Welcome back, Commanders! This week, I wanted to talk about building forces from your collections… a task that sometimes can be uniquely challenging in Dropzone Commander due to the battlegroup system. In this article, we’re going to discuss the fundamentals of building armies for Dropzone Commander, starting with some theory on how to compose a well-balanced force, and analyze a list I built to see how I cover all the roles necessary for victory on the battlefields of the 27th century.
How DZC Armies are Built
Unlike games such as Warhammer or Warmachine, where there are typically only two limitations to how armies are built (army organization and total points cost), DZC armies are checked against three tiers:
- Total army points
- Army organization (minimum and maximum number of battlegroups)
- Battlegroup composition (types and number of squads in each group)
What’s more – the points, army organization and battlegroup compositions change based on the scale of game you’re playing. If you’re a veteran of other war games, this may make army building seem a bit maddening; the extra vector of battlegroups plus shifting composition rules make scribbling a list down on scratch paper much more difficult.
Thankfully, an enterprising DZC fan named Buhallin has given us the amazing and free Fighting Forces of the Reconquest (FFOR) software suite, which makes DZC army building correctly a snap. As DZCasualty mentioned in his Prep Time article, FFOR requires a bit of learning to get the hang of, but is invaluable for letting you focus on a proper build and leaving the composition changes to the program. Plus, you can manage your collections and save lists for posterity.
As part of our discussion, here’s a list I was inspired to build following the newest DZC releases – the first PHR army I’m really inspired to play!
The DZC Rule of Thirds
When looking at how to spend my limited points for a game, I start by spreading my army’s points using the “DZC Rule of Thirds”:
- One-third of the army’s points to objective units, which will be used to win the game; typically, this means infantry and transports to get them around the field.
- One-third of the army’s points to combat units, used to protect my objective units through offense and defense; anti-aircraft, armored units, gunships and heavies tend to sit here.
- One-third of the army’s points to support units, which can help either the objective or combat units as needed. Commanders, Scouts, fast-movers, CQB specialists, Flame units, artillery, and the like fall in this category.
This is by no means a hard and fast rule, but it certainly helps to know that in a 1500 point game, a good army will likely “lose” 500 points to infantry and transports, leaving you with around 1000 points to spend on the units that will be doing the actual fighting.
Example Force: Points Spread
Looking at the PHR list, you can see the DZC Rule of Thirds at work:
- Objective Units (554): AM Rifle Team; Valkyries 1 and 2; Sirens
- Combat Units (410): Battle Squads 1 and 2; Helios Squad
- Support Units (536): Command Squad; Medusas 1 and 2
There is obviously some crossover with these units – the Medusas are also able to serve as infantry units, so they can handle objectives in a pinch; the AM Rifle teams and Angelos are good shooters, and may become combat units from time to time; Sirens are very specialized, so they could be considered Support when they’re running around from fight to fight – but you get the idea.
The obvious question that follows the Rule of Thirds is, “What’s the optimum number of squads I should purchase with those points?” The answer varies from faction to faction and group to group, but I find the following basic force composition to be well-balanced in the standard 1500 point game.
- 1 Command unit
- 3–5 infantry squads, at least 1 of which is Exotic/CQB specialist
- 2-3 armor/combat squads (armed with weapons E10 or higher)
- 2-3 AA units
- 1-2 Scout squads
- Specialist squads to fill
Some units fill dual-purpose roles (e.g. if I have Lifthawks with AA cannons in a Resistance army, I typically take less “pure” AA units since the transports can act as AA in a pinch), but I always try to ensure I have the capability to fill these roles, lest I leave weak points my enemy can exploit and prevent me from winning the game.
Example Force: Force Composition
Breaking down the Medusa Blitz list, we can see how effectively I filled out the roles of a balanced force:
- Command Unit (1): Zeus with Command Value 4
- Infantry squads with at least 1 CQB specialist (5 +1): AM Rifles; Valkyries x 2; Medusas x 2; Sirens (specialists)
- Armor squads (4): Command Squad; 2 Ares (1 in each Battle Squad); Angelos transports on AM Rifles Squad
- AA squads (3): 2 Phobos (1 in each Battle Squad); Helios
- Scouts (2): Valkyries x 2
- Other specialists (2): Medusas x 2, acting as AT (due to Focus-2 rule) or as CQB support
On paper, this army seems to be well-balanced, with good command, fair AT and AA, and units that can act in multiple roles when needed. The double-dipping units (like Medusa) are set up so they are not the only thing filling a particular role; this is exactly why I considered them as support when building the list.
That said, this list is not without its potential shortcomings, which will affect how I play it during the game. For instance, it doesn’t have a ton of anti-tank firepower, but I can mitigate that by presenting a narrow front and avoiding long firefights with other AT units. It also is a bit lighter on AA than I personally like; however, since the Phobos and Helios are so good at what they do and PHR doesn’t tend to spread out too much, I should have air protection if I’m smart about it. The Medusas are also vulnerable to templates and Flame, so I’ll also need to be a bit cagey about movement to ensure they aren’t exposed for too long or too often.
Despite those shortcomings, I think this list is strong. The only thing left to do is put it into the field…
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
I hope this has provided you with a little insight into how I judge a DZC list’s balance and readiness for the field. Next week, we’ll put our theory into practice, by looking at how to construct battlegroups to transform your balanced army into an effective force on the tabletop.
See you next week, Commanders!