Hello again, Dropzoners and welcome to the third article in our series breaking down the basics of Dropzone Commander!
Now that we’ve covered the game in broad strokes, we’re taking a closer look at each of DZC’s five factions, breaking down how they play, their strengths and weaknesses, and contextualizing in terms of other games we’ve 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, these are the articles for you.
This time we talk about everyone’s favorite mind-controlling parasitic invertebrates, the Scourge!
The Scourge are the clear-cut alien “villains” of the Dropzone Commander story—a race of sentient jellyfish-like creatures from a low gravity world who parasitically “bond” with the other beings or vehicles that form their armies. They arrived virtually unannounced nearly 200 years ago and quickly conquered human space, subjugating the bulk of humankind to become their new host race. The struggle of the United Colonies of Mankind (UCM) to dislodge the Scourge from Earth and the Cradle Worlds forms the heart of the DZC narrative.
The Scourge have perhaps the most unique visual identity of all DZC factions, combining almost organic or bio-mechanical forms of their vehicles and dropships with multiple glowing eyes and strange plasma weaponry. Imagine a cross between H.R. Giger’s artwork, the robots from the Matrix films, and the Cylons from the most recent version of Battlestar Galactica and you’ll have an idea of the Scourge’s design motif. It’s this sense of “otherness” that makes the Scourge so visually appealing.
DZ Casualty also insists that I mention Cthulhu as an influence in here, because the Scourge are jellyfish from beyond the stars. But the tentacles are pretty few and far between for the Scourge, and the Great Old Ones never drove tanks.
Core Themes of the Scourge
The defining features of the Scourge on the DZC table are opportunism and aggression. Overall, the army is characterized by its incredible speed, powerful but short-ranged shooting, deft maneuvering, and relatively low armor. The Scourge is a scalpel that, properly used, can slice away nearly any opposition before it can escape. However, their fragility and specialization require a play style quite different from other DZC armies, demanding good deployment, careful timing, and proper selection of fights in order to win.
The Scourge has, shot-for-shot, the most powerful shooting in Dropzone Commander thanks to plasma technology (even on their infantry). Like all energy weapons, plasma weapons are not affected by active countermeasures (meaning their full and countered ranges are the same) and they hit harder than comparable weapons. For instance, the plasma cannons on Scourge tanks are incredibly deadly against tanks, buildings, and infantry, while the Scourge dropships can use their plasma hoses for either anti-infantry or anti-tank duty. The tradeoff for this awesome firepower, however, is both very short range and a low number of total shots, meaning that the Scourge must take big risks and focus their attacks to win firefights.
Stick and Move
The Scourge is also the fastest overall army in DZC. They field more skimmers than any other force and their aircraft are typically about 25% faster than those of a similar class in other armies. Scourge Invader light dropships are the best example of these, as they can deliver troops to start looking for objectives or intel on the very first turn of the game!
DZ Casualty: You were pretty calm and mature just then, the way you stated it. Usually when you want to bring it to my attention, you hop up and down tableside laughing and pointing at your models.
This insane speed gives the Scourge two key tricks other armies don’t have. The first is the ability to react to battlefield changes quickly and decisively. For instance, in a single activation a Scourge player could redeploy a unit of grav tanks 22” away from their starting position using a medium Marauder dropship. Thus, if you find one of your flanks crumbling unexpectedly, or you’re in the middle of losing firefight and want to flee, you can not only get out of there . . . you can get halfway across the table in a single move.
The second benefit of speed is that the Scourge can effectively ambush enemy units and pick and choose fights more easily than other forces (even despite their short shooting ranges). With 9” of movement on medium grav tanks and 6” of movement on heavies, it’s possible for any Scourge armor to bottle itself up in tight terrain, wait for their prey to get into the kill zone, then pop up and zap it before they can retaliate. This lets (in fact, it practically demands) the Scourge take an offensive “hunter” role rather than trying to stand off and shoot or engage in protracted battles over open ground. “Hit and run” is the name of the Scourge game.
A Vicious Menagerie
One of my favorite parts of the Scourge is the interesting mix of infantry in their force, thanks to the thousands of worlds they have conquered over the centuries. While human Scourge Warriors form the bulk of their forces (and are perfectly fine, though pretty average), the Scourge can also field 50 ft. long razorworms and the incredibly tough Destroyer infantry to add a little extra “oomph” to close combats. And it’s rumored that the next DZC supplement will include even more infantry options, such as the awesome Eviscerators, xenomorph-inspired Screamers, and little flying Vampires (pictured) making the Scourge the ideal army if you like your alien races to actually look alien.
Playing the Perfect Predators
Though the Scourge definitely has a lot going for it, their advantages don’t come without costs. We’ve already discussed how the limitations of plasma weapons and lighter armor of Scourge forces can lead to a “glass cannon” feel for the army, but there are other weak spots that aren’t quite as obvious.
For instance, many of the Scourge’s great strengths come from extreme specialization. Like evolved predators who dominate their chosen environments, most Scourge units tend to be very effective in one role but much less so in others. Great examples include nearly all Scourge anti-aircraft units, which hit aircraft on 2+ but all other units on 6+, or their Stalker walker units which have a massive E12 shot which cannot damage structures at all. Units that are not specialized tend to be much less effective than their counterparts in other armies. For instance, the Scourge’s Corsair fast mover carries the standard plasma cannon (good) but has the worst accuracy and least number of shots of any fast mover in the game (bad). Understanding your squads’ specializations, putting them in the right places where they can play to their strengths, and accepting the things your army can’t do, is a crucial part of playing the Scourge well.
Another important part of understanding the Scourge is learning when and how to be aggressive. Yes, you have insane speed and strong shooting, but charging straight into fights headlong is the UCM’s or PHR’s style, not the Scourge’s. Sure, if you move at full speed toward a target your tanks have the same threat range as other armies’ tanks, but they get to sit back and shoot (or shoot then run behind cover), while you have to break cover and fully commit to get those kills. To play the Scourge, you have to think like a predator, and that means picking the fights you know you can win, going after the weak and the stragglers, trying to engage enemies that you can kill on the first pass, not being afraid to run when it will save your skin, and never ever fighting fair.
The Scourge in Warhammer 40,000 Terms
The jellyfish are a bit tougher to draw a direct 40k parallel than the UMC was, but as my personal faction, I would say they play something like a cross between Tyranids and Dark Eldar. Scourge forces live and die by their speed, thanks to short shooting ranges and a heavy dependence on skimmers and light dropships. In fact, many of their units have close-combat-only weapons! However, when they do hit the opponent, their plasma weaponry lets them hit like a ton of bricks. The Scourge heavy units, such as the devastating Desolator command ship or the brutal Destroyer heavy infantry, are amongst the scariest in the entire game, making the army a complex and interesting force to play.
The Scourge in Warmachine Terms
Drawing the parallel between the Scourge and Cryx doesn’t require a lot of brainpower. Insane speed and weak armor? Check. Short ranged, awesomely destructive firepower? Check. Hordes of creepy-looking robots? Check. Powerful, terrifying commanders? Check. Dirty tricks galore? Check. If you’re a fan of the speedy undead hordes of Western Immoren, chances are you’ll dig the Scourge.
The Commenters’ Opinions
The Scourge are my first DZC love, and the army that got me playing in the first place. I’ve learned a lot about the army since I got my first models (mostly by periodically getting my teeth kicked in), and just now feel I’ve learned to play them “correctly.” I played both Warmachine Cryx and 40k Tyranids back in the day, and the Scourge’s combination of speed, deadliness, fragility, and tricks is a bit like coming home.
What I like most about playing Scourge is that they force me to focus: I can’t duke it out with any other faction, really, so I have to constantly look at how I can complete the mission, pick my fights, and otherwise outwit my opponent. I’ve had to learn to pace myself, jabbing at the enemy until I can trap them in terrain where my guns can actually come to bear. I’ve had to learn to gamble correctly by rushing out infantry units as bait which will protect crucial units for late in the game. I’ve had to learn the economy of loss and how to sacrifice the right units at the right time. A lot of people might say these limitations make the Scourge unforgiving, but I say they make me a better tactician.
Of all the factions, the Scourge inherently seems to be the most dangerously calculating force. In order to win, they must choose exactly the right moment to act and react to the enemy. Insatiable schools of vicious war-squids, they skulk and skirt around the battlefield looking for those little weaknesses in the enemy perimeter and unprotected critical units. Don’t be fooled though, the ranges on Scourge units may be short overall, but their movement is so dynamic and their weapons so destructive that when they do succeed in slipping through the enemy defense net and close in on a target, the impact rattles the windows sills in Hell.
For that reason, when I face them, I always try to deal with Scourge at arm’s length, and try to control lines of sight and lanes of movement to minimize their potentially cataclysmic approach.
If you’re considering this force, then you are likely one of two kinds of player.
- You’re aggressive: Advance is your first thought and annihilate is your second. You’re not afraid to take the bold risks and execute the dazzling gambits necessary to get in close and rain down blunt force trauma blows until the enemy lies twitching and hemorrhaging onto the hard earth.
- You’re cold and calculating: Patience and cagey plotting, feints and ruses, these are the tools you employ to draw your enemy out, to trick the foe into overextending, wasting precious resources and finally exposing the soft sweet underbelly of their forces. With surgical precision, you strike and plunge your hungry tentacles deep into their tender pale flesh, exalting in the salty, wet warm gush of victory!
Brain Suckers Unite!
Whew! True to my name, I do have a lot to say about the Scourge. If you’re the type of player who loves face-melting speed, making perfectly-timed attacks, slicing your opponent’s army apart bit by bit, and generally being able to mess with the other guy’s head, the Scourge is the army for you! Though it’s taken me a good long while to get the feel for them, the army remains near and dear to my heart and will continue to be my primary army for the foreseeable future (though the Resistance is muy sexy and next up on my table).
Next up in our series, we’ll cover the Scourge’s polar opposite—the awesome-looking, mirror-shaded and ghosted-in-the-half-shell forces of the Post-Human Republic.
See you then, Commanders!
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