My friend Guy Rheuark has been working on a set of rules for solo and co-op play and I recently got to play through a game using those rules. These fan-made rules are still in development but they look like they could be a lot of fun, especially for players who have difficulty finding players in their area.
I don’t know these rules inside and out, but I got to look through some scenarios and charts and play through a game using the AI rules. These rules let players set up a commander and a naval force, determine numbers for their force’s Morale, Navigation, Planning, Purpose and Luck, then play through a branching tree of scenarios vs Spanish defenders (or the forces of nature) using a effective but simple AI system.
Here’s the list I created for this test game and here’s how my force generated numbers for those areas.
- Experienced Dutch Naval Commander attached to 8 Soldaten
- 11 European Sailors without Pistols assigned to 3 pairs of Medium Cannons
- 6 Enter Ploeg with 2 Blunderbusses and a Firepot assigned to 2 Swivel Guns
- 5 Zeelieden without Pistols
With all the Sailors and Expert Sailors in my list, my Navigation target number moved from a 7 to a 2. Between scenarios, you need to to a Navigation check to see if you can move forward towards your next desirable objective, or if you will be pushed off course and be forced to sail through a storm or play a more difficult version of the next scenario.
My Planning number starts at 6+ and then gets reduced by one for every Command Point and Fighting man which brings target number down to 4.
Morale starts at 3+ which is pretty easy, then it’s modified by -1 for various abilities that your commander may have like Inspiring, Lead by Example, Leader of Men etc. Models with Drilled also effect this number in a positive way while an Inexperienced commander gives you a penalty as does taking lots of Support models in your list. With the Expertly Drilled Soldaten in my list and no penalties from abilities or Support units, my Morale number moved down to a 2. All professionals here!
You can see the complete set up rules (in progress) here.
After launching from port I started by resolving the “Roving” setup adventure. If I succeeded my Navigation Test, I had a chance to either chase a lightly armed merchant prize, or have a naval encounter with the Spanish Guarda Costa.
With all my Dutch expert sailors non board I felt good about this! My Navigation target number was 2+ but I rolled a 1 and was “Swept West.” This forced me to roll a Morale check as my crew became less confident of their captain who apparently couldn’t sail out of port without losing control of his ship. I passed but if I had failed I would have gone into my next battle with a penalty on all my crew’s Resolve numbers. A successful Planning test moved me to Spanish Waters. A successful Navigation check here let me move to the Spanish Settlements Encounter where I played my first game. As yuh can see, there’s a good bit of story that’s played out before and between battle scenarios.
My first battle was Guns of the Coast, an amphibious Control the Field game with my force as the attackers.
Using the simple scenario setup instructions, the Spanish defending force consisted of:
- 2 units of 10 Milicianos
- 2 units of 12 Marineros (with pistols)
- 2 Light Cannons on field carriages
- 4 Swivel Guns on field carriages
- 2 Breastworks
This force totals exactly 200 points as well. In this system, the AI doesn’t get a commander and the game simply ends it they would be forced to roll for Strike Test.
We set up a simple coastline with simple fortifications made of barrels for the Spanish defenders and began the game.
Here’s where we come to real AI for the Spanish. Every activation they simply use the top card of their activation deck, redrawing for any event cards they play (AI ignores all events in their deck).
Above is part of the basic flowchart for the AI. They always activate the unit closest tothe players units first and work back from there. They’re basically programmed to charge if they’re close enough, reload if they have any reload markers, move towards cover if it’s possible and shoot if they’re well placed.
They won’t always be the smartest opposition but it seems to work pretty well! You can see the full (in progress) flowchart here.
Guy placed the Spanish (a poor planning roll somewhere in the setup let the Spanish start manning the cannons rather than way back in their deployment zone) and we set up a Ship stat card for a makeshift dock (we were a little short on time for this session and we didn’t have some of standard terrain elements with us) and I placed my ship in my deployment zone.
The game started and the Spanish fired off their Right hand battery of cannon and swivels but at long range, it did no damage.
I sailed in closer and fired my two swivels with my Enter Ploeg and took down one or two Marineros. Being eager to use the new Strict rule, I applied it to a Expertly Drilled shot with my Soldaten and battered up the close Marineros pretty badly although their Resolve held firm in spite of rolling 6 Fatigue dice!
The Spanish were unfortunate to draw Hearts and Spades which meant the moved up slowly while the Marineros engaged the entire ship. On the last activation of turn 1 I fired my Medium Cannons into the Marineros. Using the new updated cannon rules, the guns don’t get any dice beyond the initial die for each cannon, but the the models taken as casualties don’t get any Save rolls. I think every shot with my cannons in this game killed a man. They aren’t as devastating as before and I wish I had grapeshot with me, but they still hurt.
By the middle of the second turn, the closer Marineros were pretty well ruined.
While the Spanish didn’t do a lot of damage to my ship or crew in this game, that’s to be expected in many of these scenarios. As you move through a campaign, you don’t replenish your force between games. At the end of your game, you get a roll a d10 for each casualty against their resolve number. On a success, that wounded figure is restored to your force but on a fail, that model dies and you move on without him.
By the time my ship got close to the dock, I had eliminated the Marineros on the closest position but the Milicianos were finally closing in.
I grappled the “dock” but didn’t jump any men out just yet. That barren coast land offered no cover! As the Milicianos approached, I fired my cannons into them killing three more and fired another Expertly Drilled volley which left the forward Milicianos shaken and prone.
The other gun batter fired into my Enter Ploeg with both cannon and swivels and succeeded in killing one model but my swivels fired back killing more of them.
At the end of turn 4 I jumped my Enter Ploeg out of the ship along with the Zeelieden to storm the battered Marineros and take some objectives while the Soldaten and cannons suppressed the last oncoming unit of Milicianos.
But we didn’t get that far. With more than 50% Spanish casualties to 1 Dutch man lost, the Spanish laid down their arms and surrendered.
My men rounded up the defeated Spaniards. At this point I could choose to take these captured soldiers and use them as Pressed Men in my force. While that would increase my model count, it would decrease the overall moral of my force so I stripped them of their 24 pistols and let them go free. I also get to take the cannons and swivels and add them to my force.
I addition to the standard loot I can take from the defeated foe, I get to do a Luck check to see if there was any treasure or wealth in the outpost I raided, then roll a Planning check and if successful, I get a “Purpose” -1 bonus to every roll in my next game. That only lasts until my force takes any casualty during that next game, but it still seems really good. The crew is euphoric after a successful raid on the Spanish!
I list a single model over the course of that entire game. After the battle I rolled a Resolve check for this Enter Ploeg model and easily passed. It seems Daan is made of stern stuff and only had a flesh wound.
After resolving all the loot and healing after a game, I move “Open Waters” which gives me many more opportunities for further adventures. If I had lost, my force would have been captured and I would have had to attempt an escape scenario on land.
One of the options in the Open Waters way-point is “Taking Towards Port” where you can split the wealth you’ve earned and disband your crew. There are various levels of “winning” and rewards depending on how much wealth you’ve accrued over the course of your adventures.
- I really like playing competitive games head-to-head with other players and this felt very different than a “standard” Blood & Plunder session, but I really liked this as well. I think this style of play is much more focused on the Narrative you can create than crafting the strongest force possible and attempting to destroy an opponent.
- When I first looked over the pages Guy sent me, they were a little overwhelming with plenty of abbreviations and lingo that didn’t make sense but after playing through a bit of it and going back a looking again, it’s not that complicated.
- I anticipated this set of rules to be primarily focused on how the AI runs the troops while in a battle. Actually that’s a pretty small part of what Guy has put together. The different mini scenarios that are resolved with simple die rolls between scenarios are just as important to the overall experience and the story you can create.
- This certainly won’t replace my standard Blood & Plunder games but I would really like to play through more scenarios either by myself of with another play as a co-op game. You could start by both controlling 100 points of men on a single ship, and split to two ships as soon as you’re able to take your first prize. I could honestly even see my wife playing with me this way!
- This set of rules is also extremely helpful for people who are excited about the game and have bought into it but don’t have a strong local community to engage with. It might sound kind sad, but you could even take your game into your FLGS and play out some scenarios using this rule-set and possibly attract some new players! Visibility at game stores is a huge way to grow your community but it’s hard if you don’t even have one person to play with and this could solve that problem.
- This rule-set is still in development but it’s already very usable. I was the first person to try it out at all beyond Guy’s personal testing. I’m sure he will be working on those documents I’ve linked above so things may change but I think it’s already at a good place.
- Guy told me he’s always interested in feedback so if you have any thoughts, ideas or inspiration to send his way, you can contact him. You can find him in the Blood & Plunder Facebook group run by Firelock Games.
- Here are the two links again:
- This is strictly a fan-made set of rules at this point and Firelock isn’t connected with this project
Thanks to Guy for working hard on this new idea and sharing it with me! If you’re interested in this project, feel free to share ideas by commenting on Facebook, directly on this blog, or contacting the author, Guy Rheuark.