The Canoa has the distinction of being the smallest vessel in Blood & Plunder. It seems to be primarily used by the Native factions but I figured it would be worth posting a short article looking at this boat in detail. The new Birchbark Canoe shares the same stats with the Canoa, but it has a different model that’s more appropriate to North American tribes and it can hold an additional 2 models.
The canoa isn’t a fast boat, but it isn’t really a slow boat either. It’s a tortoise: slow and steady. It’s a unique vessel in Blood & Plunder since it is the only boat without any options for sails. A top speed of 4″ is standard but without sails, you only get that 4″ move if you assign a unit for man the Sweeps. With only space for 8 minis, you likely won’t want to keep a unit (usually the only unit in the boat) on the Sweeps full time. More than likely you will use the Paddles ability which lets you move at 3″ at every opportunity, even without a unit assigned to the Sweeps. You still have to have enough models to fulfill the sweeps requirement, but in this case that’s only 2 models.
While you aren’t going to win any races with the canoa, it can always move without hindering the standard actions of the men in the boat. If you bring a Piragua in the same force as canoa, your canoa might fall behind unless you fully man the Sweeps which can be very annoying. I find that if a larger ship wants to run from the Natives, the canoa will never really catch up which can make for a lousy game. Hopefully your opponent wants to play a good game and won’t just sail away from your tiny canoa.
There’s a strange phenomenon in the game where the wider the ship/boat, the more forward momentum gained in a turn. This means that a thin boat like a canoa won’t get any of that momentum gained by the width of a boat in a turn. I’ve been rammed repeatedly by a larger ship just because I couldn’t get out of reach of the wider ship, so watch out for that disadvantage.
This is where the Canoe excels. There’s several things going for the canoa here:
- You can move at any speed between 1″ and 3″ using Sweeps/Paddles.
- You can quickly reverse directions which can be very useful if an enemy ship starts to try to ram you.
- You can place the maneuver dial anywhere on the boat which means you drastically change where your turn ends. (this has been confirmed by Mike Tunez on Facebook).
- You never have to take Sailing actions to attempt maneuvers or change sail settings. Your boat just magically moves every turn.
Durability is not the Canoa’s strong suite. With a hull Fortitude of 2 and Integrity of 3, it only takes 3 hits on the boat to get a Critical hit and 4 hits to get 2 Criticals. Without any rigging, the Rigging Critical hit turns into another hit on the Hull. That won’t hurt most of the time since if you get hit, your Hull is probably already shot to pieces.
Leaks are the real danger. If you get two leaks, your entire boat sinks immediately and takes your entire crew with it. On any given Critical roll, you have a 40% chance of a Leak. Between that and the 10 Destroyed Crit, taking a shot from any cannon is really scary.
The Unstable trait makes canons even more dangerous. After the boat gets hit by any amount of damage from a cannon, you are forced to roll a d10 for every remaining model in the boat and kill that model on a roll of a 1 or 2. The moral of that story is don’t get hit by cannons!
The Low Profile trait is very helpful, but by the time you get within 12″, cannons are only looking for 6’s to make contact (using the new optional rules) or 5’s with a Master Gunner. One of the ways I try to mitigate the danger of getting hit by cannons is not filling my canoas to full capacity. The boat is so cheap compared to the models that you put in it, I find it helps to load 5-6 models in a canoe so I’m only losing 20-30 points in a canoe rather than a full 32-48 points if a canoa goes down. I find that units with bows and poisoned arrows still function fairly well with 5-6 models since they are still able to apply plenty of Fatigue so I don’t see the small unit size as a big cost. You might want a big unit of Warriors as a boarding party but you’ll have to take the risk of getting the whole unit blasted to pieces.
Whatever you do, try to avoid getting rammed by a ship. The consequences are severe.
A size 2 ship will deal you 2 damage then force you to roll a 5+ Save for every model remaining. A size 3 ship will deal 4 damage (all your hitpoints) and force the same Saves. If you get close to the front of a ship, it can be better to grapple and charge, even if futile, rather than get rammed. Ships like the Tartana and Sloop can turn hard and hit you when you aren’t really expecting it.
The canoa can only hold 8 models but I don’t find that to be too troubling. As I said above, I’m generally OK with small unit size for most of a Native force. The Ship’s Boat trait mitigates this restriction as well. You can use two or even 3 Canoa to house a single unit as long as you keep the boat close to each other. I have run units of 10-12 Young Warriors in two canoes and it seems to work out fine. I haven’t heard a real ruling but I’m guessing that distance has be measured between both boats desperately when measuring for Range penalties which means that the target numbers for ranged attacks could be different, but I’m not certain of that at all.
I find the size can be a little annoying when building my command unit for Native forces. One of the strange things about unnamed Native commanders is they never come with a better weapon than a generic Standard Melee Weapon. That means your basic unit size is reduced by one for all ranged attack purposes (you can sort of get around this by attaching the Commander to Warriors, then equipping them with bows). This means you’ll be stuck at 7 models +commander in your command group or you have to move to two boats with 9+1. It’s not a huge deal at all, but it occasionally fouls up my list building.
Other Considerations for the Canoa
I’ve discussed this boat almost solely in relation to the Native factions, but there’s no reason you can’t use the canoa for other factions as well. I’ve used it occasionally for a cheap boat for English and French. If you’re brave enough, you can put marksmen units in the Canoa and keep them removed from the close combat and snipe away while paddling. This is the only boat that has Paddles for any faction besides the Natives (and Black Caribs) so it presents some unique opportunities.
On the flip side, the longboat is almost better for the Natives than the Canoa. All Native factions give all boats Paddles which is the main benefit of a Canoa over a Longboat. A Native Longboat has the same durability as a Canoa and it lacks the extreme maneuverability since it has a set point where you have to place the movement template, but it also lacks the Unstable trait, it can hold more models and it has Rigging which can be destroyed (even if you aren’t using it) which helps your durability in a few cases. I’ve never used Longboats for Natives just because they look cool in their canoas, but on paper, it looks like a strong option.
The canoa isn’t that expensive in real world money (compared to the other ships) but you’ll likely want several of them, or maybe one or two of them and 1 Piragua to make an interesting sea-going Native force.
Uses for the Canoa
In general, I see the canoa as a Native vessel. It’s cheap, it holds a decent amount of models, it lets all those models shoot a continuous stream of arrows and it’s maneuverable.
So far my most successful tactic is to fill several canoa with plenty of bows (with poisoned arrows if possible) and push the entire flotilla forward at the same rate so you can engage the enemy all at the same time. With the flexible speed, its fairly easy to keep them all abreast. You don’t want one boat ahead of the others to get focused on and knocked out before the rest of your fleet engages. I like to fill one canoa with a stronger melee unit like the Warriors with Thrown Weapons or the African Warriors and I might push that canoa forward a little more as the enemy closes so you have a chance to board if you’re able to suppress the enemy troops with arrows.
I’ve used the canoa effectivelly in amphibious scenarios as a landing craft for a non-Native force. Paddles are really nice for this. If you don’t want to invest a lot in your ship/boats for an amphibious game, Canoas are the cheapest option.
I’m not sure if it’s strictly better to play more canoes and less piraguas but I find myself preferring to play more canoes than piraguas for Natives, partly just because they’re cheaper to fit into a list. The piragua is considerably tougher which is nice but I find myself using more canoes to increase the amount of targets for my enemy and avoid clumping all my points into once easy target.
I find I can build a 100 point Native list with 3 canoes or 1 piragua and a canoa. A 200 point army can use up to 6 canoes or 1 piragua and 3 canoes. I have a couple 350 point fleets using 1 piragua and 6 canoes.
That’s it. It’s a small boat and I don’t have a lot to say about it. If you’re playing Natives, you should get at least one canoa and get familiar with how to “paddle” it. Chances are you’ll want more than one. If you aren’t playing Natives, it can still be a useful little boat, just for it’s cheap point cost and the flexibility of the paddles.
I would enjoy hearing about your experiences and opinions on the canoa.
Check out all our other ship reviews, painting guides, rigging guides and ship stats on our Ultimate Guide to Blood & Plunder Ships page.
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