I've been considering how to narratively present any given game of DZC I run and there's a pretty big variance in the amount of explanation necessary for different matchups.
UCM -vs- UCM = Rebel Uprising
The books make mention of sporadic colonial strife and uprisings. It would be entirely plausible for one of the colonies to get cold feet about the Recoqnuest and refuse to send troops, or someone locally making a power play while the forces are busy in the core worlds.
UCM -vs- Scourge = The Reconquest
Almost not worth bothering to explain, it's the cover of the rulebook, the front of the 2-player starter, the basis for the whole story.
Scourge -vs- UCM is just a counter attack.
UCM -vs- PHR = 'Abandonists'
The books are sprinkled with rumors and accounts of PHR treachery, mixed with a lack of information on them. It's easily conceivable a UCM commander would order an attack on PHR forces either out of retribution for a betrayal, black orders to preemptively move against them, or even an opportunity for a little colonial revenge for the whole fall while the upper echelons aren't looking.
PHR -vs-UCM is simply another example of the Abandonists turning against the UCM for their own ends.
UCM -vs- Shaltari = Echidna Regrets
At least some of the Cradleworlds the Shaltari aren't entirely happy the humans allowed the Scourge to take over. This would be an instance of a tribe deciding they can better care for this world than the UCM, and the UCM disagreeing, diplomacy having failed.
Shaltari -vs- UCM is a tribe testing the metal of the humans, or counterattacking an element they think is working for a rival tribe.
UCM -vs- Resistance = Reconquest, Interrupted
Not all warlords welcome the UCM. This is a case of a warlord refusing to cooperate and making of themselves such a nuisance that they have to be eliminated. Or, the UCM have found rival warlords and are backing the other guy.
Resistance -vs- UCM is a warlord defending their turf.
PHR -vs- PHR = Wargames
The PHR are masters of the virtual world, and this is easily explainable as a simulation, a wargame, but that's not a particularly satisfactory scenario. So instead, what if the Abandonists are themselves abandoned, a splinter group that's grown tired of the control of the White Sphere, or merely a group insufficiently reverential.
PHR -vs- Scourge = Reconquest
The same as the UCM vs Scourge, but with a dash of conniving and plotting
Scourge -vs- PHR is again just a counterattack
PHR -vs- Shaltari = PHR Warmup or Warning
The PHR and Shaltari are far further flung than the other factions, and its easy to see them butting heads well away from the attention of the Reconquest. PHR eliminating a Shallie fleet come too close to one of their hidden worlds, or testing out combat actions against an isolated warband.
Shaltari -vs- PHR is the mirror, the PHR getting caught snooping or making of themselves too interesting an opponent to spar with.
PHR -vs- Resistance = Warlords Work
Again just like the UCM and Res, uncooperative or inconvenient warlods.
Resistance -vs- PHR is the fallibility of even augmented humans, especially when the betrayal is delivered entirely via analogue means.
Shaltari -vs- Shaltari = Tribal Warfare
You don't have a warrior race without frequent fighting. Just because the Shaltari use client races or that whole thing where one tribe tricked humanity into doing their fighting for them against a different tribe, doesn't mean they're above a good scrap against one another.
Shaltari -vs- Resistance = Squatters
The Shaltari seem to have regrets over some of the worlds they left to humanity, and sometimes that means using the Reconquest to clear out all the pesky apes and just do the whole caretaker thing themselves. There's a warlord that's feeling combative about his eviction notice (delivered via gauss slug).
Resistance -vs- Shaltari is a hot head that doesn't realize how far out of his league he's fighting.
Shaltari -vs- Scourge = Reconquest, Side Missions
As with warlords, the Scourge are also bringing down property values and need to be cleared out.
Scourge -vs- Shaltari is again merely a counterattack.
Resistance -vs- Resistance = Tuesday
This is one of the two normal states of warlords for hundreds of years, fighting over territory and resources under the radar of the occupation forces.
Resistance -vs- Scourge = Wednesday
Their entire existence is a constant struggle vs their oppressors, attacking to give themselves room to move away and hide or preempt an attack.
Scourge -vs- Resistance is harvesting bodies, quelling nuisances, a hunt for sport and fun or as always a counterattack.
Scouge -vs- Scourge = ???
The basis for this whole list. The unanswerable question. There's no precedent in the fiction. More than any other species, the Scourge appear to be unified and monolithic in purpose. There's no accounts of infighting at all. This matchup requires homebrewing.
My own ideas are that one of the Scourge commanders has gone nuts, and since it's implied the Scourge have a strong hierarchical CNC structure, the commander has taken his whole battalion equivalent with him.
Alternatively, one of the other factions has developed a weapon that doesn't remove the Scourge parasite, but suppresses it, in limited duration or area of effect, and the hosts are suicidaly taking down as many Scourge as they can before the sweet release of death.
Objectives & Intel
Focal Points, Critical Locations and table quarters are generically strategic enough that they can be easily handwaved. Objectives and Intel can be a bit trickier. Looking at the most recent tournament packs, you get 3 scenarios worth elaborating on:
- Targets of Opportunity (Objectives) - Search and Extract
- Crucible / Command & Control (Objectives & Critical Location) - Search, Extract, and Hold
- Survey and Control (Intel) - Search and Hold
What Objectives would a given faction want to find and extract, what would they want to find and hold?
Lost tech, deep cover scouts, civilian groups, passive data collection devices, fabled art, plenty of things you want to protect either by moving them away from the fighting or protecting their building (and if the building is overrun and enemy held, it's probably destroyed so might as well drop it and take the bastards out!)
They primarily are concerned with collecting bodies for hosts and otherwise resisting or suborning other factions plans. So scouts and civilians for parasitization, tech and devices as lures and to gather counter-intel, etc.
What do space warrior echidna want? Motivations are mentioned, but not much in terms of concrete goals and desires. Perhaps Shaltari graves or markers, or a human objective in barter with them.
Putting it all together
Let's say I'm playing Targets of Opportunity, Shaltari vs Resistance. The Shaltari gave humanity a few token gifts in cooperation with the human settlers colonizing this particular planet, which were stored respectfully in a museum or public space. With the fall of humanity, the provenance of these pieces are gone, but they still look really cool, so of course a warlord has taken them and doled them out as baubles for his governors and lieutenants. Well, the Shaltari having noticed this desecration during the Reconquest are justifiably angry, and intend to take them back. The warlord, being what he is, can only fight to maintain his control. Thus, both parties want to capture one of these important peoples, but one side wants him intact, one less so, but still the same targets and moving them away from the conflict area.