Tabletop Game: Battlefleet Gothic

There is no peace among the stars...

What happens when the people behind Warhammer 40,000 decide to make a game about spaceships.

Battlefleet Gothic takes everything cool about naval combat throughout history, and mixes it with the gothic aesthetic and unending, chaotic grimdarkness of the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Joyfully embracing Space Is an Ocean in every way possible, the game throws together vast hypertech spaceships, Napoleonic line tactics and broadsides, torpedoes and torpedo boats, sailing, planet-splitting weapons, ramming and boarding actions, Old School Dogfights, sea shanties and alien monsters.

The Imperial Navy, the focus of much of the game's art and background, is the very definition of Cool, but Inefficient. Imperial capital ships are millennia-old vessels resembling kilometres-long Gothic cathedrals, with spikes and spires for sensor masts, covered with pointless bling in the form of giant skulls or mile-high statues of eagles made of solid gold. They are filled with millions of press-ganged ratings and chanting priest-mechanics, loading gigantic shells by the back-breaking labour of thousands and unloading broadsides from gun decks the size of towns. Maintenance is ritualised, tech-adepts praying to machines they don't understand, anointing them with sacred unguents and beating them with holy wrenches. Warships are so old, so vast and so complex they develop their own cultures; entire societies of feral humans, the descendents of lost crewmen, lurk in forgotten decks.

The rulebook focuses on one campaign in particular, the twenty-year Gothic War, one of Abaddon the Despoiler's many, many diabolical attempts to take over the galaxy. This scheme involves the Gothic Sector being cut off from the rest of the Imperium by warp storms, a lot of spiky warships, and six ancient space stations known as the Blackstone Fortresses...

As with all of Games Workshop's Gaiden Games, Battlefleet Gothic enjoyed several months of publicity in stores and White Dwarf magazine before essentially dropping off the radar, new rules and models only occasionally being brought out. It was published by Games Workshop's Specialist Games division (and was, generally speaking, their most successful game) until it, along with the rest of the Specialist Games line, was discontinued in 2013.

In 2015 a video game adaptation was announced, titled Battlefleet Gothic: Armada. It is being developed by Tindalos Interactive, and published by Focus Home Interactive.

Being set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the game features a large number of the tropes on that page, as well as employing setting and gameplay tropes of its own.

Battlefleet Gothic provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Abaddon, who being a ship, along with his retinue of Chaos Terminators, gives it a bonus against boarding actions
  • 2-D Space: Justified, or at least necessary; it's pretty damn hard to play a tabletop wargame in three dimensions. On top of this, the rulebook explains that the ships actually occupy an infinitesimally small dot at the exact center of their base stands and allows them to move 'through' each other to represent the fact that they are at differing 'altitudes'. It also mocks the need to represent 3D combat as 3D — as the book puts it, 3D is basically just a range modifier. Yeah, there's a bit more to it, but shut up and buy the plastic already.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Ancestral spaceships.
  • Apocalypse How: From the main batteries of most cruisers, which can inflict regional catastrophes, to the combined efforts of three Blackstone fortresses, which can supernova a star, Gothic has one at every level.
  • The Asteroid Thicket
  • Bad Boss: Abaddon, per standard. Aside from the You Have Failed Me below, Chaos Lords can't be used on the same ship as him because they're too scared of him.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: The Eldar use the Webway to travel, rather than flying through hell, and during the Gothic War allow Imperial ships to use it. Necrons have inertialess drives to attain FTL speeds.
  • Cool Ship: Every ship.
  • Cool, but Inefficient" Everything.
    • Chaos warships are essentially Imperial vessels ten thousand years past their use-by date, with added mutations, daemons and an internal culture of insanity, backstabbing, blood sacrifices, torture and random slaughter.
    • Eldar ships are fragile vessels with solar sails, needing to be angled to the nearest sun to work most efficiently. Yes, tacking in space.
    • Ork ships are essentially improvised weapons (that work because the Orks think they can work), bolted together out of scrap by lunatics.
    • Tyranid "vessels" are living organisms, with much of their armament being claws, blades, teeth and tentacles on a ridiculous scale. Even in space, they try to jump on you and bite your face off.
  • Combat Tentacles: Tyranids mount these on spaceships.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The Planet Killer specializes in these.
    • Two Blackstone fortresses working together can destroy a planet. Three cause a sun to go supernova.
  • Elite Mooks: Space Marines and their Chaos counterparts, as putting them on a ship gives it a better leadership rating. Among them there are also terminator marines, which help with boarding actions.
  • Enemy Mine: Anybody siding with anybody against anybody, with the sole exception of an Adeptus Arbites ship (yes, they have one) siding with the Imperial Navy. Even the Astartes don't like working with the Navy.
  • Fan Nickname: The game's name is often shortened to "BFG". This term will not be used here to avoid confusion with large guns.
  • Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: Some ships have a nose mounted main cannon. Ork ships quite often have a large main gun, and the Imperium has the Nova Cannon, which is a massive mass driver that runs through most of the ship and fires building-sized projectiles at relativistic speeds.
  • Fragile Speedster: Eldar ships go faster than anyone else's, but have next to no armor or damage resistance.
  • Gaiden Game: One of several "Specialist Games" in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
  • Galactic Conqueror: Abaddon the Despoiler, were he not a...
  • General Failure: Abaddon has managed to lead thirteen Black Crusades, attacks by nine legions of daemonically superpowered space marines and hundreds of millions of cultists, to failure.
    • That is at least how Fanon tends to depict him due to GW's inability to tell a story until 6th edition. Now it is clear that the only attempts to "March to the Heart of Terra" was the 13th Black Crusade while the rest of them were (relatively) limited operations with a specific goals in mind. Said 12th Black Crusade, the Gothic War was an attempt to capture and/or neutralize Blackstone Fortresses. At the start Imperium had 6. Now Abby has 2, Imperium has none and defensive abilities of the Gothic Sector are greatly diminished.
  • Glass Cannon: The Eldar can dish it out. They can't take it. Pretty standard for them
    • The Tau would also qualify, with extremely powerful long-range ordinance, but weak broadside firepower and a vulnerability to boarding actions.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: "Scary" does not even begin to cover it...
  • Lightning Bruiser: Necron ships, which has the fastest movement consistent movement, pack a heavy punch, and are pretty durable.
  • Living Ship: Tyranid ships.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Many ships can fire salvos of torpedos across the gulfs of space. While these can be devastating when they hit, they travel slowly compared to most weapons, and can be shot down by Space Fighter squadrons and capital ship point defense while en route. The Tau, added in a later supplement, are especially good at these.
  • Madness Mantra: The Chaos warship Killfrenzy, so named because it continually broadcasts an endless loop of "KILLFRENZY KILLFRENZY KILLFRENZY" on all channels.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: The Eye of Terror, through which Abaddon and the Chaos fleets attack the Materium; rules for a number of other "celestial phenomena" are featured, few of them pleasant.
  • Ramming Always Works: Many Imperial and all Ork vessels have heavily armoured prows, designed with intimately connecting with other warships in mind. The Ork "Brute" ram ship is designed specifically for ramming, consisting of a gigantic armoured prow, a powerful engine and minimal weaponry, they are perhaps the least subtle device in the entire 40k universe.
    • They are a spaceship sized woodchipper on a giant set of engines with some guns. No frills, just a solid metallic mass of "get over there and make holes where no spaceship should have holes, one of which is the rough size and shape of this ship." Screw kroozers, those things are the avatars of Mork (or was it Gork?).
    • Ramming is an Insane tactic as far as the other factions are concerned. Would you charge across tens of thousands of kilometers of empty space under enemy fire to hit the other guy, most probably after sustaining crippling damage? Insane. But as Imperium puts it, "Only the Insane have the strength to prosper, only those who prosper can judge what is Sane."
      • Plus they have faith in the Emperor and armored prows to see them through it. Ramming from an Imperial or Ork ship can be brutally effective and is a great last hurrah for a crippled ship.
    "The prow is armoured because the stern never faces the enemy."
  • Rule of Cool: Reigns supreme.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Very carefully averted. The actual models are completely out of scale with the rest of the game, distances being measured being from the centre of the ships' bases so that you can have nice looking miniatures without also requiring a spare country to play the game in. Base-contact in the game is "close range", generally of the order of tens of thousands of kilometres. This is also the reason you need a command check to ram another ship - the captain not only has to order a potentially suicidal course of action and make it stick with the crew, he also has to hit a target equivalent to headbutting a pinhead from a mile away...
  • Shout-Out
    War is Peace
    Freedom is Slavery
    Ignorance is Strength
  • Solar Sail: The Eldar ships.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Taken to unbelievable levels. Some series call spaceships "boats", BFG has masts, sails and space shanties.
    • That said, the physics of space is at least acknowledged. Mostly.
  • Space Opera
  • Space Pirates: Orks and some Eldar, there are rules for the other factions to field a piratey force, excepting Space Marines.
  • Space Sailing: Eldar ships.
  • Spikes of Villainy: Chaos ships.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet
  • Standard Starship Scuffle: The game is built around this trope, with its space combat firmly grounded in the Space Is an Ocean setting.
  • Turn-Based Strategy
  • Unnecessarily Large Interior
  • Units Not to Scale: And then some!
  • Wave Motion Gun: Not for nothing are this game's initials "BFG".
  • We Will Use Manual Labour In The Future
  • You Have Failed Me: An actual rule for Abaddon. If one of his vessels fails a command check with his re-roll, his ship will fire on it.
    • If it happens on his ship, it takes damage because he and his retinue slaughter a portion of the crew.