Man O' War

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Man O' War is a naval combat specialist game published by Games Workshop that takes place in the Warhammer Fantasy Battle universe. Later additions also included an aerial combat element, rendering the game somewhat akin to a World War 2 naval battle.

Like the other specialist games, it's much cheaper to get into than the main game, a fact which naturally led to Games Workshop killing it with fire because they're a bunch of dicks *FWIP* ALWAYS LOOKING OUT FOR THE INTERESTS OF LOYAL PLAYERS. It is now utterly unsupported by GW and was one of the first dropped specialist games in the current era of Games Workshop -- in fact, Games Workshop supports MOW even less than most of the other specialist games because they don't even bother hosting the rules, making vidya, or selling old models. It was claimed that they dropped it because the original molds used to cast the models wore out. Most people with a lick of common sense would call bullshit, not only because molds can be replaced but also because new sculpts could have been made instead.

It was also suffered from insane rule creep. The first box actually provided a useable game, with most fleets relatively evenly matched (although High-Elves were incredibly hard to beat and the Black arc of bullshit was just that...) but as the expansion boxes came out, the rules became increasingly muddy. Aircraft and sea-monsters added a complexity that wasn't required and much of the game became working out what sea-monsters were doing, calculating air attacks. When the Deamons were introduced, the game became almost unplayable, especially for vanilla fleets such as the Bretonnians. You could also see the creeping insanity within GW, as the names became almost as batshit as the rules (honestly, just look below).This slowly removed interest in playing the game ast clubs.

Empire, Bretonnian, High Elf, Dwarf, Dark Elf. Orcish, Skaven, Chaos Dwarfs, Norse, Daemon, Undead (the predecessor army to Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings), and Sartosan Pirates all had fleets in the game. Generally speaking, most models themselves in Man O'War were very simple and lacking in much detail, with the most visual effect coming from the sails, which were mainly cutouts designed to be glued to the mast of your ship. The models were fairly difficult to make look anything close to decent and mostly end up as garish paintjobs looking nothing like a realistic ship anywhere outside the realm of Slaanesh (which is amusing, because Slaaneshi fleets tended to be a rather humble Arabian in appearance). They were also fairly expensive for what you got, but like all Warhammer products the setting and box art was able to sell copies.

In the fallout from the dropping of the game, many wargame and miniature manufacturers tried to cash in by selling minis that were suitable in the game (and ironically looked much better than the GW ones). Most of these have disappeared over time, with only a few remnants (most of which became their own games) remaining.

Games Workshop tried to cash in on nostalgia for Man O' War by making Dreadfleet, a superficially-similar naval combat game; unfortunately, they missed the mark by a wide margin, because Dreadfleet turned out to be more of a boardgame where you control one ship at a time than a wargame where you control a fleet of varying size (the irony in the naming was not lost on critics), with only one ship available for each faction (of the factions that are even in the game) and minimal possibilities for customization as each ship literally represented an individual and unique vessel rather than a generic factional class of ship. Phil Kelly must have sympathized with the Man O' War fans, because the Dreadfleet novella features a ship called Man o' War, the pride of the Sartosan fleet, which is brutally destroyed by the Chaos Dwarfs' mechanical squid submarine.

Fantasy fans bitter at their happy power armor-clad counterparts still enjoying Battlefleet Gothic, which was released to be Man O'War IN SPAAAAAAACE (because Sigmar knows Fantasy fans can't have anything without 40k getting it, getting it bigger, and getting Forgeworld support for it), found their prayers to Tzeentch answered when GW also dropped that game as well with the only remaining models being sold being overstock left in warehouses.

Today, the only way to play Man O'War (without dropping enough money to build a decently sized Warhammer Fantasy army new) is using paper printouts or similar proxies. Some fan communities still thrive, and mention of Man O'War on many GW product forums will bring a gathering of oldfags circlejerking about the glorious days of the 1990's when Bretonnians were OP and Space Marines had hair. And Warhammer Fantasy Battle existed.

Ships and other awesome floating and flying things, by faction[edit]

Units in Man O'War are either the titular Man O'Wars (the big ships), squadrons of three Ships of the Line (the little ones) or Independents (the weird ones). Either way, all of them are bizarre and awesome in a very warhammer-ish way!

Empire[edit]

Ships of the Empire are all strangely cubic in design, looking like something from Besiege. Complete with absurdly large weaponry as well. They provide a number of services from escorting merchant vessels, transporting armies, and of course, blowing enemy fleets out of the water.

  • Greatship: Your run-of-the-mill huge and powerful galleon, bristling full of cannons, as all Empire things should be.
  • Wolfship: Ship of the line with a tendency to crash into things with its bigass metal mast (appropriately, a ram head).
  • Wargalley: A mostly fluvial ship specialized in ramming with its taurus mast. Used to patrol the Reik River and the Empire coasts. Supposedly modeled after the dwarf monitor ships, yet most naval engineers claim it was in fact the dwarfs who copied the humans.
  • Hellhammer: Basically, what happens when you take the cannon of a Baneblade an put it on top of a Wargalley. Said ridiculous siege cannon occupies almost all of its deck, and its massive recoil sends the whole ship backwards and destroys any oar that's hasn't been raised. But it can kill almost anything with a few shots, so...
  • Ironfist: A Hellhammer that instead of a ludicrously huge and impractical cannon has a ludicrously huge and impractical mortar. It is used mainly to destroy coastal cities or forts, but also to fire over other ships in normal naval battles.
  • Griffon Rider: The Empire flying unit. Exactly what it sounds like, a knight that assaults enemy ships while riding a Griffon. These guys are a whole Knightly Order by themselves, by the way.

Bretonnia[edit]

In a weird inverse of the norm, Bretonnian ships are considerably more advanced than those of the Empire, likely due to their connections to the Elves. Though true to form, naval combat isn’t usually seen as a chivalric form of warfare, so usually they’re crewed by merchants, peasants, and even common scum sent to penal duty.

  • Galleon: As big as a Greatship, it's faster but has fewer cannons. Their captains tend to show the usual bretonnian courage/suicidal stupidity (your choice).
  • Corsair: Your standard ship of the line, sturdy but very maneuverable.
  • Buccaneer: Lesser ships crewed by criminals and unnoble rabble, with catapults for weapons, what can go wrong?
  • Pegasus Rider: Exactly the same unit the bretonnian land army employs and enjoys.

Norsca[edit]

Copied straight from the real world, Norscan ships lack any form of ranged attacks. Their only purpose is to transport their raging marauder hordes and potentially ram into enemy ships for boarding parties.

  • Kingship: A viking ship crewed by bondsmen (normal vikings), huscarls (elite vikings), berserkers (crazy vikings) and ulfwerener (werewolf vikings).
  • Longship: A dragonboat chock-full of pissed off thralls. The Norscans like to fight their sea battles by closing in and assaulting with their infantry, exactly like in their land battles (trivia time: the ancient Romans did just the same).

Dwarfs[edit]

Why the Dwarfs have a full navy when they hate the water so much is baffling. More concerning is that they have it and do nothing with it but let it rust away in the ports of Barak Varr. At least it gives the plucky Engineers an excuse to get really creative. Dwarf ships also have the special rule of regenerating lost hit points, representing the master engineers onboard the ships constantly doing repairs.

  • Ironclad: A steam-powered floating metal fortress, with rotating gun turrets and paddlewheels for moving. Like other dwarf ships (and dwarfs themselves) it is slow and difficult to maneuver, but also very resilient and powerful.
  • Monitor: The oldest class of ship in the dwarf navy, relied upon for its tried and tested dependability. Men of the Empire claim that the Dawi stole the idea from their Wargallies, which definitely sounds like bullshit to me. Just like the real life monitors, it's an armoured ship with a very low profile, making it difficult to hit. It also has a penchant for ramming, perhaps as a tribute to that period of naval warfare when ship's armor plates where so superior to their guns, that ramming was almost the only way of sinking them.
  • Nautilus: Yes, Dwarfs have motherfucking submarines. Sadly, and unlike the one from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, it cannot ram, but can still submerge and be invulnerable for a turn, and fire torpedoes. They are crewed by the naval equivalent to Slayers, as most dwarfs are absolutely terrified to go underwater.
  • Dreadnought: An even bigger and nastier Ironclad, with better armour and dakka. Basically, what a real life Dreadnought would be in a medieval, magical, gritty fantasy world.
  • Gyrocopter: A steam Dwarf helicopter, of course. This one also has a gatling gun, for good measure.
  • War Balloon: What it says in the can. It has bombs and a gatling canon, but cannot board ships.

High Elves[edit]

The masters of the Warhammer seas. Massive ships with both speed and fire power, squadrons of smaller vessels perfect for harassing enemies, and access to dragons make them a force to be feared upon the ocean...although they’re no longer as invincible as they once thought.

  • Dragonship: Vessels so beautiful and legendary that even the nobles have to duel for the right of crewing one. They are made from Starwood (magical, very light and strong glittering wood) from Anhara Draconis, a mythical forest with huge trees that was burned by the Dark Elves during the Sundering. They're irreplaceable treasures by themselves, and epic songs are composed when one is lost. They have two enormous metal blades in the prow, hardened with magic and dragonfire, that can slice whole ships in half.
  • Eagleship: Swift and elegant ships with sails ensorcelled and woven from spidersilk and the hair of shriven Elven Priestesses, try to surpass that. Also, the hull is made from a single living trunk of a Starwood tree, magically shaped and kept alive. The masts are the branches of said tree!
  • Hawkship: Lightning-fast boats made to counter Norse raiders. Still noble and enchanting and works of art and all that, they're High Elves ships after all. They use Eagle Claw bolt throwers for attacking.
  • War Eagle: You know what these are; if not, go read the High Elves article, or The Lord of the Rings.
  • Dragon Rider: Yes, the High Elves take dragons to their sea battles. Seems fair, don't you think? They operate from the coasts and maritime fortresses, unlike in Dreadfleet, where there is a ship that houses dragons by itself. I kid you not!

Orcs and Goblins[edit]

Being on the water allows the Greenskins to get away with some really ludicrous things. Just the simple fact that these things are sea worthy is amazing, but when you see the cockamamie weapons they’re loaded with, it’ll likely make you questioning anything you know about naval engineering. Orcs and Goblins who use these fleets are mostly pirates by nature, always out at sea looking for loot and fights.

  • Hulk: Basically, a Warhammer 40k Space Hulk, but made with Orc technology (hint: it involves a lot of nails, spit and rocks). Apart from anything possessed by Orcs that can somehow float, it features Iron Claws, which are big-ass claws made of iron that traps enemy vessels, and Smash-hammers, which are big-ass hammers made of iron that smashes said enemy vessels. Unsubtle, even for Orcs.
  • Bigchukka: You know how Dwarf ships have steam-powered paddlewheels? Well, Orc ships have something like that, only theirs are Orc-powered (and non-Orc captive-powered) treadwheels. Also, they use rock catapults, and like the Hulks look more like sea siege towers than conventional ships.
  • Drillakilla: Remember that subterranean drill vehicle the bad guys from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles used? Picture that but bigger, clunkier, woodier, and floatier, and you have a Drillakilla. Not only can it ruin the day of any boat (specially itself), but also, each time it moves it has the chance of becoming a submarine! Sadly, it becomes one permanently (in other words, it sinks).
  • Wyvern Rider: Like the ones they use in land battles, but improved with Squigbombz. Just because.

Dark Elves[edit]

Being offshoots of the naval superpower that is the High Elves, Dark Elves are also quite fearsome on the waves. Mostly because they like chaining massive sea monsters to their ships and how frequent that launch raids against other factions.

  • Black Ark of Naggaroth: At the time of the Sundering, some Dark Elves that escaped from Ulthuan took their palaces to the sea with them, making them floating fortresses with their magic. This is basically a small sailing city, so big it even has caves at its base where various kinds of monsters lurk waiting for the next battle. You can think of it as a fantasy aircraft carrier, but with manticores instead of fighters.
  • Death Fortress: Literally a Sea Dragon (a mutated descendant from real Dragons trapped at the sea for centuries) with a Dark Elf castle on top. It uses enchanted bolt throwers for ranged combat. If damaged enough it will go out of control and escape to the depths, killing all the crew instantly... Still, you have to appreciate the genius of weaponizing a big sea monster.
  • Doomreaver: A towered boat pulled by a magically bred monster called Helldrake. Notice some theme about Dark Elf Man O'War units yet? The crew can barely control the beast, but it makes them look so badass it's worth it. Though the model itself looks more like a broken Death Fortress, with both ships having the same looking sea beast, despite them being classified as different.
  • Manticore Lord: Your classical Manticore mounted by an elf, but it also throws Deathfists, which are heavy barbed iron balls that can pierce the hull of a ship from top to bottom.

Chaos Dwarfs[edit]

Presumably the chorfs have a similar opinion on the ocean as their dorf counterparts, but hey, at least we get arguably the most interesting ships in the game. What they do with these vessels though when they almost never leave the Skull Lands is beyond me. They lack the healing wounds of the standard Dwarfs as their engineers are solely focused on keeping their weapons of mass destruction in operational condition.

  • Thunderfire Battlebarge: A smoky industrial iron ship with enormous rocket launchers. Yeah. Each time it shots it also kills some of its reloading slaves, but hey, we have reserves.
  • Great Leveller Battlebarge: Another armored steam ship with most of its deck occupied by a big-ass mortar. Like all Warhammer things, it's prone to explode at the most inconvenient of times.
  • Hull-Destroyer: Fast ship specialized in smashing things with its steam-driven siege ram. It's so powerful it pushes the whole target if it connects.
  • Thunder-Roller: It sinks other ships using its front spike roller. No, I'm not messing with you. A maritime Ork Battlewagon Deff-Rolla, if you will. It's, like, the most warhammer-y thing of all warhammer-y things.
  • Great Taurus Rider: I'm sure that, when I said "Let's go to a naval battle", you didn't expect to encounter a big flying bull mounted by a blunderbuss-armed dwarf, uh?

Skaven[edit]

Despite their aversion to water(or anything clean in general), many clans of pirate Skaven exist within the Warhammer world. Similar in concept to the Greenskins’ ships, though with a more calculated and warpstone aesthetic.

  • Doombringer: A paddlewheel Man O'War carrying a ridiculously oversized Screaming Plague Bell, which uses to make sonic attacks. It's powered by slaves, of course.
  • Clan Pestilens Deathburner: Your suspicions were right: this is nothing more than a big Plague Furnace in a floating platform, with a HUGE incense ball. It does Plague Furnace things, namely, poisoning everything to death-death.
  • Warp-raider: A nuclear-powered warpstone-powered ship with a big warp-fire thrower in the prow. Greek fire of the Warhammer world!

Chaos[edit]

Only one in this “fleet”, which makes sense as this is meant to be your roster-filler vessel for the other proper Chaos fleets.

  • Deathgalley: Generic Chaos ship that everyone gets, crewed by cultist rabble. Like the rest of the Chaos ships, it can get rewarded/punished/mutated by the Ruinous Powers, which can guide it to glory... or to the bottom of the ocean.

Khorne[edit]

The Blood God usually prefers boarding actions and ramming ships so his champions can spill gore and collect skulls. Though that’s not to say some of his are completely devoid of ranged weapons.

  • Bloodship: Khorne, the god of creative names. This truly brutal vessels shoots burning skulls, and rams with an enormous bronze skull which can open its mouth to spew molten iron and lead. Flashy, I'll say.
  • Ironshark: An iron shark. With a sail on top, oars at the sides and people inside, to pass it off as a ship. To attack it bites things to death with its iron jaws. Never change, Khorne.

Slaanesh[edit]

As one would expect with the god of excess, Slaanesh’s fleets boast the most exotic and out there designs, making his fleets the best at unorthodox warfare.

  • Hellship: A floating pleasure palace, full of strange and orgiastic music, beautiful smokes and colorful lights. Yes, it's a disco from hell. It shoot an hallucinogenic purple beam that makes enemy crews fight between themselves, and its hypnotic incense may have them join the Hellship and Slaanesh! A fun place to be, all things considered.
  • Hellrammer: A galley with a HUGE MAGICAL MEDIEVAL CHAINSWORD for a prow. Yes. Yes! If you still don't love Man O' War after this, get out of this page now! Its prow is occupied by a huge barbed iron spike, which uses to penetrate ships and discharge its cultist inside them. Not sexually suggestive at all, no sir.
  • Hellslicer: Similar to the Hellship, but smaller and has a massive spinning blade made for chopping down the masts of enemy ships.

Tzeentch[edit]

The Changer of Ways tries to stay ahead of his rivals by having all of his vessels hover above the water. So his fleets are more like aircraft than ships. I’m sure Tzeentch knows this and laughs.

  • Great Winged Terror: Oh, boy, this is pure, undiluted awesomeness. A galley with great wings that not even bothers itself to touch the water. It's literally made of magical energy, so it goes randomly flying over the sea shooting magical beams here and there and transforming enemy crew into Pink Horrors! Where do I get one?
  • Lord of Change: The elves have brought a Dragon to a naval battle, you say? Well, how about I bring a Greater Daemon? It's only fair.
  • Bane Tower of Tzeentch: So, you're going to fight a Tzeentch navy and think, "well, I know this Tzeentch shit is weird and all, but what's the worst thing that can happen?" Then you found yourself in front of a motherfucking huge tower that floats above the sea on top of a storm cloud, then the Sorcerer on top blast your mate with a multi-colored ray and converts your sorry ass into a Pink Horror. Tzeentch, why do you have to be so much cooler than everyone else?

Nurgle[edit]

The plague fleets of Nurgle are just what you’d expect from the Grandfather. Slow rotting hulks of decaying wood and putrescent slime and muck. You won’t be winning any races but gods help any who try boarding you.

  • Plagueship: You were expecting the Nurgle Man O' War to be a big rotting disgusting piece of shit, and sure as hell Nurgle didn't disappoint you. It even leaves a slime trail in the fucking ocean that infects other ships and start decomposing them. As a bonus, you can puke in the deck and no one will notice any difference.
  • Plaguecrusher: It has siege towers, plague catapults and people and ships begin to rot when close to one of them. Just like your room.

Undead[edit]

Despite having rules, there are no official models for the undead vessels. Even lore for them is pretty scarce. Though with the popularity of the Vampire Coast DLC in TWW2, it’s likely that these necromancers and vampires were inspired by the tales of Luther Harkon and Count Noctilus and seek to create their own undead naval empire.

  • Floating Necropolis: You'll have to picture a sailing gothic castle/graveyard that also functions as a vortex of Undead magic. Its crew can resurrect sometimes.
  • Ghostship: Basically the Flying Dutchman. It can spook other ships into uselessness.
  • Deathship: Standard Undead ship, with a Screaming Skull Catapult for attacking.
  • Skullrammer: The Undead ramming ship. Because it uses magical energy for propulsion, it isn't affected by the wind.
  • Carrion: Undead flying vultures, like the ones in the Tomb Kings army.
  • Zombie Dragon: Well, better to take it with you than leaving it at home.

Sea Monsters[edit]

Alongside the proper fleets, you could potentially recruit/fight against various beasts of the ocean. All ranging in power and creativity.

  • Kraken: Your typical Kraken, with a serrated beak, for good measure.
  • Black Leviathan: An oversized abyssal fish, that wants nothing more than taking you and your loved ones to the bottom of the ocean.
  • Behemoth: Moby Dick crossed with a narwhal. That was not deadly enough, so it also has pointy teeth. It likes to impale ships and take them to its underwater lair to eat them slowly. Cute.
  • Promethean: A giant crab with armor-like carapace, straight out from a 50s monster B movie.
  • Megaladon: No, sir, I don't know that Megalodon you talk about, I'm Megaladon, a completely different sea monster. It's only that I'm also a giant blood-crazed shark.
  • Gargantuan: A Sea Serpent from the legends of old. You'll think Man O' War has every kind of classic sea monster, but still it has no Giant Octopus...
  • Sea Dragon: A wingless Dragon that lives at sea. Think Nessie , but with more dorsal fins and can breathe fire (which is surprisingly effective at sea battles). They're supposed to be descendants from a Dark Elf Dragon that fell to the sea during the time of the Sundering.
  • Triton: Probably the last exemplar of a race of super old acuatic demi-gods that can control the sea monsters and even the sea itself. It taught the High Elves most of what they know about the sea and its mysteries, but hates the Dark Elves for their habit of kidnapping and mutating sea monsters to use them in war. If you're thinking he's the Warhammer Poseidon, complete with his crown and trident... well, you're right. No two ways about it.
  • Sea Elemental: You though it was going to be your classical boring water elemental? Think again, it has very cool lore! In fact, beings like Triton become more and more like the sea with the centuries, getting wild and uncontrollable, until they're basically indistinguishable from raging tempests and waves. One of the stages in this process is the Sea Elemental, which is basically an animated wave. Its rules specifically establish that it cannot be set on fire...

It's also a fantastically cool animal[edit]

Most people wish they were also cool AND weird like this fella(s).

Also known as The Blue Bubble, or The Floating Terror, the Man o' War is not a jellyfish, but a marine cnidarian of the family Physaliidae It can be found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. It's venomous tentacles can deliver a painful (and sometimes fatal) sting. Despite its outward appearance, the Man o' War is not a multicellular organism, but a colonial organism made up of specialized individual organisms called zooids. These zooids are attached to one another and are physiologically integrated to the extent that they cannot survive independently and thus must function together as if they were an individual organism.

And Suddenly a Video Game[edit]

In the oncoming swell of Warhammer Fantasy games and somewhat out of the deep blue, a video game has been announced titled Man O' War: Corsair. There isn't much information on it besides an announcement trailer which you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twrLuASPnEI

Possible Future Re-Release[edit]

Rumours are once again 'floating around' that Man O War is due to be re-released in late 2017 or early 2018, though looking at the calendar those now seem pretty dubious. A Games Workshop insider claimed the game would be rebranded to suit the Mortal Realms of Age of Sigmar and was set to feature islands, sea forts, the ability to control weather conditions and a mysterious new "fish-like" faction known only as the Myrmidons. And this never happened though Myrmidons later appeared in warcry.

See Also[edit]

  • Battlefleet Gothic, the Warhammer 40,000 space naval combat game and a descendent of Man O' War.
  • Dreadfleet, a board game made over a decade and a half later that shares the theme of naval combat in the Warhammer Fantasy Battle universe, but has little else in common.

External Links[edit]

  • Scans of the rules on some random dude's blog.
  • [1] made by a guy on Etsy. Cheap and nicer looking than the now OOP original models.
The Specialist Games of Games Workshop
Warhammer 40,000
(Classic):
Battlefleet Gothic - Epic - Gorkamorka
Inquisitor - Lost Patrol - Necromunda - Space Hulk
Warhammer 40,000
(New):
Aeronautica Imperialis - Assassinorum Execution Force - Adeptus Titanicus
Betrayal at Calth - Blackstone Fortress - Shadow War: Armageddon
Necromunda - Kill Team - Space Marine Heroes - Combat Arena - Space Marine Adventures
Warhammer Fantasy: Blood Bowl - Man O' War - Mordheim - Warmaster
Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: Gorechosen - Warhammer Underworlds - Skirmish - Warcry
Board Games: Chaos in the Old World - Relic