By Dan Carlson
Ahoy thar ye swabs! Yer ordinary author has tasked me with givin’ an overview of the Pirates Faction! All the points made in this here piece are commin’ from my own experience as a sailor (player). If ye be havin’ any disagreements on the usage of the Faction, ye can send me a direct message on the ol’ Facebook! Just be civil or ye will be blocked faster than a non-payin’ customer at Port Royal Brothel!
Are you sick and tired of being legitimate? Does being a lackey of the State no longer fill your holds with indigo, Silver, Logwood, and Gold? The governor of Jamaica or Tortuga stop handing out Letters of Marque because of “PeAcE”? Do you have “0” marketable skills besides sailing, pillaging, and plundering? Well then yeet that old nationality flag, grab an eyepatch, and get ready to take some prizes because today we are going to take a look at the “Pirates” Faction from Blood and Plunder!
Force Special Rules
The Pirates (1683-1713, so no Blackbeard here…yet!) have a few flavorful special rules. The first one states “When taking a Strike Test, the Force’s Commander may roll two d10 and choose the result”. This can be handy since without any kind of attacker bonus to your dice roll, you’ll more often than not be the defender. However, if you *do* manage to outroll your opponent, you will gain access to the second special rule for this Faction (and honestly it’s one of my favorites)…
False Colors! Essentially, if you manage secure being the attacker in a sea or amphibious scenario (no land, because why would you take pirates off their ship???) your Force is flying false colors to deceive the enemy. At the start of each turn, you will need to roll a d10. If the result is a 7 or higher, the ruse is discovered and your false colors have no effect (You hobbyists out there could totally make flags swap-able on your ships for that added effect!). However, if you roll lower than 7, your entire force cannot be attacked this turn until one of your units moves within 12” of an enemy. With no bonus to the roll for being the attacker, this rule is often rare since most other naval Factions have anywhere from a +2 to +4. Should you pull it off though, you will get at least a turn to maneuver freely with very little risk.
A little early, but I figured I should cover this sooner than later. The only force option available to the Pirates is Grapeshot. You essentially can take grapeshot in all your cannons for free, but you can ONLY fire grapeshot during the game. Personally, I’d rather just pay the points and have options, but if your list needs a few extra points, go ahead and take it. Grapeshot essentially turns your cannons into giant swivel guns, with a 6+ base shoot test. What makes this deadly is that you roll all the dice for that cannon simultaneously! Up close (it gets even more silly if you add a master gunner) this can be devastating to your enemy’s ship! As the Pirates faction, your goal should be to get close and board anyway, so Grapeshot will help achieve that goal.
The Core Units in this faction are basically made up of the 4 main Nationality’s “Sailor” Units. It’s very similar to the Brethren of the Coast, except that you don’t get Veteran Freebooters and Kapers as Core Units. All the “Sailor” units are armed with Pistols and Standard Melee Weapons, and can be downgraded for -1pt a model if you take away their pistols. They all clock in at 4pts a model and can be upgraded to Veteran for 1pt. All the vanilla sailor units may also take explosives and muskets (Matchlocks for the Spanish, Buccaneer Guns for the French, and Firelocks for the English and Dutch) at an extra points cost, and ⅓ may take blunderbusses for free. Any other differences will be noted in their respective entry,
These have been covered on this blog before, so I won’t spend too much time here. These guys are great for manning cannons, and just okay at everything else. The Expert ARtillery Crew rule allows you to gain a free reload when activated on a spade or a heart, which is useful but not important for this faction. You can take away their pistols for 3pts a model (assuming you don’t upgrade them to Veteran), but honestly, there are better options.
Vive la France! The French sailor unit are a favorite among the Blood and Plunder Community. With a 5/7 Fight statline, and Hard Chargers, these guys are more at home spilling blood on the deck than on a cannon. They do come with the standard Sailors and Artillery Crew Special Rules, this makes them a more killy version of the Sea Dogs minus the Expert Artillery Crew rule. The ability to take Buccaneer guns for 4pts can help you out-range your opponents sharpshooter (Unless they are also armed with Buccaneer Guns obviously), but you’ll usually be rolling 10s for that extra 4 Inches its a gamble.
These guys have been covered here before as well, so I’ll skip to the meaty parts (If you haven’t seen the Overviews for the Armada de Barlovento and Guarda Costas, go read those right now then come back!). With a 5/7 Fight skill and Ruthless, these guys make an excellent boarding party after you lay some of that sweet, sweet Fatigue on your opponent. The only drawback is that the Poorly Equipped rule can be a pain in the culo if you plan on reloading anything. For best results, keep these guys in cover and prone until it’s time to strike.
Finally, some sweet Dutch goodness! Its no secret that ya boi loves the Dutch, seeing as I play them just as often as my beloved Pirates, and with good reason! The Zeelieden statline may not look impressive, with a 6/6 Fight Skill and a 7/7 Shoot Skill. What makes these guys (and gals if you wanna model them like that!) great is their Special Rules. Expert Artillery Crew makes loading those guns quicker, but we;ve seen that before. Hard Chargers makes these guys decent on a charge, but not as good as the Marins or Marineros if you’ve lathered on that Fatigue.
What makes these guys great is the Expert Sailors Special Rule. They pass all Advanced Maneuver and Sail Setting Tests on a glorious 4+. “Way to go Dan, that’s about as exciting as being called in on a day off” is what you, dear reader, are probably thinking. I will ask you this though, have you ever Box-Hauled into a boarding action? I have, and it’s hilarious! Have you used Wearing to get that extra inch of Maneuverability? Have you ever desperately needed to pass an Advanced Maneuver Test and botched it? It’s a very rare occurrence with these guys. I will typically take 1 unit of Zeelieden just to do all the “Sailing Stuff”. The Hard Chargers Rule also makes them a much better unit to take than Sea Dogs because they will hit a little harder in close combat. As far as this Dan is concerned, these guys are a solid 10/10 as far as versatility goes!
Freebooters are a good unit for ranged combat. Marksman, Ball and Shot, and Fast Reload make this unit terrifying at Mid-Range. Anybody who chooses to charge a unit of these Englishmen are in for a rude awakening. Marksman allows you to spend 2 actions to shoot at a -1 Bonus, Ball and Shot lets you roll additional hits for every natural 10 inside 12”, and Fast Reload grants you a free reload when activated on a spade. They come stocked with Buccaneer Guns and Melee Weapons. Freebooters have an English statline, which means they are decent at a little bit of everything, but don’t excel at anything in particular. At 6pts each, I think they are a little pricey when compared to their french counterparts. As far as Pirates go, use these guys to lather on Fatigue while you maneuver your ship in to board.
The French Version of Freebooters offer a little more to this faction. They are not as good at shooting due to the lack of the Marksman ability, but retain the Ball and Shot and Fast Reload rules. What is unique about Filibusters is that they bring a new tool to the fight: Brace. Of. Pistols. Historically, these were popular because all pistols were single shot weapons. Carrying multiple allows you to fire, YEET, then pull out another pistol and fire again. In game, this means that when the Filibusters use pistols, they don’t generate reload markers. These Frenchies clock in with a 5/7 Fight Skill (Useful, especially with BoP), and a 6/7 Shoot Skill (Good, but not amazing like a certain other French unit…). All this awesomeness comes at a cost though, 6pts each and 7 if you want to make them Veteran. The BoP makes them way better for close combat, and are matched by only one unit (again, in my opinion) when it comes to boarding parties.
The Support Units for the Pirates mirror the Core Units, being a selection of other Units from the other European Nationalities. Essentially, you can kit your Force out to play how you’d like.
These Dutch Sailor Musketeers are a good Core unit, but a mediocre Support Unit in my opinion. 5pts each, with Expert Sailors, Artillery Crew, and Brawlers. They have a 6/6 Fight Skill and a 6/7 Shoot Skill. If these guys were core units, you could use them in order to keep your ship going and maneuvering with Zeeliden or Sea Dogs on the guns. However, since they are a Support Slot, I’d only add these to larger point games where you have some points to play with and want a little more shooting and maneuvering.
Imagine you’re on a ship, the smoke from musket and cannon fire is thicker than an awful Christmas sweater…all of a sudden and angry Dutchman comes storming over, a pistol in each hand and an axe in his teeth. This is the Enter Ploeg, what I consider to be the best boarding party in the game. Most players will hold the Les Enfants Perdus in that regard, but I respectfully disagree. While the French Unit does come with Tough (remove a point of fatigue at the end of the turn if the unit did not push) and Limited Explosives, where they fall short is that abysmal 8+ save for Fighting and Shooting. 6pts a model for what is essentially a suicide unit it too much in thus Captain’s book. They may not ever break, but they will drop like flies to just about anything. The Enter Ploeg bust in with a 5\6 Fight and a 6/7 Shoot with Resolve 4.
They are VETERAN for 6pts a model can take explosives for 4 points a model (only 1 in 4 may carry). They carry Melee weapons and that amazing Brace of Pistols. They also come with Expert Artillery Crew and Expert Sailors, but you want these guys to swing over and start chopping heads.
European Sailors or Pressed Men
You can only take one or the other, and honestly with so many options, both these units fall short. Pressed Men are cheap at 2pts a model and are only armed with swords (or lances for 1 pt each) and cost 3 points each to arm with pistols. Stats are Militia-esque at 7\8, 7/7, and they have an awful resolve of 7. If you want to try to horde-up on your enemy, I guess these guys could work, but once they have to take Fatigue tests they’ll tip like cows.
European Sailors are better than Pressed Men by a wide margin at 4pts each with a 6/7 FIght, 6/7 Shoot, and resolve 5. Battle Hardened allows them to stay in combat by reducing the number of dice rolled for a Fatigue Test by 1, but only if it was the result of a Fight action. However, with so many sailor options already available, these guys kind of fall into obscurity.
Forlorn Hope or Les Enfants Perdus
Now, both these units are great boarding parties. While the Dan prefers the Enter Ploeg, I can see the use of the Forlorn Hope due to their better Statline than the Enfants. At 6/6 Fight and 6/7 Shoot, they are definitely hardier and come with Buccaneer Guns, Brace of Pistols, Melee Weapons, and Limited Explosives. The main issue is that they come in as 7pts a model for Trained. If you don’t want the Ploeg, go ahead and take Forlorn Hope if you got points to spare.
Now, the basic Sea Commander, French Buccaneer Commander, and English Buccaneer Commander have merit and offer their own little flavors. However, I’m going to leave the overview of the French and English Buccaneer Commanders to Joseph, because I’m here to cover the very first “Real” Pirate of the Carribbean: Jean Hamlyn!
Jean Hamilyn is our first pirate in Blood and Plunder that doesn’t care what nationality you are. He bites his glorious thumb at every monarch in existence. He may *only* lead the Pirates Faction and has some fun rules. He clocks in at 25pts with a 12” command range and 2 Command Points to divvy out to his crew, Its not great but he makes up for this in his Special Rules. He’s got Inspiring, which allows you to re-roll failed rally tests when Jean’s unit is active. Broadside is good so you can try to stack up that damage with your cannons. Ruthless is always good for when you later up Fatigue. Cunning will get you out of charge distance (hopefully) should Jean’s Unit fall back. Finally, he’ got Vendetta: English, French, and Spanish, which will keep your pirates from cuttin’ and runnin’! If you want to emulate the real deal, get a light frigate, paint it up to look like a taken Dutch Vessel and name her La Trompeuse or La Nouvelle Trompeuse!
Tactics for the pirates are pretty straight-forward. Use your cannons to stack up fatigue on the enemy, then go ahead and fly on in to board! No fancy Maneuvers, no sneakiness outside of False Colors should you get to be the attacker. However, against most naval fations you’ll be defending, so you can emulate the REAL Jean Hamlyn by gunning and running! Since your opponent will be hunting you 8/10 times, you can just use your superior speed (I recommend a corvette or light frigate) to stay out of reach and fire (provided you have Zeelieden or Sea Dogs on your cannons and/or swivels) away, hopefully stacking up fatigue or reducing unit strength before boarding ot being boarded. If you opt to take a heavier ship, you will need to make sure you control the engagement and keep firing with everything you can. If you have the unfortunate please of fighting a decently kitted out Galleon, try to cut across the stern, unload, and board (easier said than done I know, but I’m a simple guy).
Jean Hamlyn vs Spanish Armada de Barlovento
- 100 point and 150 point forces using only the Unaligned Starter Set
- 200 Point Corvette Force
- 200 Point Jean Hamlyn Tartana Force
- 250 Point Jean Hamlyn Brigantine Force
- 300 Point Jean Hamlyn Light Frigate Force
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