…One must always choose the lesser of two weevils

Splice the mainbrace and clean the poop deck! Dreadfleet sails late into harbour.

Poor Dreadfleet. It could have been so good. Old Man O’ War players were quivering with excitement at the announcement of this return to fantasy naval warfare by Games Workshop, but when it was finally released, the disappointment of fans was a groan heard around the gaming world.

Sure, it looks fantastic. The ships are full of character, the gaming mat is spectacular, and it’s wonderful to see the John Blanche art throughout; in fact it looks more like something made by a 90s-era GW than the bland output of the post-2000 corporate behemoth. But they forgot to make the game play well. Dreadfleet is a long, tedious luck-fest in which your decisions are meaningless and the draw of a card can undo the work of three hours play. What were they thinking? They already had a great, time-tested game in Man O’ War—why not just keep the same damn mechanics?

Sadly, it is rumoured that many copies were recalled and destroyed, no doubt for some ridiculous tax-related reason. Dreadfleet is like the twisted younger brother locked in the castle tower that no one ever talks about anymore, and it seems GW prefers to pretend the whole incident never happened. It’s tragic, because if they’d thought about it, Dreadfleet could have been a classic. They just forgot to design a good game before they got carried away with designing the figures.

Just before I moved to New Zealand, I spent an age painting the ships, so felt compelled to bring the game with me, despite the fact it took up so much space in our small air shipment. Then I finally got to play it. I still look at the game on the shelf and contemplate which two, far superior, games I could have brought instead of that big box!

I created this rules summary back when I first got the game, but for some strange reason it slipped between the planks and I never posted it on this site. That error has now been rectified, so if you do ever get Dreadfleet out for a spin—and it does look beautiful—you’ll find this summary and reference useful.

Update: v1.1 fixes a slight error concerning broadside die results.


  • Brent says:

    I bought this as well, played once and quite frankly shelved it and have not even thought about the game until I saw this. I even paid someone to paint up all my ships and such. Do you think the game play could be salvaged? Maybe this could be a collaborative community project here on the EOG forums. I would contribute. Perhaps though the time is better spent on games that are already well designed and fun to play! Seems a shame though to let all this cool looking plastic just sit on the shelf.


    • I was thinking something similar myself actually. While I don’t have the time to contribute much beyond suggestions (this site takes up a lot of my spare time), I do think it’s a great idea. I agree with you that the game is too good-looking not to play, and at the very least, we can link to and discuss other attempts to improve it (there must be some out there).

      In fact rules modification is a great idea for a ‘room’ in the forums, and I’ll go set it up now. I’ll even start the topic on Dreadfleet and link to it from the main Dreadfleet page.

  • New room—The Study—constructed in the forums!

  • Rudi says:

    Great work with the reference sheet. However in the player sheet it says under broadsides:

    5. Roll to hit. Each D6 result equal to or exceeding the
    number required scores a hit. A roll of 1 always hits; a
    roll of 6 always misses.

    Shouldn’t it be a 1 always miss and a 6 always hits? 🙂

  • Tom says:

    I heard some guys griping about the complexity of Sails of War at my LGS just yesterday. Anyone care to comment if these rules are any (subjectively) better or worse than DF? I too paid a hefty sum to have the ships beautifully painted, but haven’t yet had a chance to play the game.

What do you think?