Sunday, 22 April 2012

Dead Mans Chest . . . .

I've been a fan of Pirates since I was a small child - in fact when I was eight we did a project in class about what our "Top Three" jobs would be when we were all grown up. Whereas a lot of Boys my Age were putting Footballer and Solder, my number one Job was Pirate.

I've got quite a few Pirate and Privateer Miniatures, some of the very Old Pre-Slotta Citadel remain my favourites - as do the Warmachine Privateers. But recently I've been looking at the options for a "Skirmishy" Pirate game with a Fantasy slant.

"Ron and Bones" is a Board Game effectively - much like "OKKO", and although I have Ron & Bones - I wanted to focus more on Skirmish Wargame Rules - so that left Black Scorpion Miniatures "Cutlass" and Freebooter Miniatures "Freebooter's Fate".

CUTLASS - by  Black Scorpion Miniatures

The Cultlass rulebook follows the modern standard for these things and is in full colour, running at just over 120 pages long. Written by Gav Thorpe (and yes it DOES include fairly bad prose before you ask) and Adam Clarke.

Black Scorpion "blurb" states that it is "Superbly Designed" and although it does have all the rules and templates for your games and campaigns - I personally it a little "busy" in look, and hard to find what you need quickly. The rules themselves though straighforward are nothing new really and come over A LOT like Necromunda/Mordheim - and it has a VERY Games Workshopy feel to it.

All the Scenarios/Encounters seem to land based - I found that a little perturbing for a pirate skirmish game personally.

Players start with a "gang" of between 5 and 8 models - a good solid number for a skirmish game. Therein lies the problem for me, as if its like Necromunda/Mordheim - whilst I like those games, it could also mean constant buying/painting/converting of more new models. Whilst thats GREAT for Black Scorpion, as it means the game itself generates sales by people just playing it, its not so good for gamers like me with limited time and resources.

This combined with my slowness of painting and building/converting meant the game is going to be very hard for me to keep up with, although I like a Campaign system - constant adding/changing of models is difficult for me to time manage if I were to end up playing a game a lot.

Presentation & Quality - 7/10. It's a nice looking book, however - mine hasn't had that much use and pages are dropping out already.

Value for Money - 7/10. It's very pretty and glossy, and there is quite a lot to it - Rules for Crews and Races, Equipment & Skills, and the Campaign System. However, they waste 10 Pages on Pictures of Miniatures - and whilst pretty, I would personally rather have a slightly cheaper product (or indeed a stronger one) or had more rules or fiction.

Freebooters Fate - by Freebooter Miniatures

Freebooter's Fate is IMMENSE - the Miniatures quite literally S**T on a lot of the other Pirate Miniatures from a Great Height (Foundry LEAP to mind - as I really don't rate their clunky/chunky style). They remind me of the Metal Confrontation Miniatures line - some of them are quite stunning to be honest. 

The book is gorgeous, again full colour throughout and the cover art is by Paul Bonner who did a LOT of Controntation Artwork - Freebooter's Fate is pretty darn sexy all way through, it doesn't exactly reinvent the skirmish game and I am sure its never going to set the miniature gaming community on fire or anything like that - but the rules are really easily understood and laid out in a clear concise way (A HUGE plus for me, as I hate debating/arguing rules I would rather get on with things and play the damn game). 

HOWEVER you do need a rather specific deck of cards specially designed for the game, and while they are not expensive - I think they should have provided them with the book, as you have to have them to play. My only other real bugbear is that everything is measure in centimeters - being a Wargamer of long standing, I really do prefer Inches. Though I am sure I will get used to it.

You will need to put your Miniatures stat Card in a sleeve, as you need to mark things off during play - pretty standard nowadays I know, and to be frank I like that much more than a crappy written out/printed off army list.

The recommended playing area is 120cm X 120cm (roughly 4ft X 4ft) - but considering the average "gang" size is around half a dozen miniatures, to me that is a HUGE playing area - and most of the first few turns will be spent moving (YAWN) I reckon 3ft X 3ft MAXIMUM is more than enough, unless playing 2 Players vs 2 Players.

They are not called Gangs or Factions, instead they are referred to as Crews. 

Pirates, Imperial Armada (sort of British Navy), Goblin Pirates (hysterical), and the Brotherhood of Assassins (VERY Rackham "Cadwallon" in look and feel) - and now (with the release of the Deep Jungle supplement) Amazons, in addition there are also a few Mercenary characters which can be hired by pretty much anybody. 

You "pay" for your Crew with Gold Doubloons (I know its "cute" but I think it adds to the flavour of the game) and a basic game is 250 Doubloons (which is 3-4 miniatures - the Starter Box for the Pirates is 285 Doubloons), the average game size is 500 Doubloon (which is 7-8 miniatures).

There are three different character types - Leaders, Specialists and Deckhands. As in all other games , you have to have a Leader to form a Crew under.

Your Deckhands are the lackeys, your common soldiers. I wanted two "basic" Pirates in my Crew, fortunately I have the now OOP "Leather Joe" (I call him Leathery Joe) also sculpted by the impressively talented Werner Klocke - I just need to do a custom card with Leathery Joes picture on it instead of the Pirate Crewman.

There's a ratio for your crew - of how many Deckhands you must have in order to hire Specialists. For example - with my Pirates I may only have one Deckhand per Specialist I hire. The Brotherhood (the next Crew I plan on collecting) has a different ratio, they may hire two Specialists for each Deckhand they have (no doubt because of the more "specialized" nature of their "work").

Specialists are "unique" so you can only have one of each Specialist in your Crew. Deckhands are your 'rank & file" and although some still do have specific names in the game, you can still hire multiples of each Deckhand. I'm using "Leathery Joe" because I didn't want to use the same model more than once.

The Mercenaries are not a Crew in their own right - their limitations are specific to each Mercenary - some can be hired by most Crews, but others will not work for the Goblin Pirates or the Imperial Armada for example.

For most Crews there is an allowance of a Maximum of two Mercenaries that may be taken - whereas the Brotherhood can take only 1 (because, lets face it - they are tough enough already LoL). Lastly, its important to note that for the most part Mercenaries are also considered Specialists (as they are all Unique characters) and therefore fill a Specialist spot as well.

As I pointed out, the rules themselves are really straightforward - that's not to say they are simplistic, far from it - but they are easy to understand.

Presentation & Quality - 9/10. The book is remarkably sturdy (my copy has been read through A LOT - and despite that, its merely a little dog-eared at the corners), and despite a glaring error (there are no Doubloon costs for the miniatures, but there is a downloadable PDF list on the official forum) - the book is perfect, stunning in fact.

Value for Money - 8/10. It's not the thickest book in the world at 116 pages, but rather than seemingly useless gallery pages - the painted miniature pictures are dispersed throughout as action/diorama pictures. I marked it down slightly because of the error over the Doubloon costs, as to some people this is very frustrating. My only other issue is the lack of a Campaign system, but it's not beyond the pale to work out your own and have at it!

Right enough for now, I want to get back to painting The Pirate Queen!