I’ve been playing the Natives for almost a year now and they have proved to be a fun and strong “nationality”. They have proved strong enough that for a while, no one in my club was really enthusiastic about fighting them. That has progressed to a point where a couple players have become focused on figuring out how to effectively counter them. The Natives have lost a few battles at sea, but they reign undefeated on land in my area.
This game was part of our “research” on finding a good way to beat them.
My friend Bryan has become a little obsessed with breaking the Natives, all the way to the point I think he’s earned the “Vendetta: Natives” ability. The French Canadian Militia faction has some similar strengths to the Natives and is much “sneakier” than most European factions which should let it survive the arrows more effectively. They do lack a little in the melee department but their ability to bring Native Warriors can help make up for that.
Bryan’s Canadian Militia force contained:
- A unit of 7 Coureur des Bois with an Experienced French Militia Commander attached.
- A unit of 7 Milice Canadienne with an Officer.
- A of 6 Milice Canadienne, with a Grizzled Veteran.
- A unit of 6 Milice Canadienne.
- Two units of 6 Native Warriors with bows (we used African Warriors for these units in this game).
All these units have solid ranged Save numbers and most all of them have Elusive which will bring Saves against bows down 2 which is as good as it gets! The 6 Resolve on the militia isn’t great vs the Poison, but 4 points for Trained models with great saves and Marksmen is a good deal.
I really like the South American Tribes faction since they have Poisoned Arrows and they don’t have Sound of Thunder. In an effort to tone down the cruelty of the Natives, I chose the Caribbean Tribes which does have the punishing Sound of Thunder trait on all its units (Sound of Thunder forces units to roll an additional Resolve dice when defending against gunpowder weapons).
My Caribbean Tribes force included:
- A unit of 7 Veteran Great Warrior Musketeers with King Oldman attached. Oldman gives all his units with muskets Fast Reload (in addition to Slow Reload) and Marksmen.
- A unit of 8 Veteran Warriors with Thrown Weapons, Sidearm Muskets with an Officer attached.
- A unit of 5 Warrior Archers with Poisoned Arrows and a Grizzled Veteran.
- A unit of 5 Warrior Archers with Poisoned Arrows.
- A unit of 6 Young Warriors.
My force totaled 32 models to Bryan’s 39.
We randomly rolled for a scenario and it came up as Search and Recover.
We have 6″ deployment zones on the long edges of the board and then place 8 objective markers throughout the center of the board. One of these secretly numbered objectives is “the prize” and whoever controls this prize by the end of turn 3 or later gives the opposing force a Strike Point.
We worked together setting up the board with a large area of cover surrounding a Native ruin near the center of the board and a high hill on the Left side of the board. The waterline is the edge of the board as is the line of rocks on the Right side of this picture.
My Natives rolled high and became the Attackers. The roles are no different in this scenario but this let me use my faction ability to deploy two of my units using the Lay in Wait rules. This is really good for this particular scenario but I tried not to abuse it.
I deployed my command unit near the center of the back of the board with the Warriors on my Right.
And the Young Warriors on the Left.
I deployed both units of Warrior Archers prone in the center of the board in areas of terrain.
Bryan evenly spaced his units across the back of the board with the Command unit near the center
And the game was ready to begin!
Bryan took initiative on the first turn and shot off some arrows at my prone Archers on my Right. I first rolled a standard ranged save forgetting I was defending vs bows since I’m always the one using the bows! After correcting my mistake I rolled two 1’s for my two Saves and immediately spent a Fortune to re-roll since 1’s were the only number I would die on!
I stood my two units of Archers early and got some poisoned shots off on the first couple activations. I’ve learned the hard way that you don’t want to let those Lay in Wait units stay prone very long or someone will figure out how to charge them. That doesn’t feel good…
Bryan shot off several musket volleys at 12-16″ on the first turn. At that range, Hidden was kicking in a he was only hitting on 10’s so there wasn’t a lot of hits.
But when I did get hit it hurt! These Warrior Archers above failed 1 Save and had to roll 3 Resolve dice! I was lucky this time, but 3 Fatigue dice really hurts when your Resolve is 6 for most of your faction.
I moved Oldman’s marksmen up to the edge of the clump of cover and used his 3 command points to move the Warriors up a little and rally both Archers who had accumulated some Fatigue from enemy musketry.
Bryan used his Warriors to dash forward, with Quick, shoot off a volley, and Skirmish away but I didn’t take any casualties.
I took a Fatigue to take a full 3 move actions with my Veteran Warriors to get them all the way to the front of that cluster of terrain and within charging distance of the enemy. With the Oldman Command Point as well, they moved 16″ on the first turn, putting them 22″ into the 36″ wide board and within striking distance of several of the French units.
Turn 1 ended with fairly clear battle lines drawn. I had lost one model and Bryan had lost two. No objectives were retrieved.
I bid for initiative with an 11 of Spades at the opening of turn 2 but Bryan had the 13.
He got some good musketry off using his commander and applied more Fatigue to my Archers in my front line.
With Oldman’s command points I was able to drop enough arrows on the Coureur des Bois to give them 3 Fatigue and make them withdraw from the front.
I fired off my muskets as well. At 16-20″ I had a nasty +4 range penalty but Great Warrior brought it down by 1 and I used the Marksmen ability as well to get my target number down to 8.
I think I may have killed a Militia model or two, but the muskets weren’t particularly effective at such a range.
And without Poisoned Musket Balls, the musketeers didn’t apply any Fatigue!
The French Warriors with bows did some more skirmishing but didn’t break my Archers.
My Young Warriors on my Left went way out of the battle area to pick up an objective but it wasn’t the magic number 3. I was able to apply some more Fatigue to the French with my Poisoned Arrows, but I wasn’t able to get a good charge out of my Warriors yet.
I was confident I could take initiative on turn 3 with a 12 of Spades since Bryan had already used the 13 so I planned out a nasty charge on his Warriors. Using my Officer, I ordered the Archers to fire but they inexplicably missed all their shots while only needing 7’s! I was really relying on that second point of Fatigue on the enemy Warriors to protect myself from the Charge but I didn’t get it! I had already spent all my Fortune points so I couldn’t reroll. I continued with the charge anyway but I had to push my Warriors to get the necessary range (since I used the Officer’s CP on the Archers). The French Warriors loosed their arrows at me, I took one casualty and failed a Resolve check and broke before accomplishing the intended charge! My carefully planned massacre had all come to nothing!
Luckily I had a Veteran attached to the nearby Archers and was able to rally them in short order.
The French took a couple more shots at my archers on my other flank and they took a lot of Fatigue through the game but they consistently Saved well and only lost one model through the game.
I think I shot off my Musketeers again at long range but it wasn’t decisive. Even with Slow Reload, the Veteran Oldman Musketeer can fire and fully reload on a Spade every turn, provided you use a command point on them and don’t use Marksmen. Shoot, eran 3 reload markers, Fast Reload, Reload for second action on a Spade, then Reload again with a Command Point. It doesn’t leave them any actions to move around much, but I was able to hit on 8’s at 12-16″with Great Warrior while the enemy couldn’t hit me at all since I had Hidden working for me.
With the tasty 13 of Spades I took Initiative again on turn 4 and finally accomplished the murderous “Fire poison arrows, Quick, Move, Charge” combo with my Veteran Warriors and I broke the defending Warriors.
Veteran Warriors with Quick, Skirmishers and an Officer can really cover ground! They’ll take a Fatigue for doing it, but they can cover 20″ in a single activation. With Quick and 3 more actions available to them, it effectively increases the range of a deadly charge to an easy 12″ and possibly even 16 if they’re willing to take a Fatigue. And Rough Terrain doesn’t even matter to them since they have Scouts! These guys are the foot cavalry of the game.
I was able to charge and force the French Warriors to fall back, then still fire my Sidearm muskets into the flank of another unit and eliminate that unit as well.
With a full 50% of his force fallen and 2+ Fatigue hindering 4 of his remaining 5 units, Bryan chose to end the game here and withdraw his force partway through round 4.
We calculated Strike Points:
- The Canadian Militia had 2 Strike points for 19 of 39 models take as casualties.
- The Caribbean Tribes only had 5 casualties which didn’t get up to their 8 model Strike Point threshold.
- Neither side had found the objective.
I lost 2 Warriors and 3 Warrior Archers (some of these models were used as proxies to fill out my units).
Bryan lost 2 Coueruer des Bois, 4 Warriors and 13 Milice Canadienne.
Post Game Thoughts
- Well, the Natives won again. This French force was custom built to counter the Natives with strong Saves and solid shoot numbers throughout the force. I think the Resolve was the weak point here. The militia’s 6 Resolve is hard to prop up under the barrage of Poison.
- It’s incredible what the Poisoned Arrows can accomplish. When I first read through the Native factions rules I was underwhelmed by the Poisoned Arrows ability but it increased Fatigue output by a huge margin. I’m not sure if Bryan’s dice are just cursed but the consistency of failure on that re-roll is kind of amazing. If the Saves were successful and there were no casualties he’d either take a Fatigue right away or always fail the re-roll. Mathematically I believe the Poison pushes the single Fatigue die looking for a 6 from a 50% chance of Fatigue to 75% but it felt more like 90% in practice. And if the French rolled a 1 for their Saves, which happens when you’re rolling so many Saves every turn, it seemed that there was always a failed Resolve die and a success which always turned into a fail.
- A good way to block the Poison at least a couple times in a turn is using a Fortune to re-roll a Resolve check that has two fails or more. Once those dice are re-rolled once with the Fortune, they can’t be re-rolled again with Poison since no dice can be rolled more than twice. Bryan did this once this game and it was very helpful.
- The Canadian Militia was much better against the Natives than a standard militia faction, but they still folded under the Fatigue output of Poison. No one really has better Save numbers, but maybe the English would be a better choice with their solid Resolve. A Poison Fatigue dice has a 75% chance of failure at 6 Resolve, 60% at 5 and 45% at 4 Resolve. Getting some English Musketeers, Forlorn Hope or English Militia behind fortifications might be solid vs the Poison.
- I believe Bryan forgot to use his faction free move ability a on at least 2 turns. I’m not sure how much it would have helped in this particular game but it may have hurt his game a little. I may have missed it and he actually did use it every time but I didn’t notice him using it…
- The French employing Native Warriors seems a little helpful to keep up the rate of fire, but without Poison, they are outclassed by the Caribbean Natives. Using those Warriors as Melee units might have been stronger than using them with bows, but in many cases, my units could have used Evade to dodge the potential charge.
- The other anti-native force that Bryan prepared features Benjamin Church. All the abilities and numbers look good, but with a 32 point commander, that force will come to a battle outnumbered at the 200 point level. But that’s out next experiment!
- I believe the South American Tribes are probably still the strongest option for Natives but I think the Caribbean Tribes are still very good. They felt closer to balanced in this game when compared to games using the South American Tribes. Sound of Thunder is really punishing and I feel like if the opposition was able to fire consistently, the Natives would break, but just keeping action efficiency up is the hard part for the opposition.
- I wasn’t able to use a lot, but the few times I was able to use Rain of Arrows (spend two actions on a bow shot and re-roll all fails) is actually pretty good. When you have Archers sitting still and shooting, using Rain of Arrows can be a good choice since you can’t really afford to take 2 Fatigue and fire 3 times. I was using a Rain of Arrows, then taking a Fatigue to shoot again when I had 3 actions and it felt really effective. I was able to get 100% hits a couple times and when you start forcing the target to roll 5-7 Saves, those 1’s start to come up more often.
- King Oldman is good. That is all. No that’s not all! He’s really good! 3 Command Points for 20 points is remarkable and his abilities are nothing to sneeze at either. Buccaneer Tactics (Fast Reload, Marksmen) and Inspiring are plenty good. I think he should be 30-32 points rather than 20. He’s also more useful than the average Native Commander since he actually has a real weapon! He also puts Warrior Musketeers into the Core unit column. I didn’t spam Musketeers in this game, but I feel like it could be fun.
- We didn’t really invest our units into finding that objective… My Young Warriors spent half the 4-turn game moving towards and revealing 1 objective but with 8 objective markers on the board, it’s hard to want to spend actions moving to and grabbing objectives when you only have a 12% chance of getting (it at the beginning of the game). Lay in Wait started the action sooner than would have otherwise been the case and once the action starts, its even harder to want to stop shooting and pick up boxes! The Plunder box was just 6″ away from my Young Warriors at the end of the game but I didn’t know it!
- The Million-dollar-question is “are the Natives too strong?” I haven’t lost with them on land yet and I’ve probably played 15 games or so. I don’t think I can flatter myself and credit my tactical acumen for all those wins so either they’re really strong, or my opponents are missing a key idea or tactic when fighting them. Bryan designed a custom-anti-Native force for this game and while the the game was more balanced that several games we’ve played in the past, it was still a solid victory for the Natives. From the sounds of it, Firelock’s playtesters find the Natives slightly under-powered if anything and I’m not sure how to reconcile that huge difference of experience.
- I’m not sure how many people are playing devoted Native forces yet (I think I’ve only seen one or two battle reports featuring Natives apart from my own) and I’ve seen a couple people come away dismayed after they get hit hard by them, but I haven’t seen a lot of people noticing a balance issue. I would love to hear from more players who have either used the Natives or even better, fought against them. Do you find them balance or do they dump Fatigue on your units with a poisoned shovel?
- I love playing the Natives and I want them to be balanced! They feel so much different than the other factions and they have some real drawbacks but some fun strengths as well. I don’t want them to be over-powered! People won’t want to play against me! I actually really want to fight against the Natives with a “standard force” and see how it feels for myself. I’m the only one playing the Natives in my area so I haven’t had the chance to fight them yet.
- I will use a non-poisoned-arrows Native faction next and see how that feels. My suspicion is that Poisoned Arrows are really what make these few Native factions extremely successful. I really want to try the Darien but I just haven’t done it yet. If there truly is balance issue (which I’m not 100% convinced there is since I respect the playtesters’ work), it may be easily corrected by either increasing the cost of poison to 5, or limiting poison to 1 or 2 units per force rather than having it available to every unit with bows. As it is, I know that those 3 points are well spent and I’ll put it on every units with bows, at the expense of coming to a battle with less men than my opponent. Poisoned Arrows seems really thematic and I love the way it works, but I also don’t want it to spoil games for others players.
- I wonder if part of the strength of the Natives in my group is an overabundance of terrain on the board. I don’t feel like we’re overloading the board, but we may use more terrain than the average player. Once you build a bunch of terrain, it’s hard to not use it all!
We played another game right after this one after tweaking our forces and I will write up a battle report on that as well as time permits. Thanks to Bryan for playing a good game!
If you’ve played the Natives or against them, I would really love to hear about your experiences.