Battlefleet Gothic box art
|Random chance||dice rolls|
Battlefleet Gothic is themed on battles incorporating space-faring fleets of the different races highlighted by the Warhammer 40,000 universe canon. It focuses around the incursion of the Gothic Sector by fleets under the command of Abaddon the Despoiler, and the subsequent campaign by the Imperium to restore order, known in the mythos as the Gothic War. The game is named after Battlefleet Gothic, the Imperial Naval formation which is a major protagonist in much of the supporting fiction.
Battlefleet Gothic is an extension to the Warhammer 40,000 universe, providing the ability for players to stage space battles between fleets of spacefaring ships. Players select spaceships from a variety of fleets representative of the various Warhammer 40,000 races. The game as packaged includes rules and background for space fleets of the following factions:
- Imperial Navy (representing Battlefleet Gothic)
- Chaos (representing Abaddon and his allies' fleets)
- Ork Pirates
- Eldar pirates
Subsequent additions and expansions published in numerous Games Workshop sources expanded the game to include fleets for:
- Space Marines
- Ork Waaagh! fleets
- Craftworld Eldar
- Dark Eldar Raiders
- Tau Empire (including Demiurg, Nicassar and Kroot ships as well as Tau vessels)
- Tyranid Hive Fleets
- Necron Raiders
There are also numerous factions of humans that have ships represented in Battlefleet Gothic such as the Inquisition, Adeptus Arbites, Adeptus Mechanicus, Rogue Traders etc. as well as numerous types of transports that are represented using current Battlefleet Gothic models, Forge World models and the old space fleet models.
Battlefleet Gothic ships are represented by 2-10cm long models. The rules and miniatures were originally available in Games Workshop stores, although reclassification as a "Specialist Game" means the rulebook is now available in PDF format from the official home page. Additionally, Forge World has produced numerous lines of miniatures for Battlefleet Gothic, ranging from models to replace ordnance markers to entirely new vessels.
Every race has a selection of ships to choose from to construct their fleet, and each ship in the game has statistics that cover its capabilities, from its size class and defensive abilities to the various weapons and hangars it has. Each ship is assigned a point cost based on these capabilities; generally a battle will be between fleets of equal total point costs, though more complex multi-game campaigns may have an overarching narrative where individual battles may occur between unequal forces, with varying objectives for players to accomplish.
Players take turns moving their ships and shooting, as well as undertaking more advanced manoeuvres such as ramming, boarding, or disengaging. Each player may perform actions with all of his ships before the turn ends. The turns are divided into 4 phases, the Movement Phase, Shooting Phase, Ordnance Phase, and End Phase.
During the Movement Phase, the player can move his ships across the tabletop. Different ships move at different speeds, and turn at different rates. Smaller escorts (frigates and destroyers) are typically the fastest ships in a fleet. Ships can also choose to go into "Special Orders" at the start of the Movement Phase. Special Orders allow ships to move/turn faster, reload their ordnance, or increase the efficiency of their firing, at the cost of being less able to perform other functions later in the turn (or in other turns); for example, if a ship uses a Special Order to increase power to the engines to turn, the ship's firepower is halved that turn.
During the Shooting Phase players fire their ships' weapons. Weapons are divided into two broad categories: weapon batteries and lances. Weapon Batteries represent massed broadsides of a variety of (relatively) smaller weapons that target an area of space to bracket and hit enemy ships, rather than being precision weapons. Lances represent larger, more precise weapons consisting primarily of massive lasers or plasma beams, and target the enemy ships directly. Ships are protected from incoming fire by layers of void shields, and armour. Enemy fire stopped by a ship's shields generates "blast markers" at that location, a general term to simulate debris, energy discharges and clouds of energized gas. Blast Markers disrupt shooting, and slow down ships moving through them. They also temporarily bring down the Shields of any ship in contact with them. Once shields are down, incoming fire strikes a ship's armour. Attacks can also cause critical damage, which covers a wide range of debilitating effects. Among other consequences, weapons can be taken offline, engines damaged, etc. Sufficient damage can reduce a ship to a derelict hulk, or cause it to explode spectacularly if its reactors are breached.
During the Ordnance Phase ships deploy certain types of weapons and attacks that move and fight independently of the capital ships. This typically includes Torpedoes, but also includes squadrons of Fighters, Bombers, and Assault Boats. Once launched, Ordnance will be represented by separate counters on the board, that act independently once they have been launched from a ship, though some types (such as fighters and bombers) have more freedom to act than others (such as torpedoes). Different types of Ordnance have different abilities and roles, for example bombers can attack enemy capital ships, while fighters are intended to intercept bombers and other fighters. Ordnance ignores shields, but can be stopped by point-defence turrets mounted on most ships. Ordnance can also be targeted by a ship's main weapons; although fragile, they are very difficult to hit, to simulate their small size and high speeds. Ordnance must be reloaded between each use by using a Special Order, before another wave can be launched again.
The End Phase is when damage control occurs. Each ship which is suffering from critical damage can attempt to repair itself. A variable number of blast markers are also removed during each End Phase.
Other advanced rules that are included also allow more complicated actions, such as Ramming attacks, Hit and Run attacks and Boarding Actions, through the use of assault boats, teleporters and boarding torpedoes. Boarding can result in fights between crewmen and boarding parties within a boarded vessel, and when successful can cause critical systems in a boarded ship to be destroyed by the boarders. Other advanced rules intended for Campaign play include planets, as objectives upon which attacking troops must be landed, or bombardment (or even planet-destroying Exterminatus) must be performed.
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada
Games Workshop published the Battlefleet Gothic Annual once a year after the game's release, with the exception of 2003, where the Annual was replaced by a 160-page supplement, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada. Among others, Armada introduced four new Imperial fleet rosters (Battle Fleet Armageddon, Bastion Fleets, Battle Fleet Cadia and the Reserve fleets of Segmentum Obscurus), as well as gathering the fleets previously mentioned into an official rulebook with updated fleet lists.