The Sloop was my first ship and it took me a while to appreciate its true power and majesty! To me the Sloop is quintessential pirate vessel: light, fast, and maneuverable and it can fight or run depending on how the battle goes. This is probably still my favorite ship and I’m happy to look at it in detail here!
I’ll be primarily looking at the basic Sloop but after looking at that in detail, I’ll quickly look at the Privateer Sloop and Heavy Bark that use the same model.
The Sloop is one of the larger two-decked ships in Blood & Plunder and its traits and attributes combine to make it one of my favorite ships.
The basic Sloop has a top speed of 4″ which means a warship like the Light Frigate can technically outrun it in a downwind race, but it’s windward value of 0″ makes it faster and more nimble in a battle and gives it the option of fleeing upwind if necessary.
Its sail settings of 4″, 2″ and 0″ combined with Simple Rig make it extremely easy to change your speed in response to wind events or as a way to line up a shot.
The Sloop is probably the most maneuverable ship in the game. It has a full 4″ turn value so nothing can out-turn it and it’s Fore-and-Aft Rig trait makes it extremely good at tacking against the wind. It can cross the wind’s eye with fairly little fear of ever getting stuck.
The Sloop’s sail settings of 4″ and 2″ combined with Easy to Handle means you can speed up or slow down at a moment’s notice. You could technically go from 4″ to stopped (and vice versa) in two activation if you were successful with 2 sailing actions. That could really throw your opponent off!
The Draft Value of 5 makes it fairly safe to sail over those Shoals but you don’t get the Shallow Draft rule like the Bark.
The Sloop is no tank like the Frigate, but it’s a little tougher than the comparable Tartana and Corvette. At 4/5 Fortitude and Integrity, it can take a couple cannons shots before it starts to break apart. You should really use your speed and maneuverability to stay out of situations where you’ll be hit by too many cannons. Six hits will give a fresh Sloop a Critical Hit and that’s within the realm of possibility for a broadside from 12 cannon dice at 8-12″.
That one more point of Integrity does give it an advantage over the other ships in its class but it’s still a fairly fragile ship.
With stats of 3/4, the rigging is fairly fragile as well but the Simple Rig trait helps. If your rigging does take any substantial hits, it could quickly cripple you since the Sloop relies on speed and maneuverability. You really want to avoid the Broken Mast Critical Hit since you only have one mast…
One of the other main advantages the Sloop has over other 2-deck ships is the space for 6 cannons. The ability to shoot 3 cannons at the same time and the ability to take Medium Guns (unlike the Bark) makes the Sloop a much better ship if you’re looking to get value out of artillery. This makes the Sloop a great choice for lower point games where you’re looking to use a good amount of Artillery. You can even make a decent 100 point Sloop list with a full compliment of Light Cannons and some Swivel Guns.
Bark, Tartana, Sloop, Light Frigate and Galleon
The Sloop has very non-standard deck sizes. The front deck is massive and can contain a full 27 models (with the 6 Light Cannons) making it ideal for 200 points games where unit size is capped at 12 models. This is pretty important since you will want to use all 12 models (or even 13 if you use a Master Gunner) to man a set of 3 Medium Cannons.
The back deck is much smaller and can only hold 16 models. This is enough space to hold 2 fairly decent sized units but if you want to take advantage of the full 4 Swivel Guns in the back, you’ll most likely want 10-12 models of gun crew making that last unit pretty small. I find that back deck can be a little frustrating but the front deck makes up for it.
In the No Peace Beyond the Line rule book, you can pay some extra points to upgrade your sloop if you want. The Topsail upgrade gives you the Box Haul maneuver back and the Shallow Draft ability helps you be safe in shallow water like the Bark.
These are fun options but I wouldn’t consider them “auto buys” and will be useful only if your scenario makes it extra helpful or you have some crazy plans!
I think the Sloop works best at around 200 points. At that level you can buy cannons for it and still have room to put plenty of men on the ship. It works at 100 but it’s certainly no a full ship. You can buy elite troops and actually fit 300 points into a Sloop if you want!
I consider the Sloop one of the best ships in the game but I also consider it one of the most multipurpose ships in the game. You can easily use it as a cannon ship in lower point games, a boarding party ship at any point level and you can effectively use it as a fast and maneuverable platform for marksmen. If you were to buy one ship for your Blood & Plunder games, this would be my recommendation. You can do anything with it!
Here’s a wide variety of Sloop lists varying from 100-300 points and emphasizing different play styles. All these lists use the new updated costs from the 1.3 Errata but the Force Builder doesn’t have those costs so I adjusted as necessary. I don’t know what will happen to the totals when the Force Builder is updated but the force won’t have to change.
There’s two new variations of the Sloop in No Peace Beyond the Line. The Privateer Sloop emphasizes speed and agility even further and the Heavy Bark takes away a little of that speed and gives it some more durability.
The Privateer Sloop is a little more fragile than the standard Sloop, but it gains the Swift trait and increases its top from speed from 4″ to 5.” If you want a super fast ship, this is the way to go! It forfeits a point of Integrity and it costs 1 point less to include in your force.
If you want to stay away from you opponent, this is an ideal ship. The new update to the Swift rule requires you to have a unit assigned to the Sheets and Braces which makes this powerful extra inch of speed cost more, but it’s still really fun to speed around the board in a Privateer Sloop! Just don’t get hit by those enemy cannons!
The 2″ sail setting is also changed to a 3″ making it a little faster at that middle setting.
This version of the Sloop has an extra point of Integrity which brings it up to a 4/6 which is as stout as a Brigantine.
It gains a -1′ windward penalty and loses the Fore-and-aft Rig trait. That loss of the Fore-and-aft Rig makes Tacking more difficult but also gives you the Box Haul maneuver again.
I think this would be a good choice if you plan to try to go toe-to-toe with a larger cannon ship. You still get some good speed and a turn of 4″, but you have some extra Integrity to keep you going
Uses for a Sloop
Like I mentioned earlier, I think the Sloop can fulfill a wide variety of roles.
If you want to use it as a boarding ship, use the Privateer Sloop, drop the cannons and fill the front with something like Freebooters or Flibustiers and some Marins on the swivel guns and then put a few muskets in the back and a sailor unit with a Master Sailor to help you catch your prey.
If you want to use it as a cannon ship, you can load it with Medium Cannons and 12-13 cannon crew (at 200 points with a Master Gunner) with some support rifles or swivels. You could even use the Heavy Bark version if you want some extra health. Using Dutch for this purpose might be really good since you get Expert Artillery Crew, Expert Sailors and you can use Strict to make your cannon shots more accurate now!
If you want to load a ship with Marksmen, you can use a standard Sloop or Privateer Sloop and just run from your enemy. Load that back section with the full 4 Swivel Guns and some Boucaniers and fire backwards as you run. You can occasionally turn and fire your cannons into the pursuing ship without losing too much forward momentum.
You could use the Privateer Sloop well as a Pirate ship flying false colors since you could use Swift to help close that last few inches before your cover is blown.
I’ve seen the Sloop used very effectively in amphibious games as well. You don’t have to fill it as full of men since there’s no real danger of boarding. You can just sail along the coastline and fire grapeshot into the defenders and cause some major havoc all from the behind that nice portable cover.
In larger naval games you can actually run two sloops against a larger ship. I’ve used a 200 and a 150 point Sloop vs a 350 point Frigate. It’s a little dangerous and you have to be careful to not let one Sloop get targeted because it will get overwhelmed, but with some careful sailing, it could be effective.
The Sloop has been a dominant ship in my local area. It has shown some major weakness in larger games with more cannons on the table. In a smaller game, you can either take that first shot and try to surpress the cannon crew so they can’t fire again, but if you’re facing a couple ships of cannons, the Sloop tends to “melt” before the game ends. It’s an easy target for those larger cannons.
In this 600 point game, one sloop sunk to the bottom and the other barely limped off the board while the the larger ships took fairly light damage. If you’re the smallest ship on the board, you’re probably going to get hit first unless you can dodge out of the way and that becomes more difficult to do as more ships fill up the table.
The Sloop is probably my favorite ship and I would easily count it as the best ship in the game for anything 200 points and under. It’s maneuverable, it’s fast and never slows down, even while tacking! It’s a little fragile but it has a little more lasting power than all the other 2-deck ships in the game.
No matter your play style or faction (excluding Natives), I think a Sloop is an excellent purchase if you plan to play any naval games. A Sloop belongs in every fleet!
You can listen to a full sloop review here.