Fallen Masts – HMGS Fall-In B&P Tourney Report

The HMGS Conventions are near and dear to my heart. Near, because they occur quarterly (except winter) in my back yard. Dear, because it’s where I first got to hang out with the Firelock Games crew, and where most of the opportunities that I’ve had in this hobby began. Whether I was playing in my first-ever game as part of a Spanish treasure fleet, or running demos with Phalanx Consortium for Cold Wars, teaching the game to the Talesmen at Historicon, or throwing a multi-player sea battle of my own at Fall-In, the HMGS events have always been very enjoyable.

So when Firelock decided not to show for Fall-In due to concerns that they might be shipping out ‘Raise the Black’ over that weekend, I was a little bummed out. I decided to make the most of it, and grabbed the father-in-law and exposed the retired old man to the ‘exciting‘ and ‘amazing‘ hobby that is historical wargaming (I’m sorry, I couldn’t type ‘fast paced’ with a straight face). So for one day of the con, I indulged his love of all things American Civil War, and WW2 Air War. Then, on Saturday, I threw myself in to the 200pt ‘Fallen Mast’ sea tournament.

It was a day of many firsts for the FIL – including the first time he’s seen dice with more than 6 sides! This game is ‘Chaos, Confusion & Casualties,’ a lovely 54mm ACW battle put on by author John Michael Priest.

The List
Force Builder Link
I brought a list that has become fairly standard for me. Tournaments are 150 points for Land, and 200pts for Sea, and this list actually works for both with minor modification. The main gameplay on land or at sea is the interaction between my Sea Dogs and Pieter Schuyler. In this list, the Sea Dogs are pretty basic, just cheap guys with Expert Artillery to run my guns. On land though, they’re loaded for bear – blunderbusses, grenades, pistols, and smoke. Pieter Schuyler is just there for Motivated. The rule allows him to voluntarily gain 1 Fatigue in order to give 2 Commands to a single unit when issued a Command Point. For this list, that means firing off cannons every turn like clockwork. Check out more fun ways to abuse your artillery in my article ‘Motivated by Mayhem’

The “behind the scenes” decision to go with 200pts for Sea Battles was partially to make it easier on players to put together a list (land lists + 50pt boat) but also to make the smaller and less expen$ive ships more viable. In these events, you tend to see a lot of Sloops and Brigantines. This time around, I also got to see Tartanas, and at past events I’ve seen Bark and Boat lists. Up against vessels of that size, the fact that we’re bringing a trio of Medium Guns, a Master Gunner, and firing them each turn – even before the ‘Raise the Black’ artillery update, this list was reducing my opponent’s to match sticks. So, how did we do at Fall-In?

Round 1
Round 1 I showed up, got my pairings, and immediately drove out to the local gas’n’grub spot, Sheetz. I had a bye round. That’s always a tough sell, but it happens. Fortunately, it counts as a win, so I’m automatically 1-0. It also sits you at 2-0 for Strike Points, which is what the tournament scoring uses for tie-breakers. The player with the lower number of strike points scored against them will advance above the player with more. Force preservation is key, and the best battles are often the ones you don’t fight.

I got to walk around and look at other lists while stuffing my face with greasy gas-station burger. When I saw that tournament regular Fernando Arteaga had called everyone’s bluff and brought his freshly-painted Galleon to a “Sloop Fight,” I didn’t know how to feel. Have you ever done that like, nervous ‘terror giggle’? Like when you’re in the Haunted House and see the clown silhouetted at the end of a long hallway? Yeah.

I’m still trying to figure out how Fernando managed this at a 200pt event. It’s like tossing a sumo wrestler into a kiddie pool!

I had also heard rumors that two of the local know-it-alls in the scene, Adam Horton and Preston Jacka, were having a little fun and had shown up with dual boat lists. I was interested in seeing what those lists were going to get up. You can call it foreshadowing, but I’m calling it a segue.

Round 2
Round 2 Thanks to the Strikes and earlier finishes, I ended up playing against Adam. I’ve played Adam before, and it has never really gone well for me. He’s a very good player, understands the game and has spent most of his life gaming against Preston. Iron sharpens iron, I guess. Fortunately for me, Adam was running a list with dual Sloops, and medium guns of his own. Luckily, we were playing ‘Take & Hold’. Capture the flagship, game ends. This was a rough one for Adam, because neither of his ships was heavily crewed. I ran in, taking my lumps the whole way. My list isn’t usually geared out for boarding, but I had an edge in numbers. I also made sure to get some shots on the way in to help soften things up.

This game showed me once again why Motivated is such a powerful rule. I had originally taken Schuyler so that I could hammer away with my guns. Instead, he ended up pressing my crew quickly across the decks and winning out the game for me. On land, Motivated will net you an 8inch charge off your Command Point, which is frankly ridiculous. At Sea, I was able to jump one of my units across the rail where we were grappled, and then into the foredeck to finish out the battle. That was enough to capture the enemy flagship and end the game – and none too soon either. Had the game gone on for another turn, Adam’s secondary ship would have swooped in and probably cleaned out the exhausted crew spread across the other two vessels.

One of my gun-crew wanders into the freshly cleared fo’c’s’le of Adam’s sloop, stealing the win before help can arrive

Admittedly, I really hate this mission for tournament play. For those wondering: yes, I was one member of the team who put this scenario into the tournament pack in the first place. The problem with the scenario is that it ignores Strike Points, in favor of an instant-win condition. Even with Strikes Points not counting, we still score them. Having to capture the enemy vessel usually means “tabling” your opponent; doing that can easily rack up strikes. In one game at Historicon, I dumped a ridiculous 7(seven!) Strike Points onto an enemy. That it forces boarding could also be seen as a drawback, but that’s actually less concerning – most of the scenarios at least encourage close-range playstyles, and that’s actually a good thing. It just kinda harshes my cannon-shooting mellow, ma~an.

Game 3
Having won my round 2, I was now technically 2-0 on my record. Through a strange fluke, I was the only other person in the tournament who had achieved this. Two other people who were playing on the top-tables in round 2, ended up tying one another in a strange sort of technicality that I am not at liberty to have fixed. Did it affect anyone’s standings? Yes, but not by a lot. For round 3, I was paired at the top table against the dark lord himself: Preston Jacka.

Preston took Adam’s “dual ship” approach, and put his own spin on it. French Navy, a Sloop with big guns and little else, and a Tartana filled to the brim with guys toting all manner of close-quarters death. Our mission was Recovery; essentially an Amphibious battle where both players bring ships. You race to an island, recover some treasures, and hurry back to your boat – loser gets slimed. It’s all very ‘Legends of the Hidden Temple’.

Preston knew that he couldn’t out-gun me in a shooting fight. Yes, we each had 3 Medium Guns, but I was shooting more often, and with more men to soak casualties. So instead, his “gun boat” became a sacrificial thorn in my side. Meanwhile, I had absolutely zero intention of unloading any of my boys onto land. Getting into a fight on the island would only result in my crew taking heavy casualties in exchange for maybe escaping with 1 Strike Point worth of treasure. No. I was going to try to kill and destroy as much of his force as possible, and hope to win on strikes. Unfortunately, while I was able to savage his Sloop pretty badly, it wasn’t enough to win me the game.

The maneuvering battle here was madness. We ended up switching table sides and in a position that looks more like a yacht race than a roaring sea battle.

We finished 3-2 on Strikes, with Preston taking the win for the 1st Place finish. Remember how I said that the Round 2 tie ended up messing with the final standings? Well, both of those guys went on to win their 3rd round games. So while I finished 2-1-0, they each finished 2-0-1, for a higher total score. In the end, I was bumped from “playing for 1st” down to 4th or 5th place, with the two tied gentlemen grabbing 2nd and 3rd.

I didn’t go home entirely empty-handed. T/O Glenn managed to wrangle an interested third party in to judging the painting on display at the event. I’m happy to report that I won that particular challenge. It might have something to do with the 37 pairs of eyes I painted, or the way that everyone seems impressed with how I paint the wooden decks on my ships. Either way, I’ll be sure to include a tutorial here on the blog some time in the future.

Not the finest pic of the boys, as it’s tough to squeeze them all into the light box. But look, you get the idea, right?

Tournaments are a great way to enjoy ‘Blood & Plunder’. Even if you’re a new player. Every tournament I’ve played has included at least one new player with minimal experience. Quite frequently, there are loaner forces on hand if you’re unable to provide your own. As T/Os, we aim to pair new players against kind-hearted veterans who can show them the ropes without crushing their spirits. I think it’s a testament to the B&P community of players that those sorts of Veterans are never in short supply. The fledgling tournament crowd for this game cares more about having fun, than simply winning every matchup. When ‘Blood & Pigment’ rolled out their Community Lists and started recording tournament-placing armies, I was concerned that we’d see a sudden shift to everyone using “the meta,” but just 1 tournament later and I wasn’t seeing any repeat forces. It’s quite refreshing to see that mentality prevail, after my experience with GW events, and hearing the horror stories of the tournament crowds for other games (which shall go unmentioned).

If you ever get the chance to participate in a B&P tournament and test your mettle against a new group of opponents, I highly encourage it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s