Thursday, 22 September 2011

Dreadfleet playthrough

So we finally are given a glimpse of what a game of Dreadfleet might look like and I think its a very detailed run through. Now whether this was always planned to be shown yesterday or whether it was a hastily put together article in response to the withering criticism they've received for not showing the rules isn't really the point. Nope, they've actually done the right thing by showing a turn sequence in the game and also showing some of the game mechanics, so they get a thumbs up from me for finally doing the right thing. I still think this is what the video should have done but hey better late than never right? Also like to say I love the piece of artwork at the top of the article, I have no idea who is responsible but it looks really moody and chaotic and catches perfectly what the game seems to be about, well if the run through is anything to go by.

I like this piece of art... even if it is a little red

Now I'm not going to go re-write what they have said in the main article because quite frankly what's the point? No I'm going to give my thoughts on what they've revealed so far. The first bit of information we get is that there are 12 scenarios in the game, now to shoot off at a tangent can someone please tell me why it is that pretty much every game in box seems to have either 6 or 12 missions? What's wrong with 10 or 8? Any way I personally think 12 missions is a good number to have and if they're varied enough and offer different challenges then it should keep gamers happy for a fair few months. The next tidbit of information comes in the form of the roll to see the direction of the wind, those of you who ever played Man-o-War should be getting a nostalgia hit around about now. Yep wind direction will affect your speed and as it changes could provide you with a boost or a cause you no end of bother... it is the first random element.

The game has 5 phases to each game turn, although that in and of itself is utterly meaningless information, the phases and their functions are listed below:

  1. Initiative - erm do I need to explain this to you? Oh OK then every turn players roll to see who gets to go first. Another random element, but one we're all used to and I'm not too sure there's a better way of sorting out the I go you go game turn sequence to be honest with you.
  2. Status - This is the phase where any effects that your ships might be under, positive or negative are resolved. Again there's nothing odd or revolutionary about this and its something we're all used to from other games.
  3. Fate - At first it seemed like both players drew a set amount of 'fate' cards. These cards add a random element to the game in the shape of events and things. They can be positive or negative in effect. However on further inspection it seems you roll to see how many fate cards you drew adding a further random element to a random element.
  4. Action - The 'doing stuff' phase. It appears from the read through there are alternating activations like Malifaux or dare I say it Spartan Games products. This is a good thing as its moving away from the you do all your stuff, then I do all my stuff mechanics of Games Workshops current range of games and should alleviate the boredom of sitting on the side lines watching stuff happen to you. It also means that those initiative rolls won't be as powerful and important. Also of note is the fact that ships need to be given orders before they do things and that there are 5 orders. Although the article only mentions 4, these being full speed ahead, repair, hard-to-port and hard-to-starboard, what the mystery fifth order is I don't know or even if there is a fifth order. The other interesting mechanic is that to complete these 'orders' you have to pass a command test, this is an interesting mechanic to me and one I've personally been working on myself for some years now and it actually has a lot of scope and I'd love to see more games try and use it... so Brownie points to Phil Kelly for giving it a go here.
  5. End - Erm I'm none the wiser to be honest, I don't think it was mentioned although I'm sure its just the normal check to see if anyone has won phase.

So that's how the turns are broken down and I don't think there's anything too revolutionary or weird about how the game turn is broken down, although there are some significant departures from the normal Games Workshop doctrine of game design if you will. Nothing new or revolutionary in terms of the industry as a whole but nevertheless it represents something new for Games Workshop (Jake Thornton has pointed out that's not necessarily the case in the comments below, he's Quirkworthy by the way).

The ruler thingy looks handy

So what are my overall impressions? Its not a serious game, and by that I mean its not taking itself too seriously. Its designed to be fun, however I would like to know who it was that decided randomness was fun? Randomness is a necessary evil in table top gaming and I've always felt that as a gamer your job is to combat that random element in every game system to maximise your chances of winning. Yeah I'm aware that makes me sound like a total maths geek. I hate the overbearing use of random elements in game systems as a means to creating game balance, I think its a cop out and I just think for me there are maybe too many random elements to the game. Speaking of which here's the start to a series of articles I did on Game Balance. That's a personal choice though and others might love the random elements the game brings too the table.

Yay for cards!!! They're a great gaming tool

So was it enough to convince me to change my mind? No it wasn't, while I've heard some people claim its just like Man-o-War I can confirm as somebody who played that game a hell of a lot that its nothing of the sort. The addition of damage cards and fate cards and all the rest of it are interesting though because here we have something that board gamers are more than used to using in their games and wargamers might not be so used to using. I think as well from what I read the game has a really awkward mismatch, it looks like the random elements and the aesthetic design of the ships has been designed for a younger market, nothing wrong with that as we always need fresh blood coming into the hobby. However in my experience games like this with lots of cards and things to remember can be very complex to teach to children and arguably aren't suited to the younger market. So I think it feels like its not really well aimed at anyone in particular. However as I said it the fact that the miniatures still look like kids toys to me and I can't dig those aesthetics that's putting me off the most. Yeah they're detailed like all Games Workshop plastic kits are, but honestly I'm not bothered if its a detailed kids toy.

 Cards bring their own challenges... you need space and lots of it

However I'll give Games Workshop credit for trying out some new ideas in this product, even if I think the reason behind launching it are a little bit more cynical than that. I also give them credit for finally letting us see what the game is sort of about. Even if it didn't really explain certain things in as clear a way as I would have liked. The article did give me a feel for what to expect from the game and for that it was worthwhile and it confirmed to me that its not a product I'd wish to purchase, so I can stop worrying about selling my remaining kidney. I'm happy however that Games Workshop are still looking at doing new things, its something I personally have criticised them for in the past few years so I'll give them a pat on the back for giving something new a go. Its just a shame they've done so with a product that isn't interesting to me personally and in such a way that my cynic meter went off the scale... I'm sure the accountants will be happy with the mid year sales boost it will provide. Peace out!


  1. Yup Dystopian Wars FTW. Its one of the naval based games I'm in to right now. Hopefully getting a game or two in on Saturday.

  2. I agree it plays nothing like Man-o-War, which I played a lot 'back in the day'. I will be picking up a set though. If for nothing else than to add cool stuff to my Uncharted Seas games.

  3. @Greg as I say I don't think its a bad product per se, its just not for me at that price (which again on looking at the contents seem reasonable in the UK). I'm sure plenty of people will buy it and enjoy it. I don't think many will get £70's worth of enjoyment out of it though. Undoubtedly some will.

  4. If I was going to buy a naval combat game I'd be looking at Dystopian Wars. I'll not be buy Dread Fleet for sure!

  5. Another great article, I think you should at least try a game or two before delivering a finak verdict, ima try it. Though I doubt Ill buy it.

    Ihave similar hang-ups about certain games model design ethic, to me war machine looks like someone shat into their own hands then used it to crudely sculpt something roughly bipedal, the proportions and style are not my cup of tea....

    Infinity however gives me child-like excitement how I have not performed a walletectomy yet is a miracle of ocd and willpower....

  6. GW is not really giving you a chance to try a few games then decide on buying since they are intentionally trying to get it to sell through before it hits the tables. Without even the demo boxes from Space Hulk where you could do a trial game down at the store before the game official shipped. This should pretty much be treated like those movies which refuse to screen for critics before release. Really makes you question the quality.

    GW runs into a problem with these games since they have to contract for component manufacturing and are trying to get the best deal by ordering it all in one lot. To essential guaranty a certain profit they are leaving possible sales off the table if the game is good and could have legs in the wider boardgame community.

  7. For me the main turnoff is the models - they're simply way over the top for my tastes. Would probably have bought a re-release of Man o War though as I have fond memories of that game.

    Recently I've been thinking a lot about Spartan Games' naval games versus GW's old products (Man O War and Battlefleet Gothic) and I think actually prefer the more granule nature of GW's old systems. Hmm... this is a subject for a different post though. Perhaps something I should put together for my own blog. Haha!

    Anyway, I would still like to know the exact size of that game mat as they can be expansive in and of themselves. Might be worth getting mainly for that...

  8. @Angus, that would be my choice ;) but Dreadfleet to be fair to it isn't aimed at people who want a full on naval wargame. Its a self contained product aimed at 40k and WFB gamers to keep their hobby a bit fresh and stop it going stale and maybe stop more people looking outside the GW.

    @Sorrowshard, I can't judge the game I haven't seen it. But from reading the play through I did get a good sense of what its all about and it was detailed enough to let you make a choice as an informed consumer. Don't know anyone who is buying it either...

    @Eriochrome, Obviously the GW actually lost a fair bit of money with all the demo copies of Space Hulk the shops opened, 150 stores there abouts, roughly £10k in lost revenue and as such I can understand the desire for them to have that ringing through the tills... as a consumer though the lack of try before I buy is disappointing really.

    @Martin I thought I'd read somewhere the mat was 5' by 3' but I could be wrong or it could be ill informed internet rumours. It looks a decent size to me in the pictures and it would surprise me to see them being maybe 5' by 4'

  9. If you have a game that will sell out without demos their is clearly no reason for the demos but the cost is really not very much. Given say 65 dollar wholesale value with the average store moving 20 units that is only like 3 dollars of cost per unit.

    Assuming you put it in existing shipment, I would guess the break even point for trade sales for the demo unit is like 3-4 extra units moved for space hulk.

  10. @eriochrome I 100% agree with you and its probably how both you and I would do it. I'd also have given consumers far more time than two weeks to save up for it. However There is no doubt in my mind that there are more than enough nagging kids and GW diehards for this to sell out in double quick time.

  11. But those nagging kids and GW die hards would just spend that 115 dollars on something else for their armies. Sure maybe they would have only spent 50 dollars this month so you might get some extra money. I think since these products are so focused on the existing customer base, that it makes it very clear that GW has no idea on how to stop their slowly sliding sales. Even if they sell all 30K copies through their retail stores (to avoid the wholesale discount) they supposedly printed that as pure bonus sales, the extra revenue will not get them back up to the 2010 sales levels from the 2011 levels.

  12. Man I loved man o war , not sure which was better , that or Gothic , I have a big Gothic fleet , I even *gasp* painted it .

    I would love to break out the manowar at some point soon, the dark elf fixation has stayed with me to this day .... thogh I prefer the S&M soul vampres in space variety.

    Curious, what do people rekkon GW's best game was ? I realise tahts a personal taste and highly subjective, just curious as to what peopel come back with.

  13. @eriochrome, don't kid yourself, I've seen first hand in the stores what a nagging kid can do to parents £20 because £50. When little Johnny says 'but its limited, I'll miss out! Do you want me to miss out?' 6 parents out of 10 will fold and get their kids both, all GW really need is 3 parents out of 10 to fold with their limited runs.

    @Sorrowshard GW's best game? I don't think there can be such a thing. If you're asking which games still stack up to this day then Blood Bowl, SPace Hulk and Warhammer Quest must rank quite highly. I loved Man-o-War but boy did it have its faults. Necromunda has a HUGE following to this day and I have to admit I have a soft spot for it myself but reading the rules the other day I realised just how creaky and clunky it is by today's standards. I never really got into Mordheim myself, which is a shame because I always thought the rules were exceptional. I've never been 100% happy with any 40k ruleset... but for me the game that I've had the most enjoyment out of over the years would have to be WFB.

  14. No love for gothic ? Modheim if I'm being honest was probably the best game, honestly much better than Necro, Necro sadly can't hold a candle to Infinity.

    Given the popularity of 40k and the amount of money it brings in GW should have worked much harder, to have such a flawed flagship system is damning .... Dont take me as a hater , its playable but it should be the sci-fi game to end all sci fi games.

    The disparity between codex's is one thing that bugs me (long convo there) but as an example, casting my eye over infinity, there are at least three factions I like the look of, now with gw if I was on the fence this way I'd go with the 'best' rules... With Infinity there is no real way to determine that, maybe one will suit my playstyle better ? As the costs are reasonable due to a sane model count Ill prob try all three, look GW Corvus Belli has essentially sold me three times as much stuff simply by having a solid core system with glorious balance accross the factions ?

  15. @Sorrowshard, I have love for the system in Gothic, the game mechanics if you will, the issue for me was that from day 1 with that game I was able to punch big fat insta-victory shaped holes in the fleet lists. Chaos were underpointed when compared to the Imperial fleet and Eldar played by anyone with a singular brain cell were absolutely sick!!! I played with Eldar because I was an Eldar player... but even I felt guilty sometimes. Then cam the Necrons, designed to halt the Eldar gamers fun, but actually ended everyones fun. Nope I liked the idea of Gothic and even the mechanics of play... but putting it on the table, didn't do anything for me after the initial few games. Just certain match ups were massively unfair.

  16. GW has published so many games it is probably hard to say which is best. My ordering is for the games I have experience with is probably Modern Blood Bowl, Epic Armageddon, Space Hulk, 40K, 2nd Ed Blood Bowl, and Dark Future.

  17. @eriochrome, that's weird my list wouldn't be too far off of yours except for I'd dump Warhammer Quest in there somewhere... funnily enough I've got an article on Dark Futures predecessor Battle Cars lined up to go live at some point, its the game that got me started in all this madness.

  18. Best game? Can't do that in a short comment. Much too much to put into that reply. However, I'd like to comment on your idea that these mechanics are all new to GW.

    Just by chance I happened to play 2nd edition Epic (Space Marine) last night. That has placed orders, then a roll for initiative where the winner picks to go first or second. Whoever goes first moves his whole army, then the other player moves all theirs. Then you resolve First Fire orders, Melees and finally Advancing Fire orders. One of the nifty bits is that these last 3 are resolved by alternate unit, not all of one side at once as the movement is. It's a curious mix, but it works exceptionally well. Very frequently you want to move second and shoot first (or the other way round), but you can't do that, so winning the initiative roll forces you to make some hard choices.

    Many similar rules to DF in that, and it's just what I was playing last night :)

  19. @Quirkworthy... bloody hell you're right you know. I haven't played any version of 'Epic' 'Space Marine' or whatever other dumb name they gave it for years now!!! I love my Eldar Phantom Titan... happy days!!! I'll have to go back to my folks house and dig through all my boxes and pull those rulebooks out and give them a read. Cheers.

  20. Never played Warhammer Quest. Did play some Warhammer FRPG back in the day a little.

    Never heard of battlecars but do still have my Dark Future and whiteline fever along with my Space Marine first edition in my wall o stuff:

    This all got relocated into storage tubs though since I had to move this entertainment unit somewhere else.

  21. Are there a lot of games that use the 'roll each turn to see who goes first' mechanic?
    I know the LoTR games use it, and I...really hate even the idea of it.
    How can you properly plot a strategy if you can't even count on what order things will occur?
    It seems really awful, imho.
    I understand games that use this mechanic will probably have in-game methods of influencing the turn sequence in one's favor, but I can't say I'm happy about that as a design decision either.

    I am kinda new 'round these parts, being primarily a 40k player and new to FoW, but neither these systems, nor Warmahordes, nor any other system I've heard of except the LoTR games and now this use the wacky turn sequence thing.

    I'm sorry, but randomizing the turn sequence just seems to take a lot of the strategy outta strategy games and replaces it with pot luck.

  22. I too was happy and do give a thumbs up to GW to release a gameplay video. This was what I was wanting and better late than never. Its just not the game for me, if I want to play nautical combat I'll play Uncharted Seas. However your assessment of it is very fair. Well balanced.

  23. @eriochrome, Never played FRPG myself to be honest with you and I'm not a huge fan of RPGs as I like reading stories and painting miniatures, RPGs sit in an awkward hobby space for me insofar that its never really been quite what I wanted from my hobby. Battle Cars was the fore runner to Dark Futures, Dark Futures is actually what it became. Also believe it or not I actually have seen your hobby stash as I'm subscribed to your blog!!! :P

    @SinSynn, you have to get yourself out of the brainwashed ways of the GW. Its a human ploy to make you dull witted my alien friend!!! Alternating goes is actually quite enjoyable because it means you can set up ambushes and pretend to have made mistakes and all sorts of dirty tricks you can then punish people with. It just pens up different tactics and offers you more to think about. Because if you know you might not get initiative then you have to set yourself up just in case you don't but also be prepared just in case you do get it. Randomising turn sequence doesn't therefore take strategy 'out' it just introduces new strategic challenges. There aren't too many games out there that randomise it though and those that do mostly have mechanics whereby the player can influence the outcome.

    @Rancor709, its all people wanted and they've done it. So it;s not a product I'm tempted to buy but at least they've now given me the information to know its not for me.

  24. A bit late to the party!

    "while I've heard some people claim it’s just like Man-o-War I can confirm as somebody who played that game a hell of a lot that its nothing of the sort."

    I disagree. Had a look with my old (old) copy of the rules (what happened to the rest of the game don't ask but I think I used it for another system in an inappropriate and out of scale fashion) and essentially it is more board-gamey but it is the son of man'o'war.

    I can’t be absolute without seeing the rules but the video and all the cards and the turn on the site you showed all bear the same mechanic they just replaced dice rolls with card flips. I can't see how that’s any less random?

    I totally understand if you want a naval game then this isn't for you - Uncharted Seas isn’t for me as no-one would play it with me here and TBH I am not a fan of the mini designs (yes I am a cliché in love with skulls and chains and Blanche)

    Great blog mate keep those critical hits coming.

  25. @Minitrol... well I have seen the rules ;) and I have seen the product now... I remain steadfast to my belief its not Man-o-War and to be brutally honest having flicked through thing briefly to call it such would be a pretty big insult to Phil Kelly. Its clear to me he has thought about what he's doing rules wise. Sure it shares similarities with Man-o-War in some senses but it also shares similarities with non-GW product as well, possibly more so. Is it the game for me? No probably not, but not everything has to appeal to me!!! lol. As for dice versus cards, you're right in some respects except having played board games then cards can be way more random. We're talking status effects here that swing wildly from being overwhelmingly positive to fecking your entire fleet up... that's more random than a D6 roll to hit... ;) . As I've said its not looking like its a 'serious' wargame. It looks like its just meant to be a bit off fun... sadly I've got shed loads of board games which fulfill that need for me already.