|Board game published by
|No. of Players||2|
|Session Time||An hour or two|
|Essential Books||The rulebook in the box|
The story goes that all things that perish in the sea -- creatures, people, and ships -- make their way to the Galleon's Graveyard, a realm on the border of life and death, forming the Dreadfleet. Count Noctilus, a Vampire Count with a ship called the Bloody Reaver which was made up of shipwrecks forming a giant ship inside of which was a castle on a small mountain (yes, the ships in the game were of a very large scale), used a big magical ceremony to take command of the Dreadfleet, and he and his villainous allies wreaked havoc with it. He was joined by Skaven who had used warpstone and machinery to make a giant dead sea monster named Skabrus into a boat, a pissed-off Tomb King named King Amanhotep with a boat called Curse of Zandri which was a giant barge with his pyramid tomb moved onto it like a houseboat and was crewed by Ushtabi, a ghost ship called Shadewraith captained by a ghost named Vangheist that was under the power of Noctilus, and a Chaos Dwarf robot Daemon squid ship called the Black Kraken captained by Tordrek Hackhart.
Eventually, he pissed off a bunch of powerful people with huge ships from the "good" races in various ways. Their side consisted of a ship from the Cult of Sigmar called the Heldenhammer that sports a cathedral on board (yes, we have cathedral ships in Fantasy too) and a giant robot Sigmar statue at the helm which was stolen by a Sartosan whose family Noctilus killed for lulz, a High Elf Dragon Ship (canonically the most powerful things in the watery parts of the world in the Warhammer universe) called the Seadrake which consisted of fortified towers and live dragons, the Flaming Scimitar from Araby which was powered by djinn of different elements and was essentially a spellcaster ship, the Swordfysh which was... kinda spiky. It was crewed by a woman named Aranessa Saltspite born with Chaos mutations giving her spiky skin and weak mermaid-like legs. She replaced those legs with swordfish spikes, making her the only being that even Slaanesh wouldn't bang (or would he/she/it?!). Finally, the Grimnir's Thunder was a Dwarf ship which was an ironclad aircraft carrier that launched multiple zeppelin bombers whose captain Red Brokk Gunnarsson had a Grudge with Hackhart.
Canonically, as relayed in the Dreadfleet novella (by Phil Kelly), the forces of Order defeated the forces of Destruction by chasing them into the Galleon's Graveyard and sealing the central whirlpool with a massive magical explosion. The Sartosan, along with basically everyone else, died at the end. Oh, and the Arabyan turns out to be a Tzeentch wizard, who takes over the Galleon's Graveyard. Just as planned. Amanhotep survived, or at least regenerated, and eventually made his way back to Nehekhara just in time to get his ass kicked by the forces of Nagash in End Times, then used as a redshirt getting his ass kicked by Chaos offscreen until the world ended and GW squatted his faction. Damn.
In an alternate universe in the Total War: WARHAMMER video game things ended differently. Noctilius and Saltspite survived, the former still controlling Galleon's Graveyard and the latter incorporating undead into her crew and generally mucking about in the Old World. Roth(main good guy that stole the Sigmar cathedral ship) has survived and is unaccounted for but has apparently lost his Moondial used to reach the Maelstrom and Heldenhammer was sunk and the Golden Magus seemingly died in this continuity, though it could simply be a ship called "Golden Magus" as the map showing it marks names of ships rather than the captains. The fate of the others in the TWW continuity is presently unknown, though Aranessa does taunt the High Elves about the High Elf prince's disappearance.
With a story like that, GW could have made an awesome campaign for a wargame of epic combat on the high seas. What they actually made was a two-player boardgame, with one player running the heroes and one running the villains. Each major faction had a ship or two (or none, in the case of the Lizardmen, Orcs And Goblins, Ogre Kingdoms, Warriors of Chaos, Beastmen, Wood Elves, Daemons, and Dark Elves (seriously, the Dark Elves are the single biggest "pirate" race in the game for fucks sake!)). The ship and terrain were VERY nice with a fair amount of detail and great scale, but there are no expansions, no interactions with other game systems, and minimal ability to convert them into something other than that one specific ship. It's just not Man O' War and there was no real way to make it work with that game. In fact, in the Dreadfleet novella, the pride of the Sartosan fleet is a ship named the Man o' War, and it gets attacked by the Black Kraken; while it destroyed one tentacle of the submarine, it was eventually crushed.
It was released to much pomp and circumstance from Games Workshop, with videos and launch parties, and it was billed as the replacement for Man O' War to gamers. Reviews were fairly mixed, as are fa/tg/uy opinions on the game. General consensus is "meh" with a few calling it great, and more calling it fail. Games Workshop initially pulled all copies from it's Australian stores, then discontinued the game. There's more demand for the models themselves as shelf pieces than as a functional game, driving up the value of surviving sets.