I have owned dreadfleet for about 2 weeks now. I mentioned in a PM to Che Gue-Vesa several weeks before that I planned to write a review on the game. This that review, I know most people will have made up their minds and the stock will be running low (hopefully for GW). In the time I have had it, I have played about 10 games against various people and found it a thoroughly entertaining experiance.
The box is the best I have seen from any manufacturer. It’s about 11” by 16” and 4” tall. Bigger than any other box I have bought from GW. The quality is also astounding, the box, even after several weeks of gaming is still very glossy although it has picked up general scuffing from general wear. It also is very solid unlike GW’s usual boxes which aren’t very solid under preasure.
In the box you will find:
• A disturbingly huge mound of plastic sprue
• A pack of 14 dice including the dreaded “fire” dice
• A card cover to protect the rest of the list
• 1 Rule Book (not hardcover, but still good quality)
• A huge quantity of plastic bags for cards etc.
• The fabulous 3.5’ X 5’ gaming cloth which is just brilliant for the game
• Lots of good quality cards which speed gameplay (even for my dad)
o Fate cards
o Damage cards
o Ship rules cards
o Set ablaze/ at anchor cards
o Auxiliary and monster cards
The sprues contain:
• 7 islands which all have a diferent theme
• 5 shipwrecks (all different)
• 1 Wind Marker, 2 Ship’s Wheel’s (cunning turning devices) and 1 18” range ruler that hinges at 6 and 12 inches for 45 degrees (used for fire arcs)
• 3 sea monsters
• 7 small ships called cogs and 2 other auxiliaries (dragon and dirigible)
• As well as the 10 main ships
Amazingly, it still all fit’s in the box if you keep the card cover that separated the sprues from the rest (ships and islands go on top, all the rest go underneath in plastic bags)
At the heart of any game is it’s rulebook. Dreadfleet is no different, the rulebook is 98 pages according to GW and you can use the back as a refrence chart. The finish of the cover is similar to the box, glossy with general wear. I heard that several people’s rulebooks had broken down the spine, mine has not done so yet, but it seems to be of as great quality as the rest of the game. The book’s contents have roughly a 33/33/33 split between modeling, rules and fluff. I find the rulebook good to read and easy to find things in. It is also excelently laid out.
After several games at my own house and a demo at GW edinburgh, I have a copy of the rules burned into my brain (like most other games). Movement takes some explaining, but once mastered, it seems only a tiny bit harder than most other games. Shooting is simple with “balistic skill” detetermined by the distance between ships and other modifiers (1st broadside, raking). Boarding is also very simple (easier than 40K/WHFB) with both players rolling some dice and counting 5s and 6s for the score. Damage is dealt with in a completely diferent way to usual; by drawing a card for each hit (more on the cards later). So no tables to memorise in this game! The turn order is very involving, with no long waits while one player uses there entire fleet then vice versa. The turn order starts with an initiative roll-off (LOTR priority), then status afflictions such as fire, events from previous turns, etc. are resolved, after that fate cards are drawn (random event cards, more on them later as well). The final phase is the action phase where ach player takes it in turns to activate a ship/auxiliary/sea monster. The sequence flows well and in my opinion works better than 40K with the alternate activations. My only complaint is that I often do the status and fate phases in the wrong order (I could always adapt it with status after action).
The quality of the models is stunning, I would go as far as to say better than finecast (on a good day). When I was watching the Beasts of War video; unboxing dreadfleet, the two guys thought that the terrian sprue wasn’t going to be the same quality due to their assumption of it being made in china (big, box filling sprue), in fact, the quality is actually just as good as the other frames that hold the ships and auxiliaries. The joins are stiff fo assembly, I broke several pins when I pulled several parts appart for painting. The sails are also interesting, with raised detail so a terrible painter like me can get the ships to look passable with a single drybrush. [shockhorror]My first complaint[shockhorror] is that the cogs look the same (2 designs, 1 for each fleet) and two of the islands are the same.
The game in it's very nature is random. You are fighting in a mystical and magical world, in another dimension. From the first turn, you get a sense of how random the game is. Fate cards are drawn each turn with random and often hilarious consequences for both players. The damage deck is just as random with similarly hilarious results such as: slowly capsizing.
As a final note; some players are used to strict rules and the like, I also play inquisitor which encourages rule bending and breaking for a good story. I would apply this mindset to dreadfleet as well. Part of the fun is in the hillarious turn of events which can happen literally on the turn of the card, so don’t get annoyed at your apponant if s/he accidentally nudges a ship by one or two mm. Always Remember the Golden Rule: Have Fun.
Don't hesitate to ask questions about anything I said in this article. I know I barely said anything against dreadfleet, that's because in my opinion, it is great and there is very little bad in it.