Hello again, Dropzoners (what do they call DZC fans, anyway?) and welcome to the second article in our series breaking down the basics of Dropzone Commander!
Now that we’ve covered the game in broad strokes, we’re going to take a closer look at DZC’s five factions, breaking down how they play, their strengths and weaknesses, and contextualizing them in terms of other games you may have played in the past. If you’re looking to get into DZC, or are thinking about picking up a new faction but not sure which to grab, this is the article for you.
So let’s dive (drop?) right in!
The United Colonies of Mankind
The UCM are ostensibly the “good guys” of the DZC universe. Their massive legions created with a single purpose: to take back humanity’s homeworlds, lost to the parasitic Scourge nearly 200 years ago.
Looks-wise, the UCM are a cross between the Mobile Infantry of Starship Troopers, the human armies of Halo, and the Colonial Marines of Aliens. Look at the Sabre MBT and you’ll see callbacks to Halo’s Scorpion tank, while the Bear APC will look very familiar to anyone who’s a fan of Ripley and company. Not that this is a criticism—if you’re a movie fan like me, that just means the UCM has great visual genes.
DZ Casualty: Despite all his flowery gab, Commenter showed early on that his species-traitor genes are actually entwined with the Alien Queen…
Core Themes of the UCM
The logic of the UCM’s visual heritage reflects in many ways on the way it plays on the tabletop. The UCM is the “all-rounder” army—the point cost and performance of any UCM unit sets the baseline for what to expect from a DZC unit of that type. While the UCM may not be the best at anything, they are also not bad at anything, either. They can play plodding, armor-heavy forces that can match the PHR in a shootout, flood the table with infantry and light tanks like the Resistance, or play the fast, air-mobile army that zips around the table grabbing objectives, dropping off elite close-combat units, and skirmishing like the Scourge. That flexibility (and consequential lack of weak points) is the core of the UCM’s strength.
An Armored Fist
The UCM does have a number of small specializations, however. One is the UCM’s excellent ground game. Unlike the speedy but short-ranged armor of the Scourge or the hard-hitting but sluggish walkers of the PHR, UCM armor represents the ideal balance of speed, cost, toughness, and power—fast enough to ambush enemy formations, tough enough to take incoming fire, cheap enough to field en masse, and strong enough to reliably kill what they shoot at.
What’s more, UCM armor is diverse in function. Whether you choose more power with Sabre main battle tanks, more shots with Katana medium tanks, more shots and power with the Gladius heavy tanks, infinite range with the Scimitar laser, or anti-infantry devastation with the Fireblade flame tanks, there’s usually a tank for any situation you may face.
A less obvious strength of the UCM is the fact they have the greatest diversity in aircraft in the game. They are the only army that has access to two fast-moving aircraft (the excellent Archangel and the Seraphim bomber) and two gunships (the agile Falcon and punishing Eagle), which gives the army unmatched control of the sky. This point is made even more strongly by the notorious Ferrum Drone Base, which launches swarms of deadly drone fighters which can be replenished over the course of the game. Add in the fact that the UCM command deck has many cards that improve the effectiveness of their aircraft and you have a recipe for total domination of the skies.
A rapidly-emerging strength of the UCM is its ability to field artillery—and blast templates—unlike any other force in the game. The basic UCM command unit, the Kodiak, can call in orbital strikes with the greatest power possible, anywhere on the board, allowing them to persecute backfield units with prejudice; having gained a template in the most recent errata has only made it more deadly. The Kodiak is backstopped by DZC’s only “pure” artillery unit, the cheap and versatile Longbow Howitzer, which can attack hard targets, smash infantry formations, or lay down curtains of ninite-powered “smart smoke.” And just a few weeks ago, the UCM added the Legionnaire Mortar Team, making them the first faction to field infantry capable of dropping (not–insubstantial) indirect fire as well. The fact that the UCM can also field lots of Scout units just makes their artillery even more accurate—and their enemies more frustrated.
All-Rounders to the Core
If the UCM has a weakness, it’s that their generalist units are often outmatched by other forces’ specialized ones. For instance, while a Sabre tank is a great all-round armor unit, it will struggle to match the specialized anti-armor power of a PHR Ares walker; likewise, while Praetorian infantry are great at close quarters combat, they meet their match in more specialized opponents like Shaltari Firstborn, PHR Sirens, or Resistance Berserkers. Matching your opponent’s specialists with greater numbers or more focused force is the key to turning the tide in these situations.
The UCM in Warhammer 40,000 Terms
As the “basic humans” of the DZC universe, the UCM play very much like my favorite 40k army, Imperial Guard (or Astra Militarum, if you’re keeping up with the times). The fact they sacrifice excellence in any one field for flexibility, have reliable, relatively cheap and very tough armor, good aircraft and dropships, a nice selection of artillery and indirect fire weapons, and can bring in specialist units for any situation all harken back to my beloved Guard. The average UCM infantryman may be a wimp, but when backed up with the many gunships, dropships, and tanks the army can bring to bear, they are definitely a force to be reckoned with.
The UCM in Warmachine Terms
I think the UCM is comparable to Cygnar in many ways. Like Warmachine’s “good guy” faction, the UCM is defined by its excellent armor, variety of troops, and technical innovations that give it a leg up on its enemies. The all-rounder nature of the UCM means they can bring a toolbox of broadly applicable tricks and tactics to their fights, allowing them to change strategies mid-game, just as Cygnar does. Plus, the UCM is home to some of the coolest characters (Famous Commanders) in the game (like Commander Cato, a drone-flying version of Battlestar Galactica’s Starbuck who really can whip some ass).
The Commenters’ Opinions
I, as a Scourge player, both respect and despise the UCM to a degree appropriate for my mortal enemy. The Scourge loves to prey on weaknesses, but these guys don’t really have any weaknesses! I’m straight-up jealous of units like the Rapier AA tank and new Phoenix Command Gunship, and downright terrified of the Ferrum. I’ve learned to go into every game against the UCM ready to suffer huge casualties and prepared to bring all the underhanded guile I’ve got to bear.
How I came to play this faction is perhaps a story for another day, however, it has become the faction with which I’m most familiar (and dangerous). I’m an armor guy, so ranks-of-tanks . . . ? Yes please and thanks! Having a lot of air options and the endless Ferrum Flying Monkey formations is awfully convenient as well.
Does sticking it to parasitic jellyfish, traitorous post-human cyborgs, psychotic human separatists, and high-tech space hedgehogs sound like fun? Do you want to play with lots of tanks to dominate the ground or awesome aircraft to rule the skies? Then the UCM might be the right force for you. The UCM has got the flexibility and power for you to build and play nearly any type of force you want, and as your collection grows, so too will the number of different armies you can build.
Choosing a DZC Force Series
- Part 1: The United Colonies of Mankind (UCM)
- Part 2: The Scourge
- Part 3: The Post-Human Republic (PHR)
- Part 4: The Shaltari
- Part 5: The Resistance