Friday, 28 October 2016

Space… Where no one can hear you curse your dice

Time for us here at OB towers (in Orbital Bombardmentonville) to hand over the reigns for a guest blogger. We have heard from him before......... it's non other than our south coast talon Mr Michael Russell.

So without further glittering of the faeces, enlighten us in the ways of Dropfleet Mr Russell

Oh, I got my dispatch notice today (Friday 28/10/16) So happy!!

Someone's been busy with his Admiral pledge
With the skies beginning to darken as invasion fleets around the world are arriving at their destinations it seems time to get a few words out regarding this phenomenon.

After having managed to get a few games in with the starter fleets, one or two larger games and doing a whole lot of reading it was decided that I’d be the perfect candidate to write (another) blog post for Orbital Bombardment mostly because I was stupid enough to make a throw away comment taunting the illustrious Mega Mike so here it is in all its gory glory.

Now that is a BIG box of goodies
I’m mainly going to focus on my impressions of the game so far and what I’ve experienced from my models and reading of the book so if you’re looking for a full write up of what’s out there that’ll no doubt come later.

So without further ado, let’s hit the launch button on this warzone destined post.

The Book (Or how to conquer a planet in 5 easy steps and several hundred hard ones)

First off, allow me to say that from a production stand point this thing is gorgeous. Slick with a nice production value and shiny enough to keep anyone waving it around in sunlight distracted for a good long while.

Having been gaming for a good long while the layout really hits the nostalgia right on the nose from my days gone by playing Battlefleet Gothic. This does take a little getting used to again though given everything else we have is in a portrait layout but there are merits to this madness. The pages more readily stay open during play so you can leave a reference open until you’ve finished with it and there’s scope for some more expansive art pieces to be shown, this is highlighted with the double page spread of the New Orleans schematic in the middle for instance along with the handy ship images with each of their profiles.

Concerns have been raised about the durability of this design though given there’s less contact between the pages and spine but it’s too early to say whether this will be a long term issue. The card sleeve the rulebook is provided with though will grant some protection when not in use but having it sat on your shelf isn’t where most of the wear and tear will occur.

Who is Traffic James?

As most are probably aware of by now there were revisions being made to the rules and fluff within the book right up until publication and while functional, this and the increased number of authors when compared with the original Dropzone release does show in places.

The rules themselves are, by my opinion, straight forward and for the most part easy to understand. There’s no messy CQB here although a few of the newer concepts take a moment to practice. Weapon ranges being fluid for instance and the presence of orders which significantly impact ships depending on which one is in use.
There are a few gaps in places where something changed in development and hasn’t quite filtered through everywhere but these aren’t necessarily game breaking and with a bit of consideration the intention can be worked out until an FAQ document is released.

Finally, Typos. Comical, irritating or just plain obvious in places. They are there. This is by no means the worst we’ve seen from Hawk and compared with some rules publications out there this looks like Shakespearian verse but nonetheless there are a few gaffs. Nothing is show stopping but it does take away a little from an otherwise commendable effort and decent publication (and not in the Tikka to ride kind of take away.)

Do you want to build a SPACESHIP!

The models, you’ve seen them and I’m assuming that if you’re reading this then you want them too and I can’t blame you. These are things of beauty and make no mistake about it.

The decision to start with plastic rather than resin means we get a very high quality product with none of the typical drawbacks. From a model engineering view point the kits are well designed, well thought out and do everything expected of them. The pieces, and this extends to the base spinners too, are very precise so the more time spent cleaning up the parts the easier a time you’ll have building the ships. There are a couple of drawbacks in places though and these mostly come from the positioning of the sprue connectors to the ship parts.

It’s an inevitable fact of life on a sprue that there’s got to be somewhere on a part which connects and with the amount of detail squeezed onto each component there are going to be some which end up in unfortunate places.

The Shaltari and PHR ships are the key examples of this regrettably, the Shaltari because of the amount of detail covering their hulls particularly with the small spines means that there are going to be places where the connectors are right up against something making it difficult to clip out without damaging the part and the PHR because of the large smooth Dorsal plating which is regrettably obvious when something’s either been left or when too much has been taken away.

In both cases careful use of a scalpel rather than clippers, a tiny bit of restoration work or, more so with the Shaltari, a complimentary paint coat will resolve any issues which come up. Even if something does get left over with a bit of care it’s not too obvious on the table so won’t take anything away from the effect.

The space station sprue is brilliant, potentially daunting at first because of the level of customisation available but otherwise all the fun you can have with it is probably worth its own post so that’s all I’ll say about it here.

Colour coordinating your engine of destruction

Judging from the amount of photos circulating the various groups and from my own experiences these models don’t take long to paint to a good looking standard. Having painted all 4 starter sets in less than 24 hours I know this to be the case without a doubt thinking about it.

While detailed there are a number of simple techniques which are well documented such as dry-brushing and ink washing which can garner superb results with a minimum of effort. The only point I’d make about these models from a painting viewpoint is that occasionally some of the detail on the plastic isn’t as pronounced as it should be. Whether this is due to the injection moulding process or another anomaly you may need to take a bit of care to make sure something doesn’t get obscured. This was something very minor on the models I received but happened in places across all 4 fleets so just bear it in mind if you paint with a slightly heavier paint.

Biggles learns to fly

On to the game itself. So after all your studying, assembling, painting and patience has paid off what is it like when you finally get to jump your fleet in against your hapless foe?
To see your enemies driven before you and hear the lamentations of their ground pounding folk?

For me?


That’s right, I’m having fun. Be it in a starter game or something larger I have been waiting for a game like this for an age and I am enjoying myself immensely. And I think you will too when you get around to playing Dropfleet if you haven’t already.

Game in full swing
It’s challenging without being awkward, it’s intuitive and looks damn good on the table with only a bit of set up.

The starter sets will get you going but should only be treated as an indication of what you’re wanting to do with a fleet. The game is still like Dropzone in that you’re going to want a blend of ships to fulfill differing roles on the table. You’re going to want enough landers (which I don’t think you get enough strike carriers in the starter fleets unless you’re Shaltari), you’re also going to want enough bombardment, enough carrier support and enough anti-ship weapons. Missing parts in a key area mid game isn’t necessarily going to cost you the game but it’s going to make things much harder especially as Dropfleet has the same focus on scenarios and objectives as Dropzone, rather than simply swatting the enemy.

There are also a few balance questions which will need addressing, in some cases these are caused by not having all the tools available yet (I’m looking at you Corvettes) but in others things will need tweaking as time goes on and metas develop. 

There are a few things I’m going to be keeping an eye on to see how they progress as, for example, the most powerful single weapon in the game is without a doubt the Particle Triad on the Shaltari Diamond class battleship; this beast of a weapon hits on 2+, has 3 shots causing 2 damage each and auto crits meaning no save because of the particle rule, this also applies to passive saves too. So that’s regularly crippling a cruiser with reasonable rolls. On top of that however the weapon causes crippling damage whenever it scores a critical hit due to another rule it has so that hapless cruiser mentioned earlier? Will now be rolling twice on the damage table and applying both meaning it has a good chance of being one shotted.

This isn’t to say such a tool is completely broken, with the range mechanic and things like silent running hiding from this brute may not be as hard as initially thought, especially with accuracy modifiers and line of sight blocking from debris fields being a thing but it’s something to be keeping an eye on.

On the other end of the scale I will make a special note of the Jakarta frigate for UCM. This little gem has a total of 1 shot… hitting on 5+. As you’ve guessed you’re not bringing it for that. No, this plucky little frigate has the aegis rule meaning it adds point defence dice to any nearby ship on its layer …and it stacks.

This means that this piddly little ship which can be added to every battlegroup and purchased individually can free up all your carriers to chuck bombers everywhere rather than having to launch some fighters because that scary Scourge Wyvern might get a bit close this turn.
In time I suspect both of these ships will be toned down a bit to bring everything in line but both function in vastly different ways so as to reflect briefly the breadth of tools available to the budding Admiral.

Regardless I’ve probably taken enough of everyone's time providing this brief insight to Dropfleet and thank you for reading.


  1. Nicely done, Michael! Thank you!

    What do you think of the PHR? Are their broadsides powerful enough? Is their Launch values enough? Is their OB capability too much?

  2. They have OB up the wazoo for want of a better wayu of putting it, it's everywhere. So you shouldn't ever have an issue with that. The most I've had in a list is 4 strike carriers and the ganymede>

    Launch wise they're a little more multi purpose with their carriers until you get to heavy cruiser and above (so scipio and Bellephron) at which point they can easily do the business.

    The broadsides are a little odd though, they're potent in most cases and get work done but at times they feel a little underwhelming. That said for broadsides I'm actually preferring lighter ships such as the theseus and the europa for actual fighting, the other ships it's more of a bonus. I'm yet to get an effective run from the perseus however for reference JD.

  3. Hi, thanks for this, it's really helpful to get a better feel for the game as I'm still working out what to build from my pledge.

    Your ships look great, could you let us know how you did them? I'm particularly interested in your Scourge and PHR schemes. Thanks!

  4. No worries. You'll probably find you'll learn a lot about your force after agame or two so it may be worth having a quick play with the bases or such to give you an idea of what does what.

    The paint schemes for the Phr was coat the model with gunmetal, Drybrush chainmail with a highlight of silver (using vallejo colours)
    The black is just hard edged in a couple of the dorsal sections with blues and a bit of white with a bit of a tidy up afterwards. And then blue on the lights on the fins.

    The group photo while I was working to a studio similar scheme was i think flat flesh as a base, maybe a lighter tone then highlighted using bone and white on gradients.

    The scourge were very simple. Basecoat gunmetal, Drybrush chainmail, Drybrush silver. Coat with gulliman blue glaze and remove the excess. Detail with red for the "eyes" and then gloss varnish brushed on with the engines done afterwards.

    1. Thanks, that's really helpful.

  5. The new character they introduced, Col. Traffic James, was the first thing I saw when I opened the book for a flick through. Brought a smile to my face!