My B&P club hosted a demo day at my local game store over this Veteran’s Day weekend so I thought I make a quick post to share my experience.
My local group currently has around 7 serious players and we’re trying to grow so we set up an entire day to be available at the game shop to teach and demo the game. Three of us from the local group (Bryan H, Guy R and myself) coordinated to be at Geeks & Games in Oregon City on Sunday 11/11.
The store gave us two 4×6 tables and we used one for a sea demo and one for land. We weren’t really sure how many people would show up but we brought plenty of pre built 80 sea forces and 50 point land forces.
For our sea demo we had a 80 point English Bark with light cannons, 4 swivels and 12 Sea Dogs vs a French Bark with light cannons, 8 Marins without pistols and 4 Flibustiers.
Over the course of the day we were able to run 4 demo games with 5 different people with the sea battles being the most popular by a 3:1 ratio.
The store’s owner has been supportive and interested in the game since the first Kickstarter launched but we finally got him to sit down and play the demo today! It always helps a game to have an engaged and knowledgeable store owner. He started started a fire on the opposing ship on turn 1 and the fire spread and crippled poor Bryan’s Bark for the entire game.
We had some downtime between demos and since we had 2 tables and 3 people able to run the demo, we got a few small games in against each other as well. I’ve been painting my Native force since I received No Peace Beyond the Line but haven’t really got to play them yet so I was happy to get a little practice in today.
The Ruthless, Cunning and Poisoned Arrows rules that are available with the Kalinago look good but the first game I played with them I had so much trouble keeping my fatigue off since the Sound of Thunder kept triggering and nearly all the Natives have a Resolve of 6. I was constantly losing actions to fatigue and Rally tests. I switched over to the Westo faction this time which still provides the Ruthless rule. Ruthless can really help you keep your hit count up and you need to get a lot of hits when you’re shooting at models in a ship! I kind of dismissed the Warrior Musketeers when I first started putting Native lists together just because of their Slow Reload, but after watching those Europeans save over and over again while I shot volley after volley of arrows over the sides of their ships, I have to say having a few solid musket shots through a game is extremely welcome.
My friend Bryan and I squeezed another naval game while Guy was running the land demo. Bryan ran a 100 point Ostend Privateer Sloop vs 3 Canoe of Westo Natives. After building our forces we were very surprised to see that in spite of running a larger ship and some swivel guns, he outnumbered my models as well! The native models aren’t as cheap as they look, especially if you add on some of the fun extras that make them interesting.
His swivels kept peppering me but those saves on 6’s really helped and I dedicated my Fortune to reroll bad save rolls. The crucial moment in the game came when my commander’s Warrior unit used their sidearm muskets to take a point blank Ruthless shot with the Great Warrior bonus. With 4 as their target number they landed plenty of ranged hits, then they boarded the Sloop and attacked with their heavy melee weapons (again looking for 4’s, thanks to Ruthless). The extra resolve test from War Cry ensured the last fatigue needed to entirely clear the front deck before the Great Warriors jumped back into their canoe.
Once the natives get that fatigue train rolling, they can do pretty well. But if you’re only shooting with bows, it can take a long time to actually get any kills and start that process of layering on fatigue every turn.
A standard unit has a save target of 7. Give a -1 bonus from the ship’s hard cover in addition to the -3 bonus from the bows and that means that they’re only dying on 1’s and 2’s. That can get discouraging. You have to keep those volleys going! I was so thankful for the Paddles trait so I could move my canoes without worrying about devoting models that task.
When I was at the shop the previous night dropping off terrain, I ran into Chris and Jeff who had come for the demo but came on the wrong day! They made the long drive again the next day and played through a full naval demo. They were very accomplished gamers and they jumped straight into the deep end and wanted to explore the advanced maneuvers, all the different weaponry and every little corner of the game! They are working on opening a game shop of their own and were exploring the possibility of carrying Blood & Plunder. One ship ended up getting pounded over the course of the game but they had a great time and it looks like they will be carrying and promoting Blood & Plunder at their new shop in Salem, Oregon. This connection alone made the day worth it for me.
Chris also won our Dutch starter box giveaway and has already expressed interest in participating in our next campaign!
This was the only demo I handled by myself and I found it a rather demanding role. Trying to lay out the basics of the game in just a few minutes, then get them playing and explain relevant rules as they came up was pretty intense! The full game lasted about 4 turns and took around 40 minutes.
Here are a few things I noticed/learned while teaching the game:
- Be very clear about how each unit can only activate once per hand of cards. I noticed nearly everyone taking the demo over the course of the day kept wanting to activate their favorite units multiple times. Making this clear can avoid confusion.
- It’s difficult for people to grasp the ships movement “schedule.” It’s assumed that moving is an action that units can perform. New players kept wanting to move their ship 3 times on that Club card to get into position for a good cannon shot.
- Weapon variety is enjoyed but is also confusing. The stats are the unit cards were very helpful for people, but the rules surrounding the cannons, swivels and pistols had to be verbally conveyed without any clear support. If I was to do it again, I might remove all pistols and swivels from the game and only use muskets and cannons to keep things simpler. It’s difficult to balance the variety vs ease of learning. I want to show off all the variety and interesting things the game has to offer, but you can’t hope to convey that all in a 45 minute demo. I’m thinking of keeping the demo forces a little simpler next time, but have other interesting forces set up on another board which I can briefly summarize their unique abilities after the demo is complete. That way they would have some experience to help them appreciate what the other forces had to offer.
- Barks are excellent demo ships since they function like a full fledged ship, they carry cannons, have two decks and provide standard cover (instead of hard cover) so you don’t have to immediately explain no cover/standard cover/hard cover differences.
- People are always interested in the “minimum buy in package” and they’re always impressed at the low barrier of entry once they get their answers. It seems like everyone in my area has seriously played Warhammer at some point and have ended up spending $400+ just to feel like they can participate in the community. Thanks to Firelock game for designing a flexible game and keeping that buy in level fairly low. For $140 you can get a starter box, a rule book and a Bark that will provide you with enough material to have a ton of fun and fully participate in the local community.
As the day came to a close, Bryan and Guy played a final 100 point game of French Militia vs English Militia. The Elusive French ended up tearing the English apart as they crossed the open beach and tried to take the blockhouse but the English got off a couple effective Drilled volleys before being driven back.
It took a good piece of time to setup, be present for the demo and tear everything down, but it was a great experience and we hope we got a few more people into the game.
I recommend you run a demo in your area! If you do, here are a couple pieces of advice.
- Keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm people with too many rules at once.
- Make it pretty. Just the sight of a nicely built table with some pretty terrain and a well painted ship will catch gamers’ attention.
- Advertise widely. Guy is a great boon to our local club as he has connections in several different local gaming communities. He posted info on our event in many different online gaming groups and while we didn’t get tons of people through the door, the most seriously interested players came from that effort.
- Make it fun. These small games can tend to be dramatic and/or lopsided. Just play up the drama. A nasty critical hit or a lucky shoot test on turn 1 can basically decide a small game but you can do a bit of storytelling around that moment to make it really entertaining.
- Get some help if you can. You could do this alone, but having 3 of us there all day was really nice.
Thanks for reading! Go out and setup a demo day and get more people into this game!
If you’ve run a demo, how does your experience compare to mine? What advice would give to someone preparing to run a demo?