Monday, 29 August 2011

Black Scorpion Miniatures: Cutlass! Rules

While buying western minis from Tombstone, their pirate line caught my eye. Now I am a sucker for undead pirates; their range includes dwarves, orcs, elves and undead in additon to the more usual historical seafarers. 

I also like rulebooks. So their shiny new 'Cutlass!' rules were a definite buy.  My reasoning: (a) if I like them, I have an excuse to get some undead pirates  I can make an informed decision on my future wargaming needs. (b) I am interested in pirates, but am not interested in paying for 'Legends of the High Seas' - basically a pirate version of 'Legends of the Old West' with different fluff and a few minute rules changes. 

The rules ARE shiny. Excellent production values on a par with GW or Privateer, with lots of pics of well-painted minis.  The rules themselves use different types of dice (Dd4, d6, d8, d10, d12) for attributes, Savage-Worlds style. I.e. a legendary fighter might have d12 'Combat'; a scrawny goblin might have d6 Constitution, etc.

The most interesting thing is the play sequence, which is a bit Infinity-like.  One side is 'active' at a time and uses 'orders' generated by their captain to move, shoot, take actions etc. The level of orders is depleted each time a new order is given, but in an interesting twist, you may take the same action with multiple models, up to the number equal to your current 'order level'.  I.e. a shoot order may allow say 5 models to shoot, if you have a current order level of 5.  The next turn your order level would be 4, and thus only 4 models could act on a single action.  Enemy models may 'react' in certain circumstances (if enemy approaches, if shot at and missed, etc) and if successful may seize the initiative and become the active player.

Combat is pretty standard except the ability to choose to parry and riposte, which adds flavour to swordfighting.  Weapon range seems tied to the abilities of the firer, Ambush-Alley style. 

There is a campaign system, with a list of skills, items and upgrades.  There is a scenario generator and a well-fleshed out advancement system.  It looks like a lot of fun, but I am a little unsure about balance, not having played it.  Determining a figure's points value by simply adding all attributes seems a little glib to me - I strongly suspect not all attributes are created equal. 

In summary - an interesting set of rules that FORCES me to buy some pirates to go with them...


  1. Great post. I am wondering if Freebooter's Fate minis will match in scale. Their game is based on squares, I haven't figured out if it matters. Could see basing Freebooter's minis for Cutlass and visa versa if you wanted to play both games. I like the sound of Cutlass rules and campaign system. It seems like an evolved Mordheim.

  2. It is more like Mordhiem meets Savage Worlds. I'm not totally sold on multiple dice sizes (d4, d6, d8 etc) but it is very similar to a simplified version of the Savage Worlds RPG system.

    I'd give Cutlass! the nod over Freebooter for 3 reasons - (a) Freebooter ties you more rigidly to their fluff, minis and stats (b) Cutlass! allows you to build and level up characters (c) Freebooter minis are 3-4x more expensive