A Beginners Guide To Dropfleet Commander: Part One – Components & Ships

December 19, 2016 by crew

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"You rush down the passageway, sirens blaring, the red lights strobe insistently, general quarters and battle stations are being called over the 1MC. The sounds of boots hitting the deck and the shouts of sailors echo along the bulkheads. The feel of gravity shifting occurs and soon disappears as the ship comes onto a new heading.

A Beginners Guide To Dropfleet Commander: Part One - Components & Ships

You reach your destination, the Combat Information Center also known as the CIC. As you key in your bio-metrics and scan your retina you take a deep breath and enter...chaos"

Welcome to Dropfleet Commander, a game created by Hawk Wargames in the Dropzone Universe, where unlike the traditional Space Based Fleet game you are battling over a planet with the goal to drop tanks and infantry to fight over cities as the battle in space overhead rages. You command spaceships of various sizes, from small Corvettes to behemoth Battleships and in the future Dreadnoughts.

Dropfleet Commander Main

Dropfleet Commander plays like a World War II submarine game. You have no “range” for your ships, in fact, you base everything off of your Scan range and the enemies Signature range. Do not fret, I will get into that more later on.

What makes this game different from other fleet based games? Well, the first thing is that games don’t typically take place in the emptiness of space. They take place over a planet! Your goal is to get your troops on the ground and to secure positions for follow-on waves!

So in the end, you can lose all of your forces in space but if you win the ground battle you can still win the game. If dice rolling is not your strong suit, do not fret either. Tactics and strategy galore awaits those who pick up this fantastic game. An important thing to note is that Andy Chambers designed the rules behind the game so for all of you who love(d) Battlefleet Gothic you now have a spiritual successor!

Ship Types

As I stated prior there are several ship types in the game and they break down into four main types. You have Light ships which will be your Corvettes, Frigates, and possibly Destroyers in the future. There are Medium ships, which are your various cruisers hulls and these will make up the bulk of more of your fleets.

UCM Ship Breakdown

The Heavy ships are next and they are your Heavy Cruisers, and Battlecruisers. These are hard hitting vessels that you will only have a few of in a fleet. Lastly, the Superheavy ships are your massive ships, your Battleships and in the future your Dreadnoughts. You will typically only see a single battleship per list but there could be a second out there if you wanted to push things to the limit!

Shaltari Ship Breakdown

A fun tip for all you enthusiastic Admiral’s out there is that each ship of a certain class currently has the same stats. So, a Shaltari Cruiser will have the same base stats (Thrust, Armor, Hull, etc) as another Shaltari Cruiser. Weapons will change but the base stats will stay the same. This will be only viable for each book however so we could see situations where the same “Hull type” was reused elsewhere.

Common Components

Now that we know about the ships, we can go over the components of the game. There are many so bear with me here. The important things are your bases which will track your damage, your orbital layer, and your energy spikes.

Dropfleet Base

You will need an Activation Deck made from Battlegroup Cards (more on that below) which will help you determine what order you are activating throughout the turn.


You will also need D6 dice, I would recommend about ten to start. You will need a tape measure that uses inches, some ships from one of the four factions, a rulebook, tokens for debris, sectors, clusters, and troops, oh and two D10 for tracking victory points during the game. Thankfully almost all of this can be picked up in the Dropfleet Two Player Starter Set.

Activation Deck

As we mentioned above...

Activation Cards

...this will help determine the order of your battlegroups in a turn and we're going to be going over that in the next article in this series when we cover how a Game Turn works.


These are your targets. Now the ones in the picture here are older versions (smaller too) than those in the Two Player Starter Set which will be available for free on the Hawk Wargames website when it is updated and is in the back of the Dropfleet Commander Rulebook.

Clusters & Sectors

These Clusters are important as they contain the next component...


These sectors come in various types. The ones in the picture below are the most common and they are (from left to right) Industrial, City, and Military Sectors. These go on the dark circles on the Clusters.

Dropfleet Sectors

These are where you land troops and what ultimately will win you the game.

New Resin Sectors

The pictures here show the Deluxe Resin Sector Pack which is to scale with the ships in the game (pretty insane right!?) and the other shows off the new Advanced Sectors which got spoiled as part of Hawk's Advent Calendar!

Debris/Planetary Rings/Large Solid Objects

Here we can see the clusters and debris fields that come in the Two Player Starter Set. Debris are the pieces of terrain that you can hide behind but watch out as they can be a double edge sword. Debris lowers the attackers Scan range and makes it harder to hit that target as well. Use them to screen your ships when you can.

Sectors & Debris

Added to debris fields there are Planetary Rings that obstruct your attacks when in High Orbit, or shooting into High Orbit.

Lastly, there are Large Solid Objects (LSO) with the obligatory “That’s no moon!” quote popping up in nearly all cases. Right now LSOs can be Death Stars, moons, giant stations that are not definitely not death stars, comets, etc. If you run into them you go BOOM, so watch out for that!

Launch Assets

The Launch Assets are your friends, they make things go boom or prevent the boom happening to you. Okay, on a more serious note, Launch Assets are your Fighters, Bombers and Torpedoes. The first two are deployed from Carriers and the last is a special Limited weapon that only a few ships have.

Launch Assets

There is a secondary group which are your Dropships and Bulk Landers. Dropships are deployed from Strike Carriers and Motherships (through the Voidgates) while Bulk Landers are deployed from Troopships. These are key to winning the game.

Space Stations

Space Stations are placed in Low Orbit over the planet. They can be captured, have weapons, and can be attacked. These appear in many of the missions and are a lot of fun.

Space Stations

The picture here is arguably the most impressive kit that Hawk has created. It is the Space Station kit! I am a little biased but the versatility and imagination that can go into with just a single Space Station Pack is huge!

Battle Station

The eight stations you see in the picture can be made from one pack. Then there is the Monstrosity that Warren dreamed up. You can check it out here from the Beasts of War Boot Camp.

What's Next?

Now that you have your very own Dropfleet Commander starter fleet...wait...you don’t have one yet!? Hurry! Go pick one up already!

UCM Starter Fleet

WHEW, now that the crisis is averted and I had my bit of fun, I wanted to let you know that each sprue in Dropfleet is not limited in its possibilities. What I mean by this is that a Starter fleet comes with three Cruiser Sprues which can make at least nine different ships. It also comes with a Frigate Sprue which can build four to five different frigates. So, there are a variety of modelling and building potentials waiting to be unlocked.

Scourge Starter Fleet

Hawk Wargames recommends that you make at least two Strike Carriers for the UCM, Scourge, and PHR factions from your Frigate Sprue. For the Shaltari they recommend an Emerald-class Mothership from a Cruiser Sprue. I support these recommendations because they will not only let you learn the game properly but the goal of the game is to get boots to the ground in order to win.

For those of you who have no idea what to build, fret not as Hawk Wargames added a recommended build to the starter set to help you get started.

Check back for the next part of this article series where we're going into how to play the game with a standard turn run through!

By Damion Spearman

If you would like to write for Beasts of War then please contact us at [email protected] for more information.

"What makes this game different from other fleet based games? Well, the first thing is that games don’t typically take place in the emptiness of space. They take place over a planet!"

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"You will typically only see a single battleship per list but there could be a second out there if you wanted to push things to the limit!"

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