Uncharted Seas – The Bone Griffons Review

Following on from the first post regarding the Imperial Navy I thought I’d branch out and continue onwards with a brief review and discussion of the first fleet that I actually bought. I’ve enjoyed no more success with these guys than my Imperial Fleet (lost both games played with this fleet so far) but I can at least give you a run down of things.

First of all, no other fleet has brought about as much controversy as the Bone Griffons have. They were one of two new fleets released a while after the original batch (the other being Shroud Mages but I’ll leave Servitob the opportunity to wax lyrical about the evil stunties). However, they are also the only fleet that has the option to customise the weapons load out of their Cruisers and Battleship. This along is not the cause of the furor over their ships, it is the weapons themselves that are the cause of much disharmony among a very passionate community.

The Bone Griffons are Undead, a people long thought consigned to the history books after they were cursed by a virulent plague and their society sunk beneath the waves. Many generations later they return to wreak havoc upon the world, due to their time playing Atlantis their ships are a little “behind the times” technologically. Their Frigates comprise Undead Whales, possibly one of the coolest things going in the game as far as I am concerned, you may have guns but I’m going to slam several tonnes of pestilent Orca down your throat. They don’t have any guns on them which you’d expect but can cause damage via ramming and their nasty Krill breath! The Cruisers and Battleship both come with choices, they can be armed with a typical array of broadsides or the far more rage-inducing Trebuchets. Each cruiser in a squadron can have one of either, so you end up with a squadron normally composed of all Broadsides or all Trebuchets. The Battleship has three “hard-points” that you can equip with either a Broadside or Trebuchet, however, taking less than a full load out of either kind of gimps your ship horribly so normally you’ll just go all one way or the other.

In Uncharted Seas, as I have already mentioned, gun ranges are measured in 8″ bands up to range band 4. With all fleets firepower increases the closer you get to the target, after all, cannon balls lose power the further they go. Now, the Trebuchets on the other hand are designed purely around chucking lumps of masonry huge distances, this means that the fleet has immense long range firepower, you effectively have the same power at range band 4 as most fleets get when at range band 1. Due to the fact that the Battleship has oars it can anchor and then swivel on the spot to keep their 45 degree fire arc focussed on the enemy. No other fleet can do this once anchored. Also, Trebuchets do not require line of sight to fire, although they will scatter if you fire indirectly like this, again, no other fleet can do this. You can’t fire cannon through an island but you can, apparently, chuck stuff over it. This ability to load out on long range firepower has led to claims of the fleet being overpowered as you can plink away at the approaching enemy, reducing their effectiveness before they get close in when you lose all your advantage of range. It has also been noted that a player that sits back and just launches projectiles the size of Churches at you is boring to play against. I could point to many armies in other games that use just the same kind of tactics and are just as derisively talked about though. If you get up close and personal with a Trebuchet fleet they have no firepower at all with which to fight back so they are not without their weaknesses. Many players consider the Bone Griffons unbeatable, as I have already stated I have lost both my games, the first was down to poor planning on my part and the second was a lot of luck to my opponent. Yet I don’t consider them to be unbeatable neither do some of the other players. But putting this issue aside, let’s look at the fleet itself and how it’s made up.

As with all starter fleets you get 2 squadrons of 3 Frigates, 1 squadron of 3 Cruisers and 1 Battleship. You get enough parts to arm your Cruisers and Battleship with Trebs or Sails for Cruisers or Broadside decks for the Battleship. More than any other fleet this one has a plethora of special rules to go with it. All the ships have their own rules regarding some aspects of their operation. Due to their configurability they will play differently depending on your weapons load out.

Orcus (Frigates) ignore command radius rules, have no ranged weapons but can submerge and travel underwater. They pass under all obstacles like this but are also then harder to hit and slower than any other Frigate in the game. Even when on the surface they only move 9″ and are still among the slowest of all Frigates. You want to keep them close to your other ships to support them with rams, you can link their ramming in the same way that you can link fire from a squadron when firing. They also have a red ram rating meaning that any damage becomes a critical hit. However, due to the fact they are ramming it is more than likely they will be taking damage themselves so don’t expect them to last all that long. The Cruisers are affected by the wind, however, if you use Trebuchets or use Oars instead you can move 7″ rather than the usual 9″. The Battleship always moves 6″ but ignores wind, this gives your fleet an incredible manoeuverability. Not as fast as Elves nor as tough as the Dwarves they aren’t a push over either.

Bone Griffons also have the highest Crew ratings of any ships in the game, this lends them towards a policy of ramming and boarding other vessels, now, if you’re armed with Trebuchets this seems counter intuitive but it helps to think of softening the target up at range before closing in and trying to board them while weathering some of their return fire. Due to the customisation of the fleet it is possible to change your strategy and tactics quite extensively though.

In support the card deck lacks any of the big spells that some other fleets get, this may be down to compensating for the extreme range that you can get out of the Bone Griffons stadium lobbing gun decks, but you do get a lot of support spells. You won’t get any magic attack spells and there are very few counter cards, but normally you will find a card that makes something you do better in some way. You can improve your shooting (setting that flung masonry on fire), or power up your boarding actions. There are also a couple of cards to replenish lost crew and repair your ships. Your cards benefit you more than hurt your opponent which again makes them stand out as a bit different to the other fleets.

I have yet to try out a pure broadsides fleets and I haven’t tried Trebuchets on the Cruisers, all I know is that at least one of my opponents doesn’t like Trebuchets as it makes the game “boring”. Personally I think it adds an interesting dynamic to the game that makes everyone have to think a bit harder but understand that in certain scenarios they can be a little over the top.

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