I love the smell of new things; from the inside of new cars to ripping off the plastic of GW boxes. So when rumors started to fly the next GW “limited” game many people got excited by the possibilities. Would it be Blood Bowl? Would it be the return of a specialist game? When we got our first tease (Blanche illustration) of some fantasy sea captain, we all thought Man o’ War might be making a comeback, of course that wasn’t to be, instead we ended up with Dreadfleet.
This isn’t an article about should you or shouldn’t you buy Dreadfleet. If I had the extra 100 clams I would get it. Make make that choice for yourself. Instead, I want to look at the lessons GW didn’t learn from Space Hulk when it thought up Dreadfleet. Space Hulk was wildly successful so successful that GW even found more copies of the game in unknown bunker north of Leeds.
Space Hulk did almost everything right: it had great looking models and an IP everyone in the hobby knew and loved. When it comes to great looking models that same could be said about Dread Fleet, but with a fatal flaw… they are not to scale with any other GW game system. This perhaps beyond anything else means Dreadfleet will be quickly forgotten.
The beauty of Space Hulk was that even if you only played the game a few times you could easily mod the models to play in your regular 40k games. Space Hulk also released a few months before the Nids and Blood Angels codices only increasing the value of the models inside. As well, Space Hulk offered folks a way back in the 40k universe or create an easier way to get new players– without the complexity and scope of the main game.
Sadly, Dreadfleet is based on some obscure figures in the Warhammer Fantasy time-line and tries to capitalize on the fading fad of Pirates (sorry Johnny Depp). In addition, no matter how Dreadfleet plays it will be a much harder leap for anyone wanting to jump over to Warhammer Fantasy. As well Dreadfleet enters a market filled with ship battle alternatives, ones that have expansive rules and multiple fleet options. Without seeing the rules to Dreadfleet I am pretty skeptical as well about its playability beyond a two players. I image it plays similar to attempts at co-op in JRPGs video games with your little brother exchanging buttom mashing for dice rolling.
Dreadfleet isn’t either tied to any future release. GW might have been better off if with a pint size version of Storm of Magic showing new players just a taste of the larger scale fun they still wouldn’t be having. Better yet they should have capitalized on an old IP that many fantasy players have fond memories of… like Warmaster. Using a game like Warmaster you could release new models that fit the size of your current systems and as well provide a gateway drug for players to try Fantasy. Instead GW wasted resources that could have been used on better projects. Better yet, if they really wanted to push the idea of Dreadfleet they could have knocked on Fantasy Flight’s door and said here is a Fantasy companion to Horus Heresy.
I am sure Dreadfleet will be profitable for GW, limited runs like this usually are and besides it is not like independent retailers can send back any boxes that sit on their shelves. Worse GW could “find” more copies and claim just how amazing it sold; at the same time taking the boxes collecting dust in their own stores and dumping them back out on independent retailers…