When the game first launched there were only 9 factions available. Now there are 8 factions just within the Spanish nationality and a full 50 to choose from in the new rule book!
As time and my experience permit I plan to write a series of fairly lengthy faction analysis posts. My hope is that they could be helpful to people looking to choose a nationality to buy into or just get basic overviews is what different factions have to offer.
I’ve been playing mostly Spanish since the game first came out so I’ll be starting by looking at Spain’s biggest land faction, the Spanish Militia.
I’ll start by looking at the factions special rules, then go over their available models and commanders, then finished with an overall review of their strengths and weaknesses.
The Spanish Militia faction has a single faction rule which allows them to place one unit after standard deployment using the Lay In Wait special rule.
I really like this option. It can really help to have a forward unit to either take control of an objective or harass the enemy as they advance towards a defensive position. Even if you don’t engage the enemy, it will make them be careful how they move their troops. If your opponent is aggressive, you’ll need to be careful to keep your advance unit safe from unexpected charges.
The unit has to have Hidden, Elusive or Skirmishers ability to Lay In Wait and this faction has plenty of units that fit the bill. The Milicianos Indios are a really good choice and the Lanceros can be used effectively as well. If you’re playing the La Florida version, the Warrior Archers are a solid choice since they have such a good shoot skill and they can evade an unexpected charge.
You could use a standard unit like Hostigadores or Milicianos (with Drilled swapped out for Elusive) but you’ll have to take a dedicated action to relight your matchcords. Between that dedicated action and the action needed to stand up, it can take a while to that unit going.
With no bonus for the roll for attacker, the Spanish Militia will be fighting defensively more often than not and that’s how they like it.
The Spanish Militia have a long list of possible models they can use as core units, partly due to the 3 variations possible within the faction. Let’s start by looking at the core units available to all three variations.
The Miliciano is one of the defining units for the Spanish. Inexperienced, Poorly Equipped and costing only 3 points, you can flood the board with them, but they’re arguably one of the worst units in the game. I had some good success with running an overwhelming force of these guys when I was first learning the game with my friends, but they figured out how to counter them pretty quickly and the Spanish Spam list lost some of it’s luster.
The 7 shoot skill is typical for Militia units but under the right conditions, you can occasionally really hit things with these guys. If you can fire a Drilled shot on a Diamond and use the Ruthless bonus, you’re looking at a good chance of landing some hits. That gets their base skill down to a 5 before the range penalty. At 11″ you could still hit on 7’s!
At an Inexperienced skill level, I struggle to get the Miliciano to do a lot as an attacker. With so few actions its hard to fire very often and if you’re trying to move at the same time, it’s going to take too long as those Fast Reloading Flibustiers hit you over and over again. I think Milicianos work best on defense when they can stand behind a wall or breastwork and focus on firing. If you have the luxury of defending a static position, you can equip your Milicianos with the Heavy Matchlock Musket which has the longest extended range in the game! You just can’t move and fire in the same activation.
You can upgrade their experience to Trained but then you have to decide if you’d rather just take the Hostigadore. A group of Trained Milicianos can hit a lot harder with a volley but they die just as fast.
Their biggest weakness is that 8 shoot save. They just die so easily. You’ll be taking casualties and as soon as you do, that Resolve of 6 is going to let the Fatigue start to build up and pretty soon you’ll just be rallying! Poorly Equipped is a pain but if you’re running enough units, you can try to use the Club to either reload units, or use it on your Indios or Lanceros so you don’t get that extra reload marker that takes so long to remove.
If you can get up close, the Miliciano is surprisingly good. With a melee attack and save of 6, the Miliciano outclasses the English, Dutch and French equivalent.
You can also exchange the Drilled ability for the Elusive ability which really helps them survive. If you’re using them at the Inexperienced level and don’t plan on relying on Drilled shots, this is probably worth it. Behind a breastwork they will save on 6 instead of 8 which mean’s you’ll be saving almost twice as many.
The Hostigadore vies for the same slot in Spanish lists but it has a a more aggressive flavor.
The Miliciano and Hostigadore stats are close but they have some key differences. The Miliciano is better in melee with a 6 save while the Hostigadore has a solid 6 shoot save as opposed to an 8. With a better experience level, Skirmishers and the possibility of Scout, the Hostigadore is a much better offensive unit. If you upgrade them to Veteran, Hostigadores can do some solid skirmishing.
I haven’t experimented with the Carbines/Scout combination because I like having that option of an extended range shot but it could be really good for a guerrilla style force.
I tend to use Hostigadores more often on land when I need to move, but the Miliciano can be more efficient in a ship or in a solid defensive position.
The Lancero is a uniquely Spanish unit that can be brutally effective if you can them into close quarters.
These guys have a whole handful of special rules! They can move fast through the underbrush and hit hard with that 5 melee skill and the Save penalty given by the lances, then they can fall back with Skirmisher. They’re notoriously hard to hit as well with Elusive and a 6 save.
These are some of the best guys to charge with even if you have to take a defensive volley since they have a really good save and a solid resolve. They can usually take a few hits and still accomplish their charge and still make a mess of the enemy unit.
The Miliciano Piqueros is the poor man’s Lancero and I actually haven’t ever used them! They are strictly worse than the Lancero with the Drilled Pikeman rule the only ability they have over the Lancero.
I’ll probably give them a try after we get Pikemen models.
The Caballaria is the last “core” core unit. The Spanish cavalry is the strongest mounted unit in the game. With Quick, Skirmishers and the free mounted movement, these guys can really move. If you upgrade them to Veteran and attach a Commander or Officer to them, their activation become crazy. Activate on a Spade, move 4″ for Quick, move 4″ for being Mounted, use their first action to shoot with Carbines, hopefully preventing a defensive volley, use their second action to charge (with or without pistol rerolls), then withdraw with Skirmishers, then use a command action to move another 4″ away from the enemy, hopefully finding cover. You’ve now used 6 actions attacking twice and covering 20″ without any fatigue (unless you use pistols in melee). That’s some serious crazy.
You do have to sink a lot of points into them to let them be that powerful. A unit of 6 Veterans with Carbines and an officer will end up costing 54 points (or 56 with armor).
Their biggest drawback is that they die… They have a terrible save and it’s hard to find cover with such large models. I’ve had some terrible experiences with them and some really good experiences with them. I’m still figuring out how to use them well. They’re perfect for swooping in a eliminating a struggling unit, but they cost so much, you can’t really afford to hold them back for half of the battle waiting for the enemy to come to the breaking point.
Their shoot skill of 7 makes it difficult to actually make ranged attacks without bringing the Carbines. At 5″, a pistol (without Ruthless) only hits on a 9 which is pretty lousy.
The 6 resolve is a little disappointing. If you’re cavalry become routed, remember that non-mounted units can’t pursue them if they flee melee combat. That’s basically their only advantage when it comes to survivability.
Their presence on the board makes the opposing player play differently and that’s fun. I love having the option of bringing cavalry, but it’s certainly not so strong that I bring it in every list.
The Milicianos Indios are another fun unit with a basket full of special rules. They are a support unit unless you play the Guerrilla Fighters which makes them Core units. These guys are are a good choice for your Lay in Wait faction ability. With Scouts, Skirmishers, and Quick, these guys can move almost as fast as the cavalry and effectively harass the enemy as it approaches. Their Elusive 6 ranged save makes them hard to hit but they will all die if they get into extended melee combat.
The Indios are one of the only Spanish unit without Ruthless. You can give them Ruthless with the commander, but I find these skirmishers usually get pretty beat up by the end of the game so that’s a dangerous move. With all the abilities that trigger off using high initiative cards, upgrading these units to Veteran can certainly be worth it.
I find this unit very valuable for laying down that first point or two of fatigue on the enemy that lets the rest of your Spanish force use their Ruthless bonus. With the possibility of forward placement, you can get these guys into combat on turn 1 in most cases. If your opponent is aggressive, watch out because you really don’t want Indios to get charged unless they have a really good clear shot at a defensive attack with their bows.
The Soldado is a support unit but can become a core unit using the La Florida version of the Spanish Milita. These guys outclass the Miliciano and the Hostigadore but come in at 6 cost for a trained unit.
These soldiers have standard a standard shoot skill and save for this style of unit, and their melee ability is very strong in spite of having no sidearm. With plenty of flexible options for upgrades and downgrades, these soldiers can be a great core of a Spanish force on land or sea.
These Spanish regulars are a good choice for a commander’s unit so you can get more value out of the Expertly Drilled special rule. If you have other plans for your commander and can afford the 8 extra points, an officer is a good character to add to the Soldados. That way you can reload with with the actions from your card, then perform a “dedicated action” with the command point and still get the benefit of Expertly Drilled. You can really break a unit with a dedicated Ruthless shot using Expertly Drilled. I didn’t expect much from it but it has outperformed my expectations so far.
The generic European Soldier is available as an alternative to the Soldado. If you plan to shoot from behind cover for the entire game and don’t need to get into melee combat, their 6 ranged save can make them a better choice.
If you’re running any artillery, you have the option of Marineros or Milicianos Artilleros. The Milicianos Artilleros are the cheapest of the cheap at 2 points each. If you want a little better quality, you can strip the Marineros of the pistols and get a trained unit with 5 resolve instead of 6 for only 3 points. If you want movable field guns, you’ll have to to go with the Milicianos Artilleros.
Using these units with fortifications and cannons can be effective in defensive situations on land and in amphibious games.
If you choose the La Florida version of the Militia, almost all the Native units become available as either core or support units.
I find the Warrior Archers comparable alternatives to the Milicianos Indios for a skirmish unit. If you’re running cavalry and know they will be getting your Spades, these might have the advantage over the Indios.
With a better shoot skill, they can land more hits than the Indios and their other abilities increase their life expectancy. They don’t have Elusive, but Hidden can help keep them safe from ranged fire and Evade is great for avoiding devastating charges. If you can afford it, adding a Grizzled Veteran is a nice addition for any Native unit so you can keep firing those bows and remove the resulting Fatigue. If your bringing a large enough unit, adding a Musket sidearm can be a really good option as well. Sometimes you can get stuck in a situation where your bows are just never going to work (I once fought the French Miliciens with a 6 save and Elusive. In cover they would only die on a save roll of 1!).
I’ve never put pistols on the Warrior Archers, but I suppose they could be decent with that 5 shoot skill.
The Young Warriors are also Core units for the La Florida faction, but they are more limited since you can only bring one unit for every other unit of Archers, Warriors or Warrior Musketeers you have.
The Young Warriors remind me of inexperienced Indios with a few less special abilities but a better Resolve. I prefer the Warrior Archers but bringing a small group of them along with a larger unit of Archers has worked pretty well for me.
The La Florida faction has access to the Warrior Musketeers as a Support unit but I must confess I’ve never used them with the Spanish. I get enough slow reloading with the Spanish! The Hostigadore feels enough like a Native already!
The final native unit available to La Florida is the Warrior, a very flexible and tough unit. If you equip them with bows, these Warriors are nearly identical to the Milicianos Indios except they’re better in melee combat and have more options for customizing their weaponry. I’ve been using Warrior Archers models for Warriors but I hope Firelock games gives us a new Warrior set of models soon!
The final unit available to the Spanish Militia is the Caballeria Lancero under the Cinquentaine sub faction. If you want to go crazy with cavalry, this is the way to go! With a better fight skill and shoot save than the standard Caballeria these guys can hit harder and survive longer. With a Fight skill of 5, these guys could be hitting on Ruthless 4’s while applying the +1 penalty to the targets’ save number. That could really hurt.
The “base model” is only armed with Lance, but you can pay for Brace of Pistols and Carbines if you want to completely outfit them. I haven’t played with these models yet either. The more I think about them the better they sound, but I only have 10 cavalry units painted and it would take a real time and money investment to field a Cinquentaine force larger than 100 points.
This is another unit I might not get around to actually trying until Firelock makes a model for it. Feels weird to run cavalry with lances without lances…
While all firmly land based, the Spanish have 3 very different options for how you can build your force.
The Cinquentaine would basically be a cavalry unit since you have to bring at least two groups of Caballeria Lanceros. I haven’t played this way but I can imagine it could be either a lot of fun or a glorious way to get destroyed if your horses weren’t quite fast enough and got caught out in the open.
I tried to build a theoretical 100 list and this is what I came up with. 16 bare bones Caballeria with a Grizzled Veteran and a horse for the commander. But with only 2 melee units you wouldn’t have many tactical options and you’d be at the mercy of your card draw. This variation on the Spanish Militia would probably be a lot more interesting at 200 points. If anyone has played this faction, I’d love to hear how it went.
This faction expands your Lay in Wait rule to up to half of your units and gives you the Milicianos Indios as core units with the cost of excluding all artillery and mounted units.
This is a really fun variation to play provided you have good terrain to fight in. Again, 100 points won’t let that Lay in Wait rule really shine, but something like this could be fun and effective.
You could place the Lanceros and Milicianos Indios together up front fairly close to the flank or an isolated enemy unit and possibly take it out fairly quickly before the battle really got going.
This is the faction variation is my favorite. With the Soldado as a core unit and so many Native options, I feel this faction gives you almost anything you want. You have skirmishers, brawling Lanceros, line infantry, light infantry, cavalry and artillery. What more could you want!
The flexibility can be demonstrated by the fact you can make a different 100 point La Florida force from the Spanish, Native and European Militia starter boxes!
La Florida doesn’t get any special cool rules, but it gives so many options for building an army and this is the version of the Spanish Militia I usually find myself playing.
The unit size is a little small in this 200 point list, but this is the type of army I’ve really enjoyed playing with La Florida:
The Spanish Militia has a huge selection and range of commanders! The generic commanders aren’t bad. They have the Militia standard 8″, 12″ and 16″ command range and they can take a Musket which is always helpful. Most Untested Militia commanders don’t have any abilities but the Spanish has Ruthless. Granted, most all the Spanish units have Ruthless already, but its possible to grant Ruthless to a Native unit through the commander so there’s still some value.
At 100 points I’d probably just use the Untested commander but at 200 the Experienced commander is a real possibility along with some of the historical commanders. Inspiring is a very helpful ability for any Spanish commander since so many of his troops will have a Resolve of 6. The 10 point jump between Experienced and Seasoned is a little hard to justify in most situations. High Standing isn’t a good thing but it doesn’t do a lot except keep you from attaching him to a Native unit. The extra 4″ range is nice but Well-Equipped is the only other special rule and by the time you’re ready to spend 25 points on a commander, I think you’ll have enough cards in your hand to mostly work around the Poorly Equipped rule. There are some good Historical commanders that eclipse the generic Seasoned Commander as well.
Each generic commander has the option of adding a horse for 1 point. One of the best things about this is it basically gives you a 1 point Caballeria! I don’t see a point in giving a commander a horse unless he’s attached to cavalry but when he’s attached to a mounted group, his command range effectively becomes wider since cavalry can move so far on a turn. The only issue with attaching a commander to a unit of cavalry is he only carries one pistol while the Caballeria carry a brace of pistols. This means the commander will have to use his standard melee weapon after the first shot while the rest of the troop continues to use their pistols. I’m not entirely sure that’s even legal to combine a melee weapon and a pistol attack in the same fight test…
There are a bunch of them so I’ll be brief but we have to look at the historical commanders. It’s worth noting that several of the historical commanders have nautical abilities. The Spanish Militia have no advantage over other factions at sea, but a couple of these commanders could really help out.
Andrés de Ochoa y Zárate
At 20 points Zarate is incredibly cheap for 3 command points! He has the same command range and Inspiring ability as the generic Experienced commander but that 3rd command point for an extra 5 points is huge. Commodore and Broadside make him helpful at sea as well.
He’s great value for the points but he may just die on you. Feeble gives him an increasingly likely chance to keel over dead as the game progresses. He’s so old he can’t ride a horse! If you can attach him to a unit with a solid Resolve I feel like you can mitigate this risk enough to make those 3 command points worth the 20 build points. I like this guy.
Cristobal Arnaldo de Issasi
This commander might be the perfect choice for leading a force of Guerrilla Fighters! Guerrilla Commander gives every unit with 12″ the Skirmishers ability. Elusive is a really strong ability especially if he attached to a unit with an already good save like the Hostigadore. They would be saving on 5’s which is amazing!
I’ve built around this commander and he was a lot of fun.
Francisco de Fuentes de Galarza
At only 3 more points, Galarza competes for the same position as Issasi. He has Elusive and Guerrilla Commander as well, but he trades out Ruthless and Scouts for Inspiring and Resilient. Inspiring is certainly worth a few points!
It’s not a big deal but it is a little weird to see a Spanish commander without Ruthless!
Francisco de Peralta
Peralta is another Navy/Militia hybrid commander. With Very Inspiring and Determination, this guy is probably the best Spanish commander for managing Fatigue! Determination removes Ruthless and adds Tough to all Trained and Veteran units in your force.
This commander is hard to beat and he seems worth the extra 8 points beyond the Seasoned Commander.
Mateo Alonso de Huidobro
At 30 points, these next commanders all have 3 command points. Huidobro is the best sea-going commander available to the Spanish Militia with Commodore, Broadside and the Sailors special rule, along with Ruthless.
This commander is strange because he is all about sailing, but he can only command the land-based factions. He can’t carry a musket which is a slight disadvantage.
You could make use of his Broadside ability by using him to command a fortified position in an amphibious scenario like Raze.
Gaspar de Oviedo
This guy is my favorite! With a huge command range, 3 command points and Very Inspiring, he already seems worth it but he also has Mobile which gives every friendly unit with his 16″ command range the Quick trait! That’s amazing. The Local Guide costs 6 and gives every unit within 4″ Quick.
This commander is my usual choice for a land battle of 200 points or more. He can even use a Musket or join a troop of cavalry!
Subordinate looks like an advantageous rule, but I haven’t played an army scale game where that would come into play.
Manuel Rivero de Pardal
Last and coming it at 32 points we have the Legendary commander, Manuel Rivero de Pardal.
He’s expensive but he brings a lot to a force, especially if you will be at sea. The 20″ command range is amazing, even more so because he has Very Inspiring. Well-Equipped makes him a good choice to attach to Hostigadores or Milicianos but it’s unfortunate that he can’t use a musket and he can’t ride a horse since he does carry a Brace of Pistols.
I like the special rules attached to his unique force, but I think I would tend to lean towards Oviedo over Pardal for Spanish Militia. Pardal does have a unique model so that does give him an edge though…
Depending on how you build your force, you can utilize a wide variety of battle tactics but overall, the Spanish Militia like to play defensively.
You can respond a little to the attacker’s final unit placement with your unit Laying in Wait and hopefully you can delay and/or lay down some fatigue on the enemy as he approaches your main defensive position. Ideally but the time your infantry join the fight there’s already some fatigue on the enemy to trigger your Ruthless ability. If the scenario allows, add some light fortifications to the center of the board for your infantry to line up behind and keep some cavalry or Lanceros near the center behind a building or rock so that can exploit any enemy weakness that might present itself.
If forced to play as the attacker, the Guerilla Fighters became a good option. With their expanded Lay In Wait, you can place a good portion of your force in an advantageous position and start hitting and running with your Skirmisher right away.
Avoid a long range shooting situation. With no Marksmen or Fast Reload and plenty of Poorly Equipped unit’s, most factions will beat you in a “stand and shoot” contest. Try to either build a strong fortified position to defend, or wear down your opponent a little with skirmishers then strike hard with a unit like Lanceros or Caballaria.
The Spanish Militia faction has a lot of variations and possibilities. I didn’t realize how much there was to cover when I started this article!
Equipment may be Spain’s main weakness. The Matchlock Musket is the Spanish main weapon and it’s pretty bad as far as long arms go. Combine that with Poorly Equipped core units and very few units armed with any sidearms and the weaponry situation is certainly less inspiring then a faction like the French.
Spain’s Resolve is another weakness. There are very few Spanish units with 5 Resolve. With Soldados and Lanceros as the main expception, nearly every other unit has a 6 Resolve. With the addition of characters to the game, you can shore up the Resolve weakness with Grizzled Veterans at a fairly affordable cost.
There aren’t many reasons to bring a Militia force to a sea battle, but if you do, you’ll be sorely lacking in Sailors and Artillery Crews. The Spanish Militia is certainly more at home on land although some of their commanders mitigate that weakness to a certain extent.
Flexibility is one of the things I like about the Spanish. With a host of units to pick from and 3 different ways to create a force, the Spanish can create so many different types of forces.
The wide range of model costs is an advantage when building a force. Spain has easy access to cheap and higher costed units. It doesn’t have units to out-shoot the Boucanier, but it can field a huge number of Milicianos or it can field an elite set of Soldados and Cavalry, or it can make a well rounded mixed force of mid ranged units.
Overall the model cost is slightly lower for the Spanish. The French Canadian Militia is the only other unit comparable to the Hostigadore. A trained equipped with a musket for 4 point with the possibility of an experience upgrade is a good deal!
This faction had a very strong list of commanders to choose from. Most factions have 2-4 named commanders as options and the Spanish Militia have 8 ranging from 20-32 points and covering a huge range of rules and abilities.
I’ve been playing primarily Spanish since the game came out and I still feel like there’s plenty left for me to explore, even within the Spanish Militia Faction. It’s certainly not the most Piratey faction, but I enjoy it for its flexibility and wide selection of diverse units.