Friday, November 4, 2016

Tactics Guide: All about those Activations

Thunderboy struck my inspiration node today!

Thunderboy came in like a bolt of liiiightning!~

Sorry. . . I could not help myself! I would let myself out but this is my blog and you all came to read it!

So today I will be discussing activation orders and things to consider when you plan your turn out!

Gods, what order do I plan my turn. . . 

Unlike some Miniature Wargames, you dont have the capacitiy to activate your entire force and do your activations, others have you just activate one unit/battlegroup, while others still have a set order defined by a Stat of some sort. In Dropfleet that is all done away with! Well sort of, instead you have your battlegroups and each one has a strategy rating that is based off that battlegroups total size.

So if you have a battlegroup that consists of a Scourge Wyvern Cruiser (a medium tonnage ship), and 3x Scourge Djinn Frigates (light tonnage ships), your battlegroup would have a Strategy Rating of 8. This is important because you will have these handy dandy Activation Cards that come in a playing card style of deck. The idea is to write on them and later they will supposedly have an app of some sort that will let you print these. I cheat a little, I use Top Loaders and a dry erase marker and just write on that. It rubs off if you are not careful but it works well!

So at the start of the turn you will take all of your remaining battlegroup cards and you will put them all in the order you want to activate those ships in. Then you and your opponent have a "showdown" and flip the top card. The person with the lowest Strategy Rating gets to pick who activates in what battlegroup first. This goes on till the end of the turn. If you lost a battlegroup that has not activated and you flip that card, just discard it and flip the next card! Simple as pie. . . hmmmm pie is never simple. . . I think I need a new saying.

So now that we have that part down lets go into some strategy!

The nitty gritty of Activation order

So we are in the weeds now. Selecting the order of your activation's can be daunting at times but there are a few things I have found that can be helpful. If you are going to go with a low SR rating, figure out if you want to go first or have your opponent to go first. So lets say you have 5x UCM Taipei-class Frigates (SR5) in a Battlegroup and are trying to figure out where to place them. In the beginning (turns 1-2) turns they might go near the bottom of your activation's. This is due to wanting to see where your opponent will place units and then selecting what ship/battlegroup you are going to aim for. Later on, (turns 2-4) you will want that near the top so that you can make your attack runs before being shot at, and near the end of the game you will likely have this group all over the place (if it still lives :P )

Beautiful work Callum!

When you have medium sized groups like a PHR Ganymede-class Assault Troopship and 3x Europa-class Frigates (SR 8) you have to be prepared to tie a lot more. For ties between showdowns, you and your opponent roll a d6 and add your Admiral Values. The Winner gets to choose who goes first. For a group like this, you will want it to be in the middle near the bottom due to wanting this to be able to decide where you will be headed to with your troopship. Groups with combat cruisers like the PHR Orion-class cruiser will also want to be in the middle of the deck at times. This is to allow your opponent to move closer and to let them spike themselves so that your ranges and arcs are golden.

Great work Chris C!

For bigger battlegroups that are around SR 15 or more you will usually always be at the dictate of your opponent getting to choose who goes first. Expect that early on (Turns 1-2) that your opponent will  force you to act first. Due to this you will want to plan these early to the middle of the deck. This is to force your opponent to have a few hard choices on where he wants to go. You can also plan them later in the deck but you will want to make sure that you have a good target. Turns 2-4 you will find that your opponent will not want these to go first so plan these early on to force bad choices or later in the turn to have a stick to beat your opponent with.

Fantastic work Dan B!

So many contradictions!

You will notice that each type I listed has various places they want to be in the beginning and none of them want to really be in the front at the beginning of the game. Well that is the problem is it not? There are several types of battlegroups out that that I have started to identify. Each type of battlegroup has its own desire for where it goes on the activation deck, this is also changed by what is going on in the game at that time. You have to make predictions, place bait, and activate traps. Remember that this is a game that is less about how much damage you can do to an opponent and more about the objective.

I have seen games where people have lost because they did were focused on dealing as much damage as possible and less on the objective (happened to me). So word to the wise. Always watch those objectives!


Planning your activation's is a key to the game. If you can get that mastery down and become flexible in your choices you will go far.

I will be going into further depth on the types of Battlegroups I have on my Patreon page. While it seems cruel even to me to hold information back, it does take money to keep the lights on and every bit helps. I thank you all for your support and your willingness to hear me blather on.

Thank you to Ian at WarGaming Mats for sponsoring this blog! We look forward to your continued support!


  1. I'm definitely going to get to face those awesome Shaltari ships that Dan B painted! He lives in the next town over, and will definitely be hanging out at Games U.