The game name coming from "Man of war", it dealt with the sea battles of the Warhammer world; each player controlling a fleet of model ships. The game typically used a small number of models with from half a dozen to a dozen models per player. with each model having a corresponding template to record damage, crew levels, and outbreaks of fire, among other bookkeeping activities. In this regard, the game mechanics proved some limiting factors, even if innovations were present, like alternate unit activation.
Ships were designated as belonging to one of 3 categories. The largest and most powerful ships were the Man O'Wars (MOW). These command ships operated singularly and usually carried the fleet Admiral and Wizard (if available). Man O'Wars were the most powerful ships in the game and they could typically take heavy punishment before sinking. Ships of the Line (SOL) varied in size and firepower and were operated in squadrons of 3. One ship in the squadron was designated as a "flagship" and the other ships in the squadron had to stay within 6" of it to receive orders or else they would become a "straggler" and suffer various penaltites. Independents (IND), are similar to Man O War classed ships in that they operated singularly, but they were much less powerful and tended to be unique in some way, making their classification as a SOL less appropriate.
By the time the supplements had been published Man O'War supported the following fleets:
The boxed game included twelve plastic models (rowed galleys), sufficient to learn the basics of play in scenarios between "pirates" and "the Empire", but the other ships in the Empire's fleet and those for the other races were white metal models. These came in small boxes rather than blister packs. Each box had the metal parts for the model ship (or ships - smaller ships came three to a box) and printed sails and flags with plastic masts (as applicable). These miniatures are now considered "out of print". The boxed game contained land features in the form of printed card shapes as well as the printed templates.
The game was removed from store shelves in 1995, but still available through mail order in selected countries, like the US. It reached a final "out of print" status in 1998. It seems that miniature molds had worn out because of the high number of duplicates; the Bretonnian Corsairs were the first missing reference.
Two boxed supplements were published Plaguefleet and Sea of Blood. They were designed along with the boxed game, but released later to give the impression of an expanded product line.
Plaguefleet included the cards and rules necessary to field the fleets of the forces of Chaos; ships for followers the 4 known Chaos gods (Khorne, Slaanesh, Tzeentch and Nurgle), Skaven and Chaos Dwarf ships.
Sea of Blood added only one more fleet (that being the Norse) but expanded the setting with rules and cards for "Sea Monsters" (Triton, Sea Elemental, Kraken, Sea Dragon, Megaladon, Promethean, Black Leviathan, Gargantuan and Behemoth) that could be included with any fleet and Fliers adding an aerial dimension to battles. Rules for another two types of Empire ship, a Dwarf "Dreadnought" and shore forts were included.
Following the release of these supplements a series of articles which provided additional rules for Man O'War were published in issues the Citadel Journal. Number 6 (of the 2nd series) provided rules for an Undead fleet though no miniatures were ever modeled by Citadel.
Dwarf ships were steam powered ironclads, they also had submarines and balloons. High Elf ships were fast maneuverable sail powered ships. By comparison Dark Elves mainly used great sea creatures as the basis for their "ships" - their largest ship, the "Black Ark" could house several monster-ships within for protection.