Dropzone interest has been falling off in my area, lately. To help combat that trend I decided to organize an escalation league over at Endgame in Oakland to encourage new players. We had 12 folks signed up, but only 6 showed to play. Which for a free event, is to be expected. Unfortunately, 5 of the 6 were our die hard players.
The rules were simple: starter box only and it'll be run using the 2017 Tournament Pack from Hawk. I didn't make it clear that this was a competitive day. Nearly everyone who showed up to play starters was surprised when I mentioned scoring. My bad.
The players and armies broke down as follows...
No PHR, unfortunately.
I decided to run the day using only a 3'x3' board with 7-12 buildings on it. This worked out pretty well because it kept the games active. There was less space to stay away from each other so it forced more contact on the board. This, in turn, kept the games pretty short. Tony and Chris had there first game go just 45 minutes.
The missions scaled pretty well at this point level, too. I'm not sure the table size contributed to this, but I think it probably helped out.
First Mission - Take and Extract
I forgot that there are two less objectives at this low points level. Someone brought it up 5 minutes in to the round and we corrected. A few initial moves were adjusted to compensate, no point in having troops search a building that didn't have an Objective in it anymore!
This is a great mission. But with using only starter sets it tends to turn into a slap fight in the center by the end of it. Once the players lost their tanks, it just became a parking lot, for the most part.
All of the games were very close with typically only a single VP spread between winner and loser. Not a very high kill point difference, either. The highest was around 300 KP.
Second Mission - Crucible
Crucible has become one of my favorite Pack missions. It's just fun! I think it has the right balance of dancing and brawling for any game above a Skirmish level. That said, it sorta suffers the same parking lot syndrome at Skirmish level that Take and Extract does.
There was a greater VP spread between winners and loser, here. Only a 2-3 point difference. Kill points were higher overall. I think the highest was 485 KP. Probably because of all the mission goals along the center-line. Or, folks learned from the first parking lot and just adapted.
Third Mission - Survey and Control
Intel missions are the most fun for me (aside from the dumb Bomb mechanic) and I'll always have at least one of them in any event I run due to the way they emphasize speed and collection efficiency over firepower. This style of mission is what Dropzone is all about, I think. I went with the Pack version this time out of pure laziness.
Buuut, Intel missions can become the most skewed missions in the Pack. For example, one player rolls up 4 focal points and the other rolls up 3 bombs (which happened to Chris and Eran!). The player who rolled the bombs still gets the points for the Intel, but the player who rolled all those big fat sixes gets nothing but a harder end game because the have to hold all that ground.
One of the other tables (Tony and Cameron) had such a high density of Focal Points that they had to roll for initiative and take turns assigning the squads holding them. Could be that the smaller 3x3 game space contributed to this, as well, but building density was the same as what you might see on a larger table.
The VP spread was up to 4 VP here, mostly because of all the sixes that were rolled. KP were back down into the 300's again. I think the players got the hang of this low-points format and adjusted their tactics.
The Final Outcome
Again, out of pure laziness, I used the Tournament Pack scoring system. I've been playing this game for 2 years now and it still confuses me, at times. And explaining it to a new player is far more difficult than it should be. This is one of the few things in Dropzone that I think really needs work to make the game more friendly to players, especially new ones.
After wrestling with the scoring system this is how things shook out...
Resistance, predictably, came out on top due to all the multi-roll units that come in the box. That, coupled with the experience of players commanding them, made Resistance hard to beat. UCM, also one of the more multi-roll armies, came in third. In fact, Ian and Steve were tied at 31 tournament points but Ian beat out Steve with a few hundred more KP for the day. The real surprise for me was how difficult Shaltari can be to use when points/battlegroups are so limited. It appears the gate/mass grouping becomes very difficult to manage at this level.
The other thing that surprised me was that there were no games where the scoring got completely out of hand. With 1500 point games it's common to see 18-2 (or worse) final scores. Using only starter boxes kept score spreads down.
And it was fun (or at least it looked like fun) to be using the old standard units again. Many of the lists folks bring to competition completely ignore or minimize these old v1 units.
Next time, May 6, it'll be a 999 point game with commanders and cards using full sized tables! I might sneak a custom mission in, too. The April Saturday is being run by Chris Loomis (with Tony's help) and will feature Dropfleet. Until next time!
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