Hello again, Commanders! As you know if you’ve been with us for a while, we like to talk about big topics, like battlegroup construction or activation order. So in this article we’re going to talk about the little things; those small rules and strategies that fill out the dark corners of the rulebook and that are easily overlooked, but can have a huge impact on play if used correctly (or incorrectly).
THINKING ABOUT DZC RULES
One thing to remember when reading and thinking about Dropzone Commander in general is that it is not an “exception-based” ruleset like Warhammer 40,000 (where there are a default set of rules everyone follows, and special rules exist to except the units from those rules). This gives DZC a very clean design and avoids the “rules piñata,” where one special rule forces you to reference and remember a number of other rules scattered throughout the book. However, this also requires you to approach Dropzone Commander’s rules carefully and often very literally, because they do what they say on the tin and typically no more. I find most of my common mistakes in-game come from a desire to extend a basic rule or logic from one situation to another, which is where we get into assumption territory. And you know what they say when you assume…
AIRCRAFT ARE NOT VEHICLES
The DZC rules go out of their way to distinguish vehicles from aircraft a lot…and not just because one flies and the other does not. In the game, in defiance of how we think of them, aircraft are not a type of vehicle – they are not vehicles at all (unless they have landed). This distinction is fine and dandy – but it has a knock-on effect where the things you might assume affect aircraft actually don’t. For this reason, I always make doubly sure when reading the rules to look for “Vehicles and Aircraft” or “Units” rather than blithely assuming.
Take for instance, Focus Fire. In many of my games against DZCasualty and his thrice-damned Ferrums, we allowed the Starsprite Drones to use Focus Fire in combination with AA, allowing them to swat down aerial transports with disgusting ease. However, Focus Fire can only be used against Vehicles (Reconquest: Phase 1, Page 62). Conversely, the Small Arms weapon rule grants an AA shot, which explicitly cannot be used against Vehicles (DZC 1.1, page 41, “Small Arms”). And of course, Area weapons only hit infantry and Vehicles (DZC 1.1, page 40, “Area Weapons”), which means all your aircraft are safe from explosions.
AIRCRAFT FLIGHT ON THE TABLETOP
Speaking of Aircraft, one thing that’s easy to forget in the heat of battle is that Aircraft flight ceilings are actually twice what they are represented at on the tabletop! Despite the fact their flight stands are around 3” high, all aircraft normally fly at 6” height (DZC 1.1, page 43) and cannot fly any higher (DZC 1.1, page 30, “4) Solid Features” and “Structures”) unless they are passing over a Contour (DZC 1.1, page 43, “2) Moving over steep contours above 6″ in height”). This is key information when drawing line of sight to and from an aircraft, and when trying to fly over buildings…particularly the tallest buildings that come in the DZC terrain sets! Now you know why you should “Go to the Deck” once in a while.
Speaking of aircraft, here’s another rule I’ve forgotten about in most games I’ve played – crashing aircraft. While most of us are familiar with the rules for destroyed transports (it makes sense, since we’re aware there are guys in there), it’s super-easy to forget that aircraft also crash even if they’re not carrying units!
When you shoot down an aircraft, place its LZ template and inflict an E10 hit on anything underneath on a 4+ (DZC 1.1, page 45); infantry whose center is under a destroyed aircraft or structures with 1/3rd or more of the template over them take multiple hits. This is helpful to remember, particularly in the late game, when dropships are crowded close to their transported units in order to make last-turn pushes to Focal Points or snatch end of game objectives from the table, since these strong hits can spell the end of most units.
SHOOTING AT BUILDINGS
Building demolition is a crucial part of most DZC games, especially in objective-based missions. In my experience, players commonly forget all the ways they have of damaging buildings – something that may not seem important in the heat of a game, but can make a huge difference come Turn 6 when a key building is still standing with just 1 or 2 DP left.
The first and most common oversight in shooting at buildings is not to use your dropship weaponry. The “average” dropship weapon is the rocket launcher, rocking Shaped Charge and E7 or 8. While this weapon generally stinks at anti-armor work, with short R (C) stats, they are great against structures, where they can inflict damage on a 3+ or 4+. So put those dropship weapons to use for demolition!
Another subtle rule is that all attacks hit structures on a 2+, regardless of modifiers (DZC 1.1, page 27, point 5)), including Indirect and “fixed” Acc weapons. This is especially relevant to Scourge, as their AA Arc Caster weapons normally hit ground targets on a 6+. This ruling breathes new life into Reapers and Minders in the late game, where they can turn their powerful shots into useful demolition and polish off weakened buildings.
If you’re like me, you probably set most of your DZC games in dense urban environments. And, if you’re like me, when your infantry’s transport is blown up, you treat them like they’re stranded in a structure for the rest of the game. But did you know that buildings within 3” of each other count as Linked, even if they are not physically touching (DZC 1.1, page 33)?
Using this rule when defending or searching will allow your infantry to hop between nearby buildings without exposing yourself to fire – you just give up your chances to shoot – and can potentially save them from death in a collapsing building or by a superior assaulting force.
For assaulters, this rule can also be used as a way to attack a garrisoned structure where troops are on the wall; just enter a building linked to the garrisoned structure, then use the link to move in and engage in CQB the next turn!
Every DZC player knows that extracting objectives off the table is the most effective way to win games, but there are more ways to accomplish this than just walking infantry units off the board – namely, by passing objectives tactically between your units.
Any objective-carrying unit (typically infantry or vehicles) can instantly pass an objective to another legal target within 2” during their activation (DZC 1.1, page 53, “Transferring and picking up Discovered Objectives”). There are no limits to how many times you may pass an objective during an activation, thus, you may “chain-pass” an objective through an entire squad, allowing you to move an objective up to 8” even with a small squad of 3 units! Note, however, you may NOT intentionally drop an objective – that only happens if the carrying unit is destroyed.
Additionally, an infantry base carrying an Objective may pass directly from a Structure to another unit within 1” and vice versa (DZC 1.1, page 53, “Passing Objectives to/from Infantry in Structures”), whenever you could normally Embark (so not on the turn you enter the building, while you’re on the wall, or locked in CQB). Since there is no apparent limit on whether this can be done more than once per activation, you could also use this rule to pass an objective to an infantry base in a Structure, then to another unit on the other side of the Structure in the same activation!
EFFECTIVE OBJECTIVE EXTRACTION
Speaking of objective handling…one thing I see people do a lot when extracting objectives is to drive a transport carrying infantry off the table, thus sending both into reserve (and often, off the game for a few turns). But there are times when you want to keep your infantry or dropship on the board, especially when that unit has powerful long range shooting.
In these cases, try disembarking your infantry or carried unit near the table edge, then driving or walking them off the table, leaving the transport behind to keep fighting. Alternatively, if your infantry are in a vehicle transport, you can have them jump out at the table edge, and just drive the transport off, leaving the infantry to keep fighting from the table edge.
As always, Shaltari have even more hijinks they can pull. Since infantry carrying an objective leave it with the Gate through which they dematerialize (DZC 1.1, page 137, “Gates and Objectives”), try dematerializing objective carriers through an airborne Gate for a super-fast extraction! Even though this is only a one-way transfer, it’s the fastest and cheapest way to use an aircraft to pull an objective from the board.
DEDICATED ANTI-AIRCRAFT SQUAD COHESION
One very useful fact I overlooked for my first two years of playing DZC was the fact that most dedicated AA squads – such as UCM Rapiers, Scourge Ravagers, or Shaltari Kukri – have Wide Coherency, rather than standard! This is a potentially huge advantage, particularly with units with lots of shots or multiple AA weapons, as the 6” cohesion allows you to greatly expand your “AA bubble” and avoid the effects of counterfire with Indirect weapons and templates (the bane of most AA).
AA VS. SKIMMERS
One rule we missed early in our playing days, since it’s bundled with the Skimmer rules rather than the AA rules, is that AA weapons negate Skimmer bonuses (DZC 1.1, page XX). This is a huge benefit to high-power AA, as most Skimmer tanks rely on that bonus, rather than armor, to survive a battle. Now you know what to use those insanely powerful shots from the Resistance Zhukov or the upcoming Shaltari Panther for!
Walkers are a vital part of the Shaltari and PHR arsenals, but I often see players fail to make full use of their abilities. Remember that the height of many walkers, especially Heavy choices, allows them to freely see and move over low terrain (DZC 1.1, page 42). Even more important to remember is that walkers also benefit from Exceptional Ground (DZC 1.1, page 29) – considering walkers’ typically low speed, this can often increase their movement by 50% or more!
COMMANDERS IN SQUADS
Most Commanders are used as single unit squads, but some, like the PHR Zeus or non-Command vehicles designated as Commanders, can be included in squads. Commanders in squads have a special rule: you may re-allocate 1/2 of all attacks against them to other units in the squad within range and equal or worse cover (DZC 1.1, page 38, “Shooting at Commanders in squads”). This prevents your Commanders from being picked off, and makes them vastly more durable than individual Command units.
THE NUANCES OF AREA WEAPONS
Since DZC features very few Area weapons compared with other popular wargames, it’s easy to fall into the same assumptions about how these weapons work: you shoot; if the shot misses you deviate, the end. But there are a few differences you should remember when planning your attacks.
A direct hit against a structure means an Area weapon loses its template and gains Demolisher-2 or double its existing Demolisher value (DZC 1.1, page 40). This one’s pretty important to know defensively as well, as someone not playing it correctly could shoot the weapon at a building, hit on a 2+, and use the splash to hit targets that should be much more difficult to hit otherwise.
Area weapons are even better against infantry: a base whose center is under an Area template suffers d6 hits, and those hit in a structure suffer 2d6 hits. There’s little risk when shooting against infantry in a building, too; a miss against garrisoned infantry is a direct hit against the building instead (DZC 1.1, page 40)! At our tables, we call this the “chunky salsa effect.”
KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE
None of us is perfect, and we’re all going to forget stuff and make mistakes in the heat of battle. But it does pay to brush up on the little things from time to time to keep your game sharp. You never know when these little corner cases can give you the edge you need in a critical moment to turn the game in your favor. Hope these have been enlightening! We’d love to hear your thoughts over on the Hawk Forums or on our Facebook page.
Next time, we’ll be discussing demolition – the pluses, the minuses, and the heavy hitters you’ll want to smash some buildings.Until then, Commanders!