|Wargame published by
|No. of Players||2+|
|Authors||David Lewis and Andy Chambers|
|Essential Books||Dropfleet Commander Core Rulebook (1.0)|
"It’s all fun and games till someone shoots back, Holden thought."
- – James S.A. Corey, Leviathan Wakes
Dropfleet Commander (abbreviated as DfC) is a space combat science fiction wargame originally created and published by Hawk Wargames and now owned by TTCombat and a sister game to their 10mm game Dropzone Commander. The game is themed around using a fleet of spaceships to take control of a section of orbital space over a planet and drop troops from there into cities or other places of interest to control them.
What sets Dropfleet Commander apart from other space combat games is the orbital setting. Simply destroying the opposing ships is not enough; the real goal is to secure the planet below by depositing troops onto the surface or stations in orbit. These objectives are clusters of infrastructure containing cities, factories, military bases, or other more unique sectors. In the setting (or in a simultaneous game, of which rules are present to support), the troops you send down are engaged in Dropzone Commander battles. Ships can move between high orbit, low orbit, and atmosphere, although most ships will burn up and crash upon entering the atmosphere. Some abilities/weapons can only function on different levels or have their effectiveness altered targeting different levels.
The game typically takes place on a 4'-by-4' board that can contain orbital debris, space stations, or objects such as moons or large asteroids.
One of the other more prominent mechanics of the gameplay is how weapon ranges work. It uses the logic that in space and at the scale of the combat happening, the range on most weapons is effectively infinite, and the difficulty in hitting your target is more in finding it. To that end, every ship has two statistics: scan and signature. Scan is how many inches your ship can detect out to, and signature is how many inches your ship can be detected at. Combining the two gets you a firing range; a ship with scan of 8" firing on a target with a signature of 6" can do so from within 14". Signatures can be modified by actions you or your opponent take that increase or decrease the signature of your ship.
The game is set in the late 2600's, but there's plenty of exposition leading up to that point.
In 2342, humanity are approached and greeted by the Shaltari after humanity pioneers their first foldspace (faster than light) drive. The Shaltari act as friends at first, leading the humans to a number of planets ripe for colonization, but it's all part of an attempt to manipulate them into serving as cannon fodder in their wars with other Shaltari. Humanity doesn't take this well when they find out.
In 2506, another alien thing found its way to Earth: a mysterious White Sphere, the size of a baseball but heavy enough to require the strength of two men to move. It defied study, and when it was inadvertently connected to a network, it locked all the doors and somehow escaped before broadcasting a message that humanity was doomed and should escape by going to Vega IV in one year's time. Enough people took it seriously that a civil war nearly broke out. In the end, the ones who went to Vega IV with the intent of escaping were given coordinates to jump to, and while a battle broke out between them and a fleet of ships sent to stop them from leaving, most managed to escape in the chaos.
Two days later, more aliens showed up on Earth and took it over. With the fleet still wrecked from the battle over Vega IV, there was no contest. About one percent of humanity managed to escape. The aliens went to the other major colonies of humanity, and so the only ones who got away were the ones who jumped to the really distant colonies and managed to reconfigure said colonies' Foldspace beacons to keep the aliens, since called the Scourge, from finding them.
Over the next hundred and sixty years, humanity rebuilt itself into the United Colonies of Man, with the eventual goal of retaking Earth. As they made scouting missions, they discovered that some populations of humans had survived on Earth, forming a resistance against the Scourge. Descendants of the humans who escaped from Vega IV showed up as well. They were post-human now, with cool cybernetics, and offered an alliance. The UCM demanded an apology for running and wrecking the fleet in the process. The post-humans refused, saying that history had proved them right, and furthermore told them that retaking Earth would be suicidal at this point. The UCM told them in no uncertain terms to leave and not pester them, and twenty-four hours later, launched the second invasion of Earth.
(Placeholder: mention of Phases 1 and 2 fluff leading up to the blitz on Ferrum)
That's where the players come in.
Four of the five factions present in Dropzone Commander are represented in Dropfleet Commander. The fifth faction, The Resistance, is introduced in 'The Battle for Earth' expansion released 2019-07-14.
United Colonies of Mankind
The UCM is the standard human faction. Olive green, sharp angles, wheels and tracks, lots of machine guns and railguns, the usual. They are twenty billion strong and all dedicated to retaking Earth. Their twelve main worlds are named after the Latin names for metals. Aurum is the largest and most urbanized of these and their present capital.
The nation is has a strange combination of a socialistesque political environment and a military-state. For example, there are politicians and they have power, but when push comes to shove, it's the military who holds most of the power. Not that anyone are really bothered by this; when you've been brought up with stories of the lost cradle worlds, among them the jewel called Earth, no one is gonna argue about too much spending on the military.
Their ships are named for cities on Earth, both real and legendary. UCM ships focus on wide arcs of fire with mass drivers and powerful lasers, and have generally tough ships.
Malicious alien brain squids who lead a fairly miserable existence without a host, they want nothing more than to share that misery with others by injecting their young into their prisoner's ear canals and making them a flesh puppet. They have a merciless glass cannon strategy and love blasting things with plasma. Those Scourge unlucky enough to mature past prime brainjacking age get permanently installed in a vehicle - or in the case of Dropfleet, a ship's command network.
The UCM doesn't understand how they communicate and coordinate; that's a big goal of the first phase of reconquest.
Their ships are named after monsters and other such evil spirits from mythology. Their ships focus on aggressive close up weaponry, all their frigates have the ability to hide in the atmosphere, and they tend to be faster and more fragile.
Thanks to technology given by the White Sphere, the humans who escaped Vega IV have upgraded themselves into post-human cyborgs. They are only three billion strong, but very powerful on a unit-per-unit basis, with clean lines, tan colors, and walkers as well as tanks. The UCM don't like them because they think they're cowards, calling them "Abandonists", while the PHR don't like the UCM for being warmongering zealots. They aren't directly governed by the White Sphere anymore, but they do trust it quite a bit, and nobody (not even the PHR) knows where it really comes from.
Their ships are all named after heroes or other similar figures of Greek myth. PHR ships have generally poor forward firing power but have powerful broadside weaponry and the strongest bomber craft, and are slow but tough.
The Shaltari are extremely long-lived, having mastered the art of transferring their consciousnesses into new bodies. When death of natural causes is no longer an issue, they simultaneously fear death and yet venerate war as the only pursuit worthy of respect. People who haven't seen battle yet don't even get names. The various sub-nations of the Shaltari are named after the nations of Native Americans (of both continents), as well as nomadic and germanic tribes.
Their greatest technological advantage is that, rather than drop their troops using landing craft, they utilize teleportation gates. Troops are stationed on a mothership or a particularly large ship such as a battleship, and get sent to the surface via a chain of Void Gates, small ships that serve to link together the teleportation chain. In contrast to the Scourge and their homogeneous arsenal of plasma weapons, Shaltari weaponry is a mix of energized particle beams, focused microwave emitters, and unusual weapons such as gravity coils or ion bombardment.
Their ships are named for minerals or gemstones, and generally have good forward firing power and the best range along with the smallest ship signatures. They are on the fragile side, but can utilize energy shields to counteract that at the cost of lighting up their ships and making them easier to get into range of as well as sacrificing point defense.
The Resistance (formerly The Remnant)
In the chaotic early days of the Scourge invasion, many ships fled by blindly jumping out of their systems. Most perished, but over time some have gambled on returning to jump nodes that have been reactivated as the Reconquest has gone underway. Some ships are barely operational and are scrapped, while others have been maintained and can perform in active duty after being updated with more modern systems. These ships follow a similar philosophy as the old EAA vehicles present in Resistance armies, coming from an era of excess and over-engineering being valued over ease of manufacturing and repair. As such they feature very resilient armour.
The two largest concentrations of legacy fleets are the Vega Scrapfleet and the Kalium Kabal. After the conflict between the EAA and the fleeing ships that would eventually form the PHR, the disabled and damaged ships were instructed to remain at Vega and await repair vessels. As the Scourge invaded shortly after, no such ships arrived. Harvesting and repairing what they could to survive from the remains of the battle, a sizeable fleet survived and carried on. Some of the ships that escaped the Vega battle and formed the PHR are also still in active service.
Kalium was a colony that broke away from the UCM in the early days of their formation. After a series of civil wars and other such political struggles, an industrious and deeply authoritarian state formed named the Kabal. They continued to produce large numbers of legacy ships as they lacked the expertise to develop new designs, but given their totalitarian nature had large amounts of manpower available to them. Kalium ships are reported to feature powerful but unstable weaponry that can pose a danger to their crew.