Solitaire Battle Report – English Buccaneers vs Portuguese-Brazilian Tercios

I’m back with another COVID solo game. Firelock Games sent me some fort bastions to run through some play test games and here’s my first game using them.

These bastions are basically enlarged and fortified corners for the Palisade Fort and give platforms and clear fields of fire for artillery inside the fort.

As it currently stands (rules are still getting finalized) the Palisade Fort wall sections costs 2 points provide Hard Cover and have a Fortitude/Integrity of 3/4. The Bastion sections cost 5 points, provide Hard Cover, can hold more men and up to 2 cannons which can be positioned and re-positioned at any of the 3 gun ports. If you fort is a complete enclosure, the commander inside also gets a free Command Point that can only be used to Rally. Current rules for the Bastions also let a faction take an additional unit with the Artillery Crew rule as a core unit for every Bastion you include in your Army.

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This was a 200 point game with the Portuguese-Brazilian Tercios defending the fort against the English Buccaneers. I used the Firelock solitaire rules to control the Portuguese and tried to beat them with the English Buccaneers.

The Forces

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I built the Portuguese force around the Palisade Fort using two of the new (not yet released) bastions.

The Portuguese force consisted of:

  • 7 European Soldiers with an Untested European Commander
  • 4 European Soldiers
  • 8 Milicianos
  • 4 European Artillery Crew assigned to a Medium Field Gun with grapeshot
  • 6 European Artillery Crew with a Master Gunner assigned to a Heavy Cannon with grapeshot
  • 6 European Artillery Crew assigned to a Heavy Cannon with grapeshot
  • 2 Bastions at 5 points each and 6 wall sections of the palisade fort at 2 points each

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The fort let’s by you bend the Core/Support unit rules by giving you more access to units with the Artillery Crew ability. At 36 models, this force has a 9 model Strike Point threshold.

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My English assault team consisted of:

  • 8 Veteran Forlorn Hope with Robert Searle attached was a commander and a Local Guide attached to give the unit Quick and Scouts.
  • 6 Freebooters
  • 5 Veteran Freebooters
  • 7 Warrior Musketeers

With only 28 models, this force is was numbered and up against a fortified opponent.

I haven’t used Robert Searle before but I thought he would be helpful in the assault with his Aggressive Commander ability giving his men Hard Chargers. Forlorn Hope with Brace of Pistols, Grenados, Buccaneer Guns,
Fast Reload, Vanguard, Ball & Shot, Brawlers, Hard Chargers, Quick and Scouts! Seven special rules on one unit must be some sort of record!

I’ve been trying to try more of these 25 point commanders. Doesn’t feel so scary paying for ahigh cost commander when you’re playing solo.

The Scenario

The fortifications makes some scenarios kind of strange. I rolled a d10 for the scenario at it came up as Control the Field. This scenario has a single objective in the center of the board which both sides strive to take. I put some treasure in a piece of area terrain in the center of the board. The Portuguese would actually have to come out of the fort to take control of it but they also had a clear field of fire to shot at anyone attempting to take it. 

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The AI

I’ve played solo games before just playing both sides to the best of my ability but this will be using the recent Firelock solitaire rules now available for free in the downloads section of their website.

Its a nice concise system that isn’t too hard to keep track of. Basically, you flip the activation card off the top of the deck every turn, check a list of which unit should activate, then use the card number to determine which action sequence the unit will follow. In most cases, it does the same thing I would do if I was running the enemy with my “second brain” but it’s nice to not have to make each decision, especially when you know full well what your units are trying to do.

I found that using the fort for the AI, the units were often equally close to the enemy which made me have to either randomize (according to these rules) which unit I activated for the AI, or choose which unit activated to their best advantage. I usually ended up choosing the smart thing for them rather than leave it up to chance.

The Game

I set up the fort as a diamond with the two bastions on opposite ends, set up the Portuguese defenders inside, then deployed the English attackers on the long edge of the board with the Forlorn Hope and Warrior Musketeers on the right flank and the Freebooters and Veteran Freebooters in the middle.

The Forlorn Hope took their Vangaurd move and the game began!

Over the course of the first turn the Forlorn Hope worked up the right side of the board in the cover of the trees while the other English units started taking shots from fairly long range, dropping some Fatigue on the defenders.

Not all of the defending units hard shots on turn 1 but the cannons fired their grapshot and got a couple hits. It hurts to lose those 8 point Veteran Forlorn Hope!

The Portuguese had set up their Heavy Cannons facing the far edge of the board but with the Forlorn Hope coming up the side, it seemed best to remount that cannon on another side of the Bastion. It takes a Dedicated Action to dismount and remount the cannon, but between their action and a Command Action, it was completed in one turn. 

On a Spade, those Quick Veteran Forlorn Hope moved 12″ up the board and were still able to fire their Buccaneer Guns (and get a free Reload). Five actions on a turn isn’t too bad!

The Warrior Musketeers camped out close to Searle to use his Command Points to help counteract the Slow Reload handicap.

Turn 2 brought out a weather event which triggered Blinding Sun. This event only effects ranged shots at more than 20″ so it didn’t do a lot here.

Turn 2 settled into alternating fire between the sides. The Heavy Cannons with Grapeshot were able to fire with decent target numbers but their dice were cold and with no Fortune (part of the Solitaire rules), they had no option to re-roll when the dice came up low.

The Forlorn Hope were able to get within 12″ so their Ball & Shot would trigger while the Warrior Musketeers were able to stay right outside of 12″ so their Hidden rule would protect them. I tried to give them Clubs and send them a Command Point every turn so they could get through the entire Shoot/Reload sequence every turn. 

Turn 3 continued the long range gunfire exchange but the cannons slowed a little as the reloads piled up.

Near the end of turn 3, the Portuguese militia unit in the bastion close to the Forlorn Hope had already fired so I knew I could get a good charge in if I could hit before they reloaded. On the last activation of turn 3 I moved them forward 8″ with a Spade and used a double action to safely attack with Grenados and Buccaneer Guns. 

I scored 6 hits and caused a lot of pain in that bastion. Grenades don’t care about that Hard Cover! 

I really hoped for the initiative on turn 4, but even if the Portuguese drew a high Spade, they didn’t have much to hit back with after that explosion! The AI using the top card rather than a hand of cards really increases the chance that the player will take initiative on the first activation of a turn. And playing the English Buccaneers gave me the free hand mulligan which further increases the likelihood of getting that first action!

I drew a hand of nearly all Spades! Over the top they went! The Forlorn Hope threw grenados again with pistols firing as well, then moved with Quick to come into base contact with the bastion, then used Searle’s Command Point to accomplish the Dedicated Climb/Charge action. And they hit those defenders like a ton of bricks! With re-rolls from melee pistols, Hard Chargers and Brawlers from Roberts Searle, they got nearly all hits, massacring the artillery crew and driving the Militia back with 3 Fatigue. The Climbing Charge gives the defenders a -1 bonus on their melee saves which meant the Milicianos were saving on 5’s which was pretty great for them. Those Spanish are tough in a melee!

But the destruction of the artillery crew triggered Lead by Example, knocking a Fatigue off every unit in the English force! Very helpful at this moment in the game.

This was the beginning of the end of the defenders. The European Soldiers were able to fire into the Storming Party and take some of them down while the cannon crew on the field gun backed the gun up to try to take a shot at them while they sat there for the rest of the turn. 

Meanwhile the Natives moved up to secure the objective in the center of the table. 

The AI wasn’t able to drive the English from their fort on turn 4 which triggered a Strike Test. With the objective in English hands and one of the Bastions taken plus a Strike for casualties, the Portuguese had 3 Strikes 0 for the English. 

The Portuguese commander rolled a 3 for the Strike Test and the game was over!

Had the game gone on, it’s possible the defenders could have taken their fort back with overwhelming numbers vs the one unit without support inside the fort. But the English boldness won the day this time!

Post Game Thoughts

  • Veteran Forlorn Hope with a commander and Local Guide are amazing. You pay dearly for them and it hurts like crazy when some die, but they’re so, so good. Hard to stop that train once it gets going. 

  • Robert Searle was pretty cool too. If you want to really hit hard in a melee as an English player, he’s your man. Might even compete with the French and Dutch boarding parties! His Lead by Example was fun to see happen as well. I discovered you can kind of plan for that if you’re tricky and willing to take a little risk. If you think you’re going to make a big play and kill a unit, go ahead and push your oether units for extra actions, knowing (hoping) that the commander will take it all off!
  • Local Guide is good. Best think about it is being able to cover that extra ground and not even take the Fatigue for moving a full 12″ if you need to. Really, really helpful for storming a fortification. That was the only way I was ever able to even come close to taking the Stone Tower Fort.

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  • The Palisade Fort cost the defender 22 points plus the 18 points for the two cannons. I think it’s a decent deal for the defender but it really changes the way you get to play the game. You get to fire more because you aren’t moving and you have constant hard cover which are both amazing. But you also had less tactical options. I think you still have some real decisions on how you deploy and then manuever your troops within the fort and it doesn’t have to be super static, but it will be a much different game using a large fortification like this. 
  • I have to compare this fort setup to the Stone Tower Fort. At 20 points the Stone Tower is a little cheaper, it’s much tougher and harder to storm, but it can’t hold as many units/men, it it has limited fire options on the lower level and the cannons on top have a minimum range that makes them less useful once the enemy gets close. While it does have some disadvantages, I think the Stone Tower Fort is still a tougher nut to crack and probably a steal at 20 points. This Palisade Fort is much more dynamic in that you can build it however you want (or however your wallet lets you build it). It takes quite a few large resin pieces to get this fort functional!

  • I really like the Bastions. The wall pieces themselves are nice but having the space for cannons and extra men is really cool. I found it slightly strange that the wall pieces are the “open palisade” style with space between the logs and the Bastions are “closed palisade” style with no space. Doesn’t really bother me but its strange that its inconsistent.
  • The AI system worked pretty well. I think I sometimes missed consulting the charts and graphs and just activated the unit that really needed to respond to my attack a couple times. But it made a solo game a little more exciting and less stressful to my brain. I recommend you take a look at them and give them a try if you’re wanting a game and are currently unable to get together with your normal gaming partners. You can find those solitaire rules here. Its just a simple 2 page document. Not intimidating at all. 

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  • English Buccaneers are a solid faction. On land and sea they can hold their own! I think I enjoy playing them on land more than I do playing the English Militia factions! They have plenty of unit options and that hand discard ability is almost always very useful. I think this was the first time I’ve used the Native units with the English Buccaneers. It was nice to have some cheap musket units along since most of the units in this faction tend to be a little more expensive. 

  • My English won but it was by no means the perfect assault. I should have brought at least one more unit up within striking distance to support the storming party. The Forlorn Hope can hit hard when they go over, but if it’s one unit to 4 inside that fort, they can still go down. It would have taken another two turns to get another unit over the wall and by that time it would have been too late if something had started to go wrong. If the game had gone through to turn 5 or 6, it could have come down to a tie if I wasn’t able to follow up with additional units. There was still two units of European Soldiers in that fort and they hit hard and stick around with their Battle Hardened ability.
  • I don’t think I got full value from my other English units using them way I did. I tried to plink away at the defenders from range to keep them distracted and keep some Fatigue on them, but even with using Marksmen occasionally, I wasn’t getting many hits at that extended range. Those 8 point Veteran Freebooters didn’t get many hits and they achieved zero glory. 

  • I was simultaneously disappointed and relieved to see those Heavy Cannons get some poor dice. Five dice a shot with a base of 4 for their shoot test is pretty cruel! But I thought they looked good in that fort! I love those models. Great casting. 

That’s it! Look for the retail release of these Bastion pieces “soon” as Mike Tunez as recently told us on Facebook. They’re nice models and they should change up your game a good bit! 

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment or ask any questions regarding the solitaire rules if you’re interested.

Stayed tuned for another battle report featuring a larger fort in an amphibious game!

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