USS Albany is a very good ship from the Frozen North set. The relative rarity and quality of that set, in addition to the plethora of American gunships, likely contributes to her being underrated, underused, and not as well known as she should be. This is her first Miniature Review, and she has been used in just two fleets. However, she is one of my favorite American ships, and I'll certainly tell you why. I've wanted to review this ship for a while now, and here I intend to do her justice with a great review.
Flavor: The crew of USS Albany is composed of former prisoners of war who are focused only on extracting gold from their prey.
The Albany is a very interesting ship, the type of ship that I love. Her point cost almost necessitates usage as some kind of gunship, and her powerful short range armament calls for bloodshed. However, her large cargo hold and very good (but situational) ability make you think twice about using her solely as a gunship. This is the kind of ship that functions best as one of two things:
1. A primary gunship loaded up well to take advantage of the high ceiling set by the point cost and 5 cargo spaces.
2. One of the more powerful hybrids in the game.
Strategies and game play:
Based on the two main uses for the Albany, she will likely be serving as a combat force or a hybrid that fights often but takes advantage of golden situations (pun? intended either way heh). Send her after your opponent's main gunship, and a clash of titans will occur. Send her after your opponent's gold runners (with the right crew setup), and they will quake in fear and be splintered from bow to stern. This is a badass ship, so use her as such!
Combos with other miniatures:
Before I get into the more complex combos, let's not forget that it's perfectly reasonable to sail the Albany out of port with nothing more than a captain and helmsman. This would give her the essential abilities for any hybrid or gunship, and leave 3 spaces open for gold. Adding an explorer would only cost a point more, make going to wild islands more appealing, and protect the other two crew. Especially on a budget, these options are great. However, I like to complicate things and make crew combos more interesting, so let's not stop there!
I find hybrids a bit more interesting and flexible than more simple gunships, and I know a lot of people look at a ship's ability as a main driver of its uses, so I will look at hybrid combos first.
Here is my favorite, which I used in my Gold-stealing fleet and was the inspiration for starting the Best crew arrangements thread. Commodore Stern is a perfect match for the Albany, and here's why:
To use the Albany's ability, you'll want as many cargo spaces free as possible. Stern combines three abilities into one crew, and all three are extremely relevant to what the Albany will be doing. The captain ability can help soften up or dismast enemy treasure runners before the Albany easily wins the boarding party. The +1 to boarding rolls means the Albany will almost always win against most gold runners. Lastly, the extra action capabilities will allow the Albany to catch enemy treasure runners, which might not be possible even with the mandatory helmsman. Nolan makes the setup even more ideal, linking to Stern and providing a free reroll for either the extra action or the boarding attempt. In conclusion, the Albany is set up quite well to do anything. Even if she doesn't get the chance to raid any gold runners, she's a formidable gunship in her own right, with so many abilities at her disposal in addition to her powerful guns.
There you have it; one of my favorite crew setups of all time. As I said, even if you can't use her as a hybrid due to a lack of ships to steal from, she can move up to L+S+L+S with eight 2S shots, which is primary gunship material. In hindsight, adding an oarsman would be a good idea since he won't take up space and helps to protect the crew, all of which are very valuable in that combo. With an oarsman, the setup totals 25 points, which leaves you with 15 or 20 points left over in a standard 40 point game.
That setup is so ideal that other hybrid setups for the Albany pale in comparison. If you were on a tighter budget, you could add Master CPO Charles Richard and a helmsman, but you'll likely need some kind of speed boost to catch enemy gold runners. If you wanted speed but couldn't afford a captain, Captain Montana Mays with a helmsman could work.
There are so many great crew combos for the Albany to utilize. The Americans may not have any cheap options for double actions, but they can certainly combo well with intimidating setups.
Bread and butter gunship setup (30 points)
-Jonathan Haraden, Commander Steven Decatur, helmsman
Here the Albany gets the standard captain/helmsman in addition to EA (extra action)/reroll. This is actually somewhat similar to the best hybrid setup, but more offensively minded. Decatur protects the important crew from elimination, while two cargo spaces are left over if an opportunity for a treasure raid presents itself. Unfortunately the point total quickly maximizes the ship's point space, so there's no room for an oarsman. Though, if you used Nolan instead of Haraden and went with a regular captain, you would have 3 points left for two cargo spaces. You could add a firepot specialist and an oarsman in that case, or leave the setup at 27 points. Haraden is just a cool character and bringing Nolan's Ransom keyword into that much combat can be risky in a tight gold race.
Defensive setup (30/33 points)
-Montana Mays, Diamond Nelson Turner, Ralph David, Wayne Nolan, helmsman (+ optional Ruth Lee/Pierce Hollow and oarsman to prevent capture and dereliction)
The numerous options the Americans have for Eternal and crew protecting make this combo a nice option. This version of Mays is used to make sure the ship has the captain ability, but no double actions are available. The Albany's point space quickly fills up, but the ship has many great abilities available. Mays also protects the essential crew, all of which play important roles. DNT is the only American canceller crew, and serves as the best defense the Albany can have. Cancellers almost cannot be overvalued. Next is Ralph David, who makes the ship Eternal (Gus, who is listed below, is too expensive to not need a point reducer in addition to him). The helmsman is necessary as usual, to give the ship a fighting chance of getting the first shot and catching enemies. The optional point reducer/oarsman is for the players who want to optimize this setup, despite essentially paying 3 points for an oarsman and risking people getting thrown overboard if the ship is hit with stinky stuff. However, it gets the ship as close as one can get to the Eternal "god ship" setup, as the oarsman prevents capture and dereliction. Since the oarsman can't be eliminated due to Mays, the ship must be sunk, but she has Eternal due to Ralph David. This combo is not for the faint of heart, but makes the Albany as durable and indestructible as possible. (more recommended for large/long games than competitive games where speed is always the most important thing)
Those are the best overall setups I can come up with, but here are a bunch of other fun options:
Equipment attacker (30 points)
-Jonathan Haraden, Commander Albert Crenshaw, helmsman, your choice of two 1 point shot equipment
Crenshaw is a unique crew who is rarely worth the points, but since the Albany's guns are accurate to begin with and all have S range, he's a reasonable option for her. One of my favorite things about equipment is that they can be fired at any range, unlike the specialists that are reduced to S range. The cargo hold quickly fills up, but leaves room for a couple pieces of shot equipment. I'd probably go with fire shot and stinkpot shot, but it really depends on your preferences and strategies. Haraden combines two abilities into one cargo space, the latter of which (reroll) can help to avoid a backfiring equipment malfunction. As you can see by now, the helmsman is just mandatory to make the ship effective.
Specialist Striker (26 points)
-Captain, helmsman, firepot specialist, chainshot specialist, stinkpot specialist (American crew)
This is a bit silly, but you can use the Albany's cargo hold to bring aboard various specialist crew. Though Crenshaw allows the Albany to take full advantage of his ability, her natural 2S guns are perfect for specialist crew, since you don't have to shorten the range of any L range cannons to use them. You could really throw a ship for a loop here if you hit with all 3, which would immobilize them, set them alight, and freeze their crew for a turn, allowing you to clean up with another gunship or follow with another volley from the Albany on the next turn. This combo could work well in challenging more dangerous foes, such as 5, 6, and 10 masters. The extra weaponry could help even the playing field and allow the Albany to pull off an upset.
Fire bomber (29 points)
-Jonathan Haraden, helmsman, Firepot Specialist, Exploding Shot, Fire Shot
This is a fun combo that allows you to blaze your opponent's ship with up to 3 fire masts at once! Haraden's reroll is highly recommended to prevent dangerous malfunctions of the equipment.
Brutal effectiveness (26 points)
-Brent Rice/Chief PO Charles Richard, captain, helmsman, firepot specialist
This gives the Albany 1S cannons and a very high chance of setting enemy ships on fire. This illustrates the lack of cheap American double actions, but serves you well based on firepower alone. If you really wanted one of the 7 point crew, you could ditch the specialist for them and a point reducer.
Going for broke (25 points)
-Commodore David Porter, helmsman, oarsman
I wouldn't really recommend this, but if you like using Broadsides Attack and have good luck with it, the Albany is one of the best American ships for Porter to serve on. Her 2S cannons have the rank and range you want for a BA blast, and makes the ship comparable to HMS Bretwalda.
Maximum gunnery (30 points)
-William Eaton, captain, helmsman, musketeer
As the name suggests, this produces a lot of firepower. The Albany would have 6 total cannons in this setup, with five at 2S and one at 3S. You could try this if you're going up against a 6 or 10 masted ship or a problem like Paradis de la Mer.
I think that's enough primary gunship setups, but here are some other crew that could do well on the Albany:
-Gus Schultz: if you're using the Pirates and can't take advantage of Ralph David's cheap cost, the Americans have a second Eternal crew, one of only 3 in the game.
-RV "Diamond" Nelson Turner is far less effective than his canceller version, but could really mess with an opponent if used at the right moment (use with a hybrid setup)
-F&S Diamond Nelson Turner: not the most effective use of 8 points, but if your luck on shoot actions is as bad as mine, the insurance could really come in handy. With a captain and helmsman you'd still have room for some shot equipment, which would doubly benefit from the ability.
-John Paul Jones and Captain Montana Mays are excellent options in general, it's just that Decatur gives the EA ability (more flexible than SAT) for the same total point cost. The setups would work just as well if you don't have Decatur, with the possible exception of needing to explore wild islands and/or enemy ships.
-Shinji Smith makes the ship comparable to USS Eagan but simply costs more to execute a similar strategy. (similar to the specialists, the 2S guns are ideal for Shinji's ability though)
-The American Cargo Master is a unique crew that combos well with American fleets, since they aren't exceptionally strong in the gold running department. I didn't include him above, since a lot of the setups fill up the Albany's point cost and therefore you would need a point reducer to take full advantage of the extra stuff. It's easy enough to figure out: with a cargo master on another ship, take any of the above combos that are less than 30 points and add anything that further complements the abilities of that particular setup.
-In Return to Savage Shores, the Americans received a new version of George Washington LeBeaux, who gives the same ability as the infamous Lord Mycron. This could allow the Albany virtually guaranteed double actions from a ship like the Annapolis docked at home. Similarly, Commodore Edward Preble is a great crew for larger games (80+ points), though the Albany might often be too crowded for him to come aboard. Ships like the USS Kentucky with a built-in reroll are a perfect spot for him to give the Albany AA's (admiral actions) from afar.
-Don't slouch on the original Ralph David; with a hybrid setup you could offload coins to a ship with RD aboard, who then unloads them one at a time for maximum bonuses.
-Commodore Matthew Perry can single-handedly give the Albany the necessary captain and helmsman abilities. He also would feel reasonably comfortable aboard the Albany with one of the crew protectors around.
-Navigators could help let the Albany catch enemy ships.
-Captain Charles Richard isn't recommended, but for fun you could go overboard and add Stern, canceller DNT, Nolan, Gus Schultz, and an SAT/crew protector for maximum craziness. (just remember that abilities don't stack and you can only give a ship two non-free actions per turn)
-The Letter of Marque equipment is good if you know which faction(s) you'll be facing.
Your basic generic crew options (musketeer, cannoneer, shipwright, etc) also work well on the Albany since she can easily fit them aboard with her big cargo hold. They're not often the best value you can get for your points, but for a beginner or someone with a limited collection they're good options to beef up the Albany beyond the simple captain+helmsman setup.
If you find the treasures and have the time to transport them to the Albany, Ammunition, Deck Cannon, Dry Powder, and Power Cannons can give her a boost in firepower. Also, you may find the Albany a good place to put those unwanted face down UT's that would only take up important space on your treasure runners.
In a large game or campaign game, the Albany's durability, cargo hold, and ability would make it reasonable for usage as a gold runner. In that capacity, you couldn't go wrong with a helmsman and explorer; after dropping the explorer and with a potential cargo master in play, the Albany could bring back 5 coins per trip at L+S speed, which is pretty good for the Americans. Certainly a fringe use, but for hardcore players of large games who might have a battle fleet of American 5 masters already in play, it's not a bad way to go. The guns and ability will certainly ensure the island the Albany goes to is free of enemy gold runners!
Ways to counteract it:
The Albany is a powerful and intimidating ship, so your best bet is to knock it out of the game with a more powerful warship, cancel its captain ability when it comes within range (watch out for Crenshaw though), or use this nonsense. Gold runners can run away if they're faster than L+S (though they might need double actions if the Albany has some). Other than that, you could try to capture the ship since she'd make a fine addition to any fleet.
The Americans have plenty of 15 point ships.
-The Bonhomme Richard is a classic historical favorite that beats the Albany at being a pure gunship, with better speed and slightly more powerful/flexible firepower. If not for the Albany's ability she'd be a better ship regardless, but the BR could be a good hybrid.
-The Ghost Walker is fantastic, but can't do quite as much damage as the Albany and doesn't function as well in the hybrid role.
-The Intrepid, similar to the BR, beats the Albany in the gunship role, with better speed and really good guns.
-The Jarvis is a very good ship with a nice ability, but falls just short of the Albany overall.
-Paul Revere is one of my favorite ships and combines great speed with a solid complement of guns and abilities.
-The USS Constitution is a quintessential gunship choice and better at that role than the Albany.
However, the Albany is better than the other ships on that list (linked above), so she's about in the middle of the pack. She also compares pretty well to most American 4 masters, though ships like the Franklin, Providence, and Hudson are pretty much undeniably better.
If we look at game pieces with the same ability, we see that the Albany is FAR superior than most, with only the Zeus (ugh lol) and Descharges giving her serious competition.
In short, the Albany compares favorably to ships of her size in her own faction, but faces stiffer competition from American ships that share her point cost. She's also one of the best ships in the game with the Hoarding Gold ability.
-Big cargo hold
-Point cost that allows effective and fun named crew combos to take advantage of her ability and cannons
-Ability that actually suits her stats (lots of cargo)
-A bit slow
-Lack of defined role (would likely be used more with a more offensive ability)
-Vulnerable to cancellers and "can't hit within S" ships
-Not a weakness in my opinion, but a con that the Americans don't have great options for named crew like the Big 4 have
Artwork and aesthetics:
The artwork is rather typical of FN, with a dark hull but light colored sails. The chains on her sails look a bit odd but make the ship stand out, along with connecting to the flavor text.
I give the Albany a 7.5/10. She's one of the most underrated hybrids in the game and functions quite well as a primary gunship, but her speed and extensive competition hold her back from getting an 8. A cool ship that is fun to sail around in!