Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Something Different: Battlefleet Gothic

I've started a regular blog series on 40kUK, here's the first article!:

Hi guys, Something Different will be a limited monthly series giving you a quick summary of the ‘other’ miniature games created by GW… yes you heard correctly, there are OTHER games out there, not just 40k. Although 40k is my one true love (don’t tell the missus), I regularly play many Specialist Games to break up the 40k addiction into something less all-encompassing.

This month I’ll talk about Battlefleet Gothic (from now on called affectionately BFG), a wonderfully sweeping space combat game set in the 40k universe.

Similarities To 40k

To be honest, not much. BFG is probably the Specialist Game that is most far apart from 40k in rules terms, and is more similar to the way Epic plays than anything else. The game is played using a turn system with phases like 40k, but that’s where the similarities end. Which makes it a perfect game to totally get away from 40k for a while!

Differences To 40k

To quote Douglas Adams “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.” BFG scale is astronomical – literally. You may think that all those cool looking space ships represent their size and distance relative to each other on the tabletop, just like 40k. No, everything is measured from the stem of the flying base. This represents how massively far apart everything is in space. Coincidently, the models are just there to look pretty and you can, in fact, play with just a load of numbered flying bases… although that would look funny.

The void doesn’t have that much terrain surprisingly (the clue is in the name), so you really only need a piece of black card or a cloth to place on your table and you’re off. The rulebook does have rules for planets, asteroids, etc. But these are just fun optional additions that you can try out once you’ve got the hang of the game.

The number of models also differs from 40k quite a bit: whereas you may have anywhere from 30 to above 100 models in a game of 40k, you play BFG with only a handful of ships – anywhere from 4 (a cruiser clash) to about 15 including small escort ships.


The rules of BFG are pretty simple, and easy to learn with a few games of cruiser-only clashes. The rules get more advanced as you add in rules for squadrons, terrain and defence platforms/space stations – but these can be used or not used at your discretion.

The ships in the 40k universe are gargantuan space-boats, so conservation of momentum plays a major part in movement. All ships must move at least half their maximum movement (unless they use a Special Order – more on that later), and the larger ships must move a certain distance before they can even turn. Those expecting flashy Battlestar Galactica zero-g manoeuvres are in for a shock.

If you’ve played Epic, the shooting mechanic works similar in BFG. You check the angle your ship is to the enemy, and the angle the enemy is to your ship, and use a table to cross-reference this to find how many dice you can throw. Positioning is everything in BFG. Any result that rolls higher than the enemy ship’s armour value hits. Most ships have ‘shields’ that can absorb a couple of hits per turn, but once the shields are down the ship takes hit point damage – inevitably leading to it exploding in a spectacular fashion. There are other rules for different weapons, but I won’t bore you with them.

‘Special Orders’ are commands you can give a ship to use certain actions. These include ‘Lock On’, ‘All Ahead Full’, and my personal favourite ‘Brace for Impact!’. You have to be careful what order you use these, as once you fail a command check (a leadership test), you cannot make any more Special Orders that turn.

Finally, there is Ordnance. Probably the most complicated aspect of the game, Ordnance can include torpedoes, fighter, bombers, assault boats, and any special stuff your ship can throw out of its holds at the enemy. Each type of Ordnance has its own rules. Although the latest FAQ changes how Ordnance works, the game can still get bogged down with moving tiny counters across the table. So I suggest leaving these out for your first game.


Ah here we go; the miniatures for BFG are AMAZING. Seriously, just look at them. Who’s into Sci-Fi and doesn’t love space ships? The models are usually much bigger than standard infantry models in 40k, and the low model count and ease of painting (spray black, drybrush, done) your fleet also adds to the appeal. True, the bigger metal ships are a complete arse to put together, but once they are on the tabletop you’ll forget the weeks you had your hands glued to bits of greenstuff because of them.


To sum up, BFG is an amazing game with *FREE* rules (found on the GW site), great looking models, and a cinematic looking tabletop. The small number of models and lack of terrain lowers the start-up cost considerably, as well as making the game quicker to play.

Download the rules, whip out some flying stands, and try it. You won’t regret it.

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