Sunday, 21 August 2016

Dropfleet Commander Pre-Launch – Firestorm Games Cardiff 20th August

I arrived home just before Midnight having driven back from Cardiff (OK shared the drive -Paul & I took turns). This morning having had a night to think over the event, here’s my impressions. I should add I was there as a Talon – i.e. a Hawk Wargames volunteer and I was running a couple of demonstration games of Dropfleet using the Beta \ Admiral set of rules. 

The original plan was that this event would have been preceded by the Kickstarter release of Dropfleet Commander, so the public could have attended with their own fleets to take part. Due to some delays with the Kickstarter Hawk obviously thought it was necessary to change the format to more demo and painting tutorials.

I had volunteered rather rashly – we faced a five to six hour drive to Cardiff on a good day, and in the event the trip down from ‘t North was far from good – seven and a half hours in total to reach the venue. We arrived around six on Friday evening and had a good look around. I have to say we were impressed. I had attended an event several years ago in the old venue, but the new one is a quantum leap forward – massive gaming area, great facilities. Shortly after we arrived the Hawk team also came in, and we volunteered to help set up. That proved a mixed blessing as it took some time but I also got the chance to get the demo briefing so saved myself half an hour for tomorrow so we planned to have a “proper” breakfast rather than rush down to Firestorm. It was also great to catch up with some of the older Hawk hands such as Louis (fine chap) and also meet the new members of the team – particularly Liam who is now handling the Talon program.

Next morning started badly - the promised cooked breakfast at the pub was not to be as there was a power cut - so we ended up with a less than satisfying one at McDonalds. 

Arriving back at Firestorm everything went very smoothly, and it was clear to me that the Hawk Team have massively upped their game as far as organisation went. Hawk have always been good with the imagery and their presentation material, painted models, cabinets, banners etc. have always been first class, but in the past their organisation and engagement has sometimes been patchy as they were sometimes swamped by not having enough warm bodies to cover the conflicting demands on their time. This was very different. There were plenty of bodies available, and the briefing and general organisation (by James) was pretty damned impressive – dare I say professional. The demo games were tight and universally well received, and the painting and modelling sessions busy and fun. Dave Lewis gave a very good Q&A session on where they were with the game and dropped some big hints about the future direction of both DFC and DZC. The last part of the day was going to be a massive public participation game of both systems, with Dropfleet action affecting the Dropzone game, but mindful of the long drive home we left a little early, so I can’t say how everything went after that – well apparently from other reports. Sadly I was so busy I only got a chance to take a few pictures.

Was there a downside? Clearly the implications of the delay in the Kickstarter meant this was not the event originally envisaged, and the admirable insistence that no retail stock would be released before the KS backers got their pledges fulfilled meant there was no sales, however everyone was rewarded with a Frigate sprue and also anyone pre ordering more than £75 of Dropfleet through Firestorm got a Cruiser sprue as well. Firestorm Games was superb, but it did highlight the need for a similar venue more centrally located.

Final impressions. Dropfleet is going to be a winner. The rules are solid, gameplay interesting and the models beautiful. More than that, I got the impression that Hawk Wargames has finally steadied itself and grown into something more than Dave and his friends trying valiantly to cope with the runaway success that was DZC. They now have an organisation that has the capacity to deliver the product without the problems of the past, and plans and capacity to support it in games stores and clubs. Looking good for the future.