Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Taking The Black


"Led by the ruthless "Black Wolf" Captain Vladimir Nikonov, this mercenary fleet strikes fear into the hearts of Admirals the world over. Selling his services to the highest bidder the Black Wolf is a hunter without equal, excelling at coordinating his ships is lightning fast assaults to cripple the enemy before they know what has hit them."

Everything you've heard is true. The Black Wolf Mercenaries are here and they've broken Dystopian Wars. 

I kid, I kid.

Or do I?

The Black Wolf has been given a fleet of his own, and they've been given all the best toys. All I can think of when playing these guys is one of my favourite scenes in Robocop...

State of the Art Bang Bang

I LIKE IT indeed.

Manticore-class Support Skimmers bring the Reaper Attack Submarines
Looking through the fleet booklet, the first thing a lot of people notice is the points cost. This not a cheap fleet, with a relatively small box set (compared to say, the Danish box set) weighing in at 850pts, even without the infamous Captain (Commodore?) Nikonov. After the Corvettes, the cheapest ship in the fleet is 120pts, and comes with a squadron size of 1. The Black Wolf Mercenaries are not here to play a numbers game.

Nemesis-class Battle Cruisers - how to lose friends and alienate people
Fortunately they don't have to, because each of their ships is a floating monster packed with enough gunnery to make a Russian player weep, auxiliary statistics to make a French player jealous and enough MARs to make an Ottoman player start crying power creep. I don't want to start sounding repetitive, but this fleet has ALL the good rules, and pays for it in points and numbers rather than obvious weaknesses.

Fury-class Corvettes. Good for getting in the way
Elite Crew. 
Devastating Ordnance.
Sturginium Rounds.
Ablative Armour.

These are but a taste of the terror. Each of the ships also have their own special rules, from the Panic Dive of the Death Bringer-class Submarines to the Combat Co-Ordinator: Dash & Elan on the Manticore-class Support Skimmer, all of which help out with their respective roles. In addition, the fleet carries some powerful Generators: Kinetic Generators across the board, and to help with stealthy ambush, the Echo Generator and the Camouflage Generator.

Black Company TFTs - you forgot about them? Me too
Used correctly, the short range of the Black Company gunnery will not be considered a weakness. Whereas the Russian ships are limited by slow movement and only protected by their Ablative Armour, the Black Company packs Ablative Armour IN ADDITION to having Camouflage Generators to almost completely cover their advance, Kinetic Generators to get them up the board faster, and Devastating Ordnance to make their turrets that much better than the Russian equivalent.

I say used correctly, but this fleet does not need that much thinking to work well. Just work out where to place your Camouflage Generators and what turn to reveal the obscene firepower of the Death Bringer-class Submarines, and you're sorted.

Such is the power of the Death Bringer and the Nemesis-class Battle Cruiser, the Manticore and the Fury are left feeling a little... left out. This is not to say they are useless by any means; they are in my eyes nicely balanced and need some thinking to utilise well, as any ship in this game should. 

It's just that compared to their heavily armed brothers, they lack in sheer offensive gunnery. Sure, they bring something else to the table; the Manticore with its Combat Co-ordinator and Reaper Attack Submarines, the Fury with its potential for Boarding assaults, but when the Nemesis can cause a double critical on an FSA Dreadnought on its own, they can end up looking somewhat lacklustre.

The Echo Generator in action
This may be an unfair dismissal, and though at this point I have only played a few games and this entire article is a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, the Manticore/Fury combination works in dealing with the threats you don't want to waste the Nemesis and Death Bringer on - squadrons of Smalls, lone damaged Mediums etc. It is important to keep them close as the Combat Co-ordinator on the Manticore makes the Elite Crew of the Corvettes an incredible threat to, well everything. 

The gunnery on the Manticore is also not to be sniffed at; they can pack a turret which is still very, very powerful on its own, and their fixed Fore Guns are great, especially when combined with the turret. I would not replace the turret with another Camouflage Generator as I feel two (from the two Battle Cruisers you are inevitably running) is enough to protect the fleet without jeopardising any more friendships. 

Combat Co-ordinator makes these guys earn their points
Fortunately for every non-Black Wolf player in the world, all of the big ships have the Limited Availability rule. You simply cannot play anything close to a reasonable size game with more than two of each of these monsters. A 1000pt fleet, as you may have seen in a previous AAR, can contain two of everything, and it's still more than enough.
The Death Bringer is not a small submarine
  • Don't expect to fire a shot on the first turn - you need this time to sneak close. 
  • The combination of Devastating Ordnance on powerful turrets, Camouflage Generators, Ablative Armour and Kinetic Generators make the Nemesis Battle Cruisers the key to your early activations. 
  • Rush them forward and protect the rest of the fleet with their Camouflage Generator, then in the second turn use them to wreck anything close by. 
  • The Camouflage Generator is a Glacier Generator ramped up to eleven - use it as such.
  • The Death Bringer Submarine works well as a coup de grace - keep it hidden underwater and then emerge into RB2 and annihilate something when the time is right. Don't waste it on anything smaller than a Large vessel. 
  • The Manticore and the Fury may not compete with the Nemesis and the Death Bringer in terms of sheer firepower, but they bring their own sneaky tricks - Boarding, and Reaper Attack Submarines to clear out enemy Small vessels.
  • Give the Manticore a turret - it will need to be close to the action to make Combat Co-ordinator work, so a Rocket Battery is a bit of a waste. Plus, you know, Devastating Ordnance! 
I haven't had the chance to talk about their status as Mercenaries or the great "One Careful Owner" rule as I simply haven't tried them yet! That can of worms will be dealt with in the future...

1000pts of Pain
This has been a short introduction following my first couple of games with the Black Wolf Mercenaries, and I hope it has been somewhat informative. This fleet is incredibly powerful, restricted only by their limited numbers and high points value. I would not recommend using this fleet against anything less than a fully prepared player with a "good" fleet; anything less will just get blown away.

Hopefully in the future, we will see a counter-tactica article on how to beat the Black Wolf!

Thanks for reading,



  1. Hi, I love your painting and your scenery. I was wondering if you can do a post showing off your different scenery pieces and how you went about building and painting them?

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Thanks for the comment! I want to run a good few posts in a row about the terrain pieces (there's a lot) but keep getting distracted with new fleets and AARs. Soon enough though, no doubt.