Here we go with some other skirmish type games. I recently talked about Mordheim and I’d describe Black Scorpions Cutlass as Mordheim with pirates. Cutlass sees you building a band of pirates (which can be different races or the Navy for example), for you to play a campaign with. Each one of those has a leader, with the more unruly evil factions being able to revolt against their captain. All of your fighters accumulate experience and level up accordingly.
I’d even say it’s a bit simpler and more elegant than Mordheim was. With the design team including Gav Thorpe (next to Black Scorpions Adam Clarke), the system seems fairly balanced, can be used for highly narrative games and each and every of your guys can be crippled or become the next captain. You can capture enemies and ransom them of, you can upgrade your hideout and all that stuff. Your units don’t have any fixed values for their skills but rather a dice attached to them, beginning with a D4 up to a D12+2. Most of the time you’re rolling off against a fixed value or try to roll higher than your opponent. There are a lot of tables for the outcome though, but those are not to complicated. The game also makes heavy use of exploding dice: if you happen to roll the highest number on a dice you are allowed to roll again and add this to the roll. This can happen endless times, so rolling an 80 on a D4 is potentialy possible allthough highly unlikely.
I also like the activation system. It’s one players turn to activate models paying with activation points that depend on your leadership. At certain point though, the enemy may try to take the initative. Maybe you ran into his arc of vision while he waited for an opportunity to shoot or you try to engage one of his models with another one standing buy. If the model reacting to you fails the roll for this, your enemy looses one activation point, if he succeeds, its his turn and he can do stuff until you react to him or he is unable to do stuff. This is pretty dynamic and engaging and since it could always be your turn next you always have something to do.
Your warband is pretty customisable and they all feel distinct and have their own abilities depending on their race, with some overlap on similar factions. The only thing I didn’t like was the ability to finish off unconscious enemies for good. They are potentially crippled anyways, but if you do that they are injured more severely. While a good warband tries to rack up fame they won’t likely do that, but an evil one tries to become as infamous as possible, which means it is benificial to them. The evil side of things seems to be a bit stronger than the good one, but after a campaign day with someone who had never played a wargame before I’m pretty sure this is a pretty uncomplicated and yet cool system with minor balancing issues. If you wonder why my copy looks like that: The glue didn’t hold the pages. Adam admitted to me that this was a problem with their print and that they now let their books manufacture with another company. The book doesn’t exist anymore anyways as a hard copy, but the PDF is now free of charge, so if you like pirates, give it a try!