|Could this be the next recognised brand name tin the Industry?|
Well I guess Dropzone Commander from Hawk Wargames has been one of the most anticipated launches of recent years in our hobby. Definitely for a new game from a new company. Certainly it's one of the launches that I myself have been most anticipating, probably because I caught a glimpse of the miniatures at Salute 2012 and thought they looked superb, but beyond that not much was really known. So when the website went live on the 8th June there was bound to be a big response, and the response was always going to be interesting to watch. Prior to the launch Dave Lewis, the one man dynamo it seems behind Hawk Wargames had said the miniatures would be comparable in price to the products released by Games Workshop. Given how happy everyone is with them right now over prices, that wasn't possibly the wisest thing to be saying. Perhaps the first full-time employee of Hawk Wargames needs to be a PR Manager. But, depending on the quality of the miniatures, and indeed the amount you need to play Dropzone Commander then that comment could be quite frankly be really reasonable, or outrageously expensive... you see without some contextual information such statements like that are meaningless, and will only serve to cause more 'debate' not less.
|Wonderful evocative scenery, giving off a sci-fi B-Movie vibe.|
So yes, the website launching has at least answered some pretty important questions for people. In fact I'm just going to post a link to the FAQ on their site, as I'm sure it'll answer some questions for you. The most obvious question the site answered though being about price. Now there's been a bit of discussion on various Blogs and Forums as to whether the cost of the miniatures is worth it, and whether the game has been priced out of the reach for many. Is it too expensive? Is it about right? Well nobody really knows as we actually still know bugger all about the game, or indeed the physical quality of the miniatures. It's only once reviewers like me get them in their hands, and you guys see them for yourselves in the shops that you'll really be able to judge what you think. Judging a product with so little information just seems a little bit unfair to me and foolish in the extreme. I'll be honest some of the prices have raised my eyebrows, considerably so, and others seem comparable to other game systems. Here, let me break down the price banding a bit more:
Troops - these are from £8 to £12 ($12.50US to $18.50US) for between four to six stands of 10mm troops between, which is between 12 and 30 troops cast in white metal. I'm going to be brutally honest here, I think the asking price looks a little bit on the steep side. Especially when you compare it to other companies, For instance Dream Pod 9 sell a single 10mm trooper at an average of 31p, while the average Dropzone Commander 10mm trooper costs 51p. Obviously that's not including a quality comparison, but I'm more than happy with the quality of my Heavy Gear Blitz troopers, on the face of it though it seems a bit expensive. As others have pointed out you can actually find 10mm miniatures even more reasonably priced, at around 16p per trooper. No matter what way you slice it Dropzone Commanders infantry options look a little bit on the steep side, and without seeing the rules to the game we're not really sure how many we'll be required to buy to play a standard game. Any way, currently each race seems to have two infantry options. The United Colonies of Man have the Colonial Legionnaires at £12 for 30 troops (6 bases of 5 troops) and the Praetorians at £9 for 20 troops (4 bases of 5 troops). The Scourge have Warriors at £12 for 30 troops (6 bases of 5 troops) and Razor Worms at £12 for 18 troops (6 bases of 3 troops). The Post Human Republic have the Immortals at £9 for 20 troops (4 bases of 5 troops), and the Siren Corps at £8 for 12 troops (4 bases of 3 troops). Finally the Shaltari Tribes have the Braves at £9 for 12 troops (4 bases of 3 troops) and the Firstborns at £9 for 12 troops (4 bases of 3 troops).
Land Vehicles - Now while I can sort of understand the ruckus over the price of the Infantry in the game, I'm not so sure I get the complaints about the price of the land vehicles, I really, really don't. People have been saying these are 10mm miniatures, like that actually means anything, with the vehicles it's about the size of them relative to other miniatures, and for me the tanks that I've seen are roughly similar in size to Heavy Gear Blitz tanks, and not all that much smaller than Flames of War based 15mm tanks, and in some cases they're actually significantly bigger. So considering you can get as many as 3 decent sized 10mm tanks for £11 I'm going to say we're talking a fair price here. In fact going on what I saw at Salute I'm calling it very reasonable. For instance the United Colonies of Mankind have 7 Land Vehicle options, ranging from 4 Wolverine Scout Buggies for £7.50 to 1 Kodiak ACV for £11, that all averages out to about £4.20 a vehicle. The Scourge currently have 6 Land Vehicle options, ranging from £9 for 8 Prowlers up to £11 for various two tank type options, this averages out at about £3 per vehicle, although to be fair those Prowlers really bring the average down. A more accurate average would be £4.30. Meanwhile the Post Human Republic have a veritable smörgåsbord of options available to them, from 7 options for large bipedal walkers at around £5.25 per miniature, to small tanks at around £5 per miniature, there are also the Janus Scout Walkers that work out to about £2.50 per miniature. From what I saw at Salute this year, that's actually cheaper than I expected them to be. Where many of the naysayers for prices have turned there attentions, as far as land vehicles go, though are the Shaltari Tribes, and more specifically their Warstriders. The Jaguar, Ocelot and Coyote Warstriders all cost £11.50 for one miniature, and when coupled with people thinking '10mm', that seems to have made certain people apoplectic with rage, but yet again they're thinking scale not size. These things are about 5cm tall and fairly long and wide too, in short they're way bigger than your average 28mm or 32mm miniature, and when you look at it like that I think its a pretty darn good price. Meanwhile the various Shaltari tanks come in at around £3 per tank, again very reasonable in my humble opinion.
|One of those Shaltari Warstriders I mentioned.|
Air Vehicles - Yet again I've heard many people wail and moan about the price of the Air Vehicles in Dropzone Commander. People have likened the price of such vehicles to ridiculous. Hmm really? A bit dramatic perhaps? Some have even gone further and suggested that Forge Worlds Aeronautica Imperialis miniatures are far better priced. So are they? Well comparing the the United Colonies of Mankind Seraphim Strike Figheter at £11 to the similarly sized Imperial Thunderhawk Gunship at £19 I think yet again the argument of the detractors falls down a bit on a one on one comparison. Yet again we don't know exactly how much stuff Dropzone Commander will require us to purchase to play the game... but for now I'm going to say I think it all seems relatively fair as a one to one comparison. Any way the United Colonies of Mankind have three options in the Air Vehicle category, the Archangel Interceptors at £11 for 2 vehicles, the Falcon Gunships at £10 for 2 vehicles and the aforementioned Seraphim Strike Fighter at £11 for 1 vehicle. The Scourge also have 3 Air Vehicle options, but in many respects their options aren't really comparable to the United Colonies options. For starters there's the positively huge Desolator weighing in at 11cm or thereabouts at £17.50, and then at the other extreme you have the Minder Swarm at £12 for 8 miniatures, which works out at £1.50 per miniature. They do also have the Corsair Fighters, which come in packs of 2 for £10.
|The Corsair Fighters for the Scourge|
Moving onto the Post Human Republic, they currently only have the one Air Vehicle option, The Athena Air Superiority Fighter, which is £10 for a single 8cm long miniature. You can see it pictured above and to the left, at the start of this section. The Shaltari Tribes have 2 Air Vehicle options, the first is the Warspear Heavy Fighter at £8 for a single miniature and the second option is the Thunderbird Gunships at £11 for 2 miniatures. All in all I'm going to say I personally feel the cost of the various Air Vehicles doesn't look too bad if you look at it a bit deeper, certainly not on an individual miniature basis.
Dropships - Yep, finally I make it to the eponymous Dropships, the USP if you will of Dropzone Commander, and the things that Dave Lewis the games creator says will set the game apart from many other games currently on the market. I think it's fair to say that some of the prettiest miniatures from the range are definitely in amongst the Dropships. The size of the various options though do vary quite a bit, from exceedingly large Heavy Dropships Like the Scourges Despoiler to the Light Dropships like the Post Human Republics Triton A2 Strike Dropships. So in reality there are 3 classes of Dropship, Light, Medium and Heavy, while the Shaltari Tribes do things a little differently, which I'll discuss a bit later. The United Colonies of Mankind Dropships are the Albatross Heavy Dropship (£19), the Condor Medium Dropship (£11), the Raven Type-A Light Dropship (£10.50 for 2) and the Raven Type-B Light Dropship (£10 for 2). The Scourge have the Despoiler Heavy Dropship (£20), the Marauder Medium Dropshi (£10), the Intruder Alpha Light Dropship (£10.50 for 2) and the Intruder Beta Light Dropship (£10.50 for 2).
|I absolutely love the Aliens Colonial Marines look of the UCM stuff.|
The Post Human Republic also follow the trend of having three classes of Dropship, they have the Poseidon Heavy Dropship (£19), which happens to be one of my favourite miniatures in the whole range, the Neptune Medium Dropship (£11) and also a very sexy miniature, the Triton A1 Strike Dropship (£12 for 2) and finally the Triton A2 Strike Dropship (£11 for 2). Moving on to the Shaltari Tribes, they seem to do things very differently, their options are called 'gates', which are actually teleporters rather than the Dropships used by the other 3 factions, and they do look pretty unique and physically different too. I'm not too sure how differently they'll play in the game, but I'll be interested to find out if they are significantly different in function to the other races, and if so how this impacts upon the game balance, if at all. They still come in the same 3 classes, so we have the Gaia Heavy Gate (£18.50), Eden Medium Gate (£10.50) and the Spirit Light Gate (£10.50). They do look splendid in my humble opinion and I hope they work a bit differently in the game to dropships, but don't unhinge things.
|How Halo does that look? Dave has done a great job selling his 'universe'.|
I'm going to admit that if more were known about the game I'd probably be writing a 'Game the Intrigues me' article, but as it is not much is really known at all. Aside from the fact that most of the miniatures look gorgeous we really know sod all about the game. All I can go on is what I saw with my own eyes at Salute 2012, and what has been posted on the Hawk Wargames website, and the answers Dave himself gave on a recent Q&A session on Facebook, it's a long read but if you're interested in the game it might be worth checking out. I have asked Dave for a demo game / playtest of the current rules, and he indicated he'd be up in Birmingham at some point and he'd arrange something with me then. I've also asked him if he'd mind answering some questions with regards to the rules and he indicated he would be in a position to do just that shortly, so hopefully I'll be able to give you all more concrete answers answers to your questions soon. For now though here are some things I've gleaned from the FAQ's and the answers Dave gave on the Facebook Q&A:
- Gameplay - The game uses D6's and alternating activations. There's also a 'Battle group' structure to army building. Games are said to last around 2 to 3 hours depending on size of game, mission and familiarity of the players with the rules. The game is scenario based, and Dave believes the game should suit tournament type play. There are also command deck cards for each race, which apparently add some tactical spice. I'm going to hazard a guess that they might be somewhat similar to those used by Spartan Games products.
- Army lists - Well this is a bit of a mixed bag if I'm honest with you. Dave hasn't really intimated what the normal sized game will comprise of yet. We have the vague answer to 'look at the Army deals' to see what games sizes will be like. So you can see the UCM Army deals Here, the Scourge Army Deals Here, the PHR Army Deal Here and the Shaltari Army deals Here. But, Dave has told us the Army deals aren't based around points and are more about giving each faction a similar number of miniatures... so... how long is a piece of string? People seem to be suggesting that the Large and Premium Large army deals are the average sized game. So that's £140 to £170, if that's all you need I guess it's actually pretty reasonable.
- Scenery - Well this is something that so many games fail miserably to be clear on. Looking at the picture of Dropzone Commander on the Hawk Wargames website they seem quite dense, but as we know that can just be for show. Dave has said the game will play fine on a 4' by 4' board, but will play better on a 6' by 4' board. Pretty standard wargames sizes now. The whole scenery issue is very up in the air though. Dave has said the game can be played on an open table, but it's not designed for that, he's also said you can play with about 3 buildings and some line of sight blocking scatter terrain, but that he himself has been playing with 10 buildings. Some clarity and pictures of actual games in play on boards would be really awesome.
- Modular Buildings - Speaking of the scenery Dave has intimated that the buildings we've all seen in the pictures are fully modular and that there are 10 different building types or designs to choose from when they're released. It will apparently all be available later this year... but no clue as to prices yet.
- Future Expansion - Obviously Dave is trying his hardest to get what he has already revealed out of the door as rapidly as he can and I'm guessing he'll be trying very hard to keep up with demand initially... but he has intimated that there is at least 1 other race in current development, and that we haven't yet seen all the options for the current races.
In some respects Dave at Hawk Wargames has given us a lot of information, but clearly he's not given enough information to judge the product properly. There has obviously been a focus on the pretty miniatures and the 'battle scenes' Dave has created, as visuals are clearly the strong suit of the game so far... it is pretty! That could be a very shrewd move, but I think it's far more likely that it's just a necessary move as he's a one man band trying to launch a game that's gained far more coverage, and notoriety than I think even Dave would have envisioned in his wildest dreams.
|The cityscapes show thus far are simply awesome looking.|
It is both an enviable position to be in and a pain in the backside I'm sure. When Dave turned up to Salute 2012 I'm sure he knew there was going to be some serious interest in what he had produced, I'm sure he knew his miniatures were highly attractive. I'm just not so sure he was prepared for how intense the interest was going to be, and thus how intense the scrutiny was going to be. While I'm sure he wouldn't swap his current position for anything in th world, he has created a bit of a rod for his own back. Obviously he had to show his product to the world at some point, and Salute 2012 was almost certainly the best opportunity for him to do that, and it almost certainly created a huge buzz. However, he's not currently in a position to actually show us anything concrete of the game at all, and that's regrettable. I criticised a certain big industry player a few months back now for putting a game up for pre-order as a limited edition run, without telling anyone what the game was about or like. That very same criticism can be levelled here at Hawk Wargames.
|The Post Human Dropships are my favourite.|
I fully appreciate Dave will need to start selling miniatures soon to pay for his nigh on 2 year investment into Dropzone Commander, but realistically it amounts to the same sort of blind buy without an inkling of what the rules actually look like on the table. There is clearly a balance to be struck between giving information starved gamers too much information and swamping them to the point of decision paralysis... and giving too little information and frustrating them. I can appreciate that Dave is working his ass off right now, he must be, and I can see that with the website finally up, the FAQs and the Facebook Q&A session he really truly is trying his bloody hardest to get the information out there as quickly as he can and be open and honest about things. But, without those rules or a battle report or something he's opened himself up to a fair old amount of criticism from gamers who are now getting used to having this sort of information from Games Workshops competitors. He has said he's considering providing some free quickstart rules for download, and that would be a wise move I think, and I'd heartily endorse such a move.
|I love the ruined civilisation look of the Scourge pictures.|
As for where I stand on the Dropzone Commander debate? Well I'd hope after reading all of that you'd know by now! I loved the miniatures when I first saw them, as more and more pictures have been released there has been nothing to actually change my opinion that this is indeed a beautiful range of miniatures, that Dave should feel rightly proud of, especially as he's responsible for sculpting every single one of them. I personally love the look of all the races, my favourites being the Post Humans and the Shaltari, but I have a real soft spot for the United Colonies too and despite what many people say about them, I dig the B-Movie vibe of the Scourge as well. I can see the justifications of the criticisms of price people have made, especially with regards to the infantry choices, but on the whole I think the range compares favourably with similar scaled products, although of course we still aren't entirely sure how much of it we'll need for an average game. I want to see the rules before I judge the game, I'll be honest if I was employed and had the money the shinies would probably be enough to entice me and I'd already have large Post Human and Shaltari forces myself, but I'm not in that position right now, and will need to see the game and almost certainly get some more work soon before I even contemplate it, but yes I'm intrigued. Peace out!