Tuesday, January 24, 2012

So, Ye wanna be a Pirate? Or a……. A Legends of the High Seas Player Primer

So, Ye wanna be a Pirate? Or a…….

So, you’re thinking of playing Legends of the High Seas or perhaps improve your sea dog skills in the game? Then this article is for you.

First we are going to look at building a crew and some examples as well as suggestions to how to play at your best.

A look at Archetypes:

Bloodthirsty:  Causes a -1 on Rout tests. In theory this is good to help clear off enemy models quicker to ensure you win. The problem is Stern and Courageous can cancel this ability, see below.

Gentleman: -1 to Mutanity Checks and all crew you recruit cost 2 less. In theory this can help you purchase some extra weapons or perhaps slip an extra crew member or two in if you’re frugal with your coin.

Stern: Fearless, never Rout you must add +2 to Mutanity checks! So, you have a crew that won’t run no matter what! Just be warned that you could lose your captain if you get some LD increases to one of the other crew as your going to Mutanity on a 8 now unless you make sure you give out shore leave and hire on a cook! This defeats Bloodthirsty making the ability useless.

Courageous: +1 to Rout checks. So this cancels Bloodthirsty out when used against you.

Lucky: Two free rerolls and reolls to income! This is great for Privateer or even the English Navy the Pirates could make use but your Quartermaster finds some problems being useful here as his ability is overshadowed by this ability.

Bold: You can reroll Rout tests but you also have a +1 to your Mutanity roll. A nicer version of Stern that could cause you to Rout and cause problems for your captain later between games.

Suggested Archetypes:

Pirate: Gentleman or Bold.

Privateer: Lucky, Gentleman or Bold

Royal Navy: Stern (-2 would put you back at 10+ with faction benefit), Lucky or Bold.

You may notice I did not pick Bloodthirsty or Courageous simply they are just a single point modifier and IMO would not impact the game that greatly compared to the other 4.

Strategies for Legends of the High Seas:

There are three play styles that any crew could look at using to be successful in a LOTHS campaign.

By the Numbers: This is a list that is heavy on numbers but weak on equipment and talent. Often you forgo Heroes early on for a numerical advantage. Once you play your first or second game, your focus should be either adding more numbers to the pile, adding heroes and better weapons depending on your income. The key strength here is that with higher numbers you are less likely to have to make a courage test over other crews and the volume of attacks could allow you to win combats easier. Depending on your archetype such as Stern you could wait out your opponent to break and flee from the table to win your games.

Example of starting Crew: Pirate Captain (Pistol and Sword), 17 Rouges with Hand weapons. Not much flair here, not many heroes but you should outnumber most crew 2:1. If you pay for the Gentleman option these numbers could increase to the captain and 20 Rouges!

Only the Best: This crew type brings to the table the best choices in your crew and the best weapons for the greatest advantage (you hope!). Often you take all 4 heroes and max out on the better henchman choice (Marines, Cutthroats and Mercenaries) taking advantage of their better stats and then giving those weapons that are best supported by their advantages. A Marine would find having a flintlock rifle with a bayonet to be the best choice. A Cutthroat would enjoy a sword or boarding pike to get up close and a Mercenary could enjoy the mix of a pistol and sword/boarding pike to take advantage of their excellent shooting and strength.

Example: Privateer Captain with Sword and Pistol, First Mate with Sword and Pistol, Proctor and Cabin Boy with Hand Weapons along with 5 Mercenaries with Pistols and Swords. 7 out of the 9 can shoot pistols, 5 have STR 4 and loaded up with swords to parry attacks. You could bump that to 11 crew from 9 with Gentleman again, this would allow you to add two Mariner’s with boarding pikes/spears.

Balanced Crew: This blend of crew offers a little bit of both worlds without any specialization that the other two lists offer in the game. These are often the hardest lists to design as you can get drawn into building one of the other two above without thinking about it. The key to this crew is finding the line and keeping to it. Once you start after a few games you can maintain that pace by adding more henchman and heroes based on income.

Example: A Royal Navy Captain and two Lts with a pistol and sword. 2 Marines with flintlocks and bayonets with 7 Able Seamen armed with 2 Boarding Pikes and 5 Hand Weapons. Here you have more crew than the Privateer Example Above but you also managed to maintain a decent quality of weapons on the important models. You also weigh in just under 5 models compared to the Pirate crew in the first example. Perhaps your shooting can soften up the Pirates before you engage in close combat! With Gentleman you could upgrade to take 10 Seamen with 6 pikes and 4 hand weapons. If you sold back all of the pikes for hand weapons you could squeeze another crew member in.


When you look at the rules for this on page 51 there are just two elements factor into the math to calculate your crew rating. The number of the crew x 5 and any Experience Points they may have.

So, let’s look at the Infamy of the examples above:

Pirate Horde: 98 or 113 with Gentleman
Privateer Only the Best: 53 or 63 with Gentleman
Royal Navy Balanced: 68 or 73 (or 78 if you take no pikes and extra crew)

Infamy is often used to determine who wins a campaign after a series of games. When you study this you may find the urge to take nothing but hand weapons and fill up your crew to 30 quickly. Yet, there is downsides without decent gear you will be less likely to win fights and if you take enough losses you could risk the loss of henchmen on a roll of a 1 or 2, only Privateers can ignore this due to their faction ability. When you take a loss of crew you take a loss of experience and that x5 bonus for each model. Not to mention you have to pay for upkeep between each game, thus your earn less gold per game.

A look at Salty Dogs Weapons

Melee Weapons:

Knife or Dagger: Unless you’re going for the “cheapest” weapon to get more crew or horde extra doubloons this weapon isn’t for you.

Hand Weapon: Cheap and in a pinch you could purchase a few to give to new crew members. No advantages of disadvantages, a sword and spear/pike are more worthwhile for 1 coin more.

Sword: For 3 doubloons this is one of the best weapons you can buy as it gives you the “parry” option that you could use in combat. Two skills “Swordsman” allows you to reroll who wins and “Handy with Swords” allow you to use a second sword. Thus some models armed with that second sword can find a use!

Two-Handed Weapons: While you are more likely to wound, there is also the great chance to not win a combat. To this salty dog, the spear/pike or sword is better. A Hero that gets Strongman could find some love for this weapon as he ignores the penalties.

Spear or Boarding Pike: No major benefits or setbacks and you can support a fight with them. This is good for models that either are not great fighters or perhaps models you wish to “protect” from injury and allow the model in base to base to deal with the damage.

Bayonet: Marines only for the Royal Navy, works like a spear or boarding pike. Yes, take them! While they may not be practical to purchase at the start after your first game this should be an early purchase for Royal Navy.

Unarmed: Better to have a knife at this point unless you’re a Hero with Tavern Brawler!

Missile Weapons:

Flintlock Pistols: Short range and best suited for models with a Shooting of 4+, wounds on a 4+ on average so you’re 50/50 to hit and then wound. The only great thing is you can move ½ your movement allowing for a range of 11”. Heroes with “Handy with Pistols” can enjoy shooting multiple times if they don’t move. Same goes for “Uncanny Sense” where you can shoot someone about to charge you out of sequence for a good laugh. There are other shooting skills that are good but those are the best for pistols.

Double Barreled Pistol: Double the fun of a Flintlock, granted you can’t move but lets you dump out more shots in hope of hitting something. This weapon cannot be purchased by any starting crew, sorry me laddies!

Flintlock Musket: 18” range, move or shoot with the same strength as a pistol. The Royal Navy and Privateers can best make use of this weapon.

Blunderbuss: A good weapon for those that have a shooting of 5+ or 6+. Fires a blast template that hits all models under and a great weapon for pirates or able seamen!

Swivel Gun: A stronger version of the Blunderbuss that is on ships. No ship gets one to start with. Great for deck clearing fights.

Bows: Natives only and very weak with a STR 2, so less likely to wound models.

Grenades: Best on a model with a 4+ Shooting stat that allows you to drop a STR 5 hit on a model and hit other models near wounding them with a STR 3 hit. This is weapon with some dangerous drawbacks if you roll a 1 but worthwhile IMO. Privateers can make best use of this weapon.

Thrown Weapons: A one shot weapon per game, but simply amazing for someone with a STR of 4, even a 3 has a 50/50 chance of wounding. Just depends on your shooting. No crew can start with these weapons but can pick them up after their first game. A worthwhile investment if you have the coin to spend.

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