"Characterised by its fast moving ramships and its mighty Greatships, the Imperial or Empire fleet is one of the most powerful fleets in the Old World. It relies on long range support from its Men O'War while its swift moving ramships close with and destroy the enemy." (Man O'War rulebook, p. 34)
Empire fleet (2 Greatships, 2 Wolfship squadrons, 1 Wargalley squadron,
1 Hellhammer squadron, 1 Ironfist squadron)
The Empire fleet was the second one I built right after I finished the Bretonnians. Naturally we played the two against each other quite often. Overall the Empire was less successful than the Bretonnians. Perhaps one of the reasons was that back then I failed to complete a second Wolfhsip squadron to stand against the two squadrons of Corsairs the Bretonnians could field. Accordingly the Imperial fleet has acquired a weak reputation in our group, perhaps more so than is justified.
The Imperial fleet combines two attack types: Heavy artillery and ram-capable ships. While the broadsides, heavy cannons and mortars of the ships are formidable, their slow rowing speed makes ramming difficult. With the Hellhammer and Ironfist as additional ships the Empire has more ship types at its disposal than any other race. Imperial ships also have more than average crew on board, making them especially good at boarding actions.
I painted the hulls of the ships in the same scheme as the example pieces in the basic game, but I changed the look of the sails. I disliked the complicated and in my opinion cluttered design of GW and tried something simpler. The Sun design was inspired by a completely different Empire: The Sunburst of Traveller's Third Imperium.
The Greatship is the only man o'war of the Imperial fleet. Its extra-heavy armament and the large crew complement make it a formidable piece on the board. Although it has more guns in total than the Bretonnian Galleon, it can bring all of them to bear only rarely, because its guns are divided among all four directions. This also means that the best tactic with the Greatship is to bring it into the middle of the action, so it can make full use of its cannons. The ship is a powerful boarding platform, since it has 5 crew counters and counterboarding is extremely difficult due to its guns.
The Wolfship squadrons are the Empire's most expensive and powerful units. They are very well suited to frontal assaults and boarding actions. This is complemented by their powerful ram attack, although it is pretty difficult to execute since the rowing speed of Imperial ships is so slow. Basically you have to be in ramming position at the start of the turn and move before your target does, because wolfships (and other Empire ships) can't turn while making a ramming move.
Cut-out templates for a Wolfship squadron:
In my opinion the Wargalley squadron is the Empire's greatest weakness. Wargalleys do not have enough crew to make a decent boarding attack, only one cannon and their best attack - the ram - is very difficult to use. At 150 points per squadron the unit is twice as expensive as a Bretonnian buccaneer squadron, but only marginally better.
Probably the best tactic for the wargalleys is to hold back in the beginning and bring them into the fray at a later time to finish off damaged enemy ships.
The "Sea of Blood" expansion for Man O'War contained rules and templates for two additional Imperial ships with non-standard weaponry. They give the Empire more variety in choosing its fleet for battle.
The Hellhammers are the first of these 'special' squadrons. They have a very powerful cannon, which can only fire three times per battle, but which is capable of sinking an enemy ship with a single shot. Their disadvantage is the limited number of shots and the possibility of a catastrophic misfire, that sinks the Hellhammer itself.
Granted the Hellhammer is a powerful weapon, but I usually prefer more reliable ships. I hate it when a well-planned strategy is destroyed by a single unlucky die roll.
That is why I prefer the Ironfists - the second 'special' squadron - to the Hellhammers. At 75 points per squadron they are a real bargain with their long range and ability to fire over other ships. They usually last quite long into the battle and can harass the enemy wherever he is.
The Ironfists are unique in that according the "Sea of Blood" rules they can be hired as mercenaries by other fleets than the Empire.
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Created by Ralf Schemmann, last updated: October 5th 2005