English Buccaneers – A Faction Breakdown

I’m finally branching out to something besides Spanish! The English Buccaneers were one of the very first factions and I’ve been playing them on and off for a good while now. This faction is tough, well-rounded, has a lot of interesting options for commanders and will give you a good piratey experience.

Force Special Rules

This force has the typical sea faction +2 for the attacker role. If you’re playing another naval faction, your opponent more than likely has a +2-4 bonus as well but you’ll be the attacker more often than not while playing vs any militia or Native faction.

That +2 will make you the attacker in most amphibious games which is good since the Buccaneers are most at home on their ships anyway.

The Buccaneers’ second special rule let’s them discard their hand of cards and draw a new one without spending the Fortune point that would usually be required. I don’t always use this ability but I still think it’s very strong. In most games there comes a crucial turn where the forces have closed the distance and whoever gets the first activation of the next turn will have a decisive advantage. If you move your ship last on one turn, then first on the next turn, that can bring you within grappling distance or deadly swivel range before your opponent has time to respond.

If that crucial turn comes and you draw a hand full of Diamonds and Clubs, this ability gives you a free chance to improve your odds of striking first and this can often decide the game. I think this is a great ability! It’s like having a 4th Fortune point but it’s protected ill-judged and desperate reroll attempts.

english buccaneers rules

Core Units

The English Buccaneers have a nice sequence of (3) 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 cost core units. These units are fairly well rounded with the largest emphasis on solid ranged small arms and proficient artillery crew.

Sea Dogs

Coming in at 4 points with pistols and 3 without, these are the cheapest core units available to this faction. Even with the Brawlers ability, a 6 Melee Attack means they will be outclassed by most of the other nationalities’ sailors in melee combat, but the Expert Artillery Crew ability means you can put these on your cannons and fire them quickly and efficiently. Their Shoot Skill and Save are standard at 7’s. The main strength for the Sea Dog is Expert Artillery Crew and that 6 Fight Save.

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If you’re running cannons (which isn’t necessarily a given), you’ll probably want to bring some larger units of Sea Dogs to fire them but I wouldn’t plan on using these units as your primary boarding party or arming them with muskets and using them for ranged small arms combat.

Kapers

These Dutch sailor soldiers are your Swiss Army Knife unit. With well rounded 6/6, 6/7, 5 stats they’re very similar to the Sea Dogs but they have more flexible abilities. With muskets, Expert Sailors, Artillery Crew and Brawlers they can pretty much do anything that needs doing on a ship!

The musket is certainly a bonus over the Sea Dog, but it has the Firelock muskets 24″ range which is inferior to the 28″ range you can get with the Freebooter’s Buccaneer gun. It’s also worth considering that the Kaper doesn’t have a sidearm pistol and doesn’t have the option to take a bayonet.

Freebooters

The Freebooters is where English musketry starts to get really good. Again, this unit’s stats are almost exactly the same as the Sea Dog and Kaper but it’s the abilities and weaponry that give this unit flavor.

With Fast Reload, you’ll get more shots off and be able to activate earlier without losing that reload action. If you’re within 12″ you have a chance to score extra hits off of Ball & Shot as well. Marksmen also makes these guys more deadly if you can afford to spend that extra action.

Their Fight Save is the standard English 6 which makes them hardier than the French Flibustier (which is roughly equivalent) but the Freebooter doesn’t hit as hard on the offensive Fight skill. The sidearm pistol helps keep the unit ready to make a defensive fire if necessary and they can really help with an offensive Charge if it comes to that.

As you can see the English units aren’t really bad at anything. None of them have bad stats, but they don’t have the best stats either. They’re well rounded and each has it’s specialty, but they don’t have huge weaknesses.

I consider the Freebooter the true core unit for the English Buccaneers. He can sail, shoot accurately, and hit hard with a charge with that sidearm pistol.

Forlorn Hope

The is the English storming party! As we’ve come to expect, the four basic stats are still the same, but the Forlorn Hope’s abilities and weaponry make it extremely suitable for boarding the enemy’s ship. That Resolve of 4 lets them continue fighting even after taking heavy casualties and their weaponry make them brutal at close range. The have a Buccaneer Gun just like the Freebooter but they add a Brace of Pistols and your choice of free explosives! They guys are the Grenados experts! You get one free grenade for every 4 models so I usually take 8 of these at a time so I can get two grenades. You aren’t limited to taking one type of grenade so if you have a large unit, you could take a Stinkpot to block line if sight and block defensive fire and a Grendado for plenty of damage and potentially a Firepot as well to light the enemy’s ship on fire!

They retain the Ball & Shot and Fast Reload but lose the Freebooter’s Marksmen ability. If you plan to get into close combat, these guys are great but if you play to stay firther from your enemy and snipe, the Freebooter is a little cheaper and can get off some more deadly shots with Marksmen.

The Forlorn Hope don’t have Sailors which is unusual but they do have Vanguard which is very useful in land games. Don’t forget to use that extra free move at the beginning of the scenario.

 

Veteran Freebooters

At 8 points these Veteran Freebooters are some of the most expensive models in the game! My favorite thing about these guys it that Shoot Save of 6. That means they’ll be saving 60% of the time on a ship. Other than that they’re really close to the standard Freebooter with a little more bling.

They have the same 4 special rules and weapons and they’ve added a Bayonet. At 8 points per model it’s hard to bring many of these but when you compare them to a regular Freebooter, it isn’t a bad deal. You’re basically paying 1 point for a better Shoot Save and a Bayonet and that’s reasonable. I like saving on 5’s!

Support Units

The English Buccaneers have lots of options for Support Units including several French and Dutch units along with the Native Musketeer.

English Militia

If you want some cheap muskets, the English Militia are there for you! With a Shoot Skill of 7 they aren’t as accurate as the other Buccaneer riflemen we’ve already looked at but for a mere 4 points for a Trained model and the possibility of doing a dedicated volley, you can still land hits with Militia. The strength of the English Militia lies in its 5 Resolve. They still have a Shoot Save of 8 so they go down pretty fast but they don’t take Fatigue as fast as other Nationalities’ Militia.

I haven’t used the Militia in the Buccaneer faction but if you really want some cheap muskets, these are the cheapest.

Enter Ploeg

These guys compete with the Forlorn Hope for the elite boarding party unit in your force. The Enter Ploeg lack long guns but they cost you one point less and start out as Veteran. Their grenades are a little less potent since you only get Firepots or Stinkpots without paying that extra 4 for the Grenados but the addition of Blunderbuss dice help make up for that. I’ve been using Firepots but since I first published this article, my eyes have been opened to the power of Stinkpots. Stinkpots block line of sight for a turn and prevent a unit within the stinky cloud from making any ranged attacks. This means you could toss one into a ship and charge without fear of any defensive fire (unless the enemy was equipped with lances or bayonets). I like the combination of 1 Firepot and 1 Stinkpot in a group of 8 models. That way you get some solid damage potential with the Firepot and the control of the Stinkpot.

With Expert Artillery Crew and Expert Sailors this unit can either help keep control of your ship or fire cannons or swivels until you get in range to start the grenades and boarding action. I personally like the Enter Ploeg a little more than the Forlorn hope but that may just be due to some epic moments I’ve had with these Dutch crazy men in games I’ve played. And there’s no reason you can’t take both!

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Once you get within 4″ the Enter Ploeg lay down insane firepower. A unit of 8  models can throw 6 dice of Firepots hitting on 8’s (this can also set the target structure on fire), 4 dice of Pistols hitting on 7’s and 4 dice of Blunderbusses hitting on 7’s with exploding 10’s. And you can still charge with Brace of Pistols using a 5 melee skill with rerolls after that! If you get these guys in close, they will win games for you.

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Boucaniers

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If the Dutch Enter Ploeg is the best boarding party, the French Boucanier is probably the best marksmen in the game. With a shoot skill of 5, Marksmen, Ball & Shot and Fast Reload, nobody does musketry like the Boucanier! I’ve seen a ship full of these guys sail up and fire one volley that got more hits than there were Boucaniers firing and it totally massacred the opponent. 14 hits on one deck… Game over.

Boucaniers aren’t very useful in melee combat but they’re great at ranged sniping and they have a solid Ranged Save of 6. If your Buccaneers plan to fight on land the Boucanier becomes even better with Elusive to improve that Ranged Save.

If you plan to fight a ranged battle at sea, the Boucanier is probably your best choice for a Support Unit but if your strategy is to get close and personal and board the enemy ship, the Enter Ploeg is a better choice.

Warrior Musketeers

I’m just starting to learn how to use the Warrior Musketeer but with other solid ranged options, I don’t think these will be best most efficient option for most sea-going Buccaneer lists. On land they gain a lot of value with their special rules but without that Elusive, Scouts, and Evade, the Slow Reload becomes too great a penalty in my opinion.

At 4 points they are a pretty cheap unit for a unit with a 6 shoot skill. I guess you could upgrade them to Veteran for some extra actions and they’d still cost no more than a Kaper.

Their shoot Save is another strength. I suppose you could bring a unit of these along to soak damage off a more expensive unit you want to preserve. They’re cheap, they have a good save and they have a good shoot skill.

Sometime I’d like to build a list with English Buccaneers in a Piragua supported with a couple Canoe of natives.

Zeelieden

With number stats identical to the Sea Dog, I don’t see a real need to take the Dutch Sailor over the English one unless you don’t plan to use one of your Support Unit slots. I would consider Hard Chargers move valuable than Brawlers and the Zeelieden have Expert Sailors as well so they technically better than Sea Dogs but the difference is minimal.

Flibustiers

The Flibustier is the French equivalent to the Freebooter. Both are fairly well-rounded units but the Freebooter favors ranged combat and the Flibuster favors melee. The Flibustier lacks the Marksmen ability but packs a Brace of Pistols instead of the single sidearm pistol.

The Flibustier has a strong 5 melee skill but the save is weaker than most English units at 7. Overall I consider them a flexible unit and a little stronger than the Freebooter for the same cost.

Engages

Engages are a cheap way to get good muskets into your ship but they accumulate Fatigue awfully fast. In a lot of ways this unit is similar to the Native Musketeer. It has the same cost, Resolve, same Shoot and Shoot Save, and when you balance out the experience level and Slow Reload, they probably have a similar action economy.

The Engages gain Ball and Shot which is nice but Timid does end up hurting them a good bit in my (limited) experience.

I like the game design of the Engage but he’s not my first choice for a support unit. He might actually be better on land when you could more easily manage the Timid rule.

Commanders

The unnamed commanders are nothing fancy. The Untested commander has no abilities at all but I’ve found myself using him a lot just so I can squeeze another couple models into my list. Lead By Example can be a game changer when it triggers at the key moment but it’s so hard to control, I don’t spend the 15 points for the Experienced commander very often. It seems unusual for a naval faction to have to go for the Seasoned commander to get Broadside, but I think the Buccaneers would rather board and capture a ship rather than blow it to pieces. As is the case with most factions, if I’m going to spend 25 points on a commander I’ll probably go for a historical commander rather than take the Seasoned commander.

I’ve noticed that the generic English and French Buccaneer commanders are essentially the same with the only difference being the French versions have the option of taking a Buccaneer gun instead of Brace of Pistols.

In general the English have strong Resolve but the lack of Inspiring commanders is notable.

Bernard Speidryke

“Captain Bart” is a master of managing Fatigue! With Very Inspiring and Lead by Example, Speidryke will keep your crew working at top efficiency. He only has 2 command points so you’ll have to attach him to some of your cannon crew to get a 3-deck Broadside off but Expert Broadside makes him a good choice for commanding a midsize to large ship like a Brigantine, Frigate or Fluyt.

Just the Very Inspiring ability makes this guy superior to the 25 point generic commander in my opinion.

Robert Searle

If you like to board the enemy ship, Searle could be your commander! The combination of Aggressive Commander, Brawlers and Lead by Example all make this force extremely potent when it comes to charging the enemy.

Bringing that Fight test down to a 4 with Brace of Pistols on Enter Ploeg or Flibustiers is just brutal. Everybody is going to die!

John Morris

This commander approaches the Legendary category! Inspiring, Lead by Example, Broadside and 3 command points make his 30 cost very reasonable and his Vast Experience ability makes him really good. Rerolling 1 die doesn’t seem like a huge deal when attacking or defending but I think the reroll becomes much more valuable when you have it as a backup for taking Grapple, Repair, Sailing or any other test that is rolled with a single die. This ability could really help conserve those Fortune points since many of those single die tests come at crucial moments during a game.

I think Morris has to be of the strongest options for the English Buccaneers. He’s a good deal for 30 points.

Samuel Moseley

This commander has stats close to the Seasoned generic commander but his ruthlessness sets him apart. His unit and any unit he activates with his command action gain the Ruthless rule while he’s commanding them. It would be nice if he had the Inspiring or Very Inspiring rule to help keep Fatigue off his own units so Ruthless would trigger more often, but maybe a Grizzled Veteran or Son of Neptune can cover that job.

I think Moseley could be really good on a ship full of snipers. If you get some Freebooters and Boucaniers using Marksmen and getting the Ruthless -1 bonus, you could start hitting the opponent’s troops from a long ways away! Freebooters with both those bonuses would have a starting shoot number of 4! They could be hitting on 8’s at 19″ which is downright impressive.

Thomas Hewetson

The main special rule Heweston gets is Strict and I have yet to discover how to use that ability well. For 25 points I’d rather take a commander with Inspiring or Very Inspiring but I need to start using a Strict commander to really see how it works in a game. It has to be useful to be valued this highly but I haven’t figured it out yet.

If you’re running several ships, Hewetson’s massive 28″ command radius is about as good as it gets.

Diego the Mulatto

This commander has some real value for 30 points. He lacks the ability to take a Musket but he has most all of the abilities that I think are most useful at sea. Just the 3 command points, Broadside and Very Inspiring make him solid in my opinion and the Commodore, Lead by Example and Spanish Vendetta are just gravy.

Henry Morgan

Last time I played using Henry Morgan my opponent said I was playing with cheat codes on! He’s so good. He’s even better in his own personal force and you might as well play that force if you’re bringing a 42 point commander. The unit composition of the forces is nearly identical and the only drawback is a +3 instead of a +2 for the attacker roll.

That combination of Lucky and 4 Fortune points gives him so many rerolls but that inability to use Fortune for nautical-related tests does make him a little dangerous at sea.

Morgan’s 20″ command range combined with Very Inspiring make him very effective for keeping Fatigue off you units, even if you’re running more than one ship. I think he’s probably best as a land commander overall but he can still be effective at sea. You just have to be careful of the wind’s eye. The special rules for his private force are extremely useful for those moments when initiative makes all the difference. I think that rule alone is worth 10-15 points. So don’t use Morgan with the generic English Buccaneers. Use his special force.

Jan Erasmus Reyning

I haven’t tried Reyning yet and he is a bit of a puzzle to me. At 27 points he seems a little expensive for 2 command points. Inspiring and Broadside are good but if I’m looking for a commander in this price range I’d probably pick 30 point Morris first.

I haven’t seen the Elan ability in action yet but I can imagine that it could be important if the moment presents itself.

William Kidd

Kidd doesn’t appear to be the mostly kindly of commanders but he looks like a master of seamanship. His stats seem to make him better at ranged cannon combat rather than grapple and board style of combat. Without Inspiring or any Fatigue management you might need some Grizzled Veterans or Sons of Neptune to keep up your action efficiency.

As soon as I get Kidd painted up I’m going to put him in a Light Frigate full of medium cannons and see if I can stay away from my opponent and fire those guns as fast as I can.

Again, his personal force might be a better option when using Captain Kidd, but the available units in his force are considerably different that English Buccaneers so there’s a real decision to be made there. The best things about his personal force is the free Heavily Built trait on his ship. A Heavily Built Light Frigate would be extremely tough.

Tactics

Being well rounded I think the English Buccaneers can embrace any of the basic battle tactics. Their musketry is good but not as strong as the French, their melee combat is good but not as brutal as the Spanish, and their sailing is good but not as good as the Dutch. Their gunnery is top notch and their Resolve is as good or better than any other faction. Another strength is durability in melee combat. These English units have a 6 melee save across the board and that’s consistently better than most other factions.

With the core English units being well rounded, your support units and your commander will give your force a direction and focus.

If you want to run a ship of muskets, the Freebooter is a very strong ranged unit for 6 points and you can supplement them with Boucaniers. If you want to play a melee force that aims to board, bring some Forlorn Hope and supplement them with Enter Ploeg. Throw all the grenades! If you want a gunboat you can fill a ship with Medium Cannons, Sea Dogs, Zeelieden and a Master Sailor to help stay away from the enemy.

The English can do everything competently.

Force Lists

100 Point Minimum Purchase Bark (Starter Box + Bark).

100 Point Minimum Purchase Land Force (Starter Box only)

150 Basic Buccaneer Sloop

200 Point Well-Rounded Sloop

200 Point Sloop w/no Cannons and lots of Grenades (battle report featuring this list found here)

300 Point Searle 3 Piragua Boarding Ships

350 Point Morris Fluyt w Grapeshot

350 Point Moseley Ruthless Well Rounded Sloop of War

350 Point Kidd Cannon Frigate

How have the English Buccaneers played for you? How do you like to build your Buccaneer Force?

Thanks for reading!

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