This is the first version of my house rules for Dreadfleet. It’s not a complete rewrite, but a cutting away of what I think of as dead wood that hides the worthwhile game underneath. Or, put another way, murdering some darlings that should have long since been safely hidden away under the turf.
This is only the first cut of these house rules and needs a load more playtesting to call finished. I just thought you might like to have a peek at where it is now, and perhaps play some games yourselves and let me know what you think. That is, after all, why I have comments section 😉
I’ll be saying “I decided this”, and “I came up with that” because I’m writing it (and because I can’t recall who actually thought of every little bit), but this is really a collaborative effort. I particularly have to thank the Jolly Old Tar known as GloatingSwine who did indeed come up with many of the following thoughts – even if I’ve subsequently put them through the mangle…
The aim of these changes is to make the game less random and much faster to play. In order to do this I’ve had to make it considerably more brutal, so don’t be surprised at the level of carnage. Having said that, I didn’t want to rewrite any of the background as that’s fun already. The rules I left as they were as much as possible, and where I did feel I had to do something I have tended to stick to merging or ignoring things rather than making new stuff up wholesale. Unless there’s a change mentioned then use the rules as writ. So, let the party begin…
Cards and Stuff
You don’t need the damage deck or the injured cards for captains. You’ll still need the occasional Set Ablaze card.
Ship stats stay as they are with one crucial change. A ship has a new stat called Damage. This is simply the Hull + Crew stats added together, so you don’t need to write anything down. Damage is simply how much punishment a ship can take before it glugs.
Each time a ship is hit and the armour does not save it then it loses a point of damage. In boarding actions the damage is taken directly, without a save (as normal).
Each point of Damage on a ship has the following effects:
- -1 Speed.
- -1 crew dice in boarding actions (up to a maximum of the crew stat).
When something says that a ship “takes a Damage card” then it loses a point of Damage. Many cards/effects ask you to sift through the deck to find a specific type of Damage card. As we no longer care what type of Damage you’re supposed to be suffering you just take the number of Damage off the total as usual. We used glass beads on the ship card to mark Damage taken.
Only the player that won the initiative takes a Fate card in a turn.
You’ll be able to plan better as the wind is only moved by 1 Fate card per turn. Other than that it’s as written.
In the test game we played the following rule wasn’t used. However, we felt that shooting wasn’t good enough compared to the modified boarding. So…
A ship has two gun crews: one for each side of the vessel. This means that a ship can fire a broadside as described in the book from each side in each turn.
If you choose to fire from only one side in a turn then the other crew can help. With extra hands to run powder and shot to the guns the firing is more intense. Double crewed broadsides like this get to re-roll any dice that miss on the first attempt. Watch out for the Heldenhammer!
Shooting at Targets in Contact
If you are in contact with your target then the shot will always be partial (half dice). The rules for whether an “imaginary line” traced along the join between two vessels is obscured or not is unclear, and this is a nice, simple way to deal with it. Of course, your target must still be at least partly in arc to make any kind of shot.
These now include duels. Instead of Captains fighting each other separately, I’ve assumed that they lead their crews in heroic combat and will be the last to die, going down with their ships (unlike Italian cruise liner captains).
The way you work out the number of dice for a boarding action is different (and duels don’t happen). The rest stays the same.
In a Boarding Action you always get a number of dice equal to the Captain’s Swashbuckling stat. This is not reduced by Damage. In addition to this you also get one dice per crew. However, this number is reduced by Damage taken. Note that you can’t go negative here. For example, if the Swordfysh has 4 Damage on it then it will still fight with 3 dice (the Swashbuckling stat of captain Saltspite). The 3 crew dice are reduced to nothing, but the Captain’s dice are never reduced, so the fourth point of damage doesn’t matter. At least, not for this.
Ignore these for now. I need to play the rules before I post them.
Specific Cards and Abilities
There will be more of these as I haven’t done a thorough sift yet. However, to start with:
- Will of Steel (Roth)/Blessed of Manaan (Saltspite): in a Boarding Action you need to roll separate colours for the captain’s dice and the crew’s. Only the Captain’s dice dice get re-rolls.
- The Sword of Fiery Curses (Magus): +1 victory in a Boarding Action.
- Control Sea Monster: ignore this for now.
- Bitter Tenacity (Hackhart): if you lose a Boarding Action you get a 5+ save against the first point of Damage.
- My Will Be Done (Amanhotep): the addition to the crew also adds to the Damage for this turn. The Zandri may sink immediately when this wears off.
- Sigmar’s Wrath (Heldenhammer): D3 Damage.
- Ram Attack (Swordfysh): D3 Damage.
- Bolt Throwers (Seadrake): ignore.
- Sea Nymphs (Scimitar): one Damage is repaired.
- Regenerating Hulk (Reaver): heals one point of Damage on a 4+.
Basically, all the random monster attacks are doubled in strength. If a D3 they become a D6.
- Mer-Fiends/Hellfish Swarm: D6 crew.
- Curse of the Undead Mariner: just randomly select a ship from the biggest fleet.
- Plug it with the Cabin Boy: Damage, not Hull Damage.
- Hurricane of Blades: D3 Damage.
- Old Rope/Stop Malingering/Tis But a Scratch: a random ship from those that are damaged repairs one Damage.
- Shimmerlings: Crew 4.
- Rain of Snakes: Crew 2.
- The Sands of Time: declare the use of this spell at the start of a Boarding Action involving the Zandri. Re-roll any dice that fail to gain a victory on their first attempt.
Back in the box for now
Mostly this is because I need to check the auxiliary rules. Half of these will come back when that’s done. The “loaded” cards all change the Damage type, and as we no longer care about that they’re irrelevant.
- Chainshot Loaded
- Blessed Shot Loaded
- Cursed Shot Loaded
- Grapeshot Loaded
- Incendiaries Loaded
- Leech Worm Attack
- Wrath of the Sea Giant
- Bone Hydra Rises
- Assassin Ship Ready
- Boarding Ship Ready
- Powder Ship Ready
- Fire Ship Ready
As this has now been posted I’d like to weigh in with some of the philosophy behind the changes so far.
The first was damage. Damage in the base rules is highly unpredictable, two hits might sink a ship outright whereas six could fly into the rigging and leave it slowed down but otherwise unharmed. It seems to have been a design intention that the ships would all take a battering but that sinking them would be relatively rare. However, this not only means that the game takes longer as you have all of the models to fiddle with every turn, but also means that you can never quite be sure what the effect of a given attack will be. The Heldenhammer might get a clean raking shot with its first broadside of the game and do nothing at all on quite average dice. This is one of the reasons that the game feels so unsatisfyingly random, you can’t plan ahead because no matter the odds on the dice, the damage deck might say different.
Crushing that down to just inflicting damage based on the two properties in the rules that can actually cause a ship to sink means that when you start shooting you have a good idea what is going to happen, so you can plan the likely outcomes. This also has the additional benefit of not fiddling around with all the types of damage and putting them in their right places against the card (reducing the required playing area drastically, the game fit well enough on a 6’x4′ table), and reading what the special rules now mean and trying to remember what you have to do with that ship now.
The second was the special rules. A large portion of the length of time spent playing Dreadfleet is the huge number of special rules. There are special rules for each ship, the captain of each ship, for fate cards, and for some of the damage cards, and at least some of these will crop up randomly, which means that you are far from guaranteed to see any given one and so won’t quickly become familiar with applying their myriad of special properties. Reducing the fate cards to one a turn meant that there was only one thing to read and do at the start of a turn, and taking out all the special damage cards meant that there was far less to keep track of when it came to the status phase, speeding up the bookkeeping portion of the game massively and letting you get straight on with the swashbuckling. Only having one fate card a turn also meant that the wind was slightly less prone to zooming around wildly.
Following our conversation on the way back from Maelstrom a few weeks ago, I thought it only right that I reply to this post – it is odd that nobody else has commented…
I haven’t had a chance to have a game yet, but everything that you’ve written makes sense to me theoretically. I’m fairly certain I’ll use your rules for my first game rather than GW’s. Have you played again since? Have you found anything else that you’d tweak?
I haven’t played, I’m afraid. Gaming time has been at something of a premium of late, and most of it has been taken up (as always) playtesting current projects. I’m sure I’ll give it another go at some stage.
This is excellent, thank you so much for posting these changes. I bought Dreadfleet for the models and was pretty gutted when the rules turned out to be such a dud, but I held on to the hope that a good game could be made out of it (dropping the fate cards to one a turn is, even by itself, a huge improvement).
Do you need playtesters to try these rules out? I will try and get a game together and get you feedback on the changes.
Secondly, I hope the end-phase of this project is a PDF errata that summarizes the rule-changes. I would be very happy to help you in the creation of this document if you are time-short- please email if this would be helpful.
Many thanks again.
Dreadfleet was disappointing and the large amount of money I spent on it really bothered me. I would be so happy if there were rules for an actual game in there. I’d be happy with the above revisions, though to play all the scenarios I would need auxiliary rules. Thank you for what you’ve done so far, I now have hope.
hello ! I’d be happy to translate it in french and post it on my blog, would you be ok ?
I’d be happy for you to translate it and use it on your blog. My only requests are that you mention where it came from and posted a link here too so that people could find the translated version if they needed to. Cheers!
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Hello, you abandoned the project?
Curious to know as well ! It’s been on my shelter for a year, waiting to be painted. I’ve put this project on hold because of bad reviews. I need this game to be salvaged ! =p
Despite visiting this blog for some time, I have discovered this article just now! I am curious too! It would be great if Jake and GloatingSwine finish this project. The game looks great and has excellent miniatures, but the rules are really terrible and worth proper revision.
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Having dusted my old box off and scouring the house for a board large enough to play it upon, I too would like to revisit this project, there seem to be pockets of similar minded gamers on the internet that would relish a finished project such as this.
Saying that I can full well understand the time that such an endeavour requires and that it is likely for this reason that the Dreadfleet rules revamp was never finished.
Please respond if there are any updates and I’ll be in touch Jake if we ever get round to finishing the areas you’d not yet reached for feedback.
All the best,
I’d be happy to hear if you managed to make some progress. I intend to revisit this t some stage, though it’s unlikely to be before Christmas as I’m in the process of moving house at the moment.
The rules we did covered the bulk of the issues and made for a vastly improved game. But that’s just my view. You should play it yourself and see what you think 🙂
Hi I have been playing around with different ideas to try and make Dreadfleet a better game to play
have really been inspired by some of the ideas here, but not sure where to put my take on it
anyway after seeing star trek attack wing and star wars armada i stole some ideas from them as well, anyway here is what i came up with: (be warned none of these are play tested so don’t know how it all works in practice)
Turn order is dictated by whichever player has a ship closest to the wind gauge, if a draw, whoever has the best command ability, if still a draw, then dreadfleet goes first, then activate ships as normal (this is more to simulate the fact that in real naval war fare whoever got the wind first had the advantage, and the dreadfleet would know their territory better so also have an advantage)
Each player draws 6 fate cards at the beginning, keep these secret, can do a single re-draw for cards you don’t want. each player must then play one fate card from their hand each turn, drawing a new card so they always have 6, all cards played are acted on as per the card, however only the strongest wind strength is applied to both wind strength and direction
as normal, except can fire 1/2 broadside rounding up from the forward arc, also can re-roll missed hits should the ship be firing from one arc only, each arc can select different targets or the same target following the normal rules. if a ship has an additional flaming weapon, roll the extra flaming dice for all arcs, all arcs are rolled separately (to show that these things have lots of guns but like all boats are most vulnerable from the rear)
Boarding and Swashbuckling as normal
still keeping the damage deck, but the hull and crew value added together equal the total amount of cards a ship can take before it sinks, and for each failed armour save of 1, flip the damage card and apply the effects, this acts as a critical, the ship is sunk if it reaches 0 crew or hull as normal (this is to allow more control of damage given the bigger ships need to be hit more often, reducing crew helps in boarding and other special damage just make it more vulnerable, upgrade fate cards do their normal thing when applied to a ship)
orders are as normal, toying with the idea of ignoring the test to give an order but still not sure
Bloody reaver: no change
Heldenhammer: hammer attacks are criticals and discard any special cards
swordfish: ram attack damage are all criticals applying all hull damage
shade wraith: same but can’t be set ablaze and immune to fire attacks (i couldn’t understand how a ghost ship could catch fire)
flaming scimitar: all the same but all three ship powers are constantly active, as wind determines turn order i imagine this ship can be quite powerful, also the sea nymphs remove one hull critical or damage card
sea drake: all successful bolt thrower damage that isn’t saved is multiplied by D3 or just doubled not sure which yet, also dragon broadside and boarding add a single set ablaze card (because dragons breath fire)
Dwarf ship: same
Black Kraken: same
Skaven ship: same except all damage not only ignores armour but counts as critical damage
curse of zandrie: same
like i have said these are ideas i have been playing with and just want to see what others think, would be interested if anyone gives them a go