The Armada de Barlovento has many similarities to the Spanish Guarda Costas but overall it’s a more well-trained and hard-hitting faction. Adding Soldados as core units and moving Marineros Piqueros into the core column really changes the flavor of this Spanish naval faction.
You can tell it’s going to be a fairly strong faction when it has a +4 bonus when rolling for attacker/defender! Only the English Royal Navy and French Royal Navy share that dubious honor. This factions feels like the Spanish version of a Royal Navy so I’ll likely be comparing this faction with both the English and French from time to time.
The second faction rule encourages you to make this force more elite by upgrading units to the Veteran experience level. All Veteran units get both the Expert Sailors and Expert Artillery Crew abilities. Very few standard Spanish units have Expert anything so this is a major upgrade for the Spanish! The units in this faction don’t come as cheaply as they do in the Guarda Costas but those expert rules can make Characters less necessary which brings unit costs down a little. Veteran Marineros Piqueros with Expert Artillery Crew for only 5 points seem pretty good.
The last faction rule makes gives the Soldados the Support: Marineros rule which limits your building options a little bit. But if you don’t use any size 2 or larger ships, the Naval Landing Force options removes that restriction. This really makes the Armada flexible and you can field a solid amphibious or entirely land force.
The last Force Option is Naval Gunners and this one puzzles me a little. It lets you strip Soldados of their muskets give them the Expert Artillery Crew rule. I’ve thought and thought about this and I can’t think of a good reason to do it. Why spend 6 points on a trained artillery crew model with a Standard Melee Weapon when you could spend 5 points for a Veteran Marinero with a pistol and he would get Expert Artillery Crew from the faction’s other special rule! The Soldados have a slightly better Melee Save number and they don’t have Poorly Equipped, but for 6 points, I don’t see these Soldado gunners worth the expense at all. For any unit of over 4 models, it’s less expensive to upgrade Marineros Piqueros to Veteran and add a Master Gunner. Maybe I’m missing something. Someone please explain to me why this would be a good idea!
The Armada’s three core units are all solid and can all be upgraded to Veteran if you want to take advantage of the faction rule that gives them Expert Sailors and Artillery Crew.
The Marinero isn’t the strongest of the three but you’ll find yourself using plenty of these models because they’re cheap and you need to bring them to get access to the Soldado. These hardy sailors have well rounded stats that let you use them for whatever you want. If you take away their pistols, Trained models cost only 3 points and will be the cheapest option for manning the cannons. If you you want them to be able to fire a defensive attack if charged or have them lead a boarding party into the enemy’s ship, leave their pistols and they will cost your 4, but at that point the Marinero Piqueros might be a better option (unless you need groups or Marineros for Soldados). You could also arm them with muskets and let them take ranged shots and perform sailing actions.
With good melee stats and the Artillery Crew rule, these hardy sailors can man your cannons, sail your ship and serve you well in a brawl. The Poorly Equipped rule is a pain. It can be worked around but with a more expensive faction like this, sometimes you don’t have as many cards in hand and you can be forced to use Clubs.
The Soldado is an excellent all-round unit and I recommend bringing at least one group of these models.
With Ruthless, Expertly Drilled, the possibility of Veteran models and a Shoot skill of 6, these guys can fire a lethal volley that has a high possibility of breaking most units. The option to swap our Matchlocks for Heavy Matchlocks is ideal for a naval faction since you won’t be moving but you might have opportunities to make long range attacks.
The Ruthless 5 Fight skill and 6 Fight Save makes these deadly in melee combat as well. You can even add Plug Bayonets for an extra 4 points.
I find an Officer is a great character to attach to the Soldados so you can make use of Expertly Drilled ability more often. Attaching a Grizzled Veteran can help you keep that Fatigue off as well. If you upgrade then to a Veteran they gain the Expert Artillery Crew and Expert Sailors rules so they could effectively fire swivels or help our with sailing as needed.
Soldados have the ability to take some explosives but 1 out of 8 models makes them less effective and I haven’t really experimented with that yet.
The ability to take Marineros Piqueros is one of the Armada’s main advantages over the other Naval Spanish factions. Not only do they wield a lethal offensive and defensive weapon, they have an amazing ranged save and they lack Poorly Equipped. All that goes together to make them the best artillery crew available to the Armada. The defensive jab with their lances is substantially better than Marineros’ defensive attack since they will hit on 5’s instead of Marineros’ 8’s with their pistols.
You’ll need to bring some Marineros just to open up the Soldado slots but in general, the Piqueros Marinero is a better choice in my opinion. The Marineros have more weaponry options and can be cheaper if you take away their pistols, but if you want a tough artillery crew that can defend itself and attack if necessary, the Piqueros Marinero is solid.
The first unit in the Support column is the familiar Miliciano. If you want to spam our some cheap ranged units this guy can deliver but I’d rather pay more for the Soldado. With an 8 Ranged Save and Drilled being of limited value (especially with Poorly Equipped) until you upgrade to Trained, this unit wouldn’t be my first choice for support unit.
Spain has no units with Brace of Pistols so access to the Enter Ploeg is a big deal! These Dutch boarders are well armed and mean! With free Blunderbusses and free Firepots or access to Grenados these guys can make their pre-charge pistol volley so deadly. A unit of 8 models equipped with 2 blunderbusses and 2 grenados can attack with 14 dice hitting 7’s (6 of those dice with exploding 10’s) at less than 4″ range.
At 6 points they seem a little expensive for a unit without a musket, but if you consider a veteran Marinero would cost 5 and this unit has explosives, better Resolve, Brace of Pistols, a better Shoot and a better Fight Save, Expert Artillery and Sailors and he’s not Poorly Equipped, than 1 extra point seems well-spent!
I haven’t used the Enter Ploeg in one of my own forces yet but I recently got my Poop Deck handed to me by them in a recent game and I’m eager to use them myself after being on the receiving end!
The Armada also has access to the Dutch sailors, the Zeelieden. With both Expert Sailors and Expert Artillery Crew and no Poorly Equipped they outclass the Marinero. Hard Chargers makes up for the 6 Fight skill and the 6 Fight Save is strong.
Their only disadvantage is no Ruthless but if you need Sailors and don’t need the Marineros to support Soldados, and you have a Support slot open, you might as well take a unit of these. The Marinero Piqueros is the main competitor and at that point you have to decide between that better save on the Piqueros and more flexibility and Expert rules on the Zeelieden.
The last support unit is generic European Sailor. With mostly standard stats and abilities the main thing that sets this unit apart from others sailors is its 6 Shoot skill. Armed with a musket they aren’t half-bad flexible replacements for the Soldados. The Soldado is a much better all-around combat unit, but you can get European Sailors with muskets for around 4.5 points each and they can sail or crew cannons at need.
The Armada’s generic commanders are very serviceable with even the Untested commander starting with Broadside in addition to Ruthless. As usual, the best value is found in the Experienced commander and the Seasoned commander is only helpful if you’re using more than one ship. These are the only generic Spanish commanders with Brace of Pistols but unfortunately you still can’t attach him to a unit with Brace of Pistols since the Enter Ploeg are Support units. Attaching him to the Piqueros Marineros or Soldados is probably best unless you need him on Marineros for a Broadside to work.
The three historical commanders available to the Armada are all interesting and high-powered.
Andrés de Ochoa y Zárate
I love this commander! He has the abilities of a 30+ point commander and he only costs 20, but if he exerts himself he might just fall over dead. He’s not right for every force but I like taking the risk and getting those 3 command points and strong abilities for only 20 points!
Feeble only triggers if he ends his activation with 2 or more Fatigue, so if you keep a Grizzled Veteran or Son of Neptune attached, or use his own Inspiring command point to rally when necessary, he should be fairly safe. Safe enough to be worth those 3 command points!
I used him in a recent game and I intended to keep him pretty far away from the conflict, but he got up in the midst of the fight and got killed. Feeble never triggered but the game only lasted two rounds so… that’s wasn’t a great test.
Francisco de Peralta
Peralta removes Ruthless from all units and replaces it with Tough. He makes your force a little less deadly but more efficient and hard to beat!
The Spanish like their Ruthless when they get into close quarters so I think this guy could be best for a ship loaded with cannons.
Mateo Perez de Garay
This commander is amazing. Any commander with 3 command points is usually going to cost you 30 points and de Garay comes with so much! If you’re using a Fluyt, that Heavily Built costs you 4 points and this version of Heavily Built is even better than the one you can purchase for the Fluyt (and the Heavily Built you get with the Galleon). Very Inspiring is solid, Expert Broadside helps make sure your Lucky and Critical Hits hurt the enemy and Sailing Master is more helpful than you might think, especially if you’re using a larger and slower ship like a Fluyt or Galleon. He lacks the Spanish trademark Ruthless rule and he doesn’t have Brace of Pistols, but I think he’s an excellent choice for the commander of a larger ship.
I think he would be good to attach to a unit of Soldados to keep the Fatigue off and help them use their Expertly Drilled Volley or shoot all the cannons and shoot a volley of musketry all in the same activation.
I used de Garay in this encounter and he served me well. I plan to use him more in the future!
The Armada has a lot going for it! It’s core unit selection is strong across the board. Just moving the Piqueros Marineros from the Support column to Core units gives the Armada a real advantage over other Spanish Naval factions. In spite of the Marineros and Milicianos retaining the Poorly Equipped rule, the combination of access to the elite boarding party with Brace of Pistols and Explosives, solid weapons on the Soldado, easy access to lances and commanders with Brace of Pistols makes the Armada very well equipped (for a Spanish faction).
There aren’t a lot of historical commanders to choose from but they’re all strong and they provide a couple fun variations and the generic commanders are effective as well.
I think the Naval Landing Force rule is a real strength. It makes the faction flexible so it can fight effectively on land. It could also be taken a different direction and you could build a list of cruel boarding Piraguas using 2 units of Soldados, 1 unit of Piqueros and 1 unit of Enter Ploeg.
The main weakness I see in the Armada is that Poorly Equipped rule. It doesn’t hit you hard very often but it can hurt when it does. I played a game with the Armada and a weather event hit early so I was dealing Light Rain and Poorly Equipped which resulted in 6 reload markers on my cannons.
You can almost dodge the rule by using Piqueros but if you want Soldados, you have to bring standard Marineros. I guess you could just use that group of Marineros for sailors and repair unit.
The +4 modifier for the attacker’s role is a disadvantage as well but most naval factions have a +2 so hopefully you won’t always be attacking.
The Armada de Barlovento can build the same sort of typical Spanish list of lots of 3-cost, Poorly Equipped models which hopes to overwhelm the enemy, but I think they are unique in the Spanish nationality because they can put together a more elite and veteran force of hard hitting troops that can more reliably use Spain’s trademark Ruthless ability.
With easy access to the Piqueros Marinoros and Soldados and with Enter Ploeg as support units, the Armada is extremely suitable for boarding action and aggressive melee combat (I guess that’s why they get the +4 on initiative…) The Soldados can rough up the enemy troops as you approach, the Piqueros can absorb and survive a lot of incoming hits with their solid save number, and all three of those units hit really hard when you charge over the side of the enemy ship. Let your Enter Ploeg throw their explosives, then charge in with their unwavering resolve. If you plan to use a strategy like this, a fast ship like a Privateer Sloop, a Frigate or anything that has 5″ speed will be good,
With solid ranged musketeers and plenty of options for good artillery crew, you can certainly build a longer ranged ship that tries to keep away from a ship full of melee units. The Soldado with Ruthless and a Drilled shot on a Diamond or Club (or a Heart plus command point) can basically take that Shoot Skill down to 3 plus range penalties. At 19″ that’s still hitting on 7’s which is where you start getting some real hits.
Use Expertly Drilled whenever possible. This rule is even better at sea than on land since the structure rules force you to target all units in a deck. If there are two units in a deck even, if you get a mere two hits and your opponent gets lucky and saves both, you have still forced him to roll 4 Fatigue dice.
If your’re going for a long range ship that avoids melee combat, the Piqueroes are still good for your cannon crew since they save on 5’s with that hard cover. You could go for cheaper Marineros without pistols, but the inferior Save and Poorly Equipped really make the Piqueros Marinero a better option when possible. If you upgrade those Piqueros to Veteran they get the Expert Artillery Crew but I think the Master Gunner is probably a better investment.
100 Point Minimum Purchase Bark (Spanish Starter + 1 European Soldier pack)
250 Point Long Range Brigantine
300 Point Frigate Medium Cannons
350 Point de Garay Fluyt (used in this Battle Report)
350 Point Zarate 2 Sloops (used in this Battle Report)
One thought on “Spanish Armada de Barlovento – A Faction Breakdown”
Pingback: The Spanish Nationality and Factions | Blood & Pigment