Scanners Offline Podcast Episode 8

The eighth episode of our UK-based Dropfleet Commander podcast, from the folks who ran Midlands Maelstrom 1 & 2 at Redditch Wargaming Society.

We’ve been on a little break, but we’re back! This week…

  • News on Dreadnoughts at UK Games Expo
  • Midlands Maelstrom 2 tournament review (28.4.18)
  • JJ and Will share their favourite destructive moments from the day
  • Scanners Approved: 5 star ratings and reviews of all 13 Destroyers!

Vancouver: 3.5
Havana: 4
Kiev: 5
Succubus: 4
Incubus: 3
Revenant: 3
Electra: 3.75
Ariadne: 3
Jason: 4
Odysseus: 4.5
Chromium: 3
Mercury: 4
Cobalt: 2

Post any questions you have below or on our Twitter feed ‘ScannersOffline‘.

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Behind the Scenes: RedWarSoc Experimental Errata PART 3

Welcome to the third and final part of the Scanners Offline blog discussion on our experimental rules balancing for Dropfleet Commander. This week, we focus on Shaltari and PHR.

Image result for dropfleet commander shaltari fleet box art

Shaltari

Vectored: Change to; A Vectored ship may Course Correct and Max Thrust without gaining a Minor Spike.

There were several things about the Shaltari in their current rules form that we wanted to tweak. We didn’t want to go down the route of nerfing popular ship choices (Diamond, Amber, Topaz), but instead opted for trying to make other ship choices more attractive. High on our list were the Shaltari Light Cruisers.

“What?” I hear you cry, “Do they even have Light Cruisers? I’ve never seen any Shaltari player use them…” Exactly the point! Both the Azurite and the Aquamarine are taken in so few lists, I actually had to look up their names just now, and I’ve been playing the game nearly two years. Both Light Cruisers have Vectored as a special rule, which in old money allowed them some turning benefits, but nothing that a Course Correct order couldn’t already do.

Vectored was already a unique rule, so we aimed to edit and improve it. We imagined Shaltari Light Cruisers being both super manoeuvrable and really quiet, so we enhanced the existing style and fluff of the rule. They can now Course Correct and Max Thrust without picking up Spikes, which improves their use as rapid out-flankers, perhaps trying to get behind the enemy fleet line and harass them from the rear. They’re never going to be game-breakingly good, but they can certainly be an evasive, balletic thorn in the side of the enemy fleet, which we feel better captures the Shaltari approach to fleet battles.

Gravity Coils: Change to Impel-1 for all ships with Gravity Coils.

I love the idea behind Impel: Gravity weapons shunting enemy ships around and throwing your opponent’s carefully laid plans into disarray. Unfortunately Impel just didn’t happen often enough to warrant being included in serious Shaltari lists. Sure, it might be taken on board a Sapphire/ Palladium for a bit of fun in a casual game, but you certainly wouldn’t bring it to a tournament. The trouble lay with how often Impel was able to take effect. It would only turn a ship 45 degrees for every two crits, and to be honest the enemy ship would probably just turn back to face the way it wanted with a Course Correct the following turn.

Changing to Impel-1 rather than two means that each Critical hit results in a turn of 45 degrees. Even as a secondary weapon on a Battlecruiser, this hopefully makes it more tempting to give the Gravity Coils a try. There are some really good uses for a weapon that could reliably turn an enemy ship, especially against ships that rely on their Front Narrow arc for their main weapon systems, like the Diamond, or anything with a Burn-Through Laser. And the biggest incentive of all- seeing the look on your opponent’s face when you start spinning their ships around!

Jade: The Jade’s Particle Lance gains Fusillade-1 (One extra shot on Weapons Free)

Get Shaltari players discussing the effectiveness of Jades, and the conversation will quite quickly become expletive-ridden. And that’s with the changes already made by Hawk to improve them! It’s hard to believe that Jades were once only Lock 3+, Attack 1, Damage 1, Particle with a Front (N) arc. The change made them Lock 2+ instead, but Jades are still widely considered a massive waste of points in a Shaltari fleet. As George Lucy (The Hot LZ) once memorably put it : “Jades should stay on the sprue, the sprue should stay in the box, then the box should be burned and stamped on.” Powerful stuff! The reason for such Shaltari ire lies in the damage potential of a group of Jades. Ideally, in Dropfleet you want all of your combat Battlegroups to have at least the potential to cripple an enemy cruiser. That is the milestone by which we roughly judge a successful ship/ group in Dropfleet. Four Topaz, for example, throw out eight Lock 3+ shots; they have the potential to do 5 or 6 damage with decent rolling, and thus are taken widely among Shaltari players.

At first glance, Jade don’t look too far off. Particle means that as long as they can hit on a 2+, each hit will bypass armour saves and inflict one damage straight away. Potentially useful against high-armour, low-hull targets, I suppose. The problem comes with their damage potential being devastatingly predictable. If you take a group of 4 Jades against me, I know with 100% certainty that you cannot cripple my Scourge Hydra if I stick it within range, as the Jade can only do four damage, maximum. Probably one of those four shots will miss, and I’ll take three damage. I can plan for that occurrence in my tactics, account for it and negate or ignore it.

So, Jades needed better damage potential. Now we looked at various ways of tweaking them, but it was tricky to improve Jades without making them immediately overpowered. Changing them to Damage 2 would be way too powerful, the same with Attack 2. Change the Lock to 3+, but Damage 2 or Attacks 2? Still too good. We went looking through various special rules, to see if one would fit. In the end we settled on giving the Jades Fusillade-1. You’d never usually think to go Weapons Free with a Jade, but now you should! We imagined that in exchange for a big spike in Signature and reduced manoeuvrability, a Jade could choose to divert power to its Particle Lance, increasing from Attack 1 to Attack 2. Traditionally ships with Front (N) arcs are rarely able to go Weapons Free, because you need the enemy to sit still in front of you and passively get hit. However, there are two good reasons why Jades should be able to (occasionally) pull this off.

Firstly, Shaltari have a very long Scan range, and many good choices for Active Scanning frigates. The further away you get from the source of the Front (N) arc, the wider it actually is. So if a coordinating Opal in a different Battlegroup has just put a minor spike on a Scourge Hydra through Active Scanning, then four Jades move forward on Weapons Free, they can hit it from 26” away, with their Front (N) arcs ending in a not-so-narrow 9” wide cone. I actually just went and measured this to check!

Secondly, to pull off hitting a target in the same layer that hasn’t hidden from your Front (N) arc, you probably want to use the age-old tactic of Last-Activation/First-Activation. Jade can do this reasonably well, as you will be taking them in Groups of three or four frigates, meaning they probably only have to compete with your opponent’s equivalent-style Battlegroups (typically 3-4 Taipei, 3-6 Echo, 3-5 Europa, 4-5 Djinn) which will probably be trying to do the same to you somewhere else on the board.

Ultimately we envisage Jades with Fusillade-1 being used to early-game alpha-strike an important asset in the enemy fleet, but then the Jades probably being lost to return fire very quickly. Their damage potential on Weapons Free is greater than a similar number of Topaz, with which it competes for a slot in Shaltari lists, but Topaz are sneakier and more likely to survive to later in the game. Hopefully, that gives Shaltari players more selection choices than going for the Topaz by default.

Granite: Both Particle Lances gain Linked-1 and one Particle Lance gains Bloom.

As with everything I’ve just described for the Jade, the same can be said for the Granite. It has two Particle Lances with Lock 3+, Attack 1, Damage 2. In order to fire both, it has to go Weapons Free, then we run into the same problems that all Front (N) weapons have with Weapons Free. As described above, Shaltari can get away with it better than most, but it’s still not easy. Even if it did fire both weapon profiles, the Granite still only had a damage potential of four. Again, we wanted to improve the Granite without making it overpowered.

We went for just making it easier for the Granite to fire both Particle Lances if it wanted to, but for the price of a Minor Spike. This is quite a cautious tweak, as I was very wary of creating a cruiser that put out too much Particle fire-power, as negating armour saves is a powerful mechanic in the game. This makes it a better “finisher” cruiser- use it to reliably push damaged ships over their crippling threshold, or finish of ships that have already been crippled but got a forgiving result, like Scanners Offline or Fire.

PHR

We didn’t initially have any changes for PHR, but after some feedback it was decided that broadsides and batteries needed a further bump, just because the PHR Launch meta is so strong right now.

Image result for dropfleet commander phr fleet box art

1) All Tonnage (M) and (H) ships with Light Battery, Light Broadside, Medium Battery and Medium Broadside weapon systems that have Linked: Gain Fusillade (2) (affects the Theseus, Ajax, Orion, Ikarus, Perseus, Hector, Agamemnon/Leonidas, Priam/Scipio).

2) Massed Weapon Banks (command card): Add line: If a ship already has Fusillade, increase the Fusillade value by 2.

I’m really happy with the blanket effect of this rules balancing, and that one rule so neatly affects so many ships. It’s easy to remember as a PHR player! Basically, whenever any PHR ship that has a Light or Medium, Broadside or Battery weapon (excluding troopships) goes Weapons Free, you get two extra shots on that profile. This would have been disproportionately powerful for Calibre (H) weapons as they have a low Attack value, and we considered the PHR troopships to both already be good enough. So this rule neatly affects all the ships that don’t get quite as much table-time as they should. It rewards clever manoeuvring and forward-planning on the part of the PHR player, just as Napoleonic-era seafaring warships had to plan for the exact moment and position to release a devastating double-broadside. We wanted to give PHR players a reason/reward for going Weapons Free, as a lot of the motivation had gone with the addition of Linked to most of these weapon systems in a previous Hawk errata.

I want to pick out the Agamemnon/Leonidas for particular attention, as it benefits more than any other ship. When it goes Weapons Free, it would now put out 10 Lock 4+ and 14 Lock 5+ Calibre (L) shots per side- that’s rolling 48 attack dice in total! If you happen to have been lucky enough to play Massed Weapon Banks before you lined up your perfect Weapons Free moment, you’d get 12 Lock 4+ and 16 Lock 5+ Calibre (L) shots per side. Roll 56 attack dice, good sir!

Now, before non-PHR players call foul, remember that lining up Weapons Free attack runs with side-facing weapons is trickier than with any other race’s ships. You also know about the risk of the Agamemnon doing this from the very start of the game, so you can plan and position to avoid it. Lastly, any Agamemnon that does pull this off is very likely to be left with a Major Spike somewhere near the middle of the board, and thus very unlikely to weather the counter-attack. So I feel there are definite trade-offs.

Ultimately it makes the PHR broadside attacks more cinematically epic, and totally on-point for the theme of the ships.

That’s it for the final part of the series exploring the thinking behind the RedWarSoc Experimental Errata, a community-led rules balancing for Scanners Offline. If you’ve tried some of these rules, please tell us! We’d love to hear about your games on the Scanners Offline Facebook page, or here on our website.

Thanks for reading. If you haven’t yet, take a read of Part 1 and Part 2. You can download the PDF of the RedWarSoc Experimental Rules Errata v1.21. Look out for more Dropfleet articles coming soon from Scanners Offline.

Scanners Offline Podcast Episode 7 – Tactica UCM – BTL

The seventh episode of our UK-based Dropfleet Commander podcast, from the folks who ran Midlands Maelstrom at Redditch Wargaming Society.

Episode 7! Now in colour! This week, we discuss Destroyers at Adepticon and the winning list at a tournament there too. In War Stories, Will somehow doesn’t get massively smashed using a list with NO Strike Carriers, while in Fleet Academy we go in-depth with listbuilding for UCM, focussing on a Burn-Through Laser theme.

Post any questions you have below or on our Twitter feed ‘ScannersOffline‘.

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Scanners Offline Podcast Episode 6 – With The Hot LZ

The sixth episode of our UK-based Dropfleet Commander podcast, from the folks who ran Midlands Maelstrom at Redditch Wargaming Society.

Special Edition episode! We joined up with The Hot LZ for a 90 minute bumper cross-over recording.

In this episode we discuss the the announcement video from TT Combat, the Centurion rules changes and The Hot LZ guys give us some feedback on our RedWarSoc Experimental Errata.

Post any questions you have below or on our Twitter feed ‘ScannersOffline‘.

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Behind the Scenes: RedWarSoc Experimental Errata PART 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my explanation blog! Today we’re looking at the experimental changes to UCM and Scourge.

UCM

  • Siphon Power: Change to; When the St Petersburg fires a single Burn-through Laser, you may choose to add one additional Attack dice. If you do this, the weapon also gains Bloom until the end of the turn.

The St Petersburg was always one of those ships that, on the surface, looked amazing. Two Burn-Through Lasers? And one’s on its head, like some kind of deadly space-unicorn? That ship must be awesome!! Then we began playing with it, and we quickly realised that it was nigh-on impossible to go Weapons Free with two Front (N) weapons, as it was just so, so easy for your opponent to avoid that. The previous version of Siphon Power was a much-needed step in the right direction, increasing the Burn-Through cap to (8) when you only fired one of the Cobra lasers. Some players began to dabble with taking it, but it just didn’t quite give the St Pete enough of a boost.

We have reduced the cap back to (6), but went for giving the St Pete an extra Attack dice for the cost of Bloom when one Laser is fired. This makes the St Pete play like a more reliable, slightly slower and tougher Berlin, much more likely to hit that sweet Critical Hit run of dice on a Burn-Through roll, and more likely to reach the cap (6) for hits or crits. It of course comes with the penalty of taking a Minor Spike. We felt this added more tactical layers of choice, and hopefully incentivises UCM players to try the St Pete as a cheaper version of the Avalon/ Perth, with more reliable damage output than a Berlin or New Cairo.

  • Linked UF-4200s: All UCM ships with two or more UF-4200 weapon profiles gain Linked-1 for those weapon profiles.

UF-4200s are the secondary weapon of choice for many UCM ships. Unfortunately, having a low number of Attacks and only Lock 4+ meant that these weapons were very situational.  The San Francisco in particular relies on its ‘42s, as apart from CAW, they are its only offensive weapons. And San Frans are extremely unlikely to go Weapons Free just to gain two extra Lock 4+ shots! Berlins occasionally have need to use their ‘42s, if the opponent is hiding out of range of the Front (N) arc, and the New York especially feels toothless as a Battleship as it can only fire four Lock 4+ shots when you put aside its Launch capability.

Giving all 42s Linked-1 made a lot of sense and is an easy change to make. The main beneficiaries are the Berlin, the San Francisco and the New York, the latter two of which are the most in need of some boosting.

  • San Francisco: Change Barracuda Missile Bays (Attack 2) to Shark Missile Bays (Attack D6+1).

More love for the San Frans! UCM players in our group have regularly bemoaned the ineffectiveness of San Franciscos (I always point out that Scourge players suck it up with Chimeras being way more fragile, but hey-ho), so they get a special rules boost all to themselves! For some reason, the San Francisco only had the same CAW profile as the Frigates. Buffing them up to the same CAW profile as all other Cruisers makes them more effective at snipping out enemy Frigates that are getting a bit too close (if they roll well for number of Attacks). It’s unlikely that UCM players will be putting two San Franciscos in the same Battlegroup, so there’s little chance of them being used inappropriately as aggressive CAW groups. Trying to use a San Francisco to attack an enemy cruiser with CAW is still unlikely to get past the superior Point Defence, just as it should be.

  • Santiago: Stingray Missile Bays gain Calibre (L).

Back when the game was in its early stages, there were rules for Corvettes, but not models. As we played the game without Corvettes, we quickly realised Strike Carriers were really hard to remove once they were safely ensconced in Atmosphere! Corvettes made a big difference when we first started using them, but we also quickly realised Santiagos were a little underwhelming at the job they were supposed to be designed for. Three Santiagos have nine 4+ Lock CAW shots, which isn’t quite enough to comfortably account for a Strike Carrier a turn, something three Corvettes really should be able to.

Giving them Calibre (L) works well on a couple of levels. It specialises the Santiagos for their actual job: destroying Strike Carriers and other Frigates, as well as duelling enemy Corvettes. It doesn’t make them any better at attacking Cruisers and ships of larger tonnage, which they would be if we raised the number of Attacks, or lowered their Lock to 3+. With Calibre (L), players could gamble on taking just two Santiagos as a small Group attached to other Strike Carriers, and have a half chance of crippling Strike Carriers. Taking three becomes much more a guarantee of success. Boosting Santiagos also helps to counter any prevalence of Strike Carrier spam.

Scourge

  • Corruptor: If a ship suffers critical hit damage from at least one torpedo with the Corruptor special rule, after resolving all damage, roll a number of dice equal to the remaining hull value of the targeted ship. For every 4+ rolled, the ship suffers a Fire crippling result.

If a ship is crippled by a failed roll to repair these Fires, it cannot attempt to repair the new crippling result until the following turn’s damage repair phase.

Corruptor is for me a classic case of a fantastic idea executed poorly. I’ve been discussing on Facebook the idea of Torpedoes that do interesting and unique things (creating debris fields, area damage, Electro-Magnetic Charges, etc), and the Corruptor is kind of that, but with a specific Scourge twist. Previously, the Scourge torpedo was weaker in damage (4) compared to its counterparts, but had an additional, fluffy rule. Scourge torpedoes carry suspended racks of Razorworms, and if the torpedoes got critical hits on a target, they released Razorworms into the ship, leaving them free to tear into the helpless crew, destroying critical systems, chasing the Admiral around the bridge and generally spreading their particular breed of Scourge nastiness. Fantastically evocative!

Unfortunately, Torpedoes only had half a chance of registering critical damage, and the chances of Corruptor having a meaningful effect on the game were depressingly low. Now, as torpedoes always critical, if your Corruptor torpedo hits, it’s time to rock and roll. We also upped the impact of Corruptor to immediate, so you don’t have to remember to check and roll it every Damage Repair phase. I think changing the rule to rolling 4+ to create Fires for each remaining hull point represents the fluff of the Razorworms better: they would have a high destructive impact at first on the ship, but would slowly be killed and hunted down, meaning their effect would lessen over time.

I’ve tested this a few times in games now, and Corruptor feels threatening again, just as it should be! Hopefully it will make the Dragon and Manticore slightly more attractive choices. The Dragon in gameplay with these rules feels threatening, but not as much as a Diamond is immediately threatening. Just as it should be, seeing as the Diamond is 35 points more.

  • Scald: Scald only reduces the armour save of the target if both the firing ship and the target are in the same layer.

Scald is a fantastic rule for Scourge. Imagine ferocious Scourge ships bearing down on you, firing rapid plasma burst, the pummelling strikes tearing through armour and overloading shields as the range is closed. Thus, armour saves are reduced by 1 when in Scan range. This is all very well, but Scald still worked even if you were in a different layer to the opposing ship… even though that ship was dozens of kilometres above/ below your Scourge ship.

So we went for removing the effect of Scald if the layers of firer and target are different. This has the added bonus of slightly reducing some of the more popular ships among Scourge players, like Basilisks and Djinn, which like to get up close and kill. This rule is open to debate and the opinion of the community, as we have had some feedback that it isn’t really necessary, so we may take this away from the final version of the experimental errata. To be honest using Scald on a ship in a different layer is quite situational and unlikely to be game-changing, so for my point of view it may as well be there, as it will not come up that often, and makes sense in the physical battle, given the description of Scald as only working when the ships are close together.

  • Furnace Cannons: Change both Alt weapon profiles to Damage 2.

Rarely seen on the competitive scene, the Scourge Burn-Through Laser is an odd beast. It has two fire modes: Lock 4+, Attack 4, Cap 8, Scald; or Lock 2+, Attack 1, Cap 4, Scald and Flash. So the wide pattern is potentially more destructive but unpredictable, while the focussed pattern will do a small amount of damage more reliably and add a spike. I have always found both versions a bit underwhelming, and the community seems to agree, as rarely do we see the ships that use them: Ifrit, Raiju, Dragon, Daemon. Rolling four dice needing 4+ to hit always seemed like a big gamble that never paid off, as the laser tended to do a couple of hits before disappointingly  petering out. Both versions are inferior to the UCM Lock 3+, Attack 2, Cap 6 and Flash.

So I did some dice-rolling, testing out moving both versions to Damage 2. In this way you are much more likely to actually reach that cap of (8), as each hit will become two hits immediately, and each crit becomes two crits. With this amendment you tend to average out at about 6 hits and 2 crits filling up the cap (8). This seems much better to me, but not overly destructive. Hopefully this will make the BTL-carrying Scourge ships make more appearances on the table-top, and give some competition to the Basilisk, Hydra and Djinn when players make their list choices.

  • Nickar: Plasma Squall gains Calibre (L).

A similar story to the Santiago change here. This lets the Nickar hit on a 3+ against Corvettes and Frigates, specialising it for a certain job, but not giving it any bonuses against Cruiser classes and up. The Nickar of course still have the unpredictability of rolling D6 Attacks, which means Scourge players will probably want to direct two Nickar against a single Strike Carrier to return reliable odds of destroying it.

Thanks for reading. If you haven’t yet, take a read of Part 1. You can download the PDF of the RedWarSoc Experimental Rules Errata v1.21. Check back soon for Part 3, where we’ll be explaining our changes for the PHR and Shaltari.

Behind the Scenes: RedWarSoc Experimental Errata PART 1

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.

Thanks for reading. You can download the PDF of the RedWarSoc Experimental Rules Errata v1.21. Check back soon for Part 2, where we’ll be explaining our changes for the UCM and Scourge.

Scanners Offline Episode 5 – Battle for Tlalacon

Battle for Tlalacon Shaltari Topaz

The fifth episode of our UK-based Dropfleet Commander podcast, from the folks who ran Midlands Maelstrom at Redditch Wargaming Society.

It’s time for Episode 5, and it’s a Battle for Tlalacon special!
News: Midlands Maelstrom 2 announcement and details. Will takes a break and leaves the farm for the first time in two months! Hooray!
War Stories: JJ and Matt discuss their Tlalacon games and the tournament in general.
White Sphere Wisdom: JJ and Will mercilessly criticise Matt’s list… and we take an in-depth look at the Top 3 lists from Tlalacon.

Post any questions you have below or on our Twitter feed ‘ScannersOffline‘.

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