Recently my pal Cheetor, a long time devotee of Nurgle, had had a recurrence or Nurgle’s Rot what with all the sickeningly gorgeous new Age of Sigmar illustrations of all things Nurglitch.
This naturally led him to be titalated by the nautically themed nurgle elements. In particular the Gutrot Spume special ability seemes to have intrigued him…
The mind wonders who is this Slime Fleet and what does it look like? And once you start looking at this gorgeous Mark Gibbons art you are thematically hooked…
…leading to him wanting to try out Man O’War, by Stillman, Jones and King with a credit for Bryan Ansell in there to boot.
Man O’War is an old favorite of mine, so I jumped on the Man O’War bandwagon immediately.
Man O’War – Raging Sea Battles in The World of Warhammer
The atmosphere for the rules is provided by the wonderful artwork and writing by creative titans of that era.
This one is one of my favorite illustrations with a strong sense of the chaos of these fantastical naval actions. The two factions are humans, Imperials and Bretonnians.
We see a Bretonnian Buccaneer, immobilised with it’s mast presumably shattered by cannonball. Imperial Wolfships stand ready to ram a Bretonnian Galleon as it opens up a rolling broadside. Desperate men crammed into rowing boats with the sharks circling in a feeding frenzy in the maelstrom of battle.
Man O’War – Gameplay in Bullet Points
The game itself is a gem with 2 expansions which introduce Chaos, Sea Monsters and Flyers. The basic game shipped with loads of card templates for ships and counters. They are great for learning the game initially but tend to be costly in terms of table space. Veteran players like us use smaller versions that can be marked with an erasable pen. The visual design is great throughout on the card and counter elements etc.
- It uses an IGOUGO system for movement with players taking it in turns to move a big ship (a Man O’War), or a squadron of small ships
- Each ship takes its go, move, ram, shoot, board
- Each ship has it’s own card to track damage, crew etc. The card has locations with numbers which is what you need on a D6 to hit there. The saving throw is printed on the card. Locations have a damage count. When it tops out you start rolling on criticals which do interesting things like kill crew or stop the ship from shooting for a turn etc.
- Boarding actions are a matter of each player rolling a D6 and adding their crew value, the winner reduces the looser by 1 crew and then you roll again or cut contact, winners choice. Defenders get the benefit of bonuses for grapeshot if they can place a template on your attacking ship
- There are fun random upgrade Man O’War cards which add some spice to the capital ships that can be bought during fleet list creation, but every (non chaotic) admiral gets one for free on their flagship
- Magic is usually low grade in this system, but sometimes it can tip a battle. It’s fun when it works
Simple rules but generating a tactically deep and hilariously fun game that is over in under 2 hours.
The Bretonnians in Man O’War are intended to be more advanced in technology than the Empire, the inverse of the land armies where it’s the Empire leading the way. The Bretonnians have a close affinity with the Sea Elves and so presumably got some tips.
While the Empire models have the box like design of early medieval shipping the Bretonnians have a sleeker look to them like later Tudor vessels, such as used by famous pirate lord Sir Frances Drake aka El Draque (The Dragon). Ironically the English only started building these vessels upon instruction from King Philip II of Spain the last time he visited before it got all weird between England and Spain.
The historical ships the studio model (sculpted by Norman Swales) remind me very much of are these race built galleons from the 16th Century.
Below is a lovely illustration from the rulebook of a Bretonnian Galleon. This is very much the image I wanted to allude to with my flagship for this project.
To build my flagship I have used one of the ships from the boxed Dreadfleet game from Games Workshop. I had this idea to replace the plastic sails with Man O’War paper sails the very first time I saw this model. It’s only now years later that I am getting around to the idea, such is the way with hobby projects. Replacing the masts is important so that I can get the model to gel with the traditional fleet looks I was after.
In addition to changing the masts and sails, I removed a few millimeters of the hull all along the bottom of the model as I wanted to dispense with the bulky stock square base and keep my models free of inhibiting bases so I can easily slide them past each other in the melee of battle. This lets the ship sit at the correct level on the flat sea of a Man O’War table. I plan to do the same thing to the Heldenhammer from Dreadfleet when I come to paint my Imperial ships.
Note that these are not stock Games Workshop Buccaneers. I don’t own any Buccaneer models from the old days so I just created my own Buccaneer design and home cast it.
I don’t like the square sails on the GW Buccaneers so I used the triangular empire ones with some suitable designs.
It makes more sense to me that they would be using more advanced triangular designs whereas the Empire Wargalleys would possibly best use the square sail as seen on the pirate models in the basic game. Rule of Cool means my Empire ships will get triangular sails though ;). In the game the Buccaneer is faster than the Wargalley when the wind is not favorable.
To finish off this fleet I have the task of painting up 6 corsairs over the next 10 days, Oh My!
One last picture for those naysayers who think that the Dreadfleet ships are not suited to Man O’War, even going so far as to claim that there is a consistent scale in the studio models.