A Turn of Dreadfleet
Greetings, landlubbers! All this week Games Developer Phil Kelly has been talking to us about the Dreadfleet warships (and will continue to do so), but today he decided to invite us on deck for a flavour of a seafaring adventure on the Warhammer high seas. We thought this would be a great chance to show everyone a little of what it's like to play Dreadfleet.
Rob and Phil were going to play the Pride of Ulthuan scenario (there are twelve in all, including a variety of story-driven missions and straight up battles). In this scenario, the Grand Alliance has convened and spotted a battle off in the distance. It turns out that the High Elf warship, the Seadrake, is going it alone against the warships of the Dreadfleet. The Seadrake is currently ensconced within a volcanic crater, the water around which seethes with gouting spouts of fire. The Grand Alliance player must get the Elven galleon away from trouble and off the board, whilst the Dreadfleet player does everything in his power to sink it. Any damage done to the opponent's fleet in the meantime increases your chances of victory.
Once the island and shipwreck pieces were in place, Rob rolled two dice to discern the initial placement of the wind gauge (the seascape's border has a series of numbers around its edge) and placed it on the appropriate marker. The wind gauge plays a vital part in the game, as the fickle winds of the Galleon's Graveyard can slow you down, speed you up, or even force you to run aground if you're not careful. The players took it in turns to deploy their warships according to the scenario's instructions - Rob's Grand Alliance within 18" of the seascape's western edge, and Phil's Dreadfleet within 4" of the volcanic crater in which the Seadrake was trapped.
As Admiral Phil of the Dreadfleet explained, there are 5 main phases within each turn: Initiative, Status, Fate, Action and End.
In this scenario, the Grand Alliance automatically wins the roll for Initiative in turn one, giving them the chance to surge forward to the Seadrake's rescue. The Status phase, in which players get a chance to take stock of their situation and resolve ongoing effects (like the dreaded Set Ablaze cards) passed without incident. Rob and Phil then each drew a card from the Fate deck: Rob drew Hellfish Swarm, a Spell card that must be given to the Bloody Reaver for later use (not a good start for Rob - but we'll get to that later), and adjusted the wind gauge and wind speed according to the arrows and numbers on the Fate card.
Phil then drew his Fate card, which was Lector Lazlo's Fire. This card means that every sail class warship (that's a ship with a sail, landlubbers) has to roll a D6. Any warship that rolls a 1-3 draws Damage cards until it draws a Speed Damage card, sliding it under the 'Speed' section of his warship card and discarding the rest (in Dreadfleet, there are 'Hull', 'Crew', 'Speed' and 'Special' Damage cards; take too much Crew or Hull damage, and your ship will sink without a trace).
Rob's fleet suffered a few early hits as supernatural flame played around his masts, even the Seadrake lost valuable speed, hampering its chance of a getaway.
In the Action phase, Rob activated his first warship, the Seadrake, in a bid to make an early break for freedom. Rob launched his Dragon auxiliary, placing the model 1" away from the warship and placing its card in play with his other Warship cards. He then chose to issue an Order card to his warship (there are five Orders; Full Speed Ahead, Fire As She Bears, Repair, Hard-a-Port, and Hard-a-Starboard). One of the Seadrake's special rules allows Prince Yrellian to issue two Order cards instead of one, so Rob decided to use Repair in order to discard the Speed Damage suffered in the Fate phase, and Full Speed Ahead to move an extra 2D6 inches. To issue an Order card, you must pass a Command check - Prince Yrellian's Command characteristic is 2+, so Rob passed them with ease.
It was now time for Rob to get the Seadrake as far away from the Dreadfleet as possible! Luckily for him, the Seadrake is the fastest ship on the high seas. It has a Speed of 16 and a Handling of 2 - that means it only needs to move 2 inches before it can make a turn, and can move 16 inches per Action phase (some of the more cumbersome warships only have a Speed of 9, and others have to move at least 5 inches before they can make a change of heading).
The High Elf warship is a pretty nippy vessel - with the Full Speed Ahead Order card, Rob managed to zoom out of the volcanic crater and power away from the Dreadfleet. So far, so good.
Now it was Phil's time to strike! He activated the Bloody Reaver, which has Speed of 10 - he also rolled successfully to use the Full Speed Ahead Order and inexorably bore down on the Seadrake. The Bloody Reaver has a Handling of 5; using the ship's wheel (a handy gaming accessory that allows you to turn your warship in increments of 45-degrees), Phil attempted to bring the Reaver alongside in order to deliver a close range broadside.
However, he rolled badly for his Full Speed Ahead Order, and hence didn't quite manage to get the Seadrake in his fire arc. Unlucky!
Phil had missed his chance to cripple the Seadrake with the Reaver's cannonade (not a pirate soft drink, but a volley of shot) so he instead took a long-range shot at the enemy flagship Heldenhammer. If you're within 6" of your target, you need to rolls 4s to hit; if you're within 12", you need 5s; if you're within 18", you need 6s - simple enough. As this was the Bloody Reaver's first broadside of the game, Phil gained a +1 to his rolls; and as he was firing into the front arc of the Heldenhammer, he gained the +1 'raking fire' modifier. Boom! Four Broadside dice later Rob had taken three hits, and he only saved one of them with the Heldenhammer's 5+ Armour characteristic. Rob hence drew two Damage cards, getting a Speed and a Crew. Noctilus had managed to inflict significant destruction on his arch-rival. Phil's evil grin grew wider as he announced his next move...
Remember that Hellfish Swarm spell Rob had to 'give' to Phil at the beginning of the turn? This allowed Count Noctilus to send a flying swarm of undead eater-fish at the Seadrake's crew, though the resultant boarding action ended with a draw. However, in Dreadfleet, whenever anyone gets a draw, everyone gets damaged - worse things happen at sea! With baited breath, Rob drew a Damage card (damage to the Hellfish Swarm is ignored)... critically, the Seadrake received Adrift, a Special Damage card which meant the warship couldn't move on the next turn. Not good, especially given the scenario's victory conditions!
Rob then decided to activate the Seadrake's auxiliary Dragon (a useful beastie) to block Phil's Skaven warship, the Skabrus, in order to prevent it from reaching broadside range of the Seadrake.
To add injury to insult, the Dragon breathed a great lance of fire onto the Skabrus, inflicting a Hull Damage. Take that, fiend!
Then it was on to the biggest battle of the turn...
In response, Phil activated the Tomb Kings funeral barge, the Curse of Zandri. With a bit of deft manoeuvring he managed to get it within 12" of on one of Rob's other warships, the Swordfysh. Rob didn't manage to save any of the Curse's broadside - due to the Tomb King's laser-like Light of Ptra ability, the Swordfysh had soon been Set Ablaze - and worse still, drew the dreaded Fire On Deck card.
It was Rob's turn to move a warship, and the Swordfysh had a lot to sort out. The timbers were burning up across the vessel, but a successful Repair Order allowed Rob to put out the Fire On Deck. To get revenge, he decided to ram the Curse of Zandri with the Swordfysh's Ram Attack, hoping to cause Hull damage on his persecutor by forcing it to draw D6-1 Damage cards and apply any Hull results - ouch! However, the Curse of Zandri had a trick up its sleeve. Phil had issued the Fire As She Bears Order to his warship, meaning that if Rob attacked the Curse, it could get a pre-emptive shot in first. This bonus broadside caused the Swordfysh a lot of damage; Rob was forced to draw a Crew Damage card, a Speed Damage card, the Chain Explosion card, and yet another Set Ablaze card!
Rob then resolved his ram attack against the Curse of Zandri, but had to make a decent roll in order to cause any damage. Sadly, he rolled a 1! However, Captain Aranessa of the Swordfysh has a special rule - Blessed of Manann (the god of the Warhammer seas, not Phil's nan) - enabling a re-roll in each phase. Second time round, Rob rolled a 6, meaning Phil had to draw FIVE Damage cards, two of which caused Hull Damage. One more of those and the Tomb Kings warship would sink! As the bases of the two warships were now touching, Rob initiated a Boarding Action. First up was the captain vs captain duel - the players each rolled a number of D6 equal to their Swashbuckling characteristic and counted the number of 5+ results (or 'victories') they accrued. Rob rolled fewer victories than Phil (those Tomb Kings are hard as coffin nails) so Aranessa took a flesh wound; which meant she'd be at a penalty to her Command checks later on in the game. After the captains' duel, the crew get in on the action. The Swordfysh has a hard-bitten Crew value of 3, while Phil's Curse of Zandri has a Crew of 4 (it has giant Ushabti ranged along the warship's hull, after all!). Rob had taken a Crew Damage, however, so he only rolled 2 dice against Phil's 4. The Boarding Action ended up in another draw, which meant both warships took a Damage card, killing Phil's Head Gunner and doing yet more damage to the beleaguered Swordfysh!
Phil now activated the Skabrus. He failed his Command check to Repair the damage inflicted by the swooping Dragon auxiliary, but nonetheless plunged forward into a Boarding Action, hoping to take out the Dragon in a fight. After the dice had fallen Phil had beaten Rob's roll by one victory (5+), forcing Rob to draw a Damage card - the Skabrus had taken a bite out of the Dragon's body (Hull).
Rob's turn now, and he used Full Speed Ahead to get the Heldenhammer into base contact with the Tomb Kings warship. He used his Sigmar's Wrath special rule to bring the grand galleon's hammer-wielding figurehead down on the Curse of Zandri. Crunch!
After a decent D6 roll from Rob, Sigmar's Wrath inflicted another two Hull Damage, and a Speed Damage into the bargain. Because the Curse had a Hull of 3 and it had taken an equal to or greater amount of Hull Damage, it was smashed to bony splinters and removed from play!
Phil's Dreadfleet was now outnumbered badly: three warships to the five of the Grand Alliance, though Rob had one warship adrift, while another was burning fiercely. Phil decided to activate the Black Kraken, darting the metal monstrosity into the Heldenhammer' side with a Full Speed Ahead Order. The Black Kraken possesses special rules for Boarding Actions, gaining D3+1 Crew against warships to its front - this represents its thrashing tentacles.
First up was the Swashbuckling duel between the two captains. Roth's Will of Steel rule allows him re-rolls in a duel, so he won eventually; however, the Kraken's captain has his own rule - Bitter Tenacity, which means that the wound inflicted by Roth was shrugged off altogether! After the tentacles had done their evil work Rob was forced to take 2 Damage cards: now the Heldenhammer's Hull and Rudder were in trouble.
Rob next deployed the Dwarf Dirigible by activating Grimnir's Thunder, the Dwarf ironclad. He then moved it Full Speed Ahead, hoping get in front of the High Elf warship and save it from the Bloody Reaver's deadly attentions... any port in a storm! Rob moved the sturdy little warship to within 6 inches of the Bloody Reaver. While close range broadsides usually need 4s to hit, with it being the Thunder's first shot, and with him raking the front of the Bloody Reaver, Rob only needed to roll 2s - easy enough. Phil's saving throws weren't enough to stop the damage from the Thunder's turret-mounted flame cannons getting through, so the Bloody Reaver was Set Ablaze!
To get an idea of who currently had the upper hand, we counted up the Damage cards: Rob had suffered 11, to Phil's 9. Phil had the advantage, but since Rob has more warships and auxiliaries left in play, Phil reckoned that Admiral Rob was most likely to win in the end. Next turn was sure to be even bloodier!
It was amazing just how much craziness, character and action was going on in just one turn (explosions, swordfights and a dragon attacking a ship!), but sadly, with all that mayhem still unfolding on the high seas, we had run out of time. Check back tomorrow when we take a closer look at two more of the Warships, the Curse of Zandri and the Flaming Scimitar.