What was unusual about Space Fleet, was that it used previously unseen miniatures, whereas the others all used models from other current games. This blog entry contains interesting information, including a quote from Andy Chambers which reveals the models were from an unreleased space combat game. As there were plastic ships all ready to be used, Space Fleet was designed to get some use out of them.
If you read what few reviews can be found of the game online, you see it falls foul of many similar criticisms the other games in the range suffer from, especially that of the use of the box lid to determine hits and misses depending on where the dice fall. Now for veteran gamers this is a pretty daft mechanic, but easily remedied. (I myself plan to use a d10 roll, but more on this later). The other major criticism is the simplicity of the game play and the fact that all the ships are the same, Eldar or Imperial.
Now, unlike the other games in the range, Space Fleet actually received some decent coverage in White Dwarf, where the rules were added to to bring the game more in line with what experienced gamers might expect, but still being accessible. I get the feeling someone at GW really wanted a decent space game. Although they leave some loose ends (like the promise of rules for planetary landings), they actually seem like a workable package. Oddly, in the articles, the Imperial fleet gets the most love, the Eldar only get one more ship (for a total of two) and the Tyranids get a whole article with new rules dedicated to them. While this might seem odd, scratching below the surface shows that much of this was apparently done to reuse an older range of ships which were available at the time.
This blog has a couple of good articles about the background of the game if you want to read more.
I've actually managed to wind up owning three copies of the game (to date). This is due to the vagaries of eBay and how it is occasionally more cost effective to buy incomplete copies of the game with a couple of the ships missing than to try and bid on some of the metal ships, which can fetch outrageous prices. As with many older GW publications, it is a bit of a waiting game and requires a firm self-discipline on ebay to get some of the ships at good prices.
Due to the huge disparity in the number of ships produced for the game, and their cost (The two Eldar ships are hard to find and Tyranids can go for an awful lot), my main aim with this project is to collect two forces of Imperial ships. One will be painted similarly to the painting schemes suggested in White Dwarf. The other will be painted a darker shade of grey and be used as a traitor fleet. By not painting the traitor fleet in colours that are too unusual, I hope to use them alongside the other Imperial ships, should I be able to aquire more Eldar or Tyranids in the future.
As to the issues of White Dwarf with extra rules, I have managed to acquire all of these, but never before have I had such difficulty with pages missing and bits cut out! It pays to message sellers before bidding in these cases! I won't go into the contents of each one now, as I hope to do that in future blog posts.
The first copy of the game I bought came with loads of extra map boards and data cards for all the Imperial and Eldar ships in the game (bar one Imperial one), which seem to have been mounted on thick card (ringbinder thickness) and laminated with 'chapter approved' stickers on the back. I'd be interested to know if anyone can shed any light on this. Was it a home made effort, or part of an offer that Games Workshop ran at the time. At this point I have no idea.
My future plans? Well, I'm currently waiting on a few more ships to arrive and plan to paint these quickly and play some games. I may also re-purpose some old Full Thrust ships from GZG if I dig them out and thin they will fit in. Along with that and the White Dwarf 'commentaries' there should be a bit of content to come, so watch this space for more Space Fleet posts!