DropFLEET Commander Faction Breakdown for New Players

Dropfleet Commander is an orbital assault space game that takes place in the exact same universe as Dropzone Commander. Make no mistake though, they are quite different. You take command of a fleet of ships in efforts to make landfall onto cities on the surface of the planet while trying to fend off the enemy fleet trying to do the same thing. Add in the fact that those cities will get bombarded, challenged by enemy troops and armor, or even nuked, and you have an immensely fun space game with a great sense of dimension and interesting strategic dynamics.

Now the rules were written by Dave, the creator of Dropzone, and Andy Chambers, well known in gaming circles for his rules-writing. For that reason many people will say Dropfleet is a remake of the old beloved Battlefleet Gothic, but this is it's own game in it's own right.

Rules at a Glance

There are some very unique fundamental rules to Dropfleet that make it really different, even among space fleet games. First and foremost is the relationship between "Signature" and "Scan". Every ship has scanners, and a range for how far they can see. Then, also every ship has a signature. Signature becomes modified based on what orders you give ships, running silent to stay hidden, or firing every gun and max thrusting for the world to see. When scanners reach or overlap a target ship's signature, it means that ship is seen on radar and can be fired at. So effectively, you as the commander have to manage how "hot" you want your ships running, and when they will run that way. It takes finesse to know when to hide and when to fight in this game, but it is a wonderful aspect of the game's strategic challenge.

The game also has a 3rd dimension. Ships can move to different altitudes in orbit; High orbit, low orbit, and atmosphere.

So onto gameplay itself. Similiar to Dropzone, your fleet will be organized into Battlegroups. Each battlegroup will have a "tonnage" value based on the ships that make up that battlegroup. All this information goes onto cards corresponding to your battlegroups. At the beginning of a turn, each player chooses the order that those cards will be drawn in for that turn, planning his strategy. For each activation both players will flip one card, and whoever has a lower "tonnage" or "strategy rating" gets to go first, or rather choose who goes first for that activation. This makes a lot of sense, allowing speedy ships to get initiative while big hulking dreadnoughts and massive squadrons respond a little more slowly in combat.

For each activation you will issue your groups of ships within that battlegroup 1 standard order and/or 1 special order. A special order being basically any other order there is; max thrust, silent running, course change, station keeping, and weapons free. Note that some orders restrict certain abilities while granting others, as well as adding or removing "spikes" that would increase your ships signature and thus exposure to your opponents scanners. This is especially critical for your strike carriers and bulk landers, the ships carrying all the armor and troops for landfall on the planet. Strike carriers have to get to atmosphere to drop, while bulk landers have to get to low orbit. Every ship enters the game at high orbit, so many times you are trying to race safely into lower orbital layers to deliver your payload of troops, which is the ultimate strategic goal of the game and the greater fleet battle.

I could go into great detail about the strategy and depth of the game, or how Dropzone and Dropfleet can be played simultaneously together, but for a quick synopsis this should do for now. Now onto the factions and what makes them unique!

Faction Breakdown

The current factions in Dropfleet Commander are UCM, Scourge, PHR, and Shaltari. Resistance don't have a showing in Dropfleet because they don't have any space ships, which is right in line with the fiction. These factions have themes similar to their Dropzone counterparts, but they are definitely not the same.

UCM: Lazers, Turrets, and Mass Production for the sake of taking beck the Cradle Worlds

Within the fluff, the UCM, or UCMF, was mankind's answer to the scourge invasion, now returning to take back their past human worlds. They still feature a mass-production feel, but they also feature relatively cheap ships churned out of factories in numbers. Additionally they bring the Burnthrough Laser, a devastating space weapon that burns through enemy ships with its own chaining dice mechanic. They also bring wonderful frigates for close action or supplementary turret volleys, and a very special and unique reconnaissance frigate that can put spikes on almost any enemy ship through its scanning ability.

As UCM you bring the most average armor, weapons, and total health (hull). However, this means you benefit very directly from your tactical decisions. Maneuvers can make or break your effectiveness, don't hesitate to try some captain Kirk decisions like ramming and going straight through debris fields to get to strike first. New players have difficulty with UCM, but as you learn how to push their subtle advantages you can become unstoppable.

If you like feeling that you won entirely on your command decisions, I'd suggest UCM for the tactical genius.

SCOURGE: Stealth,  Speed, and Unrivaled Close Action Volleys

The Scourge fleet is very squidy and aggressive. They have some amazing abilities, such as stealth and cloaking, making them almost impossible to gain spikes to increase their signature.  Uniquely, ALL of their frigates can get down to atmosphere, and some can even shoot up from it at ships in higher orbits like a submarine might do in the ocean. Their close action weapons have Scald, which allows them to treat opponent armor as worse than it normally would be, shields or not. They lack armor and hull, but have speed and power. In Dropzone I call them glass cannons with rockets strapped on, but for Dropfleet the Scourge have more hit-and-run tactics, hiding in atmosphere, and stealthiness right up into your face just before unleashing hell. Atop that they have amazing weapons that can do 2 damage per hit, really giving them some hefty punch.

For players who want to spread stealthily around the board, and then suddenly strike and cut ships apart with a swarm of dice, Scourge are for you.

PHR: Broadsides, Massive Armor and Hull, Surprising Flexibility

The PHR bring some amazing ships. Along with the theme, they feature superior technology and huge armor and hull. The true surprise is BROADSIDES. They may be less accurate, but bring plenty of dice, and are each specifically better at hitting certain ship sizes. This also means difficult things that only hit on 6+ in atmosphere are more feasible through sheer volume from a volley. They are just as fast as UCM ships with almost better everything. Most lack any forward arc weaponry, with the exception of some small lasers and the impressive Dark Matter Cannon on the battleship. The PHR also have some of the most devastating launch assets hitting on 2+ for easy critical hits. Unlike other factions, a huge boon for PHR is that almost every ship comes with an array of different weapons and/or launch assets, granting amazing tactical flexibility. Couple that with how stubborn they are against damage and you have a heavy force to be reckoned with. You may be bringing fewer ships, but with the multipurpose nature of them, even the troopships, they are always fun to play throwing out shots at anything brave enough to get close.

Their strike carriers and bulk landers are quite special too. The ships that carry their troops, even the strike carriers, feature BOMBARDMENT weapons. This is amazing because they can drop their own troops into cities, while also bombing the cities an opponent is occupying.

To be clear though, PHR do have drawbacks, some of which I mentioned already. They lack forward weapons, so you may be a little delayed in getting shots out. While some are fast, other ships are slow. Also, ships are expensive so you probably wont be fielding that many. And even more challenging is getting full use out of broadsides, when sometimes you have to very inefficiently fire off only one side. These things can be overcome, but don't forget them.

If you like old school broadside tactics, huge volleys, and bombing entire cities, PHR are for you.

SHALTARI: Particle, Shields, Voidgates, Motherships

The Shaltari are janky as usual, and have some very interesting special effects. First off, they have shields, but they come at a cost. With shields off the Shaltari have tiny signatures, but with shields on they are visible almost across the board. However, shields on CAN block crits, unlike armor, and is generally better than their armor save by a factor of 1. Additionally their troop dropping game is completely different. They have motherships and voidgates, which teleport troops to the ground in a "chain" from mothership to gate to gate to the ground. So a mothership can hide within range and keep dropping through adjacent voidgates, or even chain voidgates to drop even further away from the safety of a distant position. Ontop of that, voidgates have "charged atmosphere", which allows them to attempt to shoot down any troops you try to drop, effectively getting a free point defense battery that other factions would have to manually drop on a sector. These special abilities give Shaltari a unique edge in strategy and make them a lot of fun to play with and against.

Then weaponry for Shaltari can be devastating. In PARTicular the PARTICLE CANNONS can be used to force opponents to make crazy manuevers just to avoid you. Hits from them always count as crits, and the big particle triad on the Diamond battleship causes crippling effects if it rolls one critical dice, causing negative effects fast and often killing an enemy cruiser a turn if your opponent doesn't play carefully. Also Shaltari has a special close action called "Beam" that will ignore enemy point defense, meaning those crits will go straight through enemy point defense and armor easily. Their frigates are fast and scary, and their very tiny signatures across the fleet make them very hard to hit first. Again, all the units are very elite, but if you lose too much you will have difficulty catching up as Shaltari. Keep the intiative and signatures in your favor and no one will be able to touch you.

If you like shields, motherships, teleporting troops, and general superiority in the quality of your fleet, Shaltari are for you.

Well, that sums up the Dropfleet factions pretty well. I hope you enjoyed this, and If you have any questions please ask!


  1. Particle weapons at this moment do not work as they suspected, dicruptors have much better firepower. PHR at this moment do not have flexibility is factions rely on tropships.

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    1. Thanks! I do listen on occasion

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