Here’s a brief battle report on my first game using the 6th Rate Frigate. I’ve been playing through the Buccaneer’s Companion campaign with my friend Guy but we took an intermission to get this beautiful ship to the table. I’ve had it finished for a couple months and I needed to try it!
I ended up using the English Royal Navy faction. I wanted to get lots of models on board and use my Heavy Cannon models and the Royal Navy rewards using the cheap Militia and Sea Dogs units so I loaded up on Tough units and a cheap commander.
My English Royal Navy force included:
- 16 Sea Dogs without pistols on the main deck manning 3 pairs of Heavy Cannons with Grapeshot with an Untested English Navy Commander and a Master Gunner
- 13 Sea Dogs without pistols assigned to the forecastle manning the 4 Swivel guns
- 8 Sea Dogs without pistols with a Sailing Master
- 6 Sea Dogs (with pistols) with a Reformado
- 10 English Militia with Bayonets and an Officer
- 8 English Militia with Bayonets
- 6th Rate Frigate with the Wheel upgrade
All my models cost 3 points and they all had the Tough special rule. With some swivel guns, some muskets with bayonets and some cannons, my list wasn’t very focused but I hoped it could face a variety of lists and challenges. With the Officer, Reformado and Sailing Master, I had lots of command points, but no big commander to make a big play.
At 62 models, I would take Strike Points at every 15 casualties.
Guy’s Brethren of the Coast force was led by Diego the Mulatto.
His force contained:
- 12 Sea Dogs without pistols assigned to the stern set of two Swivel Guns and two pairs of Medium Cannons with Diego the Mulatto attached
- 12 Marins without pistols assigned to the 3 pairs of Medium Cannons in the main deck with a Master Gunner attached
- 8 Freebooters in the main deck with a Carpenter attached
- 15 European Sailors with Muskets in the forecastle
- Light Frigate with 5 pairs of Medium Cannons with grapeshot (for free using the Brethren of the Coast force option)
At 48 models, his fore was smaller than mine and in a smaller ship, but he had better musketry, more cannons and more speed in the Light Frigate.
Usually we choose the scenario well ahead of time so we can build lists for the game but this time we didn’t until right before we played. We rolled Escort (it seems I’ve played a lot of that scenario lately!). As the English Royal Navy, my faction had a +4 bonus to being the Attacker and in this case, I was really hoping I could attack. In the Sea version of Escort, the Defender has to fight upwind across the entire board to escape with the Dignitary. With those hulking Heavy Cannons on my main deck, I couldn’t use the 5″ sail setting so I’d be struggling upwind at 2″ per move the whole game is I was the Defender.
And of course I rolled a 1! Even with my +4, I failed to take the Attacker’s role and I would be forced to deal with sailing windward. With those heavy cannons on deck, the 6th Rate Frigate become alarmingly similar to the Gallon with a 4″ speed, and -2″ windward penalty… the 3″ turn is the only real difference at that point.
This scenario is unique and exciting because there’s an instant win condition. If I as the Defender could sail off the far edge of the board, I would instantly win. I had to set up first within 2″ of the downwind side of the board with my ship facing windward.
Guy as the Attacker could set up anywhere more than 24″ away from my ship on the 4×4 board.
With the ships in place, we were ready to start the game!
I’m going to move through these turns pretty quickly because some of them were pretty quick. Diego’s Light Frigate came racing down on my on the first turn. The Speed differential was very obvious with my larger ship moving 2″ upwind while Guy’s ship sped around at 5″ per move.
The Diego’s gun crew took an early shot at my ship on turn 1 and made contact but failed to penetrate the sturdy hull. I turned straight into the wind to make progress towards the edge of the board. The nice thing about these larger ships is you start closer to the escape edge just because the ship is so long!
My gun crew on the Heavy Cannons didn’t even get to fire on the first turn! While in the wind’s eye, I had limited options as to where I could turn and I couldn’t line up my deck with the speedy Light Frigate over the course of the whole turn. I ended up tacking at least once during the first turn to keep my bow pointed at the escape edge.
I was able to use my Sailing Master to good effect, gaining both the extra inch of speed and combing the Expert Sailors with the Wheel bonus to Difficult Maneuvers. Tacking would only fail on a 1-2.
I fired some musketry but my militia didn’t do enough to make a difference at the extended range. Turn one finished without a single casualty!
Turn 2 brought us a Gust weather event that helped us move faster for the turn. This was good for me as I wasn’t near my top speed.
Guy ended up taking a Lucky Hit on his rigging due to the gust since was sailing downwind and was at full sails. But with the Carpenter on board, he was able to fix it immediately before it even did anything!
With a massive amount of models on deck and swivels and bayonets present, my Frigate didn’t appear to be a tempting boarding target on the first pass so Diego turned hard away from my ship on the second turn. I believe the intention was to quickly turn around and present the fresh broadside but it ended up taking longer to get around that anticipated.
I continued use to use my 3 units of unassigned Sea Dogs to either Tack or occasionally Wear on every move. With 3 units, and Officer, Commander and Sailing Master, I always had a unit ready to perform a difficult maneuver and the Wheel helped me succeed on every one!
Near the end of turn 2 I was finally able to shoot my Heavy Cannons for the first time. Sailing into the wind is very inconvenient for the poor gunners! At this point the range was so far the I needed 10’s to damage and two 10’s to score even one Lucky Hit. I failed to score any hits and the Heavy Cannons were skunked on their first broadside.
By turn 3, Guy had turned all the way around, cross the wind’s eye and present the starboard broadside. But as I worked my way upwind, I was slowly moving the Right while Guy’s ship had moved far to the Left while making it’s wide turn. This put us as extended range.
I had built up a little Fatigue from pushing my units for extra actions and taking some hits from the pirate crew but casualties remained light.
As the Light Frigate started sailing large again, the distance closed and some musketry from both sides caused a few casualties but no more than 3-4 per side. Aside from the first move and possibly one move on turn 2, every other move I had done with my ship had started in the wind’s eye!
Late in turn 3 I got another chance to shoot my cannons again, this time close enough to use Grapeshot! I was still looking for 8’s to hit but with 15 dice, I was able to score a tasty 6 hits.
Spending a Fortune Point to retry an nasty Save roll, Diegos crew managed to only take 2 casualties from that storm of lead and they came on.
At this point I was getting close to the edge of the table and it was apparent that I could get off the table very soon of my ship wasn’t grappled and stopped. My constant tacking back and forth across the wind’s eye and the occasional extra bit of speed from the Sailing Master was enough to get me across the board!
We both drew events on turn 4. Guy rolled a 7 which gave his commander an extra command point while I rolled a 4 which took my only command point away! This was not to be born! I really needed my command point to make my difficult maneuver with the command point and still shoot my grapeshot again on the first activation!
I spent a Fortune to re roll my event die and I ended up getting Inspiring Command as well! Fortune well spent!
I was able to fire my beautiful Heavy Cannons again and got another 6 hits! This managed to make the Freebooters go prone but didn’t end up killing that many models. But it felt good to get another volley out of the big guns!
Still outnumbered and with some Fatigue issues on deck, Guy chose not to attempt a boarding action but we were finally able to shoot some swivel guns as we passed closer to each other.
On the second activation of turn 4 I tacked again and was able to move off the board and successfully escort the Dignitary past the infamous Diego and get him to safety!
This was an instant win for my Royal Navy and the game was over! What a strange game! Casualties only amounted to 5 English and 7 Brethren dead. This was probably the lightest casualties of a game this size that I’ve ever seen!
Post Game Thoughts
- I was very surprised I made it all the way across the board! Even moving 2-3″ per move, a big ship like the 6th Rate Frigate can work itself across a board with some determination! The Sailing Master was really helpful and combined with the Wheel and plenty of Command Points, I manage to keep control of my ship in the entire time while in the wind’s eye. My target number for a maneuver like that was never higher than 4 and was usually 3 or even 2 on a larger Dedication Action. I was stingy with my Fortune Points so I would have them to use if those Sailing Actions did fail but luckily I didn’t have to use them.
- I see now that taking those Heavy Cannons is pretty punishing, Losing that extra speed is a big deal, especially if you’re force to work against the wind. I have to admit I took them mostly because I wanted to see them on the deck if a ship! I would have better served by bringing Medium Guns on two decks. I would have had better speed and would have been able to fire more often and it would have been easier to catch the quick Light Frigate in my broadside arch if the cannons were spread across two decks.
- Guy’s decision to swing around and not engage in the first pass really defined the game. He expressed dissatisfaction with that decision at the end of the game (and a couple times since). It just put too much distance between our ships for a full two turns. In another scenario, it wouldn’t have been as critical but with Escort’s instant win provision, it was a dangerous move. If I had failed a Tacking maneuver, that would have lost me a turn and made time for Diego’s Brethren to either board (no matter the cost) or block my escape and force me to board and fight it out. The game was more a testament to the efficiency of the Sailing Master and the Wheel (and the length of the Frigate).
- The English Royal Navy doesn’t have a lot of flexibility in force building but that Tough on all my units was nice. It was a short game with not too much actual blood spilled but it’s still remarkable that I never took a Rally action over the course of the entire game, in spite of giving myself some Fatigue through Pushing.
- It was fun to see Diego the Mulatto in action but I need to see him in another game with some more action! With Very Inspiring, Lead by Example and Vendetta: Spanish, he has to be one of the best Fatigue mitigators in the game!
- In spite of not being super effective in this game the Heavy Cannons sure looked good on the Frigate! The Galleon is currently the only other ship that can take Heavy Cannons and all its cannons are below deck. I have 8 Heavy Cannon models and this is the only ship I can actually use them on!
- I deployed part of my militia unit in a fighting tops and later I realized that messed up my plans to use a Drilled shot with them. With some of the models in the subsection, there was no way the unit could be in “formation” to make the Drilled shot. At 300 points I couldn’t make a 4 man unit to put up there so I had to choose between the height advantage and the ability to make
Thanks to Guy for a good game. Thanks for reading! I’m looking forward to playing many more games with the 6th Rate Frigate. I think I’ll run it as a gunship under the Spanish flag next time. It seems like a great ship!