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 Spanish Militia are very different than Spanish Corsairs) and those articles 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 but you can find all the info and unit stats on the most excellent Force Builder online.
What Makes the Natives Special?
Well, almost everything about them! The Native factions are the most unique set of factions within Blood & Plunder. Playing any one of them feels entirely different than playing the “normal” factions like the French Buccaneers or Spanish Tercios. The Natives play by a whole different set of rules! So where do we start?
The Natives are fast, sneaky, and are hard to hit. If they stay at range, they have ways of staying hidden. If they get charged, they can often just slip away before coming to blows. They can shoot their bows quickly but very few of the arrows actually kill the enemy. But with care the Natives can harass their enemies until their fighting effectiveness is destroyed and then rush in for a brutal massacre before slipping away again.
Or if things go poorly, they will decide fighting against thundering gunpowder weapons isn’t in their best interest and they’ll do nothing! They have a few muskets but their slow rate of fire means they have to rely on different tactics even when they have the guns. Their weak Resolve in battle and poor ranged firepower are their main weaknesses.
The Native factions tend to play better on land than sea but both theaters of games are enjoyable. With no access to the larger European style ships, the Natives will use fleets of small Canoa along with one or two larger dugout Piraguas when fighting at sea.
Tricks make the Natives interesting and unlike any other nationality in the game. All the tricks make them the most rule-heavy group of factions in the game so they’re a bit difficult to begin with.
The Natives have the fewest different unit types in the game so most of the factions share the same units in some degree and the faction rules do more to make the factions distinct. Native units also tend to be highly customizable as well so you can make each force unique, even if you’re using a limited set of miniatures.
There are a full 10 different Native factions plus an Unaligned faction that fits in with the Natives in many ways.
This is a very well balanced faction where the Native strengths and weaknesses are both highlighted. On the one hand, this faction has access to special poisoned arrows which make their enemies paranoid and ineffective by piling on fatigue. This faction probably has the best bow rules in the game. On the other hand their already weak resolve is further tested by special rules that make all gunpowder weapons especially terrorizing against the Caribbean Tribes.
This faction has access to lots of bows, some melee units and very few muskets.
As is true for most Native factions, commander options are limited. Commanders really buff the unit the are attached to, but the Native commanders tend to be less effective in leading their entire force than most European leaders.
The Caribs have a very similar set of rules that define their play style as the Caribbean Tribes. They don’t like getting shot by gunpowder weapons but they also have the poisoned arrows to respond with. Their unit selection includes a stouter and more well rounded African Warrior core unit instead of the melee Warrior unit found in the Caribbean Tribes. Bows are still the main emphasis in this faction.
This faction is very focused on quick and brutal melee strikes. While it actually requires every unit to be equipped with bows, the Darien faction has a very different emphasis than the previous two factions. With only the basic (but flexible) Warrior unit available as the core of your force, army building is relatively simple in this faction.
With deadly thrown weapons, rules to help you move quickly and charge your enemy effectively, this faction is all about striking your enemy hard in hand-to-hand combat. \ This faction also lacks the fear of gunpowder weapons.
Leadership options are still limited compared to most of the European factions but there are actually 3 different historical commanders for this faction in addition to the standard generic leader options.
This Northern tribe has made friends with gunpowder. Not only are the Iroquois unafraid of European weapons, they have adopted muskets as a primary weapon. This faction has less emphasis on bows and more access to cheap Warriors with muskets.
Their War Cry will often break their enemy’s resolve when they charge and even when the Iroquois lose their will to fight, they’re tricky and cunning. Their faction rules help them withdraw battered units quickly to reform them into functional units again before they’re destroyed.
I think this is a balanced faction and is a little easier to play than some of the others. I have a sneaking “suspicion” we will see updated army lists and rules for the Iroquois in the upcoming early 18th century North American rule book. Currently they have no options for unique commanders.
100 Point Iroquois Force using only the Starter Box.
Northeastern Woodland Tribes
Using nearly the same selection of units and the War Cry special rule, this faction has a very similar feel to the Iroquois, but with slightly less emphasis on guns. Their faction rules make them a little better at charging into melee and staying engaged than the Iroquois, as does their one unique (and powerful) historical commander.
I should mention that most of the models Firelock has come out with so far look very South/Central American (to my untrained eye), but they are just starting to create some new models that look more North American (as of early 2020). If you’re particular about your models matching your faction really well, you might want to either wait on these Northern tribes or pick up some other lines of models for now.
I think this style of Native faction will be revisited again in the next expansion book.
100 Point Northeastern Tribes Force using only the Starter Box
This faction emphasizes the Natives’ strong points and doesn’t really have any downside. I think it’s a really strong faction, a lot of fun to play, and a little more forgiving for newer players. I strongly recommend them as a first faction if you want to play the Natives or if you want a strong, competitive faction.
They have access to the best archer unit along with the poisoned arrows that make them so good. Their other faction rules makes them more difficult to shoot kill if they’re in cover. The combination of deadly poison, elusiveness and no fear of European weapons makes this faction really good. They have less access to strong melee units but I find that if you can dump enough poisoned arrows on your enemy, one good melee unit can wipe out flustered Europeans in short order. They have strong access to gunpowder weapons as well/ This might be my favorite faction in the game.
Like most Natives, they aren’t particularly strong at sea if your opponent works hard at keeping their distance, but I’ve had some solid wins with them in canoes as well.
They only have one historical commander available and he’s not particularly amazing but they don’t need an amazing commander because they’re already good.
100 Point South American Tribes Force using only the Starter Box
Southeastern Woodland Tribes
This factions combines strong archery with strong melee bonuses. It has limited use of muskets but a it’s a solid faction. They seem similar to the South American Tribes but their archery isn’t as strong without the poisoned arrows.
This faction has one very strong historical commander.
100 Point Southeastern Woodland Tribes Force using only the Starter Box
200 Point Southeastern Woodland Tribes Force using Matamaha, their historical commander.
With the War Cry melee bonus and ability to charge or shoot, then fall back as a free action, this is a very “skirmishy” faction. Their unit options emphasize muskets and melee with archery being more limited. Overall the Wabanaki are similar to the Iroquois and Northeastern Tribes. I “suspect” there will be a new incarnation of the Wabanaki in that early 18th century rule book as well.
100 Point Wabanaki Force focusing on melee and musketry (this faction doesn’t utilize the Starter Box as well as some)
This is another solid faction. I think the South American Tribes can sometimes be overly strong when played well and if you find your friends not wanting to play with you anymore, this is a slightly scaled back version of that style of force. They get solid melee bonuses with War Cry and they have the Ruthless ability that inspires their troops if the enemy begins to waver. They have strong access to melee, muskets and archery, but no poisoned arrows.
I’ve used this faction at sea with some success.
100 Point Westo Force using only the Starter Box
Golden Island Tribe
Finally, we have one special force for the Natives. The Golden Island Tribe is the personal force of King Golden Cap, the only Legendary Native commander in the game (so far). The Golden Island Tribe is a variation on the Darien faction. This faction seems to be the most proficient in fighting Europeans and it can even include some English and French models in their army. They are the toughest Native faction in the game and King Golden Cap’s own unit is nearly impossible to route.
This force obviously has to include this high cost commander so it’s best when you have a chance to play games on the larger end of things.
Technically this is an Unaligned Faction in the rule book, but its rules and units are so similar to the Natives forces I will touch on it briefly.
This faction represents escaped slaves and maroons from Saint Vincent Island. The Native Starter Box comes with 4 African Warrior models that can be used in a couple Native factions, but this force uses them nearly exclusively. They’re tough, quick, fast and hard to hit. They pretty much have all the Native special rules except the poisoned arrows. Since they only have one primary unit to work with, there isn’t a ton of room for creativity in building this force although there’s lots of options for customizing the African Warrior unit.
The downside to playing this force is you’ll need to buy and paint a lot of the same unit!
The African Warriors are pretty expensive (in game terms) so you’ll have to carefully manage fewer elite troops in this faction.
The Native American factions are a very dynamic, unique and interesting set of factions in Blood & Plunder. All the special rules that make them interesting make them one of the harder factions to learn but once you wrap your head around several of the special rules that apply to the Natives, it’s not too difficult.
There are a couple of practical factors that make the Native forces attractive as a either an entry point to the game or just as an easy and flexible force to collect and play.
- The Natives are fairly easy to paint. It can be hard settling on the perfect skin tone for your warriors, but overall, the native models are some of the quickest and easiest to paint.
- Their boats are cheaper and tend to be much easier to paint (less rigging!) than the European factions as well.
- There are only 5 (current) different units types commonly used within the Native factions. Other nationalities might have 12-15 unit types spread between their several factions. This means you won’t have to purchase (or paint) as many models. The in-game customization of the Native models means you still have lots of variety but pretty much every model you have can be used for any of these 10 Native factions giving huge game value to all your minis. Essentially the Natives are cheap to play while still giving you lots of choices. It’s easy to play most any of the Native factions once you get one force built.
- To make things even more flexible, some models can easily be proxies for others. You can sneak a couple Young Warrior models into a unit of Warrior Archers or vice versa and it works just fine.
- The Natives are very different than the rest of the factions in the game. I get the feeling less people play them the other nationalities so if you choose the Natives, you will make your local group more interesting (and true to history)!
I’ve noticed that faction distinctive and army building limitations make themselves more prominent at the 200+ point level than they do at 100 points. Considering the fact that there are only 5 different models generally available for all these 10 factions, it’s pretty impressive that each factions has its own character.
I hope that gives you a decent idea how the Natives feel compared to the other factions. I think I they’re very well designed, fun to play and a great addition to the game.
Feel free to drop a comment below if you have any questions!