"The Bretonnians are arguably the best human sailors in the world. With their great sails billowing in the wind their ships are a majestic sight on the high seas. Relying on sail for speed and manoeuverability they try to outgun their enemies with mighty broadsides." (Man O'War rulebook, p. 38)
Bretonnian fleet (2 Galleons, 2 Corsair squadrons, 2 Buccaneer squadrons)
Ever since I read the MOW rulebook the Bretonnian ships have captured my imagination. It was the first fleet I completed and has been my favourite one to play since. I managed some outstanding victories with the Bretonnians during our first games. Once I almost annihilated an Imperial fleet within three turns with only minimal losses on my side. This has earned the Bretonnians a fearsome reputation among our players. When we played a four-fleet-free-for-all some time ago, this resulted in all three opposing fleets ganging up on my Bretonnians.
The Bretonnian fleet's great strengths are its high speed and its many guns. Taken together these mean the fleet can usually close quickly with the enemy and deliver some devastating broadsides at close range. The arrangement of guns in broadsides also lets it bring all of its guns to bear fairly often.
Its most important weaknesses are its dependency on the wind and its vulnerability to damage versus its guns. A sudden change in wind direction can wreak havoc on your tactic and the arrangement of the ships' guns in broadsides makes them vulnerable to damage, i.e. one hit to a gun location will effectively destroy two guns. That means ships will lose their damage dealing capacity quickly. Bretonnian ships are also somewhat vulnerable to boarding attacks from the bow or stern, because they have no guns in those directions and their crew complement is only average.
The Galleon is the Bretonnians' only man o'war and the centerpiece of the fleet. With its four gun broadsides it has almost as many guns as the Imperial Greatship and it is very fast (only the elf ships are faster). On the negative side it takes a bit less damage than its imperial counterpart and its crew complement is only four.
In battle I like to hold back my flagship for a bit while the buccaneers and corsairs engage the enemy. When they have weakened the opposing fleet, the fresh galleon joins the fray and tries to sink damaged ships quickly with its mighty broadsides.
I used the painting scheme from the example photos of Bretonnian ships in the basic set almost unchanged. I feel the bright colors give the fleet a majestic look when it is sailing into battle.
The Corsair squadrons form the backbone of the Bretonnian fleet. If you count the guns and catapults of the fleet in the above picture (Bretonnian fleet), the corsairs account for 36(!) guns of 58 total. This means that they must deliver the main blow to the enemy fleet. It seems unwise to me to start a long range artillery fight with the enemy, as the guns do a lot more damage at close range and the corsairs do lose their guns quickly. The high speed of the corsairs means they can close quickly with the enemy and that is what I usually do.
In my opinion the corsairs are one of the most powerful squadrons around - perhaps the most powerful. Use them decisively and wisely and your are on the road to victory.
The Buccaneers are the smallest and weakest ships of the Bretonnian fleet, but they are also cheap - only 75 points per squadron. Their armament differs from the rest of the fleet. They have a forward mounted catapult instead of guns. This makes them ideally suited for a special role in battle: screening. I usually deploy the Buccaneers in a perpendicular line in front of the rest of my fleet. This way they protect the other ships from early enemy fire. When they reach long firing distance they fire the catapults and stop. By the time the enemy closes with the buccaneers, my corsairs have sailed past them and are ready to engage the enemy at close range.
In a way the Buccaneers act as cannon fodder, but the enemy must waste his first precious broadsides on them, and their loss does not hurt too much since they cannot fire at close range anyway.
Cut-out templates for two Buccaneer squadrons:
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Created by Ralf Schemmann, last updated: October 5th 2005