By Joseph Forster
The Ostend Privateer faction is one of the smaller Spanish factions in Blood & Plunder, but its combination of strengths from both the Dutch and Spanish nationalities make it a very strong naval faction, in spite of having fewer force building options than most other naval factions of the major European powers.
The best and most distinctive faction rule is the Ruthless special rule applied to all units within the faction. There are several Spanish factions that use units without Ruthless so granting this ability to all units within the faction is very strong! The Ostend Privateers faction includes access to many Dutch units that have strong stats and are much more skilled than the standard Spanish units. Combing those skilled Dutch units with the signature Spanish Ruthless ability is dynamite and is really what makes this faction so strong. (Ruthless gives a unit a -1 bonus on a Shoot or Fight when it is targeting a unit with more Fatigue than the attacking unit.)
The second faction rule applies a +2 to the roll that determines who the Attacker is. This is very typical of a naval faction and is also found in the Buccaneer factions, Guarada Costas, Spanish Corsairs, Brethren of the Coast, Pirate Hunters etc. This just means you’ll be the Attacker more often than not against most land-based factions which is fine and normal. Most sea going factions will have a similar rule or even a +3 or +4 so you’ll have a decent chance at taking either the Attacker or Defending role when playing most sea games.
The final faction ability takes Poorly Equipped away from any units that had it. Before the Errata (page 6), Poorly Equipped applied to cannons which made the Spanish the slowest at firing the great guns. Removing this rule from the Spanish units in this faction doesn’t do much now but it doesn’t hurt. Marineros equipped with muskets are the only unit in the faction where Poorly Equipped would make a difference now.
This faction has access to 2 Dutch, 1 Spanish and 1 generic European core unit and they’re all pretty solid units.
This is the basic Dutch sailor/cannon crew model and many players consider it the best in its class. With Expert Sailors, Expert Artillery Crew and Hard Chargers, the Zeelieden have boosts to basically all their needed skills. They have the standard 7 Shoot Save but the 6 Fight Save make them tougher and scrappier than the Marinero or Marin. Their 6 Fight doesn’t hit as hard as the Marin, but Hard Chargers makes up for that. Once you add Ruthless to this already great unit, you have a real gem. If you need an artillery crew or sailor unit, use this unit. If you want to add muskets to a sailor unit, the European Sailor is a better option because of their superior Shoot skill but for all other purposes, this is a great unit.
This unit holds a strange place in the game, coming in at 1 point higher than Trained Militia and 1 point less than a Freebooter/Flibustier professional model. Again, they’re a well rounded unit with basically the same stats as the Zeelieden except their Shoot skill is the standard 6 instead of 7. They aren’t quite as good in a fight since the trade the Zeelieden’s Hard Chargers for Brawlers and they have the standard Artillery Crew instead of the expert version. Their 6 Shoot is what makes them good. Their 5 Resolve makes their bonus Ruthless more likely to trigger which could bring their Shoot down to 5 which isn’t too shabby for a 5 point model.
Kapers are some of the best models to outfit with Blunderbusses since they have that 6 Shoot. One out of every 3 models can trade their Firelock Musket for a Blunderbuss. This makes them hit super hard at close range but limits their long rang capability. If you take Blunderbusses you can use the “half fire” trick to just shoot Firelocks with half your models every turn, then hit hard with your blundebusses when you finally get close.
In this force, Kapers are competing with both the Corsarios and European Sailors equipped with Muskets. Corsarios are slightly better in melee and Euro Sailors are slightly cheaper ranged models if you buy 5+ in a unit.
The only different stat on Corsarios compared to the Kapers is their Fight of 5. This is your best melee unit but I think the 6 cost is a little expensive. Corsarios feel outclassed by the 6 point Freebooters and Flibustiers. With no Fast Reload, Marksmen, or sidearm weapon, they just move slower than the English and French equivalents. Swordsmen makes them hard to kill in melee so if you can get them into melee quick, they can do a lot of damage, but they might not ever make it that far if they have to go toe-to-toe with other 6 point models in the game. Every time I bring these guys in the Ostend Privateers, I usually wish I had chosen one of the cheaper options for ranged attack that doesn’t cost as much. I guess giving both the Kapers and Euro Sailors Ruthless sort of devalues this unit in this force.
If you want Sailors or Artillery Crew, the Zeelieden are going to be much better than these generic sailors. The real strength of the European Sailor is their ability to take muskets with their 6 Shoot at a very reasonable cost. It’s pretty common for any faction with core or support access to this unit to take a massive unit of them with muskets. Adding Ruthless makes them that much better!
At smaller unit sizes, Kapers and European Sailors with muskets come out to very similar value, but when you get up to 8+ models, the European Sailors offer some real savings when building your list. In a 12 model unit, you’re only paying 4.3 points per model which potentially has a base shoot of 5 if you can get Ruthless to trigger. That’s some good value!
They have a less reliable Fight Save of 7 but their Battle Hardened special rule helps them stay engaged in that melee but I’m not sure that’s really better or even as good as the 6 Fight Save that you get with both the Corsarios and Kapers.
Having a large and unassigned unit of these models on your ship with muskets, and a character like a Sailing Master or Carpenter can really great. They can sail or repair or shoot as needed.
This is the basic Spanish sailor unit but it is really outclassed by the Zeelieden so I don’t see a lot of reason to use this in your force if you want optimized power.
Both the sailor and artillery crew rules are inferior on the Marinero when compared to the Zeelieden and the 5 Fight is roughly equivalent to the 6 Fight with Hard Chargers on the Dutch Sailor and both units have Ruthless in this faction. The 7 Fight Save is the biggest drawback when comparing the Spanish sailor to the Dutch version. I don’t see any really good reason to use your Support Unit slots on this unit.
This is your elite boarding party unit. Again, this is a great unit in Dutch lists and adding Ruthless to it makes it even better! It’s a little tough spending 6 points a model on a unit that really lacks any long ranged capabilities, but if you want a melee unit, this is your guy!
They have the same basic 4 stats as the Corsario but they have a Resolve of 4, come as Veterans and are equipped with a deadly array of short ranged weapons. Each model gets the coveted Brace of Pistols (this is the only unit Spain has access to with Brace of Pistols), one in three models can take a Blunderbuss as well, and one in four models can take a “lesser grenade” for free or a Grenadoe for 4 points. If you can get Ruthless to trigger, your melee attack with pistols can be a 4 with re-rolls on failed dice every time you Charge or Fight! That’s a 91% success rate on melee attacks!
This is another instance of giving an already amazing unit the special Spanish Ruthless sauce and they come out spectacular! The trick is how to use them in the early game. You can either just start with them prone on deck so they won’t take damage as your approach your enemy, or you can start with them manning some cannons or swivel guns with their Expert Artillery Crew ability. Once you get close, abandon the cannons and start using those pistols, blunderbusses and explosives!
Choosing grenades can be difficult sometimes. The free Firepot/Stinkpot on this models makes that very tempting but the deadliness of the Grenadoes is good too! I usually go with 1 Stinkpot and the rest Firepots. That Stinkpot will “hit” every time and can’t blow up in your hand. It doesn’t do any damage but it stops any unit inside the stink cloud to make any ranged attacks. So you can charge with impunity! No defensive fire at all when boarding another ship! You’ll have to take a Resolve check yourself when you charge into the cloud but with 4 Resolve, that shouldn’t be a problem. The Firepots don’t always hit with that target number of 8, but with 3 dice, they’re usually worth a shot and the possibility of setting fire to your enemies ship is always good fun.
I think this unit is a really excellent choice for a your support unit if you can afford it. This is one of the very best melee units in the game.
If you want a good boarding unit but don’t want to pay that 6 cost, this is not a bad substitute. You don’t get the Rambo level of weaponry you get with the Enter Ploeg. You just get a pointy stick. But there’s still value there! You’ll never catch them unloaded so they can always make a defensive jab with their lances. Their real strength is their 6 Shoot Save. When charging from one ship to the other, if you have to take a defensive shot, that 6 Shoot Save brought down to 5 by Hard Cover will help you accomplish the charge more reliably than any other unit in this force.
The Ostend Privateers have very limited options for commanders and that’s really their main weakness. With no historical commanders available, this faction has to choose one of skill levels from either the Dutch Naval or Spanish Corsair line of commanders. These aren’t bad commanders but they don’t offer some of the normal abilities that people look for in commanders.
Spanish Corsair Commanders
The Spanish Corsair Commander trio of options has more in common with Buccaneer commanders than the usual Spanish commanders. The Untested version is as basic as you get with 1 Command Point, a short range (which is fine for ships), and no ability beyond the redundant Ruthless.
As is usual, the 15 point Experienced version provides a lot more and is probably the best value of these three. With 2 Command Points and the addition of both Commodore and Lead by Example, you’re getting a lot more ability in this commander. This is your best option for Fatigue management in a commander unless you add a Standard Bearer/Musician to a 0 cost commander. With Lead by Example, you’ll probably want to attach your commander to a large unit of ranged models like Corsarios, Kapers or European Sailors with muskets.
The 25 point Seasoned Corsair commander only adds some range to his command points and adds Broadside! and would only be a helpful upgrade if you’re really trying to focus on solid shot fire from your cannons. But Privateers tend to want to capture ships rather than sink them so I recommend the Experienced version as a better value than the Seasoned commander.
Dutch Naval Commanders
The Dutch signature Strict ability is the main point of interest here. It’s not an easy combo, but if you can get a unit to benefit from both Ruthless and Strict, you can get hit your enemy very hard! Again, I find the Experienced version of the Dutch Commander to be the most interesting and best value. The Untested version has no abilities at all so is essentially the same as the Spanish Corsair Commander but he can be a good option if you need a cheap commander and that’s the model you have! The Dutch Experienced Commander gives you Broadside! while that is only available on the 25 point Spanish commander. He is really the best choice overall in my opinion, especially if you plan to do much with cannons. The Seasoned Dutch Commander only adds Commodore and another 4″ or command range so he’s usually not a great option unless you’re running several vessels.
In my opinion, it’s usually a decision between the Experienced Corsair Commander who has some Fatigue mitigation options (but still lacks Inspiring) or the Dutch Experienced Commander who can get that -1 bonus on any action through Strict (check the errata, not NPBtL for the real Strict). If you go with the Dutch Commander and plan to use Strict, I suggest bringing along some Grizzled Veteran/Son of Nepture characters to help remove Fatigue through a game because without Inspiring and using Strict to apply Fatigue to your own men, you can struggle in the late game with too much Fatigue everywhere and no efficient way to remove it.
Strengths and Weaknesses
In a nutshell, this faction has the Dutch and Spanish strengths rolled together without any glaring weaknesses. You get the excellent Dutch units and the Spanish Ruthless ability. Having all units with 5 Resolve makes that ability even better in this faction that most Spanish factions!
Here are a couple potential weaknesses you’ll need to watch out for. Lack of Inspiring on a commander is a weak spot in this faction so use characters to shore up that lack.
When looking at the options for “professional sailor/soldier” units, both the French and the English outclass both the Kaper and the Corsario. The lack of sidearm, brace of pistols, Fast Reload and Marksmen makes the small arms units in this faction inferior for ranged fighting when compared to Flibustiers and Freebooters so you’ll have to leverage Strict and Ruthless to increase your accuracy at range.
The lack of interesting historical commanders is a bit of a weakness when considering playing this faction “long term” as your base faction just because there isn’t a lot to explore for command options.
This is primarily a sea-based faction so they won’t do as well on land, but they have enough well rounded units, they can do OK on land when they have to. They just don’t have any fun Quick, Elusive, or Scout type of units for land games.
Another practical strength for this faction is that you can play a Spanish force with a Dutch starter box! There’s lots of possible starting points for purchasing for this faction. You can start with the Pirates and Privateers box, the Dutch box or the Spanish box! And any combination of those two will be great as well!
This list is limited a bit by the low numbers of Zeelieden and Enter Ploeg in the Starter Box, but it’s still playable.
Only 1 core Spanish unit makes this a little hard to manage but again, it’s playable at 100 points with just the starter box and a ship!
This list focuses on Cannons with a full compliment of Medium guns with a solid crew of Zeelieden with a Master Gunner and they can all take advantage of the commander’s Strict rule. Your ranging shot can take both the bonus from the Master Gunner and Strict ensuring that your cannons make contact pretty much every time.
This list doesn’t use any cannons but focuses on swivels and small arms and leveraging the height of the Galleon to give your enemies a disadvantage on ranged saves. This is a surprisingly functional list for “only” 250 points in a Galleon.
This is a heavy duty Frigate list with a good set of 5 pairs of Medium Cannons and 2 large units of good ranged firepower. All the units are competent at boarding so this list can pretty much go any direction you want.
Lists this size get more complex and hard to interpret but this is basically a Cannon Frigate and a boarding Sloop. The Frigate loads up on cannons and cheap cannon crew and the Sloop takes all the Corsarios, Enter Ploeg and the unit of 12 Zeelieden with pistols along with the Sailing Master, Officer and Reformado. I added the Seasoned Dutch Commander for the extra command range for flexibility between the two ships if necessary but those 10 points might be better spent somewhere else, especially with 3 characters already on the Sloop.
The Ostend Privateers are a small faction but their combination of excellent units and good faction rules make them a fun and very strong force to play in any sea battle. I might to as far as claiming this is the strongest Spanish sea faction currently available. The lack of powerful historical commanders is the only thing really tempering my enthusiasm for this faction.
This is an excellent faction for Dutch player to try if they want to start exploring the Spanish nationality. The reverse is true as well, but the Spanish player will have to buy more Dutch models to fill out the list since there are really only 2 Spanish units in the whole faction.
An excellent faction!