Friday, 11 January 2013

Playtest rules in White Dwarf? Get outta here!

Back in the day when Games Workshop was a distinctly slicker operation than in the early years, yet only just starting on the path to the state of 'so slick I'm avoiding it in case I slip and break my neck', they published White Dwarf Issue 225.

This issue was notable for the two sheets of perforated card it contained. One sheet contained two dungeon tiles and twelve counters for use with the Dungeon Bowl rules for Wharhammer Quest/Blood Bowl. The other sheet contained all the counters required for playing the playtest rules of what would become Battlefleet Gothic. Now, I was fortunate enough to acquire this issue from a good friend who was having a clear out. It took great force of while to take a 15 year old, mint condition sheet of counters and punch them out, but I managed it and report my findings here...

Issue 225 - Cover shot

The glorious counter sheet
 As you can see above, the sheet of counters contained 4 Imperial ships and 4 Chaos ones. Both sides had two each of two difference classes. The other counters are torpedo markers, blast markers and two markers for determining the orientation of ships relative to one another.

The fleets deploy
 Mechanically, the rules are fairly similar to Epic 4,000. Having played this set of rules a bit, I have to say I feel they are actually better suited to space battles between hulking ships.

Each ship has the usual kind of stats you might expect, including damage points, speed, turning ability, shields, armour and weapon stats. Weapons have a range and fire arc and typically a firepower rating, which, when cross referenced with the orientation of the target, dictates how many dice you roll to hit. Exceptions include 'lances' which have a straight 50% chance of causing damage per strength point and torpedoes, which move each turn until they hit a ship or leave the table.

Most attacks have to try and knock down the enemy shields before they can cause damage, and each point of damage has a chance of causing a critical hit. One interesting rule sees blast markers placed when shields are knocked down, representing, shockwaves, plasma, radiation clouds etc. These stay on the table once placed (1d6 are removed at the end of each turn) and provide cover and movement penalties. This means there is effectively some kind of varied terrain during the game, not something I have come across in a space game in this way. I quite like it!

Chaos warships smash through the Imperial line.
It should also be mentioned that ships can attempt to take special orders on their turn, such as reloading torpedoes, performing sharper turns or locking on to a target. These add a variety of options and detail to the game.

All in all I was quite impressed by these, especially for a free set of test rules complete with counters. For those who don't know, you can download the full rules from the GW website, but the test rules are enough for a game which provides an interesting diversion.

One thing I was reminded of afterwards was how similar the rules are to the Call to Arms rules by Mongoose Publishing. Owning the Babylon 5 revised set, I was prompted to pull it out and remembered how good it was. As a result I am embarking on a Bab5 campaign, which I will no doubt be reporting on in the future.


  1. They always great in those days. I love the Horus Heresy game with the counters.

    If I remember there was the one with the Eldar defending the Craftworld which was published in WD as well I think.

    1. Yup, that was an excellent game, with the Emperor and his best warriors boarding Horus' battle barge trying to find him before they got overwhelmed. That truly was a great little game.

      I don't know if you are thinking of Doom of the Eldar, which was one of their boxed 'counter' games (along with Battle for Armageddon and Horus Heresy)? I have all three but have not played them for years... :(