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Thread: Review of Dreadfleet

  1. #1
    Veteran Sergeant
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Middle Earth

    Review of Dreadfleet

    Hey all,

    Here are my overall impressions of Dreadfleet now that I've played three games of it.

    Pros: Quick-playing; easy rules; interesting ship special abilities; lots of scenarios; beautiful ship models; quality components

    Cons: Too random to promote tactical finesse; not very realistic in feel; bigger scenarios may become wearing; expensive

    Monetary issues aside (do you want to spend an exorbitant amount of money for some very pretty GW models?) it mostly boils down to what you are looking for in a fantasy naval combat game. If you want to use your skill as an admiral to out-sail and out-fight your opponent in a realistic game, look elsewhere. If you are looking for light-hearted sessions, possibly including beer (or rum, har!), where your handful of cool ships may at any time get blown up or single-shipedly wreak havoc on the whole enemy fleet, Dreadfleet is probably for you. As a Warhammer player who has no experience with other Age of Sail games, the relatively crude shooting and damage rules don't bother me. In fact, I am glad that the shooting phase isn't bogged down by lots of options like aiming your shots at the rigging or the waterline or relative movement vector modifiers or what have you - ya blast your broadside, roll hits and saves, and draw damage cards which may (or may not) cause all kinds of crazy damage, from basic things like Hull or Crew damage to killing the ship's mascot (which actually helps the ship, amusingly enough).

    I find it a real plus that it takes just a turn to two to become comfortable with the system. Game play is very smooth after that. You do Fate and such at the start of turn, then one player moves and fights one of his ships, then his opponent picks one to move and fight, repeating until all ships have moved and fought once. Turn over. Strategy does matter a little -- aside from various scenario objectives that may require some thought, you can put together clever individual or team maneuvers to enhance your odds in a fight. Nevertheless, don't expect your plans to work as, um, planned. Fate or an unlikely damage card will bust your rudder and cause you to run aground. Or your massive 6-die broadside will do not any meaningful damage while your foe's measly two shots sinks a ship. Hey, this is a Warhammer-derived game, with lots of lovely rolls at 4+ or 5+ on a d6 determining hits and misses. And the damage cards are indeed very random (often amusingly so).

    Play balance seems pretty good. I haven't noticed in my three games either Grand Alliance or Dreadfleet having a big edge.

    All three of my games have gone between 1.5 and 2 hours, which was enough time to make fairly clear who had won or was likely going to win. This is a good thing. But I suspect that if you want to play a full-on, 5 ship per side clash, you better give yourselves at least 3-4 hours. Some reviewers have claimed the game starts to drag when played that long (perhaps from all the randomness that leaves one feeling out of control?), but I haven't tried it. I can say, though, that my experiences with shorter games makes me eager to give one of the big'uns a shot. It might be most fun with 4 or more players, each controlling a couple of ships and hooting and hollering when things blow up.

    I have to mention the physical quality. The game looks gorgeous when you paint everything up, and the time investment naturally also increases your excitement about playing it. The terrain and game aids are super easy to paint (basecoat + wash will do fine). The ships take a little more effort, but not too much by Warhammer standards, and they look great. The "Seascape" cloth mat is a smooth-feeling beauty. GW charges too much at $115 for Dreadfleet, but you undeniably get quality stuff for your overpayment. Maybe if Dreadfleet doesn't sell well there will be deals to be had. (But since it's a limited edition one-off, it might work the other way around too.)

    In all, I am very pleased with the game. It's a hoot to play, with the cool look and specialized rules for each ship adding much to the fun. It will not become one of my all-time war game faves, though, I'm going to guess. The strategy-thwarting randomness and slightly crude feel to the rules ultimately mean the mind is not as engaged as much as it might be. But that's not going to stop me from asking friends to play it with me at all available game nights in the near future....
    Last edited by bufordbugman; 30-10-2011 at 23:20.

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