I took a break from playing Native factions after playing through an entire campaign with the South American Tribes but it’s time to bring them back out! I had a chance to play a 200 point naval with my friend Bryan and since I’ve never won a naval encounter with the Natives, I thought it would be a good time to try a new Native faction, the Caribs, or Kalinago.
Well before the game, we chose a random encounter and we were able to build lists ahead of time to fit the encounter. I really enjoy being able to create a custom list for a game. We didn’t decide who was the attacker or defender ahead of time so we had to build a list that could handle either the defensive or aggressive role.
We rolled a d10 on the campaign scenario table and it came up as the Escort mission at sea. I haven’t played this scenario in any theater so I was glad it came up!
In this scenario, the Defender gets a Captured Merchant attached to their force for free and the Attacker basically has to board and capture the merchant to give the Defender a Strike Point while the Defender attempts to keep the “Dignitary” safe from the Attacker. Both players lose if the Merchant dies (from ranged fire or from a ship sinking or being destroyed).
I’ve had bad experiences playing the Natives at sea. If a European force in a fast ship wants to avoid conflict, they can simply keep at a safe distance and shoot away while the Natives have to man the Sweeps (instead of paddles) and row as hard as they can and they still won’t catch up! So, on the off chance I was the Attacker, I selected Captain Tabary for my commander. His standard abilities aren’t in any way amazing but his “Night Raider” ability would really help even the odds if I had was the Attacker.
The Carib/Kalinago have several faction abilities. The ability to bring Poisoned Arrows is probably the strongest but getting Ruthless applied to all your units isn’t half bad either. The Natives excel at putting Fatigue on their enemies so that Ruthless has the potential to kick in pretty frequently. The drawback for the Caribs is Sound of Thunder. Every time they’re attacked by any gunpowder weapon, they have to roll an additional dice in their Resolve check. With a standard of 6 Resolve, this hurts! Even losing a single model to an attack means rolling a full 3 Resolve dice.
My Carib list included:
- A unit of 11 Young Warriors with Poisoned Arrows (split between two canoa)
- A unit of 8 Warrior Archers with Poisoned Arrows
- A unit of 6 African Warriors with Poisoned Arrows
- A unit of 6 Veteran Warrior Musketeers with Tabary attached (This was a mistake! Musketeers are a support unit! Sorry) along with the Captured Merchant.
- 5 Canoa
Captain Tabary would have been helpful if I had been the attacker, but as Defender, he really wastes 10 points. The 15 point Experienced Southern Tribes Commander has the same stats and the only difference is Tabary has a pistol instead of a Standard Melee Weapon. My large unit of Young Warriors was split into 2 Canoas using the Ship’s Boat rule. My force added up to 32 models, plus the Merchant so I would get a Strike Point at every 8 casualties.
The French were led by Alexandre Bras de Fer, or Iron Arm as I will refer to him. At 20 points, he seems to be one of the best budget named commanders.
With both Inspiring and Lead by Example, he can provide solid Fatigue management for his crew.
Bryan’s entire French Buccaneer force included:
- A unit of 10 Flibustiers with Iron Arm and a Reformado attached.
- A unit of 8 Flibustiers with a Sailing Master attached.
- A unit of 6 Kapers with a Carpenter attached.
- A unit of 6 Marins with no pistols with a Master shimmer attached.
- 2 Swivel Guns
- 1 Corvette
I’m not entirely positive which character was attached to which unit, but I think this is close.
I set up my 5 canoas within 2″ of the board edge, all paddling upwind. Bryan placed his Corvette 24″ away, sailing large towards me at an angle.
I moved my canoas straight forward on the first turn and at 22″, my Warrior Archers could hit on 10’s and they fired twice into the main deck. They didn’t kill anyone but I believe they applied some Fatigue with the infamous Poisoned Arrows! In naval battles, the Saves vs arrows are almost comically hard to cut through. All these French models start with a 7 Shoot Save. The ships give them Hard Cover so that goes down to a 6, then the Arrows Save penalty bring the Save target number down to a 3. That means you have odds of saving 80% of all hits applied with arrows! My Archers shot twice looking for 10’s and then rallied away the Fatigue from firing twice with their third action off their Club.
By the second activation, we were within 20″ and Iron Arm fired on my Archers with devastating effect, killing 3 of them.
With Sound of Thunder, that meant a 5 dice Resolve test with my Archers and they took 3 Fatigue and went prone.
Activating the Native commander is always fun but can present some hard choices. Here I could command both the Africans and Young Warriors to fire volleys of arrows applying more Fatigue to ensure I get the Ruthless for my command unit, or I could take advantage of Tabary’s Inspiring ability and get those Archers going again. I chose to Rally the Archers which removed all 3 Fatigue after the Inspiring re-roll, then shoot the 11 Young Warriors as well.
This applied more Fatigue and let the Musketeers apply the Ruthless bonus to their attack. As I mentioned before, the Musketeers aren’t eligible to be my command unit but here I made a mistake to cancel out that previous mistake by forgetting to apply the Great Warrior -1 bonus the the musket volley.
At 8-12″, my musketeers were hitting on 7’s after the Ruthless kicked in. Even Tabary got a hit with his pistol on a 9! I applied 4 hits to the main deck and the French had to use the “real” Shoot Save of 6. The bows are amazing at applying Fatigue, but having some muskets around to actually get hits through seems important for the Natives.
Activating on a Spade as Veterans, the Musketeers reloaded once leaving them with 2 Reloads due to Slow Reload.
The French fired their Swivels at my African Warriors and scored a couple hits but I lucked out and Saved them, only taking one Fatigue.
By the end of the first turn I had taken 3 casualties and Bryan’s French had probably taken 3-5 but they were building up some Fatigue which was drastically slowing their action efficiency.
Let me calculate how many attack dice my Natives threw over the first turn:
- 8 Warriors Archers fired twice = 16
- 6 Musketeers with Commander fired once = 6
- 11 Young Warriors fired twice on their activation and once during the commander’s activation = 33
- 6 African Warriors fired twice = 16
- Grand total of 71 attack dice thrown over the course of the first turn! I got plenty of hits as well, but saving on anything but a 1 or 2 meant not many French died. The Poisoned Arrows did their deadly work which set up turn 2 as a rough turn for the French.
Moving in to turn 2, I saw Bryan aim his Corvette straight towards me so I actually reversed direction with some of my canoas to give me a better chance of avoiding getting rammed by his ship. I don’t like my boats getting rammed… Feels bad.
The Young Warriors fired off their 11 dice again and left Fatigue all over the French ship. About this time Bryan was wishing he could have foreseen my using Natives instead of a European build and brought a Grizzled Veteran instead of Carpenter which turned out to be useless in this game!
With Fatigue building up and an increasing risk of an unpleasant boarding action vs an unprepared crew, Bryan turned to starboard to keep some distance between my canoa and his ship. Iron Arm’s Flibustiers started their activation shaken and prone so their activation was spent rallying and standing and using the commander’s Inspiring command points rallying the other units.
But the arrows kept coming!
The Kapers in the back of the ship got off a solid volley but my luck held and I saved successfully.
Between losing actions to Fatigue and spending actions reloading, the French firepower couldn’t keep up with the Native’s barrage of Fatigue.
By the end of the first activation of turn 2 we were close enough to start thinking about grappling.
Several of Bryan’s actions had to be spent rallying troops with Fatigue on them.
Using a Diamond on my Veteran Musketeers I was able to reload twice and fire at close range remembering both my Ruthless and (illegal) Great Warrior bonus. At under 8″ I think I was hitting on 5’s. Tabary again ordered the Young Warriors to fire. With 11 dice each attack, that unit actually got some kills. When you apply 3-6 hits on every attack, eventually a 1 or 2 gets rolled on those save tests!
This musket volley hit the back deck hard and left the Flibustiers prone while the Kapers held fast.
Bryan activated his Marins next and got another shot off with the two swivel guns targeting the African Warriors.
One African was lost and one Fatigue applied leaving them with two Fatigue.
With all his unactivated units shaken or prone with -1 action and plenty more Natives to activate, Bryan capitulated here, near the end of the second turn. There was really not a clear way to dig out from under the pile of Fatigue the Natives were laying down. With prone units across the decks of the Corvette, my units would have had a good opportunity to board without resistance on the following turn. Rather than play out that ugly scenario, the French ran up the (other) white flag.
The Captured Merchant stayed safely in the hands of the Natives.
Casualties stood at 3 Warrior Archers and an African Warrior for the Natives and 9 Flibustiers, 2 Kapers and a Marin for the French.
We could have played it out but the ending was becoming fairly sure and by ending at this point in the game, we had a chance to play a second game that evening.
Post Game Thoughts
- This was the shortest game I’ve played in a while! Less than two full turns! That said, I don’t have many comments since it was so short!
- The elephant in the room is “are the Natives too powerful?” I’m not sure… I haven’t ever played against the Natives so it’s hard for me to tell. The natives have a unique ability to control the early game with Fatigue but they also have glaring weaknesses, especially at sea. Strenghs in this game would include extreme maneuverability in canoas, constant firepower and increased Fatigue output with Poison. Weaknesses would include difficulty getting past the 3 Ranged Save using bows, Saving on 6’s in canoes compared to 3 for opponents, inferior Resolve across the Native forces, Slow Reload on only muskets, slow canoes compared to larger vessels and fragile crafts prone to being sunk, tipped or rammed. That sounds plenty balanced on paper! I’ve heard that the game’s playtesters have a hard time getting the Natives to win at this point so I’m thinking there’s an alternate way to fight the Natives that must work better that what I’ve seen over the past few times I’ve played them.
- The Native Commander’s CP are extremely valuable. I think I might go for a 3 CP commander like King Oldman or Matamaha next time. The ability to use everyone of those Command Points to fire every turn is so tempting but using those Inspiring rally actions is really crucial for the Natives as well since they tend to have lousy Resolve.
- Captain Tabary didn’t really bring anything special to the table in this game since I was the Defender. I would really like to use him in an attacking force on land sometime since he actually makes the Hidden rule better than normal.
- I’m sorry for the mis-assignment of my commander! I guess I would have put him with the African Warriors. I needed to keep his unit size at 6 normal models plus him so I could fit the 7 models plus the Merchant into a canoa. As it was, I forgot to use Great Warrior on the first time I fired with them and I never used a command point to reload them, so that mistake only kicked in once when I actually applied Great Warrior to the final volley near the end of the game. I don’t think the mistake changed the outcome of the game much, but I feel bad that I made that error.
- I can say for sure that changing the rules for bows has been good. The main rule change that puts a hold on the craziness of rapid fire bows is applying the Fatigue point for firing twice on a turn. Without that, the Natives would be pretty broken, and I don’t use that word lightly.
- I strongly believe that you don’t want to bring large units to a fight against Natives. If you have 3 large units of 10+ models and the Natives have more units with less models, you’ll do lots of damage to one unit when and if you get a good volley off, but it’s so easy for the Native archers to target that large unit, drop a couple points of Fatigue on it, then those 60+ points of Boucaniers or Flibustiers are merely rallying on their entire activation rather than actually taking part in the battle. Also, it’s a good idea to fire as many times as possible vs any Native force with Sound of Thunder so they take the extra Resolve test as often as possible. Might even be worth half firing every turn instead of doing full volleys.
- This game gave me a new appreciation for the Young Warriors. They still cost 4 points, but they’r the cheapest Native unit you can get. Inexperienced hurts a little, but if you have a diverse force with a Veteran, some Trained and once Inexperienced unit, you can use all your cards effectively every turn. Just give the Young Warriors the Diamond, the Veterans the Spade and the Trained the Club. Anyway, the mass of Young Warriors was very effective. They have a Resolve of 5 instead of the standard Native 6 and with Ruthless and a 6 Shoot skill, they’re going to land plenty of hits. The Warrior Archer has that tasty 5 Shoot skill, but at one point less, I’m happy to take at least one unit of the Young Warriors in a Native force when possible.
Thanks to Bryan for the game! I think we need to play with Natives some more and develop some good counter tactics and learn how to build forces with them in mind.
I’ve heard some other players mention the Natives seem difficult to fight against as well. I would love to hear from people who have figured out how to beat them!
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