My friend Guy and I have been wanting to try out the new Army Scale rules found in No Peace Beyond the Line for a while now and we finally got the chance to use them in this 600 point naval fleet battle! We have played a 400 point naval game before using the standard rules and as the points get higher up there, it becomes more difficult to keep track of everything and turns can start to lengthen making the game pretty long. The Army Scale rules really help make these larger epic battles easier to manage and faster to play.
Using the army scale rules you divide your force into 3 or more companies then you activate each company with a single card and every unit in that company activates using that card. Your force has three commanders but one is considered the General and he can give Command Points to any unit in any company (if they are in command range). Forces gain additional Fortune Points scaled by points, the Strike Points work slightly differently and there are a couple other slight changes but the main idea is that players activate “wings” of their force on each activation card rather than a single unit.
We also took this game opportunity to try out some of the pending errata rules that should be published soon. Mike Tunez graciously sent me some of the new rules for my group to try out and I don’t think they’re absolutely final yet so this battle report will be more vague than usual just in case some of these rules change before they are finalized.
Rules modifications that we tried out in this game include changes to Tough, Swift, Strict, Swivels reloading, and the costing of Cannons. I can truly say that the slight changes are all for the best even though a couple of them take away some of my favorite strong combos (because they were overpowered!).
I played William Kidd’s faction using him as my General and using basic Untested English Buccaneer commanders as my other two ship captains. I used a Light Frigate for my flagship, a Privateer Sloop for a small arms/boarding ship and a Fluyt for a cannon ship.
My 300 point Frigate was loaded with 7 Medium Cannons, 4 Swivels, 2 units of Sea Dogs (1 Master Gunner and a Musician in the midship with Kidd) and 1 unit of Marins on those cannons and a unit each of Freebooters and Flibustiers. The new (pending) errata point cost on the cannons helped me load that ship up with a few more men (hint, hint).
My 150 Privateer Sloop was loaded with 6 Swivels, 8 Sea Dogs on the back deck, 8 Flibustiers with the Commander and a Son of Neptune attached and a unit of 8 Freebooters. Kidd’s special factions allows one ship to take the Heavily Built trait and I applied it to this Sloop, hoping the 5 Fortitude of the Frigate would be enough. I paid the cost to make the Fluyt Heavily Built as well.
The 150 point Fluyt, now know as “The Tub” was loaded with 6 Medium Cannons and 6 Swivels manned by 3 groups of Sea Dogs with a Sailing Master attached to one group.
The French Navy used a Light Frigate for their flagship and a standard Sloop and a Corvette for support ships.
Jean, comte d’Estrees commanded the entire force from the Light Frigate. The frigate was equipped with 6 Medium Guns, 4 Swivels and contained 3 large units of Marins (sans pistols) and a block of Milices de Caraibes in the center. Nearly all units of French Marins in Guy’s force contained a Master Gunner. The Command Force also contained a Carpenter and a Standard Bearer.
The Corvette was manned in a similar fashion with 2 large and 1 smaller unit of Marins manning 5 Medium Cannons and 4 Swivels and a unit of Milices de Caraibes with 2 Master Gunners and a Carpenter.
The Sloop had the full compliment of 3 Medium cannons but no swivels and was manned by a unit of 12 Marins with a Master Gunner and 12 Infantrie.
As this was our first attempt using the Army Scale rules and we were using some new variations on several rules, we just chose to play the basic Encounter scenario. Point ships at each other and start shooting.
Guy rolled high for the attacker’s role and I placed first. With the wind coming from my port side I placed the least maneuverable ship upwind on my Left, the command Frigate in the center and the Sloop on my Right. My plan was to use the 6 gun broadside from the Fluyt to consistently shoot down the board and thus avoid any difficult sailing actions with that ship while the other two engaged and hopefully boarded one of his smaller ships. I put the Sloop downwind because it has a 0″ windward penalty but that proved to be a costly mistake.
Guy deployed his Sloop upwind, his Frigate in the center and his Corvette downwind.
I activated first on turn 1 and I turned my fleet into the wind. My plan (which I now know was flawed) was to turn upwind, let off the starboard broadside, then turn downwind and present the port cannons for another shot on turn 2.
My angle wasn’t good enough for a shot from either the Frigate or Fluyt so I “activated” the Sloop but didn’t take any actions with the men since I was well out of the 28″ maximum range for Buccaneer guns.
Guy turned downwind and and we traded some ineffective cannon fire at moderate range looking for 10’s and maybe a couple 9’s. That first volley did precious little. I need to remember that it usually doesn’t pay to shoot on the first turn!
I used Kidd to fire all 3 sets of cannons on the Fluyt using the broadside rule but I didn’t land any hits out of all 6 of those Medium Cannons!
Guy’s broadside was a little more effective since he was able to fire 9 cannons on 3 separate ships in one activation but the range prevented much damage from happening on that first turn.
As the French ships sailed downwind they closed with my Sloop. I got a solid activation out of them on turn 2 and shot a bunch of small arms into the Flagship Frigate taking out a good 5-7 models and leaving several units with Fatigue.
With my Frigate pointed at the enemy too often, the Freebooters in the aft didn’t get that many shots off in this game.
The French hit my sloop with several cannons on turn 2 leaving both the Freebooters and Flibustiers prone and leaving the Sloop with a Leak and Sheets and Shrouds criticals and a Fortitude of 3. Not a good place to be when faced with 3 cannon ships at close range!
Going into turn 3 my poor sloop was being circled by the French sharks. I think I activated first and rallied my troops in the Sloop with Kidd’s command points so they wouldn’t jump overboard but I knew that ship was a lost cause. For a 32 point commander, Kidd’s lack of Inspiring was annoying until I remembered I had a musician attached! That Musician made a difference when I was trying to drop 4-6 Fatigue at a time!
Kidd’s Frigate got a nice shot at the French Sloop bringing it’s fortitude down a little and while I didn’t get many kills I got a bunch of Fatigue on them making them less effective. I did have to sail upwind again to get that shot off which further isolated that ill-fated English Sloop…
With so many cannons and such heavy hitting commanders on the board we were faced with some interesting decisions as to when to use the Broadside ability and when to fire decks individually .
My poor Fluyt had to turn and run straight downwind to get back into the action after losing so much speed going upwind for that first broadside on the first turn.
My Sloop got shot again by the Corvette with cannons and a barrage of small arms fire. This volley left my men prone and gave it a Lucky and Critical hit which slowed my progress to a crawl.
These guys were seriously messed up!
The French flagship had a very complicated activation on most turns. With 3 standard command points from d’Estree, plus the Standard bearer, plus 2 Master Gunners, it was sometimes a challenge (at least for me!) to keep track of where all those commands points were going and tracking each unit as they received a command point!
The French flagship spent part of turn 2 rallying after my successful small arms attack from the Sloop.
The French had their guns reloaded and ready to fire by the end of turn 2 and the Sloop had nowhere to go and its speed was reduced to 2″ by rigging damage.
At the opening of turn 3 the French Navy pounded that Sloop with 6 Medium Guns at close range and it just fell apart. The prone men on board saved really well and didn’t even take any Fatigue but I think that ship took 6 critical hits plus a lucky hit.
In addition to the Catastrophic Damage critical hit that started the ship sinking it took 4 more leaks, lost two masts, caught on fire and took a couple rigging hits! That ship was destroyed! It began to sink and would finish sinking at the end of turn 4.
I could tell my Fluyt would’t ever catch up to the French fleet so I presented my starboard guns again and fired all 6 guns with 2 of them counting as raking shots.
I was able to use Kidd again to fire a Broadside off the Fluyt and I won’t spoil how it helped, but the Strict rule helped me get my target numbers down on this shot and it pretty well broke the French Sloop apart. The critical hits weren’t as numerous or devastating as what the French had just handed me, but it pretty much took that ship out of the battle as well. I ended up getting 2 Destroyed Gun critical hits on the back deck where there were no guns which resulted in more damage on the soldiers there (we were assuming that extra hit that the gun crit results in if there’s no gun would force you to attempt another save on a model, but we weren’t entirely sure).
With all these Medium Cannons and larger, tougher ships on the board, these Sloops were certainly the weak link in both our forces.
The English Sloop company had to roll for a Strike Test at the end of turn 3 and since the commander was dead (Guy fired into the sinking ship with numerous small arms and killed all the Freebooters and Flibustiers). If an army scale force is down to 2 companies, the General has to roll for a Strike Test as well, so Kidd rolled and succeeded.
Turn 4 was relatively uneventful as ships maneuvered around the hulk of the sinking English Sloop. We did get the Tide Change event which slowed the wind and slowed most of the ships on the table so nearly everyone had a -2″ modifier to their moves. The Marins on the front of my Frigate started to take a beating as I sailed downwind to try to catch the French.
At the end of turn 4 the French Sloop company had 3 Strike Points so it rolled for a Strike Test and they failed leaving both forces down a company. The way the rules are worded, both of us had to take a Strike Test for our entire force!
Both of us failed that Strike Test which left us in a strange situation… Did we both just lose? We decided that meant we should both keep playing. If I had remembered my Kidd’s Privateers Faction rule, I could have won the game right here! Kidd’s is a real hard-ass and he can force a Strike Test pass by giving a Fatigue to all units in his force. I didn’t think that would be very useful and I had forgotten about it but it would have been awesome right here!
At the end of turn 4, the broken English Sloop finally slipped under the waves with 5 unfortunate Sea Dogs aboard but that cleared the board for us to engage more easily again. That company had been “eliminated” when they failed their Strike Test at the end of turn 3 but we let the ship stay on the board and sink.
I know our ships closed a little during turn 5 but the slow wind and tidal current continued to slow our movement. I think some more cannon fire was exchanged with the French getting off more shots than my poorly sailed Fluyt and Frigate. I do remember one cannon volley got one hit of a 10 on my Frigate and the Lucky Hit came up as a Broken Mast! A single cannonball knocked out my forward mast and I was slowed a little as I had to clear it before moving again! Luckily the Frigate has a 5″ sail setting and I still had the 4″ available.
I believe Guy took initiative on the final round and activated his Corvette first and gave me some more casualties on my Frigate before I was able to fire into him for the last time.
Moving against the tide and with a -1 wind speed it took me a long time to get my Frigate moved around to get a final shot into the Corvette. I landed some decent hits but failed to get any critical or lucky hits.
The French Frigate responded with a 6 gun volley with one of the decks managing to be lined up for a raking shot. It succeeded in getting 6 more hits on my Frigate, including a leak and killing several Flibustiers and Sea dogs in the mid deck. Kidd ended the battle Shaken! How embarrassing!
My Fluyt turned and shot off their cannons one more time but the range was long and it was shooting at a Frigate with a full 5 Fortitude. One of the 6 cannons made contact and then didn’t end up applying any damage.
According to the Army Scale rules we both had to roll a Strike Test again and we both succeeded this time!
We calculated Strike Points and the damage:
- My English had lost the Sloop company of 150 points which forced me to roll a Strike Test every turn. My Frigate had lost 51 points worth of models lost totaling 1 Strike Point but the Fortitude of my Flagship hadn’t been reduced by half so that force had a single Strike Point. My Fluyt hadn’t taken a casualty over the entire game!
- The French had lost their 200 point Sloop company and they had lost a combined 52 points worth of troops from the two other companies. Both the Corvette abs Frigate had a 10 model Strike Point threshold and with only 7 and 8 models lost on each, Guy had 0 Strike Points!
The game was extremely close! With both forces down a Company and 1 English to 0 French Strike Points the French were victorious. I’m not sure what would have happened if the game had continued but my Frigate was beginning to fall apart under the close and accurate French guns and my General was shaken. My Flagship had 2 Leaks and the Fortitude was down to 3. The French certainly had the better tactical position at the end of the game.
English Post Game Thoughts
- The Army Scale rules did simplify large scale play and this 600 point game was actually shorter than our previous 400 point game using standard activation rules. It still took a while though! We started the game around 8:30 and finished a little past 1:00am not including setup and cleanup. We didn’t play super fast, but we weren’t dallying either.
- The force activation system certainly changes the pacing and tactics. If you activate a ship first on a round, that ship kind of became a target the rest of the round and the amount of fire a prepped ship can pour out in one “activation” is pretty crazy! A fresh ship at the start of a round can look pretty smashed by the end of a round! Dramatic turns for sure.
- The Army Scale rules also change the commander’s dynamic. In a standard game, having a full 3 command points (or even 4 in this game) gives you a huge and powerful activation every turn. In an army scale game, you’re already activation an entire force at the same time so while those extra command points are valuable, they aren’t as dramatically powerful. In a standard game you go from 1-3 actions on a standard activation to 4-6 actions. In Army Scale the commander will add 3 actions to the 4-12 actions you’re already taking. Still powerful but the magnified scale of what’s already happening slightly diminishes the power of the 3 additional actions. That said, having your general possibly fire cannons on two other ships while your flagship is active can do a lot of damage in a single turn as well!
- Sloops have been pretty strong in our standard “200 or less” meta but here, they were pretty bad. With all these medium cannons on the board they were just too weak to stick around. I also placed mine in a terrible play but still… They don’t hold up to more than one good broadside from one of these larger ships. I should have brought a Brigantine instead of the Sloop.
- The Frigate is still the best warship in the game as far as I can tell. I haven’t used the Galleon yet, but the combination of speed, Fortitude and guns make the Frigate very strong.
- There’s a good reason the Fluyt costs 6 points less than a Frigate. It’s slower, has a bad windward penalty and it’s huge! I like the 2/2/2 cannon spread which makes it easy to crew, but if it gets a little behind, it can be irrelevant to the game for a turn or two. I didn’t sail it very well and it didn’t contribute a lot to the battle.
- The Corvette on the other hand is really impressing me. It holds a bunch of cannons and it has a huge front deck and that things turns on a dime! The skids are so far forward that is does crazy things when it turns. It pretty much always has a chance to shoot. Very maneuverable! It’s pretty weak if you hit it, but I never got a chance to really lay into it.
- We tried several new rules modifications and overall we were really happy with all of them! Cannons felt more relevant and cost efficient, swivel guns weren’t as dominant, and Strict was actually really helpful but had a nice drawback that felt really appropriate. The combination of a larger scale battle and decreased cannon cost made the Sloops pretty weak so maybe the cannons were slightly undercosted? It sounds like they’re still working on settling on a new number.
- I enjoyed playing William Kidd but he has a very different feel than most of the 25+ point commanders I’ve used. I usually look for Inspiring/Very Inspiring, Broadside and maybe Commodore (exactly what Guy’s French Commander had) for a larger naval game but Kidd is entirely different. He has a large 20″ command radius but no Commodore, he’s Strict which doesn’t help with Fatigue at all and he has no Inspiring abilities! I found the Musician was really worth his points in this force. I really value the Sailing Master ability but I’m having a little confusion on how it works. The abilities section of the rule book says Sailing Master gives you a free action to increase or decrease but the rule on Kidd’s card and the rules on the Force Builder say that “this force can spend an action to increase or decrease the ship’s speed on the next move. Which is it? (Update: it is Free. The card is wrong.) We used the free action because it was more fun. Kidd’s faction rules were pretty cool too. Heavily Built is always nice but I really should have put it on my Frigate instead of the Sloop which was blown to pieces anyway. A Heavily Built Light Frigate would be a tank! Kidd’s Privateers’ ability to pass a Strike Test no matter the situation is pretty cool. It won’t be useful that often (hopefully) but when it does come into play, it’s pretty dramatic. I could have used that rule to win the this game at the end of turn 5 but I forgot! The new Strict rule is good!
- With 6 ships on a relatively small table I expected to be playing bumper cars a little bit but it wasn’t a big issue. No one ever collided! I like the ability to pre-measure. I’ve had some messy Epic X-wing situations where big ships get into big messes. We only had to scroll the board once.
- Sometimes it’s more effective not to use the Broadside ability. If you’re pretty sure you aren’t going to earn a critical hit anyway, multiple smaller attacks with cannons gives you more chances to get Lucky hit and it increases the amount of Fatigue dice the men will have to roll!
- I think this Army Scale format would be best for a 2v2 or 3v3 format. One brain commanding 3 good sized forces was pretty demanding even after streamlining forces a little and trying to keep them simple. I think it would be great to have one player play the Flagship and another allied player play two smaller ships. The Army Scale rules allow for the companies to be different sizes so you could even do a 300 point flagship and two 100 point barks, sloops or piraguas (although they might be blown to bits by cannons!).
- Any unit with a 6 Shoot Save is really good on a ship. I don’t know how many successful saves those Infantrie made, but they seemed impossible to kill!
- This was a “cannon heavy” battle but I think it would be a lot of fun to Army Scale battle with small ships. A 500-600 point game with 4-6 Barks, Piraguas and Tartanas in 4-5 Companies on each side could be really fun!
I know these reports are pretty “one sided” but that’s difficult to fix because I’m reporting on the battle from my point of view. This time my opponent, Guy R, sent me some of his post game thoughts to add to this report as well!
French Post Game Thoughts
- I had too many Command Points, and it was not good. Five Master Gunners, a General with 4 Command Points, and two Untested Commander with only 10 units mean that I had multiple Command Points each activation that I didn’t use. To make matters worse, I realized that each command my General gave to a ship that was not his own was one less action that ship would be able to use when it activated.
- It seems silly, because ships already have so many flags, but having a Standard Bearer was a definite boon. The possibility of having four 28″ Very Inspiring Rally command actions kept most of my units free from Fatigue, though contributes to my overabundance of Command Points.
- Piloting multiple ships is fun, especially big warships. Even turning windward during our chaotic last two turns felt good owning Staysails.
- This was the first ships I’ve ever sunk legitimately, and it took a long time to go down. I started the sinking process on the first card of the third turn, and it was not gone till the beginning of round 5. For 5 activations it broke up sight lines and stopped me from making tight turns to face the rest of the fleet. This is a good thing.
Have you tried the Army Scale rules? How have they worked for you? I kind of think they will be a little easier to use at sea vs land just because the ships keep forces easily self contained, but I would like to try a land game using these rules as well.
Thanks to Mike Tunez for sending us some of the tentative errata rule updates. Errata is always unnerving for gamers, but it is usually a good thing and I think these new updates will do a good job bring some more balance and fun to the game! I’m looking forward to the final release of this update.
Thanks to Guy for suggesting we try this game mode! It was a lot of fun! Six ships on the table at the same time was just so cool. Thanks for always playing a good game! Also thanks to Guy for helping me remember some is the details. I hope I didn’t make any major errors or oversights in the report.