Saturday, 2 April 2016

Space Fleet

Although not my 'usual' topic on this blog, I've been thinking a lot about the old Space Fleet game that Games Workshop released in 1991 as part of an introductory series designed to entice new gamers into the fold. The others in the series, all of which were tied to existing games, were Mighty Warriors, Kerrunch and Ultra Marines.

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!


  1. Great article and I look forward to seeing how you get on with the game. I've got a decent size Imperial fleet and some of those elusive Tyranids and plan to get a game going at BOYL 2016. My problem is not having a big enough board - I haven't managed to hoover up any extra sets of the game as yet and plan to paint my own board possibly...

    As to those cards - are they the same as the data cards in the White Dwarf? Perhaps some industrious soul laminated and decorated them themselves to use as a rather nice gaming resource? Nice little extra to have that's for sureQ

    1. Thanks, pleased you liked it.

      Sounds like a good idea for BYOL. I wonder if, past a certain size, it is better to have a playing area not made up of the tiles, especially as many will have warped a bit over time perhaps. Sigh. Now I want a 6x4 gridded playmat for this.

      Yes, they are the same as in the magazine. It did occur to me that someone might have made them, but they just seemed to 'perfect'. Still, you never know, and yes, they are very good to have!

  2. Great post, I've opted for the D18 system myself, the laminated cards seem homemade but definitely something I consider doing.
    There are some very affordable space playmats you can customise now, definitely in the future purchases list.

    1. Thanks very much, pleased you enjoyed it! As I mentioned on the Oldhammer Forum, I enjoyed reading your series of excellent posts and linked to them from here as they were by far the most informative thing I could find online about the game!

      With your d18 system, how do you resolve effects which rely on reading the d6 dice face in a hit square. Do you just roll a d6 like I am doing, or have you got another method?

    2. I just roll another D6 for each hit but you could also decide shots hit on a 9+ 5 chances out of 9 like in the tray) and do a critical on 17 or 18 which is a 11% instead of the 9% of rolling a natural 6 in the tray.

    3. Fair enough. Funny how people come up with similar solutions to the same problems sometimes!

  3. i just picked up a decent collection looking for some of the kraken ships only thing im missing. its a nice gem of a game. now for that elusive Eldar Battleship.

    1. Yes, it's a collector's nightmare! Good luck in your search!