Rules questions on multiple grapples

We had a scenario like this come up in a game. The Twilight Kin, like the orcs, really like getting close and boarding. We were playing Hunt the Flagship, and I needed to grapple a bigger ship, to slow it down so my Flagship could escape. We were playing basic wind rules. Both my Banshee and my Impaler were inexperienced (first game of our campaign), but they both had barbed harpoons which makes grappling a 4+ and ignores all modifiers.

The Banshee activated first, successfully grappled, and won the first boarding action quite miraculously! She had a net +2 to her roll, with her banshee’s wail, and the +1 for first boarding action. The Grimstone was barely damaged, so no nerve check was necessary.

But here’s where it got very confusing.

Next up was the Impaler who was also able to successfully deploy his barbed harpoons, and caught the Grimstone in its clutches [I realized later I should have aligned the Impaler to the Grimstone’s port side, and not her stern!]. RAW, my 3-CS Impaler will throw down with the 6-CS Grimstone, ignoring the banshee (though it’s clear that her Banshee’s wail will impact the Grimstone crew, as they’re penalized in any Boarding Action if she is grappled with them).

The multiple grapples section, page 33, only describes rules for the Grimstone allocating CS dice against the two ships to which it is grappled. There is no provision for what to do when two allied ships have grappled a single target. If a second ally joins the fight to board a target with an ally (i.e., my Impaler grappling the Grimstone after the Banshee), there is no provision to add the Banshee’s crew. They just sit back and watch? The Twilight Kin are all about boarding, perhaps even more so than the orcs, and multiple grapples are vital, to activate key synergies. And what is written on page 33 is very odd - on their activation, apparently if the single ship doesn’t allocate CS dice to one of the two or more attackers, they don’t attack! In this example, if the Grimstone allocates all 6 CS to the 2-CS Banshee, the Impaler is ignored, and doesn’t get to participate!

These rules are based on Black Seas, which I have, and I think there was an omission in writing up the Armada section on multiple grapples. From BS: “if more than two ships are involved in a grapple, add the Ship Points [the equivalent of Crew Strength] of each side together… Then resolve all boarding actions as described above”

We also wondered about disengaging - it seems just as easy to disengage from a grapple with one ship as from a grapple with two or three. This seemed weird to us.

Finally, when a third ship joins the grapple, you tally the total CS of the two attacking ships with the CS of the one defending ship. The side with the highest CS gets a +1 modifier to that and subsequent boarding actions. This has the odd effect of sometimes granting a sudden bonus to the victim of the boardings that it did not previously have, all because a second enemy joined the fray…. I thought maybe this was another mis-transcription from the original rules, but BS has very similar wording. If a small ship grapples a big ship, and a small ally joins her, all of a sudden the big ship gains a bonus where previously there was none… It seems to me that if the two ships summed together have a higher CS, they should gain a bonus, but not the other way around.

OK, this brings my to my questions, which I’ve tried to make as clear as possible, given how messy this is:

  1. I think the Armada rules should read: if more than two ships are involved in a grapple, add the Crew Strength of each side together, then resolve the boarding action as normal. Is this how the rules should be interpreted?
  2. And I would propose the following change to the rules: If the side with the most recently grappled ship (i.e., the newest arrival) has a higher CS, that side gains a +1 attack roll modifier. This is checked whenever a new ship grapples the scrum (and perhaps some provision for whenever one or more ships in the scrum surrender?). Why would the victim of a multiple-ship grapple suddenly gain a bonus with the arrival of another enemy where previously they had none?
  3. What is the rationale for the single ship “allocating dice” between the 2+ grappling ships? See #1 above. Keep it simple; if the 2+ ships side loses the Boarding Action, then each ship that is crippled would check nerve individually.
  4. I presume the statement under multiple grapples (p33) “enemy ships that are not allocated any dice, will not attack back in the current Boarding Action” is a typo as this makes little sense. See #1 above, correct?
  5. Disengage: does a ship need to test to disengage from each enemy separately in multiple grapples? Or can a ship pass one skill check to disengage from multiple enemies?

I salute all the effort you put into your post. It’s clear you put a lot of thought into the topic.

About p.33 and Boarding Action Attack Dice allocation: In short:

During Impaler Activation the Impaler and Grimmstone fight,
During Banshee Activation the Banshee and Grimmstone fight,
During Grimmstone Activation it fights only against ships it allocated it’s attacks, so YES this might result in fighting only one enemy ship, the other will just sit there and watch and provide eventual bonuses.

So yes, it basically works as you described. There is a possibility one ship will be ignored during one Activation.

Ad. your proposal of rules changes.
Multiple grapples might seem a bit counterintuitive. Still, this was done for a reason and I understand why it was designed so. Here’s my take:

  1. Balance:
    Being able to practically remove ships from the equation with two much cheaper vessels would be broken. For example a Dictator (90+pts) being caught between two Hammerfists (about 64+pts) would essentially be as good as dead, not able to do a thing throughout entire game, until it’s sunk. I imagine Black Seas has no Orcs, no magic items, no faction wide buffs to Grapple and Board. I doubt there are a lot of auras in the line of War Drum of Spite there either.
  2. Ship possible damage output per turn:
    The way it is, a ship will usually deal CS based damage in it’s Activation and in enemy Activation if targeted.
    The way you propose, a ship would deal CS based damage every time any of the ships in a Multiple Grapple Activates. This would create a possibility to exponentially multiply damage that a ship can deal in a single turn.
    Like a 10CS ship and two 1CS ships fighting a single enemy ship. the 10CS would be able to hit every time a 1CS Activates, this would mean 40CS every turn, instead of 10-20CS from a single ship possible in current ruleset.
  3. Avoiding clusterfck:
    The way rules are, some really crazy Multiple Grapples can be resolved pretty easy. Each time a ship activates it chooses it’s targets and only these fight. Very straightforward, simple. Just imagine how crazy it would be to resolve ENTIRE Grapple each time any of these ships Activate:

Thing that I agree on:
It would be good to impose a negative Mod to Disengage from a Multiple Grapple against two or more enemy ships. Not scaling up, just flat -1 to the Roll for Disengage.
It would also be good if only ships on a more numerable side got +1 To Hit Mod in Multiple Grapples. I would go as far as to say it shouldn’t depend on CS, but number of ships participating, which would show how a single ship has trouble repelling boarders from all sides. Would also make things easier. More ships in a Multiple Grapple = +1 to Hit.

Anyhow: Nothing prevents you from house ruling the changes you want to implement. Due to circumstances of it’s release (Virus outbreak, transportation delays, etc.) it will probably take forever for Armada to grow into a wide known tournament game. In my opinion the game is more of a beer and chips thing anyway. There’s just too many issues with accidentally bumping ships on the gaming mat while moving, or using Turn tool, for the atmosphere of a game to be healthy in a tournament setting. At least that’s my opinion.



Thanks Scarhandpainting! (I have your Armada Faction Guide bookmarked - good stuff!)

The problem with the rules as written, is that it breaks the Twilight Kin - we have so many boarding-buffs, many of which require multiple ships, that having your target being able to selectively choose their foe during their Activation seemed unintuitive (OK, boys! tea time. let’s give the Grimstone a fightin’ chance. everyone take 5!).

But your point about how cheaper ships can nerf more expensive ships is certainly a good one - I can see why Mantic tried to “fix” this, but I just don’t think it works well. Now I think it’s swung too far the other way…

For example:
Banshee activates, boards Grimstone: 2 v 6 CS
Impaler activates, boards Grimstone along with Banshee: 3 v 6 CS
Grimstone activates, chooses Banshee, ignores Impaler: 6 v 2 CS

So over the course of one turn where the Twilight Kin is attempting to bring down a bigger foe, the TK only gets to throw 7 dice of CS in three Boarding Actions despite having two ships involved, while the dwarves throw a staggering 18 CS dice in these same activations. And counter-intuitively, the dwarves suddenly get a +1 bonus, mid-fight when the Impaler joins! I wish the rules were clearer here. And it just doesn’t make sense that the dwarves thrown all their CS into fighting the Banshee while the Impaler somehow just… sits there? Surely there’s a better way to resolve this?

That’s a wild example above, but honestly… The “easiest” way (in my opinion!) to resolve this would be to have the orcs sum their CS, the undead sum their CS, and toss all the dice at once. The loser has to check to see if anyone is crippled, and those ships must check nerve and possible surrender…

But your point above of the ease with which littler ships can essentially take bigger, more expensive ships out of the equation is frustrating for the owners of bigger ships (though generally the bigger ships with their large CS should be fearsome opponents!) But Mantic could have chosen a more elegant solution! I wish there were bonuses that big ships gained against smaller ships, or some other way to discourage that cheesy kind of strategy (which is for better or worse, Twilight Kin’s modus operandi… With so many ‘suicide ships’, I’m finding the TK are in a bit of a precarious position in campaign games - though my opponent surrendered quickly, which also kinda “broke” the campaign, since we had fewer turns meaning fewer casualties, so we banked all our gold!)

It’s a shame that this element of Armada (multiple grapples) seems so… unfinished. I strongly dislike “house rules” for something as basic and core as grapples and Boarding Actions, but we might give this more thought. I hope Mantic addresses this.

And as an aside, I sure wish the skill test was a d10 also. I have no idea why Mantic chose the d6 - the lack of granularity is frustrating.

Thanks for offering some perspective - I honestly thought this was a typo/ omission, and not a design “feature”!

If the grapple skill test were a d10, you could consider the following rule to hinder swarms of tiny ships taking down giant foes:

For every size difference between a smaller grappler and a larger target, the grappler takes a -1 modifier to grapple. e.g., The Small Banshee attempts to grapple the Medium Grimstone, and gets a -1 modifier. If the Small Banshee were to attempt to board an XL Monolith - that would be a -3 to their d10 Grapple skill test modifier. This does penalize the Dwarves a little bit, as they have some brutal, expensive medium ships (which would thus be easier to board!)

Thanks man.

First of all, why would you want to BA a CS6 Grimmsone with a CS2 Banshee in the first place? I mean, sure, for that Multiple Grapple buff and Grimmstone debuff, but otherwise in no universe should a CS2 ship fight an exponentially more expensive CS6 ship and had any chance to win.

But back to the Twilight Kin synergies and somehow necessary Multiple Grapples.
Now Banshee is 16 points, Impaler is 18 points, both are worth about half a Grimmstone (60 points). No wander they suck against a Grimmstone. It’s like trying to use two raw boats to assault a Galley or outshoot an Abess with an Elohi. This just does not compute.
If you drop a rather very unfavorable strategy of assaulting a much stronger and more expensive ship with whatever was close enough and pick something more strategic instead, things start click into place. Let’s say a Heartseeker and a Banshee. Now you’re close to Grimmstone’s Cost and exceed it’s CS. Suddenly, at this point things start to actually work.
But what about that Banshee CS 2 facing off against a much stronger Grimmstone and getting it’s stern whooped? A Banshee is 18SP, which means a Grimmstone must hit all attacks and score at least 3 Critical Hits to sink it. Let’s be honest - this won’t happen. So if you catch a Grimmstone with a Heartseeker and fight it as an Attacker with a +1 on top of other buffs, a subsequent Grapple of a partially sacrificial Banshee will significantly increase Heartseeker’s chances and damage output on it’s next Activation, while also re-directing Grimmstone’s Activation Attack dice from important Heartseeker to a support role Banshee.

Boarding Actions are like Shooting - both sides get damaged and best results are achieved with good strategy, picking proper targets and right tools for the job.

I know this feels the opposite to immersive if you assume Impaler just sits there with idle crew. The way I rationalize this for the purpose of good immersive experience - a turn represents a passing of time. Everything happens at once, even though in reality ships activate one after another and sometimes Multiple Grapple can give people cancer. In my mind’s eye a Boarding Action is not literal like 6 or 18 Attack Dice representing Dwarfs on Speed swinging their axes with certain DPS, but rather a 20-30 minutes interval, where one strong crew repels boarders dealing massive damage to enemy crew compliment, thus damaging enemy SP in the process.

This would be difficult to distinct between different MODs affecting different ships, like for being the Attacker during first BA, or for having some upgrades and different BA buffs. Summing up and rolling all together would just not work and for many reasons, including damage distribution etc.

Agree 100%.

For what it’s worth, when I went through your post the first time I felt you’re right with the typo. Only after giving this issue a lot of thought and battling myself back and forth on how and why - I landed at conclusions presented.
Anyway - talking things through is good for everyone - us - the players, Mantic, the community, forum. So I do think you did a good job bringing the topic here.


Ah, a wise, well informed reply! What foolhardy admiral would do such a thing?

The Twilight Kin, that’s who! And, the Twilight Kin playing “Protect the Flagship” (Hunt the Flagship, actually, but we were on defense!) The whole plan was to intercept the enemy big ship, so that my Flagship could sail on by unmolested, which it did. But while the Flagship was making its escape we were obsessed (as was the next table over, to a lesser degree, because we were playing two games and they would periodically come over to watch us flail about trying to figure it out!) over how “weird” the multiple grapple felt. I had read the rules carefully, so was expecting weirdness - but it was still annoying when it happened!

So yes, it was a suicide run by my two smaller ships, to tangle up a bigger, tougher ship for a few turns. A very unique situation, but I could see how it might work to one’s advantage in other circumstances too, to have a smaller set of ships “tarpit” a larger one, essentially taking it out of the battle for a few turns while your navy then gets to focus its big guns on something else, remaining relatively unmolested. And as you noted above, perhaps Mantic was keen to keep this from being a viable or common strategy?

Yes, some of this does make sense. My Banshee only applies its “wail” to the ship with which it’s grappled, and not some other ship on another side of the scrum! I assume they could have written the special abilities to handle this better, as the RAW, with the targets ability to chose opponents to fight just doesn’t sit right with me. If I come in with a Ripper Hulk and a Bomb boat and multiple-grapple that same Grimstone (poor guy!), and on his turn he just gets to go 6 v 2 against my bombboat, ignoring the 10-strength Ripper Hulk crew swarming the other side of his ship… It’s a bit too much “suspension of disbelief” I just wish Mantic had given a bit more thought into boarding and how multiple grapples work…!


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hahaha LOL this made me spill my drink :stuck_out_tongue: I salute your approach to this kind of talk mate. It is very enjoyable. I wish I had more discussions similar to this one. <3

I love the “tarpit” name for this kind of tactics. Never heard it before, but it’s just so accurate.

Well, now we got to the meat and bone of the situation I get that such a tactic was a necessity, rather than a fancy. Also great it worked out.

For what it’s worth I had some of these situations myself. Stuff that you cannot just go like “roll a die and let’s just play to check it out later”, but rather situations that demand figuring out entire mechanisms. Beauty of a new game being played I guess :slight_smile:

In this particular scenario it would actually be a very realistic. Entire Ripperhulk worth of Orcs cheering loudly “Boomboat! Boomboat!” seems like something that would happen :stuck_out_tongue:

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So just to wrap this up, we played again with the Rules As Written and it seems … the RAW works. With two L ships, and an M - I caught an XL ship (the Undead Monolith, with their “undead terror” special ability no less!) and we destroyed it eventually. The game was small, I had four ships total - and my fourth (another Medium) not involved in the grapple was quickly sunk, but essentially all four ships (his XL and my three) involved in the multi-ship grapple were out of the action for nearly the whole rest of the game (3-4 turns of fighting, if I remember correctly). The medium ship involved in the grapple was quickly destroyed, but my two Large ships wrecked his XL in short order.

I still think:

  • Ships fighting more than one ship in a Boarding Action should be penalized if they try to disengage. It was essentially as easy for his ship to disengage from one as from three of my ships. That doesn’t feel right at all.
  • Solo ships fighting against multiple enemies in a grapple should not suddenly get a +1 if they find their CS outmatches their enemy, when a second enemy joins the grapple. That makes no sense and isn’t thematic.
  • I can’t really imagine a scenario where a single ship would ever divide its CS among boarding ships - it seems like suicide. Can you? I think if an XL ship gangs up on the little ship, it should receive some kind of penalty for ignoring the other ships involved in the grapple. I’d probably have to play more to see if this makes sense, or how it would be implemented, but it just feels odd to have all this dividing up of CS during various different Boarding Actions.

Agree on disengage penalties and single ship vs multiple bonus.

I can give you few examples:
One solid CS ship fighting two almost Crippled low CS enemy ships, to Cripple them before they Activate, so they have to test not to Surrender during next Activation.
One solid CS ship fighting multiple barely afloat enemy ships that are Crippled, but not Surrendered, during last Activation of the game in a Scenario that rewards sinking ships.
One ship with a special rule that applies Blaze Markers or other kind of stuff if Crit in Boarding Action, vs multiple enemy ships.
One ship that you want to sacrifice ASAP to be able to Shoot freed enemy ships in your upcoming Activation without splitting damage.
And probably many more…

So yeah, there are quite a few situations where you might decide to follow up on splitting your CS between multiple grappled ships :wink:


Harrumph. I suppose you’re right! But those all seem like last ditch, end-of-combat situations where a multiple grapple against a single foe didn’t go well, and now you find yourself with several nearly-dead grappled ships.

But seeing how things can go from fine to “oh crap!” really quickly, I reckon that kind of thing can come up more often than I am thinking!

Yeah, I too do think these are all situational. Guess it’s better to have such option, rather than not. This seem the kind of stuff that will define the line between experienced and inexperienced tournament players at some point.