Time to try the fort! My friend Guy and I got to try the new Tower Fort using the Tower Ambush scenario recently released on the Firelock website. This was a 200 point game with the Spanish Militia defending vs the French Buccaneers using the artillery focused Le Sieur de Grammont commander.
Guy’s French force focused heavily on artillery. With 6/4 Fortitude/Integrity, the Tower Fort is a tough nut to crack so he brought the Siege Expert!
Le Sieur de Grammont lets you build a very strange list. The commander was attached to 12 Marins with pistols, 4 blunderbusses, a Firepot and manning a Swivel gun on a field carriage. The other three units were 6 Marins with pistols and blunderbusses as well attached to cannons. The initial list had 3 medium guns on field carriages, but the scenario forced him to buy a ship or two boats, so Guy downgraded two cannons to Light guns and paid the 8 points for a Bark that he didn’t plan to use.
Le Sieur de Grammont gives any unit with Artillery Crew the Field Gun trait which means he can take field guns attached to core units! He also lets you re-roll any and all Critical and Lucky hits that happen on his activation. I think he’s one of the only commanders that can field a focused artillery list. This list functioned sort of like a “sloop on wheels.”
The other advantage to this artillery build is that the Marins have a solid defensive shot if charged, unlike the standard artillery crew units that aren’t equipped with any ranged weapons.
With 31 models in the list, the French would take a Strike Point at every 7 casualties.
I initially built a force using 2 Heavy Cannons since I was itching to use the new products, but after looking over the scenario which takes place at night and the rules for elevated guns, I realized those cannons would be pretty useless. The cannons on top of the fort can’t fire on anything close than 10″ away and the Night rule limits visibility to 12″ leaving me a 2″ square of ground I could both see and target. I dropped the cannons and filled my list with Militia, some regulars and some scout units to act as skirmishers and guards outside the fort.
I used the generic 15 point Spanish Militia commander attached to a unit of 10 Inexperienced Milicianos with a Standard Bearer. Also on top of the fort I had a unit of 6 Soldados.
Inside the lower level of the fort I had two units of 6 Milicianos
Outside the fort I had a unit of 6 Indios and a unit of 6 Lanceros.
I also paid the 20 points for the fort itself.
At 41 models, my force would take a Strike Point at every 10 casualties.
The new downloadable Fort Ambush scenario is interesting. It takes place at night and it uses the Caught Unaware rules along with being a “semi-amphibious” scenario.
As the defender, I had to place my fort away from the edges of the board and place my units either in or within 3″ of the fort itself. I got a free boat as part of the setup. During the game I would be rewarded for keeping control of the fort and getting some of my units off the board to theoretically “get help” and bring reinforcements.
As the defender, you can place units on land and/or sea. Boats and land units are placed after all the defender’s units have been placed during setup but any ships you choose to bring come on the board “on turn 2 or later.” In this case guy never brought the ship onto the board but merely paid the 8 points to have it as part of his force. The defender is rewarded for either destroying or occupying the fort as well as getting units in the defender’s boat. The attacker also gets a Strike Point on turn 4 and later if he has no units within 6″ of the fort.
I set up my units as described with Milicianos inside the fort, the commander’s unit and Soldados on top and the Lanceros and Indios outside the fort. I set up 4 sentries 6″ away from the 4 corners of the fort.
The invisible board edge is right behind the French on the Left.
Guy set up his entire force on one side of the table, basically as far as he could get from the fort itself. I think his units were around 24″ from the fort.
After drawing our cards but before activating any units we had to move the sentries. I was able to move the first sentry and put it within 12″ and line of sight of his troops which triggered “the alarm” and let my units activate as normal and ended the Caught Unaware rules.
I used my first two activations to move up my Indios and Lanceros while Guy passed twice since he had 4 units to my 6.
My troops may have been too curious about the clankings in the dark!
The French moved their artillery forward with Grammont’s command points on then fired on both my Lanceros and Indios causing 3 casualties on the Lanceros and 2 casualties on the Indios and leaving both units shaken.
The rest of my units in the fort weren’t able to really do anything so they sat there in the dark, wondering how their scouts were doing vs the French artillery.
I rallied my struggling scouts with my commander on turn two and got my Indios doing their Quick/Fire/Skirmish combo from some cover. They got a couple kills through the game but the field carriages gave the Marins cover so they were saving on 4’s which made it difficult to apply much damage.
The French reloaded and moved forward a little more as my Spanish patiently waited in the dark.
My Lanceros were hit again and took some Fatigue. I considered charging one the approaching guns but the combination of Blunderbusses and pistols meant that I’d have to face a defensive shot of at least 8 dice hitting on 8’s which didn’t sound appealing to the Lanceros. I chose the better part of valor and crouched behind a rock to let the French get closer.
By turn 3 my sleepy Spanish finally remembered the might need help! The French weren’t approaching very quickly and they could very well sit out of reach of my 12″ musket range and shoot their cannons at my fort. Without any assurance they could be a meaningful part of the fight if they stayed in the fort, I sent one unit of 6 Milicianos out of the fort to call for reinforcements.
Once the French were less than 16″ from the fort they started firing in earnest. At 12″ they were looking for 3’s to hit and 9’s to damage (using the new cannons rules from NPBtL).
The fort took its first point of damage on turn 3. Most of the damage resulted in a Lucky Hit as well since only 9’s and 10’s were hits. Most of the Lucky Hits turned into a Debris crit which killed another man on top of the fort.
By the end of turn 3 I had sent another unit of Milicianos towards the back board edge and the Lanceros towards the longboat with the hope of sailing it away and depriving the French the opportunity of taking it.
I also sent the Soldados down to the lower level of the fort so they would benefit from the Superior Cover and would stop taking hits since the French were targeting the top level.
While preparing for turn 4 I drew an event which I rolled as a Weather change that resulted in Blinding Sun…at night. Turns out there was a pretty bright moon that night…
My Lanceros were blown to bits by a cannon while trying to get into the Longboat and the top level of the fort took another couple points of damage and left my command group prone after failing all three dice on a Fatigue check.
The French reloaded and fired quickly while the command unit with the swivel gun moved forward to get within 6″ of the fort by the end of turn 4 to avoid taking a Strike Point from the scenario rules. My Natives skirmished out of the cover again to fire on the leftmost group of Marins. The feud with that particular unit had become personal! I killed another model but they fired back and took out another Native leaving me with 3 models.
By the end of turn 4 I had a Strike Point for 10+ casualties and Guy had a Strike Point from one of my units of Milicianos escaping off the board.
On turn 5 my Indios realized they weren’t going to win the feud with the cannon so they shot once more then headed towards the board edge to call for more help.
The French got off a couple more shots with the cannons and applied enough hits to reduce my Fortitude to 5. They applied another Debris Lucky Hit to my poor Milicianos on top of the fort but their resolve held.
At the end of turn 5 I had 1 Strike Point for Casualties and Guy’s French had 2 for two of my units escaping off the board.
Going into turn 6 (after the game I realized the game only goes 5 turns after the alarm has been sounded!) all the French cannons were fully unloaded so Grammont used his command points to have his units abandon their guns to they could advance on the fort and try to fire their small arms at the defenders.
The French command unit got right up to the fort wall and fired straight through the windows and tossed in a Firepot for good measure. After rolling poorly with 3 Firepot dice, 8 Blunderbuss dice and 4 pistol dice, Guy re-rolled them all with his final Fortune Point but my Soldados were lucky and rolled well for their saves and only took 1 casualty.
My Milicianos on top of the fort finally got off their only volley in the game on this last turn and killed a couple Marins but they didn’t waver.
Throughout turns 5 and 6 and I had been half firing with the Soldados but the Marins kept saving! Half firing seemed to work well since I could only fire 4 muskets out of the fort at a time anyway. I really wanted one more kill on this last turn to give the French 7th casualty and give them a Strike Point but the Marins saved again!
The French swarmed towards the tower but weren’t able to reach the door and attempt a breach before the game ended. With the help of my commander my Indios were able to leave the board which gave the French another Strike Point.
One unit of Marins headed for the Longboat but they couldn’t move fast enough to occupy the boat before the game ended.
At the end of turn 6 we calculated Strike Points:
- My Spanish had 1 Strike Point for casualties having lost around 13 models.
- At only 6 models lost, the French had no Strikes from casualties but they had 3 Strike Points for the Spanish units that had escaped off the board.
With more than 20 men closing in on the fort, the French were close to taking it, but time had run out and reinforcements were on the way which resulted in a Spanish victory.
- This scenario more difficult for the attacker than I initially estimated. The fort is really tough and it would seemingly take a miracle to actually destroy the entire fort in a 200 point game. Just getting through that 6 Fortitude is daunting and takes time. Bringing a heavily gunned ship might have resulted in more damage, but that ship can’t even get onto the board until turn 2. Assuming you get a broadside fired 3 times over the 5 turns a ship can be on the board, you need to score 7 hits on all 3 broadsides to get the 21 hits needed to destroy the fort (not taking Crits into consideration). That’s hard. Maybe impossible.
- The ability to give the defender a Strike Point by simply walking a unit off the board seems really strong. It does weaken your defensive force but if you walk several units off the board, that’s a lot of Strike Points! Looking at the way this game played out, my Milicianos weren’t really going to do any good until turn 5. It was certainly better to walk them off the uncontested side of the board. With the strength of that action in mind, it may be better for the attacker to deploy units on both sides of the board to hinder the defenders from leaving.
- In the best case scenario, the Attacker can occupy both sections of the fort and occupy the boat with two units to give the Defender 4 Strike Points through scenario goals. If the Defender wanted to “game it” aggressively, they could bring 10+ units of 5 Milicianos and just rush them all off the board. It would be kind of stupid but the defender could give the attacker 10 Strike Points this way, never come in contact with the Attacker’s troops and win even though they lost the fort. Don’t play that way! I tried to play thematically but I did feel a little dirty for the 3 Strike Points for the escaped units.
- The other strange thing about this scenario is that cannons on the fort won’t always be useful. I guess the “minimum range” rules found in NPBtL are optional but I wanted to use them because they make sense. There’s no way they could actually depress a gun far enough to shoot men right at the foot of the fort. But combining that 10″ minimum range with the 12″ nighttime visibility meant cannons aren’t useful in many cases. Cannons could still target ships and units with Matchlock Muskets at 24″ but in this game the cannons would never have been able to fire at anything. I almost brought the cannons just for theme’s sake but Guy talked me out of it. I left the cannons on the fort just to look cool.
- The one thing you could do with your cannons as the Defender is blow up your boat! If you wanted to be even more “gamey” you can place your boat 10″ away from you fort so a cannon could target it and destroy just to deprive the Attacker the chance to occupy it and give the Defender Strike Points. Don’t do this either!
- The fort is worth the 20 points. I’m really interested in building it into some standard lists. The new rules for fortifications released on the Firelock website are pretty cool. Only Militia, Tercio or Expeditionary forces can take them and that force will automatically become the defender. The rules for fortifications in the core rule book were kind of vague and made it difficult to actually know how to deploy those fortifications and these new rules clear up some of that uncertainty.
- I really like the Superior Cover rules. Any unit in the lower level of the fort saves on a 3+ which is huge, especially for units with lousy Saves like Militia. On the other hand, only 4 models can fire at a time through the windows making defensive fire less deadly. I think I’ll be manning that lower level with units of 8 Militia next time so they can half-fire efficiently.
- As the core rules are written, cannon fire is very deadly vs units outside of a structure. Strangely enough, solid shot is currently more effective than grapeshot on units not in a structure. Those cannon shots were pretty devastating to my units of Indios and Lanceros in spite of their strong Save numbers. I heard that the upcoming errata/rules update is changing the way solid shot hits units to make grapeshot actually useful. Right now using grapeshot is basically giving yourself a +4 penalty to your shot! I’m eager for that errata document to come out!
- After playing this mission once, I kind of think a “rush and breach” approach might be a strong strategy as the attacker. The cannon approach looks pretty hard (and to be fair, Guy knew the cannons would be a tough strategy) but bringing up a bunch of melee units supported by some ranged units to suppress the men on top of the fortress might be effective. Whatever the case, I think the attacker would do well to bring units in on both sides of the field to make it harder for the defending units to hand out Strike Points by leaving the field.
- The game would feel very different if the attacker used a substantial naval force but I think it would still be a challenge to take down the fort and land units are still very important for the attacker.
Thanks to Guy for a good game! While I think this scenario could be broken a bit by a “gamey” defender if they had a mind to, we had a good time with it!
I’d like to hear about other people’s experiences with this scenario!