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Tabletop Game / Battlefleet Gothic

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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.

There are two video game adaptations- a Real-Time Strategy game for PC titled Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, and a Turn-Based Strategy mobile game, Battlefleet Gothic: Leviathan.

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: Some Fleet Lists include the option of taking high ranking characters, such as Warlords in an Ork List or Abaddon the Despoiler himself in a Chaos Fleet, as a Fleet Commander. Taking such a character will give bonuses to the ship they are commanding during boarding actions to represent the fighting abilities of the character and the elite troops that generally accompany them.
  • 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.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Present in the game as "terrain" to fight around. Anything unguided (a space hulk, torpedoes and so on) is automatically destroyed upon entry. Attack craft have a 1 in 6 chance of destruction and full space ships (from escorts to capital ships) must take a command check, and if they fail it they can take crippling damage in a single instance.
  • 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.
  • The Battlestar: Every single ship in the game which has strike craft launch bays is also fitted with a healthy compliment of traditional guns.
    • All but one class of Tau capital ship has at least some launch capacity, due to their entire combat philosophy emphasizing strike craft and guided missiles. Doubly so, as they even feature "gravitic hooks" used to tow and launch entire warships.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Imperial Navy Revere Fleets consist of many old and obsolete classes of ship that are no longer used in regular Navy Fleets, including many that are more commonly seen fighting with Chaos Fleets such as the Repulsive-class Grand Cruiser and the Carnage-class Cruiser. The Imperial Navy is reluctant to use these fleets due to their ships' lack of regular maintenance and their hastily assembled crews having a tendency to be unreliable at best, if not outright mutinous. The game rules represent this by allowing the player to choose certain ships from the Chaos Fleet list but makes all Reserve Fleet Ships more likely to disengage from combat or, when fighting against Chaos, defect to the opponents control.
  • 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.
    • Otherwise averted, because, y'know, you're literally going through hell. Except the Tau, they just skirt around it, with the result of being much slower than other sides (their drive speed is typically 1/5 of Imperium's), but being much safer, more reliable (speed is relatively constant), and doesn't need psychic on board to guide the ship (which Tau lacks).
  • 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.
  • Imperial ships are mile-long space cathedrals packed with impossibly advanced weaponry... but their building-sized gun batteries are loaded by hand. Hundreds of hands per gun, to be precise.
  • 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. According to game rules (specifically, the Exteminatus! scenario) a single Activated Blackstone Fortress is sufficient to at the very least destroy all life on a planet.
  • Elite Mooks: Space Marines and their Chaos counterparts, as putting them on a ship gives it a better leadership rating as well as boarding and hit-and-run attack ratings. Among them there are also Terminator marines, which improve hit-and-run attacks even further.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Grand Theft Prototype: The Chaos Fleetís Infidel-class Raiders were created from designs for a prototype heavy escort vessel stolen from the Monsk shipyards and have proven to be a thorn in the Imperiumís side ever since.
  • Homing Projectile:
    • Seeking torpedoes are special torpedoes upgraded with logic engines and matriculators that enable them to identify targets and change their trajectory so that they are more likely to hit. The game represents this by allowing seeking torpedoes to make a turn towards the nearest enemy ship at the beginning of the Ordinance Phase rather than traveling in a straight line like other forms of torpedo.
    • The missiles used by the Tau Fleet in place of torpedoes are fitted with artificial intelligence similar to that used by Tau Attack Drones. In game this is represented by the missiles being able to alter their speed and course when they move.
  • 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.
  • Long-Range Fighter: The Tau take this to the point of Crippling Overspecialization, where they have only minimal broadside firepower and are extremely vulnerable to boarding actions. However, maneuvering to take advantage of those weaknesses is tricky, because the Tau will do their best to use their devastating long-range spinal armaments and extremely smart and nimble missile salvos to cripple anyone who tries an uncoordinated charge.
  • 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.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: All over the place among the various fleets:
    • Imperial Navy: Ship classes like Tyrant, Dominator, and Firestorm, and individual ship names like Bloodhawk, Flame of Purity, and Incendrius.
    • Chaos Fleet: Despoiler Class Battleship, Repulsive Class Grand Cruiser, and Styx Class Heavy Cruiser, and ship names like Heartless Destroyer, Malignus Maximus, and Despicable Ecstasy.
  • 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.
  • Private Military Contractors: The Demiurg often act as mercenary forces for other races, especially those under threat from Ork raids. To represent this, in-game, any fleet, except Orks, Tyranids and Necrons, are able to hire Demiurg cruisers as mercenaries. Due to their lack of investment in the battle however, these mercenary ships will attempt to disengage from combat should they suffer too much damage.
  • 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.
  • Ram Scoop: Demiurg capital ships are equipped with electromagnetic force fields around their prows designed to scoop up interstellar hydrogen that is then used to power their engines. This effect can also be reversed to produce a powerful, if short ranged, cutting beam that the Demiurg use for mining operations, as well as to cut up enemy ships.
  • 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
  • Sleeper Ship: The Dhows utilised by the Tau Empireís Nicassar subjects are primarily sleeper ships, each containing a hibernating extended family of the semi-nomadic Nicassar as they slowly travel across the gulfs of interstellar space.
  • Solar Sail: Eldar Craftworld and Corsair starships are propelled by large solar sails. In game this is represented by Eldar ships having three movement speeds representing whether they are moving towards, away from or parallel to the sun, meaning that they have to tack like a sailing ship in order to get the best speed across the battlefield.
  • 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 are at least acknowledged. Mostly.
  • 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, who fill their sails with solar winds. This means they need to adjust their movement based on their position respective to the system's sun, and can tack in space.
  • Spikes of Villainy: Chaos ships, much like Chaos everything else.
  • Spiritual Successor: Battlefleet Gothic was an updated follow-up to the short lived 1991 Gaiden Game Space Fleet with the original development name for the game even being Space Fleet Gothic.
  • Standard Starship Scuffle: The game is built around this trope, with its space combat firmly grounded in the Space Is an Ocean setting.
  • Tractor Beam: The Ork Fleets Grunt Assault Ship is a more sophisticated version of the Brute Ram Ship that incorporates a massive traktor field reactor that not only increase the damage done when it rams into an enemy but also allows it to stick to the enemy vessel so that the mobs of Ork Boyz it carries can perform a more effective boarding action. On the downside, the poorly distributed mass of the ship considerably reduces its manoeuvrability.
  • Unnecessarily Large Interior: The interiors of Imperial ships are the size of cathedrals, and adorned like such. Averted with the actual crew quarters, which are cramped and crowded, and crammed in any leftover pocket of space on the ship.
  • Units Not to Scale: And then some! Specifically, the rulebook flat-out admits that the models are not to scale with the game environment (or necessarily with each other), but that they're designed in such a way that you can build and paint them to look pretty. Actual distances are measured from the "stem" which holds the actual model to its base, representing the much smaller area of space the ship actually occupies. Ships in base-to-base contact are "close" (i.e., a few thousand kilometers apart) while the shortest-range of weapons, 30 centimeters, may be capable of firing across millions of kilometers of space.
  • Wave Motion Gun:
    • The Armageddon Gun mounted on Abaddon's flagship, the Planet Killer, is one of the most powerful weapons in the game capable of destroying anything and everything in its line of fire.
    • The Warp Cannons of the activated Blackstone Fortresses unleash a beam of pure Immaterium, bypassing a ship's shields and tearing apart anything it hits. When multiple Warp Cannons combine their fire they are even capable of destroying stars.
  • We Will Use Manual Labour in the Future: On Imperial ships, the enormous shells are loaded into the cannons by crowds of press-ganged sailors.
  • 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.