Rules Update Preview!

There have been rumors of an upcoming errata and FAQ for a few months now and it sounds like it’s actually close now! Huzzah! The designers have been pretty open out the different rules updates they’ve been considering and it sounds like they’re finished and we should be seeing the FAQ, Errata 1.3 for the core and Errata 1.2 for NPBtL published in early June.

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Errata is not the most glorious part of a game’s life but it’s necessary to keep the game healthy and correct abused or overpowered combos. Getting used to new rules and losing favorite combos can be annoying, but it’s always for the best! Hopefully these updates will help keep the game balanced, and make game play more realistic and enjoyable!

Mike Tunez generously sent me an advance of both the Errata and FAQ and this post will look at some of the highlights from these documents. The Errata document is arranged by chapter but I’ll be looking at rules that interest me in a fairly random order.

Cannons

In my local group, cannons had nearly dropped from the meta altogether. Swivels and muskets were faster and more efficient for the cost in almost every battle. We could tell there was a bit of a balance issue here and I’m happy to report they adjusted the costs of both cannons (aboard ships) and swivels to encourage players to use cannons.

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First the “bad new.” Swivels get nerfed! I think this was needed. In my area, swivels were an “auto include” and every ship would get a full compliment with no question. Their cost is now moving from 2 points per gun to 4. When you run the numbers, Swivels have been the most efficient way to throw dice from a ship. You could put 4 swivels manned by 12 sailors on the back of a Sloop 44 points. Add a 4 point Master Gunner to that and you can shoot those swivels every single turn on any suite of card. You’d have to pay a minimum of 55 points to get 12 dice with a base of 6 Shoot and they don’t get Fast Reload!  Swivels have outclassed muskets and this will balance it out a little.

They’re still  affordable at 4 points for 3 dice, but you really have to think about how many you’re going to take now. I’ve played a few times now using them at 4 points each and I find that it does affect the way I build a army.

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Swivels got hit but cannons get some help! Pairs of cannons have been costed at 10 for Light, 14 for Medium, and 18 points for Heavy cannons aboard a ship and those numbers are going down to 7, 10 and 13 respectively. I welcome this change! This does all sorts of good things in my opinion. It not only makes cannons more useful and efficient in larger naval games, but it makes naval games closer to 100 points a real possibility. A Sloop with 3 pairs of light guns cost 44 points which left only 56 points for models in a 100 point game. With those extra 9 points this adjustment gives you you can buy 3 more sailor models (assuming they don’t have pistols).

This makes the Galleon easier to actually play as well. Buying 14 pairs of Heavy Cannons for a Galleon is “prohibitively” expensive. 14×18=252 points just for cannons (not even counting the models necessary to crew the gun). Bringing those heavies down to 13 points per pair means you have 70 more points for models.

The cost of field guns and single guns in structures remain unchanged.

Targeting units outside of structures gets a rules update as well. The way the rules were originally written, cannons are extremely devastating to units outside a structure. At 11″ a cannon needs to roll a 2 to hit, then it gets an additional 2-4 dice of further damage with that same target number if the first dice hits and 10’s count as double damage. Cannons should be powerful, but the weird thing is that solid shot was much more powerful than grapeshot. Grapeshot puts you starting shoot value at 4 and lets you roll all your dice at once but with such low numbers needed with the solid shot, it was always better to use solid.

The rules for solid shot vs units out of a structure now read:

If a target is a unit outside a structure, no additional dice are rolled. Each initial hit from a cannon (not a Swivel) automatically removes one model as a casualty, with no Saves allowed.

This is a substantial change, but it just makes Grapeshot make more sense.

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Apparently this next one is old errata but I hadn’t seen it yet! Poorly Equipped no longer applies to artillery. It only applies to small arms. This helps my Spanish! I’ve had games where Light Rain and Poorly Equipped combined to stack 6 reloads on my Spanish cannons. I like the unique things to consider in each faction and I know Spain did have some outdated equipment so I’m a little sad to see that change, but I play Spanish a lot and I won’t complain!

Assignments

I didn’t see this change coming and I haven’t tried it yet but I like the sounds of these adjustments!

We get two basic changes, both making the units assigned to various tasks more flexible. First, abandoning an assigned task is now a standard action. Manning the sweeps or cannons still takes an “Assignment” action which is basically the same as a Dedicated action, but you can abandon those jobs with a Standard action now. The other big change is some of your men can take other actions while assigned to tasks like the Sweeps.

ACTIONS ALLOWED WHILE ASSIGNED

Each Assignment has a minimum crew requirement and a list of actions that the assigned unit can take, which will be listed in the Assignment’s description.
No matter what the Assignment, the unit may always take the following additional actions:

  • Rally
  • Stand/Go Prone
  • Shoot with small arms with half its models (but only if the unit’s model count is double or more the Assignment’s crew requirement.
  • Reload (following the same criteria as above)

This basically makes that unit manning your sweeps a lot more useful. It’s not as wasteful bringing a larger unit on your sweeps since you can now both get some firepower out of them and utilize them for a boarding action without worrying about that Dedicated action to get them off the oars.

On the other side of things, it further limits your artillery crew on land and sea. All the same Assignment rules apply to artillery crew. Once your men are assigned to your guns on your ship, they can’t take move, repair, sailing or other actions besides Fire and Reload and the actions loses above. This will encourage players to have an unassigned unit of sailors on their ships to take care of these basic actions.

This applies to Field Guns as well! You can’t even take a Move action before taking the Abandon action, then you have to take the Dedicated Assignment action again before you can proceed to load and fire again. This considerably reduces the functional mobility of a Field Gun. It makes sense that it would take real effort to move and settle all the paraphernalia that accompanies a cannon but it’s a major change in the game. To me it basically means I’ll be either placing the Field Gun right where I want it before the battle, or close enough I can move fairly quickly then set it up and not move it again through the game. You don’t want to spend too many Dedicated Assignment actions to man those cannons or you’ll never fire!

Manning artillery is serious business now!

Update 6/14/19: Moving is now an allowed action while assigned to artillery. The Errata was updated after I received the preview document. This makes field artillery more useful again.

Tough

This change has been openly discussed  on Facebook and should be no surprise.

“If this unit ends an activation with any amount of Fatigue, and it did not Push or gain any Fatigue during the activation, it may remove a point of Fatigue at the end of its activation.”

Adding that “or gain any Fatigue during the activation” prevents Natives from firing their arrows twice a turn and just dropping their Fatigue with the Veteran or a unit moving 12″ with three actions and dropping the Fatigue. It won’t make a difference to most units but it hits the Natives but they can afford it.

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Drilled

The rule for Drilled now clarifies it only gives a benefit to models with muskets or carbines and it excludes pistols. In many cases a commander with a pistol is attached to a Drilled unit and this just nerfs his pistol shot and that makes sense.

Terror

No real update but there’s a clarification that Terror can only be applied once to an opposing force. It’s possible to include 2 or more models that have the Terror rule. Terror can’t be applied multiple times at the beginning of a game.

Movement

Just a couple of minor adjustments here. Climbing is now a Dedicated action but you can move 4″. This simplifies things I guess. Related to this rule is the addition of Climbing Gear as an equipment option. For 2 points you can equip a unit with climbing gear that extends that dedicated climb to 8″.

Movement on horses also gets a much needed clarification. Mounted units get an additional -1″ penalty to all moves in rough terrain but this technically made it impossible to charge the enemy in rough terrain since units have a 3″ control zone around them. If cavalry only move 2″ and can’t get closer than 3″, that makes cavalry totally impotent in any sort of area terrain. The rule has been changed to:

“Mounted units have an additional -1” to Move actions in Rough terrain. This additional penalty does not apply to Charge actions.”.

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Strict

I’m excited about this one. The Strict rule left me a little puzzled from the start but it has been totally overhauled!

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Strict has been entirely rewritten:

During this Commander’s activation, any friendly unit rolling a Test may gain one point of Fatigue to apply a -1 bonus to that Test. This may not be done if the unit is Shaken or would become Shaken.

This is great. Old Strict was terrible. New Strict is awesome. It’s a very strong ability but it comes with a cost. This will make some decision point in your games. This captain gets results by use of negative reinforcements and intimidation. It works and his crew can perform really well but it takes a toll.

A -1 bonus on any action is very powerful and flexible. I really appreciate being able to apply that bonus to ship’s cannon shots. I love it. I’m super excited to play some more Captain Kidd now. The Dutch Captains get a huge boost out of this as well. I think these Strict Commanders will do well to take a Musician character (and maybe even a Standard Bearer as well) to help clear Fatigue after the Strict actions.

Swift

The Privateer versions is the Sloop, Fluyt and Brigantine have been used a lot in my local group because that extra bit of speed is so valuable. It looks like the designers decided Swift was too powerful and now you have to have a unit assigned to the Sheets & Braces to get the benefit.

This certainly makes those Privateer versions of ships less attractive since you have to use an entire unit to get the benefit but that speed is still there if you really want it.

Commanders

Jean Pinel’s special ship has been updated so it doesn’t rip itself apart.

The ship modification also raises the Brigantine’s top speed to 5″ which makes his ability actually useful! It’s further clarified that Pinel’s ship can only be the “real” Brigantine (not the Privateer Brigantine or Sloop of War).

King Golden Cap now has the Great Warrior rule. I’m guessing that was an oversight since Darien commanders all have that ability.

Characters

No characters have changed beyond the update for the Tough rule but there’s a major change in how you can include characters in your force. You can only take one of each character in a force/company (unless otherwise specified). This is a game changer! I’ve seen and built plenty of lists with multiple Grizzled Veterans and/or Master Gunners.

This got me a little upset for a few minutes. On the one hand it really limits creating a “specialized force.” I think it hurts the Natives a good bit since they often take a few Veterans (and it hurts a counter-Native force trying to keep Fatigue off) and it hurts an “elite cannon ship” where you want to bring a Master Gunner for each deck. On the other hand, it makes these characters more special and it encourages players to use a wider variety of characters beyond their one or two favorites.

I’m a little sad about this change but I think adds realism and is best for the game.

Blunder Monkey

Everyone’s favorite monkey gets some rules! For 15 points you can add a semi-sentient armed monkey to your force. The mere presence of such a divine being on the battlefield gives your entire force an iron will and applies a -1 bonus to all Fatigue and Rally tests.

Nope. I made that all up. The blunder monkey still doesn’t exists in Tunez’s mind.

Miscellaneous

There are plenty more small adjustments and clarifications in the Errata documents but I think I covered all the most notable changes.

Other small notes include:

  • Native sidearm muskets are Firelocks.
  • The Swordsmen bonus triggers even when involved in a multi unit melee.
  • Surprisal at Sea setup now specified you can’t get closer than 15″ to any objective l.
  • Spanish Corsairs Sweeps bonus only applies to boats and ships of size 2 or less.

There’s a solid document of FAQ that’s helpful as well. It sounds like these documents should be released any time in June. Thanks to Mike Tunez for letting me take a look at these rules updates and share them with you! Thanks to Firelock Games for creating a great game and keeping it balanced and running smoothly!

I got to meet Mike at GENCON last year.

One thought on “Rules Update Preview!

  1. Pingback: Ship Overview – The Bark | Blood & Pigment

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