I finally got to play the Pirates! My friend Nick has been exploring the Spanish more and we met up for another game this weekend.
Inspired by rewatching the Firelock Games/Beasts of War video of a 300 point naval game, I chose to play the Pirate faction led by Jean Hamlyn for this 230 point naval game with Nick.
After seeing the beauty of the Lanceros/Marineros Piqueros’ Shoot Save of 6 and the brutality of the Ruthless Spanish Lances, Nick went all in on elite Spanish troops and cannons for this game. He had 24 Veteran Marineros Piqueros manning 4 Heavy Cannons (he missed the rule about Heavies only going on size 4 ships and I was ok with that) and 4 swivel guns on a Brigantine from the Armada de Barlovento. The Untested Commander was attached to the rear group of 8 Marineros Piqueros and each of the 4 units had a Master Gunner attached. You can see his complete list here.
His list was very focused and mine was kind of all over the place! My commander, Jean Hamlyn, was attached to a group of 6 Freebooters, and I put him in the middle deck of my Fluyt. I had 10 Sea Dogs with no pistols and a Sailing Master in the front deck on the 4 Swivel Guns, a unit of 7 more Sea Dogs in the middle deck on 2 Light Cannons and finally a group of 8 Enter Ploeg on the rear deck manning 2 more Light Cannons and the two Swivel Guns back there. I used the Pirate Faction ability to arm all my cannons with Grapeshot (I can’t use solid shot).
Nick’s force had 25 models so his Strike Point threshold was 6 casualties while my list had 32 models which brought that Strike Point level up to 8 casualties.
I haven’t used a lot of Historic Commanders lately or any of the higher level commanders for that matter. Hamlyn has a whole list of abilities but his Ruthless and Inspiring were the two abilities that caught my eye. It’s also nice he comes with a Buccaneer Gun and Sidearm Pistol and he was right at home with the Freebooters.
Hamlyn’s ship was named La Trompeuse or The Trickster and that fits right in with the Pirates’ special rule in this game where they can fly false colors! Hamlyn is the only historic commander for the Pirate faction in this game and he’s pretty awesome. He’s a mean dude!
Nick had a campaign naval Breakthrough game planned for the next day so we used that scenario so he could get experience with the rules. His Spanish got the Defender’s role while my Pirates got to attack which is what they like to do!
I find Breakthrough difficult for the Attacker on land, but I really like the rules for this scenario at sea because the defender can’t run! Maybe I’m overly aggressive at sea but it always bugs me when my opponent just runs away from me! In this scenario the defender sets up no more than 6″ from an impassable board edge with the wind blowing them towards land. The Defender can’t run with the wind here!
Nick set up his Brigantine near the center of the back edge of the board with his sail setting at 0″ and the rear group of Piqueros manning the Sweeps. I set up my ship coming downwind at 24″ away from the Spanish ship.
My goal in setting up this way was to make it hard for the Spanish to bring those Heavy Cannons to bear on my ship.
Nick drew an event in his opening hand that caused us to roll on the Weather and Wind tables.
The wind change in a counterclockwise direction which put Nick in the wind’s eye (lucky for him he was manning the sweeps!) and a light rain started which slowed down the ranged fire but it also seemed to help the Pirates’ ruse because I rolled well as we started the first turn and my Pirates’ identity was undiscovered as they cruised towards the unsuspecting Spanish.
With 24″ between our ships and Nick’s ship only moving 2″ under oar power, the first few activations were quiet as the nervous Pirates closed with the Spaniards. Nick’s troops completed several “high five” actions before the alarm was sounded. “Piratas!”
On my third activation I blew my cover and the forward Sea Dogs fired a volley off from the Swivel Guns that took out a couple Piqueros and roused the rest of them from their high-fiving fun. Activating on a Heart and getting a free Reload and I used my second activation to reload again but the rain had given me a 3rd Reload Marker so I Pushed the unit to complete the reload so I could fire them again on my last activation when I used Hamlyn.
That opening swivel volley at 11″ landed 6 hits on 8″ but the Piqueros Saved well (as they did most of the game!) and only took a couple casualties.
With his commander, Nick got the rear Piqueros off the Sweeps with the command point and then they used their Expert Sailor status to easily change the sail setting up to 2″ speed.
I sailed straight for the Spanish Brigantine in an effort to stay out of the Spanish cannons’ firing arc.
Realizing they had been tricked the Spanish returned fire with their 4 forward swivel guns and killed 2 Sea Dogs. Nick rolled poorly with his 12 swivel dice and a spent Fortune didn’t improve the roll.
On my last activation of turn 1 I turned a full 3″ which put me in a broadside position (which does no good with grapeshot) and fired the Freebooter’s Buccaneer Guns (using Marksmen), the center deck’s Grapeshot and the forward deck’s swivel guns (again). The forward Piqueros became Shaken and went prone and I used that volley from the swivels to land 3 hits on the Brigantine’s rigging. Once those Piqueros are prone, they only fail their Shoot Save on a 1 or 2!
I rolled 25 dice on Jean Hamlyn’s activation!
We had to do a good bit of reloading on the first activations of turn 2. Nick got his speed up to 3″ and I let loose another volley of swivel fire that landed 8 hits on 8 models in the center of the Brigantine. Nick rolled 6 successful Saves!
On Hamlyn’s second activation I was able to use a Command Point on the middle deck Sea Dogs to grapple (after spending a Fortune point after my initial roll failed) and then use the other command point on the Enter Ploeg to have them throw Grenades (I spent another Fortune on a missfired Firepot) and fire their pistols/blunderbusses. This left the Piqueros with the Armada Commander prone on the rear deck which caught fire. With the decks joined and the Piqueros prone, my Freebooters charged into the burning ship and got 6 hits using their sidearm pistols. The Spanish commander was the sole survivor and Nick used his last Fortune Point to cheat death and transfered the commander to one of the units in the middle of the Brigantine.
I didn’t relish burning to death on my next activation on the burning Brigantine and I didn’t like the looks of the Spanish Lances in the mid section so I retreated back to my ship with the Freebooter’s second action.
The Spaniards finally had a chance to fire their Heavy Cannons and the first ball hit the back deck at point blank range and killed 3 Enter Ploeg and giving my Fluyt a leak! The second shot rolled a 1 on the ranging shot and that big cannon ball rolled out of the barrel and plopped into the sea (of Spanish tears) without effect.
The Enter Ploeg fired twice on their activation but the Firepots didn’t land any hits, the Stinkpot ended up going off on my own ship and the Spaniards rolled successful Saves on my pistol fire! I think one Spaniard fell to 12 dice from the Enter Ploeg that turn!
At the end of turn 2 I believe the Spanish had 2 Strike Points worth of casualties to my 0 but the brave Armada commander passed the Strike Test with ease.
On turn 3 I sent Hamlyn in again but the Freebooters took a Fatigue moving through the burning deck, then one Englishmen fell to the defensive jab by the Piqueros and they took another Fatigue. I finished off the second unit of Piqueros but the commander’s new unit counterattacked on the next turn and caused my Freebooters to break and hightail it back to my ship. The Sea Dogs which were also in the center of my ship were also Shaken from more Swivel fire so the fearless Armada commander gloriously charged again straight into the Fluyt and killed another couple scurvy Pirates driving both the shaken Freebooters and Sea Dogs further into the ship and seizing the middle deck for a moment.
At this point in the game we were playing quickly because I was supposed to be home in a few minutes to help put my kids to bed!
At the end of round 3 we calculated Strike Points:
- Nick’s Spanish had 2 Strike Points for casualties and 1 Strike Point for my ship being within 8″ of his bringing his total to 3 Strike Points.
- I had 1 Strike Point worth of casualties.
Nick rolled and passed a Strike Test and the Spanish fought on!
The game moved to turn 4 and the out-manned but bold Spaniards took out another couple English with a Fight action then the fresh Sea Dogs charged the battered Spaniards and they fell in a blaze of glory which ended the game.
The element of surprise gave my Pirates an early game advantage. Even so, the Spanish put up some impressive defense and almost killed Hamlyn himself after I overstretched myself trying to push them to the edge.
- This was a bloody game! The scenario was ideal for me and played into the Pirate faction strengths. This was Nick’s second naval game and he did great maneuvering and keeping up with naval and cannon rules. After playing this scenario and understanding the Pirate’s tactics, I’m guessing he would have set up slightly differently at the beginning. Starting at 2″ under Sweep power really delayed his ability to fire those Heavy Cannons. The wind change and rain didn’t do him any favors either!
- The Brigantine was the second ship I built but I haven’t played it for a good while. I’ve been enchanted by the speed and manueverability of the Privateer Sloop and I haven’t even been considering the Brigantine but its a fine ship! Most size 3 ships have a windward value of -2″ but the Brigantine only has a -1″ and it has those lovely 4 swivel guns on the forward deck which makes it a great aggressive ship.
- That 6 Shoot Save on the Marineros Piqueros caused me more trouble! On ships that means they’re saving 60% of the time and sometimes they rolled even better than that in this game. I think there was one roll were they saved 6 out of 6 hits on an unit of 7 models. It was crazy!
- With the element of surprise, a powerful commander with 2 Command Points can create an impressive alpha strike. I was unsure if I’d get my full 25 points worth out of Jean Hamlyn but I was not disappointed. His activations were decisive and brutal.
- The Armada is pretty impressive with all Veteran units! All Veteran units in the force get Expert Sailors and Expert Artillery Crew which makes them super efficient. The rain and the setup didn’t favor the cannon strategy at all, but if the Spanish would have been able to keep their distance a little longer, those Veteran/Expert Piqueroes (who wouldn’t die!) would have had some solid action advantage over my crew.
- The Enter Ploeg are still a favorite of mine. They bombed (excuse the pun) their dice rolls a couple times this game and they never actually got into melee combat, but their ability to throw so many dice and do it multiple times per round is still very impressive.
- I felt so good about throwing the Stinkpots into the Piqueros so they couldn’t do a Defensive Attack (the noxious fumes prohibit a unit inside the pillar of stink from making ranged attacks) but since they do a melee Defensive attack, it really has no effect on them! That mistake almost got Hamlyn killed! The Marineros Piqueros are an all-around solid unit.
- I need some cotton for my Stinkpot marker! I kept forgetting when and where I had tossed those explosives and I’m not sure I applied the rules correctly a couple times.
- The weather can really change a game! I’ve had the Light Rain effect come into play in two games recently and it has a meaningful effect and really gives flavor to the game.
- The English trademark 6 Fight Save really helped me out in this game. The Piqueros went on a stabbing spree for a bit there and with the Lances’ Save penalty, I was really happy to have a solid Fight Save to start with. It really made a difference.
- I really like the Pirate’s False Colors ability but I’m wondering how often it would actually happen in games. The Pirates have no bonus to their attacker roll and most Naval factions have a +2 or even a +4 (like the Armada). That means the Pirates will actually be doing more defending that attacking at sea. That feels strange thematically but I guess that strong ability needs to be balanced and the Pirates were fair game for everyone so every other faction was out to get them.
Thanks to Nick for playing a good game! It was fun to see the strengths of both the Armada and Pirates play out in this game. Good luck to Nick as he takes on the roll of Attacker in a 2v2 campaign breakthrough game tomorrow!