This was an interesting campaign game. It was planned as a 2v2 naval encounter but coordinating 4 players can be difficult! The first 2 turns were just 1v1 and the 3rd and 4th ships can onto the board on turn 3 as reinforcements. It made for an interesting (and somewhat chaotic game)!
I didn’t get the details on every force but I’ll try to represent them as accurately as I can.
Across the table from me was an “unholy alliance” of the Dutch Navy and Pirates.
My friend Bryan controlled the Dutch force sailing in a Heavy Bark.
This was a fairly well-rounded force using 3 pairs of Medium Guns with plenty of cannon crew and supported by a substantial group of Soldaten with the campaign commander attached.
- 12 zeelieden without pistols + master gunner
- 8 Soldaten w/ commander & grizzled vet
- 7 European sailors with muskets
- 7 European sailors with muskets
- Heavy bark with 3 medium Cannon pair
Destined to enter the game on turn 3, Thomas’s Pirate list was much more focused and single-minded. His gunship list included:
- A unit of 12 Sea Dogs with the commander and a Master Gunner attached.
- A unit of 11 Sea Dogs without Pistols.
- A unit of 8 Sea Dogs without Pistols.
- A frigate fully loaded with 7 pairs of Medium Cannon.
Opposing the unholy alliance was Kevin’s English Buccaneers and my Pirate Hunters. Kevin was late to the meetup so my Pirate Hunters were first to enter the fray.
I upgraded my commander since my last campaign game and I’m really liking how he’s turning out. He would probably be a 25 point commander if he was given points. I’ve hit reefs too often in this campaign so I gave him Expert Pilot to help keep my ship off those hazards!
I had an educated guess that I would be up against that tough Frigate gunship so I de-emphasized my Cannons on my ship and went more for small arms to supress cannon crews. My last game taught me a Sloop of War has a hard time going toe-to-toe in a cannon duel with a Frigate.
My complete force included:
- 10 Trained English Militia with the commander attached.
- 12 Sea Dogs with no pistols assigned to 2 Swivels and 2 pairs of Light Cannons with Grapeshot on the back deck with a Carpenter attached.
- 5 Zeelieden with no pistols with a Sailing Master attached.
- 10 Sea Dogs with no pistols assigned to 4 Swivel Guns in the forward deck.
- 4 Trained English Militia on front deck.
- Sloop of War
Kevin’s balanced Buccaneer force contained:
- 10 Sea Dogs with no pistols with his campaign commander attached.
- 8 Sea Dogs with no pistols with a Master Gunner attached.
- 8 Sea Dogs with no Pistols
- 7 Kapers
- 6 Swivel Guns
- 4 pairs of Medium Cannons
- Brigantine with Shallow Draft upgrade
We have been using the generic Encounter for this campaign and this game was no exception. The unusual thing about this game is that we started with two players and added the other two players in after the end of turn 2. One of our players was running substantially late and we knew we wouldn’t be able to finish if we didn’t start. This made for an interesting game but had some unintended consequences later which were not so pleasant (for me).
We placed two shoal terrain pieces, rolled for Attacker (my team was the Attacker) and placed our ships and the game was ready to start! The wind was coming from my starboard side.
Bryan moved first and I matched his maneuver by sailing away from the wind so he couldn’t present his cannons right away .
We closed some distance before we let loose with small arms. Bryan’s Soldaten fired into my forecastle killing some militia and a Sea Dog and replied with all 4 Swivel Guns. Those 12 dice sure fun to throw but not fun to be hit with!
My militia scored a couple hits as well but nothing too dramatic. The Medium Cannons hit me hard and score 5 hits at close range. I saved well but my ship’s Fortitude was almost down to 3!
Going into turn 2 we were extremely close and with 2 Command Point commanders on each ship, initiative was going to make a big difference! And… true to form, I drew an event which turned into that same !@#$ Submerged Hazard event again! My ship has been hit by this event in all 3 games in this current campaign! Captain Thomas Clarke has a knack for hitting these reefs… But he finally learned his lesson with the Expert Pilot ability and with rolling two dice for each test, I didn’t have trouble with the reef all through this game.
I drew the 12 of Spades at this crucial moment and it served me well!
I was able to fire my back cannons and swivels (6 grapeshot dice and 6 swivel dice), my militia again and the front 12 swivel dice again and it made a huge mess of the Heavy Bark’s main deck.
This volley was the moment of glory for my Pirate Hunters in this game. I did enough damage to cripple the Soldaten unit for most of the rest of the game and leave the Zeelieden prone which prevented an immediate return volley from his cannons.
I think I got 9 hits off the Swivels alone!
The two units of European Sailors with muskets got revenge later in the round when the both fired at point blank range into my front deck and killed all the Militia and some of the Sea Dogs reducing my swivel efficiency.
That one round was extremely good for my side as it left the Dutch ship severely undermanned and outgunned.
17 dead Dutchmen at the end of turn 2 out of the original 35.
7 dead English out of my original 42
I did have a streerage critical damage on my ship by the end of round 2 and my hull was reduced to 3 Fortitude after another round of cannon fire (2 cannons this time) from the freshly rallied Zeelieden.
Turn 3 is where things started to go sideways for me. I didn’t really consider how that second ship would come onto the map and we didn’t really discuss how that would work and how close that ship might be to me when it entered play. I had basically sailed across the mat to the enemies’ deployment zone over the first two turns so… bad news. That frigate gunship came right out of the fog not even 12″ away from me! Bryan’s Dutch had stayed closer to the center of the mat so Kevin’s Buccaneer reinforcements weren’t able to be so threatening when they entered the board.
I was able to activate first on turn 3 and put some additional distance between me and those all those medium cannons but not enough. I took a full broadside on my rear and mid deck. All guns hit and I took 8 hits, bringing my Fortitude all the way down to 1 and giving me 4 Critical Hits and a Lucky Hit! So painful!
This resulted in a second Steerage marker (I couldn’t turn at all!), a Fire, and two Sails and Spars markers which reduced my speed from 5″ to 3″. And it left my Sea Dogs shaken and prone. In the fire… A floating dumpster fire!
I only took 5 casualties from the broadside which wasn’t too bad.
This left both Bryan’s Dutch ship and my English ship in rough shape.
All Thomas’s pirate cannons were unloaded so the game entered a bit of a lull as the cannons reloaded, I repaired so many critical hits and Bryan rallied his Dutchmen.
Kevin’s Buccaneers had a bit of a field day taking potshots at the Pirate frigate but the range was long enough it didn’t do extreme damage. He did succeed in breaking the Sea Dogs in the front of the Frigate taking that single cannons out of action for a while.
I sailed on straight I my men failed several repair actions but finally put out the fire.
Bryan and I exchanged some more small arms fire but it was fairly feeble.
My swivels fired again further reducing his Zeelieden crew on his guns.
Kevin had rough luck with his cannons, missing around half the ranging shots in spite of only needing 2’s or 3’s. That, combined with the Frigate’s 5 Fortitude minimized damage on the 3rd turn.
By the end of turn 3 I had only succeeded in removing 1 of my 5 critical damage markers and I was still limited to sailing 3″ straight ahead.
At the opening of turn 4 I was able to remove both Steerage markers and turn as normal again. I used my commander to perform 3 Repair actions on that first activation and later used the Carpenter on a different unit and had the Zeelieden perform a Repair on their activation as well. I think I did at least 6 repair actions on turn 4 but only succeeded on 2 of them.
And then I got shot again! With Stern Chasers from halfway across the board! One cannon hit and did damage. Not hard to do damage when your Fortitude is down to 1.
Thomas’s Pirates got some solid hits in on the Buccaneer Brigantine as well but it didn’t slow the English crew too much. Kevin’s Buccaneers started a fire on the Frigate and the Frigate sailed straight into the wind to get it’s shot off. With no unit unassigned and able to take a sailing action on the following activation, the Frigate was destined to drift for the next several activations.
Finally able to maneuver again, I turned and tried to catch up with the Dutch ship and get some more shots off.
Turn 4 ended with the Pirate Frigate still in the wind’s eye, the English Brigantine coming down the board firing on the struggling Frigate while my smashed ship tried to repair and catch up with the demoralized Dutch.
Turn 5 opened with my ship nearly functional again, the Pirate Frigate about to complete it’s visit with the wind’s eye, the English Buccaneers trying to get close to the Frigate without sailing over the shoal and the Dutch ship trying to keep it’s distance and defend itself.
I had another fortuitous draw for turn 5 with the 13 of Spades giving me the first activation of the turn.
I was able to move closer to the Dutch and fire into the main deck again, finishing off the Soldaten and removing the Dutch commander from the game.
At this point we were up against the clock as one of our players had a hard cut off time for this game (family birthday event and you can’t be late!).
The wind had nicely lined up Thomas’s frigate for another good shot at the Buccaneer Brigantine and the two ships exchanged cannon fire without dramatic effect. Kevin’s guns continued to role poorly on his ranging shots which meant very little damage got through to the Frigate’s hull.
With only 3 Zeelieden left, Bryan’s Dutch were able to fire a single gun at me. With a Master Gunner on board he only needed a 2 to make contact. And he rolled a 1…
On this ignominious note we had to end the game as Bryan had to leave (and I was riding with him) to participate in a family event.
We didn’t carefully calculate the Strike Points but I think this was the situation:
- My English had one Strike for 17/42 casualties and one Strike for my ship being shot to pieces.
- Kevin’s English Buccaneers had 1 Strike for casualties.
- Bryan’s Dutch has 2 Strike Points for 21/35 casualties and his commander had jumped overboard.
- I’m not sure how many casualties Thomas’s Pirates had but I believe it was 1 Strike’s worth.
So our 4-player game came down to a tie! Counting points for casualties is the standard tie breaker but we were in a rush to pack up and get Bryan back home to avoid the spousal vendetta so we just used dice to determine the winners.
For my team Kevin rolled a d10 and I rolled a d10 with a -1 modifier (my ship was smashed but my crew was relatively healthy) while Thomas rolled a d10 for the opposing team and Bryan volunteered to abstain from rolling altogether since his commander was gone and his crew was heavily battered. Thomas won the roll and the Unholy Dutch-Pirate alliance took the victory!
- It was disappointing to not be able to finish a major game like this. Multiplayer games are fun but it can be a challenge to get all the players together and making schedules to cooperate. Having one player delayed in arriving and one player having a drop-dead end time was a bad combo.
- But it was still a fun game with some good moments! The most memorable moments for me were getting that initiative to unleash all my firepower on the Dutch ship on turn 2 and the terrible moment when that Frigate came out of nowhere and smashed my ship to pieces with a full broadside.
- Having ships enter the board midway through a game makes the game very “dynamic” but after this experience, I would try to clarify how and where ships are deployed during the game and then plan accordingly. I focused on fighting the ship that was on the board and found myself in a bad place when that frigate appeared.
- I’m enjoying my Pirate Hunter faction list but I still haven’t got much use out of that Hard Chargers ability in this campaign. I’m going to have to get brave one of these days and actually try to grapple and board one of these dirty pirate ships! The way I’ve been using the Pirate Hunters, their main strength is they have access to cheap muskets with Militia as core units. I’m not sure how much of a “strength” that really is since Sea Dogs with swivels is generally still better than masses of infantry but it’s still been fun. I may change up my tactic next time and bring some Enter Ploeg as a boarding party. Enter Ploeg with Hard Chargers sounds very tempting.
- The more I see those Dutch factions in action the more I want to try them! Dutch Navy looks pretty great. All 4 core units are super solid (European Sailors, Zeelieden, Enter Ploeg and Soldaten). Just means I need to paint another 50-80 models to get my Dutch going!
- The Frigate is a good ship, even at 200 points with a bare-bones crew. That 6 gun broadside is always a painful thing.
- I’ve noticed that limiting this campaign to 200 point sea battles has resulted in most of the commanders being upgraded along a similar skill tree. Nationalities give different starting abilities but most of the commanders have Inspiring, Broadside and Ruthless now. Not a bad thing but just a byproduct of people knowing the game and this modification of the campaign system. I like keeping it to sea battles because, in our experience so far, sea-focused commanders and forces tend to take longer to assemble in a standard campaign which generally discouraged people for going that route (you’re limited to a 1 deck ship, swivel guns at the start of a campaign and have to earn the ability to upgrade equipment from there). It’s nice to be able to play “real” sea games right away in this campaign but it does mean commanders end up looking very similar.
- Blunderbusses are coming up more and more in my group and proving themselves to be worthwhile, especially on Kapers and European Sailors with that Shoot skill of 6. Players have figured out you can minimize their poor performance at long range by doing half shots with a unit and only using the muskets, then using the Blunderbusses’ extra killing power at close range. It seems to work out really well.
- I’m still on the fence with this Sloop of War. The 5″ speed is really nice but I think I’d rather just take a Frigate for 4 more points in most cases. Even the Merchant Frigate for the same cost has much more advantageous cannon options (although the Swivel layout isn’t as good). For some reason firing 3 cannons out of one deck seems massively better than 2. Like, at least 50% better! Not sure if it’s psychological or not but for some reason the 2/2 cannon setup on the Brigantine model doesn’t seem very powerful.
My next campaign is already set to happen tomorrow night (as I write this) and I’ll be facing a Corvette full of Spanish Corsairs. Watch for a report coming soon! Thanks for reading!