I doubt that many people are afraid of the Fear ability. Fear doesn’t increase your ship’s speed, eliminate masts, sink enemy ships, add a bonus to your cannon ranks, et cetera, et cetera. You’ll only be able to activate Fear a third of the time so if I were to spend time rolling to try to get a 5 or a 6, I’d rather roll for something I know is worthwhile, like convincing Admiral Morgan to give my ship an extra action. Derelicting a ship by conventional means can stop most ships from moving at all, and a sunken ship can’t use any of its abilities under water. A ship with Fear might be able to affect as many enemy ships as there are within S of the ship but if I had more than one enemy ship within S of my ship, scaring them is the least of my concerns. I’d be more concerned about an escape route or blowing them out of the water. Why frighten your enemy when you can put a cannonball between their eyes?
Fear gives you a chance to score one of two possible abilities. Freezing all ship & crew abilities on an enemy ship for a turn is very nice (particularly to get around stubborn abilities such as El Acorazado’s) but it can only be rolled for at the beginning of the Fear ship’s turn. That means you have to end your ship’s turn within S of an enemy ship and hope that:
A: you can roll a 5 or 6 to begin with
B: the enemy ship will still be around by the time you can or
C: you’ll have enough masts left standing at the end of that ship’s turn to capitalize on the freeze because affected ships aren’t too afraid to fire on your ship.
If you don’t take out a number of masts, you’re going to receive a royal mast-kicking for your troubles.
Strategies and game play:
Fear, if you can get it to work at all, works best defensively in scenarios where an enemy ship moves within S of your ship, shoots at it using the Captain ability and fails to derelict its target. Chances are that the abilities aboard the enemy ship are not defensive in nature so even if you don’t make the 5 roll, your best option is usually to fire on it. If you hit the 6 and the enemy ship only wants to make a run for it, that’s where Fear can actually make someone sweat (although for my money, a Chainshot Specialist can immobilize a ship at a lower cost and, usually, with better odds). Keep in mind that your opponent’s Helmsman can still help out his now slower ship and S+S is only the third slowest speed so the victory is only a tiny one. Capitalize on each and every successful Fear roll and it earns its keep.
Combos with other miniatures:
- Homemade Flag would force an enemy ship to engage at close range if they want to fire on your Fear ship at all.
- At 6 points, The Unblinking 99 makes for an above average Duel participant.
- I haven’t seen a Cursed ship that has the reroll ability but The Unblinking 99 would be well served by being on a ship that allowed a reroll.
Ways to counteract it:
Ships that can eliminate a crew with a successful shot (El Tirador, Asesino De La Nave, Kian Ng, Comandante Antonio De Silva) might cause your opponent to choose The Unblinking 99 as the sacrificial undead lamb, seeing as how most basic crew will probably be more valuable throughout the game.
Defensive abilities like those found on El Acorazado, HMS Lord Algernon, Fallen Angel and Santa Teresa are negated for a turn, giving you a chance to take them down a peg or two. This has the potential to make your opponent sweat and could result in loss of concentration.
The odds of rolling any Fear ability are 1 in 3 but getting the one that you need in a particular situation turns into a 1 in 6 affair. Not so good, huh? You would be better off buying a Chainshot Specialist and a Stinkpot Specialist, both of whose abilities are contingent upon exceeding a cannon’s rank rather than a specific number on a die.
The link to Papa Doc continues the eye roll-inducing trend Wizkids has created: Having linked crew with high costs and/or with abilities that do not mesh well, hardly a justification of the +1 cargo space.
Artwork and aesthetics:
Inasmuch as I don’t care for Fear, The Unblinking 99 has one of the spookiest pieces of artwork in the game. Even spookier yet is that behind the primary figure slinks another member of the 99! A pity that he/she/it can’t be seen on the card itself.
I rate The Unblinking 99 a 3 out of 10. At 6 points, a crew should be able to grant your ship an ability (or two) that is both practical and reliable. If you find that you need Fear, DJC’s El Fantasma can give a ship Fear plus two other great abilities for 9 points. In closing, I would not actively seek out a ship or crew with the Fear ability. Though it has some uses it’s just not practical to deal in smoke and mirrors when good old mast-eliminating cannons are a more reliable means of incapacitating/derelicting/sinking ships.