(Ed. This is the first post of Michael, a new writer for Santa Cruz Warhammer. He will be delving into the hobby aspect of our favorite game and has a knack for finding cool gadgets and things that make our hobby easier and more fun. Off you go Michael!-Mike)
The 2011 Games Workshop secret box is finally here. Dreadfleet has landed. The first thing that stuck me when receiving my box was, this is beautiful. It is a large package, like space hulk, and the artwork is stunning.
Upon removing the lid I was met by a pile of plastic sprues. There are four sprues of ship components, one sprue of sculpted bases, and one double sized sprue of terrain. The sculpting all lives up to GW's current standards. There are some really great details on the molds like tiny dragons, fish skeletons, and of course lots of skulls. I know one of the things I was curious about was scale. The ships are not tiny but they are not big. The largest ship is a little over 4 inches long, and the shortest is about 2 and one half inches. However, in scale these ships are huge. Each one is a floating city, and you can see that when they sail up next to an island fortress. Also included on the sprues are the gaming aides such as an 18 inch ruler, two 45 degree turning wheels, and the wind marker.
Beneath all that plastic is the rulebook, the gaming surface, dice, all the cards you need to play, and even small bags to store the components in. The rulebook is a gorgeous full color tome. It is full of beautiful drawings of bizarre people, creatures, and places that could only exist in the Warhammer world, much of it by the always fantastic John Blanche. The book starts with 8 pages of photos of each ship, followed by 30 pages of detailed rules, 23 pages of fluff included a two page spread on each captain and their ship, 27 pages for the 12 scenarios, and finally a two page summary of the rules finishes this 97 page book. I found the descriptions of each captain and their crew particularly interesting. If you are looking for inspiration for a new fantasy army you could have a lot of fun recreating the crew of one of these ships. Here are some shots of the amazing artwork:
There are three decks of cards with the game. The Fate deck, the Damage deck, and the reference cards. The reference cards are index card sized and include details on each ship and the various commands you can issue throughout the game. The Fate and Damage decks are small cards about 2 and a half by 1 and a half inches. The Fate cards represent random events that might happen in the Galleon Graveyard, and the Damage deck simply enough represents damage to your ships.
One component amazed me the most, the gaming surface. It is a huge 5 foot by 3 foot cloth. It is an actual fabric cloth, not a laminated mat, or a folded poster. The fact that it is fabric makes it extremely portable and very durable. It is printed with a beautiful painting of the Warhammer seas that includes little sea creatures, skeletons, and shipwrecks buried beneath the waves. I have never seen a game packaged with a play surface this nice before.
The last two things in the box are 12 dice, and 13 small zipper bags. The bags are a nice inclusion for keeping the pieces organized.
As a whole I am very impressed by everything. This truly is a miniatures game in a box, not just a board game. It is complete with miniatures, terrain, dice, measuring tools, and even a surface to play it on. You really do not need anything that is not included in the box. I played my first game today and had a lot of fun. The rules are easy to learn and a game plays in about an hour. This game is great if you want to play a table top game without having to have a dedicated gaming space, or spend lots of time preparing. I also can see it being a great way to introduce new players to the hobby. The only downside I see to the game is that it is in a different scale than any other GW products. This means you can't really convert the models for use in other games like many people did with space hulk, and a new player who gets hooked on Dreadfleet might not be inspired to start collecting a Warhammer army. This does not make the game any worse but it might effect the games market potential.
I hope you found this synopsis useful, and I highly recommend you go to your favorite local store and take a look at the game yourself. Talking like a pirate is optional.