"The captain of the Cygnet typically keeps his ship close in around and among islands, the better to shock the French ships he hunts by sneaking his pure-white vessel up behind them in the black of night."
The Cygnet is a four-masted English schooner from Fire and Steel. She does not have any other Miniature Reviews and she has not been used in a fleet (Other than this thing, anyway). However, she is yet another solid gunship for the powerful English. She is the only English ship that can be made into a useful gunship that has the "L range cannons can't hit this ship" ability, making her quite unique indeed. Also, she is one of the only English ships to not have the "HMS" in her name. Although the English have many other options to fill the gunship role, the Cygnet's high value (good 'bang for your buck') seems to have been overlooked. Of course, she is very new, coming from one of the latest sets, a set that many players may not be fond of due to Wizkids' handling of the game.
The Cygnet is built to be a gunship. With just two cargo spaces available, running treasure with her wouldn't be wise. Her other stats and abilities don't scream gunship, but spending 12 points on S+S movement and two cargo spaces to run treasure would be ridiculous. Just use her as a gunship.
Strategies and game play:
By using the Cygnet as a gunship, she can disrupt enemy shipping while taking out escorts with her defensive ability. Just let her get up close and personal with an enemy gunship that has mostly or all L-range guns. Since most forts have mostly L-range guns, she can take most of them out by herself without even being shot at! Also, those pesky ships that snipe from very long ranges will not be able to ply their craft against this young gun.
I would suggest using her as a gunship that takes out enemy gunships (and/or forts) that utilize long-range guns. This is the best way to use her, and it can be very frustrating to an opponent.
Combos with other miniatures:
With just two cargo spaces available for crew, your options will be severely limited. She essentially requires a captain and a helmsman, since the move-and-shoot is necessary for a gunship and S+S speed won't catch many enemy ships. This simple setup brings you to 17 points for a solid, fast gunship. However, England has many good fighting crew that give you two abilities at once, or provide more powerful options.
My personal favourite and one of the most effective crew is Hermione Gold from MI (or Admiral James Norrington). Both of these crew give you the required captain ability while boosting the Cygnet's guns from average (and unreliable) to adequate. Add a helmsman and you have a nice gunship for 21 points, just more than half your build total (or less if you're using a +5 OLR).
Simple extra action and SAT crew with no other benefits should be used only if you have a different Hermione Gold on board (you can also use Thomas Gunn from the same set). Along with a captain, the ship would ideally be moving S+S+S+S, but not often enough. The helmsman is essentially necessary. This ROTF version of Hermione Gold lets you combine the two abilities of captain and helmsman into one, leaving one cargo space for crew worth 7 points. You could add Commander Spencer Portland for the SAT while also protecting your valuable crew. This ability could come in especially handy on this ship, since with just two cargo spaces, it's unlikely that you'll have many crew (such as an oarsman) to sacrifice in place of the named crew. Since he's free and links to add +1 to the ship's cargo hold (essentially taking up no space), Commodore Rhys Gryffyn Owen could be added to any EA or SAT setup for a nice reroll (Countess Diana Doone from BC works too, she is just harder to acquire).
Combining two abilities in one, Thomas Gunn the Younger gives you captain and crew-killing, two of the best abilities in the game, for just 5 points.
First Mate Ismail is a somewhat expensive way to get around the cargo limitations. If you really want to stack up on crew, for example, you could have him, ROTF Hermione Gold, and any combination of two generic two point crew. Maybe a cannoneer and a firepot specialist, for example. Firepot Specialists work a bit better on a ship like the Cygnet since you don't have to compromise the range of her guns (since they're all S-range) to use the firepots. You can fit an oarsman into any setup that has 11 points of crew or less to fit extra crew on to protect the more important crew.
A unique crew like Griffin works well on this ship, since you only need a generic captain to set those other abilities up, with the necessary +S and the (arguably) necessary +1 to cannon rolls. An oarsman would be a very good idea in this setup, because you really can't afford to lose any crew.
If you love cancellers, you can put Lawrence on the Cygnet with ROTF Hermione Gold.
Edit: After el_cazador's post, this canceller combo becomes even more interesting. With the Cygnet's immunity to L-range guns, opposing ships will usually have to come within S of the ship to shoot at it. However, when they come within S, their captain is cancelled and they're at the mercy of your guns! The best way to counter this would be an enemy canceller or a flotilla.
Ways to counteract it:
-Obviously the good ol' cancellers can do the job, whether they are cancelling the Cygnet's captain or her ability.
-Gunships that utilize S-range guns can take her out with sheer firepower.
-With only S-range guns, the Cygnet is vulnerable to ships with the "This ship cannot be shot at by ships within S of her" ability.
-There are crew that turn short range guns into long range guns, getting around the ability because they are still considered short range guns.
The English have plenty of great options for 4 masted schooners:
-HMS Durham is one of the best hybrid ships the English have, with no need for a helmsman, solid guns, and a big cargo hold.
-HMS Oxford is one of the better gunships in the game. Good guns and good movement with enough cargo for a bunch of crew. She also costs 12 points, but gives you better firepower.
Both of these ships are probably better than the Cygnet. However, the unique ability of the Cygnet could tilt the argument in her favour. There are other English four masted schooners, notably the cheap Caledonia and rerolling Caradoc, but these aren't England's best options.
Other four masted options:
-HMS Orkney, another 12 point four master with two cargo, has a different defensive ability and better guns, but slower movement.
-With more cargo and more diversified guns, HMS Dover gives you a cheaper ship that can do multiple things.
-HMS Gallows is a beast with huge firepower. She's slower and more costly, but she has the best guns money can buy.
-At the same speed but with more cargo space and cheaper cost, HMS London gives you one of the better gunships in the game.
-English! (sorry, just personal bias) Therefore a wide variety of useful crew to choose from.
-Nice (relatively cheap) point cost.
-Schooner keyword that lets her get closer to an enemy (and use her other ability).
-Great, useful defensive ability.
-Her one rank-2 gun is positioned at the bow, which would usually be the first gun to shoot and possibly the only one in range.
-Only two cargo spaces-limited crew options + no treasure running.
-Average speed (S+S) that is eclipsed by many other good gunships.
-Average guns that need improvement to become effective.
Artwork and aesthetics:
The Cygnet has a very clean, white appearance. The flavour text references this, and she looks quite cool. That picture doesn't do her justice.
I would like to give the Cygnet an 8, but with so many better options available to fill the gunship role in the English fleet, I think a 7 is about right. I didn't even go into the five masters, and yet it is obvious that the Cygnet doesn't quite measure up to the best English gunships. However, the ability and her stats make her a nice option.