Sunday, 26 July 2015

Humanity Divided — UCM vs PHR

So, rolled up to Mark's today with two game ready (read: somewhat painted) forces for Dropzone Commander. Now, some of these things I've had virtually since the game released… three years ago. And despite my love for the game, I have been rather lazy; but finding willing opponents to play a new system isn't always easy. So that's why I've got two armies, plus terrain.

Anyway, on with the battle: A Skirmish level engagement, with 750 points a side. To keep things simple we played Targets of Opportunity. So that means 3 central structures, each with an objective.

The battlefield, a decent cluster of mid-sized buildings. We decided to rule that the leftmost objective building (white hangar) was small, rather than normal size. The central office block was large, and the rightmost office tower was normal.

Terrain density might not be quite right, but this is our fist game of DzC. For those interested, the central buildings are Blotz MDF terrain. The other bunches are old 6mm Battletech resin buildings.
 Mark won the initiative and started by moving up the UCM infantry Condor full speed, preparing to drop the infantry on turn 2.
 My response was to zoom one Triton up the right flank…
 …and one up the left.

Taking Tritons over Junos (APCs) is cheaper, and gives more tactical flexibility, but Tritons are very fragile, so need to be used carefully.
 Mark drops his Rapiers to threaten my Triton on the right flank. The Sabres dropped next to them a moment later.
 Both of my armour squads (one Ares, one Phobos each) move up at full speed. There's going to be a whole lot of targets soon enough.
 Mark flies on full speed with his Falcons, preparing to engage anything I might drop later.

 My Janus squadron zips up, preparing to deploy and rain hell on the central building.
Turn 2 starts, and Mark piles both Legionnaire teams into the central structure after once again winning initiative.
 I put Immortals into the left objective building…
 …and also the right.

Now both me and Mark have to wait a turn as our squads make their way through the structures to begin their search.
 One dropship from the UCM armour group fires a missile into the warehouse, hitting something vital and blasting a gaping hole in the roof that rains debris on the Immortals. 4 die in the chaos of falling masonry.
 After Mark's tanks have spread out, and the Rapiers have been picked up, I drop both my armour squadrons, knowing one of them is going to take some punishing fire.
 The Falcons on the far left engage the Phobos, but despite riddling it with heavy rounds, fail to breach its heavy armour.

In the centre the Janus squadron disembarks, their Tritons showering the central building with missiles. Their heavy fire is enough to remove an entire base of Legionnaires.
 Mark wins initiative for turn 3 and begins by searching with both Legionnaire squads. Neither manage to find anything of value in the massive structure.

My Immortals, on the other hand, luck out in the office tower, scooping the objective from the first floor before rushing back to their dropship.

The Immortals on the opposite flank are not so lucky, despite only needing a 4+ to find their target. Pants.

 The objective, held tight by the Immortals inside the Triton.
 Mark redeploys his Rapiers, ready to try and gun down the Triton as it moves next turn. One Sabre rolls up and gets line of sight to an Ares, managing to cause 1 damage.

Here Mark made good use of the Articulated rule to allow him to make the shot over the Rapiers that would normally have been in the way. The Condors also fire as many missiles as possible at the left objective structure.
 My armour group activates, the damaged Ares blowing apart the Sabre that shot it with a single round.

The Phobos on the far left takes a number of shots at the Falcons, but fails to hit anything.
 The Falcons bug out, flying back and strafing the objective structure as they pass. Only 3 DP left until collapse. Things are looking pretty hairy for the Immortals in there.
Turn 4 sees me finally win the initiative, but despite my best attempts at evasive manoeuvres, the objective carrying Triton is shot to pieces by the waiting Rapier squad.

The Immortals at least manage to escape unscathed, but are now stuck in the open with lots of enemy tanks nearby. Not good.
 On the opposite flank the Immortals in the warehouse fail to find the objective, and with the entire building on the verge of collapse, reluctantly board their transport, darting back behind the Phobos's protective AA bubble.
Mark activates his infantry group, finding the objective in the central structure, then bailing to climb aboard his Bears and dusting off with the Condor…

…which is shredded by rail rounds at flies through the corridor through which the Phobos could see. Everything survived in a barely controlled landing. The I activated the armour group, and the Ares put a single round clean through the Bear's engine block, putting it permanently out of action.
 Mark's Sabres engage my Immortals, wiping out the entire squad. Their Condor put on the last point of damage.

The Rapiers move up and fire—and not until later did we realise that Mark had already reaction fired. I repeated the mistake myself not much later.
The Januses, starting from behind the office block, dash out to the side and rain hell upon the Legionnaires from the destroyed Bear. They die just as horribly as my Immortals did.
 Mark's Falcons then sweep past, obliterating two of the light walkers.
 Turn 5 sees me win Initiative again, picking up and hot-dropping my surviving Januses on the objective. I did actually forget about the LZ is Hot rule, but I think I landed more than 3" from the Bear. The Januses would still have had enough movement if the Triton had to land further back.
 Mark retaliates by throwing the might of his Sabres and remaining Condors at the diminutive walkers, eliminating both in a display of total overkill.
 With the AO clear for now, the surviving Legionnaires jump out of their Bear, scoop up the objective, and re-embark seconds later. The Bear then begins what will be a very slow drive to the board edge.
Which is cut dangerously short by a pair of railgun rounds from my armour group, spilling the Legionnaires onto the pavement, but not harming any of them.

And they still hold that blasted objective.
Mark's Falcons take some potshots at my Phobos, but fail to damage.

 Turn 6 sees Mark winning initiative and trying to take out my armour with his Falcons. He does a grand total of 1 damage with those monstrous cannons.

My other Immortal squad blasts past in their Triton, but the Rapiers prove just as deadly as last time, turning the dropship into a pile of flaming wreckage carving a deep furrow in the asphalt. No one's walking away from that one.
I then throw everything I can at a single, damaged squad of infantry. They still have 3 DP left.
My last gasp is the remaining Triton, but Mark activates his Legionnaires first, and in sunning display of marksmanship, they take out the Triton chasing them, ending the game.

So, at the end of things, Mark wins 1-0.

Aside from a few rule hiccups, I'd say it was a fairly successful game. It really did seem to accelerate towards the end; but it takes a fair bit of getting used to the idea that you can't shoot when deploying, and that the average tank is only as tough as a single trooper in a 28mm skirmish game.

Mark made some good points about the tactical flexibility inherent in each list, but for now, most of the imbalance comes down to the models I have on hand (ie: actually built/painted). It's hard to make mirror lists though, because each faction works in distinctly different ways, and has trade-offs in either price or effectiveness of its units that reflect that.

Overall, it's likely a very balanced game, but at low points levels it's a bit harder to grasp that balance. Much reference was made to tactical rock-paper-scissors though, and that comment feels right for this game. Everything has a hard counter, which is fairly easy to see in most cases; but a lot of things also have soft counters that are more down to playstyle or resource management. There's quite a lot of depth there, and I'm looking forward to playing more.

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