming. What is amazing about these things is they are priced the same or cheaper than 4Ground but come completely assembled and painted (well colored) — literally ready to go in minutes from the box! They are not weathered in any way and are mostly colored plastic not painted so they have a different look from the Hawk and 4Ground stuff. But they still mix in just fine and those wanting to spend some time on weathering will be well rewarded.
Speaking of 10mm games, Spartan Games’ Firestorm Planetfall miniatures are starting to become generally available including the new Leviathans. Compared to Dropzone Commander the miniatures are probably lacking but the comparison may not necessarily be fair. Spartan has gone for a simpler, chunkier look and the models generally have much more mass than Hawk’s. The surface detail is amazing but they opted for simpler models so you do not get the overall complexity of shape or ultra-fine detail as you do with Hawk. The Planetfall infantry are quite nice and have a unique basing design. But they also seem closer to 12mm but one can argue they are in powered armor so should be larger. Yet there is no doubt they look quite nice and give further uses for those now collecting 10mm terrain.
I got distracted by some of the very nice 15mm sci-fi miniatures being done by Khurasan Miniatures. Specifically the new Zantin Reconquest line and the new units for the Nova Respublik Crimson Army. The GOTA line replaces the NAC as my favorite sci-fi 15mm infantry (with the Arc Fleet Heavy Infantry from Critical Mass Games a close second). Also new was the Kickstarter from ACP Games with their new Vanir dropship. They also included a good deal on their existing line of units along with a new Humvee-esque vehicle. Looks like our Gruntz rules will see some action soon.
28mm Sci-Fi and Modern
Not to be left out, I’ve at least been looking at my Deadzone Enforcers sittting on my table needing paint. I’ve made some progress on assembling the new hard plastic Enforcers as well. These are light years better than the restic stuff but still mix in just fine. The Anvil Industry Kickstarter has still not arrived so I was spared that distraction only to have the Beasts of War show off some 28mm modern vehicles from Empress Miniatures. These look really amazing. That motivated me to finish up an old 28mm Antenociti APC that is unfortunately no longer available. Squirrel!
Star Wars: Armada
Last but not least Fantasy Flight Games released Star Wars: Armada after an extended delay due to dock strikes. The game was worth the wait and offers a fun but fast starship combat game. It won’t replace Firestorm Armada but for those who love Star Wars or simply do not want to paint it is certainly a great option. Speaking of painting, while the capital ships in the game come painted just as nicely as the X-Wing miniatures the small fighters are just colored plastic. After seeing Steven MacLauchlan and other folks paint theirs I had to take a crack as well. In just a few hours you have some nicely painted fighters that reward the effort.
We have become big fans of Dropzone Commander from Hawk Wargames. It is a well balanced game with nice tactical options, interesting scenarios and nicely done models. Certainly part of the game’s appeal is also the terrain. Fighting amongst skyscrapers with dropships weaving about is certainly a novel setting for sci-fi miniatures gaming. Carl Tuttle of the IC’s Podcast famously calls terrain “the third army.” Terrain has a huge impact on a game both from a play standpoint as well as visually.
Hawk Wargames produces their Cityscape and Ruinscape terrain sets as well as a subset of those in their starter set. The sets are full-color, heavy cardstock tiles and buildings. The buildings fold together in minutes. We glue ours but you don’t have to if you want to be able to break them down for easier storage. The tiles are double-sided and can be setup in a massive number of configurations. The sets are relatively cheap so gamers who wish to take a bit more time and effort can also glue the tiles to board and paint/flock them for an even better look.
But for those who want an even easier solution there are now the new gaming mats being produced. Most of these are now on the “mouse mat” rubber material but some are on vinyl. Certainly the best mat produced so far is also one done specifically for Dropzone Commander. Frontline Gaming’s Hi-Tech City mat is a very attractive 4’x4′ mat that one can just roll out, put down buildings on and play. It doesn’t have the flexibility of the tiles of course but looks better and doesn’t have the disadvantage of the tiles shifting around or seams. Here is a Frontline Gaming battle report that is interesting itself but also features the mat and the cardstock buildings. Also of note in the video is the ‘traffic’. These are just N-scale cars for model railroading that add a nice touch to the table. Another good mat choice is the new Infinity District 5 mat from Micro Art Studio that, although intended for 28mm, would work very well for Dropzone Commander. Their new Icestorm and Warehouse mats are good options as well.
As nice as the Cityscape buildings are some might want something more glamorous than cardstock on their tables. Well have no fear, 4Ground is now producing their Jesserai 10mm range of buildings for Dropzone Commander. As with all 4Ground products they are pre-painted MDF. They are simply stunning. They have some designs that mimic the Cityscape line but where things really take off is with their unique buildings such as the District 1 Corporate Building and the District 1 Bank. Unlike the cardstock buildings the 4Ground buildings come apart so you can put units inside if you wish or they still have plenty of room on the rooftops. Because the buildings are MDF they have more weight and thus don’t move around or topple as easily as the cardstock buildings. The only downside to the 4Ground buildings, besides the cost, is that they are very tedious to build especially the District XXII buildings. A single District XXII building can easily take 10 hours to put together. Of course considering it is ready to go after assembly and looks great this may not be such a bad tradeoff. Oddly, the more interesting District 1 buildings are a bit easier to assemble. Below we have a few pictures of some of the 4Ground buildings with the Hi-Tech City mat and we think you’ll agree they make a very nice combination. As you can see the 4Ground buildings also mix in well with the Cityscape cardstock buildings.
With the popularity of Dropzone Commander on the rise and even other new 10mm games coming out such as Spartan’s Planetfall we should be seeing even more options for terrain in the future.
Also see Sci-Fi Terrain — Buildings.
[Last Updated: 5FEB15].
In Episode 116 of The Independent Characters podcast Carl Tuttle announced that the IC podcast will be coming to a close in April 2015. This is certainly very sad news indeed. For five years The Independent Characters has not only been the best Warhammer 40,000 podcast but one of the better hobby podcasts in general. They always approached the hobby with great intelligence and good humor. We understand the great time and effort it takes to put on a quality show and wish Carl well and indeed hope he continues with The ICs Unbound videos and the occasional show. Thankfully Carl is not quitting the hobby otherwise we’d be reporting the collapse of Forgeworld as well! Thank you Carl, Geoff and all those who helped and supported The Independent Characters. We wish you all the best. Happy hobbying. View from the Turret, out.