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Tabletop Game / Dreadfleet

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Pirate Battles on the Warhammer High Seas

Dreadfleet is a pirate themed role playing board game based in the world of Warhammer. It was created by Games Workshop and released in stores in October 2011. It is a two player game where one player controls the titular Dreadfleet, an army of monsters and warlords led by the vampire Count Noctilus, and the other player has the Grand Alliance, a collation of sailors and pirates determined to stop the Dreadfleet from controlling the seas. The two sides fight in a treacherous stretch of water known as the Galleon's Graveyard. The game's rule book features an extensive story regarding all of the playable character's and their respective ships.

Dreadfleet contains examples of:

  • Anti-Infantry: While the Eagle Claw bolt throwers fitted to the Seadrake cannot do as much damage to a ship as black powder cannons, the hail of iron bolts they unleash are able to do tremendous damage to the crew of an enemy ship.
  • Combat Tentacles: Tordrek Hackhart's Black Kraken is fitted with multiple mechanical tentacles that can crush a ship to splinters in moments. In-game, these tentacles give the Black Kraken a bonus to its boarding actions, making it far more likely to cause Damage to an enemy ship.
  • Cool Boat: All the vessels in the game are exceptional ships. The ships of the Grand Alliance include a floating temple, a steam-powered seagoing forge, a giant pleasure barge fitted with an array of bound elementals, a pirate ship coated with bits of powerful sea creatures, and an Elven dragon roost with sails. The undead Dreadfleet itself meanwhile consists of a floating castle, a literal ghost ship, a laser-firing pyramid with a hull, a mechanical squid submarine, and a zombie deep sea monster crewed by undead rat men mad scientists.
  • Derelict Graveyard: The game's setting, the Galleon's Graveyard, is a Pocket Dimension littered with everything that has ever been lost at sea. Everything from the wrecks of destroyed ships to the corpses of sea monsters and sailors are drawn into the cursed dimension by the magical currents that feed it.
  • Divine Parentage: It is rumoured by her peers that Aranessa Saltspite, the Captain of the Swordfysh, is the daughter of the sea god Manann and while there is no concrete proof, the mermaid-like mutations that she was born with and her being raised by sea-nymphs does lead credence to these rumours. In-game, this parentage is represented by the Blessed by Manann special rule that grants her multiple re-rolls.
  • Drop the Hammer: The figurehead of the Heldenhammer is designed in the image of the Empire's founding god Sigmar and incorporates a massive, steam-powered hammer that can be used to deliver punishing blows that can deal a reasonable amount of damage to any ship in base contact with the Heldenhammer's front arc.
  • Elemental Embodiment: The Golden Magus has a collection of bound elemental spirits that he can summon to assist his ship, the Flaming Scimitar, during battle. These elementals include Tempest Djinn that can speed the Scimitar through the water, Fire Efreet that can burn enemy ships, and sea-nymphs that can seal holes in the ship with living ice.
  • Elves vs. Dwarves: One of Red's lines shows that he doesn't have a high opinion of them "pointy-eared pretty boys". Though it's possibly one-sided as Yrellian makes no statement against any dwarf.
  • Femme Fatalons: The artwork for Captain Noctilus depicts him with his gauntlets sporting long, sharp claws. These appear to be mostly ornamental rather than practical, a visual reference to the long claws/nails sported by some vampires in fiction.
  • Flaming Sword: The pleasure-ship Flaming Scimitar is named in honour of the Sword of Fiery Curses, the burning blade wielded by the ship's captain, the Golden Magus. In-game, the magical sword gives the Magus a bonus during boarding actions.
  • Ghost Pirate: Four variations to be exact.
    • Noctilus is a vampire who reanimates the dead to serve him.
    • Amenhotep is a mummy and his warship is crewed by sentient skeletons.
    • Skretch is a zombie rat-man, as is his entire crew. The Skabrus itself is an undead sea monster with gaping wounds and trailing intestines.
    • Vangheist, his crew, and the Shadewraith itself are literal ghosts that still cling to the mortal world.
  • Ghost Ship: Ignoring the actual ghost ship, when a warship loses all of its crew in a boarding action, it effectively becomes this.
  • Haunted Technology: Tordrek Hackhart's used infernal pacts and rites to bind the mind of a daemon into the mechanical monstrosity known as the Black Kraken. Due to this, Hackhart is able to command the submersible daemon engine on his own.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: Dreadfleet contains several massive sea monsters.
    • The Orb Leviathan that would later become the Skabrus was large enough to bite whole ships in half.
    • The Black Kraken, while mechanical, invokes the classic image of a gargantuan squid that drags mariners into the briny depths.
    • Leviathan Island was formed on the bones of an immense sea turtle, and in "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" it is home to an indestructible one.
  • Lightning Gun: The undead sea monster ship, Skabrus, has been outfitted with Skaven warp lightning cannons that unleash arcs of tainted lightning against their targets. In-game, the unique properties of these warp lightning cannons is represented by the broadside attacks of the Skabrus ignoring armour saves.
  • Mega Maelstrom: At the centre of the Galleon's Graveyard is the Maelstrom, a massive whirlpool that eventually sucks in everything within the Pocket Dimension. The final game of the narrative campaign takes place around the Maelstrom and has special rules to represent all the ships taking part being slowly sucked towards the centre of the whirlpool where they will be destroyed.
  • Novelization: At the time of the game's release, Games Workshop also released a limited-edition novella by Phil Kelly that retold the story of the Dreadfleet campaign in somewhat board terms and some additional characterisation for the captains. The book has since been re-released in digital format.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Both dwarf characters, Red and Tordeck, are temperamental engineers who pilot ironclad warships.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: The background material for Aranessa Saltspite relates that she was born a mutant with her legs fused together into a scaled, fish-like tail below the knee. When she grew older Aranessa amputated her mutated legs so that she wouldn't be hated by human society.
  • Pocket Dimension: The game's setting, the Galleon's Graveyard, is a near mythical, nautical realm said to draw shipwrecks, and the remains of anything that dies in the ocean, into its cursed waters. Inhabited by numerous undead creatures, the Galleonís Graveyard is only accessible by arcane means and has been used by Count Noctilus and his Dreadfleet for decades.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Aranessa is the only girl in the game's playable roster.
  • Seadog Peg Leg: In order to be able to walk on land, and avoid the stigma of being a mutant, Aranessa amputated her mermaid-like legs, replacing them with a pair of peg legs she carved herself from the blades of swordfish.
  • Stock Ness Monster: The Leech Wyrm, a boney-looking sea beast that serves as either an obstacle or a minion of Count Noctilus.
  • Token Evil Teammate: The Novelisation of the game reveals that the Golden Magus is a worshipper of Tzeentch, the Chaos God of Magic, and has his own darker reasons to join with the Grand Alliance against the Dreadfleet.
  • Weird Beard: The artwork for Tordrek Hackhart, the Chaos Dwarf captain of the Black Kraken, shows that he has replaced his beard with a mass of writhing mechanical tentacles, fitting with the general mechanical sea monster theme of his daemon-possessed submersible.