Hawk to the Future: New Troops, New Tactics

Hello again, Dropzoners, and welcome to our first article following a crazy visit to this year’s Gen Con in Indianapolis! Most of the Dropzone Commenter team had the good fortune to attend the show and talk with Dave, Simon, and Louis about the future of Hawk Wargames, the new units for Dropzone Commander, and even get the first official demo of Dropfleet Commander ever (more on this last one in another article…soon)! We’ve been talking about this over on our Facebook page since the show, but now that I’ve had a few days to recover from a mad Best Four Days in Gaming, I wanted to share a bit about what I heard, observations about some upcoming trends, and some speculations about the future of DZC, starting with the poor bloody infantry.

Let’s Talk Troops

It’s no secret that the new units we’ve seen so far for DZC over on the Hawk website focused heavily on the infantry of the game, and from what I saw, this will remain a central (if not THE central) theme of Reconquest Phase II.

The question I’ve seen on the Hawk forums, and you may even be asking yourself, is – why? If you’re like me and the other players in our group, infantry often only have two jobs: handling objectives; and starting CQBs with other infantry to prevent them from handling objectives. Barring a few holes in infantry choices (like the Scourge’s lack of a true CQB focused Exotic choice), the game as-is has both those bases covered pretty well as-is.

So why pay more points for a unit of PHR Immortal snipers or UCM mortar teams when cheaper options can search and fight just as well (or better)? This leads us to the crux of how Reconquest Phase II is going to shake up DZC even more than the previous book, and perhaps any wave of Dropzone releases to date.

The New Kids on the Block

So let’s get down to brass tacks – what’s so special about all these new infantry that they’re going to shake up the game? Well, beyond what you can see over on the Hawk Summer Releases page, there were a slew of new units on display at Gen Con. Since the first rule of writing is “show, not tell”…let’s start with what I learned about them from Dave himself, with a little speculation about where they’ll fit in your lists for good measure.

DropzoneCommenterHS3NOTE: Hawk Wargames dropped the rules for most of the new units discussed here literally 2 days after I completed the article, so you’ll find links to their experimental rules in their titles throughout. I’ll dropping in my impressions of the actual rules in callout text like this.

PHR Medusa (Exotic choice)

01-PHR-Medusa

Dave described the Medusa as “the most badass infantry in the game, who can sweep away tanks with impunity.” She’s literally one in a million Siren, who controls a cloud of familiars (AI drones) who give her tremendous powers, and a ton of DP. She comes with a unit size of 1, and is almost certainly Rare. Apparently, she is unusual in that she’s strongest in the open, where she can support other units, rather than in CQB (“she’s good, but she’s easily outnumbered in a fight”).

Her attendant Triton-X dropship can help her heal by replenishing familiars, and also has an indirect fire weapon akin to the Hades’ Black Nanomachines weapon – a cloud of nanites that attack and digest opponents in the open!

DropzoneCommenterHS3UPDATE FROM THE COMMENTER: Holy. Crap. The Medusa lives up to her reputation, making oft-groused about units like Resistance Freeriders look like chumps in comparison! For 90 points, you get a 10 DP, Dispersed Formation, Evasion +3 Countermeausure, Dodge 3+ unit that basically flies without being an aircraft (making her immune to Reaction Fire), can add 5 dice to CQBs within 6″, and that can either repair vehicles or fire an 10-shot, 2+ Accuracy, E7, Focus-2, Strafe weapon! The Medusa-X does indeed have a shorter-ranged version of the Hades’ Black Nanomachines, or can heal the Medusa at will. She is nothing short of goddamn amazing, and she does it all for the price of a Sirens unit + light dropship.

If you have the misfortune of being on the wrong side of a Medusa, bust out those Flame weapons and machine guns – she’s only A1, so you’ll need lots of shots to overcome her Evasion CM and cut back her massive pile of DP.

PHR Valkyries (Scout choice)

02-PHR-Valkyries

Not everyone who undergoes Siren training makes the cut…and it is from these lesser-agents that Valkyries are drawn. According to Dave, they are equipped with armor similar to the Immortals, pistols like the Sirens, and jetpacks that allow them to move quickly from building to building. While I doubt they will move as fast or as far as Resistance’s Freeriders, I’m sure they’ll have enough movement to move independently of their dropship and the armor and skills to stand up in CQB pretty well.

DropzoneCommenterHS3UPDATE FROM THE COMMENTER: Though I got the classification wrong, I had most of the bits on the Valkyries right – and they turned out even better than I expected. As a Scout choice, you can now effectively transform your Pegasus Groups (Scout/Exotic choices) into fast-moving infantry battlegroups, especially paired with the Medusa. These ladies are sort of like the infantry version of the Apollo Type-3 walker; they can disembark from structures using their full 9″ movement, and have the same “flyer-but-not-aircraft” movement of the Medusa which lets them hop buildings under 6″ as they will. They also have E+1 countermeasures and 5+ dodge for about 10 points more than Immortals, so they’re going to make a great CQB support unit for your other infantry and a nice spotter unit for Indirect Fire weapons like Tarannis and Black Nanomachines.

Resistance Attack ATVs (Support choice?)

03-Resistance-Attack-ATVs

Cousins to the infamous Freeriders, Attack ATVs carry much more firepower in the form of the chem-grenade launcher. Dave tells me that this weapon is similar to CS gas: you can fire chem-grenades into a structure (occupied or not), and note the gassing with a token. At the beginning of the turn, you roll for each token, causing the gas to either dissipate, to force infantry in the structure to abandon the structure, or to abandon the structure after suffering damage! These bikes look to be an excellent new tool for controlling enemy movement and disrupting their chances of finding objectives.

Resistance Sappers (Exotic or Support choice?)

04-Resistance-Sappers

The first new infantry we’ve seen for Resistance since their launch, Sappers are a big departure from the short range and CQB of their predecessors. The conceit of Sappers is that, as natives to the warzone, they have set traps throughout the battlefield prior to the battle, which they “trigger” as normal shooting attacks. These attacks can take many forms: demolitions charges in a building (presumably a Demo-2+ attack); anti-tank mines (probably a single high-E attack); or a sinkhole that can swallow vehicles whole (an Area weapon with lower E or which creates a patch of cover?). I personally love “unplanned ambush” style mechanics in wargames, so these are going to join my Resistance post-haste!

Resistance Scout ATVs (Scout choice)

05-Resistance-Scout-ATVs

A heretofore-unseen unit, I only got a little information from Dave (much of which I forgot in the fog of Gen Con). He mentioned that Scout ATVs will be great at spotting for all the Resistance’s Barrage and Indirect Fire weapons; judging from the radar dishes mounted where the weapons are on the Attack ATVs, perhaps they have enhanced ECM or detection abilities which can enhance or protect nearby units?

Shaltari Pungari Auxilliaries (Troops choice)

06-Shaltari-Pungari

The Pungari are a big departure from the traditional armored-tough-and-elite Braves and Firstborn Shaltari players are accustomed to. If you’re a Warhammer player, the Pungari play a role similar to the Goblins in an Orc army: they’re small, numerous (each blister includes enough Pungari for 8 bases of troops, and can be taken in squads of at least 4!), lightly armored, and poorly-disciplined. And, much like Goblins, they make up for these shortcomings by being the cheapest infantry in the game, performing better when they’re in close proximity to better troops, and relying on their numbers to carry the day.

According to Dave, Pungari Fortitude (morale) is quite good when they share a structure with a Shaltari unit, but once they are left alone, it jumps straight up to 6+, making them mainly good in backfield roles or as backup to their “betters.” Dave also mentioned their shooting is “decent” and they can teleport, with a very low Fine Mass value (.5?) so they can still use gates to hop around the table like a sci-fi clown car. Their introduction will be a welcome piece of news to Shaltari players everywhere, who are probably still reeling with the news that the Caiman grav tank and Gaia and Eden gates are all increasing in points cost…

DropzoneCommenterHS3UPDATE FROM THE COMMENTER: All my speculation was on the money with these guys (thanks Dave!). At 18 points a base with a squad size of 4, you’re getting a pretty sweet deal for the way most people use infantry currently – 20 DP total for just 72 points is a great bullet/Falling Masonry sponge to throw into hotly-contested objective buildings. Their real weakness is going to be CQB, with their terrible CQB0.5 and Fortitude 6+, but that’s OK – the good news is there are no Fortitude tests from Falling Masonry or shooting!

UCM Heavy Hazard Suits (Exotic choice)

08-UCM-Hazard-Suits

These former deep-space mining suits have been repurposed as battle armor for UCM elites. I confirmed the weapon they carry is a light railgun (perhaps E9?), and speculate they’ll probably get A4 and/or the Tough rule to represent the beating their suits can take. In your face, Shaltari!

DropzoneCommenterHS3UPDATE FROM THE COMMENTER: Pretty close to the mark here again – these guys rock Armor 4, Dispersed Formation, and the Hazard Suit rule (which is like the Shaltari Warsuit rule, but only taking Falling Masonry on a 6+ and the inability to shoot and search in the same turn), putting them on equal footing durability-wise to Shaltari Braves/Firstborn and Scourge Eviscerators/Destroyers. Their light railguns are VERY light (E7) but have Focus-2, so will be pretty good at picking off a single tank or hammering a building each turn. The best part about these guys, though, is the price – just 70 points for a full squad! Unlike all the new “bulky” UCM infantry, Hazard Suits can use Bear APCs or Ravens, making them a tough and inexpensive alternative to Praetorians.

UCM Legionnaire Flak Teams (Troops choice)

07-UCM-Flak-Teams

Like the Mortars, flak teams are crew-served weapons I expect will have a big impact on how people perceive the UCM (especially DZCasualty!). Dave tells me the guns are “good AA, comparable to a Rapier with a bit less strength” so I’ll guess we’re looking at 3 E6 shots per base…Though I don’t know their classification, the fact they are AA leads me to expect flak teams may be a Support choice.

DropzoneCommenterHS3UPDATE FROM THE COMMENTER: My favorite thing about these guys is the AA fire – as I predicted, E6 with 3 shots – and the fact they are Troops, so you can mix them up with Mortars or Legionnaires as needed. They only have a 12″ countered range, but 68 points is a great price for 6 AA shots – especially considering they can do everything just as well as regular Legionnaires with 1 more DP per base to boot. Like Mortar Teams and Heavy Hazard Suits, the size of their guns require them to move about in Bear APCs – get ready to dust off some starter set models!

Of course, this was not all I learned about the future of Dropzone Commander at Gen Con – there was a discussion about a Scourge gunship that deposits Razorworms in structures via building-smashing pods; a generic version of General Wade’s massive Broadsword tank; and so on. But let’s leave those for another time, and talk about what we learned.

Looking at Troops in a New Light

After talking with Dave about all the new troops coming to DZC, I realized that the newest infantry units seem designed to challenge the most basic notions we’ve had about infantry from day one – namely, that they’re only there to find and fight for objectives and intel. Some lessons I learned:

Infantry Need Options, Too: What we’re seeing in the newest and upcoming waves for Dropzone Commander is infantry gaining the same level of variety we see in the rest of the armies. Based on what I’ve seen thus far and from Gen Con, the next expansion will bring give every faction at least 2 options in the Exotics and Troops slots (just as Reconquest Phase I did for Standard choices), allowing commanders to build lists that reflect the role they want their infantry to take on the battlefield. I think we’ll also going to see infantry as Support, Scout or maybe even Heavy choices, further adding to the variety in lists and new opportunities in army building.

Infantry Should Be Credible Battlefield Threats: The newest infantry units in DZC are also the first that deserve to be considered combat units, first and foremost. For instance, PHR longreach snipers’ huge amount of Shaped Charge shots let them threaten armored units; UCM Flak teams throw out AA fire comparable to dedicated vehicles like the Rapier or Kukri; Scourge Eviscerators with an insane CQB of 6 can mulch any other unit in the game (at the expense of searching); Resistance Sappers can blow up buildings or tanks with impunity; and the PHR Medusa is (according to Dave) is full-on beast mode who can stand up to enemy armor. In the future, we will very likely be seeing troops whose primary purpose is to fight, and who search only when they’ve got nothing else to do – the opposite of the current case.

Infantry Belong All Over the Battlefield: Considering the new capabilities of infantry, we’re also going to start seeing troops in places No Sane Infantryman Has Gone Before…somewhere other than the center of a building! Infantry with powerful shooting, like Resistance Sappers or Immortal Snipers, will often be at the walls of buildings to get the best line of sight for their great shooting, while troops who are tough or easily-protected from counterfire (such as the Medusa or UCM mortar teams) will even go onto the roof or even into the open!

But perhaps the most shocking new move I expect the new infantry to make is the jump to structures without an objective – especially in the case of combat units. There are many reasons while this will happen:

  • their commanders will want to get those units deployed and shooting as quickly as possible;
  • they will need good sightline to take as much advantage of their capabilities as possible; and
  • by pushing into buildings without objectives, these troops force the enemy to make a tough choice – do they persecute the infantry who are exposed on the wall and causing damage to their forces, or do they try and stop the infantry who are trying to score a potentially game-winning objective?

This is an entirely new strategic vector for Dropzone Commander battles, and makes the game all the more tactically rich and satisfying.

Infantry Should Not Be One-Trick Ponies: Coming full circle, I think the new DZC infantry will force all of us – both as commanders and as opponents – to stop underestimating how infantry can impact the outcome of the game. We’re going to see swarms of Shaltari, fast PHR, armored UCM, and super-fighty Scourge, all of which are going to “mix up the meta,” as the tournament players like to say. What I’ve seen indicates both a willingness to free factions from being pigeonholed by their traits (coughPHRcough), and a desire to use those traits to further characterize the core natures of their forces. I doubt we’ll see all factions starting to look like each other anytime soon…but I for one am glad to see new options offered to every commander to fully customize his or her force.

Muster the Troops!

That was much longer than I expected – but I hope you are as excited as I am for the future of infantry in Dropzone Commander. While I have no illusions we’ll suddenly see “infantry-heavy” forces, I for one welcome our new 10mm overlords and the variety of choices they bring with them. The new tactics and opportunities to create our own “perfect army” will never be greater than the next 6 months. So get ready to think out of the box!

We’ll see you next week; I’m off to sleep for most of that. If you want to see more pics from our Gen Con, pop on over to our Facebook page to stay up on our updates and upcoming articles.

May the dice roll ever in your favor, Commanders!

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