1. I’ve reviewed quite a few Freebooter models.
2. I use them in Mordheim warbands because I like them far better than the Games Workshop models I’m supposed to use.
3. I have never played Freebooter’s Fate.
Well I decided that needed to change as it’s all well and good prattling on about how nice a range of models is, but it really should come from a place of understand as to how they work in the game they were intended for. So without further ado I give you Freebooter’s Fate…
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Freebooter’s Fate is just another fantasy skirmish game. And you’d be right in so much as it’s a fantasy skirmish game. Where you’d be wrong though is that Freebooter’s Fate is really quite unique.
A main point of difference is that it’s unashamedly tongue in cheek. The book opens with a fantastic short story very elegantly introducing each of the main factions and why they want to kick each other’s heads in. But more than that it injects a light heartedness that is rarely seen in wargaming but doesn’t take it too far. It doesn’t mock itself or the gamer for that matter. It’s light and has a sense of humour but it’s still all about the kicking of face.
It’s other main point of difference, if two are allowed, is that it doesn’t use dice. At all. Of any kind. In fact the rule books threatens you with a miserable and gruesome death if you so much as look at a dice during play. No really. Freebooter’s Fate uses a deck of cards to determine not only the strength of the attack you unleash but also where you hit. The location, in turn, has a cumulative effect on the stats that part of the body relates to.
This is all rather clever because characters may not be terribly strong and therefore but brilliant at the swashbuckling game and so may take a while to reduce an opponents vitality to zero, however, they may have enough meat on bones to wound and wound reduces effectiveness which means that the character has a fighting chance of felling their opponent before, they too, get their face kicked in.
That’s not to say it’s without its frustrations as, depending on how well the deck is shuffled, you may find that you cave in someone’s skull quite quickly with a rash of high powered hits. However, because you can choose the location you hit and defend it adds an agonisingly tactical, and psychological element to the game as you attempt to second guess how your opponent will act.
What it also means, however, is that characters aren’t killed too quickly which is just as well as games can have a few as half a dozen blokes on the board each. Were it more along the lines of Mordheim it’d be over very quickly indeed. The downside of this, however, is paper work. I’ve always had mixed feelings about having to keep track of things by marking it on a card or paper. And with Freebooter’s Fate it’s made slightly worse because you either have to get card sleeves for all your character cards or, basically, ruin them by drawing all over them.
I have nothing against games in which all the characters are named…well I do actually, but Freebooter’s Fate has enough named tertiary characters that it works, but having to buy items that you wouldn’t normally need to play a wargame does bug me slightly. Dice, tape measures, boards, scenery. These are all things that are generally needed to play a wargame beyond toys and rules. Protective card sleeves and wipe clean pens, not so much. A roster pad, much like the ones available for Battlefleet Gothic, back in the day, or a double page spread that could be photocopied, I think would make things much easier. Granted, not as pretty as using the cards – which are very pretty – but it’ll keep the cards pretty for longer.
That aside, it’s a brilliant game. Characters are restricted to either 2 basic or 1 complex action a turn and the sheer volume of actions that characters can perform is staggering. There are dozens of them. This does mean that there’s quite a lot to remember, but that’s true of many games. Particularly one set in the grim dark distant grim dark future where there’s only grim dark war. Grim. Dark. There’s also a big pile of traits which make the characters unique. Although the mechanic is robust enough that there’s strong stat variation anyway. So coupled with the traits it does make for interesting games.
Although the rules are well written, and there’s handy tips throughout, I do wish that rules for actions is explained earlier on as the various rules mention simple and complex actions throughout but until you get to section 9 of the book you don’t know what any of them are. So I spent much of my time reading the rules slightly confused. And then felt like I had to go back and re-read the book with my finger marking the actions section like a child reading a fighting fantasy novel.
That aside, the game works very well. It’s detailed without being fussy, and quick without wondering why you bothered getting the game set up in the first place. The factions are also nicely presented, interesting and fairly balanced. I’m not sure how big you could take Freebooter’s Fate considering the record keeping involved but that’s fine. It won’t be the end of the world if you only play with half a dozen blokes at a time because the models are ace and the faction lists are varied enough that you can keep yourself amused for game after game whilst working your way through the fairly decent number of scenarios.
Freebooter’s Fate isn’t perfect and it isn’t for everyone. It’s style and sense of humour is a different direction that not everyone will be on board with but I’m not one of them. I think Freebooter’s Fate is a brilliant fun game. I still want rosters, and I still want the rules to have a layout tweak but I’ll live without them. It’ll still be a characterful and fun skirmish game that allows me to swash-buckle, shout avast at my bemused opponents – even when it’s inappropriate to do so – and kick in a respectable amount of face.
The Freebooter’s Fate core model range is available from Firestorm Games from £7.19.