The Sloop is the fastest, the Galleon is the biggest, the Light Frigate is the toughest and the Brigantine is the “mediumist”. It can sail reasonably fast, turn reasonably well, it’s reasonably tough and it can deliver a reasonable broadside. It’s a flexible mid-sized ship that doesn’t particularly specialize but does decently in all areas.
The Brigantine is the smallest 3-deck ship currently available for Blood & Plunder. It can take 4 pairs of light or medium cannons along with up to 6 swivel guns and it is moderately fast and maneuverable.
Speed and Maneuverability
With a top speed of 4″, the Brigantine is average. The -1″ Windward penalty makes it slower than the nimble Sloop and Tartana, but lets make decent progress upwind when it needs to. Staysails ensures you can move upwind even if your sail has been reduced but doesn’t often come into play.
It does have the Sweeps 2 trait, but I would probably avoid using that in most situations unless you’re using the Spanish Corsairs which could bring that up to 3″.
The Turn value of 3″ is very decent but not as impressive as the Sloop or Tartana. For a 3 deck ship, it’s very respectable but you won’t out maneuver those quick, lighter ships.
You get a small perk for your maneuverability with the Hybrid Rig trait. If you aren’t using your highest sail setting, you get the Fore-and-Aft Rig rule which lets you Tack with impunity
With a Draft value of 6, you’re pretty safe when going over shoals and shallow water which does help your ability to navigate during a game. If you really want to hug the coast, you can pay 3 points to gain the Shallow Draft trait which gives you two dice when testing for running aground.
With a Fortitude and Integrity of 4/6, the Brigantine is a step up from the Sloop and other two deck ships and equal to the Fluyt, but it is still very noticeably less durable than the Light Frigate or the 4-deck ships.
The Rigging’s 3/5 is a little better than the Sloop, the same as a Bark and Tartana and a little worse than the Corvette, Fluyt and Light Frigate.
One of the strengths of the Brigantine is that it has a full 3 decks so you can use more than 4 units which can be limiting on the Sloop and smaller ships. All the decks are reasonably large as well.
The front deck can hold 17 models. You’ll usually want to put some gun crew on the 4 swivels up there and possibly some more small arm firepower or a boarding party. The middle deck can take 20 models with Light Guns which means you can fully man the cannons if you want and include a good sized unit with your commander attached.
The back deck can hold 19 models. With the cannon ports and swivel mounts, you have choices to make. If you want both cannons and swivels manned, you could use one huge unit to service all the guns but it won’t be as efficient as it could be since they have different reload times. Or you could just count on that one unit to fire the cannons most of the game and use the swivels as a defensive measure or in “time of great need” or opportunity. I’ve also just manned the cannons with one unit, then manned the swivels with a separate unit but it takes up the entire deck with assigned units which annoys me for some reason.
With 2 pairs of cannons on the middle and back decks, I don’t think this is the optimal gunship but it’s enough to take on most anything smaller than a Light Frigate. If you have the points, I would recommend taking Medium Guns to boost your firepower as much as possible if you plan to make cannons a large part of your game.
The guns in the rear deck seems difficult to bring to bear with regularity if you’re fighting a smaller, more maneuverable ship. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found that those back guns don’t fire as often in my games.
I think I’ve mentioned this before but in general, I find the 2+2 cannon combo to be less effective than the Sloop’s bank of 3 guns. You’ll have to use the Broadside rule effectively to get those coveted Critical Hits on the enemy since two cannons firing together will rarely get you enough hits until your target is already matchwood.
Sloop of War and Privateer Brigantine
In the No Peace Beyond the Line rule book you can find two alternate ways to use the Brigantine model.
The Sloop of War is substantially different, mostly because it has square sails on the main mast rather than the Brigantine’s signature gaff rigged main sail.
Those square sails give the ship another inch of speed which is a big deal. It has a top speed of 5″ and sail settings of 5″/4″/2″/0. The -2″ Windward penalty balances it a little, but anything with a 5″ sail setting is worth looking at.
The ship retains some of the same special rules but it exchanges the Hybrid Rig trait for the Square Sails. Hybrid Rig makes Tacking easy but the Square Sails on the Sloop of War does the opposite, forcing you to roll 2 dice on a Tack and take the worst result rather than the best. So it’s faster but not as good working against the wind or crossing the wind’s eye.
The Sloop of War also gives you the option of paying 2 points for a Fighting Top on one of the two masts.
Overall I really like the Sloop of War, mostly for the 5″ sail setting. But unfortunately is suffers from the “not a Light Frigate” syndrome. It’s 17 points for a Sloop of War or you can get a Merchant Frigate for the same cost with the same speed, turn values and Fortitude/Integrity but with more cannon ports, better rigging durability, larger decks, no Square Sail penalty and options for 2 Fighting Tops. So I guess the Sloop of War is good but only if you don’t have a Frigate model.
The Privateer Brigantine gets you a little more speed and maneuverability but drops a few hull hit points. The Swift rule got nerfed a bit since the No Peace Beyond the Line rule book introduced this version of the Brigantine but if you really want the speed, you can get that extra inch when sailing large (or using a Sailing Master) with the Privateer Brigantine.
Uses for the Brigantine
I think the Brigantine is a flexible ship that can be used in a variety of ways. Like I said at the top of this article, it’s doesn’t take first place in any category, but it’s not bad in any category either. The 4 Swivel Guns in the front make it extra deadly when chasing an enemy so I guess it is actually a better offensive than defensive ship.
I’ve recommended the Sloop as a good first purchase but this would be a great first choice and it would actually be a great “only ship” if you plan to only buy one ship for your collection. It’s tough and big enough to have a chance in battles over 200 points where the Sloop will have a hard time avoiding getting blasted with cannons.
I would say the Brigantine does best in the 200-250 point range. At 250 points you can buy Medium Cannons, a decent commander, and around 40 decent models for your crew which works really well. I’m currently halfway through a custom 200 point campaign using the Sloop of War in every battle and it’s worked really well. At 200 points you can get a full crew of around 40 cheap models, light cannons and a cheap commander. At 300 points you can really fill out the ship and take a really good commander.
Army Lists Using the Brigantine
If you want a multipurpose ship that can do everything reasonably well, the Brigantine is a great choice. The basic Brigantine itself is very versatile and non specialized but you can expand its usefulness by using the two rig variants in No Peace Beyond the Line. If you want a fast ship, the Sloop is faster. If you want a tough ship, the Light Frigate is tougher. If you want a huge ship, the Galleon is bigger. If you want a bathtub ship, the Fluyt is a tubbier bathtub. The Brigantine is a nice, middle of the road option.
As always, I’d appreciate other players chiming in with their opinions and experiences. How have you used the Brigantine and what would you consider its strengths and weaknesses?