Battlefleet Gothic

Battlefleet Gothic is a game of space battles in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Despite being played in open space, Battlefleet Gothic does not offer any form of movement in the third dimension. It is therefore for all practical purposes a surface-bound “naval” game with just different looking “ships”.

The game dynamics are very easy to learn and nevertheless provide for significant strategic depth. Due to the relatively low number of models and their availability in plastic for some of the core factions, Battlefleet Gothic is one of the least expensive Games Workshop wargames.

History: Battlefleet Gothic was introduced in the late 90’s as an independent game with decent miniature support. It was later grouped into the specialty games series so ongoing rule support is now limited to an online “living rulebook”. Miniatures are still available from Games Workshop’s online store but no longer carried in brick and mortar outlets. Fleets are available for most of the traditional Warhammer 40,000 factions.

Scale: Battlefleet Gothic is one of the few miniature games that don’t really have a meaningful scale. As a futuristic space game the individual ships can be just about any size so judging scale is all but impossible. The cruisers models are around 3-4” in length while the planets are comparably smaller with 4-6” diameters. That puts them out of scale relative to the ships. The usual explanation from Games Workshop for this scale difference is that the ship models are only symbols of much smaller “actual” ships located at the tip of the flying base stand.

Basing & Painting: All ships are based on black flying stands with labels beneath. Placing the labels under and not above the flying stand base was a decision based on my usual use of the fleets (or rather lack of use). While I enjoy the game system, its popularity is limited so that the models rarely leave the display cabinet. Higher gaming frequency might force me to place the labels on top to make ship identification easier.

All fleets are painted with a relatively simple scheme. The Battlefleet Gothic models scream for drybrushing so that technique was used throughout. The principal idea was to create easily identifiable paint schemes that visually tie together the fleets. Small details such as decoration and lights are picked out afterwards for a little bit of accent.

Terrain: Battlefleet Gothic requires its own unique terrain set as meadows, houses and rivers don’t really have a place in space. A black cloth would be perfectly sufficient but I tried to give things a bit more visual flair and made a custom space board. The board uses four 2’x2’ MDF pieces that have been painted to give the illusion of space. The planets, nebulas, stars and other galactic effects all come out of a spray can and look surprisingly good for the very limited effort invested. I used techniques that I observed from a street artists who made abstract “space paintings” with sprays. Basically, you use coloured sprays to create big (wet) blobs and then use newspaper to scrape/squish them into interesting pattern. Once you have a few of those nicely coloured blobs you can place round covers over them (I used plastic dishes of different sizes designed to go under flower pots). Now spray everything else black. When you remove the round covers you will have perfectly round planets in a variety of colours. A very gentle misting with black or dark blue helps to blend the planet into the dark background (use newspaper to shield the planet from stray paint). The nebula and comet were made by dusting spray paint either from a distance or with the nozzle pressed directly onto the board for a comet effect. Finally, a toothbrush loaded with paint can be used to sprinkle some stars onto the darker sections of the board.

The three dimensional terrain is based on flying stands and mostly built from foam. I used spherical foam globes from florist shops for the planets (make sure to coat them in PVA glue or spackle before painting as the foam granule pattern shows through otherwise). Smaller foam balls were attacked with a carving knife to make asteroids.

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