Heyn’s Commissievaarders: A Legendary Arrrgh-ticle!
This article will be a bit different from the other ones I’ve written. Instead of covering a standard Faction, I’ll be covering the Force led by Piet Heyn, the Dutch Nationalities’ only Legendary Commander (as of the publishing of this article).
Introduction: Who is Piet Heyn?
Pieter Pieterszoon Heyn, or Piet Heyn as we will call him here, was a Dutch Privateer in the early 1600s. While I could write a thesis about all of his exploits, the one we will focus on here is his capture of the Spanish Treasure Fleet on September 8, 1628. Before that, however, he started his naval career as a midshipman on a Dutch merchant vessel. He was captured by a Spanish galley and forced to work the sweeps for 10 years. In 1607, he was made first mate of a Dutch West India Company (WIC) and proved himself as a fearsome opponent and brilliant strategist. On that fateful day in 1628, sixteen Spanish ships were taken as Prizes: one galleon was taken after a surprise encounter during the night, nine smaller merchants were “persuaded” into surrendering; two small ships were overtaken at sea, and four fleeing galleons were trapped on the Cuban coast in the Bay of Matanzas. After some musket volleys from Dutch sloops, these ships surrendered.
Heyn was already a national hero at this point for countless actions against the Portuguese and the Spanish, but this is the feat that he is most famous for, as no other rover of his era or after was able to successfully capture the Spanish Treasure Fleet again. Heyn was killed in 1629 by a cannonball to the shoulder during an action against the Ostend Privateers. There is a statue in his native Delfshaven, now a district in Rotterdam, that reads “Gold before silver but honor before all”. He even had a modern Kortenaer-class frigate named after him that was built in 1978 and decommissioned in 1998.
Since this is Heyn’s personal force, he is the only command option you have. However, he is no slouch and you probably want to run him in games of 200pts or more, as he’s a 40 point model.
What makes Heyn a monster of a Commander are his Special Rules, and he comes armed to the teeth with them! He has Broadside!, Commodore, God’s Blessing or the Devil’s Luck, Very Inspiring, Bold, and Indomitable. Broadside! and Commodore are pretty common and are found on most Seasoned Commanders. Broadside! makes it so all artillery fired during the Commander’s activation are rolled at the same time, which increases the chance of Critical Hits. Commodore adds 12″ to Heyn’s already impressive 20″ Command Range when giving Command Points to another ship in your Force.
God’s Blessing or the Devil’s Luck gives the Force one extra Fortune Point, which is always a good thing if a roll didn’t go your way. Very Inspiring allows all of your units within Heyn’s Command Range to re-roll failed Rally Tests, which is fantastic for fatigue management. Bold is less common, and allows Heyn to give out Command Points even when engaged in Melee Combat. The icing on the cake is Indomitable. This means that whatever unit Heyn is attached to shrugs off a point of Fatigue at the beginning of its activation. Its safe to say that Heyn is more comfortable leading a charge, which is how he should be utilized.
This Legendary Faction comes armed to the teeth will all manner of special rules:
- All Ships in this Force gain the Shallow Draft ship Trait.
- This Force adds +3 to its roll when determining the attacker in a scenario.
- When attacked by a unit that is 6” away or less, units in this Force may reroll a single failed Fatigue Test die resulting from the attack.
- All units in this Force may re-roll a failed Throw Grapple Test once per turn.
- All units in this Force gain the Tough Special Rule.
These rules, while obviously better suited at sea, can also be used on land with the exception of Shallow Draft and the ability that allows the re-rolling of a Throw Grapple Test. Other than those two, gaining Tough is a *huge* boon as it gives some staying power to all your units, and re-rolling that single failed Fatigue Test die when attacked by an enemy that is 6 inches away or less will really help you out in close quarters (it’s the same rule as Zeelanders, available to the other two Dutch Sea Factions). With this faction, you are going to be best served by closing with the enemy and chopping heads. Fortunately, you have access to the units to do that!
The only other option you have with this faction is to make it a “Naval Landing Force”, where as long has you have no Size 2 or larger ships, Soldaten become core units. Great for Amphibious games, but also this means you can take this Force on land with relative ease!
This faction have 5 units available, all strong options. The only disadvantage with this faction is Enter Ploeg are Support Units instead of Core Units.
Heyn’s Commissievaarders uses the basic Dutch Sailor unit and the multipurpose Kaper as core units.
Zeelieden are the bread-and-butter sailors of the Dutch Nation. Armed with melee weapons and pistols, they bring the standard sailor kit to the table. What makes them special are their Special Rules. They come with Expert Sailors, Expert Artillery Crew, and Hard Chargers. This means that they can get you those Advanced Maneuvers on a 4+, they reload Artillery for free on a spade or a heart, and when they charge, they’ll be swinging on 5’s instead of 6’s. You can swap their pistols for muskets, but I never do, because we typically have better units for that. In my opinion, these are the best sailors in the game since they are well rounded and can do just about everything you need them to do. For cheap lists, take away their pistols to make them 3 points a model and keep them trained.
Kapers are the Sailor Musketeers of the Dutch Nationality. They are like Freebooters, but are a little less effective at range due to the lack of the Marksman and Fast Reload Special Rules. However, they Shoot and Fight on a 6+, and the Expert Sailors Special Rule make these guys ideal for manning your Sheets and Braces. Brawlers is better than nothing and it gives them a little something extra should they find themselves in close combat. For 5 Points a model they aren’t bad, but they aren’t amazing either. I usually take a unit strictly to man the sheets and braces and if I’m on land they make for a decent ranged unit, but will often find themselves outgunned by Freebooters.
These are another sailor unit with the typical pistol/cutlass and/or axe combo, along with Artillery Crew, Sailors, and Battle Hardened. Battle Hardened gives them better staying power, but that’s about it. These guys are eclipsed by the Zeelieden in every other way. If you have points to spare, a large group of these guys make for a decent boarding party, but only if you the points available. If you want a larger unit of cheap muskets, adding firelock muskets to these guys can be cheaper than paying for Kapers. Their 6 Shoot skill makes them the best generic sailor unit for ranged fire.
These are the professional soldiers of the Dutch Nationality. Soldaten are 6 points per model and start off as Trained. They have a Fight of 5/6, a Shoot of 6/7, and a Resolve of 5 and can be upgraded to veteran for 1 point per model. For equipment, they can take Plug Bayonets for 4 points, and 1 of 8 models can take Grenadoes for 4 points or Firebombs/Stinkpots for 2 points. They come with the Brawlers and Expertly Drilled Special Rules.
While pricey, the Soldaten are an excellent unit. They can hold their own while shooting or fighting in a melee, and that 5 Resolve means they will typically stay put when on the defensive. Expertly Drilled is the bane of inexperienced units or units with a bad Resolve, as when the Soldaten make a Dedicated Shoot Action on a spade or a heart the unit getting shot at must add an additional d10 to their Fatigue Test caused by the attack.
These guys are point for point the best boarding party in the game. Six points for a veteran model with brace of pistols is awesome! Like the Zeelieden, they come with Expert Sailors and Experience Artillery Crew. While Piet Heyn can’t personally lead this unit into battle,If you have Piet Heyn lead a unit of these guys in a boarding action, you’ll be able to annihilate just about anything in your way. While they don’t come with Limited Explosives like the Forlorn Hope, they can take Firepots for free on 1 of every 4 models or Grenados for 4 point each on 1 of every 4 models. I rarely use them anyway since charging a unit is 1 action and safely throwing the Grenado is 2 actions.
The best use for these guys is to lay the Fatigue on a unit or make them waste their shots so you get to charge in on a unit with empty muskets. They can also take Blunderbusses on 1/4 of their models for free which gives them some extra punch if they want to fire a volley before charging into the melee. Put Heyn with a group of these guys and watch your opponent cry as you delete units with relative ease.
Tactics for Heyn’s Commissievaarders
Heyn’s Commissievaarders play very much like the Dutch Privateers faction. For a gunship list, you have plenty of awesome sailors that will keep your cannons loaded and firing so long as you’re activating on spades and hearts. Always bring a Master Gunner, and an Officer if you’re on a size 3+ ship so you have lots of command points to manage those cannons. For boarding lists, make sure to include a sizable unit of Enter Ploeg to lead the charge. There’s not very many units in the game that you can’t charge comfortably with these hardy veterans. Use stink pots to prevent defensive attacks after the initial charge. Zeelieden can soften up the enemy with swivel guns, then charge in with Hard Chargers. Soldaten can help shoot and then are very good on the charge as well. Kapers can keep up decent ranged attacks if you need them too, but I usually have them on the Sheets and Shrouds until boarding time.
Taking this faction on Land is possible with the “Naval Landing Force” option! Soldaten become core units, and pairing them up with Zeelieden or Enter Ploeg for good melee and European Sailors for more ranged options. Your goal should be to lay Fatigue on with muskets while maneuvering your melee units in to charge softened up and/or weak units. Once again, I recommend bringing an Officer to help command all your units when need be.
Heyn’s Commissievaarders Lists
200pt Sloop List: It’s difficult to fit Heyn into a 200 point list, but this force can close the distance really fast and board before the enemy can fire their cannons more than once. With the speed of the Privateer Sloop and the Sailing Master, you can move fast! There’s plenty of grenades to surprise and suppress the enemy before boarding.
300pt Land List: This list focuses on ranged combat. Use the Soldaten and Kapers to maintain fire on the opponent and use the European Sailors to back up the Zeeliden. The Zeeliden should engage any dedicated melee units before they charge you.
300pt Cannon List (Sea): Pretty self explanatory; use Expert Artillery Crew to keep your cannons firing and focus fire on your opponent’s main deck of guns to keep them from hurting you back.
300pt Boarding List (Sea): The Light Frigate is key here. Use that 5” speed to fly in, using the swivels and Soldaten to weaken the deck you want to board. Send over a unit of Zeeliden first before sending in your Enter Ploeg. the Soldaten can fight as well, but use their Expertly Drilled rule to lay on Fatigue and secure control!
450pt 6th Rate: This list loads up a 6th Rate Frigate with cannons, but can also seal the deal with boarding once you get in close.
Piet Heyn’s personal force is one of the most powerful in the game, but his hefty point cost means you’ll usually see him in games of 300+ points. When you do see him, you know you’re in for a fight if he isn’t on your side!
You can join us for a discussion on Piet Heyn and his faction on YouTube:
Additional Content Suggestions
- Dutch Nationality and Faction Guide
- Morgan’s Buccaneer’s Faction Review
- Dutch Force Building Articles
- The Dutch in Blood & Plunder Video
- More Articles Featuring Legendary Commanders in Blood & Plunder
Related Firelock Products
Dutch Nationality Starter Box of 25 Models (does not include Piet Heyn)
Article by Dan Carlson