Dreadfleet Review 2 – More Ships, More Battles

Please can I have my money back?

Those of you that know my writings will be aware that I tend, if anything, to be too even-handed in my approach to reviews, even if I am occasionally a bit blunt. If something is good then I’ll be the first to say it, as I will if there is a flaw. However, I always try to see behind the result to work out the why of the journey, if I can, as well as the what of the result. I don’t write stuff to bash GW or anyone else just because. However, having already posted my initial thoughts, I feel obliged to explain my subsequent ones.

My initial review of Dreadfleet was based on a single play of the first game (as I said at the time), and there I gave the game the benefit of the doubt. Have a look at that and my earlier posts about the contents for a fuller picture. Today I played against another of my regular opponents, Bob, and we had a couple of games. The second was the largest you can have with 5 ships each. Although I would normally want to play rather more than 3 times before giving a proper verdict, the rules for DF are very simple and I feel I’ve learned all I need to know. And had all I can stand.

Sad as it is to say, I think Dreadfleet is the worst game that Games Workshop have ever made. Bar none. I’m not talking about the components here (which are fine), or the price (which is high), I’m talking about the playing experience (which is the worst).

The worst? Really? Worst by Phil? Worst this year? Nope. Worst ever. I’m trying to think of something that comes, as a whole package, further down the list than this, and am failing.

Worse than Combat Cards?

Worse than the Troll games?

Worse than Kerrunch! and SpaceFleet?

Yup, yup, yup.

Combat Cards are (effectively) GW’s take on Top Trumps. A tried and tested forumla that was enormously popular for the reason that it was full of numbers and stats so kids could be the best; it was easily portable and quick to play (you could even stop in the middle, stick it in your pocket and finish it later) so you could play it in break at school or in the car on the way home. It filled a similar niche to the handhelds you see now (DS, etc).

Troll games were trite children’s games, and never pretended otherwise. They had cartoony art in bright colours and a tape of silly songs, all of which was bang on for the market it was aimed at. Playing these games with young children was actually quite entertaining because they were entertained.

Kerrunch and Space Fleet share the odd mechanic of rolling dice in the box lid, but they were still real games where you made actual decisions that had an impact on the game.

Dreadfleet, on the other hand, is a bloated monster of a game that has to breathe in to fit on a 6×4 table. Our game with 5 ships a side took almost 4 hours, and I don’t think it would be much faster with more practice (it was my third game and Bob’s second, and the rules just aren’t that hard to remember). Bob said afterwards that he’d “lost interest about half way through and the rest of it was just a tedious run through to finish the game”. He was not alone. I felt utterly drained and demoralised by the whole thing.

Bob actually won both games (though I think we felt more like winners when we could stop and do something – anything – else). He said there was “nothing I like less than a hollow victory” and both of them had been that. In the first game we went from me winning by a good margin, to me losing on the turn of a card. We were both surprised. Neither of us felt that we’d had anything to do with the victory or loss: it had just happened. And that’s the key failing for me: the game is random to the point of farce.

Now let me just say that I don’t mind randomness in games, nor the use of either cards, nor buckets of dice: they all have their place. However, here the design compounds randomness on top of randomness until you, as a player, have so little input in terms of meaningful choice, that you may as well not be there. The best example of this was Bob turning over a Fate card in the second game that allowed me to put 14 Damage cards on various ships (12 on Bob’s and 2 on mine). This crippled 2 ships and damaged 2 more. It could easily have sunk a couple had the random damage cards been different. Spiralling randomness.

If the game was that random and lasted 30-45 minutes then we’d be fine. Silly randomness is fine in contained bursts and as a “filler” game. Not for something that takes several hours. I had hoped that there would be less randomness and more planning or tactical options with more ships, but if there was it certainly didn’t feel like it.

It is a real shame, and a badly missed opportunity. Despite thinking that the ships would have been much better if they were proper fleets rather than a mish-mash, they are undeniably nice models. They would paint up brilliantly, and even without it they look grand on the “seascape” (mat). Sadly, for me and everyone else I have spoken to personally, the rules let the whole thing down.

Perhaps the core of the problem is that the game seems to have no idea who it’s aiming at. It’s not a kids game because the models are too fiddly and delicate and the art too “arty” and grim. OK, so maybe it’s aimed at the older gamers who may have left the core games and are playing the likes of Space Hulk, Bloodbowl and Necromunda. I doubt this is the case, but if it is then it’s a big miss. The rules make Snap! look deep and tactical.

Which leaves us with the core audience of current GW fans. These are early teens boys who are into 40K or Warhammer (presumably more the latter). Perhaps this level of randomness is what they’re after. Leave your brain in a jar and just roll some dice. That is what I am told 8th edition Warhammer has done, so perhaps this is the coming thing and I’m just too much of a dinosaur to notice. Foolish me wants a game where I get to make tactical decisions: where I make the difference between winning and losing. Apparently that was so last year.

The rule to decide who had won this scenario was simple: Get as many ships off the table as you could, then roll a dice. In our case, after 4 hours of play, we rolled a single D6 to decide the game. On a 1-2 I would win; on a 3+ it would go Bob’s way. Did that make it all feel worth the effort? I’ll let you guess.

I could have bought a gorgeous 28mm Pirate ship from Ainsty (like the one above) with this money. I could have bought a couple of well designed and entertaining Euro games, or a sizable Epic army or two starter fleets and the rules for any of Spartan’s games, or any one of a wide number of entertaining models and games. But I didn’t; I bought Dreadfulfleet. Whatever you do, avoid making the same mistake as I did.

If you want a game that poses a series of interesting tactical challenges, keeps you on the edge of your seat with excitement and allows you to engage in a cunning battle of wits with your opponent, buy something else.

Pros: the ships and mat are pretty.

Cons: everything else.

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112 Responses to Dreadfleet Review 2 – More Ships, More Battles

  1. Hi Jake. Long reader of Yours texts here, since time of old WD. I appreciate all your reviews and opinions, as they are logical and backed by hard facts (and usually I have similar feelings about products reviewed). Kings of War review was great, Dredfleet is very nice too. I just wonder… What would You write about Dreadfleet working as editor of WD;)
    Ok, joking aside, really nice review. More, please.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      If I’d been writing about it as WD Editor I’m sure I’d have written exactly the same thing (although, maybe I’ve got my fingers crossed behind my back… ).

      Over the last few weeks I seem to have been acquiring all manner of interesting gaming goodies, and I’ll be adding reviews of much of it here. I’ve also got a bunch of notes and ideas for more discursive posts about game design and gaming in general. Plenty more on the way 🙂

  2. Stunty says:

    Couldnt you have wrote this 2 weeks ago when I didnt own it lol.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      No, I don’t think I could. Sorry Stunty. I don’t feel that it’s right to review something without giving it a fair run out first, and the culmination of that process for me with DF was only this morning.

      I’ve read a lot of so-called reviews by people who’ve read, but not played the game, and I think they are generally worthless. Open box articles, “first looks” and so on are all fine, and I do them too. But reviews? You need to play the game. I even read a “review” of a game once by someone who admitted that he’d not seen a copy, let alone read or played it. Made me laugh.

      • Stunty says:

        Oh no don’t get me wrong my comment was meant to be tongue in cheek. I’m not a huge fan of previews, I’ve been caught out loads of times with video games that way. Unfortunately I still based my purchase on the previews coming from gamesday etc. The ‘limited’ thing is also what caught me out and I guess a lot of people. I always put off buying Man’o War back in the day so didnt want to miss out this time. Thing is I haven’t played yet (was gonna try to get Biscuit to give it a whirl at some point) so I may still like it. However after your Kings of War review I respect what your write a lot more (dont take that like I didnt before that lol) The reason being You could have thought I work with this company I need to give this game maximum praise or I might not get any more work etc but You didnt You gave Your honest thoughts and although there were bits I disagreed with, for the most part I thought it was spot on. anyway enough waffling, keep up the good work 🙂

      • Quirkworthy says:

        Thanks Stunty. You’re right that there was a temptation to gloss over some of the cracks, but I’m not sure that serves anyone well in the end. Yes, I do work for Mantic on a limited freelance basis and it’s obvious why that might modify my comments on their other products. It’s just not me though. If I’m going to say something then it’ll be what I think. The problem with lying is my memory can barely cope with one reality, let alone trying to recall what fibs I told different people. Honesty saves burning brain cells I desperately need for gaming 😉

  3. Davey says:

    Ouch! Well, I certainly hope my regular gaming opponent doesn’t read this, as he’s shelled out for the game. The ships are certainly gorgeous, but no amount of fancy looking miniatures can make up for poor game play – and the randomness you describe… I just can’t stand that. Thanks for an honest and thorough review.

    *keeps wallet firmly in pocket*

  4. Well I’ve just lost 3 friends after forcing them to play Dreadfleet for my review. Truly, truly awful game. Horrid to play, and at no point did I feel in control of anything I did and worse of all it was loooooong, so very, very loooooooong. But boring as hell. Wow. I’m just so surprised its this bad. My review will not be kind.

  5. Davey says:

    Oh, and nice one for coining ‘Dreadfulfleet’ 😉

  6. Greg Smith says:

    Wow, just wow. Already got my copy in (and a truckload of new paints to do justice to those gorgeous little ships) but I haven’t had chance to read the rules yet. I did flick through the ship cards and thought there was some interesting little rules mechanics for each one from the look of it. Supposed to be getting a trial game at my local club next week so will wait and see before I pass judgement for myself.

    I will say this though – went into my local GW today for the aforementioned paints (my copy of DF came from m FLGS at discount) and they had twenty copies still on the shelves. And thats a reasonable sized store in the middle of a city. The staff seemed pretty amazed when I told them I was there to get paints for DF. Whatever else one can say about it, it aint selling well thats for sure…

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I’ve heard the same thing from several contacts, including several GW staff. All these are rumours though, and sales are always patchy so it may be that we’re just dealing with areas that are at the poor end of the scale (he said, trying to put a positive spin on things).

      If I were you I’d absolutely withhold judgement until you’d played it a couple of times. That’s why I didn’t post my own thoughts until I’d played it enough to be sure. Now that you’ve got a copy, I hope you feel different. It must suit someone (I just haven’t met them yet).

      • Greg Smith says:

        Well I DO like ‘board games’ – Space Hulk and Blood Bowl are my two absolute favourites – so I have (or had) high hopes for this one. The wife was impressed by all the WD coverage and she isn’t a gamer at all but again the proof will be in the playing.

        As to it being a poorer area, I’m talking about a major city on the South Coast – no shortage of cash around here. Even my FLGS has copies left over and he ordered very few. Lot of people in my local club saying that they can’t really be bothered to get it as well. Ultimately, wargaming, esp GW, has never been a cheap hobby and if people wanted to buy it then they would find the cash. What worries me is that (yours aside) most reviews of it so far have been unremittingly positive and yet still here we are over a week since release and the fact is that it just doesn’t seem to be selling. That suggests to me that people are just not buying ‘on principle’ which has to be a distinctly worrying sign for GW. As much as they like to make a lot of their global presence, I feel that games dev is still just run like that little local games company on an Industrial estate in Nottingham that it is. I hope that they will take the positives from this and adapt accordingly, but I fear its more likely to be the end of them experimenting beyond WH, 40K and LOTR. Sad….

      • Quirkworthy says:

        Sorry, my bad. I didn’t mean poorer in cash terms, but in terms of poorer sales. Should have been clearer.

        All of the positive reviews I have seen (though I haven’t looked at many) have been very much less in-depth than mine. If you add up all the coverage I’ve done it’s an awful lot of words and pictures, based on considerable time. That doesn’t make me right, but it’s true. Are the positive reviews as considered? Based on as much play and analysis? The reader must decide. It’s also true that I come from an unusual viewpoint and am sometimes quite critical about details that some folk don’t worry about. Again, the reader has to make his mind up. Interpreting reviews is at least as much a process of understanding where the reviewer is coming from as what he says. I used to regularly read a film critic called Halliwell. He was a conservative old curmudgeon who hated SF, but once I understood the way he slated them I could decipher which ones I’d like, even when he gave them 1 star out of 5.

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  9. Mr Pharmacist says:

    Thumbs up for the review, just sad to read a day after I bought DF in my not so friendly LGS.

    The missus is going to kill me for this…again.

  10. Mr Pharmacist says:

    Also, being the worst game ever made by GW (according to Mr Thornton) makes it collectable (at least until WH40K 6th edition).

    On a more serious note, I still think is a great painting/modelling project, if you can get it discounted (it is rather expensive here in Spain). We’ll keep plating DKH and Agricola, anyway.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Well if they really don’t sell then DF may end up in a bucket shop at some point. At that stage it will be snapped up for the nice ship models and the gaming mat. That would suit you very well 🙂

      As I have said all along, the plastics are very nicely done and the mat is serviceable. It’s a real shame that all the ships are completely different as it makes doing anything else with them harder. As a painting project it is still an interesting collection. You could have them in a case on your wall next to your ceramic thimbles 😉

  11. I like the straight shooting of your review Jake, a breath of fresh air as they say. One of my big niggles when it comes to gaming is the armchair journo’s who try and write a review on something they absolutely have no handle on, but worse than that is the fair weather fans that write fan made army lists for new games systems (such as KOW) and they have never played the game or even digested the rules. The beautiful thing is they are very easy to spot! Over to the DF, I have purposely sat on my hands with this one, and it seems it may have been the way to go. It is a shame when something goes very very wrong but you made an interesting point about 8th Ed WHFB being dumbed down. With DF having a majority of skill being diluted and you have to rely on the fickle bitch of Lady Luck and WHFB having gone the same way, do you think this creeping death has edged into the Games Development department at GWHQ in a way to attract a possible younger clientel. If you take away some of the tactial neccesity and your ‘fleet’ (or army) can pull off some truly devastating or game winning manouvers just from sheer luck this might enthuse some less experienced gamers and draw them in to DF. Everyone loves it when your forces do something spectacular, and it is easier to sell something to someone if they think they are the Grand High Overlord at it! If it is the case that this is becoming a trend not just a coincidence then I think 40K players are going to be in for one hell of a shock when 6th ED lands next year.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thanks Chris. Straight shooting is what I’m aiming for (as it were).

      My comment on WFB 8th was not that it had been dumbed down (though I have heard that repeatedly), but that it was reportedly much more random. I haven’t played 8th myself and so I can’t really comment on anything other than the vibe I keep hearing.

      It is interesting to speculate about this increasing randomness being a deliberate trend, though I’m not convinced. I’ll have to ask about. As for 40K 6th? My experience from working in GW Games Dev looking out, is that 99% of net rumours are nonsense until the very last minute when some junior staffer will post things up to gain kudos from his forum buddies. Then he gets found out and disciplined, as, in fact, he deserves. Happens every time.

      • Absolutely, and generally I hold no love for some of the forums as they are not a productive place to be around for alot of the time. I understand that the Dev Team are workling at least 24-36 ahead so at least some of the mechanics are going to have been there from day one. Shame it has turned out to be a bit of a turkey……

      • Quirkworthy says:

        A real shame. I am, as I said, disappoint.

  12. Minitrol says:

    I’ve read a few reviews by now and admittedly it is a little polarizing not counting the vast majority of “what’s-in-dis-shiny-box” prose (I am like one of those fanbois I read every review of Suckerpunch KNOWING it will suck and hoping against hope ). The only other review of substance was http://chestofcolors.com/dreadfleet-review-and-gameplay-impressions/ and it seems very favourable.

    As we already discussed, and I agree, you are not into flaming or calling the cheap shots but after reading all your KoW articles and this I am unsure what to take from this? On the one hand KoW is too predictable and lacks randomness and this game has too much? I don’t know that it does have too much just running my head the games of Warhammer where victory was denied decided on a volume of awful rolls (mass panic test fails in 4th edition come to mind before we start to slag off 8th Edition too much) and Man’O’War was terribly luck based as well. You have to plan you strategize and ultimately you trust to luck!

    I agree with the sentiment GW could produce a game and product their gamers clamored for. Considering the aesthetics of this game and overall high quality , apart from rulebook, how hard would it be to produce a similar great looking product that was actually asked for and there was a readymade audience?! The mind boggles.

    Am I stretching here are you more of a gamer than a hobbyist? Is that a fair comment? I am a hobbyist I can’t really like 40K I have tried but It just doesn’t work for me. I still play because of one thing.

    These guys!

    Also in saying that I am happy to pay the price (and the back-end-of-beyond tax) to play with these models and to have some friends over for some rum terrible pirate tunes and just thrash it out. I don’t need to add t any armies I don’t need a new game what I would like is a tease a taste to get people interested – it sounds like this game may not do that which is definitely a missed opportunity.

    So I am primarily getting it for the models with. I understand your price point comparison but small scale games like Dystopian Wars and its Sci-Fi and Fantasy equivalents models leave me a little cold. In all I have to say I think Dreadfleet is an expansion on the experiment that was Space Hulk. I don’t actually think they are trying to cross sell to the Fantasy players or ex-Man’O’War players…the main problem is they never decided who they wanted to market it to! It’s a perfect product for me lots of great things to paint ridiculous and unbalanced game-play and skulls …so many skulls ; )

    Also you advise “The rule to decide who had won this scenario was simple: Get as many ships off the table as you cold then roll a dice. In our case, after 4 hours of play, we rolled a single D6 to decide the game. On a 1-2 I would win; on a 3+ it would go Bob’s way. Did that make it all feel worth the effort? I’ll let you guess”

    I am curious did you only read the VC at the end of the play as surely you knew starting the scenario? Not to nitpick but that is an odd statement. Maybe I don’t have the context.

    Very good advice you have given to reserve judgment I thank you for taking the time to expand on your concerns

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Hi Minitrol, just found your post lurking in the automatic spam box and dragged it back out.

      The chestofcolours review is of a single run through of the first scenario. That’s the same as my initial review. It would be interesting to see if they retained this view after playing some of the bigger scenarios. Frontlinegamer has now posted a detailed review after several plays and comes to much the same opinion as I do here.

      Too much luck (DF) vs not enough (KOW). There is a balance to be struck here. Warhammer used to have it (I’ve not played 8th, but let’s say 6th), and many other games do too. What I think makes a good game in this genre is something where you have enough randomness to throw up unforeseen circumstances (to add to the interest, the story and the tactical challenge), but not so much that you feel your plans are irrelevant. KOW suffers mainly because it has premeasuring that should, in my view, allow the person with the fast army to win every time. If my cavalry move 9 and yours move 8 you will never get to charge me unless I choose to let you. There is no skill in measuring to guarantee you will get the charge, not the slightest element of chance. In KOW only the active unit fights, so a powerful and fast cavalry unit can obliterate an enemy unit without ever being in danger itself. With the whole army taking a turn at once, you can repeat this across the line and have a turn where the active army removes any serious enemy threats in a single turn. This is how the better players at the tournament used their movement 9 cavalry to destroy their opponents. Playing within the rules, absolutely, but with very predictable results. Granted, they have to roll attacks and so on, but almost every one of the attacks I saw were relying on rolling a double 1 not to go the obvious way at the end. Until this is changed the winners of the KOW tournaments will be the faster armies. Every time. The only real games are the ones with equal speed heavy cavalry.

      With DF the problem is the other extreme: your decisions are massively less important than the random flip of a card, and every turn you flip many cards.

      I’m looking for some middle ground between certain victory (or loss) and utter chaos.

      I am indeed more of a gamer than anything else. How much I do the other bits of the hobby really depends on my work schedule, and these days that’s not much. I won’t play games with nice toys and rubbish rules because at the end of the day there are so many lovely models around that I can always find something that ticks all the boxes rather than just one. Why settle for third best?

      We knew the scenario VC at the start, but that doesn’t make it less of an illustration of the randomness of the whole thing. I chose that scenario as it used all the ships. Perhaps my comment was too opaque, but I was utterly burned out from having slogged through 4 hours and more of the “game”. Bob, who won, said that he hated hollow victories and that both of them felt that way. He said neither game felt like he had won. Whilst many of the individual rules are fine on their own, the sum of the parts is definitely not.

      • Minitrol says:

        Thanks for the clarification I understand what you mean now.

        6th edition Warhammr was hands down the best edition. It is frustrating for me – I really want to enjoy this game maybe I should have avoided reviews till i played it…time will tell.

        I think if anything as a designer and ex-employee for you it might be tad more frustrating is that fair? There must be timers when you read the rules and thought “Phil!? No what are you doing!”

      • Quirkworthy says:

        I do get a bit excitable sometimes when people are given really nice design jobs and make a mess of them, but this isn’t confined to GW. On the flip side, I have a fair understanding of the wider process, and very often games come out and I can see why they are as they are, even if they’re less than you’d hope for. Occasionally though you do wonder…

  13. Greg Smith says:

    Please don’t misunderstand me, I wasn’t for one second impugning the quality/veracity of your review. Of course you approach stuff like this from a much better informed perspective and you can therefore offer insights into rules mechanics that others cannot.

    However, what I AM saying is that the average punter, when confronted with say 6 positive reviews and one negative one, is not going to say ‘well the negative one had more depth to it so I won’t part with my hard earned on that one.’ They are more likely to say ‘6 out of 7 reviews say its great so it must be worth a punt.’ That clearly isn’t happening here – with the best will in the world your review yesterday cannot have had any effect on sales up to yesterday and these were clearly not good.

    Also, add in the factor that the average GW fan is either well used to paying premium dollar on stuff or young enough that Mum and Dad are paying instead. These are people who will generally buy stuff ‘because its GW’ and yet they clearly aren’t. This is a big thing. The marketplace is going against type and in the light of generally positive critical reception, that suggests othet factors at work. I can think of two possibilities:

    1. The price point. I do think that GW have miscalculated here. Space Hulk sold at £60 which was a premium price but people were generally happy to pay it because a) it wad Space Hulk – a known quantity in other words, b) It came with an absolute TON of premium content – each component (with the possible exception of the egg timer) really looked like a labour of love, c) people could use the minis in other games and d) as it was Space Hulk lots of people could buy up ten copies and scalp a ridiculous profit on ebay.
    Now, in light of the fact that DF was an unknown game, with less content, no cross useability of said content and with said content of lower quality (compare the DF die to the SH ones for example) then they were always going to struggle justifiying the same price for it as for Space Hulk. To arbitrarily charge £10 more just seems….odd. Especially when there is still a recession on etc, and lets not forget that’s just us Brits – the Aussies etc are being fleeced considerably more.

    2. A general backlash against GW itself. Forums are always full of moaners and are seldom a reliable guide to the general mood but this time they do seem to represent a majority if the sales are anything to go by. I am far from being a GW fanboy – they do some pretty inexplicable stuff on a regular basis – but I DO think its a bit sad when a game that they release isn’t selling not based on the quality of the game (how could it have been before anyone had played it?) but more on the basis of the reputation of the company itself. Its not a secret – despite being many peoples (myself included) gateway into the wider world of wargaming, GW are becoming more and more disliked, and as I have said regardless of their ‘corporate global image’ I still think that they are a relatively ‘small’ company that has potentially spread itself a little too thin.

    Bottom line, I doubt the bean counters and shareholders will give a tinkers cuss if DF doesn’t sell. The mark up on it (I am told) per unit is enormous, so I doubt they will lose much money and they will just likely stop anything else like this being tried. If you want to talk about total worst case scenario, as far as I can see its Black Library that is bringing them the most fame and fortune at the minute. They already made the decision years back to be a miniatures company not a boardgame company because that was where the easy money was. Is it THAT unrealistic that in a few years they might just become a books company and do away with the games altogether? Whatever anyone thinks of GW, given its status as one of the Grand old Dames of the industry, its a sobering thought…

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Greg – I think this is the internet confusing things. I didn’t think you were having a go at me, I was just trying to clarify my position before someone else decided I was all anti-8th ed WFB and went off on one about that. It doesn’t take much to set the fanboyz off on a rant 😉

      If I could effect sales before the event then I would be spending my time seeing what else I could do with my superpowers 🙂 I’m not writing reviews to help or hinder GW (even if I thought they would). I’m sure 99% of folk will do exactly as you say, plus I think that most people read what they like into reviews.

      I like your point about the market going against type. Myself, I’ve heard nothing from any source except that it is selling very poorly. Those sources include some GW retail staff, for what that’s worth.

      As to GW becoming a book publishing company, I am less convinced. Their main value as a company is IP generation, and could that sustain itself as a series of novels alone or does it need the games as context? I suppose it could be just novels. Once it reaches (or has reached) a certain critical mass they’re selling on the strength of the fiction alone rather than merely to people who start with games and buy the books to expand on that experience. I don’t know how many books they sell to gamers compared to just readers, and that would be the crunch point.

      • Greg Smith says:

        Yup it certainly doesn’t seem to be selling well anywhere. I do think its the combo of the price point and GWs ever elwanjng reputation amongst the gaming community thats doing it…

        As to the books point, I dearly hope I am wrong but right now they have the HH series regularly getting on the NYT bestseller lists, and one imagines that the profit margins on the novels are MUCH higher than on the games. Once its written by one relatively lowly paid (and freelance) author after all, they only have printing costs to worry about. And now that they are expanding aggressively into ebook territory….I dunno. I’m not saying it would happen overnight but lets face it GW was set up as a boardgames company. I am certain that if you had said to a GW fan in the early 80’s that there would be a time in the not too distant future when GW would stop doing board games altogether they would have found the idea difficult to credit. Yet here we are. I could honestly see it if the bean counters decided that it would make them more money.

        The tragedy is I genuinely believe that Jerv, Phil Kelly et al really want to make games, but they are constrained by the shareholders need to male the maximum buck for minimum outlay. That’s just the nature of business but its still sad to see in a company operating in a creative arena I think.

        And I know you weren’t offended by what I originally said. Like you I was making sure everyone else was clear on my point. 😉

      • Quirkworthy says:

        For a long time the creative decisions have been informed by the bean counters. You can have X codes for an army, and Y codes for a game, for example. But this is normal, and personally I find it quite helpful in design terms to have some limits. The biggest limiting factor is probably what they are allowed to make. Because it has to fit into busy release schedules the design team cannot just go off and produce what they feel like.

        Not sure how much better margins are on books. I suspect that books will mostly be sold via distributors, whereas games are mostly sold directly, so the margins are based on different values: distributor margin for books compared to retail margin. If that is the case then your profit on books would be a lot less. Distributors take a big slice of the pie.

  14. £70 is a lot to pay for a ‘sh*ts & giggles’ game (minus the giggles) and I could quite happily have spent the time watching all the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movies back to back, at least then there’d be no pretence that I had any influence on the outcome.

    Although, with 2 wins from 2 games I can confidently say that I am one of the greatest amdirals to grace the high seas!.. or can I? 😉

    Best thing you can do with this is paint up the pretty ships and put them in bottles on your mantlepiece! 😉

  15. pancake says:

    So its that bad, on the first look at this game. when we
    played with one ship each, it played ok it had its faults that look like they have been amplified with more ships. I’m so happy i picked up Gears of war.

  16. pancake says:

    Yeah i like gears, at first when i played and with jake we got creamed. You have to keep your cogs close to each other working as a team. And unlike dread fleet each game last about an hour, and i think the random A l cards work fine. Over all its a fun game.

    • That’s pretty much what we all thought of it as well. We weren’t expecting very much from it if I’m honest. However it’s quite surprising how rapidly things can go down the pan if you’re not careful in Gears. You can find yourselves rapidly up poo creek without a proverbial paddle if you’re not careful. Has some neat little mechanics in it and above all else its fun. Plus the cards actually work in that game and seem to have been play tested, plus you create specific decks of cards based on the mission… it’s almost like they thought about it as a game. Now there’s an idea, actually thinking about the products you produce. By Jove I think I might have hit upon something with that! Quick somebody email the guys at Lenton Lane.

  17. Pingback: Dreadfleet? More like Dreadfail! « Geek-Life Balance

  18. Hm, here in Germany we have description for some games: “The game plays you instead of you play the game.” And after some test games DF reminds me of such games.

  19. glazed over says:

    Many thanks for an informative review.

    I’d be interested to know if you have any thoughts on how the game could be fixed. Would simply leaving out the fate deck remove enough of the randomness to make the game worthwhile? (Modifying victory conditions so that they don’t come down to a single roll would also seem wise!) Or do you think that a more comprehensive re-write of the rules would be needed?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I’ve been pondering this myself, as has Frontlinegamer. It’s tempting to have a go.

      The core rules for movement, etc are pretty much standard issue naval wargame rules and are fine. It’s the Fate and Damage decks that seem to cause the bulk of the problem as they remove your ability to plan and have way more impact than anything you do as a player. However, removing both of these may just leave it so bland that it’s no more fun than it is now.

      For my money. what you need to do is introduce some more tactical options for the players that make a difference.

      In movement this means stopping the wind direction changing so much. Then you could plan sailing moves properly. Sure the wind should be able to move some, just not all the time and by the amount it does.

      Damage is currently entirely random and assumes, therefore, that the crews are just firing blind and hoping they hit something. Real naval crews in the age of sail were trained and able to aim at particular bits of the enemy ship for particular effects. With the roll of the ship and uncertain ranges and so on, their aim was not perfect, but at least it was an effort, and it did make a difference. Why cannot our fantasy crews aim as well? I would introduce an ability to aim for particular bits of the target, and thereby introduce some more tactical choice. Not a guaranteed effect, but an ability to influence the sort of damage you did. Perhaps make a draw from the damage deck a critical hit effect rather than a normal shot.

      If you started with those two areas and played it, I think you’d see whether it was salvageable or not.

      • I’d agree with your assessment of what needs changing Jake. I also think there should be a weather mechanic as opposed to a bloody randomly changing wind direction. Got a table already up and running. Also working on a damage mechanic that’s a little bit different, where your opponent chooses the sort of shot they want to do (damage hull, rigging, crew, etc) and this applies modifiers to the dice rolls at different ranges. For instance only being able to target crew at close range. But as always you have to play with these things first to see how it plays out on the table.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        I’m not sure you need a weather table, myself. There’s a temptation to add loads to this, but I think the trick will be to make it work with the minimum number of additions/changes.

        Of course, if we end up with several workable games then that’s even better 🙂

      • The weather table I have is highly unlikely to change the type of weather as it is based of of 2D6. But on the whole I agree. Stripping out the random cards and getting back to the core mechanics underneath the game is the way to go and then build on top of that.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        Exactly. Build a solid core and add “chrome” later.

  20. pancake says:

    Or just play a good game, and save dread fleet for november the 5th. Mushy peas anyone.

  21. Felipe says:

    “Leave your brain in a jar and just roll some dice. That is what I am told 8th edition Warhammer has done”

    Actually 8th edition WFB is far, far less random, to the point of being too predictable and a bit boring. People get the impression that random charge distance means random everything but the fact is that charge matters a lot less in 8th (since you strike by Initiative order). Artillery is more accurate and virtually all armies can have a 9/10 Leadership bubble with BSB for HUGE steadfast units. Yeah, that 100-strong night goblin unit is not going anywhere.

    Magic is indeed pretty random, but thats it. I’ve managed to work around dwellers below and other megaspells by keeping my bunker well out of reach wich, to be fair, is no fun at all

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thanks Felipe. It’s intriguing to hear considered commentary about Warhammer 8th, like yours. It’s clear that a lot of people are not happy, though I haven’t played it so I’m just going from what I hear.

      The massive and indestructible units you mention are a common theme of the criticisms. I even heard about a tournament where some of the games were never fought. The players looked at each other’s armies, agreed that there was nothing they could kill to get points, and decided that it was better to sit in the bar for an extra hour rather than pretend that playing the game would make a difference to the outcome. Not really the way you want the game to work.

  22. Mike says:

    I’m quite a fan of Warhammer Fantasy 8th edition and find myself defending it a lot these days. It doesn’t agree with a lot of people but I myself and many others are enjoying the narrative and cinematic qualities that it now brings to the classic game of fantasy warfare. I recommend letting your hair down and giving it a go – it really is quite a laugh.

    Quickworthy, you must of played hundreds of games of Warhammer Fantasy over the years whilst working for GW. Are you still a fan? Or are you having a much needed break from the game? Is it like everything else, when you play/make something for a living it isn’t quite as fun?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Aha! You’re quite a rarity Mike: a vocal fan of 8th. I assume there must be loads of fans, but they quietly carry on their way contented, letting the babbling be done by the malcontents. More story in a game is something I approve of very highly. Just my sort of thing.

      I have indeed played a great many games of WFB. I started with 1st ed, played until 5th, helped write 6th and dabbled in 7th. These days i have neither the time nor the inclination to play it. Partly because I’d have to learn a load of new army books, partly the expense (though I am sure I could borrow an army if I wanted), but mainly a combination of being burned out with it and not enjoying the constant state of flux it exists in. This is, incidentally, one of the things I find irksome about the Privateer Press stuff too, and one of the joys of most board games.

      You are right that it loses some of the shine when you do it for a living, though I am looking forward very much to playing more of the games I have written of late. Just have to wait until they are announced 🙂

      Oh, and the pony tail went years ago, so letting my hair down is more difficult than it used to be 🙂

      • Minitrol says:

        8th is an odd beast. Reading the rules for the first time I thought yes this will be great then we played a game and our enthusiasm died. The background was awesome and the new rules seemed okay but it was what they took out that made it worse. It wasn’t the clinical beast that seventh had become but it wasn’t the 4th with the sensibleness of 6th that I think they were aiming for. You can see the game it could be peering between the boxes of badly phrased illustrated exampled and sigh that it was not fully realised.

        To put it bluntly when my hard-cover 400+ pages long rule book has an insert in the front cover advising of a correction the rules right from the outset my patience died. it was unacceptable to release a product this poorly tested and no-one had taken a critical eye to it. Even an industry outsider could have at least read through it and picked up all the typoes or the parts where the summaries don’t match the main rules content. Sigh.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        Summaries are the bane of a designer’s life. If ever a mistake is likely to happen, it’s in there. Knowing this makes it slightly easier to avoid, but not much and this is one reason why people often avoid them.

        As an aside, if there was a mistake in a rulebook, would you rather they told you and corrected it, or just kept quiet?

  23. varjo says:

    Ey mate

    I have that “Itch” you sometimes get when you see that somebody is taking something abit too seriously, like here your raging over an boardgame that’s supposed to be fun way of spending few hours with your friends, which you apparently didnt have when you played it due it being too “Soft core” for your tastes. I do understand that after such long carreer in industry(Although you remind me of some burned-out gamer who’s raging “This game is shit, i swear im not going to play this ever!” sixhundred times in day, but still play’s it because he’s spent too much into it to quit) you might have seen alot better-suited games for you, but it still doesnt justify you to bash Dreadfleet without adding “My opinnion” in there, even just once. Overall, i do enjoy 40k and other games at my local flagstore and have had blast painting and playing Dreadfleet few times now and imho, its great, fun casual-friendly game with great artwork and athmosphere, not something you have to spend thousands and compete in regional tournaments like FOW, 40k or Warmachine(For example). Of course, this was just my opinnion and the way i like my games. One thing we do share, dislike for Fantasy battle 8’ED.


    • Poosh says:

      Games that are a fun way to spend a few hours with your mate in a fun-causal manner don’t usually come with a £70 price tag, limited edition.

      And you’ll be hard pressed to find any review, even proper movie reviews in national newspapers, with the phrase “in my opinion” in.

  24. Pingback: Reading (and watching) about Dreadfleet… | The Letters from Xanadu

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  27. Buford says:

    Rather in the vein of Varyo, I’d like to humbly disagree with quirkworthy’s conclusion about DF. I’ve played it now twice and had a great time with it (an enlarged scenario 1 and by-the-book scenario 2). It is easy to learn, fast-playing, and highly entertaining. And, as noted, its physical materials are very nice. I’ve painted up everything and it looks gorgeous. True, it is NOT a tactician’s game. The idea of a DF tournament circuit would be laughable. It is too random for that – but amusingly so. Go into it with the right mindset and you’ll probably like it. I know I can’t wait for my next go at it.
    Anyway, my 2 cents!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thanks for commenting Buford. As I said in my review(s), I’m not against a very random game in principle (in fact, I play several), but one that lasts this long just isn’t fun in my book. I’m sure there will be many who are also not after “a tactician’s game” and share your view. However, I can only review games from my own experiences and those of the players I play against. In our case DF was uniformly disliked.

      I’m sure it looks really splendid all painted up 🙂

      • Buford says:

        Yeah, one big difference in our (mutually limited!) experiences is game length. My two games have lasted between 1.5 and 2 hours. As a Warhammer player, and none too fast a mover, that seems dang short to me. Maybe I’ll get as bored with DF as you guys when I play a 10-ship, 4+ hour big scenario.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        Perhaps. You’ll have to let us know once you’ve given it a go.

  28. Buford says:


    Just played my fourth game of Dreadfleet, this one a big scenario with 9 ships (the one where the elven Seadrake is trying to escape). Gotta say, my previous impressions hold. It took 3.5 hours and was lots of fun. The only slight downer was that it started to drag for me a bit in the last hour because it began to look rather clearly like my side was going to lose (and lose I did, 39 to 29!). I was having a hard time passing command checks with my submersible, and probably deployed one of the ships badly to begin the scenario. But mostly it was all good fun.
    I have written up my overall impressions of the game based on my first three plays of it on Warseer (http://www.warseer.com/forums/showthread.php?t=322295). As I say there, I do not contend that this is the greatest game ever (and they charge too much for it), but I continue find it an amusing good time.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thanks for coming back Buford. I like your review and would urge folk who haven’t read it to follow the link in the comment above. It’s a good companion to my views as our conclusions aren’t that it is a different game, merely that we take different things from it because we come at it differently. Reading both should give a reader that is unfamiliar with the game a more rounded overview.

      I agree with many of your points, I just don’t personally find DF an “amusing good time” as I want something different from a game. Interesting also that even you found it dragged in the bigger game.

      Thanks again for coming back and linking your review 🙂

  29. tinfish says:

    Which card allowed you to place 14 damage cards? I can’t say the random element has had a big influence over player skill, but it will dishearten some when their 6 shot broadside inflicts a nice spread of damage and the return volley just happens to consist soley of hull cards and sinks you 🙂

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Can’t recall the name. It was a spell that did damage on all ships within a certain area. You pick a spot, roll dice for range then roll dice for how many damage each ship in that area gets, IIRC. Ended up with a total of 14 damage cards (a couple of which were on my own ships).

      As I’ve said before: I don’t mind random. Random is fine in its place. However, in DF it so overshadows player decisions and skill as a determinant of the actual outcome that it is utterly out of place in a game of such length.

  30. tinfish says:

    It is an issue, but I didn’t find it detrimental to actual player skill, I think it migh have been Tsunami, but that spell is just 1, is very situational and only works if a single ship is in play, it will in not happen often 🙂 most games will only see 12 fate cards anyway.
    Short of Storm of Magic, which is a terrible card, none are game breaking.

    I’m still finding that whilst damage is random, the guy who manoeuvres in the most effective way, will come out on top.
    But I also have not come close to actually sinking anything and all it takes is a flipping Sea monster to arrive on turn 1 and a failed roll to head into the wind and come turn 5, you have just entered gun range…
    That was with 2 ships, unlikely to happen with 4 or more on the table.

    As for length.. erm 6 turns cannot be enough for most scenarios, it took 2 hours to play the practice scenario (Random damage causing even spreads) and 10 turns maybe.
    It also took an hour longer than my first game,
    It is a fun game, strategy does matter, but you must adapt tactics on the fly.
    Random damage will annoy some, when your treble volley slows the enemies ship and his ship returns fire and solely draws hull cards, but is it truly more random than rolling a d6 on a damage chart in BFG?

    I’m happy I bought it, shame there is so little discussion on it and that one of the first reviews to appear in google hails it as the worst game ever, GW need to market things better, as some of the replies show, by people who never played it, they automatically believe it is crap, because you said so.
    I believe you dont like it, not the same as writing it off as crap, but GW can only blame themselves, uninspiring battle reports, a white dwarf where they adress the reader as if he was 4 years old and 1 man stores that cant demo games.

    Like I said, I am yet to delve deeper into the campaign and so far spells haven’t been an issue, perhaps when I draw Storm of Magic during a 5 a side, I will also think it ruins the game.

    People really should try it for themselves. they cant cope with the fact that a review is merely one mans opinion it seems 🙂

    • Quirkworthy says:

      You are entirely right Tinfish, this review is my opinion. You are, however, wrong that I said it was crap. Not at all. You are putting words into my mouth. “The worst game that Games Workshop have ever made” (which I did say and still believe) is not the same thing at all. Dreadfleet is very pretty, has some fine models, and some solid mechanical concepts. However, my conclusion that these elements are combined in a way that is vastly more random than tactical, and that this is a major issue in a 4 hour game, is not something I have heard any compelling argument against. Of course, some folk are quite happy playing such games and that’s fine. However, in the vast majority of games, as the amount of randomness in a game increases and the impact of skill decreases, the time to play also decreases. This seems to be what most people want. As someone who designs games professionally, I think that ignoring this sort of basic precept does not, in today’s market, make for a sensible plan or good game.

      Nor is this review a brief rant without explanation. It is the last in a series of articles on the game, and builds from an initial sighting to an analysis after the games have been played. Even if you think it is a rant, I at least try to explain why I think what I do and that it contains good bits as well as bad. I don’t write many game reviews, but those that I do are in-depth and argued on the basis of having played repeatedly. If I am commenting on a quick look in the box, then I will say so. Such an article will generally be followed up by more in-depth commentary in a subsequent post.

      I’ve gone and looked up the specific spell. It’s called Living Tsunami and is used by the master of the Swordfysh. It is hardly “very situational”. All you have to do to play it is to have the card (obviously) and have the ship in play. The Swordfysh is in 10 out of the 12 scenarios, so hardly rare. You have no range restrictions or line of sight requirements, you simply pick a spot anywhere and roll 3D6 inches range from that spot to see how many ships the area covers. In other words, if you have the card, then in 10 out of 12 scenarios you can guarantee hitting at least one enemy ship. If you are lucky and get the card early then in many scenarios you can catch the enemy fleet bunched together and hit several of them at once. On an average dice roll this effect is a circle 21 inches across. Each ship that is hit suffers D3+1 hits.

      I do not wish any particular ill for the game and am very happy to see you and anyone else who enjoys it having fun playing. I wish I liked it more because it is (as I have repeatedly said) very pretty. I have played many naval games for more than 2 decades and do enjoy the genre. Dreadfleet promised to be a lot of fun, but in the end I did not find it so. I could not in all conscience review it other than honestly, and the above is my honest opinion. If you like the game I suggest you write your own review and explain what you find appealing. I’m sure others would be happy to read it. Feel free to post a link here as well. I think someone who is being asked to spend £70 for a game would be well advised to read as many reviews as they can, and a difference of view allows them to make a more balanced judgement.

      As to GW’s marketing and support, I can’t say I’ve looked since I wrote this. Dreadfleet was never likely to gain much support from GW as they are (rightly or wrongly) focussed on their core games, and this was presumably intended to replicate the quick in-out sales of Space Hulk as a standalone game that needed no great deal of support. To be fair, lack of positive and developmental discussion is down to you and other proponents of the game. As for me, I suspect that I have already written more about it than most.

  31. Andy P says:

    Worst game ever? I think you have forgotten Bommaz Over Da Sulpha River. (I can’t blame you for that, I wish I could forget it too).

    It was aimed at young kids but required tiny fiddly bombs to be glued to metal 5mm scale aircraft with superglue. Then in the game itself, the defending player could literally do nothing all game, and as long as he rolled at least one 4+ on two D6 (75% chance) when the attacker tried to bomb the objective, he would win. If he actually tried, it was almost impossible for him to lose. Dreadfleet can’t possibly be as bad as that.

    I was working in a store when Bommaz was released; we played some games before the shop opened and quickly realised how terrible it was. And we told that to the customers who wanted to buy it, too, because we reasoned it was better in the long run to lose a sale, than to lose respect and all future sales.

    Dreadfleet doesn’t sound much better… all that randomness is the antithesis of why I wargame (and why I have lost all interest in 8th Ed Warhammer)… but nothing is as bad as Bommaz.

    • Well to be Fair you did play the two longest scenarios and somehow managed to draw the most random event card, If you play the scenarios in order like they are meant to, it’s a much more enjoyable game.

      • GloatingSwine says:

        In any boardgame or miniatures game you would hope that the larger scenarios are the ones that show off the game the best, not the point at which the wheels fall off and the whole thing ends up in a ditch.

        I can’t imagine how the base game is improved by playing the scenarios in order, other than maybe giving stockholm syndrome time to set in. It’s just too random on too many levels to be satisfying.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        @ Nathan – we played the first scenario first. Having got a grasp of the rules (not very hard, really) we then picked the first scenario we saw with all 10 ships. The game was creaking already, and I didn’t think Bob would have survived the experience if we’d tried all of them. In any case, I think I’ve played enough to give it a fair shake and to see the variance in size and scope so that I could write an informed review. You don’t have to agree with me about my conclusions, but it seems unreasonable to criticise me for not going through every last permutation before I can have an opinion.

        You don’t have to eat the whole cow to know you don’t like a burger.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Now DF has more finely made models and a game mat you can nick for any naval game (if you don’t mind the monsters among your ships of the line), so it’s not all one way. However, Bommerz had brevity on its side (<30 mins IIRC), and you could use the models in Epic (and now Aeronautica Imperialis) and it wasn't £70.

      There's 3 or 4 reasons why Bommerz isn't as bad.

  32. Minitrol says:

    I love that this article still gets replies three months later! What will you do to push buttons next time? Propose that Fighting Fantasys mass combat system is superior to Warmachine in every way? Tee hee.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I have a vague feeling that I have that somewhere. Titan, I think it was called, right?

      Seriously though Minitrol, I don’t aim to push buttons, I just call ’em as I see ’em.

  33. How many turns does a game normally last? Is there a set limit or is it until a victory condition is hit? I haven’t played it (and there aren’t many places to read about it) but would it perhaps work to draw a Fate card every 3rd or 4th turn (for example)? Would that allow you to plan and strategise better?

    • Buford says:

      Most scenarios are set to last 5-6 turns. Some go until the victory conditions are met.

      Fate cards are drawn two per turn; reducing their impact could be easily accomplished by just drawing one. But the fundamental randomness in the game derives mostly from the damage cards. every time you hit and wound a ship, you draw a card, which could be an innocuous -1 speed or a crippling or sinking blow. I don’t see any easy fix for this.

      Now, as one of the few posting here who enjoys Dreadfleet, I don’t think this unpredictabilty is so problematic. Makes it kind of exciting, really, and usually averages out over the course of a game. But opinions will vary.

      • GloatingSwine says:

        I think the randomness of the dice is quite enough to give you the “will this actually work” tension that games need.

        The damage card mechanic also means that every time you do take damage you have to check what each one is and put it in its place on your ship card, taking up time and space even when it’s not a special card giving you even more to do. Which is one of the reasons our axe-happy edit got the game down from 4 hours to 1.5.

  34. thedauntless says:

    I hate to go against the grain on this, but I actually like the game in principle – but if there were some custom house rules to shorten play, or diminish the random elements, it’d be a winner – I really love the models, and I think that the price tag is just about right, if only a little steep for what is provided. Ultimately, GW should be promoting more stand-alone materials similar to this. I don’t see tremendous pick-up on their Finecast, Storm of Magic or even LOTR anymore, so this should be a celebrated move on their part – not for this item specifically, but for the direction and R&D it should present a growing company.
    Has your opinion on Dreadfleet altered since the original post here, or is it now a distant memory of a cluster-blunder best left alone?!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Sorry for the delayed reply – up to my ears at the mo.

      I like the game in principle, but I think that the execution let them down badly. My opinion of DF hasn’t changed: very pretty components, but the game is way too long and too random. If they could pull off a popular stand alone game like Space Hulk again then I can see it being a good idea. Sadly I hear rumours that the unsold stock of DF might be headed for the bargain shops, so they’re hardly likely to be encouraged to have another go.

      I did post some house rules here: https://quirkworthy.com/2012/01/21/dreadfleet-salvage-project-version-1-0/

  35. Buford says:

    Glad you are trying some house rules, Jake! They look interesting, and potentially helpful. I might suggest having some kind of “critical hit” rule that allows, as bonus damage, the drawing of a damage card for its special effects.

    Haven’t played DF lately, unfortunately, and reading this has me itching to take it out again. A Warhammer campaign and a jump into Firestorm Armada in our local gaming group (and new Lord of the Rings release too!) have sucked all time away from it.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      These were really just a first cut, thoguh they seem to have fixed the issues I had rather thoroughly. I’ve not had any feedback from people, and no time for more games so it’s not got any further. You could use the Damage cards as you suggest. I’d be wary of adding things back in before playing several games though, just to ensure that the basics work smoothly. Adding too much chrome is (I suspect) how it got into the mess it ended up in in the first place.

  36. Beerildan says:

    Well, I’m going to raise this thread from the grave – I’m sorry, but I just felt a little wronged reading it. I believe, and I know that’s an opinion, that Dreadfleet is an amazing game. Yes, it is random, but who cares? Aren’t all dice-based games random? I’ve played hundreds of games where a single dice roll could make all the difference, and most didn’t have the absolutely gorgeous ships Dreadfleet has.

    I’ve played through most of the campaign now, and I can say that I very much enjoyed every scenario.
    I believe I can deduce from you reviews that you’ve played many a naval wargame, and somehow (possibly not on purpose) comparing Dreadfleet to them – resulting in your negative review. Now I’ve never played another naval wargame, but somehow I believe you’re wrong in putting Dreadfleet in the same genre. It is indeed not über-tactical, very random, rather simple and quite imperfect, but thouroughly enjoyable.

    You say it is not tactical, because it is too random. I’ve experienced firsthand that it is tactical.. If you screw up your deployment, you won’t win. If you expose your ships, you won’t win. If you form a decent formation, picking on isolated enemies, you will. It’s just very hard to plan ahead more than, say, two turns, since so much happens in a single turn. Is that a flaw in the game? Possibly, but I find it rather enjoyable since it makes the game ‘easier’: It has a sort of ‘go with the flow’ principle that makes you snatch single-turn opportunities over possible longer benefits. That doesn’t mean that you should just do whatever seems best at the moment, because as I’ve stated before, a coherent fleet eats isolated ships for breakfast.

    Now, yes, there are many, many, many random events. I do agree that at times, some are overpowered, some seem unfair, and there’s an upper limit. We, for example, removed the principle of rolling 2D6 for determining the amount of campaing points you’d get for winning a game, simply making it 7.
    But aside from that, the game functions properly – unpredictable, but properly. I actually find it fun that a ship might sink after taking four damage cards while others can take as much as 15. It’s part of the game, but doesn’t influence it as much as you might think: A ship with more than 7 cards is generaly crippeled beyond any repair and will soon be out of the game, whether it sinks or not.
    Likewise, that fact that the wind is so completely random is fun, but doesn’t really affect your game much – many ships don’t even have sails, and the ones that do are generally fast enough to shrug of the loss of speed if they botch their test and so on. The only really annoying rule is the orders-limitation, but I believe you should never have your battleplan rely on an order that requires dicerolling anyway.

    All in all, I’m sorry for raging for a bit, but I believe you did the game wrong. It’s not a tournament game. It is flawed. But it really is great fun, the models are absolutely superb, everything is pretty, from the seascape to the rulers and it is worth just about it’s price. Think before you buy it, but when you’re a painter that enjoys the occasional battle and screaming “Broadside!” at your friends, then this is a game for you, despite this preview.


  37. Buford says:

    Hooray! Another fan of the game.

    • thedauntless says:

      Each to their own, definitely! I think that everyone above has a fair point, but I don’t believe that this game is as polarising as we think! When you look at it, it seems unanimous in this thread at least that the game IS flawed – the models ARE nice and the premise IS admirable. The real divider is on tolerance for the random elements of the game. Tactics are very much limited to choices within a turn and a half, but there are so many actions within the turn that I can appreciate the necessity to remove what would have otherwise become an overly complex player turn. Do I think GW have succeeded? No. But certainly they have attempted something different that will occupy a niche novelty interest among friends for years to come.
      I’ve played three games since my last post on this topic, so I am not achieving the full value for money against game cost, but I think that is will bear out over time. Inspired from Quirkworthy above, I have played with new rules the last two occasions, and I think am working to a simpler approach in order to make the game faster and more straightforward. Leaving the wind as a randomly generated constant for the entire game may be my next step before a new match. The game does need refinement, and I think that this title, more than any other GW system, will be subject to house rules wherever you can get two players to give it one more go! I’m still happy I bought it. I loved painting up the minis (see my blog on thedauntless.wordpress.com for the step by step accounts – riveting stuff, I promise! 🙂 and will play it again, but it does need more than a light polish as a system overall.

      • p8nt4lyfe says:

        As someone who has always painted warhammer models and never played the games I purchased Dreadfleet for the models only. After about half of the ships were painted I decided to give the game a try. I’ve found it to be a whole mess of fun, and have found myself improving as I played more and more. Up until reading this review I assumed that the randomness is similiar to other GW games, I guess I was wrong. The main draw of dreadfleet to me is that even with random elements everywhere, it’s all about how you move your ships. Lining up your ship with your opponent isn’t random at all, and when you outsmart their moves It feels great to only have to roll a 3+ to hit! I’ve also had a hell of a time getting my friends to play warhammer games with me, and they always give up/lose interest. Dreadfleet has been an awesome gateway drug for my mid-20’s friends who have since given up expensive trips to bars and nightclubs to come over and spend 3-4 hours out thinking one-another. It’s too bad that so many people have skipped this game because I’ve found it to be a real treat.

        The price was high at first but now the entire set can be purchased on Amazon between $60-80 which seems like a very VERY fair price for what you get.

  38. tinfish says:

    well, I take it back, I shelved this after a few more games and realising that skill plays no part at all and 2 scenarios are so unlikely to ever result in success for either player, that it simply cannot be enjoyed. 100% dominance resulted in a draw, and I mean the kind of dominance that would have tabled a player in WFB or 40K, regardless of the version or armies involved actually resulted in a draw, almost a loss.

    Wasted money on this (and I do not have much to start with) that money would have expanded one of my armies or built another one, terrrible design and a seeming utter lack of playtesting.

    I did not know you worked on Necromunda, one of the greatest games ever and one I kept all these years. Just aswell I did as the only current version is missing half the fun stuff from the original. If only I still had my terrain 🙂

    from Space Hulk, Necromunda, BFG, 40K, WFB, space Crusade, heroQuest. to…………………… Dread Fleet.!?!… Dark Future was better, how on earth did Dread Fleet happen?

    • Don´t know the answer neither.

      But I do know that there are some real nice games out there right now. If you are into ships go for Dystopian Wars. If you are into Star Wars go for the upcoming Star Wars X-wing from FFG. If you like hunting aliens in a space station go for Mike McVeys Sedition Wars Battle for Alabaster (out in november, kickstarter juts ended but was one of the most successful kickstarters ever). If you like alternate history go for Dust Tactics/ Dust Warfare. So, in case you can get rid of Dreadfleet there is enough out there to make up for your bad experience.

      • tinfish says:

        Well, keeping an eye on Dust, that looks fun, not a fan of the infantry, but my Imperial Guard or perhaps even WWII model kit infantry can make up for that. Mantic Corporation soldiers may suit the game too.
        The mechs look nice and I do love mechs, so it is appealing.

        Course with 40K and WFB armies to finish, it will have to wait its turn. But it certainly seems like an interesting game to pick up.

        I know very little about it though, what cards are for, what size forces I would need and so on, will have to research it.

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  44. Matt Price says:

    So Jake, I know you’re ridiculously busy, but I’m wondering if you might have time to take a look at Star Wars Armada in the not too distant future. I’m thinking porting that system over to dread(ful)fleet might save the game. I spent countless hours painting up my ships, all the while reading more and more disheartening reviews… I finally got the game to the table about two years ago and was unimpressed, but not totally so. My bar was set low, and it met all my expectations. Mildly entertaining (especially after the second and third whiskeys), but crazy random.

    Free time is hard to come by, but I would so love to try to salvage this game. I know you periodically remark that these dreadfleet posts get a surprising amount of comments… It’s cuz the darn thing is so easy on the eyes! So here’s to hoping I may get inspired to dust off my old copy, make some weird new homebrew expansion rules, and give it a go…

    • Eric Robinson says:

      Mmmmm, yes, I haven’t played Dreadfleet in a while. Now I want to again! Such cool ships and ship abilities. Time to blow some stuff up!

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