How to play Freebooter’s Fate
Surely you know the feeling: you’re at your friendly local games store, happily browsing away and your attention keeps returning to one specific box of miniatures. And then you end up not buying it because you don’t know the rules of the accompanying game and there’s nobody around to explain them to you. And we all know how much pirates like jumping into cold water (hint: not at all).
Aren’t you lucky then that we are here in the Golden Anchor, Longfall’s most famous pub, where, by sheer coincidence, Delora Waits, the city’s most rum-sodden but also most talented shantywoman just happens to be a regular. And because Delora is in one of her better moods today she can tell you all about what you need to know about using the quickstart rules to play a game of Freebooter’s Fate. Extremely lucky, huh? But, and surely we all know that as well, there are no lame excuses among pirates. So, here without further ado is Delora. Yay!
“Ahoy, you bunch of bilge-rats. Right, let’s get stuck in before you lot drink all the rum and are no use to anyone. So you wanna play Freebooter’ Fate like the grown-ups? Smart move.
I hope you have your starter box miniatures and your playing cards ready?
You do? Brilliant.
So, take your pack of cards. There are several kinds of cards.
First off, there’s the fate cards. That’s them with all the numbers and symbols on. Doubloons, pistols, skulls, voodoo dolls and whatnot. Found them? Fab. You shuffle them and put them face down where you can get to them – we’re gonna need them in a moment.
Next, you’ve got your hit location cards, those with the little goblin on. See the little goblin… Sorry. Anyway, we’re gonna fight with those later on. Each player gets six of them, but make sure you give each player only one of each body location. Cheating may be piratey but giving your opponent two abdomen cards is just plain stupid.
Finally, there’s the Event Cards. You’re not really gonna need them for the quickstart rules. But since I’m such a fabulously nice person, I’m gonna tell you what they’re for anyway. Each time a player draws a fate card with a treasure chest on it, they get the topmost event card from the deck. You can play that at any time. But each player may only have two of those cards at any time. You’ll see that they can have a decisive influence on your game, if you’re a bit clever about using them.
So much for that. For a first game you should place the two crews, character by character, about 40 cm apart so you can get to the action straight away. Use terrain sparingly because in the beginning you want to concentrate on the core mechanic of the game.
Well, you’re all set now. First, both players test for initiative. Which means they draw a fate card each and add its value to the morale of their crew’s leader. Whoever has the higher value has the initiative. If, after some combat, you should find yourself short of a leader because he copped one too many on the head, you use the highest morale value you have left in the crew. If it’s a tie, the crew which adds the higher morale value wins. If that still doesn’t resolve it, you just draw new cards and do it again.
Testing for Initiative: Fate card + current morale value, higher value wins
Who is your leader? Have a look, should be written down somewhere. Should be the strongest, prettiest or smartest in your crew. So probably not you either, mate! Bloody hecklers. Let’s crack on.
The player who won initiative decides whether they want to activate one of their crew’s characters or whether the opponent should go first. You are free to choose which character you activate. Once that character has acted, the opponent has a go with one of their characters. And so it goes back and forth until all characters have been activated exactly once.
Another question? Oh well, if you must. What happens when all of one crew’s characters have had their turn but there are several from the opposing crew who haven’t been activated yet in this round? Goblin player, eh? It’s simple – the player with no more characters to activate gets to watch how their opponent runs rings around their crew with the remaining characters – at least until the next round starts. When is that? Well, when every character has acted exactly once, of course. Keep up, mate.
Summarized course of play
- Test for initiative at the beginning of each round, the winner decides who goes first
- Fate card + current morale must be higher than opponent’s
- Play proceeds character by character, alternating between crews
- Actions can be taken in any sequence (excluding mandatory actions)
- New round begins when all characters have acted exactly once
How do you act with a character? Good point. Yeah, yeah, don’t get overly excited, sit down. Get another rum and just bloody listen, will you?
A character’s active phase consists of two actions. Yes, actions. Just like filling your mug, filling your face, filling your trousers or crying for your mommy, only more useful.
There are simple actions and complex actions. The latter take two actions to carry out.
Let’s take the easiest action first: advance, as in walk or run. Yeah, I know, if I’ve had a whole cask of Ol’ Rotuts Gutrot or broken both my legs, walking gets a bit bloody difficult, too, but everyone should be able to walk at the beginning of a brawl, let’s just assume that. When advancing, each character has as many centimetres of movement as their current MOV allows. Yes? Yes, that’s those funny little metric things some of you never got the hang of. You’ll get used to it. Now then. Most characters have MOV 10 at the beginning, i.e. can move 10 cm per action. And before you ask: yes you can turn as often as you like while moving. Make yourself dizzy, I don’t care. The main thing is that you clearly face in a direction which your opponent can recognise.
Advancing is the general movement action and can be combined with other types of movement such as climbing, swimming or jumping.
When climbing, you need 2 MOV for each cm you climb and you need to climb the entire stretch in one go. Why? Because your miniature is hardly gonna hover halfway up the cliff is it? And if it is, you’re just a show-off and nobody likes those. In the full rules, you even fall on your whatnot if you wanna climb higher than your MOV allows but in the quickstart rules you stay at the bottom if you haven’t got the MOV.
Swimming is just as slow as climbing and is usually carried out in more or less liquid surroundings such as the sea or, on rarer occasions, in lakes of rum. Yum. You get -1 A in combat while swimming, i.e. you find it harder to hit stuff, but I’ll explain more about that later. On the other hand, whatever you’re immersed in gives you cover, which makes it more difficult for the opponent to hit you at range. More about that also later.
Jumping can be done across something, say a hole or a chasm or straight down, and then it’s called, wait for it, jumping down. You can jump a maximum distance of your current MOV but only takes 1 MOV per cm. To use our 10cm MOV example, you can jump across a 10cm wide chasm even if you spend two actions moving and could thus move 20cm in total. You can move before and after the jump. You can also jump down from a maximum height of your current MOV in cm. Just like with climbing, you fall on your whatnot if you try it from higher up than that. In the quickstart rules you just chicken out and stay where you are. Jumping down costs only half a MOV point per cm. You get a lot of oomph jumping off tall things, don’t you.
Advance Simple or complex action, movement, basic rule: 1 MOV enables you to move 1 cm, can be combined with movement types
• Turn, turning on the spot and during an advance action
• Climb, max. current MOV, up or down, 1cm = 2 MOV
• Jump, max. distance current MOV, 1cm = 1 MOV
• Jump down, max. height current MOV, 1cm = 1/2 MOV
• Swim, cover for character, -1 A in close combat, 1cm = 2 MOV
What else can influence movement? Anyone? Come on, people! Yes! Terrain. Well done, Mono. Give that man an extra mug of rum. I figured you’d know about that. In any case, terrain can be slowing, difficult or may force you to move in a certain way. Each centimetre of difficult terrain requires 2 MOV, and if crossing slowing terrain, your total MOV is lowered by -2. You can climb walls or jump off them, you have to swim through water and swamp and can even sink in them – which we have spared you from in the quickstart rules. It’s not nice when it happens, tough, take my word for it. Anyway, terrain is usually gonna cost you time, so you best go around it. Also, houses and forest are just in the way of blasting your opponent good and proper, but we’ll get to that when we talk about shooting stuff.
Slowing terrain: -2 MOV
Difficult terrain: 1cm = 2 MOV
Railings, walls, hedges: Jump, climb and jump off when higher or wider than character’s base.
Shallow water, debris fields: -2 MOV
Deep water: Cover, swim
Dense forest, jungle: Difficult terrain, restricted visibility 10 cm
Swamp: Difficult terrain, sinking
And that’s an important point: just running around is not gonna win you any fights. So here’s the fun bit: the attack action. With this simple action you can attack an opponent either up close or at range.
And this brings us to the unique combat mechanics of Freebooter’s Fate. In contrast to what you may be used to, you don’t just roll a few dice to see whether you hit anything. That wouldn’t be nearly piratey enough. In Freebooter’s Fate, each attack is a nerve-tingling experience. Take a set of hit location cards and I’ll show you what I mean.
Each of these cards shows one of the following hit locations: head, torso, abdomen, legs and right arm as well as left arm. As the attacker you choose a number of these cards in secret. These are the locations which you are intending to attack. The number of cards you can choose is determined by your character’s A value (usually 2) and situation-dependent modifiers such as numerical advantage, aiming or event cards.
Your opponent does, of course, have an identical set of cards to choose from and has to try and guess in turn which locations you are trying to hit. The defender gets a number of cards equal to their character’s D value (usually 3), Once again, the number of cards can be modified by other factors.
After both sides have chosen their cards, the attacker reveals his or her selection and the defender checks whether they have any matching cards and have thus blocked the attack to those locations. If the attacker has even just one unblocked card, it’s a hit. If they managed two or more cards, it’s even a critical hit, but more about that later.
But first it is important that you understand how far removed this kind of hit determination is from the mere randomness of rolling dice. Of course both sides could just blindly draw their cards, but the key to success in this game is exactly in trying to anticipate your opponent’s actions. Depending on the specific character and the circumstances of the combat, the various hit locations are not all equally important, you see.
In principle, each hit location is linked with a specific attribute value of the character, which is lowered in the event of a critical hit to that location.
• Legs: MOV
• Head: A
• Abdomen: D
• Right arm: ST and also all weapons in the right hand
• Left arm: ST and also all weapons in the left hand
• Torso: T
Thus, a character’s hit locations are of different and varying importance. A markswoman with a long-range weapon does not necessarily need a high MOV value and so will probably defend her legs less often. A close combat fighter, on the other hand, needs his legs to get in contact with the opponent. Once he’s happily stuck in the middle of a large melee, however, they are less important to him.
Another example is that of a character with a double-handed weapon as opposed to a character with a weapon in each hand. If the first character suffers a critical hit in one of its arms, the double-handed weapon is immediately useless. The second character, however, still has its second weapon and so does not have to look after its arms quite as urgently.
Things get really tricky when a character has already suffered a critical hit, because a second critical hit in the same location will take the character out of the game – regardless of how many vitality points the character has left. In this way, a hit location which wasn’t all that important for a character can suddenly become really rather important indeed once it has suffered a critical hit. Finally, the third critical hit in total will also take character out of the game immediately. So once you have two critical hits, you better block anything the opponent throws at you.
A player who knows the opponent’s character on the battlefield and their situation knows very well which hit locations are important to each character. On the other hand, the defender knows that as well and so we come to the next element which you will never get from dice rolling: the psychological element! Is the opponent going to defend the locations which are actually important or is she going to defend the unimportant ones because she reckons I’m not gonna go after the important ones because I reckon she is gonna defend them for sure. Just like in a game of poker, bluff and counterbluff are the key to success. A player who knows how to read their opponent is always gonna be successful. Let’s be honest: it’s got way more style than just rolling a bunch of small geometric shapes across the table, doesn’t it?
But enough of that funfair psychology. So you hit your opponent after a gruelling psychological duel. Now what? Is that it? Is s/he done for, now?
In order to find out, we need that pile of fate cards I got you to shuffle in the beginning. The attacker draws the topmost card and adds the ST value (in close combat) or the RAV value (in ranged combat) of the weapon she attacked with. The defender then draws a fate card as well and adds his T value. Deduct the defender’s total value from that of the attacker. If the result is positive, that is the amount of V which get crossed off from the defender’s character. If the result is 0 or negative, no damage is caused.
If the hit was critical and damage was caused, the attacker chooses one of the locations she hit and that location is affected by the critical hit. If, and only if, you caused a normal hit with damage, the attacker draws another fate card. If the value of this card is equal to or lower than the amount of damage caused by the attack, this is also a critical hit to the location hit. Oh yeah, if a character loses all of its V you can forget all about critical hits – that character is grilled bread and is removed from the game.
Attack Simple action, combat, one attack in close combat or ranged combat
Attacker secretly chooses hit location cards (as many as its A value) but never more than 4 cards in total
Defender secretly chooses hit location cards (as many as its D value) but never more than 5 cards in total
Reveal cards at same time
Hit if the defender has not blocked all of the hit locations chosen by the attacker
Automatic hit, attacker freely choses one hit location
Random hit, attacker randomly draws one face-down hit location card
• Critical hit if fate card smaller than/ equal to damage caused or if 2 hit locations were hit and at least 1 point of damage was caused
• 2 critical hits in the same location or 3 critical hits in total anywhere = character is out of action
• Right-hand attribute value is crossed off on card
• Legs – MOV
• Head – A
• Abdomen – D
• Right arm – ST and also all weapons in the right hand
• Left arm – ST and also all weapons in the left hand
• Torso – T
• Damage in ranged combat: if RAV plus fate card is greater than T plus fate card of the target
• Damage in close combat: if ST plus fate card is greater than T plus fate card of the target
• Damage is crossed off from the top of the target’s V bar
But what happens if the character is still standing but has V has fallen to the grey area after all that damage was crossed off? Well, then they are grievously wounded and may scarper if they fail a morale test. To test for morale, draw a fate card and compare the value to the character’s morale value which is the number in the topmost V square which hasn’t been crossed out yet. If the card is higher than the morale value, the character is panicked (and becomes defenceless) and may only carry out the rally and flee action until it has successfully rallied. Usually, i.e. under the full rules, a panicked character runs away the value of two fate cards in cm away from where the pain came from, i.e. the opponent. In the quickstart rules, you may just turn the character round so it’s facing away from the attacking opponent. Otherwise your character may very quickly reach the table edge.
Morale test: To pass, fate card value must be equal to or lower than current M value
Defenceless: Automatic hit
Rally and flee: Complex action, movement, mandatory, morale test at the beginning of the character’s active phase before fleeing, flight move = 1-2 fate cards in cm
This mechanism works in close combat as well as in ranged combat. In ranged combat, it is also important that you can see your target and that your weapon is loaded. All weapons are loaded when the game starts but they have to be reloaded with the, you guessed it, reload action once you’ve fired your shot. Depending on the weapon, you need a simple or a complex action for that. The latter one if it’s a heavy weapon. If you’re firing into a melee (we call it a cluster), it’s possible that your shot hits another target than the one you were trying to hit.
Based on these principles, most of the other actions are pretty self-explanatory, really. A charge consists of two advance actions and a close combat attack with an ST bonus if you’ve had enough of a run-up to get some impetus going. Aiming increases A by 1, taking a swing increases ST by 3.
All the other modifiers are based on these mechanisms. Cover gives you +1 D against ranged attacks, attacks in the back of an opponent lower its D by 1, numerical advantage in melee increases the attacker’s A, possibly even its ST, etc.
Attack in the back: Defender gets -1 D
Cover: Character in base-to-base contact with piece of terrain receives +1 D
Raised position: Opponents do not receive cover bonus if attacker is located twice as high as opponent is tall
Support: by one allied character +1 A, by two or more allied characters +1 A and +2 ST
Target in a cluster: White fate card = target is hit, black fate card = other character in cluster is hit. Assign fate card to each potential target, randomly draw to find out which one is hit.
You can refine your tactics with the other actions from the quickstart rules such as wait, withdraw and shove, but to start with you can already have lots of fun without them.
Well, now you’re ready for a game. So grab a mate and off you go. Arrr!”
Summary of all actions
Wait Complex action, character can carry out one reaction in opponent’s turn
Attack Simple action, combat, one attack in close combat or at range
Get up Simple action, movement, mandatory, character is placed upright
Take a swing Simple action, combat, +3 ST for the following close combat attack
Order Special action, simple action, allied character within authority receives 1 simple action, only once per round
Advance Simple or complex action, movement, basis: 1 MOV enables movement of 1 cm, can be combined with movement types
Reload Simple action or complex action, depending on weapon, one weapon is loaded
Retreat Simple action, combat, movement, one fate card in cm away from the opponent, penalty of -2cm per opponent, if result smaller than zero no retreat possible
Rally + Flee Complex action, movement, mandatory, morale test at the start of character’s active phase before fleeing, flight move distance 1-2 fate cards in cm
Rallying cry Special action, simple action, all allied characters in authority, morale test which can end a panic and flight, only once per round
Shove Simple action, combat, push opponent base strength + fate card minus opponent’s T plus fate card in cm, no damage
Charge Complex action, movement and combat, 2 advance actions plus one attack, +2 ST if moved at least simple current MOV
Aim Simple action, combat, +1 A for following attack