Battle Report: Land Breakthrough – Golden Island Tribe vs Spanish Militia

I have another battle report for you and this was a fun one! Here we have a 200 point land game testing the massive 65 model Spanish Horde vs a 32 model Native force led by legendary King Golden Cap. I played the Natives as Attacker in the Breakthrough scenario vs my friend Guy Rheuark playing the much feared Spanish mob.

The Forces

Horde lists can be very intimidating and I’ve seen impressive results with them in Blood & Plunder. Luckily, they are fairly rarely seen because of the expense and work involved in creating a fully painted force like this. Most of the games I’ve either participated in or observed have involved players of different skill levels which clearly influenced the outcome of the game. Guy and I are fairly evenly matched when it comes to skill and we decided it was time to give the horde a true test. How would a 65 model list of Inexperienced Militia play against a smaller but better trained force?

Guy’s Spanish Militia Force was simple.  It contained:

  • 8 Milicianos with an Untested Commander attached and a Standard Bearer and Musician upgrade on two of the models
  • 8 Milicianos
  • 8 Milicianos
  • 8 Milicianos
  • 8 Milicianos
  • 8 Milicianos
  • 8 Milicianos
  • 8 Milicianos
  • 3 Breastworks fortifications

That’s right. Eight units of 8 Milicianos with a little support from a couple characters in the command unit. 

I chose to use King Golden Cap and his special Golden Island Tribe faction. I really enjoy playing the Native factions so I don’t know how I’ve never played this force before!

My Golden Island Tribe force contained:

  • 9 Warriors with bows and thrown weapons with King Golden Cap attached and the Great Warrior upgrade
  • 6 Warriors with bows and thrown weapons
  • 6 Warriors with bows and thrown weapons
  • 5 Warriors with bows and thrown weapons 
  • 6 Young Warriors with thrown weapons

This faction forces you to purchase/choose bows and thrown weapons on most of your units. It also gives all units in the force Hard Chargers and Tough to all the Native units.

I used these 18th century trade beads for Fortune Points but I failed to give myself 4 at the start of the game like I should have.

King Golden Cap has the Vendetta: Spanish rule along with Elan, Unwavering and the extra Fortune Point from God’s Blessing or the Devil’s Luck ability. 

At 33 models, my force added up to barely half the numbers the Spanish had, but my force was “special rule’s heavy.” Lots of Hidden, Hard Chargers, Tough, Quick, and Skirmishers rules to help me out.

The Scenario

We used the land version of Breakthrough. I like this scenario because it seems a good challenge for both sides. Raid seems hard for the Attacker but the area to defend in this scenario is much broader which gives the Defender more of a challenge.

The Attacker gets a Strike Point if they fail to have a unit within 4″ of the Defender’s 12″ deployment zone by the end of turn 3 or later. The Defender gets a Strike Point if the Attacker gets a unit totally within their deployment zone at any time.

We used the road terrain to make the 12″ Defender’s deployment zone that my Attacker’s had to move into to accomplish the scenario objective. We took turns placing groups of area terrain including forested areas, forest hills and stone walls. After terrain was down, Guy placed his 3 Breastworks but decided not to clear the areas around them like he could have. That area terrain was working to his advantage anyway.

Placing units was exciting because Guy had to defend the entire line, but my Native force has the option of placing half it’s units using the Lay in Wait rule. Guy placed his units fairly evenly along the line with the command unit near the center. I placed two units near the center, one further to the Right, then using the Lay in Wait rule, I placed my command unit and another unit of Warriors on my far Right, putting more more pressure on the Spanish Left.

Before the game I had to roll for Terror from the Spanish musician and I took Fatigue on 2 units. Luckily, my faction’s Tough would clear that up on the first turn.

Units all deployed and ready to play! 65 Spaniards vs 33 Natives.

I used a variety of Native models for the Warriors units equipped with bows.

I led with a high spade out of my first hand. I’ve discovered the hard way that Lay in Wait can be a double edged sword. If that units gets charged right away on turn 1 before they can stand up, they just get killed and it is zero fun. I activated my Command unit, stood them up, fire a volley of arrows, and used the other two command points to stand up the nearby Warriors and rally one of the units that got the Terror Fatigue.

My first volley took out one of the orange unit of Milicianos (proxied with English Militia) and left them with 2 Fatigue. Not a bad start! That Great Warrior bonus got them down to 7’s at 9″.

Guy started working his units on his Right flank over to the center to match my deployment and shot off a couple turn 1 volleys but my Saves did well and I didn’t take any casualties on turn 1. The orange Milicianos took another flight of arrows and while they didn’t take any further casualties, they took a third Fatigue and hunkered down behind their breastwork. 

I passed a couple time during the middle of turn 1 as I had 5 cards to Guy’s 8. He moved his center units up towards mine as the units from his Right flank moved towards the center. 

The Spanish fired volley after volley but had no luck finding 10’s. I braved the open space with my Young Warriors after most of his units had activated so I could take the center area of wooded cover on turn 2. Even open space isn’t that dangerous if the range causing the enemy to only hit on 10’s.

I drew an event on turn 2 which came up as Commander’s View which could have let me move my commander to a different unit. My commander was already attached to my largest and most powerful unit so I didn’t take the chance. It would be very strange to take the Great Warrior Commander off the unit with the War Captains upgrade anyway…

I didn’t like my hand with no spades in it so I spent a Fortune Point to redraw my hand. With my Young Warriors out of cover I wanted to go first and with a powerful command unit which can deal out a lot of Fatigue, I highly valued taking the initiative whenever possible. 

My command unit laid down some fatigue on the first activation. With 2 Fatigue on a militia unit, I charged with my Young Warriors. Hard Chargers and Thrown Weapons is very consistent and I got a lot of hits but melee is what the Spanish Milicianos are best at. They took some damage but managed to not break. Very disappointing!

If there’s one things Natives don’t do well in its prolonged melee combat so I use Skirmishers to disengage and fall back.

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Shaken!

I started taking some casualties here on turns 2 and 3. One Young Warrior went down to musketry and my smaller unit of Warriors got hammered hard, taking some casualties and retreating with 3 Fatigue. I had greedily given a couple of my units Fatigue to get extra bow shots off earlier and now it was feeding the Spanish Ruthless engine.

The great thing about Warriors with bows is they can move forward, shoot and retreat on Spades, Hearts and Clubs. Quick and Skirmishers makes them so slippery!

I used one of my units on my right to try to blunt the Spanish advance in the middle

By the end of round 3 we had clear battle lines drawn. I had a strong force pressuring the Spanish Left flank and Guy’s Spanish had massed all the troops from his center and Right to try to swarm my Left flank.

By the end of turn 3 I had failed to push into Guy’s deployment zone but I had inflicted enough casualties to keep the Strike Point balance at 1 to 1.

The casualties stood at 17 Spanish to 3 Native dead. But at 16 casualties to give a Strike, the Spanish weren’t even close to 2 Strikes!

My hands consistently fed me a nice spread of cards with a good Spade in most hands.

Any high Spade always went to my command unit. With 3 Command Points and the unit’s actions, I could usually get off 3 volleys and rally whichever Native unit was feeling the most pain. King Golden Cap’s 12″ command range wasn’t always long enough to reach the center of the board since I had him on my far Right. I kept the orange Milicianos pretty well pinned on the Spanish Left but my own left started to feel the pressure of overwhelming forces.

I lost a unit of Warriors on turn 4 but I was able to whittle another unit of Milicianos down to 2 models.

Turn 5 gave me another nice high Spade. Guy was drawing 7-8 cards a turn and by this point and he could count how many high spades were sitting there in the last few cards of his draw deck. Spades weren’t nearly as useful for his Spanish taking the initiative with Inexperienced troops and an Untested Commander. The Standard Bearer helped but still, my command unit activations were much more dramatic than the Spanish.

By turn 5 I was down to 4 units to 5 remaining Spanish. Guy finally drew his 13 of Spades and took initiative. He used a Fortune to draw a new band at one point during the game and that let him draw through his entire deck and forces him to reshuffle before turn 6! It’s rare to use an entire activation deck!

My command unit finally took a painful hit from the Orange Milicianos and lost a man. My Fatigue check went sideways and they withdrew with 3 Fatigue. I could have rerolled the check but with Unwavering, I decided they wouldn’t be harmed too much by activating shaken so it took it on the nose.

By turn 5 most of the Spanish had some level of Fatigue and they weren’t moving too fast but they were still threatening my weak Left flank.

At this point there were 3 fairly strong Spanish units in the center of the board threatening my Left and 2 weakened Spanish units on my Right that I was hoping to exploit to make my breakthrough.

Golden Cap’s Unwavering rule helped my command unit activate as normal in spite of starting shaken and then moved with Quick, shot with a command point and then removed another Fatigue with Tough at the end of the activation. Starting shaken and still getting a move, shot and 2 points of Fatigue removed in an activation! Not bad Mr Golden Cap!

I lost another unit to charging Spanish on turn 5 so I was down to 3 units for the last turn. I had 1 Strike for casualties and 1 for failing to break through the Spanish line but the Spanish had enough casualties to balance it out. On to the last turn! I had to break through on this turn!

Both units on the Spanish Left were prone and in bad shape so I started with my last surviving unit on my Left on the last turn. But my arrows didn’t slow the advancing Spaniards! Disaster!

I tried to accomplish a double charge vs the demoralized Spanish but the second was slightly out of 4″ so I couldn’t do both charges. I charged the hated orange Milicianos and destroyed them with 8 hits vs 3 models. With Hard Chargers and thrown weapons I was getting close to 100% hits.

 I didn’t need my Great Warrior bonus on that charge so I used it on a bow shot against the last Spanish unit holding down their Left. That volley destroyed that unit giving King Golden Cap two units destroyed in a turn and breaking the defensive line on the last turn of the game.

At this point the Spanish weren’t really able to pull off a win but they were able to exact some revenge. They charged my battered Warriors on the hilltop. I was able to make a defensive attack but they missed every shot and were totally destroyed. 

At the end of turn 6 Guy’s Spanish had 3 Strikes, one for my unit breaking through and 2 for 45 casualties of the starting 65 models. I had 2 Strikes for 18 casualties of my starting 33 models. A victory for King Golden Cap, although by a fairly narrow margin. They destroyed a huge percentage of the Spanish force, but took heavy casualties themselves.

Post Game Thoughts

  • This was a very fun game. It’s good to see that the game rules balance out pretty well even with very asymmetrical forces. I had half as many models as the Spanish, but it still felt fairly even and it was a close game in the end. It could have gone either way.
  • I have seen a swarm list of cheap units destroy more balanced lists so it was good to see that it isn’t always that way. 

  • The Spanish were probably one of the least strong militia factions to bring up against King Golden Cap which gave me a decent chance at winning the game. The Golden Island Tribe has Vendetta: Spanish, so that helped me with all my Rally attempts. The 8 Shoot Save on the Milicianos also makes them much more liable to actually take casualties from bows than a force like the French that can use Miliciens with a 6 Save and possibly Elusive on top of that. I ended up pushing my units a good bit to get extra actions and double fire actions at various moments through the game, and that combined with plenty of ranged fire from the Milicianos made Ruthless trigger fairly often in spite of my faction-wide Tough ability. The English have the same 8 Shoot Save, but they might have been harder to stop with the 5 Resolve. But the French Militia factions are what I really fear when I’m playing as Natives. They’re just too sneaky to kill with arrows!
  • The Spanish are good in a melee fight. Their Fight Save of 6 served them well in this game. Even applying plenty of hits, there were a couple moments when I charged hard and the Spanish stood their ground, much to my dismay and ruin.

  • King Golden Cap is pretty great. His abilities plus his special faction abilities make for a very strong force. His 34 cost is obviously not cheap and his 12″ command range is not the best and his lack of any ranged weapon is disappointing. But the combination of rules he and his faction provide make the his army a force to be reckoned with. Just the combo of Hard Chargers, Thrown Weapons and Quick make them deadly as melee units and then the combination of Vendetta: Spanish and Tough on all units just keep them going. Great Fatigue management, especially fighting against Spain. I’m glad I got to play this faction and I will again in the future!
  • The one thing about the Golden Island Tribe is that they don’t have a lot of opportunities to build different styles of lists. With only one core unit and with the force rules demanding that you put bows and thrown weapons on them, there just isn’t a lot of room for creativity. The main decisions to be made when building this army is the size and quantity of units you want to field. Choosing a Support unit is also important, especially because you can actually choose to take Freebooters or Flibustiers which are very different from the Core Warrior unit. I chose to stick with Native units here, partly to get some extra models on the board with the cheap Young Warriors, and partly because the Hard Chargers and Tough faction rules only apply to Native units in the force, not French or English units.

  • In an effort to focus on bringing the most models possible, Guy dropped some of the support and Fatigue management characters that he usually brings along in a militia force and it ended up hurting. He mentioned more than once during the game that a Grizzled Veteran would be really helpful. The Musician and Standard Bearer were helpful, but having another way to remove Fatigue from these Inexperienced would have helped a lot. Actions are scarce enough for Inexperienced units but when they get 2 Fatigue on them, they have to only rally for their entire activation and chances are they will get hit again with more Fatigue before their next turn. The Veteran’s double bonus of Tough and a flexible Rally command point would have been very beneficial to the Spanish in this game. Where there’s bows, there will be Fatigue! 
  • The Tough rule has been changed slightly from it’s original form so it isn’t as useful to the Natives as it once was, but it’s still very valuable. Anything you do voluntarily on your activation now removes the opportunity for Tough to remove a Fatigue at the end of the activation. It was amazing when Natives could take that Fatigue for firing twice on an activation then simply shed the Fatigue when they were finished. But this way is more balanced and you just have to play more carefully. If you aren’t taking too much Fatigue from your opponent, you can still see that Tough rule as giving you an extra action every other turn. Take a Fatigue from a Push one turn, then skip the next turn and watch the Fatigue disappear. It’s still a great rule and having that rule on all units in a force is a major advantage. It makes me want to try some of the Spanish commanders with the Determination which swaps Ruthless for Tough on all their units.

  • I felt like I was actually able to benefit from the Native ability to place some of their units using the Lay in Wait rule in this game. Just having the chance to place units after all the defenders were placed was very helpful. It basically removed at least 2 units of 8 Milicianos from the game for about two turns which let me focus fire on less units and wear a couple down before the Spanish Left flank even engaged my men.

  • I have come to really value the Young Warrior unit. I guess they aren’t as cheap as a basic Militia model, but at 4 points each, they seem a good option for helping the Natives get their numbers up. My units of Young Warriors eventually died in this game but they gave better than the received and I’ve noticed that trend over the last several times I’ve used them. Their 5 Resolve is a welcome addition to the Native force.

  • The breastworks were useful in this game but not game breaking by any means. They seem kind of cheap at 1 point per section, but they made the game more interesting without disrupting the balance of the game. Getting that hard cover combined with the bonus on Saves from Bows made a couple units pretty hard to hit. That orange unit of militia got hit so many times but refused to die! Finally took them out on the last turn but they held their ground for a long time!
  • I think that the Horde style of list can be very strong and it is very intimidating and difficult to fight for less experienced players. Luckily it takes a lot of money and painting effort to actually create a list like this. Getting 65 Milicianos to the field is no easy task! We ended up using a good amount of proxies in this battle but that’s mostly my fault for failing to bring my 24 Milicianos for Guy to borrow like I said I would!

How do you like playing the “horde” style of list? Has it felt dominant or weak in your experience? Have you found a good strategy or force to counter this mob of militia? I would be eager to hear of other players’ experiences with the Golden Island Tribe as well. It seems like a very strong force.

Thanks to Guy for a really enjoyable game and thanks to Oregon City Geeks & Games for hosting our game and working hard to create a safe environment to game in during this difficult year.

Thank you for reading!