african warIt’s been a full three months since I got a play a game with a real live opponent! My local game store was able to open up a few of their gaming tables recently and I met up with my friend Guy to play his 200 point game.
Both of us had fresh forces to try after quarantine painting frenzies. Guy painted an astounding 19 cavalry models during the quarantine so he was ready to play one of the cavalry-focused variations of a militia faction. I’ve been working on painting up a bunch of African Warriors to fun the Unaligned Black Carib faction.
The Black Carib faction is strange in that it only has one core unit but you can modify that unit in a lot of ways and they have lots and lots of special rules. You can use the African Warriors with Bows, Muskets, Pistols or Melee Weapons as Trained of Veteran units.
My 200 point Black Carib force contained:
- 8 Veteran Great Warrior African Warriors with an Untested Commander attached
- 6 Veteran African Warriors with Bows
- 6 Veteran African Warriors with Muskets (and Slow Reload)
- 4 Veteran African Warriors with only Melee Weapons
- 5 Young Warriors
At 30 figures, this isn’t a high model-count force at 200 points but betweenVeteran training, Quick, Tough, Skirmishers and no reload markers on the units with bows, each unit should be able to do a lot.
Guy’s 200 Point French Caribbean Militia Troupe à Chavel force contained:
- 8 Trained Milice à Chavel with Carbines with an Untested French Militia Commander attached on a horse
- 9 Trained Milice à Chavel with Carbines with an Officer attached
- 1 Corvette with 2 Fighting Tops
- 4 Miliciens in the Fighting Top
- 4 Miliciens in the Fighting Top
- 6 Miliciens Artilleurs assigned to 2 Swivel Guns on the Corvette
- 5 Miliciens Artilleurs assigned to 2 Swivel Guns on the Corvette
At 37 models, this French force has more models than my force in addition to having a very impressive troop of cavalry, swivel guns and a ship! The French seem to be a good faction to use with cavalry since they have a solid shoot skill of 6 which is better than any other cavalry unit in the game.
We picked Escort, a scenario a had never done before and used the amphibious setting for the scenario.
This is a fairly complex scenario to setup with lots of potential variation. Setup mandates the Defender have a force starting in on corner of the board with the Dignitary objective character and a single unit be place later with the longboat and the Attacker have at least some of the their force start on land in the opposing corcer, but beyond that, setup options are flexible. The Attacker and the Defender both have the option to place ships/boats in the water portion of the board with the Attacker’s ships coming into play on turn 1 rather than during setup.
The Attacker gives the Defender 2 Strike Points if they manage to kill the Dignitary at any time, the Attacker gains a Strike Point at the end of turn 6 if they don’t kill the Dignitary and the Defender automatically wins if they get the Dignitary off the board on one of the far edges from Defender’s deployment corner.
There was a slight discrepancy between the diagram which indicates a 6″ circle for the placement of the longboat and the text which says “within 6″ of the center point of the board” which would be a 12″ circle. We went with the 12″ circle.
We also modified the Attacker’s ship placement so the ship sailed onto the board from the edge rather than instantly pop up a full 12″ onto the board. Guy was considering taking a Galleon and we realized how large an advantage that would be for the attacker to have their entire ship instantly pop up on the 4×4 mat rather than sail in from the edge. Not sure if this was a good idea or not but it seemed more realistic and more balanced.
We took turns placing areas of terrain and then I placed all my men in the lower left of the board. I placed my Command Unit with the Dignitary as far forward as possible so I could make for the center of the board ASAP. I left the small 4-man unit of melee African Warriors off the map with the Longboat on turn 1.
I used the Golden Cap model as the dignitary. He has no weapons or special rules like the Captured Merchant character.
Guy’s French deployed his two large units of cavalry in the far corner with a hill and piece of wooded terrain between us.
The ship was placed outside of the 4×4 mat with the stated goal of bringing it in to play on turn 1.
I chose to pass as many times as I could on the first turn as I had 2 less cards than the French.
I moved my troops forward into the central groups of cover and got a couple shots off with arrows against the cavalry across the board.
By using the Officer’s command point to move the command unit with the Dignitary, I was able to squeeze 16″ of movement out of that unit between the Quick move and 2 move actions on a Spade on their activation.
The French cavalry moved forward, fired their carbines and used the Skirmishers rule to dodge back behind the hill on the first turn.
The Blinding Sun event triggered on turn 2 and I placed the free Longboat (I forgot to bring a longboat or canoe to the game session so I bought another canoe and quickly sprayed it brown so it would look decent on the board).
The Young Warriors did some good work by jumping out and taking a shot at the cavalry and drawing first blood with a kill. Spades are pretty valuable for this faction. Every unit has Quick and Skirmishers so even these Inexperienced troops can get 3 actions off a Spade.
The French Cavalry pushed to get their two reloads and shoot action along with their free moves but that left them with 2 Fatigue.
The second group of cavalry hit my units in the center of the board and got a bunch of hits! With a 6 Shoot Save and Elusive, my Africans should be hard to kill but I failed all the Saves! I spent a Fortune and ended up saving every one of them!
I pushed my units with Muskets up to fire on the cavalry from the flank and picked off one. But with those 3 reloads, they wouldn’t fire again for a long time!
The model with the flag in this second group of cavalry was the Officer character.
The second unit of cavalry rallied and reloaded to be ready for the next round.
The corvette neared the center of the board fairly quickly in spite of not starting the board. Once within 16″ of my troops in the center the swivel guns opened up but between the target number of 10 and the Save of 5 on my men, they didn’t do too much.
Jumping my command unit into the longboat (canoa) on the second-to-last activation of the turn let me still move my boat twice but kept the unit from taking too many volleys from the French. Since it was supposed to be longboat we allowed all 9 models into the Canoa and my faction rules gave the longboat the Paddles trait so I could move 3″ and still perform other actions.
At this point the game became very focused on my command unit. If I got it off the board, I would instantly win. If that unit (the Dignitary) was destroyed, I would take 2 Strike Points, and my commander would be dead so I would likely lose (unless I had more Strikes on my opponent).
An event card in my hand in turn 3 triggered the Dissension event which halved my commander range for command points. He only had a 4″ command radius anyway so it didn’t hurt too much.
Early in turn 3 the cavalry with the Officer took a couple Fatigue and I was able to make a bold charge with my tiny 4 man unit with only melee weapons (they were Veteran African Warriors, but I used Lancero models). It was a little disappointing only getting a single hit, but I was able to make one kill and use Skirmishers to duck back into cover.
The Young Warriors continued to harass from fairly long distances but they were effective.
The African Warriors with Muskets took a reload and a move action to be relevant to where the action was happening on the board, but it would still be a while before they had a chance to fire again. Slow Reload is a real bummer…
By the end of round 3 the corvette was right on top of my “longboat” and my command unit had taken a couple of casualties from the swivel guns. With 3 Fatigue, the unit was prone and had to be rallied before they could use paddles again.
By the start of turn 4, it was clear it was a race to either sail the longboat/canoa off the board, or destroy the unit in the boat. The Cavalry slowly moved into the trees 2″ at a time to fire on the boat while the Corvette pulled right up alongside and peppered my as often as the Inexperienced units could manage a shot.
I kept rallying the command unit so it could continue to move forward with paddle power. I had to use a Fortune Point to reroll another save to avoid crushing casualties.
Archers from the center of the board dropped another couple Fatigue on the cavalry which brought them to Shaken, but ultimately, that helped them move towards the unit they wanted to shoot! It helped them fight through the rough terrain to the coastline where they could shoot at the unit in the boat.
The Veteran archers on shore did an effective job of raining Fatigue down on the cheap troops in the Corvette. The artillery crew in the stern of the Corvette was shaken and actually took some casualties!
By this time we were both pushing our units to the limit. I took Fatigue to fire multiple times with my bows and cavalry pushed up as close as they could to get shots off with their pistols. Cavalry can do crazy stuff, even when starting with two Fatigue. They’re always moving!
The cavalry got a good shot off at less than 4″ which took out a bunch of my remaining models. Only the commander, the dignitary and a single warrior was left! I had to succeed all my Fatigue checks to not break and my dice came through!
Turn 5 triggered another weather event which I pushed it up to Hot! Any unit that moved more than 4″ per turn had to take a Fatigue instead of the standard “more than 8”.
By the end of turn 4 I was within 1″ of the board edge and my command unit with the Dignitary still survived unshaken but only had a couple modes left! Whoever drew the high card would basically win the game. And. I drew the 13 of Spades!
With the corvette hard on their heels, the last of the African Great Warriors escaped with the dignitary of the board edge. This dignitary better be valuable because I lost a lot of men saving him!
The game ended as soon as the boat left the board with a Black Carib victory.
Final casualty numbers stood at:
- 9 dead Black Caribs at 7-8 points a model
- 8 dead Frenchmen including 5 cavalry models
- That was a real race! Any game with an “insta-win condition” has an extra element of excitement. I basically won because I drew that 13 of Spades. If Guy’s French has drawn the high card, those cavalry would have riddled that with volley of pistol fire and there’s no way my unit would have survived. It was a tight game.
- I spent a Fortune Point to mulligan my hand in the middle of the game when I had all low cards. Turned out Guy had all lower cards than I did anyway so I felt silly but through a turn of fate, that spending of the Fortune Point helped me win the game by digging into my deck to find that 14 of Spades for the end game.
- This was a game of fast movement and rapid fire! The cavalry can slip around like nobody’s business and as Veterans with both a commander and officer around, the Black Caribs are very fast as well. And neither unit have to reload! The cavalry were faster and hit harder, but the Africans Save was superior.
- French cavalry has a noticeable leg up on all the other cavalry in the game with that 6 Shoot number. They can actually hit things with the carbines pretty well and their pistols can actually be used as a ranged weapon. Cavalry with a 7 Shoot are looking for 10’s at 5+” and that’s just depressing. French 9’s at 5-8″ isn’t great but it’s literally twice as good! Spanish cavalry can get down to 6 Shoot with Ruthless, but with 6 Resolve, you can’t count on it. Just one more instance of French being the best at everything. 😉
- But that 8 Shoot Save and 6 Resolve is still balancing the cavalry’s power. Bows have a much easier time finding the mark on that big horse than picking a Boucanier out of the forest. It was novel and fun to actually kill French with bows!
- Cavalry are tricky to handle. This was Guy’s first game using his mass of “COVID cavalry” and a couple times he forgot to use their extra free move besides their Quick move. When you have a command point, Quick and a free move and possibly a Skirmishers move, it’s very easy to miss something
- We both could have been more ruthless in that final race to the edge. I kept expecting the corvette to rake that longboat which could have been devastating. After the game Guy pointed out I’d likely could have grappled and boarded the corvette and smashed through those artillery crew units in short order. I didn’t even think of it! In spite of being outnumbered, those Inexperienced French Militia with low morale and terrible Saves might have had a really hard time. That would have been very entertaining if the defending Black Carib force had stolen the French ship!
- This was my first time playing as the Black Caribs and I learned a couple things. I like running the African Warriors as Veterans. It’s lame if you draw mostly Clubs and Hearts, but you can rely on getting 3 actions every turn if you want them. The action efficiency is pretty huge. On a Spade you get a move for free, then a combination of move/fire or fire/fire from your two actions, then you can move back with Skirmishers if you want, then remove a point of Fatigue with Tough (if you didn’t double fire). Add a commander or officer to that and it’s feasible to get 6 actions a turn out of your men. Quick/move/move/fire/skirmish/remove fatigue. That is cool. But at 7 points a model and with bows that don’t often kill, its fair.
- I think I decided the muskets with Slow Reload aren’t with it. Being fast and nimble seems to be their specialty and once you force them to reload three times between volleys, the start feeling more like 3-point Milicianos. The control afforded by the fatigue fished out by multiple arrow volleys was more valuable than the increased lethality of the muskets. I likely won’t take them with muskets again. Unless I use the Seasoned Southern Tribes commander who has Savvy but that’s makes your command unit astronomically expensive. An 8 man Veteran African Warrior unit with the commander’s Great Warrior upgrade and the Seasoned commander costs you 89 points! 89 points for 8 muskets is kind of crazy.
- I was slightly disappointed with the Africans in their one melee encounter. It was only 4 models but it just get bad when I only got 1 hit. The seem like they would be more deadly in a melee. They’re hard to kill in a melee but I guess I was expecting them to have Heavy Melee Weapons or something. A Fight of 6 with no bonuses isn’t anything to write home about.
- Anyway, I think I like the Black Caribs and I’ll be playing the more! I have to play them more now that I painted all these Africans models!
- With most of my models costing 7+, it was nice having the Young Warriors add some cheap firepower to my force. They did plenty to earn their cost in this game.
- Being the Attacker in an amphibious game gives you some real difficult decisions. I think it’s a challenging role to fulfill. The last solo amphibious battle I did I discovered a built badly for the task. I think Guy did a good job but trying to make a functional ship and have a force the can do good work on land is hard. Especially at 200 points. I’m wondering if I need to focus more on one than the other next time I try an amphibious game. This scenario was especially complex as far as army building does since the setup is so flexible. It’s one of the rare amphibious games where the Attacker doesn’t have to take a ship or boat but they have to have units start on land. It’s prudent for the Attacker to take one a ship, but they don’t have to.
- We used Gale Force 9’s forest terrain sets and it made interpreting terrain and identifying cover really easy. Those platforms you put the trees make it really easy to define when cover starts and stops. I like building a more free form board with patches of individual trees but that come be hard to interpret and this made it real easy. Gale Force 9 has lots of nice terrain products. I highly recommend you take a look if you want some nice, low effort terrain.
Thanks to Guy for a good game!
Thanks for reading! It was a tense game and I hope you enjoyed the report and pictures. Please chime in with comments regarding using both the Blsck Caribs and cavalry if you’ve had some experience with them.