Friday, 11 April 2014

Dropzone Commander too expensive? Au Contraire Blackadder

The bar was crowded and smoke filled. Gathered here were some of the meanest Hombres ever to roll dice. Through the haze and murmuring a voice spoke, loud and deep.

“Not sure how anyone can say that Dropzone Commander not is expensive when 12mm infantry are coming in at 45p each. Pendraken are 15p each”

There was silence. This was Black Del, world renowned, banned from TMP and known as “The Head Counter”. The silence was broken by the sound of a chair sliding back, and Renko took a deep breath and said “Well actually I think I can”

And I think I can – but please remember there are lies, damned lies, and statistics, and the point is that I’m trying to show DZC is not particularly more expensive than equivalent games.

Derek is of course correct, a standard blister of DZC infantry costs £12 RRP and contains 30 miniatures and six bases, so even my mathematically challenged brain can work out that’s 40p per figure, and Pendraken are indeed £1.50 per bag of 10, so that’s 15p per figure, except that’s not the full story. That blister of 30 figures contains two full units of infantry, five poses including support weapons. How does that compare to the others?

Firstly we need to say who the “others” are. Pendraken has been mentioned. Not quite a straight comparison as they are technical 10mm not 12mm but I don’t think that makes much difference. A more direct comparison could perhaps be Minifigs 1:144 \ 12mm Moderns. I’m using these two examples as comparisons because I own them and have first-hand experience dealing with the figures and the manufacturers. Let us look at them in detail, Pendraken first.

I like Pendraken – Leon & Dave do great stuff at great prices. Here is a link to their site btw - well worth a visit

So what would it cost to get an equivalent infantry platoon from Pendraken for a game like FoW Vietnam?

I’ll take the Aussies as a comparison. They need six four man “teams” and a three man Command team. The teams need to have M60s, M79s, M16 and SLRs, and a command needs an officer and a Radioman, plus a spare, so 27 figs in total. Pendraken only sell their Nam range in either 10 man packs or a big £20 army bag. To get those 27 figures for my platoon I would need to buy 6 packs of figures at £1.50 a bag, i.e £9.00, or 33p a figure. Still cheaper, but not so different?

How about Minifigs?

I love Minifigs modern infantry. They tend to be nicely proportioned and well detailed, although they do suffer a bit from big weapons, especially the Russians. Anyway, a standard Russian Motor Rifle Platoon has three ten men squads plus command with an ATGM and SA7. How much will this cost? Minifigs infantry are £3.70 a pack and include mixed poses and some LMG types as well as assault rifles. No officers or the ubiquitous RPGs, they come in a separate set at another £3.70 for 18 figures which includes a SA7 and ATGW. Only problem is that to get the full 3 RPGs you need to buy a further bag of spare Officers and RPGs at an additional £3.70 for 12. That means to get your platoon of 36 figs you need 3 packs, or £11.10 for the platoon, or 31p per figure.

Of course with both you will end up with far more spare figures – probably enough to do two platoons from Pendraken – personally I would choose to add another pack of SLRs just to get variety in poses, and you would need another rifle pack to do the same from Minifigs, so the final reckoning, at least as far as I can see, is that the equivalent two units you get in a DZC blister for £12 will cost you £11.50 from Pendraken and £14.80 from Minifigs.

So how about quality? Actually I’m not a great fan of the DZC infantry. I don’t know why, as the detail is there in abundance, maybe the poses let them down a little? I like Minifigs, but they fail the weapon scale test big style – the RPGs in particular are huge, and you can use some of the AK47 guys as LMGs due to the size, Pendraken are great, the detail is a bit “soft” but otherwise they look the part and the poses are nice – particularly like the kneeling squad leader with the SMG and hand raised – although he is another of the poses that would need to be added to the overall cost. As for dealing with them, Hawk (DZC) and Pendraken are great. Caliver, who now have the Minifigs line treat it as a side line and a dead range and are err “not as helpful” to any suggestion to expend the range, which is a shame, because they really are in the driving seat if you want to do 70s onwards in 12mm.

So that’s the infantry, and I didn’t mention the bases because you could just cut them from card I suppose. So what about other parts?

Tanks etc are probably the easiest. DZC sell UCM Sabre MBTs tanks in packs of three for £11, so that’s £3.66 each. Other tanks are similarly priced. What about “The Others”?

A Minifigs T72 (or indeed any of their Russian MBTs) are £4.50 each, with the smaller vehicles are £3.70. Pendraken have just released their T55 and Centurions for Vietnam and they too are £4.50, with M113s etc at about £3 each. All pretty much similar in price, but the DZC vehicles are CAD designed and cast in very crisp resin, the others are metal and vary in quality and accuracy rather a lot – neither match the DZC stuff for detail or crispness.

Of course the Elephant in the Room with Dropzone Commander is the Dropships. They are pretty much obligatory. Medium Dropships are £11, lights £10.50 a pair. You would probably need three mediums and a couple of lights to play DZC comfortably. The equivalent to the light Dropships from Pendraken would be a Huey at £4.50, Minifigs will do you a Hip for £5.95. In both cases you need about 4 to shift a platoon equivalent around, but due to the smaller unit sizes in DZC you only need one Meduim Dropship to shift 2 units of infantry, ie £11 of transports, but to shift the same number of units in the other examples would cost you £40 - about the total you would pay to get all the Dropships you need.   I can’t think of an equivalent to a Medium Dropship (apols).

Rules – what about them?

DZC rules are £15. FoW £35.00 – Pendraken don’t do anything as they’re just models but my current favourite rules, Chain of Command are £22. FoW are a 3 book set with the main book hardback but CoC and DZC are similar softbacks with high production values – and while pretty pictures don’t mean much, the DZC book is the prettiest by far.

So I hope I have shown that as a game system, Dropzone Commander is not particularly more expensive than some equivalent options? Now the real kicker is the DZC Starter set.

This was released last year and comprises two “Starter” armies, a set of rules, map sheet, card buildings and counters, all at £60 RRP. The two starter armies are identical to the ones initially sold in resin at £60 each, but are in plastic. Detail is not quite as good as the resin, but apart from the infantry you would be pushed to tell the difference – in fact some players prefer the plastic. If you really want to play at the standard game level you need about twice as much kit as each starter army, but that in itself is not such an issue as if you and your opponent each buy a starter and swap the opposite starter armies you will each have a rules set and a full army for £60. You need to throw in a Command Unit and some command cards to play the full game, so the total cost would be £76.00 for the UCM player and £82.50 for the Scourge. That would include two sets of rules and enough buildings and map sheets to cover a full table, and then some.

This x2

So is that really that expensive, £80 for a complete game system from the ground up? I would be surprised if you could find a similar package, models, rules, terrain for less, and that is before you apply the standard on line shippers 10% discount.

Now all that talk about 10mm Nam has fired up my interest again. Where did I leave those Aussies???


  1. But if you ask them nicely Pendraken will sell any combination of figures you ask for at a just slight premium over the price for their normal packs.

    My experience is that 30 figures, mixed for your own specific needs, would still cost under £5.

    You're mounting a valiant defence for Dropzone Commander though I still think it's pricey :-)

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    2. I'm doing my best Derek :-)

      Of course you could cut out the middleman and carve your own figures out of cornflakes or whatever, and yes, Pendraken are great at filling special orders - they will even cast up stuff for you if you arrive at the unit on spec (don't think you would have much joy trying that w Caliver btw). I can't deny the DZC infantry are at the top of the price range, but as I think I tried to point out, the total game package itself is not expensive when compared to similar ones, either in that scale or not.

      Why not give it a try, you may even like it?

  2. This year I've resolved to finish off projects rather than start new ones. And I've decided that I much prefer historical gaming to SF or fantasy anyway.

  3. And if I even get the STF itch again I've got forces for both 40K and Epic Armageddon painted and ready to play. And some 15mm skirmish forces.

    If you're enjoying the game and think it's value for money then good for you. But if there's one thing that I've learned over the years it's that you can save lots of money by playing historical games rather than fantasy or SF.

  4. LOL I'm not sure owning up to Epic is strengthening your case for frugality, and comparisons with 40K don't help too much either, moribund, stale, lacking innovation etc, however whatever floats your boat

  5. Epic was reasonably priced when I bought it many years ago and I'm selling off some of it at an outrageous profit. I'm also going to sell off some of the the 40K stuff, which was bought when my son was younger and keen on the game. But most of it just isn't worth selling. Would look to find another game to play with the figures, 40K is not my cup of tea.

  6. I suspect we are going to have to agree to disagree Del. I played Epic from the start and it was never "reasonably priced" if you use your comparitor of historical models, and I would be rather surprised if a balanced look at the RRP of Epic was not at as much as that of DZC in todays prices, if not more. Then again everything was cheaper in the Good Old Days, I was there! :-)

    Can't help you with your alternate use for 40K figures; I would suggest Gruntz and StarGrunt 2 - both excellent, but the power armoured wombles with swords are not going to like a world where you can shoot further than you can move! Cheers

  7. It's not a fair comparison - I've been buying cheap Epic stuff at bring & buys and on Ebay and selling off the valuable bits on Ebay for about twenty years. The company of Space Marines and largish Ork mob that are left in my possession effectively cost nothing. You couldn't do that starting now.

    Gates of Antares looks like a posssible when it comes out and the Space Wombles should feel right at home. If I want to play something sensible I'll play historical thanks.

  8. Talking about unfair comparisons
    “I have to pay less for bad stuff, than I have to pay for good stuff – totally unfair” ;)
    First off I started with DzC because it absolutely fascinated me (background, figures, details, rules, well balanced factions, ++fun) and not because their figures were 2 cents cheaper…
    I haven’t played a tabletop game before that was as exciting from the first to the last second of the game and always the chance that you can turn it around at the last instant – which happens quite regularly in DzC, especially with evenenly matched opponents.
    Second as Renko already stated – the starter set is awesome and quite cheap. Everything you need is inside - and even with the starter armies alone you can have exciting games.
    Third – pretty much every blister gives you a new strategic option in the game, because almost every unit plays a distinct part on the field of battle.
    So instead of spending a shitload of money to get the “speedier” option, or the “long range” or whatever option – it is just the price for one or two blisters. – Which is cheap in my book.
    Last but not least I found that only people who haven’t played DzC before actually complain about the prize. Funny isn’t it.
    Try it out then talk… ;)