Hi there! Welcome to Part 1 of a three-part blog series going behind the scenes of the RedWarSoc Exeprimental Errata. A link to the full document can be found at the bottom of this blog.
It may seem obvious to state, but we love playing Dropfleet Commander. At Redditch Wargaming Society, we were thrilled to be involved in the game from way back at the start: six of us bought into the Kickstarter straight away, and we’ve been growing our local community ever since. We now stand at 14 regular players of DfC, which makes for some excellent leagues and tournaments!
However, I and the rest of the Scanners Offline team weren’t satisfied there. As TT Combat’s takeover rolled over Hawk Wargames, and things went a little quiet on the rules and updates front, we began to think about taking action to help give back to the community. As happens with almost every table-top wargame, some patterns had begun to develop in the games of Dropfleet we were seeing at national tournaments and locally. About half the available ships for each faction were beginning to become “auto-includes”, while the other half were quickly fading into the territory of newbie players and starry-eyed romantics, who would do crazy things like insist the Granite “was a viable option if played the right way”, or that the “Daemon is a really underrated ship”…
So, with the fire of righteous determination in our hearts, we began to write out own mini-errata/ rules update for the community to test and trial, specifically with the aim of bringing some specific ships out of the cold and back into the warm embrace of regular fleet-time. These rules are still in living errata form, which means by the time you read this (thanks for reading by the way) the rules may have been edited or tweaked slightly. I actually honestly believe at this point (Version 1.2) we are pretty close to a final version, and only two or three rules might be edited or changed.
Here follows a breakdown of our thinking behind each rules change. Hopefully, this will help the Dropfleet Community empathise with the direction we were coming from, and the direction we are trying to helpfully nudge DfC in.
General Rules Changes
- Debris Fields: Cause one damage roll to ships whose movement passes through the field, AND to ships that end their turn in the debris field. A ship cannot suffer more than one debris field damage roll per turn.
OK, so this was first on our general changes list for Shaltnanigans reasons. I and the guys had begun to see this little tactic develop among Shaltari players, both locally and nationally. Basically, around turn 4, Emeralds go shields up and move into a Fine/Dense Debris field. They then Station Keep for the remaining turns of the game, happily pinging out ground troops to nearby Void Gates, nicely cocooned for the key scoring turns of the game. This may not sound game-breaking, but Shields negate a lot of the risk for entering debris fields, and not moving thereafter stops any further damage rolls, never mind the fact that every other faction’s Troopships don’t have this option: Debris fields should be placed over 6” away from Sectors. Opponents had the option of: pouring standard firepower at the Emerald ( but not Close Action, because of Debris fields reducing Scan range) at a Lock disadvantage, with whatever getting through splashing over the Emerald’s shields; or trying to Bomb them out with Launch Assets, though a Fine debris field especially puts paid to that plan.
With the change, this is still a valid tactic, but hurts the Shaltari player a little more: Every time they Station Keep, they are still going to suffer two Lock 2+/3+ hits. This may not seem like much, but Emeralds only have 9 Hull, so every little bit helps push them towards a crippling roll.
- Torpedoes: Change to Lock 3+, gain Particle and Flash.
Ah, Torpedoes. I would guess that in game development, Dave became a little worried that they would emerge as a meta-dominating monstrosity, and thus the current rules have Torpedoes as an unsatisfyingly random dollop of mediocre-ness. Ships that stock Torpedoes usually have only average secondary weapons, meaning the Torpedo really needed to pay off damage-wise, but they don’t strike straight away regardless of range, can be delayed (roll of a 5 when trying to shake them) or gut-wrenchingly shaken entirely (roll of a 6), and even if they don’t get shaken, they might still be delayed further (roll of a 1 to Hit) or arguably even worse, hit but not Critical, leading to 4 or 6 Armour Saves for the target ship and probably only 2 or 3 damage. If you rolled a 4+ to hit, you finally reached what Torpedoes were supposed to do: dramatic and immediate damage from a ship-killing weapon. Congratulations if you ever managed to actually pull THAT off, it was a rare and wondrous moment.
Ultimately all those chances for randomness and failure led to Torpedo-carrying ships all but disappearing from serious lists. So in we stepped with what we hope you’ll agree is an elegantly simple solution. They change to Lock 3+ and gain Particle, which means no more Armour Saves against Torpedoes; if it hits, it crits. Rolls of 1 or 2 to hit still delay it. Flash adds a little extra something, as we figured a 100m long Torpedo detonating was likely to draw some attention in the space conflict. These rules also make Corruptor more likely and relevant, something we’ll get to later on. Though giving Torpedoes Particle isn’t very true to the physics or fluff, it was the simplest rules edit, so we hope you can forgive us there!
- Torpedoes are unaffected by moving through debris fields.
The rules specify that Launch assets are affected by moving through Debris fields, yet Torpedoes ignore Point Defence and are regularly described as being unstoppable monstrosities with their own drive systems, able to turn and track their prey through the void. This didn’t quite gel with the image of Torpedo being destroyed by dust (Fine Debris fields) when they are armoured against Point Defence missiles and lasers. It also didn’t gel with the image of a Torpedo blithely smashing into large asteroid chunks, despite having a guidance system.
Hence this simple change, which we’ve had almost all positive feedback about. It bumps Torpedoes again, matches the fluff and physics, and is a simple rule to remember.
- Orbital Layer Coherency: If ships in the same Group are at any time not in the same orbital layer, they add +1 to the Strategy Rating of their Battlegroup.
A valid defensive tactic, especially for frigates and carrier groups, is to split members of the same Group between orbital layers, usually High Orbit and Low Orbit. This helps negate that awful scenario which I’m sure most Shaltari, Scourge and UCM players have had before: watching one frigate get destroyed, then roll 3” range for explosion, then roll Radiation Burst, then get bad crippling rolls for the next ship, then get 3” explosion again, and Radiation Burst again… you have to roll quite a lot of 5s and 6s to get that unlucky, but it does happen. Often at key points in the game! For some reason it always seems to happen to JJ’s Taipeis… hilarious. I left out PHR there, because Medeas are rock-hard, and laugh in the face of your Radiation Burst.
So splitting those frigates between layers is great defensively, as they ignore any explosion radius- they are dozens of kilometres above/below the action. But this same fact seemed slightly off to us, as technically the Group still met coherency rules, despite being way further apart than 3” vertically. A (small) penalty made sense, and gives players something extra to think about and weigh up should they choose this (totally valid) defensive measure.
As of 3.3.18, this rule is one we’ve had some criticism about, and it’s not crucial to boosting an ailing ship choice, so it may be one that we yield on and remove. If you think this is a good idea, please tell us, as I think there are players out there who agree with this rule change but just haven’t said anything.
- Bombers, Fighters and Dense Debris: Bombers and Fighter tokens are removed on 4+ when they enter a dense debris field.
Bombers used to have it rough, being shaken by Course Correct or Max Thrust on the roll of a 4+. Though players were still taking Launch, it certainly lacked some punch at range, as the defensive measures a ship could take were many and varied. I completely agreed with the change of the Shake roll to a 5+, and it helped players explore heavy Launch lists. Especially PHR Launch lists! That 2+ to hit… critical hits on a 4+ is a powerful tool, and what makes PHR the undoubted Bomber masters is the number of platforms they can take Launch on. The Andromeda, Ikarus, Bellerophon and Priam/ Scipio all have Launch capability, meaning PHR players can quite easily get to Launch 12 with points to spare for Troopships, Medeas and Echos. I tried to really push the limits of a PHR Launch list during the Battle for Tlalacon at Beachhead 2018. I took three (yes, three!) Bellerophons, protected by two Calypsos. They were devastating, and only really ran into problems against Shaltari shields (negating the low critical threshold). Imagine not only having to deal with three full Burn-Through Lasers on approach during the turn, but also suffering up to 24 2+ Lock dice in the End Phase.
It felt on the edge of being unfairly OP, as there were no obvious drawbacks to this: usually Launch carriers have below-average secondary weapons, but the Bell’s laser could still smash out 3-5 Crits if I rolled well. So the thinking was that players needed just a tiny bit of extra defence against Launch assets, something that rewarded good use of the Debris fields for cover. A Dropfleet game is usually about 80% Dense Debris, so scraping them off on a 4+ is going to be a valid option much more often, and if you’ve got 8 PHR Bombers trailing you, you’re probably going to suffer less by taking those 2 Lock 2+ hits and removing 4 Bombers.
We have had some early criticism for this change too, mostly from Shaltari and UCM players, who feel their Launch is average enough anyway without giving the opponents more defensive options. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t really agree with that complaint, as UCM and Shaltari especially have strengths elsewhere in game mechanics, and their Launch is more often intended to be taken as a defensive measure; a Seattle/ Basalt to pop out 3/4 Fighter tokens where the need is greatest, while the BTLs / Disintegrators do the real damage to opponents. Launch in this case is a shield in the left hand, rather than a sword in the right hand. There’s nothing to stop Shaltari and UCM players going Launch-heavy with a list (New York, Seattle, Seattle / Basalt, Platinum) but they lack the brutal reach of Scald+30” for Scourge bombers, or the cutting edge of 4+ Criticals for PHR.