Friday, 4 September 2015

Why Fly When You Can Drive?

Mask - Confusing cars for planes since 1985
When people think Dropzone Commander, they are sure to think of active, cinematic battles taking place between two detachments which are deployed via dropship into premium tactical positions. Boiling it down even further, you are going to be thinking of dropships. Dropships, to drop your tanks into the dropzone, right? This method of deployment isn't always the case though, and some armies prefer to use as few dropships as possible. Enter the drive on squad. It isn't uncommon to see entire tank formations trundle on the board edge, and for those new or unfamiliar to the game it could beg the question; Why?!

In this post I'll be running through why we drive units on and some of the better units to do it with. So tug on your driving gloves and take the roof down, let's get the wind in our hair! And if you've been drinking, don't worry, this is private land...

Note: The subject matter of this post was inspired by one of our reader's who asked about the benefits of driving vehicles on. If you have any questions ping them over to and I will be happy to answer them; who knows, you may even get a post about your query! 

Bringing The House Down

DzC is a game of objectives, and typically speaking these objectives are going to be housed inside buildings. Games are won on the balance of whether or not you can find more of these objectives than your opponent, and what better way is there to deny your foe gaining victory points than, say, nuking the building and the objective! Oh, and all of their infantry at the same time... Many units which drive on will either be demolition specialists, or units who just happen to be very good at it as a by-product of their weapon systems. To name a few, the Enyo, Caiman and Katana are all superb drive on demolition units.

Marching a healthy number of these tanks on will result in being able to hammer an important building in turn 1, and if you're lucky anihilate it before your opponent gets to react. This tactic can give you a big upper hand in the game early on (unless of course your adversary does the same to you). I'm not a big lover of the demolition game, but cannot deny that it is very much a viable tactic for 4 of the 5 races (sorry Scourge, your range is just too piddly).
Tanks like the Katana and Caiman can also play in an anti-tank role too, so you get even more bang for your buck when including these chaps in your force.

Speedy Tankzalez
Unlike my ego, the warzone has a finite size and it will be traversed quickly by some ground units. Let me rephrase that; your board is only 48"x48", and tanks can be nippy! Some of the forces at your disposal can move so quickly that they don't need a dropship to launch them into battle. Choosing not to purchase dropships for fast units like the Wolverine or Yari can save you precious points whilst list building.

The Longer The Barrel, The Further The Pain
Some vehicles in the dropzone universe pack war-criminally large, dangerous guns, which can happily sit at the back of the board and blast away. Tanks like the Scimitar, Hyperion and Ocelot don't need to be in the midst of the action to perform, and actually prefer to be kept away from it. Due to their preference to stay at the back and away from the danger, it often makes little sense to purchase a dropship for them.

The Craft Of Being Tight-Fisted
Some of the more unique models in your collection may sometimes be useful at both mid or back table, but end up being to pricey too deploy via dropship. An example would be the Hades or Nemesis when transported by a Posseidon. These chaps are quite happy to stride from the back of the board, taking the full six turns to get to their destination. On the other hand, if you were to fork out for the Posseidon you could happily drop them mid-table and let them stomp about there.

Some other unique units don't require a dropship to work at their best, and prefer to hug the back of the board. A couple of examples are the Ferrum and Kodiak (you don't want a Ferrum anywhere near the fight!). Although these tanks require secrecy to perform to their most effcient, you can purchase a dropship for turn 5/6 focal point grabbing if you lack in ground forces. Having the points to get a transport for these guys is often a luxury that can't be afford though, and generally isn't necessary.

For an even cleverer and more frustrating example of not needing to take dropships, we can turn our attention to the entire Shaltari army. As all units can share Gates, there is no need to fork out a hefty sum on redundant gates. Most Spacehog armies will get by on 2/3 medium gates for all of their non-infantry ground units.

Saving points on dropships can really add up, and could allow you to fit in that extra unit you wanted, or upgrade your CV value.

Dropping The Troops Off
The new waves of infantry which have hit the shelves have changed the way in which some troops act, and these squads can work well when driven onto the board in their land APC's. Squads like the Mortar teams and Longreach rifle don't want to be getting into to combat, and using them to extract objectives is a waste of the unit and its fire power. As such, a slower (and cheaper) APC can be handed objectives from a back board building for it to drive of the board rather than lose the whole squad, which is what happens when using a light dropship. 

For The Host Among Us
In a switch-reversal from the theme of this post, I've got some bad news for all Scourge fans; you suck at driving on from the board edge. Always resist the temptation to drive on a unit of Hunters or Reapers, as Scourge are an alpha strike army, and need to be deployed quickly and into the heart of battle to excel. Saving on the cost of a Marauder will make your units far less efficient and is never worth the trade off. Don't worry though, all of your dropships pack a far meaner punch than any other race's!

At the end of the day all these 'drive-on' units can operate from dropship deployment, and how to best deploy your vehicles onto the battlefield very much depends on what suits the player's army the best. What units do you all drive on, and why?


  1. Good post. Clear answer to the q.
    I drive on simitair and wolverines. I like to keep my katanas mobile as i dont bring alot of armour. My main focus is airborn. As in 2falcons 2archangels 1 seraphim.

  2. I've had two particularly memorable experiences bringing dropships for PHR. The first was relocating my Hades (which was a surprising maneuver?) to grab a focal point late game. The second was once when my Zeus and commander faced off with nine hunters, I picked him up until I dropped him on the focal point on the last turn. The hunters (and the other player) were a little peeved.

    Those have been the only two moments that stand out though. Usually, mounting up in 40 and 70 point dropships results into much lost firepower to justify. It's definitely a tough balance to reach.

    Thanks for the read!

  3. Great post, Dan, and very timely in terms of the new Infantry units that we've been blessed with (oops, sorry, Shaltari!) and the APCs that they can use to great effect.

    I've been playing pretty much exclusively with my beloved PHR for months now, and as a combination of points constraints and being traumatized too often by Turn 1 arrivals of FMs, I've taken to bringing a single, walk-on Phobos. This provides me with much needed backfield AA support for my light dropships, too many of which were getting sniped by FMs before they could disgorge their charges into a structure (curse you, Warspear!). So as a result of either having a bunch of points left over, or not enough for something bigger, I've been employing a walk-on Phobos, and it's been great!

    I also have been walking on my Nemesis commander exclusively since I acquired him (early, thanks to a ninja-shopping friend at Adepticon), and that gives me something to shoot with from the get-go; and he's been awesome! Combined with the walk-on Phobos, they give me good Turn 1 options and coverage, and both are usually able to make it to midfield by the end of the game, if necessary (albeit sometimes with the help of an exceptional surface roadway and/or an Experimental Gyros command card).

    I don't like driving Helios on because their guns are too short-ranged to be effective in early turns, and because my Helios drivers have lately been eating far more than their daily ration of red meat, and have gotten in touch with their inner aggressive selves. They want to be forward fast, but on the ground Turn 1 and in cover, too, so I always try to bring a Neptune for them, however many of them I bring...

    Enyos are just fine to walk on, but in today's game my opponent took a squad of three, which I found to really be the optimal number for early and certain building demo. He definitely dictated which structures I could and shouldn't go in from the start of the game with three of them.

    A big blob of Apollos is also great to walk on. I know their Air Drop rule is sexy and enticing, but they do just fine walking on and staying out of the way of long range firepower Turn 1, then jumping out and pouncing and pounding something (Note to self: Always assume James has a Countermeasures Hack in his hand Turn 1!) >.<

    Hyperions are OK to walk on, but generally if I take one it'll be as the bodyguard for my Zeus, if I take a Zeus (which I don't these days) and if I can't afford a second Zeus to accompany my Zeus commander. Zeus. (It's a fun word to say. Go ahead, try it!)

    As far as other armies go, I like driving Scimitars on now that they've got a Mf of 1". They're really quite effective at shutting down lanes of movement, and I dread facing them when my opponent takes a squad of them. Certainly Kodiak's and Ferrums are fine to drive on, too, although I do advocate a Condor occasionally for the Kodiak to get to a close Focal Point Turn 5/6, if points allow. With those two a drive on squad of Rapiers is never a bad idea, IMHO, too. Wolverines I like to slingshot forward, but I'll give them a try without Raven-Bs at some point to see if they can still get into a good position to snipe a light dropship or two early on...

    There's not anything in Resistance that I'd drive on, tho, especially Hannibals, and even tho Zhukovs have a great reach, I think they need a Lifthawks, too. The Alex does, too, I think, unless he's your backup commander and all you want him to do is demo duty, and to get started at it right away...

    And I have not yet corrupted my soul by playing with the Shaltari I've purchased (they're still getting painted, or so I've been told), so I have no comment there in terms of what I'd drive on, other than the obvious choices of the Caiman, which I own, and the Ocelot, which I do not. (I have ~some~ scruples!...)


    1. I've seen Hunters brought on in big numbers to frightening effect, but you make a good point about the Alpha Strikiness that Scourge should pursue, and in retrospect that's probably why I haven't seen much overall success from my Scourge-playing friends. I will keep that in mind when I finally turn my attention to my rather large, dust-gathering Scourge collection...

      Thanks again!