Once again, I am collection a number of thoughts from a recent game. This time I played my first 1500 points game over christmas and it gave me some different views on the game. I do not have a lot of games of more than 999 points under my belt, so it was interesting to see some of the differences between skirmishes and clashes first hand.
I played PHR and my opponent played UCM. Below is my list – I cannot remember my opponents list in detail, but worth noticing is, that there were nothing heavier than a Heavy Cruiser (of which he fielded two – both Moscows). My list was strongly influenced by what I had assembled and painted – and secondary by wanting to try out some specific choices.
We were going to play Grid Control and we knew that when making the lists. My list was as a follows:
- Heracles (inkl. Level 5 admiral)
- 2 x Calypso
- 2 x Pandora
- 4 x Pandora
- 4 x Medea
- 3 x Echo
The strategy was to move the Flag and Pathfinder (Medea) groups in on the first turn with the Flag dominating the center and the Pathfinder going for the small sectors on the flanks. Second turn would see the big Line group and the Vanguard group (which was supposed to support the weakest flank) enter. The Orpheus was supposed to take the sectors in the center.
The first round went as planned and so for the second – more or less. After the second turn we both had dropped at the sectors in the flank and neither had the overhand with me having a total of four Medeas (two each flank) and he had a total of three New Orleans. Only my opponent had dropped in the center and had two New Orleans placed there. The Vanguard battlegroup entered my right flank and did very good work – the Pandoras (which I normally have very little succes with) did very well. It was going fine, though I was by no means comfortable ahead.
The third and fourth round was less successfull for me. Both my Orpheus got killed before they got to do anything more than drop on my own 3-sector cluster and I now had no way of dropping on the 4-sector center cluster except risking a Medea from the flank going up and crossing into the center that he heavily dominated. At the same time my extremely tough Heracles failed to do damage in two rounds of fire and though guarded by two calypsos, met its death. I made some wrong dispositions with my Calypsos and the Heracles ended up facing 5 Taipeis which did a horrible amount of damage – and in the end it was finished off by the ground based defence weapons. At point count after turn 4 I was behind 11 to 9 and the only reason it wasn’t any worse was that I am better at remembering to score the critical locations. Even my Echos managed to do very little to fight off my opponents strike carriers despite being totally undisturbed.
Fifth round was a turning point. I was definately behind in the firepower category, but not in the durability category. The Agamemnon – which by the way suffered no damage in the entire game – continued its bloody work on the flank and together with the Pandoras was responsible for the destruction of quite a few ships. The Ikarus and the Andromedas also did their share and quite a few ships was destroyed. Finally I had a bit of a lucky break – the group of slightly damaged Taipeis took out my Ikarus but in the following explosion they all died in a perfect combination of a couple being blown up and them blowing the others up in turn.
On the left flank the Echos managed to do some of their job and was finishing the last strike carrier there. This did not translate into dominating the sector in any way, though, as ground combat was not going my way. At the same time one of the Echos took a gamble and flew towards to the center in the hopes of scoring just a few points in there. My opponent managed to play his second sabotage of my 3-sector cluster reducing it to a single cluster and hence worthless.
Turn 6 was mostly a grab of critical locations since little could be done that would change the result on the ground. This was really tight and in the end I managed to steal the center sector critical location and prevent my opponent from taking the critical location in my 3-sector cluster – and I even managed to drop a single tank in the center sector.
Though the game ended with my opponent being mostly obliterated in orbit while I had considerably more ships remaining, little did the extra kill points help me and I still lost with an end score of 25 to 23. However, in the final round any of a few dice rolls could have tipped the game to a win for me – though I will argue, that I did had my fair share of luck with the dice in the final round. My opponent winning was fair – he basically made fewer errors than I did.
First of all, we had both brought way too little drop capacity – even though we brought all we had painted :-). I should have spend at least around 100 points more on drop and should have been much more careful in the center.
One important difference from the smaller games is, that much more firepower is available at the same spot so concentrating it is more deadly. In the 999p games we mostly play, my Orpheus can mostly manage to survive long enough to drop, even if I run directly into the fire. However, in the 1500p the firepower was too overwhelming and I had not adjusted my playstyle accordingly. I should have run them either towards the flanks (where the firepower was less), had used silent running more or kept them closer to the Calypsos for protection. Maybe even running a group of two would have been a good idea to do some target saturation.
The Antimatter cannon on the Heracles is quite the gamble. I have not done the math, but like everything with multiple damage the extremes are more likely. In this case I managed to do zero damage twice out of the three rounds it got to fire. The first time was two 1’s, the second time a non-critical hit and a miss and all damage was saved. Its first shot, however, was a double critical hit. I don’t mind randomness in games at all, but it must not dominate. I don’t think Dropfleet suffers more from this than most other games I play, but minimizing it a bit would be fine. I think even a small change like 3 attack and 2 damage instead of 2 attack and 3 damage would make a positive difference – both for me and my opponent. The more I think about it, the less I like the “multiple damage” and I think removing it alltogether might be a nice simplification. It does make it a bit harder to differentiate weapons (especially Scourge weapon systems will come to resemble UCM weapon systems quite a lot more – though the difference is not that big when it comes down to it) but when it comes to game design, simplification is the key and any complication not needed, have to go. In the case of multiple damage, I think it should be removed.
Andromedas are still a favourite ship of mine. They can quite easily get within short range of their bombers due to their speed, are hard to kill (since they like to occupy a different layer than their opponent) and generally seem to stay alive most of the game. They are a bit expensive but I think they are really worth it.
The Agamemnon is another favourite ship of mine. The thrust of 10″ combined with the immense amount of firepower and the amazing durability (better than any non-battleship in the game) really makes it a wonderful ship. I tend to group it with frigates to have the entire battle group fast though I do not shirk from splitting the battle group (as I did in this game). It usually spends a lot of time on weapons free so it is important to set it on the right course early on and that is often somewhere between 8″ and 16″ from the edge. When I first read the ship I thought that it was useless but the more I play with it, the more I like it.
Taipeis are devastating. I already knew that (on an intellectual level) and in this game I got to experience it. I ignored them and the only reason the didn’t totally wreck the board in the latter part of the game was that they have a major weakness with their 6″ range potentially is overlapping with the D6″ range of an exploding ship. Their strength lies in their number and even taking out one or two will drastically reduce their effectiveness.
My final observation is in relation to sectors. This game features no less than 8 sector capable shooting at ships. We have up until now misread the rules so we thought you can only fire with the weapon in a sector if you are the only one present there. However, by re-reading the rules I found that you just need majority of tokens there. Even with the way we have played so far, 8 sectors with guns pointing into orbit makes ground control way too important. With the (correct) rules it becomes overwhelming. I would consider if I want to play grid control another time because you can – to a too large extent – substitute ship firepower with drop capacity and then use ground firepower.
That was the end of my observations. It was nice to play a larger game and I definately want to do that more in the future – however, it will probably require that we time our games to be able to finish in an evening otherwise they are either only for weekends or needs to be played over several days.