Nicholas Wright, author of the fantastic Galleys & Galleons rules, is working on a supplement to cover fantasy naval combat. I’m already looking forward to pressing stout Dwarves into service and sailing the high seas with High Elves! As a youngster, I owned the old Games Workshop game Man O’War and had a Dark Elf fleet, with two of my pals fielding High Elves and Dwarves. Sadly, all my figures save one single sea serpent are lost, so I found myself browsing the web for alternatives. To my disappointment, it seems that there are not too many fantasy ships on the market.
Let’s have a quick look at what’s available.
The old Games Workshop Man O’War range was rather comprehensive, covering most of the classical fantasy races (Elves, Dwarves, Orcs) as well as several specific to the Warhammer setting, such as Skaven. There were not only ships available, but also flyers and sea monsters. Most of the miniatures looked quite nice, but unfortunately they are long out of production. They can be bought second hand, for example on ebay, but you have to be prepared to pay a rather hefty price. The ships seem to be scaled at something like 1/1200, with a battleship being about 50mm long.
The current big naval fantasy game seems to be Spartan Games’ Uncharted Seas. It offers a range of eight races, among them the indispensable Elves, Dwarves and Orcs. The ships are huge: On the web page, the scale is given as 1/600, with battleships being about 130mm long. For most purposes, this makes them incompatible with other ranges of fantasy ships.
Green Forest Trading produces a small range of fantasy ships in 1/1200. It is limited to Reptilians, Undead, Humans and Steam (presumably Dwarves). Some of the designs look a bit clunky, but the Undead rams are quite nice. I don’t know how large the ships are, but I guess they are not too small, as they are also rather pricey, costing about as much as the Spartan Games vessels.
Ral Partha Europe have a range called Empire, where they offer five different fantasy navies: Orcs, Dwarves, Elves, Humans and Isthak. The latter are pseudo-Egyptians with nice looking galleys. The ships are small compared to the others, 20-30mm long, which would probably make them about 1/2400. I have to say that this is my favorite range. The ships capture the old Man O’War aesthetics very well, are inexpensive and demand only a small gaming space.
Of course, there is always the option of converting historical ships for fantasy. Renaissance galleys and galleons would be apt for humans and the steam gunboat look that seems to be the established stereotype for Dwarves could easily be achieved by using, well, steam gunboats from Ironclad and American Civil War ranges. Incidentally, it’s interesting that the designs of fantasy ships tend to adhere strictly to the archetypes established by Man O’War: Dwarves have steam ships, Orcs have barges made from junk, Elves have sleek sailing boats.
I think there is a real gap in the market for generic, decent looking fantasy ships. While I personally would prefer 1/2400, I guess 1/1200 would be the most popular scale, as the ships would fit in with old Man O’War miniatures people might have stashed away. This could be a great opportunity for a small independent company – perhaps an enterprising sculptor will give it a try?
The Raft is making a Christmas break and will be back in the New Year. Have a merry Christmas and enjoy the holidays!