Getting Started with Dropfleet Commander
Updated on 13 September 2021. Thanks for those that have given us feedback! It is very much appreciated!
relentless propaganda machine enthusiasm for Dropfleet Commander has you ready to jump in? Since they’re somewhat niche game systems at the moment, it can be somewhat hard to know exactly what you need to get started, or even where to look. As such, we came up with a shopping list for you. This guide is intended for an American audience, though in effect, it can work for anyone outside of Britain. Why does that matter? Because the best and most reliable place to get Drop toys is directly from TTCombat. You simply will not find anyone selling DfC in the U.S. cheaper than TTCombat. However, that means significant costs on shipping unless you hit their £100 threshold for free overseas shipping. As such, our guides are predicated on hitting that threshold. I should also note this guide does not take into account current stock levels. As of writing, TTCombat appears to be having trouble keeping up their stock with demand, which is probably good news for the health of the games overall, but is kind of annoying at the consumer end for obvious reasons. Down the line, if you do need a smaller purchase in the United States, we recommend Kick Ass Mail Order or Gopher Mafia Games. They have excellent prices and the best stock you will find on this side of the Atlantic.
We have two shopping lists, depending on how you’re getting into the game. If you are the first one in the area buying into Dropfleet, and as such will have to be the one demonstrating the game to others, we recommend grabbing a starter set and a starter fleet of either UCM or Scourge, whichever appeals most to you. This will give you a very respectable fleet of your own, plus a nice sized fleet for whomever you want to demonstrate the game. You also get all the tokens you need to play without finding and printing anything from the website, plus the awesome Battle for Earth book. Alternatively, if there are two of you buying into the game together, just grab two starter sets and split the contents in half. You’ll need to find some command card decks later on, but you can either grab those from Kick Ass Mail Order or some other stateside retailer once you have the rules more firmly under your belt.
Look at all those ships. It's glorious.
If you’re buying into an existing meta, or just want to focus on building up your fleet first, then the shopping list is very easy for four out of the five factions in the game: grab the Battlefleet for your desired faction. These are really good deals. If you add up the individual parts, you’re basically getting a free Battlecruiser. They have everything you’ll need to get to 1500 points, which is a very common standard size for the game. They also include the Command Cards for the faction, which is an eventual must-buy. If you’re the poor Resistance, we recommend two starter fleets, a pack of corvettes, and a set of command cards. Resistance got the equivalent of a Battlefleet over in Dropzone recently, so here’s hoping that TTCombat eventually creates the Battlefleet boxes for Resistance as well.
A big question for once your purchase arrives is “what the hell do I build?” Dropfleet has a lot more choice in their plastic ship kits than Dropzone does their ground units, and there are certain ships that are essentially mandatory in Dropfleet. As such, in addition to a “what to buy” list, we also want to give you a “what to assemble” list for each faction. This assembly list is tailored toward the battlefleets, but the UCM and Scourge portions will still work if you bought some variation of the starter sets. The Resistance portion is geared toward our recommended purchase above. Assembly instructions for all ships can be found on the TTCombat Community website, here. We’ll start first with the usual UCM.
UCM is a faction with a lot of viable cruisers. You can easily make use out of just about every option available. Still, you’ll want to start with a San Francisco and a Madrid. Bulk Landers are a much needed asset for securing sectors. The San Francisco is your only source of that asset as UCM. Bombardment is also key to many scenarios, and the Madrid is remarkably efficient at that critical role. The remaining four cruisers are a bit of a dealer’s choice. We recommend you build two Seattles, which is a somewhat controversial ship. UCM fighters and bombers aren’t great, but you should get a feel for them, if for nothing else to see how that part of the game works. The Seattle also isn’t just a carrier. It is more of a generalist, with good armor and solid guns that don’t require a weapons free order to maximize. The fighters and bombers aren’t its only way to contribute. Again, the Seattle is pretty controversial among UCM players. You're either gonna swear by it or hate it. If you would rather play it safe, you can assemble a pair of Osakas. These are very efficient damage dealers, which push out a lot of 3+ lock shots for pretty cheap. As light cruisers, have to be taken in pairs at a minimum, so make sure you build at least two if you build any. For your next cruiser, you should try out a Moscow. It has a ton of firepower on weapons free, which a great many UCM players swear by. For the last cruiser, we recommend a Berlin, which will get you acquainted with burnthrough lasers.
For the frigates, four New Orleans are a must. Drop assets win games, and the New Orleans gets you those drops. A couple Jakartas are a nice asset to try out, as they're nice cheap ways to supplement your point defense and can scan in a pinch. To finish out your frigates, grab a couple of Limas. They're a great way to spot for your New Cairos. The corvettes don’t have any customization options, so our final recommendation is for the Battlecruiser. Of the two options available in the Battlefleet, we recommend the Johannesburg. It's got the firepower of a Moscow, but with the launch capability of a Seattle. Between it and the Seattle, you're probably more likely to use the Johannesburg long term.
For Scourge, we’ll start with the same recommendation as the UCM: build a troopship. For the Scourge, that’s a Chimera. Bulk Landers are really get for putting down masses of troops and/or defense batteries on the ground. You should have at least one. Next up, we recommend a pair of Hydras. Scourge launch is really good, and the Hydra is an extremely efficient carrier. You’ll never regret bringing a pair of Hydras. For your final three cruisers, we’re going to recommend three Yokais. These are rather fragile light cruisers, but they pack a ton of firepower. Getting used to the timing for going weapons free with these guys are part of the learning curve for Scourge. Once you get the feel, they put out a ton of pain for their low cost.
For frigates, start with four Gargoyles, which are your dropships. Drop. Wins. Games. We can’t emphasize that enough. Don’t skimp. For the other four frigates, Djinn have gobs and gobs of close action attacks. A swarm of Djinn is a lot of fun. Again, corvettes don’t have any customization options, so the Battlecruiser is the last thing in the box. The Banshee has the potential to be a lot of fun, but I’d be doing you a disservice recommending that. Do yourself a favor: build an Akuma and never look back. It packs some stunningly nasty firepower with its Oculus Beams, which can do as much as 16 damages on a weapons free order. It is a somewhat tricky ship to learn, but its stealth and full cloak rules do a lot to protect you from incoming fire. You might find yourself loving this ship so much that you buy three more battlecruisers to maximize the number of them you have in your fleet.
Shaltari are freaking weird. To be honest, if you’re just starting out, we probably wouldn’t recommend this fleet. It has a lot of extra rules that are not particularly newbie friendly. That said, the models are awesome, so don’t let the learning curve intimidate you if you love the look. Just like everyone else, Shaltari need drop assets. They do in a very different way, though. When it comes to assembly, all you really need to know is you probably need at least two Emerald Motherships. These, combined with the six voidgates in the box (these have no assembly options, so we won’t discuss them further), are your drop assets. After that, we would recommend two Basalts. Shaltari have some solid launch capabilities, so having a pair of carriers is a solid plan. Finally, for your last two cruisers, we recommend a pair of Ambers. These are amongst the most user friendly Shaltari ships because of their wider arc for their primary weapons. The ability to both broadside and frontal attack is also nice.
For frigates, you don’t need to worry about dropships, leaving you more free to build combat ships than other factions. We recommend three Jades, three Amethysts, and two Opals. Jades give you access to a nasty weapon: the particle cannon. This bad boy ignores all saves, so point the Jades at the thing you really want to die and go weapons free. Amethysts are your close range (for Shaltari) knife fighters. They pack a lot of pain into their close action beam weapons. Finally, Opals are your very annoying shield boosters, which can make your ships aggravatingly hard to kill. Trust us, you’ll want them. Once again, the Glass corvettes have no customization options. Just put them on their stands and they’re ready to go. Finally, you could probably go either way with the battlecruiser. The Ruby has a ton of firepower on weapons free, but we’re going to go the more controversial route and recommend the Sapphire. We really like the flexibility of being able to use it as either a close action beam weapon or dangerous bombardment weapon.
For PHR, we have a long list of ships we like. First up is the Orpheus. Shmitty has called this “the best ship in the game,” which is hard to argue. Orpheus cruisers bring your much needed bulk landers. Unlike other factions’ troopships, however, the Orpheus has all the weapons you normally get out of normal cruisers. Its main weapons are nasty light calibre broadsides, which tend to shred the lighter ships looking to score any early kill against a troopship. It also has a small burnthrough laser on the front. While it might not be a lot of damage, you can use the flash rule to add spikes to things you hit, making it easier for your other ships to engage that same target. Next up is the Ganymede, another Troopship. Like the Orpheus, it brings some solid weapons to the fight in addition to bulk landers. It has medium calibre broadsides as well as a solid bombardment weapon. UCM players probably look at the Ganymede with a little jealousy, as it’s the marriage of a Madrid and a San Francisco all in one very durable package. For your third cruiser, we recommend the Bellerophon heavy cruiser. It has a solid burnthrough laser, but you’re mainly bringing it for its fighters and bombers. PHR have top tier fighters, and the absolute best bombers. You’ll want some. The next cruiser we recommend is the Perseus. Heavy calibre batteries are extremely lethal, especially against enemy flagships. The Perseus should give you a taste of that type of weapon. Finally, for your last two cruisers, we recommend a pair of Theseus light cruisers. They bring a lot of firepower in a smaller package. Unlike other light cruisers, they do not have to be taken in pairs, but they're cheap enough that we recommend having the option.
Moving on to frigates, we once again recommend starting with dropships. We’re going to recommend slightly less than usual since we recommended two troopships for the cruisers. Starting out, three Medeas should serve you well. They come with a small bombardment cannon as well, since PHR doesn’t skimp on the guns. Three Pandoras are also a solid choice. Their small burnthrough lasers are perfect for spotting, adding spikes to enemy ships. Rounding out your frigates should be two Calypsos. These are defensive ships that increase the lock values of enemy ships, reducing incoming damage. They are very VERY annoying. You’ll like them. As usual, the Echo Corvettes that come in the battlefleet just need to be put on flight stands. For you battlecruiser, we recommend the Priam. It has strong light calibre broadsides as well as fighters and bombers, giving you solid overall launch capability combined with the Bellerophon.
For the Resistance...IDK...throw parts on ships at random? Starting with Resistance as your first fleet is very hard to do. Like Shaltari, we do not recommend them for beginners. However, that’s not so much about flying them as it is about physically building their fleets. Resistance is all about options and flexibility, making it hard to digest as a beginner. If you’re determined to tough through it, here’s our recommendations. First for the cruiser chassis, we recommend sticking with regular cruisers. It's the right mix of thrust, hull, and armor you need when starting out. For one hardpoint, we universally recommend ablative armor. You’ll want the extra toughness as you learn. You might be able to go lighter as you learn the game, but you don’t need to engage hard mode anymore than you already are for now. For your first two cruisers, we recommend two Fighter and Bomber bays plus a weapon system of your choice for the final hardpoint. Resistance launch is very cheap. You also badly need fighters to compensate for your terrible point defenses. For the next two cruisers, we like a combo of two bombardment mortar turrets and one bulk lander and fire ship bay. This gives you the equivalent bombardment of a Madrid, with the additional bonus of a bulk lander. You could choose to go heavier on the bulk landers, but there are other options for bulk landers as you expand your fleet. There aren’t many better options for bombardment. Two bulk landers between the two cruisers is enough to start out. Your last two cruisers can be really anything you want. We recommend you pick one weapon system with low power as these can always fire in addition to the single weapon you get to use on standard orders. Pick a pair of the same weapon system for your final two hardpoints. Resistance gets to combine those into one weapon system. Vent Cannons are a popular choice for this, though we can see a case for Mass Drivers.
Frigates are a bit easier. You’ll want four Strike Carriers for their dropships. You don’t need to take a hardpoint, but if you do, we recommend the Hybrid Gun Turrets. It keeps them cheap, but also gives them a surprising amount of dice, which can help if you need to fish for shots into atmosphere. The final four frigates should be assembled as Heavy Frigates with two Hybrid Gun Turrets. These are absolutely fantastic gunships. The extra hull point and ablative armor make them noticeably more durable than the other frigates for barely any additional cost. Meanwhile, Hybrid Gun Turrets weapons put out a ton of dice for really cheap. Oh right, we also recommended a corvette pack. You should glue those together.
When in doubt, you can always magnetize
That’s all for our basic purchase list and assembly advice. If you want to dive in a little harder with your initial buy in, there are some other things that are nice to have. For just about every faction, the Destroyer packs are a nice buy. UCM has three fantastic options for their destroyers in the Kiev, the Havana, and the Vancouver. Scourge Succubi are dangerous atmospheric hunters. Though all the PHR options are solid, the Jasons really stand out as mean gunships. Resistance gets the most efficient bulk landers in the game in Aldrins. Shaltari destroyers are a bit lackluster, so consider their monitors instead. The Selenium Heavy Gates are really great pieces of utility for Shaltari fleets. Resistance might also want to consider some Monitors so they can get some Galileos. Their scan ability and the telescope greatly improve Resistance firepower. You might also want some stuff from third party vendors. The starter sets comes with a basic modular playmat, but you might want something a little better. In addition to TTCombat's own game mats, Deepcut Studios and Mats by Mars make some great mats with mousepad material in the standard 4x4 Dropfleet size. Mats by Mars is stateside for cheaper shipping, but Deepcut Studio's prices are lower enough that the prices are roughly comparable after shipping costs. You really can’t go wrong with either vendor. We’ve used both at different times and loved what we’re gotten both times. Finally, a lot of folks don’t particularly like the standard Dropfleet bases, so Blotz (I know, this website looks a bit sketchy, but I've ordered from them no problem) and Laserforge Miniatures make alternatives. Laserforge makes a simpler all-acrylic solution that is a little pricier. Blotz makes an MDF and acrylic system that is a little bulkier, but also a little cheaper. Both require significantly large orders to get free stateside shipping, so plan accordingly.
Whew! Done! That was a long one. If you have any follow up questions, feel free to jump into the Blissfully Ignorant Gaming Discord at https://discord.gg/77EQzSF. We’ll do our best to answer your questions there. Thanks for stopping by!