By Dan Carlson & Joseph Forster
Are you sick and tired of playing with English or French Units? Does you nemesis at you local game store play the Spanish so well it infuriates you? Those Advanced Maneuvers chipping away your rigging like shots at a Tortuga Tavern? If any of theses apply to you, I humbly request you take a look at the Dutch Privateers!
Force Special Rules
The Dutch Privateers are 1 of two “vanilla” (meaning a Faction not attached to a named character) Dutch Naval factions. They weigh in with a +2 Bonus to be the Attacker in a scenario, which is comparable to must buccaneer factions. The real kicker here is that ALL ships (That’s right, ALL ships. Not one ship, not two ships, not some random, arbitrary amount of ships, ALL ships) come with the Shallow Draft Special Rule! I know Joseph will appreciate this since he just LOVES to run his ships aground at any opportunity he gets (just joking bro, you’re the best!).
From there, we have two Force Options: Zeelanders and West India Company. Essentially you get to choose who you are working for. If you’re working for the State and/or doing some honest buccaneering (an oxymoron I know), you go with Zeelanders. If you are working with a commission from the esteemed Dutch West India Company (from now on it will be spelled WIC), you choose West India Company (duh). Zeelanders grants you some anti-fatigue measures by allowing you to re-roll 1 failed Fatigue dice resulting from an attack from an enemy that is 6” away or less. This is SUPER useful when boarding a ship and/or charging. The WIC offers another kind of anti-fatigue measure: at the end of a turn, if the Force has more Strike Points than it did on the previous turn, remove one point of fatigue from all non-Shaken units. Both are solid abilities but they tend to be easy to forget about.
Zeelieden are the bread and butter sailors of the Dutch Nation. Armed with melee weapons and pistols, they bring the standard sailor kit to the table.
What makes them special are their Special Rules. They come with Expert Sailors, Expert Artillery Crew, and Hard Chargers. This means that they can get you those Advanced Maneuvers on a 4+, they reload Artillery for free on a spade or a heart, and when they charge, they’ll be swinging on 5’s instead of 6’s. You can swap their pistols for muskets, but I never do, because we typically have better units for that. In my opinion, these are the best sailors in the game since they are all rounded and can do just about everything you need them to do. For cheap lists, take away their pistols to make them 3 points a model and trained.
These guys are point for point the best boarding party in the game. 6 points for a veteran model with brace of pistols is awesome! Like the Zeelieden, they come with Expert Sailors and Experience Artillery Crew. If you have Piet Heyn lead a unit of theses guys in a boarding action, you’ll be able to annihilate just about anything in your way.
While they don’t come with Limited Explosives like the Forlorn Hope, they can take Firepots for free on 1 of every 4 models or Grenados for 4 point each on 1 of every 4 models. I rarely use them anyway since charging a unit is 1 action and safely throwing the Grenado is 2 actions. The best use for these guys is to lay the fatigue on a unit or make them waste their shots so you get to charge in on a unit with empty muskets. They can also take Blunderbusses on 1/4 of their models for free which gives them some extra punch if they want to fire a volley before charging into the melee.
Kapers are the Sailor Musketeers of the Dutch Nationality. They are like Freebooters, but are a little less effective at range due to the lack of the Marksman and Fast Reload Special Rules. However, they Shoot and Fight on a 6+, and the Expert Sailors Special Rule make these guys ideal for manning your sheets and braces. Brawlers is better than nothing and it gives them a little something extra should they find themselves in close combat.
For 5 Points a model they aren’t bad, but they aren’t amazing either. I usually take a unit strictly to man the sheets and braces and if I’m on land they make for a decent ranged unit, but will often find themselves outgunned by Freebooters.
These are another sailor unit, with the typical pistol/cutlass and/or axe combo, along with Artillery Crew, Sailors, and Battle Hardened. Battle Hardened gives them better staying power, but that’s about it. These guys are eclipsed by the Zeelieden in every other way. If you have points to spare, a large group of these guys make for a decent boarding party, but only if you the points available.
If you want a larger unit of cheap muskets, adding firelock muskets to these guys can be cheaper than paying for Kapers. Their 6 Shoot skill makes them the best generic sailor unit for ranged fire.
The Dutch Militia Unit is pretty standard with it 6/7 Fight values and 7/7 Shoot. The 6 Resolve hurts, but isn’t a deal-breaker. Drilled is fantastic when you load up a unit and upgrade them to trained, but the least satisfying part of the Militie is the inability to take Plug Bayonets. This regulates them to the rear, using volley fire to hand out fatigue. These guys are okay, but are eclipsed by the other entry in the Dutch privateers Support Units…
Their 7 Shoot Save sets them apart a little from the other militia units in the game. Both the Spanish and English militia have a Shoot Save of 8 which makes them very difficult to keep on the table. 7 isn’t as good as the sneaky French, but it’s not bad for a Militia unit.
These guys are better than the Militie in almost every way. While they have the same Fight and Shoot Values, they come with a 5 Resolve and Tough, as well as Drilled. A veteran Group of these guys are as expensive as Freebooters, but knocking off 1 fatigue a turn will make these guys endure it all. The Jewish Militia are fantastic at holding objectives, and if you are forced to play on land, you can swap Drilled for Elusive for no cost, meaning they will save on a 5 while in cover rather than a 6.
The Dutch Privateers have 3 options for generic unnamed commanders and then 5 named historical commanders ranging from 25-40 points.
Generic Dutch Sea Commanders
The standard Untested, Experienced, and Seasoned Dutch Sea Commanders are the bread and butter of any seafaring list. The Untested has no special rules, a dismal 4” command radius with 1 command point, and is OK in small games, but not very good beyond that (that’s why he’s free). It’s worth pointing out that even with his measly 4″ command radius, he can command anyone on a 3 deck ship no matter which deck he occupies.
The Experienced variant has an 8” command radius and 2 command points. He comes with the Broadside and Strict special rules. We all know what Broadside does, but for the newbies it allows all artillery commanded to fire by the commander to fire at the same time, as opposed to separately. This can increase the likelihood of a Critical Hit.
Strict recently got a buff and is now SUPER useful. In exchange for 1 point of fatigue, that unit may take a -1 bonus on ANY test taken during the commander’s activation. The Seasoned Commander is ONLY useful in games with multiple ships, as he has the Commodore Rule. All in all, the vanilla choices are a good starting point, but we have more flavorful options.
Diego the Mulatto
Diego clocks in at 30 points and gains Very Inspiring, Lead by Example, and Vendetta: Spanish, on top of Commodore and Broadside. Vendetta: Spanish allows the entire force to re-roll one failed dice in any Rally test when fighting a Spanish force. This can keep squishy units like militia from getting shaken or otherwise taking fatigue that other units can ignore with their higher resolve rating. Very Inspiring lets any unit within Diego’s command radius re-roll any failed Rally Test results. Again, VERY useful. Lead By Example allows all units in the force to knock off a point of fatigue if the commander’s unit removes an enemy unit from the game. I’ve found this to be very rare, and I prefer to keep my commanders behind everybody while barking order (save for one, but we’ll get to him later). Diego for 30 points is a solid upgrade from the Seasoned Sea Commander in just about every way. While Strict would give you bonuses at the cost of Fatigue, Diego will keep fatigue off your force if properly positioned. At 3 command points with a 16” Radius he’s good on any ship up to a size 3.
Jan Erasmus Reyning
Jan clocks in at 27 points and besides the typical Broadside and Commodore Rules, he allows your force to be a bit flexible. He has Inspiring, which will let any units re-roll failed rally tests when his unit is active (meaning you have to waste a command point on a rally action. This is okay, but not ideal). Elan is fantastic as it allows Jan to bark a single command point while in melee (which is usually prohibited). Great if your command unit gets charged, but you should really be keeping him out of melee anyways. Jan has not one, but two Unorthodox Force rules, and they allow him to take both Freebooters and Kapers as core units! As the Dutch don’t have any sharpshooters, a unit of Freebooters can help you get a solid ranged unit that isn’t a slouch in melee! He’s got 2 command points at 16”, so he can effectively fire a broadside off any 2-3 deck ship. At 27 points, he’s a SOLID upgrade from the Seasoned Commander, and I’d say on par with Diego, as Diego will be more focused on keeping morale high while Jan gives you new toys to play with!
Abraham “Admiral Crimson” Crijnesen
This 30 point monster is a go-to for me. He comes with Commodore, which is good if you’re running multiple ships. However, he also comes with Sailing Master, Expert Broadside, AND Very Inspiring. Sailing Master allows the unit to spend a free action and roll a D10. On a 5+ the ship may increase or decrease its speed by 1” for this move only (if you move past your ship’s top speed, the Lucky Hit on rigging still applies). Expert Broadside is like Broadside, but if a 1 is rolled for any Critical or Lucky Hit, it may be re-rolled. This bumps up the potential for messing up your opponents game plan (and possibly his ship). Admiral Crimson has 3 command points and a 12” command radius, so keep him on any size 3 ship to get the most out of that broadside attack! This guy will keep your ship going fast in a lull and keep your guns firing.
As the Dutch Nationality’s only Legendary Commander, he comes in at 40 points, with a 20” command range and 3 command points. That range makes him ideal for a size 4 ship, and his special rules make him a MONSTER in melee. He’s got Broadside, Commodore, and Very Inspiring. All of these are common by now at this level of commander. His other rules are what make him that stout 40 points. God’s Blessing or Devil’s Luck means the player fielding Heyn will start the game with 4 Fortune Points! This is a huge boon that can only help you in your quest for victory! Bold reads as follows:
“This commander may always use Commands Points normally, even if it’s attached unit is Shaken or engaged in a Melee combat. In addition, if this commander’s unit is within 6” of an enemy unit, all friendly units within 8” of the commanders unit gain all of this commander’s Special Rules.”
Before continuing, let’s take a look at Indomitable:
“If this unit begins an activation Shaken, it immediately removes a point of Fatigue. If this would leave it with 2 points of Fatigue or less, it is no longer Shaken and may take actions normally. Additionally, this unit may give itself a point of Fatigue to re-roll failed Fight and Shoot saves.”
What this means is that if you attach Heyn to a stout unit of Enter Ploeg, with a few more units of them around him, he will make them almost UNSTOPPABLE. They will all be able to knock off a point of fatigue, re-roll Saves (at the cost of a fatigue), and keep it that way. For those who are a fan of the movie “Admiral”, and love Michiel de Ruyter, you *could* paint up a mini like him and use Heyn’s point cost and profile as it seems to fit (at least I think so!).
Dutch Privateer Tactics
The Dutch Privateers have several options for tactics and force building but their unit options and special rules really push them towards an aggressive boarding party force, a Strict super-accurate cannon force, or a combination of the two.
If you want to run a boarding-party list, you can load up on the deadly Enter Ploeg with Blunderbusses and explosives along with some hard charging Zeelieden with a Reformado. A Grizzled Veteran can further mitigate any Fatigue that your Tough Enter Ploeg might get in combat. Piet Heyn is clearly the best melee commander for this kind of list but if you’re not playing a large enough game to warrant his 40 points, Deigo the Mulatto has Elan as well and the two lower level generic commanders will work just fine as well. The Zeelanders faction ability is a solid choice for this type of list since it protects you from taking Fatigue when your units are close to each other. Taking a Sailing Master character might be a good move for this style of play to help you catch your prey. Even if you push your ship past its normal top speed, taking a Lucky Hit on your rigging doesn’t matter if you’re able to close with your opponent and board them.
If you want to go for the cannon focused list, you’ll probably end up spending most of your points on Zeelieden, cannons and a good ship. The Light Frigate is a real work horse ship and can hold plenty of cannons but your choice of ship will really depend on the size of game you plan to play. I think the Experienced Dutch Naval Commander is an ideal and affordable choice for this style of list. Even on a 3 deck ship, with his 2 command points, he can fire all three decks at the same time if you attach him to one of the cannon crew units. His Strict rule can help give your cannons extra accuracy and damage but the Fatigue that it produces means you should bring some combination of Standard Bearer, Musician, Grizzled Veteran and Son of Neptune to clean up after the mean captain. The Master Gunner is always nice for every cannon-focused force, but his value is reduced for the Dutch since most of your units already have the Expert Artillery Crew ability. I would say the Sailing Master is still a good character choice for this last well since he can help keep a healthy distance between you and your enemy so you can focus fire without fear of being boarded.
I would probably lean towards using the West India Company faction rule with this style of force since it could provide some good ship-wide Fatigue relief and if you’re playing things right, the Zeelanders ability should never have a chance to happen. You might be tempted to just taking enough units to man all the cannons but you should probably take an extra unit that remains unassigned to do sailing actions, repair and damage that you might take etc. Another unit of Zeelieden is fine sine you can buy them for 3 points each without pistols, or you could take Kapers so they could provide some small arms support and some protection against a potential charge while they still have the Expert Sailors rule to help make your ship do whatever you need it to do.
If you want to build a hybrid list that can run out the guns, then board, that’s easy enough to do with the Dutch, but you’ll just have a smaller force when you pay for both cannons and Enter Ploeg or pistols on all your Zeelieden.
The Dutch Privateers are really not very strong when it comes to a small arms sniping style of list, but if you really want to do it, take Jan Erasmus Reyning and bring along some English Freebooters. You can also attach a Marksmen to some Veteran or Trained Kapers and they become pretty good. With his Commadore ability, you could run a fleet of Canoa full of marksmen or a couple smaller ships like Barks and still use his command points well.
If you find yourself forced to fight on land with the Dutch Privateers, David Nassy is probably your best command option. Your force gains Skirmishers on every unit and the stout Jewish Militia become a core unit. Kapers are also decent on land and I’ve even seen a unit of Enter Ploeg get real nasty on land. If you make it your command unit and attach a Local Guide, you can zoom around the table blasting and smashing anything you can get near!
Dutch Privateer Army Lists
The first list here can be made straight from the starter box along with a Bark. You can put the Enter Ploeg and Zeelieden on your Swivel guns while the Kapers sail the ship and provide small arms fire.
The following 150 point force takes advantage of the Strict rule and how it relates to Swivels. Using Strict, Swivels can have a base shoot of 5 which is amazing, especially since you get plenty of dice and the Expert Artillery Crew on your crew means you’ll be loading and firing extremely quickly, even twice in activation if you want to push your unit or use a command point. The Musician grants the commander Inspiring to help rally the crew after he verbally abuses them with Strict.
This next list needs an additional pack of Zeelieden (or some sailor unit to use as proxies) and another pack of Enter Ploeg to fill out a full crew for a Sloop. The Commander is also upgraded to the 15 point Experienced Commander that has the Strict rule (which has been entirely rewritten in the current errata) which makes these cannons and swivels the most accurate artillery in the game.
This next list features Admiral Crimson in a Corvette. It’s crew number is fairly low, but you can move quickly, shoot cannons and board with expert crew.
At 250 points, this next list focuses on rapid cannon fire and massive broadsides using the famous Piet Heyn as commander on a 6th Rate Frigate. You could certainly spend more outfitting this fine ship, but even at 250, this is a nasty ship to come up against.
And with 300 points here is Piet Heyn again with a well rounded “hybrid” cannon/boarding party force in a Light Frigate. With 26 Enter Ploeg on board in addition to a nice set of 6 pairs of cannons and some muskets, there will be fireworks when this ship gets close to its prey.
The Fluyt is such an iconic Dutch vessel that I have to include one list including it, even if it does sail like bath tub. This list balanced list takes full use of the 6 pairs of guns on the Fluyt in addition to some Swivel Guns and Kapers wielding small arms.
The Dutch Privateers faction is one of the best sea going factions in the game. With the very best cannon crew, the most demanding generic commanders of all the factions, and excellent seamanship and melee abilities, the Dutch Privateers are an excellent faction that is very fun to play. Compared to some of the Unaligned pirate factions and larger factions like the Spanish Militia, the Dutch Privateers have a fairly limited selection of units to pick from when building a force, but all the units are good, each unique is unique, and with the variation you can bring with the faction special rules and the commanders, there’s plenty of variety to keep one tinkering with them for a long time!