In Blood & Plunder each nationality has certain distinctives that make it interesting and unique. I’ve been writing a series of articles that look at distinctives of individual factions (there are several factions within each nationality i.e English Buccaneers are very different than English Caribbean Militia) and those get into the nitty-gritty details of units, abilities, and strategies. This is part of a new series of (hopefully) shorter articles aimed a newer players or people interested in getting into the game. In each article I will take a bird’s eye view of the several nationalities as a whole. When you buy into the game, one of the first things you will need to decide is which nationality (or nationalities) do you want to play. Hopefully these articles will give you an idea of what makes each nation special, what options you have within that nationality and which factions would be the most fun for you to play.
This article takes into account everything from the core rule book and the No Peace Beyond the Line expansion book. Many of the factions discussed here are found in No Peace Beyond the Line and you won’t find them in your core rulebook. You can find all the info and unit stats for the newer factions on the most excellent Force Builder online.
What Makes the English Special?
In a word, Resolve. The English are tough and don’t give up a fight easily. Being shot at, taking casualties, pushing your units to the limit and various game factors can force you men to take Fatigue in Blood & Plunder and the more Fatigue you have, the more terrified and useless your troops become. The English are generally better than the other factions at keeping that Fatigue off their units. This means you can often send a unit in to take an objective or engage an enemy in melee and while they might die trying, they will rarely give up or flee.
They are also tough to kill in melee combat. They aren’t necessarily the most deadly when they fire or assault another unit, but they’re tough and can stay in combat for a good while.
Beyond those two specialties, the English are actually really well rounded. They have excellent artillery crew, average sailors, decent marksmen and very stout Regular infantry. They aren’t particularly bad at anything so if you want a well rounded option with no real weakness, the English might be an excellent choice for you.
Within the English nationality, there are 6 basic factions in addition to 2 special factions that are linked to an important historical commander. Many of the factions share the same units, but the special rules, commanders and balance of units available to each faction make them unique. If you’re considering playing the English, you might want to have a target faction you would like to play. Some of the factions are similar, or have enough overlap you could easily play a couple different factions with the same basic set of models.
This is one of the two original English factions and it’s a flexible sea-going faction with lots of options for ranged units and seamen for sailing and manning the guns. If you want to play the English and still get a piratey feel, this is an excellent choice. The English starter box has enough units in it to fully a small ship but you will likely want to buy a few more sailors if you want to have more than a couple cannons on your ship.
There are a lot of Dutch and French (and even some Native) units that fit into this faction as supportive units that you could eventually pick up to gain some flexibility and interest in army building.
One of the fun things about this faction is you have a huge amount of interesting historical commanders to choose from if you want.
If you start with this faction, it’s fairly easy to branch out into English Pirate Hunters, Morgan’s Buccaneers (English) or even the Unaligned Pirates, Brethren of the Coast or Logwood Cutters.
This is the most basic English land force. The English starter box is set up perfectly to play this faction. In general you’ll be using higher quantities of cheap and less efficient units in this Militia force. The high model count is a consideration when starting out because that means lots of painting!
This force doesn’t have as much possible variation in unit choices but you can go for massed militia, a smaller unit of elite Regulars or even a quick cavalry style force. The English militiaman is one of the best militia units because of English Resolve that keeps them in the fight.
If you want to expand your Militia force the European Colonial Militia starter box is a perfect way purchase. It gives you Regulars, Cavalry and a Field Gun with artillery crew.
The English Caribbean Militia has similarities with the English Expeditionary Force and the North American English Militia if you want to branch out into other factions
English Expeditionary Force
This is a more elite land based force than the Caribbean Militia. This force would be easier to start from the European Colonial Militia starter box than the English box. With more elite units like English Regulars (Musketeers), you’ll have less units on the battlefield than some other land based factions, but that also means less painting before you have a nice army ready to go.
This faction is severely limited at sea so it’s not a good choice if you want to play ship battles.
If you want to start with this faction, the European Colonial Militia Box is the best purchase and the English Starter Box would be the next buy.
From the Expeditionary Force, it’s relatively easy to move into English Carribean Militia, North American English Militia but also some of the minor powers like Scottish Militia, Portuguese-Brazilian Tercios & Militia, Swedish Militia and Danish Militia.
This is a naval faction that is kind of a cross between the Caribbean Militia and the Royal Navy. You get to play a high model count force with sailors/cannon crew and militia units as your core units. You have a nice selection of more expensive experienced units to support your core force. There’s not a lot of room for force variation in this faction but that makes it easy to make an army.
This force’s special rules boosts the melee power of the English which makes them more powerful on the attack at sea.
The English Starter box only has 4 of the basic English sailor/cannon crew unit (Sea Dogs), so you would want to buy a couple extra blisters of them to make this force work well. Another option would be picking up a Pirates & Privateers starter box as a suppliment since it’s full of sailor and cannon crew models.
150 Point English Pirate Hunter force using an English Starter Box, 2 blisters of Sea Dogs and a Bark.
200 Point English Pirate Hunter force using an English Starter, Pirate & Privateer Starter and a Sloop.
This force needs both sea going units and lots of the Militia models so you could expand either into more land based Militia factions, or into more naval factions like the English Buccaneers or Royal Navy.
English Royal Navy
This is a very specialized force that probably isn’t a first choice for most people getting into the game. This faction is all about hunting down the enemy at sea and blasting them to bits with tough English seamen on their cannons.
This faction has very limited unit choices (mostly Sea Dogs) so you can’t be too creative in list building. The English Navy does two things well: shoot cannons and never give up.
There is a force option to make a “Landing Force” where you don’t take any large ships but you can take as many English Regulars as you can afford. That makes this faction viable on land as well as sea, so they are a little flexible.
This is a bit of a strange faction in that the Starter box isn’t very helpful. You’re better off buying blisters of Sea Dogs and maybe other sailor models for variety.
If you start with the English Navy, it will be easiest to branch out into the English Buccaneers and Pirate Hunters where you can use all the Sea Dogs needed by the Royal Navy.
North American English Militia
This is similar to the English Caribbean Militia but it has some sneakier Indian Fighter style units instead of just militia style units. This faction also have 3 variations you can run, one focusing on on naval action as Privateers, once focusing on cavalry and one focusing on sneakier and fast moving units. It’s a flexible faction that can go several different directions.
I prefer the “Ranging Party” version of this faction that gives you access to cool Indian Fighter units that are tough, fast and sneaky.
This faction differs from the English Caribbean Militia in that it has some Dutch support units instead of Natives and it has more flexibility to fight on land and sea.
The European Colonial Militia Box is more useful than the English Box for this faction but you’ll probably want some English Militia models as well. The North American English Militia faction uses uses a range of models from several starter sets so it’s probably best to just order the various blisters you need rather than a whole box if you’re starting with them.
Useful blisters include: English Militia, European Sailors with Muskets, Cavalry, Pikemen, and then some Sea Dogs if you want to use the ship focused Privateer version of the Faction.
100 Point North American English Militia Force using 2 blisters of English Militia, 1 blister of Cavalry and 2 blisters of European Sailors with Muskets (and a commander model).
200 Point North American English Militia Privateer Force using the English Core Box, 2 additional blisters of Sea Dogs and a Sloop.
Last we come to the unique factions that are led by the legendary unique commanders in the English nationality. These are very fun and interesting factions but since they’re led by the most expensive commanders in the game, they tend to work best in higher point level battles.
You can still play them at lower point levels (and sometimes they work remarkably well) but it does feel strange to pay 42 points for your commander in a 100 point army.
Henry Morgan can be used to lead several factions but this is his personal force that can only be used with him in command.
This force is best used on land due to the unit makeup and Morgan’s special rules that represent his misfortune at sea. Morgan’s faction has some incredible rules that make it very flexible and dynamic on the board. When playing this faction my opponent said it felt like I was playing “with cheat codes turned on.”
You can make a decent army of Morgan’s Buccaneers from the English Starter Box and it can be filled out with some Dutch and French models. If you have an English and a French box, this is easy to put together.
From this faction you can easily slip into the Brethren of the Coast, Logwood Cutters, English Buccaneers, and Kidd’s Privateers, another English force commanded by a legendary commander.
Morgan is your elite English Commander on land and Kidd is the equivalent at sea. The special rules around this faction make this force one of the best possible sea forces in the game. You get an extra tough ship, you get amazing sailing and artillery skills and some of the best and toughest crew so you can board the enemy and take their ship.
This faction is perfect for players who want to play primarily sea battles with the larger ships in the game. William Kidd in a Light Frigate at around 300 points is really fun.
You can make an army for Kidd with just English Models but to get the best results you will want some French models as well as about half the troops available in this force are French.
If you start with this faction, you can easily transition to English Buccaneers, French Buccaneers, Morgan’s Buccaneers, Logwood Cutters and Brethren of the Coast factions.
That’s an overview of all the English factions available in the core rule book and the No Peace Beyond the Line expansion book. Hopefully that information can help you decide if the English are right for you and what faction(s) you’d like to explore.
I think the English Buccaneers and the English Caribbean Militia are probably the easiest and cheapest to start with. The English Starter Box gives you what you need for both of those factions and they have plenty of options to explore if you wish branch out and buy some units down the road.
Overall the English feel really balanced as a nationality with no glaring weaknesses and a set of units that are solid, but not as dramatic or specialized as some of the other nationalities.
Check out the Ultimate Guide to Blood & Plunder Nations and Factions for more nation and factions reviews.