I was actually thinking of writing a review of Dreadfleet, the latest limited edition (was that really necessary?) board game by Games Workshop, but, thing is, I really can't. It's not a board game; it's a miniature wargame that comes in a box, and miniature wargames cannot be judged after one game. Nor after two for that matter. They really should be deeply explored and played to exhaustion till a concrete conclusion can be reached, and that, dear reader, is why I will not review Dreadfleet. I'm out of time and by the time I've fully made up my mind, chances are, the game will already have sold out. That's why I'll simply write down my impressions on the thing instead.
So, let's get the basic and pretty obvious stuff out of the way first. Dreadfleet is a fantasy, naval wargame set in the world of Warhammer that has been designed for two players, but can apparently be played by up to ten. It pits the Dreadfleet, five monstrous ships crewed by a variety undead captains and their minions, against the Grand Alliance, a five pirate ships fleet of men, elves and dwarfs. Everything comes in a lavish box, that you can grab over at the Games Workshop site for the not so modest price of £70.
Then again said box is indeed filled to the brim with 10 extremely detailed and downright stunning miniature ships, a selection of smaller vessels and sea monsters, dice, some beautiful islands and shipwrecks, a full-colour 98-pages long manual, rulers, quite a few extras and a truly stunning seascape - the board of sorts on which the two fleets get to battle it out.
Besides the obvious quality of the miniatures and seascape and the fact that the box contains everything you need to play -it really is a wargame in a box, and that does suit us time- and money-poor, former Warhammer gamers- the setting is also very well written and thoroughly presented. It's a battle between all sorts of undead characters (and, yes, that does include both Skaven and an almost chaotic, but not Chaos, dwarf) under the command of a powerful Tomb King against a vengeful pirate and his unstable alliance, taking place on the waters of a turbulent, extra-dimensional, aquatic graveyard where everything that dies in the ocean ends up in. Each ship and captain are thoroughly detailed, and even the twelve available scenarios and the rules are compatible with the overall plot.
This does of course lead to some problems; the chaotic nature of the graveyard's winds for example makes for an overtly randomized wind direction, that definitely doesn't help with strategic planning. Then again the rules are incredibly easy to grasp and almost intuitive, especially for those that have already had some experience with either naval or miniature wargames. Also, and not unlike Warhammer, it's a game that's based on movement and -despite its strong random elements- ultimately relies on each player's tactical and strategic decisions.
Oh, and assembling the ships and islands is a pretty straightforward and relatively fast procedure. Properly painting and gluing them together is -as is customary- another matter entirely.
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