Dropzone Commander is a game that does away with a lot of little fiddly pieces of information: special rules are pretty few and far between, and there’s nothing like special damage results or battlefield conditions you have to remember throughout the course of the battle. The biggest exception to this rule in DZC is infantry damage and abilities.
Infantry Damage Points (DP) are obviously essential for determining how long a base of troops survives, but they are also intimately tied with that unit’s effect on the tabletop. For instance, nearly all infantry weapons have the RW (Reduce Weapon) quality, which reduces the shots by X amount per DP suffered, and the CQB stat, where the number of dice you roll is multiplied by your current DP. Reconquest: Phase 1 adds even more pieces of information for infantry that need to be tracked: Limited Weapons which can only be fired once per game; and Forward Air Controller (FAC) designation, allowing that squad’s line of sight to grant bonuses to rolls to bring on fast movers.
All this crucial information can be easy to overlook or mix up in the heat of a fight. Dice are a pretty common way of tracking infantry damage – we all have them, after all – but it’s far too easy in my experience to pick up a die for a roll when they’re sitting there on the table. And speaking for myself, it’s far too easy to forget which squads have been designated FACs or have fired Limited Weapons, especially when those units are also doing things like jumping out of dropships or into CQBs alongside friendly infantry squads.
Luckily for you, one of my Dropzone Commander obsessions is magnets (“how do they work?!?”). While most players will stop at just magnetizing their units so they stick to dropships, my sickness runs deep enough that I’ve also magnetized my infantry – specifically, their bases.
Tools of the Trade
For an investment of about $20, you can magnetize multiple forces’ worth of infantry bases and create tags to help to track damage, Limited Weapons usage, and FAC status which you’ll never accidentally drop or roll in the heat of battle. Plus, with a piece of tin or some extra magnets, you can create a simple magnetic base to tote your infantry around without using up valuable foam in your army case!
Your shopping list will need to include…
- Assembled bases of infantry
- Plenty of flexible sheet magnets, like the cheap magnets you get from neighborhood businesses (I used misprinted magnets I rescued from the trash at work). I prefer to avoid adhesive-backed ones when possible.
- A pack of white sticker or label paper – basically, regular printer paper with a peel-off sticker back. Unperforated is best.
- Printouts of my Infantry Damage Tags (see Step 0 below)
- Spray sealer or fixative (the stuff you use on your models works just fine)
- Superglue kicker (optional)
- Hobby knife
- Pen or pencil
- Cutting surface
Step 0: Choose and Print Out Your Labels
Before you start, you’ll need to print out a set of damage tags on the label paper. Load the label paper into your computer printer (using the single-sheet tray if possible – the stuff is thick and tends to jam if put in the main tray).
You’ll also need to choose how big you want your tags to be. I’ve created them in two sizes: standard (approx 40mm wide) or narrow (approx 20mm wide) sizes, in both Letter and A4 paper sizes:
- Infantry Damage Tags – Standard (Letter)
- Infantry Damage Tags – Standard (A4)
- Infantry Damage Tags – Narrow (Letter)
- Infantry Damage Tags – Narrow (A4)
Standard tags are what I prefer – they have more surface area and thus stick better to the base. Narrow tags are useful if you want to include both damage and tags for Limited Weapons or Forward Air Controllers on the magnet, but tend to be pretty weak connections.
One last thing you’ll want to do is to spray your label paper with 2 light coats of sealant or fixative, just like you would one of your finished models. You’ll be handling these tags a lot, and a little sealant will keep the ink from smudging over time.
Step 1: Cut Out Labels and Magnets for Your Tags
Cut your labels into strips using scissors – I find straight cuts are easier when I make tall columns rather than rows, and it lets you keep DP of the same count together. Cut individual labels from each column as needed so you don’t lose them.
Once you’ve got your label cut, grab a piece of sheet magnet and cut a rough square or rectangle using your scissors, using your label to roughly judge how wide it should be. No need to be exact in this stage (we’ll clean them up later). I recommend cutting a rectangle roughly three times as high as your label, to leave plenty of room for magnet-on-magnet contact when stuck.
Step 2: Apply Labels to Your Magnet Tags
Now, using your hobby knife (or your fingernails if they’re long enough), separate the label from the backing. Be careful not to let the label make contact with your cutting surface or fingers to ensure the backing remains sticky, then lay it down as centered as you can on the bottom 1/3rd of the underside of the magnet (e.g. the black side facing up).
If you don’t get your sticker perfectly centered, use your scissors to trim the sides with any label hanging over. I also trim off the bottom corners of the magnet at a 45 degree angle to prevent the label from peeling up or fraying (it also makes the magnet much less likely to curl or ding when you drop it).
Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you have a decent number of tags (you’ll want more -1 and -2 tags than -3 to -5 tags, since they can be used with any infantry base, and if you’re not using any of the 2015 infantry releases, you can skip the -6 to -9 tags entirely).
Step 3: Cut Magnets for Infantry Bases
With your tags all made, you’ll need to cut magnets for each of your infantry bases. As with the labels, it’s best to do these all at the same time so as to save yourself time and effort.
First – and I cannot stress this highly enough – check the polarity of the sheet magnets! Unlike more traditional magnets, thin sheet magnets have a relatively weak attraction, they only stick to one another at a specific angle. Use one of your finished damage tags to check if your sheet magnet material has a stronger polarity when oriented in one direction or another (see image). Make sure your magnets are making black-on-black contact. If you don’t check polarity, you may find your tags barely sticking to the bases – as I did with my initial set of tags – and have to go back and either redo all your tags or (even worse, as I did) have to test each base magnet and strip some material off.
Once you’ve checked polarity, you can rough-cut your tags. These don’t need to be beautiful (they are, after all, going to be on the bottom of your infantry bases). Use your pencil to draw a line down the magnet roughly 1 ½ in/4 cm wide, then cut a strip of material with your scissors. Turn the strip 90 degrees and cut pieces off roughly ¾ in/2 cm tall. Repeat until you have enough magnets for all your infantry bases.
Step 4: Magnetize Bases
The final step of the process is to attach your magnets to your infantry bases. First, use your hobby knife to lightly score the back (not-black) side of your base magnet and the bottom of your infantry base in a cross-hatch pattern. This will create more surface area and give the glue a place to attach to the otherwise “slick” surface. When scoring the magnet, be careful to cut only the backing material and not all the way through the magnet!
After you’ve completed scoring all your magnets and bases, make a quick test-fit of each magnet to ensure none are larger than the bases; cut down any magnets that are too big with your scissors.
Finally, going one at a time, apply superglue to the bottom of each base, then carefully place the magnet with the unscored black side facing away from the base (e.g. facing down when the base is standing up). Keep the facing side of the magnet clean – any glue or fogging on that surface will significantly impact its stickiness long-term. To prevent fogging/crazing while the glue dries, I use a superglue “kicker” accelerator, but you can also place finished bases in front of a fan to get the same effect.
Step 5: Profit!
If you’ve followed the tutorial step by step, you should have something that looks like this! These magnetized infantry will let you track DP throughout the game, even when they get knocked around, jump in and out of transports, or move through structures. If you’re the type who paints your flight stands, you could use this same technique to track damage on dropships (though I would recommend making larger tags to ensure your painted ships don’t tip over!).
As an added bonus, you can use any spare sheets of magnetic material you have left to make a magnetic storage for your infantry; simply glue the sheet magnets to a stiff base (like plasticard, heavy foamcore, or thick cardboard) or use some light sheet metal, and you can save space in your army bag! Alternatively, you could take some scrap sheeting, glue it to a dowel and create a handy handle for painting your infantry.
Well, that’s it for our first hobby article here on Dropzone Commenter. Next week, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled discussions of theory and practice – but expect more hobby tips in the coming months! If you have suggestions for which types of content you would like to see, please pop over to the Hawk forums and let us know!
Until next week, Commanders!