Storm on the Horizon – 400pt ‘Raise the Black’ Preview

Almost every Thursday, the local group meets up for some Blood & Plunder carnage. With 3-6 people and 1 table, we’re usually running multiplayer games with several players per side. It’s not uncommon for us to play 400 or even 600 point games, but often we’re limited to only having 200 points per ship. So when my teammate had to cancel and left me fighting 2-on-1 this week, I was excited to try out some of the new “toys” from ‘Raise the Black’

With 400 points to spend, I knew that I wanted to try something a little bit crazy. To my secret shame, I have neither my Galleon nor my Sixth Rate painted and ready for gaming (I’m sure that when I set to work on that project, there will be a handy “paint with me” article here on the blog). Alas, a 400 point game and no recourse for big guns! That’s when I remembered the sneak-peak I had gotten of the ‘Raise the Black’ book, and the fact that a few select captains and ships were allowed to take a few extra Heavy Cannon in places where they shouldn’t have them. Enter captain Amaro Pargo, and his personal faction, Pargo’s Marineros. This Spanish force is allowed to take 3 pairs of Heavy Guns on any ship of size 3 or larger.

So I did the logical thing – I grabbed my Light Frigate and tossed 3 Heavy Cannon onto the main gundeck.

And then I grabbed another Light Frigate. Because if 1 overgunned Light Frigate is “logical” then 2 overgunned Light Frigates must obviously be brilliant! In the end, this was the 400 point list that I settled on: Amaro Pargo’s Marineros

So with 6 pairs of heavy guns, and 4 pairs of mediums, I set sail to face down 2 Sloops full of cutlass wielding pirates. The scenario was ‘Breakthrough’, which I thought would be excellent, given my +3 to rolling for Attacker. I botched the roll immediately, and my opponents got to take the offensive with a roll of a 6. Yes, I told you I botched the roll. To add to my despair, I drew my customary turn-one Event, increasing the wind speed by +1 and causing it to rain. One of my opponents also drew an event, and reduced the wind speed back to normal. He wasn’t kind enough to sort the rain though. So, in the middle of a drizzle, Amaro Pargo prepared to run the pirate blockade…

Ustedes ahí, ¿son piratas?

At the start of the battle, Jean Hamelyn in the red bordered sloop was flying false colors. Although the black sails of his Flying Gang escort were a dead giveaway of piratical intent, Hammy himself believed he might actually sail right up to the unsuspecting Pargo. Pargo ordered his escort to remove those black sails from the horizon.

You said remove the sails, right Capitan?

Big guns against small ships are no joke. 3 Heavy Cannon ripped through the tiny sloop, felling the mast. This created quite a bit of chaos on deck, and some small chaos around the table. We weren’t sure what happened if you lost your only mast – surely, you can’t repair that can you?

As it turns out, you can. You lose your highest sail setting, but you are underway immediately as though nothing happened. Well, sort of. The next highest sail setting of a Sloop is only 2″. The pirate were very much dissuaded by this hammering, and decided to veer off. Things weren’t going much better for Jean Hamelyn either – cannonballs were tearing through the waterline of his vessel, and he was taking on water fast!

This is all very cinematic, Captain Hamelyn – but might we remind you that we don’t have any broadsides of our own?

For a moment, the fighting looks almost respectable as the two squadrons sail in line. Going almost bow-to-stern. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough Litko tokens in the world to show what was happening to the poor sloops. The lead vessel, full of angry Flying Gang pirates, was having its rigging shot away by scores of Lucky and Critical hits. The decision to “stand-to” a few yards away from a snarling heavy broadside was a course destined for the bottom. Indeed, on this very turn the poor red sloop of Mr Hamelyn took on 2 leak markers in a single volley (in addition to the 2 she already had, plus the fire) and began to slip beneath the waves.

‘The Flying Gang and their Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’

This was the final disposition of the ships when the fighting stopped. Pargo moved his Vizcaino’s (a great unit who did almost nothing this battle) into the rigging to Man Sheets & Braces, then turned his frigate through the wind and straight over a shoal. The Spaniard was unstoppable though, and came away from shoal free and easy. Bracketing the stricken pirate Sloop, both frigates unloaded an enormous broadside into her hull. Ten thundering guns, hitting on 4’s and 5’s, and confirming on 2’s, the weight of fire was simply too much. Leaks and fires broke out across the decks, guns fell into the sea, and the rudder was shot away. The Sloop began to sink into the sea, leaving Captain Pargo free to roam the seas, looking for his next black-flagged victim.

My Vizcainos in the bow, armed with muskets. These are a great new unit for Spain, but alas, they did very little for me except provide Expert Sailors when I was maneuvering up wind at the end of the battle.

I’ve been a huge fan of artillery in B&P, even if it isn’t usually a game-winning plan. The pirate players really thought that they had this one in the bag. The wind, the rain – it all made the battle seem very one-sided. Even not being able to see Jean Hamelyn’s crew until turn 2 was going to be difficult. But the weight of the broadsides, matched with Pargo’s 3 Command Points keeping the guns loaded and offsetting the rain, meant that the pirates had to close in aggressively and quickly, while trying to avoid being raked or lingering too long under the heavy guns. At one point, Hamelyn’s Sloop misjudged his approach and took a broadside straight down the throat.

Could I have built a list with Pargo at 200 points to deal this kind of pain? Not with a Frigate, I don’t think. But if you wanted to take Heavy Guns where they don’t belong, you can put a thinly-crewed Brigantine on the table with 28 models, Pargo, 3 pair of Heavy Guns and a Medium. I’ll let you figure that list out though, because 200 points is tournament sized, and I might have my own horse in that race 😉

3 thoughts on “Storm on the Horizon – 400pt ‘Raise the Black’ Preview

    1. We went 5 turns, if I recall.
      We almost reset after the first Event Card, the rain and wind change, the attacking pirates really thought they had it in the bag. I got lucky dismasting the Flying Gang sloop.


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