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“Getting Started With Blood & Plunder“
So you’re interested in Blood & Plunder! Great! I hope this introduction article helps you jump in and enjoy yourself.
I’m not an official representative for the game or Firelock Games. This article is just the opinion of one gamer, who really enjoys the game and wants others to enjoy it as well!
What is Blood & Plunder?
It’s a Pirate game, right? Yes, it’s a Pirate game but it covers much more than just piracy! Unlike other pirate games, it doesn’t include the fantastical zombie pirates and krakens that accompany the modern take on pirates. Blood & Plunder is a 28mm historical skirmish miniatures game that is set in the Golden Age of Piracy. In addition to Pirates, you can play the various Imperial Powers of the era(both major and minor). There are also various Privateer factions and even many of the Native tribes! The game can be played both on land and at sea.
This is a solid historical game and the designers are committed to keeping it that way. But they are just as committed to making it really fun and dynamic. It’s not stodgy, but everything you find in this game will be based on how things were really done in the 17th and early 18th century.
Games can be played on land, sea, or even amphibious landings combining both! Your games will usually range from 20-60 men per side. And an average battle can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours.
The basic core mechanisms of the game are elegant and straightforward. but there’s plenty of tactical and strategic depth. There is the challenge of building your armies and activating your units to keep you coming back for more. The core activation system in the game keeps games moving quickly and fairly.
What Do I Need to Play Blood & Plunder?
At minimum you need some figures and a rule book to start playing. The core rulebook is $15-$40 and a Starter Box of minis is $120. This means you’re looking at a $135-160 entry point. You’ll probably want a ship as well but you don’t have to have one to start playing.
You will also need some dice, playing cards, some tokens, and something to use as terrain for land games.
The Blood & Plunder Rule Book
The Blood & Plunder core rule book is absolutely necessary. The physical book is $40, but you can save some money with a pdf of the rulebook from for $15. This rulebook contains all the rules for gameplay, stats and rules for 3 Spanish, 3 English, 2 French, and 1 Pirate faction.
There’s a free downloadable supplement from Firelock that adds another 1 English, 1 Spanish, 1 Unaligned, and 2 French factions along with 6 more playable units. There’s another companion document with several new historic commanders that fill out those new factions.
The No Peace Beyond the Line expansion rulebook massively expands the game by introducing another 35+ factions. It also includes the new Dutch and Native powers along with many minor powers. It includes new ways to play the Spanish, English, French, and Pirates. This book also includes:
- New special Characters & Fighting Men models
- New scenarios
- Campaign rules
- New Ships
- Multiplayer rules
- Cavalry Units
This book basically quadruples the scope of the game. You can buy a bound copy for $40 or a pdf copy for $18. You don’t need this to start playing (unless you want to play Dutch, Natives, or a minor power like the Swedes or Portuguese). However, this is a great expansion to the game and I would consider it a must buy when you’re ready for more.
28mm Scale Historical National & Pirate Miniatures
The most straightforward way to start collecting minis is by buying a nationality Starter Box. Each box contains 25 minis (except the European Militia box). A Starter Box can easily be used to make several different 100-point armies for their Nation. If you want to upgrade troop training and equipment, you can often make 150-200 point forces with a single Starter Box.
Each Starter Box includes:
- A commander model
- 8 models of two important troop types
- 4 models of two other troop types
- a Nationality summary card with the special rules and stats for most of the units in that nationality
The French, English, Spanish and Dutch boxes all contain 8 Militia models and only 4 sailor models which makes those starter boxes very friendly to building for land games and less so for jumping straight into sea battles.
Some boxe fit well with other Starter boxes so sometimes buying two different Starter boxes can be a cost-effective way to flesh out a collection.
Recommended Starter Boxed Sets
French Starter Box
I would consider the French Starter Box one of the best entry points into the game. With it, you can easily play French Buccaneers and French Caribbean Militia.
- If you pair this starter with the “Pirates and Privateers Starter set” it adds enough sailors to fill out your force for naval games capabilities .
- When paired with the European Colonial Militia Starter set, it fill s out your land factions with cavalry, regulars, and field guns.
- Combine it an English starter set with the French and you have a cracking set of minis for the Unaligned Brethren of the Coast, Pirates, and Logwood Cutters factions.
In general, the French nation is one of the best equipment militaries, especially when it comes to muskets. Their units tend to hit really hard when they initiate Melee combat, but they don’t resist attacks (e.g. Shoot or Melee Save) very well and their Resolve tends to be lower than other nations.
English Starter Box
The English box can be combined in the same ways as the French to bolster land or sea factions. The English tend to have really good morale represented by a strong Resolve. And while they don’t hit as hard in melee combat, they are tough and don’t go down easy. Cannons crews for the English are superior to the French and Spanish as well. I would probably generalize the English as the most “well-rounded” faction with less specialized units.
Spanish Starter Box
The Spanish don’t have a lot in common with the English or French. As a whole, I would say they are stronger on land than on sea. Their units are much more specialized and they have some very unique units including the Lanceros and Milicianos Indios.
The European Colonial Militia Starter Box
The European Colonial Militia is a great way to expand the land options for the English, French, Spanish, or Dutch nations. However, it’s not a greater standalone starter set.
Natives Starter Box
If you want to be sneaky or play a finesse army, the Native box is what you are looking for. The Natives are kind of their own thing. They don’t really combo well with any other starter box, but you can use Natives extensively in the Spanish factions. There are additional options in the land-based English and French factions. The Natives are best on land and they are probably the most rule-intensive nationality (difficult for beginners).
Dutch Starter Box
If you want to expand the naval capabilities, the Dutch Box has some good units available to the Spanish. The Pirate and Privateers Box is always good for more sailors!
The Dutch faction has some of the best naval options in the game. A Privateers and Pirates will fill them out nicely. Alternatively you could buy more Zeelieden and Enter Ploeg packs and be fairly well off. Several Dutch units can be used as support units for basically all the other nationalities. Which means, if you want to try several nationalities, the Dutch can support anyone! The Dutch seem really well equipped and they have the punch of the French with the sturdiness of the English.
Unaligned Starter Box
If you want to play Pirates the Unaligned Box is a great place to start. The Unaligned factions have so many units available to them, I would just recommend buying the blisters of units that interest you. IF you wanted to buy a second box expansion, the Privateer and Pirate Box is a good option.
Blood & Plunder Starter Pack Bundles
If you want a one-click purchase, Firelock offers some great package deals that to help you get started at some savings.
Nationality bundles that include a starter box, your choice of ship (the price varies by ship), and an activation deck for about 10% off normal prices.
The other offer is a two-player bundle that includes the rulebook, 4 d10s, two activation decks, and two 56 points forces of your choice of nationalities. With this pack, you can get playing with your buddy right away at a reasonably low price point. Packaged together for $165, this saves you around $50.
Game Accessories for Blood & Plunder
There area few other items you sill need to start your journey into the miniature wargame. But if you’ve played other mini games, you may already have them on hand. If not, they are relatively low cost items.
Other Misc Items You Need to Play Blood & Plunder
- A measuring tape (or anything that measures up to at least 36″)
- Some 10-sided Dice. Typically you roll, 1 per model in a unit during an attack so 6-12 dice.
- A standard deck of playing cards (per player)
- tokens and markers to keep track of game conditions like reloads, fatigue, and damage.
- 3 Coins for use as Fortune Tokens (per player)
Firelock Games d10 Dice Options
Firelock makes some beautiful dice for the game but any D10 will do. If you do go with the Firelock dice, I highly recommend the light-colored plunder dice. The nation-specific dice are cool but pretty hard to read compared to the plunder dice.
Firelock Games Nation Activation Decks
Firelock makes lovely Faction decks with helpful info printed on them but you can save $22 by using a standard set if you like.
You’ll need some tokens and markers to keep track of game conditions like reloads, fatigue and damage.
Firelock makes a nice pack of d6 for statuses, but if on a budget, 12mm red and black d6 will do nicely. If you wanted to go super cheap you could use paper markers or tokens from your other board games.
Ship Movement Guage
If you’re playing naval games you’ll need a ship movement gauge. You can buy a template set from Firelock or cut out the paper gauges in the back of the rule book. I’ve also seen players make their own wooden one using that paper as a template.
Blood & Plunder Unit Stat Cards
The sets of Unit & Character cards are very helpful so you can collect all the stats of your force in one place before a game. There are a lot of cards in those packs so they’re not cheap, but they’re really nice. However, these are not required. Using the free Blood & Plunder Force Builder app, you can print off your force with all the stats and abilities. Since you can print your forces for free, unit cards may seem an unnecessary luxury, but they are helpful for quick reference. If you start running demos, they are extremely helpful for new players because of they are segmented in smaller bites than full page printouts. The rulebook and expansion books also have the stats you need but if you like individual stat cards, they’re available.
You’ll also want 3 coins of some sort to use are your “Fortune Points” which you can spend for powerful effects during a game.
A Carry Case for your Miniatures
Another accessory that might be worthwhile is a case for your minis. If you paint them you don’t want them jumbled in a box getting chipped and ruined after you invested all that effort into making them look good! I used Chessex mini cases with foam inserts to protect my minis.
You can be a minimalist on this or you can go crazy. Land games need some terrain elements to be fun. you will want to move units behind cover. You can use common household items, like a small box, as buildings, a washcloths for a crop field, or forks and spoons for fences and walls. On the other extreme, you can 3D print Spanish villas and churches or buy luxury pre-painted terrain pieces. We have several terrain suppliers we have used and reviewed. Ebay and etsy are also great options for finding terrain in the 28mm wargaming scale.
Check out some of our top terrain recommendations
Homemade Terrain Suggestions
If you don’t mind slowly building up a collection of terrain and putting in some sweat equity, you can build a number of pieces yourself. The Plunder Den is a great terrain building YouTube channel and features a number of Blood & Plunder compatible ideas. The Terrain Tutor is also a very helpful game terrain-building channels on YouTube. Both will will help you build some fantastic terrain using very affordable/real world materials and basic techniques.
You can also find some decent pieces designed for fish tanks or Christmas villages that you can appropriate and modify to good effect.
Any flat surface will work to play on but a grass or ocean gaming mat will really enhance the visual experience. Not necessary at all but makes the game look great. 3×4′ is the basic size for most battles but the 4×6′ is more readily available.
Do I Have to Paint my Blood & Plunder Miniatures?
For some players, Blood & Plunder is the next of a long line of skirmish games and painting is no big deal. For others, this is their first real miniatures game and their first opportunity to delve into painting minis.
No matter your skill level, experience, or resources, some level of painting will enhance the game for you and your opponents.
At the most basic level, you can spray them with a solid color or two to not have a shiny “silver crew of shame.” If you spray them all over with grey and then apply a couple quick bursts of white primer from above you will have a neat effect. It will bring out all the shadow and detail and make your minis look twice as good for only a few seconds of work (see below).
At the next level, you can spray them with a basic primary color then pick out a few other colors so they have some interest. Even spraying white and painting their flesh and one other color like their pants or jacket will go a long way.
The next level of painting takes more effort but is markedly more impressive. With a set of basic colors you can completely paint your minis and then apply a product like Army Painter’s Quickshade. The Quickshade will settle in the cracks and crevices which brings the mini to life. Apply a flat finish spray after it dries and your minis will look great.
Additional Painting Recommendations
At the next level you can invest in a full line of paints like Citadel or Vallejo Model Color along with some thin washes and then use the “4-step method”: prime, base colors, wash, and highlight. I learned this method by following Sorastro’s video series painting Star Wars Imperial Assault. It takes a good hour or more per mini but the results can be smooth, dramatic, and striking.
I have some painting guides on my blog and I’ll be adding to the available guides as I’m able.
Painting Blood & Plunder Ships
Building and painting ships looks even more intimidating but it’s really not that bad! Clean the resin hull, glue a couple of wooden pieces to the hull, then prime it with a basic brown you can use as the base wood color, then you can just do some basic contrasting brown colors for the rails and inside walls etc. or you can go crazy with all the tiny details. The Quickshade can give you quick and solid results here as well or you can use the Citadel shades. The masts glue together easily and you can use craft foam or parchment paper for sails. Using elastic string for jewelry making works great for the rigging (older kits included it with the models). The recommended rigging method is pretty basic but I think basic is smart so you can get models in and out of your ship without ruining all your hard work. You can kind of spend as much time as you want on a ship but you can do a basic paint job on a small ship and get it rigged in 3 hours or less.
Getting Started With Blood & Plunder Ships
It is possible to play Blood & Plunder only on land but sooner or later you’ll want a ship (or two)! Firelock now (as of February 2022) has at least 12 different boats/ships to choose from! Be sure to also check out our in-depth guide to all the Blood & Plunder ships.
Which Blood & Plunder ship should you get?
The Bark is attractive because of its low $54 price point. It’s a nice little ship and will work just fine for games up to 200 points or so.
Primary Ship Recommendations
If you can put a little money out, the Sloop is probably the most flexible ship. It’s easy to sail, it carries a solid 6 cannons, it’s fast, it turns well and it can sail upwind. It’s a bit fragile vs a ship full of cannons but it can easily be used in games of 100-300 points to good effect.
My first recommendation is a Sloop but a Tartana is a good option as well for the same size of games and it’s a little cheaper. It’s not as fast and it can’t take as many cannons but its decks are nice sizes and it’s a good aggressive ship with 4 swivel guns in front (the Sloop is best running away from the enemy with 4 swivel guns in the back).
Larger Ship Recommendations
For a larger ship, I would recommend the Light Frigate. I consider it the strongest warship in the game. It’s fast, it can take a lot of cannons and it’s super tough. You can play some really good 200-400 point games with a Light Frigate and you could even use it in 100-point games with no cannons. Very flexible and powerful ship.
Native Ship Recommendations
If you choose to jump into the deep end of the game and start with Natives, your options are considerably different as they can’t take the standard European-style ships. You’ll want some combination of canoes and Piraguas for sea battles.
Learning to Play Blood & Plunder
There’s no substitute for just reading the rule book, but you can learn all the basics by watching the Learn to Play videos that Firelock has released on YouTube. I found watching some of the recorded games produced with Beasts of War to be very helpful as well. You can see the game in action and watch peoples apply the various modifiers and faction rules and see how everything comes together in a game. The Firelock/Beasts of War team also produced a video series looking at each nationality and how they differ from each other which can be helpful.
How To Play Blood & Plunder YouTube tutorials
Join a Local Blood & Plunder Gaming Community
You’re going to need someone to play with! Gaming is really about connecting with other people! There might be a thriving local community you can join but this might be something you have to build up yourself. If there isn’t a local community, get some of your minis and a ship painted up and bring them into a game shop to show off and generate interest. I left a painted Sloop and crew at my local game shop in the display case for a month or two after the first Kickstarter and it generated a good bit of interest even before the game was widely available!
Join the Blood & Plunder Facebook Group
You should absolutely join the international community on Facebook as well! There’s over 4,000 members in the official Blood & Plunder group and you can see peoples’ games, painting, and terrain and you can get rules questions answered quickly by either players or the game designers who are active within the group.
Welcome to the Blood & Plunder Community!
If you’re a new player, welcome! If you’re thinking about getting into the game, I encourage you to take the plunge! Jump right in, the water’s fine. It’s a great game and a wonderful community of players has coalesced around it. Buy yourself a rule book and starter box and start having fun!
Related Articles of Interest
- Strategy & Tactics article: Deciding What to Bring to War and Making a List. It covers multiple suggestions on choosing the right units and how to prep for a fight before the start of the battle.
- Ultimate Guide to Blood & Plunder Ships – Get the stats, reviews, assembly & painting guides for every Blood & Plunder ship produced by Firelock Games.
- Force Building I – Basics and Universal Guidelines – Force building is a huge part of a miniatures game like Blood & Plunder. Start learning the basics here.