Warhammer had not always just been the openfield battle that the modern incarnations present itself. Much like in 40K there's Battlefleet Goth for space battles, and the city-ruin skirmish game known as Mordheim, to even the fantasy football game of Blood Bowl... Anyway, there had been many such "specialist games" for Warhammer Fantasy, one of which is 'Man O' War'.
Man O' War was a game of navy combats in the post-Great War Against Chaos Old World. In essence, it was a turn-based game of two players, each player takes the form of an Admiral. Under their commands are various vessels within their fleets - consisting their flagship, from which the Admiral themself commands the naval engagement, large vessels known as the Man O' Wars, as well as squadrons or singular independent ships-of-the-line -- the smaller, but nevertheless deadly battleships. During play, the players move the ships based on various factors such as wind and the condition of their powered motivational devices (oars being the most common). The Admirals may order their ships to strike at enemy vessels using ranged weapons such as an array of cannons, or charge their ships at the enemy in a ramming manoeuvre. They may attempt to board enemy ships and even capture them.Boarding Action. Source: Man O' War
There are 10 playable "Fleets", each representing a nation or a single race. The base game came with the Empire, Bretonnian, Dwarf, High Elf and Dark Elf fleets, with the "Plague Fleet" campaign supplement bringing the additional Chaos, Chaos Dwarfs, and Skaven Fleets. The 'Sea of Blood' campaign brought sea monsters and aerial combat to the mix, as well as the Norscan fleet, along with new ships for a few old Fleets. Furthermore, while the Chaos Plague Fleet is technically a coalition of vessels from the followers of all four Chaos Gods (I know, the name is confusing), one can also play a fleet consisting of ships dedicated to one of the four Gods alone, so that brings the total fleet number to 14.
On to the fleets: I will be using the ship cards instead of miniatures to present each vessel. A ship card divides the ships into multiple blocks separated into three sections: high, and low. For our purpose, know only this: each block can be hit and can take "armour saves" to mitigate the damage; but if destroyed, the ship must suffer the corresponding consequences.
The mid-section is usually where the weapons are placed; a ship may have range weapons in her fore, boardside (as well as port side, the number of gun-arrays is the same for board and port-side) and aft. Fore guns can only shoot straight, aft guns can only shoot backwards, and boardside guns can only shoot sideways.
The Imperial Navy
The Empire ships are, as to be expected, the middle-of-the-road ships. They have average speed, capable of using both sail and the slower oar for locomotion, and has guns, lots of guns. The Wolfships, in particular, is the latest and most powerful ship-of-the-line design in the Imperial arsenal. The Wargalleys are one of the oldest ships in the Imperial fleet, commonly used for patrolling the Empire's many rivers. In the Sea of Blood campaign, the Empire received two 'new' independent ships: the Hell-hammer and the Ironfist, both Wargalleys with a twist.
The Hell-hammer was the brainchild of the eccentric alchemist Sigismund the Mad, who laboured many nights to find a fitting bearer for the massive Hell-Hammer cannon -- a siege cannon so huge that it could not be put to land, lest the horses could not pull it forward, nor could the land supports its weight and swallow it, nor could any contraption designed to house the body of the cannon withstand the recoil without shattering into pieces. Sigismund took inspiration from the Dwarfs and placed the cannon upon a Wargalley, and though the ships itself could barely keep afloat and cannon's firing would hurl the ship backwards on water , sometimes running the ships around in the process, the Emperor was nevertheless impressed and commission for several dozen squadrons of Hell-Hammers to be built.
The Ironfist was the second adoptation of the Wargalley, mounted with mortars, they are capable of inflicting damage to enemy positions from afarwhile remaining behind the protection of larger friendly ships.
or 'A Comprehensive Study Over the History of his Majesty's Glorious Imperial Fleets, How the Traitorous Asserted Dominance Over the Land and the Imperial Efforts to Counter It'
The Empire, despite being the poster order faction of the setting, is not a major naval power. The Empire is a largely land-based nation, a good portion of her ships sail the many rivers that where the lifeblood of commerce flew. Yet for some time in history, imperial fleets did cross the world's Great Oceans.
In the early days of the Empire, the lands of the Wasteland (then Westerland) and the present-day Nordland had not been incorporated into imperial rule. With Sigmar's ascension, the many Counts of the Empire were seemingly content to enjoy the fruit of their forebear's labours. That is, until 501 IC
, when Emperor Sigismund II's efforts to expand the Empire result in the capture of Marienburg. With the former Westerland King made a Baron of the Empire, the territory was formally incorporated. Marienburg was built upon the ancient Elven ruins of Sith Rionnasc'namishathir by King Marius of Jutonsryk, which sat on the mouth of the Reik, and was the natural exit point for any imperial ships into the ocean. (WFRP2E: Sigmars Heirs p20)
, Norscan raids against Marienburg began and sacked the city for the first time, prompting the Emperor at the time to order Westerland coastal nobles to assemble fleets for defense, using Altdorf as an important base of operation. Thus did the imperial navy take shape. After the newly raised imperial navy heavily battered the norscan invaders in 765
, the baron of Westerland signed treaty with several Norscan tribes and stopped the raiding. Over time, however, the Keepers of the Coast became a ceremonial position, being passed on inapt and corrupt noblemen, and the navy was neglected (WFRP2E: Shades of Empire p73).1109
saw the norse raider Snorri Half-Hand sack and occupy Marienburg, the baron of Westerland held out on the keep on Rijek's Isle. The norscan God Stormfels was introduced into Marienburg's religious circle as a result. Norscan occupation ended when the Black Plague hit the Empire in 1111
as they abandoned the city (Sold down the River p21 & Heirs p20). Marienburg was sacked for a third time in 1360
after Ottilia of Talabecland declared herself unilaterally the Emperoress, and the Empire began to fracture, leaving the city defenceless (Sold p17,21 & Heirs p21.). The imperial fleet did see further development at this time, however, as the Prince of Altdorf commissioned a new navy to patrol the rivers in order to counter influences from rival claimants (WFRP4E: Rulebook p273).
When Arnout van Daalen, heir to the barony of Westerland, married the daughter of Duc Simon Beaumanoir de Mousillon in 936
, the two realms cemented an alliance against the bretonni dukedom of L'Anguille. This act proved to be disastrous for Marienburg when she was seized by the duke of L'Anguille in 1545
. The city would not be retaken by the Empire forces until 1597
, not by sea, but with an army under the Grand Duke of Middenland (Sold p21 & WFRP4E: Sea of Claws p10). In 1850
the Norscans resumed their raids once more, sacking Marienburg for the 4th time (Sold p21, Heirs p21 & Claws p10.). However, the fortunes of the Imperial fleet would raise after the series of disasters.
The so-called 'Wizard's War' spred to Marienburg from Middenheim in 1980
; though prosecution of Wizards rose to feverish heights across the fractured Empire, Marienburg's fraternity of Burgomeisters offered them protection (Sold p21). When Baron Henryk's College was founded in 1947
, perhaps none could foreseen the Department of the Maritime Arts Magical would be hosted within its walls in 2310
; The mythstical navigational skills that came from the department further augmenting the fleets capabilities (Sold p93 & Claws p14). By the turn of the second millennium, Marienburg fleets began exploring the world after 'acquiring' ship-building techniques from Tileans centuries prior (Shades p74).
Source: Shades of Empire page 75.
One key chain of events that contributed to Marienburg's rise were the empowerement of the wealthy merchant classes. The Burgomeisters first gained political strength in 1604
when they threatened Baron van Buik with the foreclosure of his palace over debt, and gained seats at the city council (Sold p18,19,21). When Countess Magritta was denied her right to the throne of the Empire by the Grand Theogonist in 1977
, imperial and nobility rule further broke down in the city, giving greater power to the merchants (Empire 4E p8). The city was spared devastation during Mannfred's invasion in 2132
when High Elven mages who had recently arrived with a trading party assisted in the city's defense. This led to the signing treaty of Amity and Commerce between the baron of Westerland and the Elves of Ulthuan in 2150
(Sold p19,80 & White Dwarf #140 p16) and the exlusive trade deal brought tremendous fortune to the merchant class.
The Westerland navy had faced many foes in their service under the Empire's banner, such as the sinking of the entire Carroburg Fleet under the Wolf Emperor in 2251
(Shades p75), the decimation of her merchant fleet by High Elf Sea Lord Aislinn as they docked at port in 2344
(High Elves 8E p31), as well as their fierce engagement against the ramshackled fleet of Grom the Paunch in 2424
, before a storm blew the Greenskins into the west (Orcs & Goblins 4E p10,12,15).
The Middenheim Fleet Battling the Imperial Fleet
When Baron van der Maacht of Westerland died valiantly in battle in the Great War Against Chaos, he left no clear heirs, leading to a succession crisis that threatened to spark another civil war. Emperor Magnus the Pious elected to appoint no new baron to the Westerland and left its rule to the Burgomeisters. Magnus then renamed the aging Reikland Fleet to the First Fleet, and the advanced Westerland navy the Second Fleet (Sold p19 & Shades p75). The Directorate -- the most prominent of Marienburg's city council members -- effectively purchased the Second Fleet from the insolvent Emperor Leopold after dealing with their own pirate problems using militias in 2378
(Shades p76, Sold p19 & Heirs p22). 2399
saw the merchant houses enact their own tax excise, further eroding imperial control over the city, before finally, the city declared independence in 2429
. After the failed invasion by Emperor Wilhelm, the Westerland was offcially recognised by the Empire (Empire 7E 15 & 31).
The seccession of Westerland proved disastrous for the Imperial Navy, as it had just lost all of their seafaring vessels as well as the largest port to the oceans. Nordland was by this point, still a backwater province with no worthy ports to support a blue-water navy, and thus was the Empire effectively landlocked. In 2462
, an attempt to establish seaports in Neues Emskrank in Nordland and Salkalten in Ostland was met with failure through poor planning and sabotage, meanwhile Marienburg expanded her reach to Lustria and the far east (Sold p20,21). Emperor Leopold was forced to pay extorbitant tolls to Marienburg in 2483
in order to set the Imperial Fleet onto the oceans once more (WFRP4E p275). In 2495
The Imperial Admiralty had to be established in order to control the fast-growing Reikland First Fleet (Shades p76).
It wasn't until after the event known as the Turmoil that the Empire redoubled her martime efforts. Count Theoderic Gausser was tasked by Emperor Karl Franz to establish the Nordland Fleet late in 2512
, with Dietershafen being the primary base of the fleet, and a second, more secretive, base at Norden. The Duke of Carroburg, after losing the province of Middenland to the Todbringers of Middenheim, began secretly building the Third Fleet, while Oleg von Raukov of Ostland too proposed his province's own Third Fleet to deal with norscan raiders (Shades p73,83 & Claws 29).Source: Sea of Claws page 29.
Of course, Gausser's ambitions would not come to fruition as he would lose his treasury to Gelt when he tried to annex Hochland, and his plan to take Marienburg with his new navy were interrupted by the coming of the End Times. Oleg von Raukov too would perish during the onslaught of Chaos Lord Mortkin, his fiery wrath against the Norscans snuffed out by the Norscan's cold hatred.
I had pondered on the format of this article as I did not -- and still not -- feel that the mechanics of a Warhammer naval combat game is relevant to the forum as of now. I figured it would enrich the article to expand on the topic: what are the naval histories of these forces? How do they operate in the lore? What are some key events in the developement of each nation's maritime technologies? I went on to combine infomation from Man O' War with other official games-workshop publications/products to, hopefully, present a rounded look at each fleet's backstory. As I researched and gathered more info for the task, it proved increasingly more difficult to fit all relevant info into one post -- hence the focus on the Empire for now. However, as I do intend to dwell into other navies across the world in the future, I may start merging several races when appropriate, such as those of the Dwarfs and the Norse Dwarfs (which have less written about them compared to Barak Varr).
Missing units and other possible stuff (work in Progress)
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Indeed it was a long story of Marienburg, but how the navy operates after Marienburgs cessiation I haven't read. If its there and I overlooked it for some dumb reason I am sorry
That aside I do which WFB would have explored naval matters more. Its a great and interesting thing. And to be frank the importance of oceans for economical, logistical, military and socital impacts is underrepresented in most fantasy genres anyway. Likley because in our modern post-locomotive era land travel became much more efficent and the dominant form of travel in every day life. And authors write what they know.
For example I am from germanys north sea coast and historicly and culturaly this region was much more connected to the British Isles (hence we drink tea a lot too) or Scandinavia, than southern or central germany. Because these areas were just a few day trips by ship away, instead of multiple weeks of footslogging.
As such areas like Bavaria were more a foreign territory for my ancestors than the afromentioned oversea territories, in every day life. Which is also why I heavily dislike the stereotype of germany=bavaria. But that is besides the point
TL;DR rivers and oceans were highways and routes whose critical importance many people today rarley fathom. So I an glad that WFB incorperate navies, and even the importance of rivers for transportation, in their fluff. But I also whish that they could have expanded it further.
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on both cases the information is insufficient to derive conclusions, so i decided to leave it out. In terms of logistics, I'm expecting only the Dwarfs have enough information on logistics.
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