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 so this article is all just the opinion of one gamer, but I really enjoy this game and I want to see others 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 and 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 but not only can you play Pirates, but you can play the various Imperial Powers (both major and minor on land and sea) of the era along with various Privateer factions and even many of the Native tribes!
This is a solid historical game and the designers are committed to keeping it that way and 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 century.
Games can be played on land or sea or even amphibiously. Your games will usually range from 20-60 men per side in a battle and take anywhere from 45 minutes to a couple hours.
The basic core mechanisms of the game are elegant and straightforward but there’s plenty of depth in the tactics and strategy 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 and lets both players stay involved at every moment.
What Do I Need to Play?
At minimum you need some figures and a rule book to start playing. The core rule book is $15-$35 and a Starter Box of minis is $65 so you’re basically looking at a $80-$100 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 Rule Book
The core rule book is absolutely necessary. The physical book is $35 but if you want to save some money and you don’t mind reading off a screen, you can get a pdf copy from Wargame Vault for $15. This rule book contains all the rules for game play and details, stats and rules for 3 Spanish, 3 English, 2 French and 1 Pirate faction.
There’s a free downloadable supplement from Firelock that opens up 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 rule book massively expands the game by introducing another 35+ factions including the new Dutch and Native powers along with many minor powers and new ways to play the Spanish, English, French and Pirates. This book also includes new special character rules, new scenarios, campaign rules, new ships, multiplayer rules, cavalry and many new units that you can layer into the factions covered in the core rule book. 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), but it’s a great expansion to the game when you’re ready for more.
There is a deluxe edition of the rule book that combines the core rule set with No Peace Beyond the Line and it’s beautiful but it’s not cheap.
The most straightforward way to start collecting minis is buying a nationality Starter Box. Each box contains 25 minis (except the European Militia box) that can easily be used to make either several different 100 point armies or if you want to upgrade troop veterancy and equipment, you can sometime even make some 150-200 point forces with a Starter Box.
Each Starter Box includes a commander, 8 models of two important troop types and 4 models of two other troop types along with a Nationality summary card that has 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 boxes are nicely reinforced by other Starter boxes and sometimes buying two different Starter boxes can be a cost effective way to really flesh out a collection.
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. The Pirates and Privateers Starter set will really round out your naval capabilities with sailors while the European Colonial Militia set would fill out land factions with cavalry, regulars and field guns. Combine 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 have the best equipment especially when it comes to muskets. Their units tend to to hit really hard when they initiate Melee combat but they don’t save very well and their Resolve isn’t very good.
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 Resolve and while they don’t hit as hard in melee combat, they are tough and don’t go down easy. The English cannons crews 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.
The Spanish don’t have a lot in common with the English and French and I would say they are stronger on land than sea. Their units are much more specialized and they have some very unique units including the Lanceros and Milicianos Indios. The European Colonial Militia set is a great way to expand their land options and so is the Native box if you want to get sneaky. If you want to expand the naval capabilities, the Dutch Box has some good units available to the Spanish and 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 but you could just buy some 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 so 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.
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 and in a more limited manner 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).
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 if would just recommend buying the blisters of units that interest you rather than buying a second box when you want to expand (although the Privateer and Pirate Box would be good).
If you want a one-click purchase, Firelock offers some great package deals that get you everything you need to get started at some savings.
They have nationality bundles that include a starter box, your choice of ship (price of the package varies by choice of ship) and an activation deck at approximate 10% off normal prices.
The other bundle style they offer is a two player bundle that includes the rule book, 4 d10’s, two activation decks of your choice 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 $124, this saves you around $35.
You’ll need a measuring tape for measuring distances and anything that measures up to at least 36″ should be fine.
You’ll need some 10 sided dice. 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.
You’ll need a standard deck of playing cards. Firelock makes lovely Faction decks with helpful info printed on them but you can save $18 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 that covers all this but if you’re on a budget, 12mm red and black d6 will do nicely and you could even go super cheap and use paper markers.
If you’re playing naval games you’ll need a ship movement gauge. You can buy one in a template set from Firelock or cut out the paper guage in the back of the rule book or even make your own wooden one using that paper as a template.
The sets of unit 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. If you use the Force Builder, you can print off your force with all the stats and abilities for all your units making the cards an unnecessary luxury. The rule book and your faction summary card also has most of 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.
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 do need some terrain elements to be fun. On the one hand you can use household items like a small box for a house, a washcloth for a crop field or forks and spoons for fences and walls. On the other extreme you can 3D print Spanish villas and churches and buy luxury pre-painted terrain pieces from places like 4Ground terrain suppliers or people who build by hand and sell on eBay.
If you don’t mind slowly building up a collection of terrain and putting in some sweat equity, you can find some decent pieces designed for fish tanks or Christmas villages that you can appropriate and modify to good effect.
There is an increasing number of very helpful game terrain building channels on YouTube as well that will help you build some fantastic terrain using very affordable/real world materials and basic techniques.
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.
What About Painting?
For some players Blood & Plunder is the next (or culmination) of a long line of skirmish games and painting is no big deal but 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, there will be some level of painting you can manage that will enhance the game for you and your opponents.
At the most basic level you can clean up your metal minis and spray them with a solid color or two so you don’t have the shiny “silver crew of shame.” If you simply spray them all over with grey then apply a couple quick bursts of white from above, it will bring out all the shadow and detail and make your minis look twice as good for only a few seconds of work.
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 ways.
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.
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.
Building and painting ships looks even more intimidating but it’s really not that bad! Clean the resin hull, glue a couple 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. The elastic string included with all ships works great for the rigging. 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.
Its possible to play Blood & Plunder only on land but sooner or later you’ll want a ship (or two)! Firelock now (as of April 2019) has at least 11 different boats/ships to choose from! Which should you get?
The Bark is attractive because of its low $35 price point. It’s a nice little ship and will work just fine for games up to 200 points or so.
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 it’s decks are nice sizes and you 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).
For a larger ship I would recommend the Light Frigate. I consider it the strongest war ship 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.
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
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.
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!
Offer to do a demonstration. Talk to game store owners and see if they’re willing to stock some product. Stores can order Firelock product from Alliance Distribution which nearly every game store works with. It’s not high risk. If things go well they can set up an account with Firelock later and get a better discount on larger quantities of product.
Try to generate interest with the local wargaming and 40K clubs. If there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest at one shop, try another. Even within the same general area, the tastes of clientele in different shops can vary a lot!
If you’re trying to generate interest, I would make it a priority to get a few models from two games them painted up so you can run little demo games and get people interested in the game.
Once you get a player or two interested make sure to play in a game store when you can so people will see the game in action!
If you find yourself active in promoting the game, contact Firelock about joining their Quartermaster program and they will support you with some store credit!
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 great game and a wonderful community of players has coalesced around it. Buy yourself a rule book and starter box and start having fun!