Well this is the first game on my list that hasn't got a clear, or obvious link back to anime or Japanese culture in anyway shape or form, I think! So score one for variety! It does though pander to one of my other vices... Pirates. Look, there's no point me denying it, I think parrots and peg legs are utterly cool. I like saying things like 'avast me hearties' and 'shiver me timbers'! Yeah OK, and like Michael Bolton I might just love Jack Sparrow a bit too much! I've also been waiting for a good excuse to buy these Pirate boats from Ainsty Castings, God I love those. I do though have a confession of sorts to make right at the start of this article. While doing these blogs on games that 'intrigue me' I contacted, or tried contacting as many people as I could at the companies responsible for the games. Primarily asking as many irritating questions as I could of the games companies involved about their respective products. In doing my research I happened to ask Freeboter Miniatures if they had any free to download quick start rules so I could have a brief perusal of them.
|Arrrgghhhh, it's a pirate! Captain Rosso to be precise!|
I got a very polite email back from somebody named Christian. Christian, who is a gentleman and a scholar I'll have you know, informed me that the starter sets have quick start rules in them and that they intended to get a set of quick start rules up on their website soon. He also said he'd send me a printed copy of the quick start rules. Brilliant! Anyway I went to pick up a package from my local Post Office and when I opened it I found a copy of the full rulebook, some playing cards and the Pirate starter set. Now I just want to make it clear I don't go around asking for free stuff... much!!! But hey, if someone offers it me I won't say no, and it's always appreciated, unless it's Dreadfleet. So again as always please bear that in mind as you read my thoughts on this game. Although in all honestly I was close to taking the plunge anyway as a friend, Dr Warlock over at Pulp Planet had done a good write up on Freebooter's Fate and had nothing but good things to say about it... and well, as I said I love pirates and the miniatures look ace.
|Goblins fight their way across a rickety bridge to face some Pirates!!!|
Company: Freebooter Miniatures are the brain child of respected sculptor Werner Klocke. They're based in Oberhausen, which is in the Northwest of Germany and part of a highly built up conurbation just north of Cologne that includes Essen, Dusseldorf and Dortmund amongst others. It's right at the heartland of western Europe, just over the border from Holland Belgium and Luxembourg. Freeboter Miniatures have been in existence since 2002 I believe and have therefore weathered what many would deem to be the two year risk period to new companies and then some, it also means that 2012 is their 10th anniversary maths fans. So they've been around a while. Freebooters Fate the game though was first published in 2010, and is therefore only just now entering its second year of existence. Freebooters Fate is their first wargame as a company. Many of the miniatures in the Freebooters Fate range existed before the actual game did. Freebooter Miniatures has 3 full time employees the aforementioned Werner Klocke and Christian Trinczek, the third musketeer being Dorothe Poll. They also wanted me to mention the huge support they get from the likes Hendrik Mell and Franz Sander.
Website: Freebooters Fate
|The Queen of Shadows Leader from the Brotherhood faction|
Starting cost: Well they're actually surprisingly low again. Here in the UK you can pick a starter set up for £22.50 and that includes a free set of quick start rules. A deck of specialist playing cards (which you'll need) to play the game will set you back roughly a further £7.50, and that's good enough for two people. This is because two gamers use the same deck of cards as you play. There are two rulebooks now though, the main Freebooters Fate rulebook, which will set you back about £22, and the Deep Jungle Expansion book, which will cost a further £22 or thereabouts. Obviously you don't need to grab both rulebooks straight away. Nope, a starter set and some cards and you're good to go. As with all the skirmish games I now play I think this is the genius of them. For a really small outlay I get hours and hours of fun and can be playing the game very quickly after my initial purchase. It also makes buying new factions nice and easy on the old bank balance as well. So if Pirates are your thing then I guess Freebooters Fate is a pretty darn good option.
|See look, Pirates on a desert island. What more does a game need?|
Game: well here's where Christians decision to send me the rulebook and some miniatures pays dividends I guess. Because I can now wax lyrical about the game and how it plays. So on that score I guess the freebies have influenced this articles depth, but (hopefully) not my opinion on it as a product. However, I do urge Freebooter Miniatures to get the PDF of the quick start rules up on their website ASAP. Because I think once more people see how quick and fun the game is, the more people will want to play it. So where do I start? Well those Europeans have done away with good old Imperial measurements and brought in Metric measurements, yep it's all in centimeter's!!! I guess though, the biggest thing would be that Freebooters Fate uses cards to play the game as opposed to dice. Now I'm sure many of you will be thinking "oh like Malifaux you mean?" well yes and no. You see it's not a 'straight' deck of cards like Malifaux is, with just the 'suits' changed to force you to buy a 'branded' set of cards. Nope, you have to buy the branded set of cards for Freebooters Fate because they're different.
|I bet she'd totally shoot a guy in the dick and not feel bad!|
Some of the cards correspond to various regions of the body you see. Like head, torso, left arm and so on and so forth! Both players will have a set of these cards each. They work like this, if I make an attack against you I get to target a number of regions on your miniatures body, based on my stats. Meanwhile you get to defend a number of regions on your body based on your stats. You with me so far? So lets say I only get to target two areas of your body, but you being a big hard pirate get to defend 4 parts of your body. In secret I chose which areas to attack and you do likewise for defending yourself. Now being as though it's me, you know I'm going to pick to shoot you in the head and probably the crotch (its actually called abdomen... but they're not fooling anybody!). You though unwisely chose to defend your left arm, right arm, torso and head. Now the defending of your arms and torso was a waste of time. However, wisely choosing to defend your head means that attack of mine is negated.
|A group of Assassin ganging up on a poor little Goblin... hardly seems fair! Just the way I like it!!!|
However, like Butters off of South Park I've shot a guy in the dick! So where do we go from here? Well apart from the fact that I shot you in the dick, which means we're probably no longer friends, we have to resolve my dick shot! Well that's done using a separate 'pool' of cards with numbers and other symbols on them. I draw a card and add an attribute depending on what type of attack it is and and you do likewise with your obligatory defence stat. Both cards are drawn from the same deck and the person with the highest overall score wins and damage is dealt depending on the margin of win. Simple, fun and fluid. There's an element of the old poker face in it as well I guess with targeting body parts. But there is way more to the game than just shooting people in the dick, even though any game that lets you shoot guys in the dick must be cool. But there are loads of other nifty things.
A simple one being square bases. Honestly I thought it was a little strange to see a skirmish game with square bases. I'm more used to seeing various types of round bases deployed for skirmish games, be they the beveled or lipped variety. However, I have to say I'm now scratching my head and wandering why more skirmish games don't actually use square bases. Why? Well the 180 degree arcs we get in skirmish games! Lets face it they often cause a bit of, normally heated, debate. We paint white lines or whatever on either side of our bases to draw our arcs from. Sometimes this can cause 'issues' as some people try to take advantage of this, yes I've seen it happen! But what if we already had those lines designated for us as part of the base? Oh say like the back of the base being the line taken as the 180 degree arc? Simple and effective, and I quite like it. I'm sure it can't have been the first game to have used it, and I'm sure one of you lot will tell me if a game has used it before. But what it does do is remove lots of doubt, and speaks to a game that has been properly thought through and game tested. As do many other similar touches.
|One of the new Amazon models, the newest Freebooter faction.|
Background: The back story to Freebooters Fate actually draws very heavily from our own history. In particular that of the Spanish Empire and its discovery of the New World. Mirroring that history we have a tale of a strong and powerful Imperial force spreading out across the seas, discovering a new land of wealth and opportunity. Just as with our own history, there are a cluster of small islands in the Freebooters Fate back story, much like the Caribbean islands in our reality. They were once a land of wealth and prosperity, a sunny paradise. These islands are centred around the main island of Leonera and its capital Puerto Alto. Times used to be good, as this cluster of Islands used to be the main stop off point for shipping to and from the New World. But then some clever navigator went and screwed things up by finding a shorter and quicker route. These once prosperous islands that used to thrive of off the passing trade have since fallen on hard times, and the Empires grasp on them has started to falter. Stupid bloody navigator! All is not well...
|Half naked jungle ladies versus pirates|
There are five full factions in the world of Freebooters Fate. These are Pirates, Imperial, Pirate Goblins, Brotherhood and Amazons. The Amazons have been added to the game in the recent Amazons add on book (unsurprisinly). I don't currently own the Amazon book, so my knowledge of them isn't all that great. They do however appear to be scantily clad vixens intent on causing pain. That's a good thing right? Hopefully I'll get a job soon and be able to afford the add on book, which I'll then review for you all. So lets start with the pirates shall we? Well they're pirates, replete with peg legs, parrots and cutlasses. These scurvy ridden sea dogs are out for gold, rum and a rollicking good time. They're obviously not too concerned with how they get said gold or rum, and certainly wouldn't be wracked with guilt or moral dilemma if they had to spill a little blood to get it. preferably yours. From what I've seen of the rules they're the good solid average faction, being OK at close quarters and OK at range. In the back story they've started to become more and more powerful and what was once known as Puerto Alto has now been renamed, Longfall by them.
|I love the Goblin Pirate faction as they're so jammed full of character!|
Next up we have the Imperial Armada. The good guys ostensibly I guess, the supposed law in the land trying to keep a lid on the more unsavoury elements kicking around Puerto Alto, or Longfall depending on your allegiances. They seem to be the shooty force to me, with pretty good ranged attacks and not so good close quarters abilities. They're beset on all sides, and not just by the pirates it would seem. Next up are the Goblin Pirates, yeah OK so they're pirates as well. But these ones have green skin, so that means they're different to normal pirates. In the back story they're jungle creatures, that were turned into servants and slaves. Fed up with being pushed around they decided they too would like a piece of the action. As with most Goblin factions in wargames, they're not really the most muscular or brave. In gameplay terms they go for weight of numbers and some quite wacky weaponry it seems to help them win the day. They're the characterful flavour to the game.
|Goblins storm and Imperial Armada defensive position... Yes that is a Goblin in a wheelbarrow!!!|
Finally we have the Brotherhood. When I saw these guys I have to be honest part of me wanted to say 'my name is Ezio Auditore da Firenze and I will have my revenge', I didn't of course *ahem* but it was tempting. These guys and gals are Assassins, and as everybody knows Assassins are cool... unless you happen to be the target of one, in which case they're just mean! So what's their motivation? Nobody knows! Typically they're being all secretive and shadowy. They've got an agenda, it's just no one is really too sure what it is, or even if the Brotherhood exist. Obviously they do because they're a faction you can choose to play, and what a faction they are! The Brotherhood are close combat specialists that like to get in close and slit your throat. They're clearly the best faction I've seen at killing people up close... hence why I own them! there's a sixth faction of sorts, although they're not a proper faction, and that's the mercenaries. These are sell swords who'll fight for anyone if the price is right. So that's the main thrust of the world of Freebooters Fate. Can you tell I've taken more than a passing interest in this game?
|Another one of the Brotherhoods Assassin miniatures, so very, very cool.|
+ It's Pirates for Gods sake, do you need anymore pro's?
+ OK then, it's a really fast paced fun game. With bags and bags of character and neat game play mechanics.
+ It has really, really low start up costs like many small scale skirmish games.
+ The miniatures are a really nice quality and are quite unique.
+ The whole back story, universe and product is very well developed. It's high quality stuff.
+ I've found it relatively easy to get other gamers interested in the game because of the other points.
+ Did I mention that it has pirates in it?
- Those miniatures aren't going to be to everyone's tastes.
- The unique little game play mechanic although cool, will alienate some people.
- There are lots of small skirmish games out there at the moment, some people might not want to add another to their gaming roster.
So I'm being honest here, I genuinely liked what I saw when I started mooching around the Freebooters Fate stuff. But why? Well when I look at the games I play or collect most of them sate a desire I have, or feed other interests. Normally though that's not enough, for me there is the Holy Trinity of gaming.
- Nice looking miniatures - check
- Good looking serviceable rules - check
- Interesting and engaging back story (including artwork) - check (it's pirates)
And Freebooters Fate has all three for me. I love me some pirates, I'm sure if you ask most people they'll admit to having a soft spot for them too. I like the miniatures, and the rules are solid, in no way ambiguous and lead to fun, fluid and tactical games. But there's more to it than that. This game also currently sits in the same spot that Malifaux used to occupy. Insofar that it is a really small skirmish game that has characterful factions and interesting play mechanics. Whereas I feel Malifaux has started to become bloated and suffer from rules creep and paralysis, Freebooters Fate has stuck with simple universal rules and profile differentiation to gives factions their character. As such I can see it filling that niche role in my gaming circle as the quick fun skirmish game of choice. I still love Malifaux, but it is becoming a game we have to dedicate time to play, plus negotiate a legal contract before hand to determin what rules we'll be playing. Freebooters Fate is still pick up and play.
|The Imperial Armada factions Captain Leon... you'll need a can opener!|
I guess I've been able to cover this game in way more detail because Freebooter Miniatures sent me some swag, or should that be booty? And much appreciated it was too. However, like Bushido before it, I kinda knew this was one of the games I was looking at that I was going to take the plunge with anyway. It was nice to be given the helping hand though! I do think the game offers some unique play mechanics and a very nice play experience all round. The main rulebook has bags of scenarios to play and is crammed to the brim with information, diagrams and examples, it is a fine product. I'll be reviewing it fully shortly. I'd urge some of you to go out and try the game for yourselves if you can, because I don't think it'll disappoint people. I mean how could it? It's a tactical yet fun, fast paced game about pirates! The only things that I think might be missing from the game are undead pirates, a voodoo / Haitian magic type factions for a pirate game there ought to be more 'pirate' factions I guess. The only advice I'd give to Freebooter Miniatures? Get that free quick start PDF up on your website ASAP and make it clear on your starter sets that a deck of specialist cards are required to play the game. Because if I got home from a shop to find out that even though I'd got my starter set and the rulebook that I couldn't play because I'd forgotten the cards, I'd be a very sad panda. As it is, I'm currently smitten with the game. Peace out!