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. One of the factions discussed here is found in No Peace Beyond the Line and you won’t find it in your core rule book but you can find all the info and unit stats on the most excellent Force Builder online.
The Unaligned factions aren’t so much a Nationality as they are a group of factions that don’t have a nationality. The Blood & Plunder rule book groups together the Unaligned factions with the Minor Powers factions but this article will focus on the Unaligned, or most piratey factions, leaving a discussion of the Minor Powers for another time.
What Makes the Unaligned Factions Special?
Variety, in either choice or chance. While most factions get access to units primarily or exclusively in their own nationality, the Unaligned or “Pirate factions” get access to units from all the major nations! They can select the best units from each faction and put together a nasty ship full of reprobates.
Two of the three major factions here also have a faction ability that is variable and can’t be counted on until the game starts. This makes playing them exciting and a little risky as you might not get the ability you were hoping for and counting on to win an encounter.
There are 10 factions in the Unaligned and Minor Powers section of No Peace Beyond the Line but we will only look at 3 here: Pirates, Brethren of the Coast and the Logwood Cutters. Two of these factions tend to be used mostly at sea while the Logwood Cutters are more of a land faction. They all share core units in common but they do have some differences in which units they can utilize.
All the choices these factions give you make it a little difficult to decide what to buy if you’re putting together your first force. The Unaligned Starter Box is clearly a good place to start, but after that, you can supplement in a variety of different ways.
No honor and 100% villainy. This is a solidly seafaring faction that has a really fun faction rule. If they take of the role of the attacker in a game, they have a chance to deceive their enemy by flying false colors so they can’t be fired upon. This way you can get right up close to your enemy and fire a devastating first shot before they can do anything. The only problem is that due to the faction rules of many of the other seafaring factions, you will be on defense slightly more than offense, and you won’t know for sure until you roll your initiative dice right before the game starts.
Pirates always hope to take the prize ship in once piece so this faction has a rule that encourages them to use their cannons as anti-personal weapons rather than using them to sink enemies’ ships.
For units this faction has easy access to all the major nations’ sailor/cannon crew units, the French and English Buccaneer sailor/soldier unit and then it can pick some of the more elite boarding party style crew from all the nations as support units. The Pirates are also one of the only 2 factions that can take the Pressed Men unit which has the dubious distinction of being possibly the worst unit in the game!
The Pirate faction has a few different options for generic unnamed commanders and one mid-level historical commander that you will have to try. He’s a mean one!
The Unaligned Starter Box is a great place to start since you get those valuable French Flibustier and English Freebooter models along with some storming party models with explosives. If you’re using a ship you will probably want to purchase a few more sailor models of which ever flavor your prefer. The Dutch Zeelieden are an all-round excellent choice while the French Marins are the most violent when it comes to storming an enemy ship. Buying the Pirate and Privateer Starter Box along with the Unaligned Box is probably the best thing you can do since it gives you a bunch of generic sailors you can use as whichever sailor unit you want and it has some models with the weapon upgrades available to a lot of your units.
100 Point Pirate Ship using the Unaligned Starter Box and a Bark.
200 Point Pirate Sloop using a variety of models
200 Point Pirate Tartana with Jean Hamlyn as Commander
Depending on which units you emphasize in your Pirate force, it can be easy to expand into the French or English Buccaneer factions with the purchase of just a few more models. If you already have a French, English or Dutch seafaring force, it would be fairly easy to turn it into a Pirate force.
Brethren of the Coast
This faction has more options for taking the elite units from other factions than the Pirates. The Brethren have a code of some sort so they don’t alienate the most skilled and well-trained Buccaneers.
With the addition of the elite Veteran Freebooters and French Boucanier, the Brethren of the coast could be used well on land but the the high seas is where they seem to be happiest. Like the Pirates, this faction has free grapeshot on all its cannons (but you have to commit to only grapeshot to take it) which is good for clearing the enemy’s decks of men rather than putting damage on the ship itself. Another faction rules give you a good chance to take the initiative at a crucial moment during the game and they. The Brethren can also adjust the veterancy of their units more than any other faction. The rules for this faction aren’t quite as flashy as the Pirate faction, but they are good and they’re the most reliable of these three Unaligned forces.
If you want to play a pirate faction at sea and like to have lots of options for making a force, this is a great option for you. With 14 different unit profiles available, this faction probably gives you the most creative freedom when creating your crew.
With 3 Dutch, 4 French, 1 Spanish, 4 English and 2 generic sailor units available to this faction, you can easily turn your Dutch, French or English Buccaneer force into a Brethren crew with the addition of a couple additional units that strike your fancy.
Another fun thing about the Brethren of the Coast is their commander selection. They have 4 big name commanders available, including Henry Morgan and William Kidd along with the standard generic options.
The Unaligned Starter Box is still a fine place to start with this force but if you know what you want, you can just pick up the appropriate blister packs instead. The Unaligned Box was put together before the large update to this faction came along with No Peace Beyond the Line (which added 6 new units to the faction).
100 Point Brethren of the Coast Force using only the Unaligned Starter Box and a Bark
200 Point Brethren of the Coast Force with a Historical Commander using the Unaligned Starter Box, 2 blisters of Zeelieden, 1 blister of Marineros, a French Commander and a Sloop.
This is the smallest faction of the three and it’s much more focused on battles on land than at sea. Your main basic units are the fearsome French Flibustier and the less flashy but very reliable English Freebooter along with the low cost, but accurate Engage. This means your force will be focused on skilled musketry although you can vary it a little by the choice of your support units. They have very limited access to the basic cheap sailor units so running out cannons on a larger ship is very impractical for the Logwood Cutters. Smaller Canoa and Piraguas are more appropriate for this set of units.
The special rules for this faction are very interesting. If you’re the defender in a battle, you have to roll a single d10 and depending on what you roll, your force could behave (or misbehave) in several different ways! There’s a 30% chance you’ll be determined which gives every unit a free action on the first turn which is really nice. There’s a 10% chance your force will be entirely unprepared and start the game with unloaded weapons. There’s a 40% chance some of your units will be drunk through the entire game. Being drunk doesn’t help your marksmen hit their targets… This makes this faction exciting and a little unpredictable and that can be a lot of fun. As long as you don’t roll the bad results too many games in a row! If you’re the attacker in a battle, you get the same basic Buccaneer/Brethren ability that lets you discard and redraw your hand of activation cards for free once during the game.
This faction is a good bit different than the Brethren and Pirates and while it doesn’t have as many unit options as the other Unaligned factions, I find that it’s easy to get hooked on using those cheap but accurate Engages. It’s not a reliable force due to the variable special rules but overall I think it’s a fun and good force in game play terms. It doesn’t feel as piratey as the other two factions discussed here so if you want that pirate feel, I’d look at one of the other two options.
The commander selection is fairly narrow with only 1 historical commander and only 1 or 2 really good choices among the generic commanders.
100 Point Logwood Cutter Force using only the Unaligned Starter Box
Blood & Plunder is more than just a Pirate game but it’s here in the Unaligned factions that the game is as piratey as it gets! The Unaligned factions are tons of pirate fun. These factions have so many units and options available to them you’ll never get tired of playing them and they special rules for their factions are exciting and variable as well.
I would probably rank the Brethren of the Coast as the strongest of the three as far as power and reliability, but if you can pull off the False Colors trick with the Pirate faction, that is a great game moment you will long remember. The Logwood Cutters faction is probably the best choice of the three on land, and it can be a lot of fun in canoes as well. You just have to be willing to take that risk of your men being drunk or caught with their pants down!
If you like Pirates, like variety in your games and don’t mind some of that variability being out of your control, the Unaligned factions will be a great choice for you!