Battlefleet Gothic enroute to the Cadian Sector

Battlefleet Gothic is a vast fleet of Imperial Navy vessels charged with the the protection of the Gothic Sector within the Segmentum Obscurus. Battlefleet Gothic forms a component part of the Bastion Fleets which make up the massive Battlefleet Obscurus, as do its neighbours, Battlefleets Tamahl and Odessa, as well as the more distant Battlefleets Cadia, Agripinaa, and Scarus, among others. The Gothic Sector lies adjacent to the great Warp rift known as the Eye of Terror and was the location where Abaddon the Despoiler's 12th Black Crusade, colloquially remembered as the Gothic War, was fought from 139.M41 until 160.M41. The Forces of Chaos were defeated by the Imperium during that conflict, but Abaddon managed to seize several of the Blackstone Fortresses which he would use to eke out a more successful conclusion over 800 standard years later when he launched the 13th Black Crusade in 999.M41.


Segmentum Obscurus

Departmento Cartigraphicae Map of the Segmentum Obscurus

The Segmentum Obscurus is the region of Imperial space to the galactic north of Terra. This Segmentum of the Imperium of Man is the home of the vast Warp Storm and Warp Rift called the Eye of Terror, the primary home for the Forces of Chaos in the Milky Way Galaxy. The Imperial Navy's Segmentum fleet headquarters is located at Cypra Mundi, which also serves as the central headquarters of the Imperial military's Segmentum Command. The Segmentum Obscurus is the area of the Imperium most often under deadly threat by attacks from the Eye of Terror and is also the site for all of Abaddon the Despoiler's Black Crusades. As such, it currently is home to the majority of the Imperium's armed forces, which were most recently mobilised to a state of readiness not seen since the Horus Heresy as a result of the 13th Black Crusade in 999.M41.

The constant turmoil surrounding the Cadian Gate requires the fleets of Battlefleet Obscurus to be far more active than many other Segmentum battlefleets. The whole sector exists in an almost perpetual state of readiness, and as such the demands on manpower and resources are huge. Vast numbers of new, inexperienced Imperial Navy ratings frequently have to be drawn up to replace those lost in the constant fighting. However, those who survive the harsh first years of military service around the Cadian Gate rapidly mature to become some of the most capable leaders in the Imperium. As with all highly militarised zones, it is important for the Imperial Navy to maintain substantial reserves of vessels around the Eye of Terror, ready to deploy as reinforcements should the need arise. Whilst it is possible to keep the vessels themselves ready in this manner, Battlefleet Obscura simply does not possess the manpower to keep reserve crews stationed aboard these vessels as well. Instead, whole orbital shipyards are filled with rows of silent, inactive vessels, often representing classes of warship now outdated or scarce.

In times of great need, these ships will be brought into service and crewed with ratings from destroyed or crippled vessels or even with hastily mustered new recruits, meaning the crew is unlikely to have any familiarity with their new vessel. A posting to such a reserve fleet is thus considered an unnerving duty, forcing a rating to enter deep into an unfamiliar vessel which may have lain dormant for centuries. Much superstition surrounds such fleets and perhaps because of this, unusual behaviour of both crew and vessel is rather commonplace. Reserve fleets are used only reluctantly by the Imperial Navy, and only in the most desperate of circumstances, but an invasion the size of Abaddon's 13th Black Crusade without doubt qualifies as exactly that -- the most dire of circumstances, the most desperate of times.

In a reserve fleet, all vessels are prone to certain unexpected events, such as mass panic or even mutiny amongst the crew, inexplicable noises, sensor readings and sightings or disconcerting setbacks and failure of machinery. Against Chaos fleets, where the followers of the Dark Gods are able to exert their influence to further unsettle their already nervous opponents, unforeseen events can be even more devastating.

Gothic War

Departmento Graphicae Map of the Gothic Sector

Abaddon the Despoiler launches his 12th Black Crusade

The Gothic Sector's most important attribute was that it was the location of the six known Blackstone Fortresses, the powerful xenos artefacts originally created by the Old Ones to serve as weapons against the Necrons during the War in Heaven over 65 million standard years ago. When Mankind re-discovered the worlds of the Gothic Sector during the Great Crusade, the Imperium discovered the Blackstone Fortresses and eventually transformed them into Imperial naval bases. During the Gothic War, the capture of these fortresses would become Abaddon's prime objective and he would manage to wrest control over three of the six known to exist. He used their powerful xenos technology to strip one planet of its atmosphere and transform another star into a supernova that destroyed its surrounding planetary system. Unknown to the Imperium, Abaddon managed to escape into the Warp with two of the three Blackstone Fortresses the Forces of Chaos had captured and they would eventually play a pivotal role in the 13th Black Crusade he launched against the Imperium 800 standard years later.

The 12th Black Crusade, better known as the Gothic War, had been preceded by the unleashing of a catastrophic Warp Storm on the Gothic Sector in 142.M41 that soon cut it off from both outside communications and Imperial reinforcements, leaving the defence of the sector to those Imperial ground and naval forces already present. Battlefleet Gothic, the primary Imperial Navy force in the sector, was forced to fight over the following two decades against a series of Chaos warfleets numbering from eight to twenty led by varying Chaos Warmasters, including Abaddon the Despoiler of the Black Legion. The Imperial forces also had to defend against Eldar, Ork and human pirates who sought to take advantage of the situation to benefit themselves. The death toll ran into the billions as scores of worlds were ravaged by the onslaught of the Forces of Chaos as Abaddon sought to seize the Blackstone Fortresses.

In 151.M41 the Warp Storms blanketing the sector finally began to abate as the grip of the Ruinous Powers was weakened following several Imperial victories. Imperial reinforcements, including detachments from several Space Marine Chapters, were rushed into the Gothic Sector by Segmentum Command. Following an alliance against the Forces of Chaos by the Imperium and elements of the Craftworld Eldar who feared Chaos' acquisition of several of the Talismans of Vaul (Blackstone Fortresses), Abaddon's own warfleet was pursued into the Schindelgeist System where the final great battle of the war ended in a famous victory for the Imperial Navy. By 160.M41 the situation had stabilised and the Gothic Sector was cleansed of the remaining Chaos, Ork and pirate forces.

13th Black Crusade

Departmento Graphicae Sector Locations Map of the Eye of Terror

In 999.M41, war came without warning to the Belis Corona Sub-sector, and the opening moves by the Forces of Chaos saw large number of plague-ridden Space Hulks entering Imperial space. Though many were intercepted by the Space Marines and destroyed, some managed to escape the Astartes' attention. Some of these foul vessels of contagion found their way into the wider Belis Corona Sector, spreading their disease and pestilence amongst the masses throughout the sector. Along with the people of the adjacent Agripinaa Sector, they were some of the first to bear witness to the rise of hordes of infectious, undead zombies that threatened billions of people on many of the Imperial worlds within the Belis Corona Sector. This plague was later named the Curse of Unbelief.

While the defence of the Cadian Gate from the Forces of Chaos continued to go badly upon the surface of many worlds in the Cadian System, in particular Saint Josmane's Hope and Solar Mariatus, the war in space was fought more on the Imperium's terms. The Cadian System had been the focus of Abaddon's primary fleet actions, and the Imperium's fortunes there changed from day to day. The situation was highly fluid and the Chaotic naval forces found themselves stretched to exploit the victories they had won.

A fleet the size of which has not been seen since the end of the Gothic War eight standard centuries earlier had been dispatched from Cypra Mundi, and arrived at Belis Corona in preparation for a massive Imperial counter-offensive into the Cadian Gate. The arrival of this vast armada allowed those Imperial vessels that had been fighting continuously since the beginning of the invasion a brief respite. Severely depleted ship’s companies were bolstered through indiscriminate press-ganging, and hasty repairs and refits were undertaken on those vessels most in need of them.

The Imperial reinforcements were split into battlegroups, each tasked with bolstering the defences in a specific sector of the Segmentum Obscurus. The regions around the Eye of Terror encompass many millions of cubic light years, and only by the concentrated application of resources in those areas in most desperate need could the Imperial Navy hope to make inroads and slow, stall, and eventually repel the Chaos warfleets plaguing the region. A small number of Imperial Navy ships won a decisive victory when they managed to hold back a larger Chaos Fleet at the Ilthirium Belt, buying time for Battlefleet Agripinaa to arrive and allow the remaining ships to retreat. This course of action however, left the Agripinaa Sector open to invasion and soon the worlds of this sector and the Belis Corona Sub-sector was transformed into nightmarish realms of plague and pestilence.

Lord Admiral Quarren, the commander of Imperial Navy assets in the Cadian System, had succeeded time and time again in defeating Chaos warfleets many times the size of his own, allowing reinforcements to enter the fray around the Fortress Worlds of the Cadian System. At the same time, a massive influx of reinforcements in the Scelus System of the Cadian Sector had penetrated the Chaos blockade of ships and minefields, and in the Belis Corona System of the Belis Corona Sub-sector the entirety of Battlefleet Gothic had stormed into the fray. Infernal mines sewn across the battlefront accounted for the destruction of only a few vessels in the fleet, and now Battlefleet Gothic had the opportunity to avenge the losses it had suffered in the Gothic War at the hands of Abaddon the Despoiler's own warfleet. If the relentless momentum of the invasion could be slowed for just a short time, then the defenders on the ground would have a real chance of victory. The Imperial Navy had gambled all on this sector-wide retaliation and should it fail, then Battlefleet Obscurus would be so weakened that only the redeployment of fleets across the whole Imperium would hold any hope of holding back the Despoiler's invasion.

The Imperial Navy fought with courage and vigour throughout the long campaign, ruthlessly taking the battle to the enemy wherever it encountered them. Lord Admiral Quarren was hailed a true hero of the Imperium, for his masterful defence of the space lanes was all that stood between survival, and utter defeat for the Imperium. Though Cadia remained besieged at the end of the campaign's formal operations, the Imperial Navy commanded space, and was able to offer support to beleaguered Imperial forces on the ground. The only question was whether the rapid redeployment of almost the entirety of Battlefleet Gothic, along with a substantial proportion of Battlefleet Solar, would leave the Navy dangerously overstretched elsewhere and unable to maintain the level of operations required to hold the line at the Cadian Gate.

Notable Vessels of Battlefleet Gothic

The Divine Right, flagship of Battlefleet Gothic

Notable Squadrons of Battlefleet Gothic


  • Battlefleet Gothic (Comic), "Battlefleet Gothic," Art by Colin MacNeil
  • Battlefleet Gothic Rulebook (Blue Book), pp. 92-103, 158-159
  • Codex: Chaos Space Marines (4th Edition), pg. 28
  • Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (5th Edition), pp. 116-117
  • Warpstorm (Rulebook), "Incident at Stranivar" (Short Story)
  • White Dwarf 242 (UK), "Wolf Pack" (Short Story)
  • Execution Hour (Novel) by Gordon Rennie
  • Shadow Point (Novel) by Gordon Rennie
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