All I Want for Christmas (2015 edition)…
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.
Dropzone Commander — PHR vs Scourge 1,250pts
We recently got in some games of Dropzone Commander. We played PHR vs Scourge at 1,250pts. We went for force lists that had a mix of forces instead of ones optimized for maximum performance.
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.
Here is the table setup at start from the PHR perspective:
Here is the table setup at start from the Scourge perspective:
The battles were fierce with some dramatic moments in all games. Here is a shot of a pack of Prowlers hunting down some Enyos. The PHR Passive save came in handy.
On turn 5 of one game the Scourge Desolator went down hard before getting in much of a punch. It left a nice crater! You can also see the general heavy carnage all around.
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.
- Outpost Zero has some nice battle reports: The Outpost, Gunnery 180, Hyperspace Assault
Dropzone Commander — Terrain Part 1
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.
If you want to see what you can do with some serious time and hobby skills don’t miss Pezzapoo’s Dropzone Commander Modular Table Build: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
[Last Updated: 5FEB15].
All I want for Christmas…
With the holidays upon us it might not be a bad time to look at some goodies. This has been an especially good year for gaming and the recent months have seen some very high quality releases. Below are just a few items you might want to add to your list…if you’ve been nice! . .
- Star Borders: Humanity 2ed and Star Borders: Aliens are two notable sci-fi titles from Victory Point Games. Surprisingly high-quality components and a quick playing but engaging game system make for a real win. Best of all is that there is more to come.
- Star Wars Armada from Fantasy Flight Games looks like it could be more fun than X-Wing.
- Galaxy Defenders may seem a bit odd but it is a nice co-op/solitaire sci-fi tactical game. Take a little XCOM and a dash of Men in Black and have some fun saving the world. Very nice components.
- Heroes of Normandie from Devil Pig is 15mm miniature gaming as a board game. Tons of options available with even more coming. Fight through the hedgerows in just a couple of hours.
- Dropzone Commander is almost impossible to beat with its new plastic starter sets. Hawk Wargames keeps making a great game better. And don’t miss the new 4Ground 10mm buildings either.
- Deadzone is a unique take on sci-fi skirmish. Mantic’s minis require some effort but the game play is worth it. And you certainly don’t want to miss the Battlezones terrain good for any sci-fi game.
- Infinity 3rd Edition made a splash when Corvus Belli released the Operation: Icestorm starter box. The new rules are due out mid-December 2014.
- World War Two gamers are not left out. Both Chain of Command and Bolt Action are excellent skirmish games and the new plastic tanks form Warlord Games are a must. And of course 4Ground once again has you covered for buildings and Crescent Root Studio does even better.
- 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.
- Combat Mission: Black Sea gives you more modern warfare with the CM engine moving to a hypothetical conflict in the Ukraine. Available for pre-order.
- Space Hulk: Ascension will scratch the sci-fi corridor itch. Who doesn’t want to give Genestealers a special present?
- XCOM Long War. Thought you were tired of XCOM? Think again. The Long War mod adds a huge host of improvements to the venerable sci-fi tactical game.
- War in the West is out now and could be Grigsby’s finest. Refight the campaigns in the West on a grand scale. Can you do better?
- Wars and Battles is perhaps the worst name ever for a wargame but for the iPad it is one of the best wargames to date.
Sci-Fi Terrain — Buildings
One thing every gamer needs is lots of good terrain. Nice looking terrain enhances the play experience and plentiful, well placed terrain increases tactical options. This is especially the case for skirmish and small scale games. Games like Mercs, Deadzone, Infinity and others all come alive with good board layouts. Luckily producing good terrain, specifically buildings, is easier than ever.
There are four primary types of materials used to make model buildings: resin, hardfoam (a form of resin), laser cut wood (or plastic) and injection molded plastic. Each material has its advantageous and disadvantages.
- Resin – Probably the most common resin buildings are those produced by Gale Force 9 in their Battlefield in a Box line. These have the advantage of being highly detailed, pre-painted and ready to go right out of the box. They are moderate in weight and slightly fragile. Depending on the scale and environment you are trying to represent the Gothic line or even the historical Flames of War line are useful.
- Hardfoam – The most numerous options for hardfoam buildings and terrain come from Micro Art Studio. Hardfoam is quite detailed and easy to paint. It is also light but somewhat fragile. Its biggest disadvantage is that it is solid so hardfoam buildings almost never have an interior and models cannot be placed under them either. This of course limits their use in certain situations.
- Laser cut – Laser cut wood (plywood, MDF, etc) as well as newer PVC products are perhaps where the gamers’ options have recently really started to increase. Manufacturers have gotten better and better with designs and choice has grown considerably. Laser cut buildings have the advantage of variety in design, detailed accessible interiors and complex layouts. They are also generally quite durable. Their big disadvantages are that they need to be painted well to really look good and often lack sufficient surface detail. The process itself also limits designs to a certain degree. 4Ground really set things on fire with their pre-painted line of buildings. They only have historical buildings at the moment but have announced a sci-fi line is coming soon. Crescent Root Studio has perhaps done even better but so far has no sci-fi options. Manufacturers we particularly like are Warsenal, Underground Lasers, Micro Art Studio, Systema Gaming and Spartan Scenics.
- Injection Molded Plastic – The nirvana of gaming building material is perhaps injection molded plastic. It is relatively cheap, has high detail, is easy to work with and easy paint. It is also light and reasonably durable. Its main disadvantage is basically choice. Until recently Games Workshop had the only really useful line of plastic buildings available, but of course you were stuck with the Gothic look. With the arrival of Mantic’s Deadzone a whole new line of Battlezones were also created. The Battlezone line is comprised of a variety of pieces based on a 3 inch square. Gamers can assemble them in almost infinite ways to create buildings and environments that suit their needs. Certainly future options will help break away from the cube to create even better variety.
Of course even great buildings need to sit on something. Thanks to recent technologies the old grass mat is no longer needed. Certainly gamers can use foam board and other materials to create detailed urban battlefields but far easier, cheaper and more portable options (and more practical for actual gaming) are the new gaming tiles and mats. This was perhaps started in concept by Games Workshop with their Citadel Realm of Battle Gameboards but they never took the line anywhere to its full potential. It took Secret Weapon Miniatures to produce its upcoming Tablescapes line to start to unlock the varied options of plastic molded gaming boards. Tablescapes are one foot square injection molded plastic tiles in a variety of designs. What is great about them is that because they are plastic it is very easy for gamers to glue them together and use regular modeling techniques to create custom sizes that fit their needs. Or one can simply leave them as individual tiles for maximum flexibility.
Of course plastic tiles still have to be painted and stored. An even easier and quicker solution is the new gaming mats produced on the rubberized ‘mouse pad’ material. Probably the first to produce a variety of both 4’x4′ and 4’x6′ mats was Frontline Gaming with their FAT Mat Mega Mats. These give a great looking surface on which to place buildings and terrain but are also flat and smooth for easy gaming. Mantic produces a similar Deadzone mat and now Micro Art Studio probably has the ultimate urban mat with its new District 5 mat. What is unique about District 5 is that it has a geomorphic design so multiple mats can be placed together to create varied urban layouts.
Lastly we should also mention Hawk Wargames’ Cityscape and Ruinscape line of urban tiles. They are designed for 10mm gaming but easily used for 15mm or even in 28mm as sidewalks. The ‘scapes are full-color cardboard tiles you can layout to create varied cityscapes. Keep them loose for variety and flexibility or glue them to board and enhance as needed for an even better look.
There has never been a better time to fight in the city. So go grab some buildings and storm the gates!
Dropzone Commander — New Starter Box
Hawk Wargames made a big splash with the announcement of their newest Dropzone Commander starter set. Unlike their previous starter sets this one is for two players and contains the v1.1 rulebook, maps, card buildings, dice, tape measure, reference cards and plastic miniatures for the Scourge and UCM.
The miniatures look very nice. The detail is not quite as good as the resin miniatures but plastic is far easier to work with and will not have the random quality control issues the resin miniatures occasionally have. Moreover, they’ve made some minor changes to the miniatures such as the UCM Condor Dropship now has a clear canopy and the Bear APC has a one piece top hull so no more seams to fill!
Overall this is quite an amazing set. Considering it is coming from a new and small game publisher is even more surprising. Hopefully the plastic miniatures, as well as new sets, will be available separately in the future.
If you haven’t tried Dropzone Commander yet this is an excellent way to start. If you are a veteran it might be worth it for the miniatures and v1.1 rulebook (if you haven’t bought it yet).
See the Beasts of War unboxing video and the Hawk Newsletter for additional details.
For a nice intro to Dropzone Commander see the Blue Table Painting DzC videos;
Dropzone Commander: Full Game Overview With Its Creator
Shaltari vs United Colonies of Man Dropzone Commander Battle Report
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