A Trio of Tactical Games
I played a trio of tactical games against Witch, a formidable opponent and good friend. He will soon be moving to Portland Oregon, so we decided to have a few 1v1 games after a memorable year of playing together. The build totals would increase each game: 40, 60, 80. We use these house rules with a couple mentioned exceptions, and all game pieces can be found in the Master Spreadsheet. The fleets for each game are listed in the order of play.
For the 40 point game, we agreed to use standard treasure rules with each player contributing 8 coins worth 15 gold – mostly because it was possibly the only time we’d ever face each other in a 1v1 40 point game (as close as we would get to standard).
English Pirates (Witch)
HMS Dauntless + Commodore Peregrine Stern, Dr. Clark Lewis, Brother Virgil, Countess Diana Doone (SM version), helmsman, oarsman
Banshee’s Cry + Lucky the Parrot (proxied by Lightning)
Guide Grim to the Goodies (Ben)
Cassandra + FN Grim the Savage, RotF Crimson Angel (common version), helmsman
Morocco + helmsman, explorer
Le Coeur de Lion + Jules de Cissey, captain, helmsman
This is actually a dumbed-down version of the original fleet I made which I still haven’t finished. In a competitive or standard environment the Coeur and her crew would be swapped for things like Hidden Cove or more gold runners/etc. The idea is to “guide Grim” by spotting up to 4 coins per round with the Cassandra and Morocco’s abilities. Through a filtered search of the various game pieces, I found that Cassandra is one of the most optimal ships to carry Grim the Savage in a small game – very high cargo, decent speed, proper faction that only needs one cargo space to bring him aboard with the “Free Ride” ability, and a cap of at least 11 points so a helmsman can fit as well. This version of the Coeur is obviously inferior overall compared to the “du” version, but she’s one of my favorite French ships and packs a decent punch.
I knew I wanted places to run in the case of a Grim hoard, so I placed 3 fog banks for my terrain.
Witch had a spyer of his own, using Lucky the Parrot to spot the various crew in my fleet. Dauntless used an early EA from Stern to snag a couple coins from the middle island, with the reef a joke to Dr. Clark Lewis’ navigation expertise. Mermaid and Morocco have deposited gold, while the Cassandra round earths towards the Banshee’s Cry (BC).
At the top left there is a 0 coin on that NW island. Morocco has checked out some leftovers from the Endeavour and found a pair of 2’s, which would bring me to 10 total. I explore the SE island with Cassandra, finding Kharmic Idol (Witch wanted to knock out any UT’s I contributed, but I put in none tonight!) and three more 2’s. This alerted me to the fact that I should win with 16 gold if I could just get Cassandra back safely. As a result, the Coeur went on a heroic mission to sacrifice herself for the cause, blasting a mast off the Dauntless and blocking her path south as much as possible.
Jules de Cissey was killed in action to give Witch 1 gold, but the victory was completed soon afterwards.
- Ben: 16 gold
- Witch: 15
Game 2 featured some “D-tier” ships, as we had both agreed to a game between rather silly fleets. We had also agreed to not use our normal gold house rule, instead opting to try out Redgoat’s realistic gold doubloons that he gave to me back in August 2022. They were chosen randomly, with no UT’s present.
Napolitana + Capitán Alarico Castro, Castro’s Loyalists, RotF Luis Zuan, helmsman, oarsman
El Duque + helmsman, explorer
El Minnow + Fernando Sanchez, oarsman
Picador + Duque Alfonzo de Castilla, Duque Marcus Vaccaro
This was a pretty bizarre fleet that really shocked me with the placements of Alfonzo and Fernando.
“Island of Misfit Toys” (Ben)
Burning Man + captain, helmsman
Asp + Bonny Peel, helmsman, oarsman
Le Colibri + helmsman, explorer
My fleet is listed in the order I chose the ships, though realistically the Asp was the flagship. Burning Man is just a terrible LE that I will have a hard time justifying in any other kind of game. Her and Asp are some ships I’ve been wanting to try out though, with Asp being the lesser half of the RV SR ships as Star of Siam gets all the attention. Her 11 point cap was perfect for a basic Bonny Peel setup, with the +1 to boards hopefully helping the ship capture some crew. Bletchley and Colibri are very ineffective gold runners I had convenient, so they were included to have a bit of a 1 master and L-immunity theme. A bit of a random name for the fleet, but fitting for the Christmas season. I also want to get back into the habit of naming my fleets more often, as it makes them a bit more fun to wield and can get into some fun lore and flavor experiments.
One of many amazing gifts from Redgoat – as close to real pieces of eight as I’m likely to use in this game! They have a pretty authentic feel to them, and make satisfying clink sounds.
Various ships scattered for gold:
I had a rather expensive fleet (SR, DJC LE and two rares), but would it be remotely effective?
Picador shows no fear but gets slammed by my gunships in the west! She loses a mast, but more importantly Bonny Peel captures the Duque Alfonzo de Castilla in the boarding party!
Colibri and Bletchley return to the “reefed” island for additional loot, but to my surprise Fernando Sanchez has been hiding out on El Minnow! O_O He steals a 5 from my HI! Napolitana stands guard while Duque ferries coins from the northeast.
I was going hard on Picador to not only capture both of her crew for a total payout of 10 gold via Bonny Peel, but to capture the ship as well. Burning Man was wise to try and stay clear of Napolitana’s impressive striking range in the case of an SAT.
It took a bit of time but Bonny Peel had both her captures along with the Burning Man taking Picador as a prize. Napolitana has rammed the Bletchley, but the latter just repairs the mast on my turn.
I was relieved when Asp and Burning Man docked at home a few turns later, netting me 10 gold from the Gold Capture/Ransom payouts. However, of the 10 actual gold I had unloaded from coins, Fernando Sanchez had already stolen half. With no HI raider of my own, I had some catching up to do in the gold race, and might have to rely on a fort if the Minnow’s L-immunity and turtle shell panels proved to be too much against my meager firepower.
With an SAT from Castro, Napolitana zoomed all the way down the ocean from the north and rammed Colibri derelict. However, I made sure to scare her off on my turn, with Bletchley ramming a mast off and building Paradis de la Mer.
However, this prompts Witch to build a fort of his own – Fortaleza Dorada. In a game with such small-scale firepower, the forts represented huge challenges and made it increasingly unlikely that the game would end with the “all gold unloaded to HI’s” condition. I partly felt the need to build the fort to deter El Minnow, who still came back for more and stole a 1 before getting rammed (unsuccessfully) by the captured Picador. One oddity I thought of when building Paradis was that I only had 5 (unspectacular) ships in my fleet, but they were each from a faction that have forts available to them, meaning I could build any one of the 10 forts in the game. I thought about building a second fort after potentially ferrying some gold back to my HI, but decided it was too risky against the Napolitana since then my fleet would have to be split defending two forts instead of just one.
I was tentatively hoping to suicide my fleet while the Duque was carrying gold home from Fortaleza, as it looked increasingly unlikely that I would be able to win with gold long-term. However, I still had 5 ships and some of them were 1 masters that would probably need enemy help in order to derelict/etc. Picador shoots 2/2 to smash the Minnow’s turtle panels. I turned the rest of my fleet around, knowing that even a full-scale assault on Fortaleza was unlikely to succeed with such crappy cannons (and some unable to hit the fort due to its L-immunity).
My extreme ineptitude with ramming and boarding the Minnow continued, as various 1’s were rolled much to Spanish amusement.
With even the Minnow’s stolen 1 looking like a lost cause, I decide to play for a gold count as fast as possible. Asp gets dismasted by Napolitana, while Bletchley heads to Fortaleza to face her 3S cannons. The Minnow saga continues, with me choosing to eliminate a crew (Witch chose Fernando Sanchez) partly to see what he would do with the choice between him and the oarsman.
Duque got her coins from Fortaleza home, likely dooming my game. I managed to capture the Minnow (recapturing my 1 coin) but lost the Asp and Colibri to the Napolitana.
Witch played into my desire to end the game ASAP more than I thought he would, eliminating my fleet from active contention, but it was in vain!
- Witch: 36 gold
- Ben: 26
The Spanish had acquired some valuable loot, which was plenty enough to overcome Bonny Peel’s early game gold captures. Each fleet ended with a fort in play, and I believe that no gold was lost to the depths in this game. Witch had won the misfit match!
Game 3 featured the highest build total (80 points) and probably the most competitive fleets.
Spanish Treasure Galleons (Ben)
CC La Santa Ana + LE Dominic Freda, helmsman, oarsman
Concepcion + SM Castro, Duque Marcus Vaccaro, RotF Luis Zuan, helmsman, explorer, oarsman
Acorazado + Sebastián Rojo (RtSS), captain, helmsman, shipwright, oarsmen x3
Coins: all 0’s!
Terrain: Fog + whirlpools
I’ve been wanting to use a fleet with all 0 coins for a while, as this year I finally have enough (minimum eight) to use exclusively 0’s. I’ve thought about doing it in a multiplayer game, but 1v1 provides the best opportunity to influence the total amount of gold in play, which I was trying to minimize here. The 4 masted galleons would use their +2 bonuses on as many coins as possible, while the legendary Battleship would stand guard and ruin any foes with a potential “surprise Sac”, an ability unavailable to the Spanish in regular expansions.
La Corse (DJC version proxied by Le Bourbon) + Amiral Louis Cartier, Mademoiselle Josephine Godiva, captain, helmsman, shipwright, oarsman
La Lyon + CC Lenoir, captain, helmsman, oarsman
La Dijon + helmsman, explorer
L’Intrepide + Maurice Aristide
Carcharodon (custom version for 8 points with no Massacre ability)
There is also a whirlpool just southeast of the French HI which isn’t visible in some of the pictures but played a large role in the early game positioning meta.
Santa Ana found a strange island just south of my HI: Cannibals, Wine, and two 0’s. The Cannibals ate her oarsman, but the Wine could come in handy. Of course, the 0’s were no issue for Dominic Freda, who later unloaded one of them for 2 total gold. I made a gaffe with the Santa Ana by taking both 0’s initially, later re-exploring the island to dump one of them because I really wanted to +2 every coin I brought home (or at least all the 0’s because they’d be worthless without it). Castro was fully in league with me tonight, as he must have been sick in the prior game while serving Captain Witch. He came out of the the gate in this game on fire, as I may have gotten the first 4-5 SAT’s in a row with him here (with help from Duque Marcus Vaccaro rerolling of course). The first SAT helped the Concepcion speed out to the SW island and back with a 4, which was turned into a 6. The other coins on that island were 4,4,0, making it a prime target of my efforts in the early game. In the southeast, the Intrepide is about to find the Wolves UT, as Witch’s UT inclusions backfired a bit. Of course, he did have Dijon to trade it away. The French gunships round earth to the west, though they are still close to the eastern whirlpool and therefore a threat to anything near my HI that isn’t docked.
Castro got another SAT and I had to ponder my options for a bit. Eventually I settled on zipping to the south via round earth to load both of the 4’s in the southwest (free transfer to dump the explorer at home before moving), hoping Witch wouldn’t get an EA for La Corse. He did though! La Corse rounded the island, shooting and ramming to take off 3 of the Concepcion’s 4 masts and steal one of the 4’s!
However, my luck held strong as I gleefully sped into the giant fog bank, then used an SAT and rolled a perfect 2 in order to emerge next to my HI and dock home a 4 for 6 gold! Santa Ana had been busy too, just at a far slower pace. La Dijon had traded a coin away from the NW island earlier in the game, putting what must have been something undesirable on the island just south of my HI. Fearing Plague, I dumped Santa Ana’s two remaining crew (Freda and helmsman) and went back to explore the island. It was just a 0, so I had been wrong about finding a negative UT. Having no reason to load the coin and bring it home only to unload it for no value, Santa Ana wasted turns simply going back home, loading up her crew, and ferrying the coin home. She was doing her job… just extremely cautiously. XD
The French are now trying to maximize their own bonuses, as coins are individually transferred to the Intrepide so Aristide can up their values by 2 each. The Dijon has flung the Wolves to the NW island, giving the French access to the other coins in the southeast! With both players knowing the value of being cagey, neither fleet is willing to risk a double action attack through the whirlpool to interrupt each other’s progress.
The guarded and cagey strategies continued on both sides – I know Witch too well to get into a hasty fight with him and lose, and he’s way too good of a player to make simple mistakes that open the door for me. At one point he had the last “non-Wolves” gold in play about to return to his HI, at which point he was assuming the game would end, with neither player having a musketeer or Marine. However… the only revealed crew on the Acorazado at this point was the helmsman. Rojo had been lying in wait the whole game, and I wanted to get as many other coins “plussed” as I could before risking my entire fleet on the Wolf-hunting gamble. This late in the game though, the time seemed right. Acorazado slowly sailed behind the Santa Ana, who by now had done a large crew swap with the Concepcion, leaving the Concepcion with just a helmsman and explorer as the Santa Ana took aboard Castro, Vaccaro and Zuan to optimize her for a late-game Wine raid.
Rojo is finally flipped, the Wolves are killed in one shot, and the Santa Ana loads the final coin!
The problem now was that I had no clue who had more gold, so I needed to make victory more likely by not just getting the 0 (+2) home, but using the Wine effectively to do a dramatic flip in the gold scores. This seemed very risky and difficult to pull off with the French still fluttering around their HI. Santa Ana transferred the “final” coin to the Concepcion for safekeeping, with the latter immediately sailing into the huge fog bank that helped her earlier. Welcome to Pirates with Ben (in fog)! XD
The French then seemingly charged my HI, which allowed the Santa Ana (with yet another SAT from Castro!) to whirl to the French HI and exchange the Wine for a 7! Acorazado followed for protection.
Cartier failed to give La Corse an EA on the French turn and the French couldn’t reach the Cassandra effectively. I believe Castro then got another SAT and sped home with the 7, with the Concepcion emerging from fog to up my score by an additional 2 gold. From the coins I saw on the French HI, I knew it was essential to steal with the Wine. The game was over, though we had a brief fight afterwards just for kicks since almost no combat occurred during this game. Acorazado had her captain cancelled by Lenoir (aboard the Lyon! I was leaning more towards Corse) but sacced with Rojo to deal just 2 hits. The French would have sunk her partly due to a pin from Carcharodon, but it didn’t matter.
- Ben: 27 gold
- Witch: 16
The game was far closer than the scores suggest. Before the Wine and the final 0 (+2 via Concepcion) were resolved, Witch was winning 23-18. It could have been 23-20 in Witch’s favor if the Concepcion had simply come home. Once I had the 7 on the Santa Ana and saw Witch’s score drop to 16 (against my minimum of 18), I knew I was likely to win since I would try to sink the 7 if I couldn’t return it home. Witch had been worried all game that an HI raider was on the Acorazado. I was worried that Lyon had a double action crew as well, or that the F&S version of Lenoir was on the Corse (either way Acorazado wouldn’t be able to fight both at the same time without a canceller of her own).
This was a pretty interesting game that saw both players extremely cagey and cautious, each of us knowing that the other had some nasty facedown crew ready to wreak havoc if a full-scale fight occurred. Perhaps it’s fitting that we won’t be able to play each other much more in 1v1 games, as I think this result is somewhat inevitable between such evenly matched players. It arguably comes down to the simple luck involved, which was completely on my side in this game. I would estimate Castro’s SAT worked something like 10/13 times, while my fog exit locations avoided the big reef and even Witch’s UT’s didn’t help him at all. Cannibals was inconsequential, Wine won me the game, and crazy enough I randomly had a Marine ready for Wolves even though I didn’t contribute it and there were no other ways to eliminate them.
Thanks for reading about these tactical games full of gold and crew intrigue! The PNW Pirates will be playing our final game of the year on Friday 12/30 – an epic 100 point multiplayer match!