“Led by Fiore, the crew of the Forward mutinied while sailing in the Arctic. Since then, the criminal crew has haunted the waters around the Mysterious Islands ”
The Mercenaries are often an overlooked group; sure the subs are flashy, but when it comes down to it none give you that “wow factor” that would make you consider them in everyday fleets. Being nearly cut-off from any gold collecting makes them even less attractive to a normal game.
The Mercs have a total of four 4-Masted ships, and not one has been reviewed here. Can you even name them without looking? Come on, there are only four! Not counting all Merc or "joke" fleets I find exactly ONE fleet that contain any of these four. None of them are particularly sexy, but all of them make a good case to be at least a decent gunship. Here I review what I consider the best of the four, the mighty Forward, who outside of the 10- masted behemoths is the best gunship the Mercs can throw at you.
Uses and Strategies:
Toward a time in the future. Onward. Toward the front. The bow of a ship. Well advanced. Eager. Bold. Impertinent.
Its name is not a misnomer: this ship wants to move ahead and fight, and not be shy about it. Short of cancelling its mercenary keyword, although possible but rarely cost efficient, treasure running is not an option for a mercenary ship. It’s clear that the Forward is a gunship – and its ability only fortifies this idea. It is a ship that hurts. At a slightly hefty 15 points, it’s going to serve as your main gunship in a standard game.
Combos with other miniatures:
With 14 named crew – and none that allow other nation’s crew aboard – the real limit to this ship is its available crew. There are no other crew that have the ability to be used on Merc ships. That leaves very few usable combinations.
Outside of the obvious captain and probably needed helmsman, one of the first things you would consider for your lead gunship is a double action crew. You have exactly three choices: Celtic Fury’s Eileen Brigid O’Brien, Shui Xian’s Shap'ng Tsai, and Count Gustov. The lovely Eileen offers a SAT and hatred of the English for 5 pts – Gustov offers you an extra action for only one point more. Tsai is a Sac-Captain at 6 points. With only 4 cargo, the Sac-Captain is probably not an option, and the choice between the others is pretty clear, even before factoring in that you probably don’t own Eileen due to her rarity.
If you add Gustov, Captain, and Helmsman, you have a ship that goes SSS, has 2 rank guns vs. all ships (although all short), and an extra action for 26 points. While that may be tame compared with other factions, it’s pretty impressive for the Mercs. You still have 4 points left if you want to max out the build. Unfortunately the only reroll option the Mercs have is Thane "Look at my nifty Hat" Hartless, who is disgustingly overpriced at 5 points, and can’t be used with Gustov. You could, of course, substitute the SAT Eileen and add Thane if you really want that reroll for your second actions.
Another choice would be to replace the regular captain with either Queen Theresa Pavon or Herr Fuchs, both of whom are Captain/Cannoneers. Though they cost one extra point than adding a cannoneer, it does save a cargo spot. Another option would be to replace the captain with Osvaldo de Deus Celemente which gives you captain and broadsides abilities for 7 points. Finally, you could nix the helmsman and add the very useful Merc canceller, Christian Fiore. He is linked to the Forward and is mentioned as the “leader” of the ship in the flavor text, so having him on it is fluff if nothing else. As always, Fiore is a must if you want to run treasure with an all Merc Fleet. His demeanor, as projected in his likeness on his card, also makes you think of the ship in a slightly bolder way: Fiore, if nothing else, seems very forward in his interactions.
The only other Merc named crew to consider is Nemo himself. His hefty 8 pt cost, however, limits what you can combo with him. If you like his ability, though, this may be the ship to use him on, especially in a deathmatch style game. Slap on a captain and helmsman and target your opponent’s crew.
As stated above, if you stay with the Merc faction, there is very little competition. There are only three other 4 Masted Ships (not counting a Sea Monster) that fly the Merc flag, and two are special editions.
The weakest of the lot is probably the Tasmanian Devil. Though she flies in at S+L, she has the same ability as the Forward at one point less, two less cargo, and less accurate (and all long) guns. Clearly the Forward is the better choice.
The other two are very similar in value. The Revolution and the Santa Molina both move L and have all 3 rank guns. The Revolution has the excellent ability (especially for the Mercs) of a built in reroll, while the Santa Molina is a Schooner and has built in crew killing, also a very useful ability. Santa Molina also costs 2 points less, coming in at a very cost-effective 11 points. However, you must remember the Mercs have no worldhaters, and thus her guns will always be 3 rank. In addition, the expense of the Merc crew actually works against her cheap price.
Two non-Merc ships that can be compared to the Forward are the Pirate’s Lady’s Scorn and the American Intrepid. While I have already made it clear here how great a ship the Scorn is, you can also see that even the usually overpriced Americans fair better here, as the Intrepid has roughly the same ability and better guns. Another ship that compares is the Barbary’s Nubian Prince. Yes, her guns are pretty weak, but she has the best built-in ability in the game. When the Corsairs beat you in value, you might want to pause a moment and consider what you are doing.
Ways to counteract it:
Since this ship’s tactics are relatively simple, there is nothing special that can really be done to counteract it. Cancelling the Mercenary keyword is worthless, but cancelling either her captain or ability would be very useful, as always, in staying alive. Since she is a rather straight forward ship with few tricks, one can use the normal tactics against a powerful, fast 4-master. Get the first shot. Swarm it. Mermaids.
- Great Guns with Offensive Ability (as long as you are shooting ships)
- Good Cargo (4)
- Higher Cost (good for overpriced Merc crew)
- Good Speed
Artwork and aesthetics:
- Small amount of available Crew
- Only Short Range Guns
- High Cost (yes this can be a con too!)
I don’t know why, but I've always thought the artwork on the Forward
was appealing. Something about that ugly shade of brown/tan just catches the eye. The real appeal for me is the offset circles on the masts – overall, it just seems to gel with the Merc flag and to me is the epitome of the Merc fleet. I think the design also fits well with the flavor text of the Arctic expedition that caused the Forward
to raise its Merc flag to begin with. (Heck, I think I would mutiny in the Arctic waters too...)
is a decent ship that could shine much brighter were she flying another faction's colors. As a result of her lack of available crew, she falls somewhere in that annoying gray area, becoming a ship you would really like to use but never really get to because of all the other shiny choices you have. As a result, I give her a 5/10 overall. If you are just considering Mercenary ships, then I would shoot her rating up to a 9/10, as she is a great option in an expensive sea of Mercenary mediocrity, and will do a very good job at moving you forward
in your game.