Raise the Black Preview – The Cherokee

By Joseph Forster

Development continues on the Raise the Black expansion and it looks like the Queen Anne’s War portion of the expansion will really expand the options for Native players. Some old factions will be updated for the new timeline and there will be several more new factions representing specific tribes ranging from Canada, down through the Carolinas, Florida and the southeast woodland area.

The Cherokee were one of the largest tribes in the North American southeast. They primarily lived in what is now North Carolina in many towns under a decentralized political structure. Largely staying out of late 17th and early 18th century raids and wars, the Cherokee were pulled into the spotlight in 1715 during the Yamasee War where their eventual alliance with the English (or against the Creek is technically more correct),  would give South Carolina the strength it needed to defeat the Yamasee and their allies that attempted to destroy the colony. After the Yamasee War, the Cherokee became the primary trade partners with the English in South Carolina and were a powerful military presence whose alliance was coveted by the French but held by the English into the middle of the century.

Firelock Games has given us a preview of how this faction will play in the game! Let’s dive in!

Some rules were released on the Blood & Plunder online Force Builder in 2020 but they will be expanded in the Raise the Black book

First, let’s look at the set of rules that apply to all of the several Later North American Tribes. factions :

Later North American Tribes 

Force Special Rules

  • This force may not not include artillery or ships of size 2 or larger. 
  • All ships in this Force gain the Paddles trait.
  •  If this Force is the attacker in a scenario, it may deploy half of its units (round down) following the Lay in Wait scenario rule.
  • All units in Later North American Tribes factions gain the Poorly Equipped and War Cry special rules.
  •  When a shooting attack is declared against any unit in this Force, before the attack is rolled, the targeted unit may gain a -1 bonus to its Shoot Saves for that attack. After the attack is resolved, this unit goes prone.

Several of these rules are the standard Native limitations. No artillery and large ships is expected for the Natives and they retain the ability to Lay in Wait with half their force if they are the Attackers.

All these North American factions also gain the War Cry and Poorly Equipped rules. No one likes Poorly Equipped but the new Braves and Young Braves units have left behind the dreaded Slow Reload rule. By the 18th century, these natives tribes were starting to adopt muskets as their primary ranged weapon but they still didn’t have the same consistent supply of quality weapons that European powers would usually have. War Cry really powers up quick charges which are a really fun part of playing the natives. War Cry causes the defending unit to roll an additional Fatigue die after being charged by a unit with this rule.

The final rule here is very interesting. When targeted with a ranged attack, Native units can gain a -1 bonus to their Ranged Save and then go prone after the attack. Native populations saw drastic declines during this era and preserving warriors’ lives became very important. Native tried to avoid pitched battles and they were not shy about leaving a battle if things were not going their way. Better to live and fight another day than prove you’re brave and be dead! This is a fascinating game mechanic. The bonus on the Save is great, functioning kind of like Elusive but always available, but the requirement to go prone afterwards is a double-edged sword. It improves your Save for subsequent ranged attacks but it makes your unit very vulnerable to melee. It will be good at range, but not so useful once you get close. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

So all those rules are just the “Native rules” for this expansion. Let’s look at the Cherokee faction in particular.

Force Special Rules

  • Choose one:If no more than one unit is armed with muskets as primary weapons, all units in this force gain Elusive.
    • Any unit in this force that contains a characters gains the Well Equipped special rule

A choice! I think this choice is meant to represent the earlier pre-1715 Cherokee who intentionally remained aloof from the trade and conflict brought by the Europeans in the South Carolina and then the post-Yamasee War Cherokee who embraced the trade relationship with the British. The British were always eager to please any important chief or war leader with gifts and weapons, thus the Well Equipped rule on units with Characters.

I like both versions! Elusive, combined with the ability to duck when fired upon will make these guys difficult to kill at range. The Hidden rule on the Braves will make that even more potent! But the trade off is taking bows instead of muskets. Young Braves already have bows, as do the Warrior Archers and the Braves can swap muskets for bows at no cost.

Just losing Poorly Equipped isn’t terribly exciting on the later Cherokee, but when you’re only paying 5 points for a model with a musket with 6 Shoot, Ball & Shot, Hard Chargers and Hidden, that starts to look like a pretty good deal. You can even add bows for one point so you have 6 point Braves with both muskets and bows!

Unit Selection

With 3 Core and 2 Support unit options, the Cherokee have a couple ways they can go, reflecting the choice of special rules which we saw above.

Core Units

  • Braves
  • Young Braves
  • Warrior Archers

Support Units

  • Pnieses
  • Renegadoes 

The Braves appear to be the “flagship unit” at 5 points with Muskets and plenty of options for other weaponry. Their many drawback is their 6 Resolve, but anyone who plays Natives should be used to that by now. Warrior Archers are always good and with the new rule where they can go prone, they will be an attractive option since they can shoot so far. The Young Braves are also armed with bows but have a 6 Shoot instead of 5 but the better Resolve makes them interesting.

Braves – 5
The most numerous fighting men on the North American continent. These fierce warriors combined brutal hand to hand combat ability with the clever use of cover, concealment and proficiency with ranged combat weapons, especially muskets.

Experience: Trained
Weapons: Firelock Muskets & Standard Melee Weapons
Fight: 6/7
Shoot: 6/6
Resolve: 6
Special Rules: Hard Chargers, Hidden, Scouts, Ball & Shot. 

Unit Options

  • Unit may be upgraded to Veteran for 1 point per model.
  • Unit may add Thrown Weapons for 3 points (not per model).
  • Unit may add bows for 1 point per model.
  • Unit may exchange Muskets for Bows at no additional cost.
  • Unit may add sidearm pistols for 4 points (not per model)

The Renegadoes are a cheap and sneaky unit with minimal weaponry and I don’t imagine they’ll be chose as a support very often over the fearsome Pnieses.

Pnieses – 7

These well seasoned warriors are fierce close combat fighters. They are proficient with the war club and musket alike. Often considered a counselor and bodyguard to the sachem, or chief, these warriors completed rigorous training, building incredible endurance and learning to tolerate pain and privation. 

Experience: Veteran
Weapons: Firelock Muskets & Heavy Melee Weapons
Fight: 5/6
Shoot: 6/6
Resolve: 5
Special Rules: Hard Chargers, Hidden, Scouts, Ball & Shot

Unit Options

  • Unit may add Thrown Weapons for 3 points (not per model).
  • Unit may add sidearm pistols for 4 points (not per model)
  • Unit may add brace of pistols for 1 point per model.

The main attraction here is the awesome 6 Fight Save and the 5 Resolve.  At 7 Points they aren’t cheap but coming as Veterans with awesome stats still makes them attractive. They have the exact same Special Rules as the Braves and slightly different upgrade options. If you fit them out with Brace of Pistols, they will destroy all in their path with both Hard Chargers and War Cry! I can’t wait!

Allied Factions

Northeastern Woodland Tribes, British Militia, North American Colonial Militia, British Raiders

These allied factions reflect their affinity with the English in South Carolina.

Command Options

Any Generic Native Commander, Northern Tribes Commander, Red and White Chief, Emperor Moytoy, and Caesar of Echota

These command options look intriguing! The new Generic Commanders look really great for smaller games. At 0, 10 and 20 points, they run slightly cheaper than the generic Native Commanders in No Peace Beyond the Line and you get to select the special rule(s) that will best compliment your force! The free commander has 1 CP and no Special Rule, the 10 pointer has 1 Special Rule and 2 CP and the 20 Point Commander has a wider command range, 2 CP and 2 Special Rules. The Special Rules available to the Native Commanders include:

  • Commodore
  • Expert Ambushers
  • Battle Hardened
  • Great Warrior (Caribbean & South American Tribes only)
  • Brawlers
  • Guerilla Commander
  • Inspiring
  • Savvy
  • Quick

Inspiring is always a good option for a force with primarily 6 Resolve, but there are plenty of fun options to work with here. Guerilla Commander granting all units with the commander range Skirmishers looks pretty attractive too, especially for the Early Cherokee variant which use primarily bows. The Expert Ambushers rule also has some great synergy with this faction. It allows you to move 2″ while prone (which these Later Native Americans can more readily tolerate) and it gives all models Hard Chargers.

The Red & White Chief option sounds very interesting. I’m not going to include all the info for this option here but I will say it allows for including 2 commanders in your force!

Emperor Moytoy was a bit of puppet Emperor installed by the English to make their political negotiations simpler so I doubt he will be a fantastic leader.

I will share the full stats for Ceaser of Echota, a bold War Chief who may have been instrumental in changing the course of how the Southeast developed when he pushed for attacking the Creeks instead of the English during the Yamasee War.

Caeser of Echota – 26

May Lead: Cherokee, Southeastern Woodland Tribes
Main Weapons: Firelock Musket and Standard Melee Weapons
Sidearm: Pistol
Command Range: 12”
Command Points: 2
Special Rules: Very Inspiring, Aggressive Commander, Well-Equipped

This guy isn’t cheap but his special rules are awesome. His Well Equipped rule make his good even with the Early Cherokee since you can have one unit with muskets. But the Very Inspiring rule, representing his gift of persuasive oration, is the real draw here. Aggressive Commander grants all units within his Command Range Hard Chargers which isn’t too shabby either!

I don’t believe there will be plastic models for these North American Native units released with Raise the Black, but we already have the Braves model, and it sounds like metal models both the Young Braves and the Pnieses will be forthcoming.

Final Thoughts

While still retaining the essential “Native” feel in Blood & Plunder, the Cherokee have some new twists as they move into the 18th century that should make them provide a new and fresh play experience.

They have strong survivablity with their “ducking” rule, they have options for bows and well equipped muskets, and they have several options for boosting their melee capabilities. They appear to have a decently diverse roster of commanders to choose from which is nice for Natives as well.

The two things they lack that I really enjoy in Natives is the Quick rule (which is still available as a rule on a generic commander) and good ol’ Poisoned Arrows. These are central to some of the primary tactics I’ve used with Caribbean Natives. They also lack the debilitating Slow Reload but exchange it for the gentler Poorly Equipped but there’s a provision for avoiding that rule as well. It looks like these North American Natives will force me to explore some new ways to play the natives.

How do the Cherokee look to you? They look intriguing to me and I’m excited about the variety of ways they can be played.

Thanks to Firelock Games for letting us share this preview of the Cherokee. I believe development for Raise the Black is getting close to done but this is still not officially the final design so this is obviously subject to change.

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