By Joseph Forster
The Native factions in Blood & Plunder offer a very different way of playing the game. They have glaring weaknesses but also strengths in areas that the European factions lack. I think the Kalinago are a prime example of this combination of strength and weakness. With very mobile units, impressive firepower with bows and the ability to take the deadly Poisoned Arrows they showcase some of the major strengths you find in the Native factions, but they also have the dreaded Sound of Thunder weakness on all their units which can be supremely frustrating.
Natives factions have a lot of special rules so buckle up! Just being a Native faction means they get 3 special rules and limitations.
Firstly, they cannot include any ships size 2 or larger. This means you’re limited to boats. Canoa and Longboats are you cheap choices and you can use Piraguas for larger units or as a flagship. This rule makes sea games much different for you than most other factions but it doesn’t entirely cripple you at sea. The next rules gives each of those boats the Paddles trait which helps you move your boats without actually keeping units assigned to the Sweeps. You won’t win any races at sea, but with the maneuverability of Sweeps and the potential 5″ speed in a Piragua, you have options. Luckily, most sea factions have a +2 bonus for being the Attacker so you will Defend when fighting at sea in most cases.
The next special Native rule prohibits you from taking any artillery in your force which further pushes into a different force building space than most other factions at sea. You have to rely entirely on small arms while sitting in tiny boats and moving slower than your European enemies! Natives aren’t their strongest at sea but they can can still be competitive if used carefully.
Lastly, when any Native faction is the Attacker, they can deploy up to half their force using the Lay in Wait rule (you get to deploy these units prone in cover after your opponent finishes deploying and you can deploy them outside your deployment zone with some restrictions). This makes land game more interesting and unpredictable for your enemy. Just be careful using this rule because of you split your force and engage the enemy with only half your units at close range, you can get overwhelmed. Use it to take control of key positions on the board but don’t rush to engage. If you deploy too close to the enemy and they take the initiative, it’s possible they could charge you while still prone and that’s bad news.
Now we can finally look at the special rules for the Caribs faction itself. All your units gain the Ruthless rule. This rule is found on most Spanish units and it gives you a -1 bonus on Shoot and Fight tests when attaching a unit with more Fatigue then your attacking unit. If you can get this to trigger, it can make your units very deadly. Two of your Core units have a solid Resolve of 5 which means they will resist taking Fatigue reasonably well which will hopefully help get you this bonus. This could bring the Warrior Archer’s Shoot skill down to 4 which is amazing! They could hit on 7’s at 15″! This is an easy rule to forget with Natives so keep it in mind!
The Natives are notoriously bad at surviving extended melee combat but the Cunning rule helps with that a little bit. When one of your units becomes Shaken, you can choose to fall back 5″ instead of 4″. This is a subtle rule but it basically prevents you from getting pursued by your attacker. They can typically stay engaged by taking a free Move action but if you move 5″ and all other units can only move 4″, that gets you out of melee for at least the short term so you have a chance to rally and return to the right or so you can target the attacking unit with ranged firepower since it will no longer be engaged with your unit.
Now we come to the bad rule. Sound of Thunder is a real penalty for the Caribs (and a couple other Native factions). Representing the fear inspired by the lack of familiarity with gunpowder weapons, Sound of Thunder forces your units to roll an extra Fatigue die after being attacked by a Gunpowder weapon. This is very painful. Even one death in a unit means you’ll be rolling 3 Fatigue Dice and with several units with 6 Resolve, that’s a big deal. You’ll be taking a lot of Fatigue if you’re opponent is firing at you very much with muskets are cannons. There’s two ways to deal with this. First, you need to manage Fatigue with a good commander and a Grizzled Veteran character. Second, try to not let your enemy attack you very much! This is easier said that done but if you can stay at medium range and drop a lot of Fatigue on your enemy with bows and poisoned arrows, you can slow the incoming volleys. This punishing rule works directly against the Ruthless rule on your units as well. You need to keep Fatigue off your units to make use of the Ruthless bonus but Sound of Thunder makes that a real challenge.
Of the various factions with Sound of Thunder, this faction is slightly better equipped to manage it since 2 of their 3 Core units have 5 Resolve instead of 6,
The last special faction rule allows you to pay 3 points to add Poisoned Arrows to a unit armed with bows. I personally think this is one of the strongest Native abilities. Poisoned Arrows forces the target of a bow attack to re roll one successful Resolve dice after an attack. That doesn’t sound like a big deal but over the course of a whole game filled with arrows flying every turn, that single re roll on every attack adds up and it can cripple a European force that relies on all those reloads actions to keep up a good rate of fire. I will take Poisoned Arrows on at least one unit any time I have the opportunity, and I usually give it to every single unit. Bows are already pretty good at spreading Fatigue around the board, but Poisoned Arrows amps that up several notches. Don’t be stingy when considering spending on this equipment. It’s good!
The Caribs get 3 core units, Warrior Archers who are excellent shots (and are the best unit to give Poisoned Arrows), Young Warriors who are a little braver and quicker, and African Warriors, a multipurpose and hardy (although expensive) unit that can do pretty much anything at a competent level.
This unit is your best option for ranged fire. They have an excellent Shoot skill of 5 which means they’ll get plenty of hits at standard range and they’ll land some arrows on target even at up to 24″. The Archers aren’t any good at melee combat so keep them away from the very front of you can help it. Their Hidden special rules makes it harder for enemies to hit them or even target them at all in some cases. If a unit is shooting from over 12″ away and the Archers are in cover, the attacking unit applies a +1 penalty to their attack can’t can’t attack at all if the resulting target number would be higher than10.
Again this seems like a subtle rule but it can have a huge effect on a game. Hidden effectively prevents any militia unit with a 7 Shoot skill from shooting at these Natives at all unless they use more actions with a Drilled shot. This forces the your enemies to get up close. You can either find a nice spot to camp with open space around you and shoot with relative impunity or you can shoot and fall back forcing them to come to you.
And if they rush you and actually charge your unit, you can use the Evade rule to simply withdraw and leave them hanging. Evade is another powerful rule for land battles that helps keep your units alive even with things start to go bad. Instead of making a defensive shot when charged, you can take a Fatigue to fall back 4″ to avoid their charge. This is an amazing ability and will cause your opponent no end of frustration!
Of course this unit has Scouts as well which lets you move through rough terrain without taking the -1″ penalty. As a Native player, you should be spending as much time as possible in cover and it doesn’t hinder your movement!
This unit has a lot of possible modifications. You can upgrade their training level to veteran for 1 point each. This isn’t my favorite upgrade since they don’t have Quick or Skirmishers and if you fire twice in a turn, you take a Fatigue. This basically lets you move and fire more. You could even do a faux skirmish where the unit moves up, fires and falls back on both a Diamond and a Club.
You can also add pistols to the unit for 1 point per model. This is a strange upgrade, notably since this is the only unit with a 5 Shoot that can carry pistols. This means they could make a defensive shot at Shoot 6 with pistols or an aggressive shot at a basic shoot of 7 (counting the penalty of +2 at more than 4″). Personally I prefer avoiding the reloads and using bows and if I want to use some gunpowder weapons, I would get the Musket sidearm instead. At 4 points for the whole unit, this is usually cheaper and one shot is often enough to make it worth it. With a base Shoot of 5 and the possibility of Ruthless and Great Warrior/War Captains, that one sidearm musket shot can be pretty deadly. The sidearm musket is my favorite upgrade for the Warrior Archers.
As a core unit (and Trained), this unit can also be upgraded with the War Captain ability if it has the commander attached. The Great Warrior/War Captains ability lets you apply a -1 bonus to any one test they perform on each activation. This is an optional rules on the Experienced and Seasoned Native commander and I try to make room in the force to pay for this ability. It’s flexible and you can use it pretty much every turn. With your base shoot of 5, a command unit with Great Warrior can reliably shoot with a base of 4 every turn and if you can get Ruthless to trigger in this faction, you get that shoot down to 3! And you can use that Shoot skill on your sidearm musket! With a Shoot of 3, you could be hitting those militia on 6’s while they can’t shoot you at all (due to the Hidden rule).
This is the best unit to add Poisoned Arrows to as well. They will pretty much always get some hits which means that re-roll will always have a chance to trigger.
My favorite method of using this unit is a 6 model group with both the Poisoned Arrows and a sidearm muskets if I can afford it. That’s a 37 point unit but it’s can survive for a long time and it can put a lot of arrows out on the board and will put a lot of Fatigue on your enemy.
I really like this unit and I usually try to fit at least 2 units of Warrior Archers in my force.
This is the only Inexperienced unit available to the force and at 4 points, they seem a little expensive at first. But with no reloads, Quick and Scouts, they have enough action economy to be pretty useful on the board. An Inexperienced unit with Quick can do more on a Spade than a Trained unit!
The best thing about this unit is that it has a 5 Resolve which is rare in the Native factions. They won’t take Fatigue as fast and they can get rid of it more reliably with Rally actions and that’s a big deal when you’re having to deal with Sound of Thunder.
You can modify the unit in a couple ways but I find the standard version to be fine. For 3 points you can add Thrown Weapons which is pretty good. With Quick and 5 Resolve, Young Warriors can do a 8″ charge and might survive a defensive shot with their solid Save and Resolve. If you want to reduce their cost, you can take away their bows for -1 point each. For a large unit, taking away the bows and adding Thrown Weapons can make them a nice, cheap charging unit. But watch out because without a ranged weapon and without the Evade rule, any charges from the enemy will be very painful.
You can’t spam these units since they have the Support rule where you can only take 1 unit of Young Warriors for every unit of Warrior Archers, Warriors or Warrior Musketeers in your force. I usually don’t every want to take more than 1 unit of Young Warriors so I don’t see this as much of a negative.
This is your most well-rounded unit. With a 6/6/6/6/5 stat line, this unit can do anything at a competent level but you’ll have to pay 6 points each with no upgrades. They have lots of rules too! With Quick, Skirmishers, Elusive, Scouts and Ruthless, Cunning and Sound of Thunder, they have to be really high on the list of units with the most special rules! Again, they expensive but they’re the most resilient of your units. Elusive helps keep them alive at range and Cunning helps keep them alive in melee combat.
The African Warriors make a good choice for a command unit as well but the Great Warrior ability makes them 7 point models which seems kind of crazy for a unit with no weapons but bows. You can also upgrade them to Veteran which makes them even more mobile! With 2 standard actions on a Spade plus Quick and Skirmishers plus a possible command action from a commander, this unit can accomplish an astonishing 5 actions on a Spade. It’s an impressive unit but your most expensive unit as well.
You can also add pistols for 1 point each but I prefer to add an experience level. You can take away their bows as well for -1 point per model and then you can use them as a purely melee model. Then they are competing with the Warrior unit but that unit is Support and it has a 6 Resolve instead of 5 so it can be a viable choice.
You can also swap bows for Muskets (and Slow Reload) for free. This gives you a lot more hitting power to 3 Reloads for muskets instead of 0 for bows is a brutal change. If you’re using the Seasoned commander with Savvy, that will remove the Slow Reload ability which will make them pretty good but again, that’s pretty expensive!
I find the Poisoned Arrows my favorite upgrade, then the Veteran upgrade is my second choice followed by Great Warrior with with other modifications much lower on my priority list.
The Core Unit selection contains a good ranged unit, a good general purpose Trained unit and a pretty solid Inexperienced unit and the Support Unit selection gives you access to a fairly cheap gunpowder unit and a great melee unit.
At 4 points, this is a very cheap unit for having a 6 Shoot and a musket. That Slow Reload ability is the real killer. If you want some gunpowder in your force, this is a cheaper option that African Warriors with muskets and they have the Hidden and Evade perks which makes them hard to root out of cover.
You can make these models Veterans and at only 5 points per model, that’s still affordable and it helps make up for the extra Reload from Slow Reload. The more I play them, the less I used them but it can still be really nice to have some gunpowder in your force, especially if you’re fighting a force with solid Shoot Saves like the French.
This is one of my favorite units. With Quick and a 5 Fight and free Thrown Weapons, this is an amazing melee unit. With the Veteran upgrade, this unit can leverage their Quick rule, plus 2 actions on a Spade, you can charge a full 12″ and hit on 5’s with Thrown Weapons which grant re-rolls on all failed dice and then after they hit hard, they can pull back 4″ with Skirmishers.
At 4 points each this is a very cheap unit and that means you can afford to spend some on upgrades for them! Again, they have a lot of possible modifications. Their biggest weakness is a lack of a ranged weapon which leaves them open to a undefended charge. The Warriors have three options for adding a ranged weapon: bows, pistols or a sidearm musket. Bows are the most flexible and are my preferred extra weapon but they bring the cost up by one point per model. If you buy bows, you can spend even more money on giving them Poisoned Arrows as well. A sidearm musket is generally cheaper and it can hit hard but only once. You can either save that one shot for a defensive fire or you can fire them off right before you charge to lay some Fatigue down. I’ve had good results with both bows and muskets. For the same cost as bows, I find adding pistols to be a less useful upgrade. They’re OK for a defensive shot but at ranges over 4″ they’re just too inaccurate and you have to reload them!
Their other weapon option is swapping their Heavy Melee Weapon for Thrown Weapons. Heavy Weapons give your target a penalty on their Fight Save (but they give you a Save penalty as well) and Thrown Weapons let you re-roll all failed dice on a charge (like Brace of Pistols but only the charges, not Fight tests). I find Thrown Weapons a more reliable choice in most cases.
Their last possible upgrade is moving them up to Veteran for one point per model. This is a very tempting option for me and I’ll take it if I can afford it! If you want to use Warriors for your melee strike force, making them Veteran gives them that extra action on a Spade which can make a big difference. For me the ultimate land based-melee death squad is 8-12 Veteran Warriors with sidearm muskets and an Officer character. Eight models with upgrades and the officer costs 52 points but boy can they hit hard! With Quick and their two actions on a Spade and the Officer’s Command Point and Skirmishers they can cover an incredible distance, hit hard and fade away to relative safety. You could make a 16″ charge (taking 1 Fatigue) or a 12″ charge with a close range musket shot before the charge, or a 8″ charge and an 8″ withdrawal and a shot in the middle somewhere. They basically get 5 actions on a Spade with this combination and it’s crazy!
The Caribs have the standard 3 versions of the Southern Tribes available along with 2 historical commanders.
All three generics have the option of using Great Warrior and making their unit elite with by adding the War Captains trait to them. This ability lets you apply a -1 bonus to any one test during their activation. I like this ability and usually find a way to fit it into my list but with all the fun upgrades you can add to your units, be careful to not nickle-and-dime yourself to death. They are also hindered as models by only having a Standard Melee Weapon instead of a bow, musket or pistol. I find this a little annoying since it basically increases the cost of the commander since you can’t really count him as a fighting man unless you get into melee.
The Untested Commander has a rather pathetic 4 command range but can be fine if you just plan on using his Command Point on his own unit. The Experienced version is much better with an 8″ range and Inspiring. This ability is especially crucial for this faction since you have several units with 6 Resolve and you have to deal with the painful Sound of Thunder rule on all your men. This is a rare case where I will sometimes use the Seasoned 25 point commander. Expanding the range to 12″ is very helpful for rallying the troops on the flanks and letting loose extra volleys of arrows. But the best thing about the Seasoned Commander is the Savvy rule! This removes Sound of Thunder and Slow Reload. This only applies to the command unit itself but it sure makes a difference! The Savvy rule well help any unit you attach him to and if you add muskets to the African Warriors, you will lose the Slow Reload restriction and will be able to fire at a normal rate. And with War Captains, you can reliably shoot with a base of 5 pretty much every turn! 25 points is a lot to pay for a generic commander but this guy opens up some fun options for this faction.
For 15 points you can command your Carib force with Captain Peter. He is much like the Experienced generic commander with a 8″ range, 2 Command Points and Great Warrior but he trades Inspiring for Delay Tactics. Losing Inspiring hurts a lot but Delay Tactics is an interesting and rare ability. He can spend an action while he’s within 12″ of the enemy commander to attempt to take away all his Command Points for the turn. The target number is 7 so it will only go off 40% of the time so it’s certainly a risk but it could be devastating for the enemy, especially if they have a high powered commander with 3 Command Points. Having to be within 12″ of the enemy commander and having the chance to try this action before the enemy commander uses his actions all make this a little tricky to pull off but it is very satisfying when you do it!
At 25 points, this guy is a bit more of an investment and on defense he’s exactly like the 15 point Experienced Commander. He only becomes interesting if his force is attacking. When attacking he can forfeit the Lay in Wait rule to attack at night instead. Night battles are good for the Natives because it takes away some of the advantage of gunpowder weapons while not hurting bows much at all (night limits standard visibility to 12″). The other great part about Captain Tabary’s night attacks is that it lets you use the Hidden ability at 8″ instead of 12″.
If your opponent has militia or soldiers with Matchlock muskets, that unit will be visible at 24″ instead of 12″ and you can shoot away at them with your silent bows while they bumble around in the dark entirely unable to shoot back! Night battle are great with Natives and the best with Captain Tabary!
The Poisoned Arrows ability is one of the Caribs’ best strengths in my opinion so try to leverage that extra Fatigue into control of the board by turn 2 or 3 if you can. Once you have Fatigue on the enemy’s unit and can land more Fatigue wherever needed, you control the game and can knock out enemy units at your leisure.
The Caribs are mobile on land and have lots of action advantage with bows and movement. Try to be more mobile than you enemy and hit where he doesn’t expect it. Watch for any unprepared or weak unit to get within 12″ of your melee Warriors and hit hard and withdraw before he can respond. It can be worth it to basically sacrifice your unit of melee Warriors to take out the enemy’s command unit. Don’t hesitate to be Ruthless!
Night battles play to your strengths so experiment with Captain Tabary and see if he can amplify your strong abilities.
Sound of Thunder is your #1 weakness. You have to plan for it and compensate somehow. Having Inspiring on you commander is a good place to start and adding a Grizzled Veteran to your force is pretty much a requirement. With 6 Resolve on several of your units and being forced to roll so many Fatigue dice, it will be a struggle to keep it off.
Building a Carib force can be complex! All the units have many possible upgrades and alterations. I would encourage a new Native player to start simple with an upgrade or two and add more as they feel their getting value out of what you’re paying for. You don’t need bows and pistols and muskets all on one unit! It’s easy to throw a few points here and a few points there but it can add up and all of the sudden you have a 200 point force with only 22 models up against 40!
The Kalinago don’t excel at sea. Hidden, Evade, Quick, Skirmishers, Cunning and Elusive all lose value or do absolutely nothing in sea games. You really have to rely on your action advantage with Paddles and Bows to be competitive at sea. You are also forced to take smaller ships than your opponent will likely use. Keep your boats out of ramming distance and move them carefully if you’re trying to board. Focus those Poisoned Arrows on the stern! If you can break that unit on the tiller, it will half the turn value of that ship and they won’t be able to turn into your fragile canoa.
Sound of Thunder is bad. Did I mention that already? I’ll say it again. Sound of Thunder is bad.
On land my favorite tactic is to lay out Fatigue for the first couple turns with Poisoned Arrows until the opposing force is less effective, then start moving in for the kill with a unit of Warriors or African Warriors leading the way. Fatigue and control are the name of the game for this tactic.
You can also go for more of a hit and run tactic where you try to keep out of range or line-of-sight of your enemy most of the time. This is particularly good for this faction since it limits the damage Sound of Thunder can do to you. Keep behind some trees, jump out with a Quick unit of African or Young Warriors, let off a volley of arrows and the skirmish back out of sight. This is a slower game that takes a lot of care and a good terrain set up but it can be effective. It’s likely your opponent will push hard to get closer if you play with this tactic so play for 2-4 turns of cat and mouse before he forces the issue but hopefully you can put some Fatigue and damage out in those first turns so you are can handle some close combat by the time he moves in.
At sea I find a lot of small ships with medium to small sized units of Warrior Archers with Poisoned Arrows is a great place to start. The Hard Cover and Bow Save bonus work together to make it very difficult to kill many models with bows so you have to lean heavily on Fatigue. You should give every man a ranged weapon in sea games but also have at least one strong melee unit that can board when the time comes. Warriors, Young Warriors and African Warriors can all do that job reasonably well.
Kalinago Force Lists
This list relies heavily on the two units of Archers with Poison to lay down Fatigue to make opportunities for the Warriors to rush in and clean house. I like the Musket sidearm on the Warriors so they have some sort of ranged option.
This 4 Canoa list is all-in on Poison as well. The canoes aren’t full but that spreads out your units so the loss of any one canoa to a nasty cannon hit or deadly swivel gun shot won’t be crippling to your force.
200 Point Well Rounded Kalinago
This is a “classic” list with a nice War Captain unit of African Warriors as your command unit, 2 fully equipped units of Warrior Archers with poison to help control the board, and a larger unit of Young Warriors to run around and do the dangerous jobs during a game.
200 Point Archer-Focused Kalinago
This 200 point force has less ability to get into melee but with the Officer and 3 full units of Archers plus another unit with bows and poison, you can dump out 42 shots with poison arrows every turn without even taking a Fatigue for firing twice in a single activation. This list can churn out Fatigue.
With 4 Canoa and a Piragua flagship, this list can be a little confusing for a standard large ship to battle. If you can stay out of the way of your enemy’s ship and not get rammed, and you don’t have to chase a fast ship, my experience tells me you’ll have a good shot at wearing down the crew with arrows, even if you don’t get many kills in the early game.
With Captain Tabary, if you have the good luck to be the Attacker, you’re in good shape because the enemy won’t be able to fire at your ships until you’re within 12″ and then you can release a torrent of arrows hitting on 7’s and that’s bound of get a few kills.
This is a great Amphibious list as well.
300 Point Aggressive Land Kalinago
This force uses the Savvy ability on the Seasoned Commander to make African Warrior command unit into a fearsome unit. With Great Warrior, Ruthless and at the Veteran level with Quick and Skirmishers, they can get anywhere on the battlefield and shoot a very accurate musket volley and dodge both Slow Reload and Sound of Thunder. The rest of the force leans more towards melee with plenty of Young Warriors and Warriors with Thrown Weapons in addition to their movement advantage abilities.
Battle Reports Featuring this Faction
In this battle the Caribs rained so many poisoned so arrows down on the hapless French Buccaneers it made it nearly impossible to function.
This battle features a focused force of only 2 units in the Kalinago force.
Buying into the Caribs
As usual with Natives, buying the Native Starter Box is a great first purchase! All 4 units in that box are included in this faction. The models themselves are flexible enough that you can even use them in a variety of different ways. The only other unit you may consider picking up is the Warrior unit which isn’t carrying a bow. This box includes 8 Warrior Archers, 8 Young Warriors, 4 Warrior Musketeers, 4 African Warriors and 1 Commander. Additional useful purchases could include another pack of Africans and another pack of Archers, although you can really mix some of the Young Warriors in with your Archers as proxies.
The Native American Bundle is also a great purchase. It includes the starter box, a canoa, piragua and your activation cards and it provides a little more savings.
The Caribs are a high risk and high reward faction. I believe they are well balanced with both a large weakness with Sound of Thunder and some real strengths with access to Poisoned Arrows and the Warrior Archers which I consider a strong unit. As with all Native factions, I think there is a higher learning curve in managing this faction on the table so it may not be the very best faction to start with but with some practice, the Kalinago give you some great games. You’ll get some epic successes and some miserable losses and the balance of Fatigue will really dictate the way the game goes with this faction.
I would consider the South American Tribes a stronger faction and easier for a first-time-Native-player, but this force is probably more balanced and you’ll have to learn to play it a bit more carefully.
Thanks for reading. Drop a comment here on the blog or on Facebook if you have any further thoughts on the Caribs which I should include here.