Battlefleet Gothic Fleet Choice
Battlefleet Gothic is a simulation of starship battles in the 41st millennium. Many may be familiar with Warhammer 40k, where lumbering armies tear into each other on the surfaces of alien worlds. But take a step back and ask yourself… How did they get there? Battlefleet Gothic (BFG to it’s players) answers that question. Fleets of immense ships clash in deep space or in attempts to land troops on distant planets, each designed around their 40k army’s psychology and technological base. Many folks find an inter-linked campaign comprised of BFG battles in space landing forces that reinforce their 40k troops on the planets below, particularly rewarding.
Battlefleet Gothic, like most Games Workshop (GW) games, consists of metal or plastic models which must be assembled and painted. These models have certain options to consider which affect game-play, namely different weapon choices, etc. If you’re on this site, you’re probably familiar with the idea. The rules are available for FREE in the form of a downloadable Living Rulebook on the Specialist Games website, and a reasonable 1500 point fleet can be assembled for $100.00 to $200.00 US. Compared to other offerings, BFG is easy to get into. Before long, however, most players have branched out into new fleets to try differing play-styles, which can lead to a rich and rewarding hobby.
Terrain in BFG is simple and easy, and can consist of cardboard cutouts, or styrofoam planets with rocks used as asteroids fields. As with most scenery, it can get as complex as you wish it to.
BFG is a Specialist Game, and as such is weakly supported by GW. In most cases, the GW Online Store is your best bet for obtaining models, as most GW stores will have to bits order what you want.
The Imperial Navy is one of the two cheapest and easiest fleets to use. The Starter Set from GW contains four plastic IN ships, easily almost half a fleet. IN tactics resemble those used in the Age of Sail. Broadsides and the Line of Battle are the tactics of the day, relying on the heavily armored prows of most of its ships to bash into the middle of the enemy and slug it out at close range. The Imperial fleet also has very few special rules, and can be considered one of the more basic fleets.
When the fleet is used as a team, each ship in concert with others, this fleet can be devastating. A large range of models makes it one of the most interesting fleets to build and play. This gives each fleet some originality, as each ship has a distinct role in the fleet. The forward Torpedo salvoes of Imperial fleets can also be very impressive.
Imperial ships working alone are more often than not easy pickings. Low front armament can make it hard to deal damage during the critical period before the ships can heave to and fire. Fighters and bombers can be relatively limited, as this fleet tends to rely on cruisers and the gun line.
The Chaos fleet is the other of the two cheaper and easier fleets to use, as the Starter Set also contains four plastic Chaos ships. Chaos tactics resemble World War II naval tactics, with Fighters and Bombers being a mainstay of the fleet. This fleet’s tactics tend to vary with the player’s use, but tend to stand off and bombard as much as possible, and rely on strong escort vessels, fighter’s, and bomber’s for part of the fleet’s punch. This is also a fleet with very few special rules, making it an easy beginner fleet.
Chaos ships can take a beating when standing alone for longer than some of the other fleets. This fleet also has a large range of models, including two large special units. A variety of tactics makes the same fleet play differently on different occasions. Cruisers are flexible and durable, and even small fleets are relatively easy to put together.
Chaos ships work best in pairs or triplets. While one Slaughter or Murder cruiser, for instance, can be overwhelmed, three become formidable working in concert. While the resilience of Chaos ships can tempt a player to throw them in alone, they are best used in groups of about 500 points in sub-fleets. Ordnance can become overwhelming with the cheap carriers available, and the Chaos player should plan in advance for supplying these.
The Eldar fleet has several special rules, including a second movement allowed in the Ordnance phase that can allow for some very good tactical advantages. High leadership makes for a very precise fleet that will generally perform as their admiral wishes them to in battle. Eldar ship speed is dependent on their orientation to the sun, which is a table edge nominated in advance of the battle. These extra rules can make them difficult for a player to master, however, especially a new player.
Eldar fleets are also most often escort-laden fleets, with sometimes only a single or no cruiser taken. Eldar battleships are rarely seen in battle, except in large fleet actions.
The Eldar also have two distinct fleets available, pirate fleets and Craftworld Eldar. Both play similarly, but offer the option of two unique looks. Most of the following apply to both fleets.
Eldar ships are fast and highly maneuverable. Their special equipment, “Holofields”, make it more difficult to hit them, and their ordnance is superior to most other fleets. The second move allows Eldar to quickly duck behind terrain, so a terrain heavy board is very advantageous to Eldar. The models are very organic and fluid, making them a striking fleet to field. Tactical choices available to the Eldar, with their special movement and armor rules, are superior to many other fleets. Eldar can make for a very frustrating opponent when played well.
Eldar ships have been called “made of wet toilet paper”. Hits have extra chances to go critical, and they do not have the number of hit points often seen in other fleets. They can be very difficult to master, and playing them poorly usually means losing quickly.
Dark Eldar are considered one of the most unusual fleets in BFG. The ships are all supposed to be “unique”, reflecting the desires of their captain. As a result, the models are identical basic hulls with an option to add various bits from a single sprue. Many players have looked down on the fleet for this trait.
Dark Eldar do not have the Eldar’s second move in the ordnance phase, but do have special rules attached to them. Their ships aren’t as fragile as the Eldar, and play more conventionally then they do. The longer Dark Eldar stay on the board the worse off they are, and they should attempt to take an early lead. Dark Eldar are more specialized for boarding then Eldar, for the purpose of taking slaves.
The slowest Dark Eldar ship travels at 35cm, making them very fast ships. They have special equipment that allows them to mimic their enemies, allowing for “sneak attacks”.
Dark Eldar fleets tend to downturn quickly as they take damage. High points costs for small ships makes for a very small fleet on the board. They have no battleships, and their cruisers are best described as light cruisers. They are also required to take three escorts for every cruiser. This can make for a limited fleet choice.
Orks play like Orks in most GW games. Randomness is the name of the game, and the fleet allows for a lot of “Orkiness”. Most of their forward guns are randomly determined, making each turn a guess on how much firepower you have – devastating, or weak. There are very few special rules for Orks, but the one’s there are make them very true to their form.
Orks have a couple of special units, Hulks and Rocs, which are very high in hit points and firepower. They can be very intimidating on the field.
Orks CAN, however, be hard to master, and often brutalize themselves in the course of winning to the point of a draw.
Orks have a wide range of model choices, and allow for some fun conversions since there are no models for Hulks or Rocs. Ork ships have a lot of character, looking in most cases like piranha’s or other vicious fish.
Tactics-wise, Ramming is an Ork tactic that they get bonuses for, as well as boarding. Ork Fighter-bomba’s are both fighters and bombers, and are twice as survivable as most ordnance when intercepting enemy ordnance. Orks get free “All Ahead Full” orders as well, not having to make a leadership test to use the tactic. Ork cruisers also have more hit-points then ships their size usually do, making them more survivable.
Ork Ramships are tough and cheap escorts, and can do four points of damage with a strike. They are often sacrificed in the process, however.
Orks have low leadership. This means it can be hard to get your fleet to be where it needs to be to be most effective. Their ships aren’t very tactically flexible, having really one tactic available. Get in close with All Ahead Full, Ram, and Board everything in sight. While this can be a weakness, it can also be strength, making them a simple fleet tactically. Without All Ahead Full, they are a very slow fleet. Rear armor is also rather weak, and shields of any kind are rare.
This is the fleet that chills most BFG players to the bone. It is the fleet most often accused of “cheese”, over-powered and un-beatable strength. Necrons have some of the most devastating weapons available to any fleet, and their speed assures that they will be where they need to be to use them. Necron fleets are usually small with lots of points tied up in each ship, and rightfully so. Necron ships will often take out most of their enemy vessels, often by turn three. Their ships are so good that they count for double victory points, and if a certain percentage of the fleet is damaged the entire fleet “phases out”, vanishing from the table. Special rules abound, especially ones concerning the make-up of the fleet itself, but the fleet is not so complicated that a relatively new player can’t play it.
Point for point, Necron ships are probably the most vicious ships in the game. Necrons move in and out of fire-arcs quickly, and end up in a fleet’s rear annoyingly often. On Brace for Impact, these ships can handle a punishing amount of damage, and also have the ability to heal at an increased rate.
Particle Whips and Sepulchre’s are excellent weapons in close combat, and these ships are able to get into it very quickly. These are the fastest ships in the game outside of Eldar ships using their ordnance movement.
Fragility is again a weakness of the Necron fleet as with the Eldar fleets, but in particular shields are replaced with a 6+ armor save (4+ on Brace for Impact) along with the high victory points for a Necron ship. A Necron player can loose comparatively few ships compared to his enemy, and find himself the loser in the end of the game if he hasn’t taken care to keep his own fleet relatively un-harmed. Phasing out is also a danger if his enemy can concentrate on hitting a small sub-set of the Necron fleet hard enough to remove it from the game. Players facing Necrons will often pick out one or two high value targets and beat them to a pulp, the victory points from that one or two kills making up for their losses.
They can often out-maneuver their own admiral, as their speed can be hard to keep track of and remember where the ship will be in the next turn when you are setting up your next move.
This is also the fleet most likely to fall victim to over-confidence. It can be a devastating weapon for the enemy.
Tau ships are available in two forms, depending on how much you’re willing to spend. Tau Battle fleets are available from the regular Games Workshop avenues, and ForgeWorld produces Tau Protector fleets in entirety. Rules for the first are available in the Living Rulebook or the published book, Armada. Rules for the FW models are available in Imperial Armor Update Three. GW ships are very blocky and almost Star-Wars like, whereas the FW ones resemble Tau tanks and other ground equipment more closely.
The rules for the Tau Protector fleet are very hard to come by without buying the above-mentioned book, and as no one available has been willing to do that for the BFG rules alone we’ll have to make due with only the rules for the Tau Battle fleets in Armada.
Tau have only one important special rule, that their torpedoes, missiles really, can turn before moving.
Tau ships have some special ships representing allies that play slightly differently to represent the diversity of The Greater Good, the Kroot warsphere and the Demiurg ships. Their “orbitals”, stations that cannot move, can be used in certain scenarios and can be modularly built to resemble anything from a light cruiser to a battleship.
Tau ships are very cheap point-wise, allowing for more to be fielded. Their ships almost all have two variants, making them gun platforms or carriers. Tau bombers are more resilient then regular ordnance, and roll a die to see if they are removed when coming in contact with other ordnance rather then being removed. Their weapons are relatively powerful, especially in close range, and most of them are mounted in turrets allowing them to cover more than one fire arc.
Tau ships are relatively cheap in part due to the fact that they have less hit-points than most other race’s cruisers. They have upgrades available that can increase this, usually, but this negates the cheaper cost. More ships means more models to buy, as well. Most players consider Tau ships to be underpowered for the points value. Tau are also required to “tow” their escorts into battle, which means that a player must sacrifice guns on the main battle-line to have any escorts. Tau only have one true battleship, the Hero class, although it has variants.
Tau lists also restrict very carefully the number of each type of ship that a player can take, making Tau lists very often overly similar.
Tyranids are an advanced fleet with perhaps the most complex set of special rules attached to them. “Instinctive behavior” decides the actions of all ships not within 15cm of a Hive Mind node, causing them to be moved according to a flow-chart of possible behaviors. One of their most common escorts has NO GW or FW model, so it will have to be scratch-built.
Tyranid launch bays are not limited in the amount of ordnance which they can play on the table like other fleets, making this the most deadly carrier fleet. Players will often build up ordnance clouds and send them at the enemy in a massed attack that can be very devastating. Tyranids are the fleet most commonly customized, making for monstrous modeling opportunities.
Tyranid “instinctive behavior” rules can be complex, and can work to the advantage of the enemy. Ruthlessly attacking capital ships in the fleet can take away the Tyranid player’s leadership of his fleet. Close in, most Tyranid ships are devastating, but at long range most other fleets are far more effective. The Tyranid player works to flood his enemy with ordnance to cover his advance into close range with his heavier weapons. Since the tactic is usually predictable, it can be countered with practice. Of course, it’s also not their ONLY tactic… which opponents often find to their detriment against experienced Tyranid players.
Space Marines are a nice basic fleet for beginning players. The fleet tends to depend on its great Battle Barges, with their bombardment cannons, for the backbone of it’s fleet. This is an expensive large vessel, but a necessary centerpiece of an SM fleet. Escorts are available, but regular Imperial Escorts are available too as “Rapid Strike Vessels”. Rules are very basic, and fleets tend to be rather small.
The BattleBarge is a tremendously strong battleship. Thunderhawk assault fighters serve as both Fighters and Assault Boats for Space Marines, but they do not have access to Bombers. Thunderhawks survive one confrontation with other ordnance fifty percent of the time, making them very survivable. SM fleets cruisers tend to be rather fast, as well. Like all other light cruisers, Strike cruisers have 90-degree turning capability. The reliance on this type of cruiser gives the SM fleet considerable maneuverability over other fleets.
SM cruisers are light cruisers by any other fleet’s standards. Although heavily armored, with 6+ armor all around, they are lower on hitpoints then comparable cruisers from other races. If SM fleets are hit hard in the early game before Thunderhawks can inflict critical hits on enemy ships, they can often be forced on the defensive. Ordnance heavy fleets tend to fare well against SM fleets
It is said in Battlefleet Gothic that the ships are far less important than the admiral commanding them. There is no “killer template” for a fleet or a particular race, as every fleet has well balanced strengths and weaknesses. Players of the same race will often disagree with the usefulness of certain ships or tactics, unlike in many other miniature games where clear favorites are chosen by all (Ever see an IG army without a Basilisk?).
The trick is in finding a fleet whose tactics mirror the type of game-play a player loves most. While Imperial Guard and Chaos are the most popular fleets in BFG, it is mostly due to the fact that the fifty U.S. dollar starter box contains most of the backbone of both fleets. Most players use these basic fleets to get the idea of the rules, build and develop one or both of them, and then find themselves drawn to other fleets to try other styles and tactics of combat.
This article was not the sole product of one player, but a combined effort worked out in the BFG forum of LO by the following group: darkreever, JORMAGI, mEGALOmANIAC, Pazradym, Quick, Rogoth, $hourglass, Will J, and Wolf_Pack.