Codex Leviathan - A Strategy Primer for Battlefleet Gothic: Leviathan

By Armin Aubermann 21 Jul 2016 11

With the recent release of Battlefleet Gothic: Leviathan (BFG:L) a decade long dream of mine has come true: having all of the good about the sci-fi spaceship table-top game, without any of the drawbacks: no setup times, no big expenditures... no problems!

So far, it seems Leviathan is a very (!) faithful conversion of the source material/ruleset, and because the UI especially is a bit finicky, it can be extremely harsh on newcomers if you don't know what you're doing.

But fear not – as a veteran player (although whether I'm actually any good is still up for debate) I've been asked to put together some pointers to help you on your war and prepare you for the battles ahead.

Setting up the Fleet

It really pays off to put in the extra time and effort at the beginning of a match and check your opponent’s fleet cards, the direction they are heading and what the battlefield has to offer in the celestial body department. As games usually only lasts 4-6 rounds, a missed opportunity for a broadside can really hurt your chances to be victorious in the end. Mind the firing arcs of your fleet and the enemy ships, and plan ahead. Also use the camera settings (top right corner) to try the overhead view in the set-up – it really helps a lot.

Pick your Poison

Speaking of firing arcs, for the initial phase the Imperial Navy (IN) is stuck with using either Nova Cannons (NC) or Torpedoes for 1-2 rounds. Therefore it is important to understand these weapons and see what suits your playstyle best:

The NC is a rare area of effect (AOE) weapon and has a ridiculous range and destructive power. However the inaccuracy caused by deviation, the forced minimum range and the fact that being crippled and many 'Special Orders' prevents you from firing can be major drawbacks.

Torpedoes however, when used correctly, can really wreak havoc in your enemy’s ranks and they get to move twice - in both your and your enemy's ordnance turn. They aren’t effected as much by Special Orders, and overall are far superior. Their only drawback is that you need to use the “Reload” special order after your initial salvo.


Special Orders and You

Special Orders (SO) can have a strong impact on your encounters, but they also come with consequences which need to be understood:

“All ahead full!” - This helps you to get to mission objectives sooner or reach disengagement to prevent loss of ships. A basic speed boost, but it comes at the cost of firepower.

“Come to a new heading” - This is especially useful for getting your slow and cumbersome cruisers into range (and firing arc) of elusive enemy ships. This also reduces your firepower, as the ageing targeting matrices of your weapons are a bit unreliable under the prolonged stress caused by these special orders.

“Burn Retros!“ - This may sound silly on paper but it is my favourite Order in the first round of combat – I'll explain more about this later.

“Lock on” lets you re-roll each missed shot that round but prevents you from doing a turn movement, which is typically used to keep enemy ships within your firing arc.

“Brace for Impact!” is the BFG equivalent of a big red Panic button, and is very much a double edged sword. Getting a saving throw for each point of damage you are about to receive can save you from assured annihilation, but it comes at the cost of not being able to issue Special Orders and reduced firepower for the next round. You have to make the choice between living to fight another round, or taking it on the chin so that you're armed and ready to dish it right back.

Tools of the Trade

Your main weapons are going to be either Lances or Weapon Batteries, and both play totally different from each other. Lances are powerful, very accurate laser weapons that hit other ships on a 4+ dice result regardless of armour ratings, blast markers, distance or anything else. The drawback is that they are very 'rare', and power hungry, so you won't be able to field many of them on a single ship.

Weapon batteries on the other hand are (usually) plentiful, but weaker as they can be affected by a lot of modifiers. Does a broadside from a Dominator with 12 dice sound really powerful? Yeah? Well hold your horses sunshine; the enemy is further away than 150 km so reduce that dice pool to 8. Wait, it's an escort and not a Capital Ship? Reduce the pool to 6. Oh is that a blast marker that I spot there between you and the enemy? Too bad here are your 2 dice. Have fun with that.

Weapon batteries are also affected by enemy armour ratings… so usually you have to throw a 5+ (or 6+ against heavy armoured IN Cruiser prows, Kraken Escorts, Space Marines etc...). Having a 33% or even 16% chance per dice to inflict damage verses the 50% chance that Lances have makes the choice a lot less difficult, am I right? Well maybe... but it's crucial you time the use of your weapon batteries so you get the maximum impact from them. Pay close attention to the battlefield and the positioning/travel direction of your ship.

For your planning leisure, I have jutted down the Gunnery table (which has been shamelessly lifted from the Tabletop game so it might not be 100% accurate).

BFG Gunnery Table

Weapon Battery gunnery table

Formations For Thought

Focus fire, focus fire and again focus fire! Remember the fact that shields regenerate each round and crippled ships (Ones that have half of their hull points lost) have reduced offensive capabilities, which can be further reduced by Special Orders. I haven’t found the balance between finishing off my first target or crippling another target but usually I tend to try crippling as many capital ships as possible first.

Here are some formation pointers that may help you:

Breaktrough Formation

Breaktrough Formation

This is the perfect time to issue a Lock On special order and try to bring as many enemies in broadside range as possible. Even better if you manage to cut down the middle of the enemy fleet so you can fire both broadsides. This approach heavily favours Lunar, Gothic and (to a lesser extent) Lance Dauntless and Dominator cruisers. Lunar and Gothic use Lances so they aren’t that much troubled by abeam targets while a close approach with Dominators at least alleviates a few lost dice against abeam targets through close range firing. The drawback here is that the Fleet will be in a bad follow up position after the breakthrough.

Flanking Formation

Flanking Formation

With this I tried (and failed) to have my fleet in a formation that is at a perfect right angle to the enemy. Having the enemy closing in is much more favourable for your Weapon Gunnery chances and therefore this pretty much favours every cruiser with batteries, especially Tyrant and Dominator classes. Also, the resulting positioning of both fleets after a broadside is superior to the breakthrough formation as you often can have another go with minimal adjustments to the heading.

Torpedos everywhere

Torpedo Time

This is my favourite approach currently in the Tyranid campaign. The Tyranid Escorts are surprisingly vulnerable against massed torpedoes and 2 salvos can sometimes nearly wipe them out completely due to the fact that they usually move in tightly packed formation. To maximise this strategy I try to start with my fleet as far back as possible and in the direct approach line of the enemy. In the first round I use Burn Retros! to have my fleet stand still and maximise distance between the fleets to have another salvo if possible before the inevitable clash later on. The second round is used for Reload, and rinse repeat, The third round is either another salvo or more often a mop up action with Lock On enabled as the fleets are by now interlocked and at each other’s throats.

Other General Tips

Use strike craft defensively! It is better to cancel the Tyranid’s boarding torpedoes and strike craft with fighters than going out with bombers. Tyranids can and will overwhelm you as their speciality means they will have more strike craft out than you do, so try and neutralise that advantage as much as possible.

Know your enemy! In smaller battles the Tyranids often do not have a Hive Ship included in their fleet, so they are acting on basic instinct. It helps to know what the specific rules for the Hive Ship are.

Disengage early! For every 150 points lost in combat a fleet marker is destroyed on the campaign map afterwards. So try to minimise your losses to prevent losing on the Campaign meta-game.

Use the in-game codex! It may be a bit cumbersome but it can help you with most things.


That is it for today. I hope I could enlighten you a little bit and hope you can now use your fleet a bit more efficiently with this. Most importantly have fun blasting that alien scum out of space. If you have any other questions feel free to shot them at me in the discussions below.

This has been a guest article from forum user Private Prinny. While the article subject was commissioned, the content may not necessarily reflect the views of Pocket Tactics or Wargamer Ltd (we want the Tyranids to win). For the purposes of this article usual editorial policy has been relaxed.



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