By Joseph Forster
Representing huge dugout canoes made of single logs, the Piragua is the largest boat in Blood & Plunder and fills a fun between-a-boat-and-a-ship place in the game. Faster, more maneuverable, and tougher than both the canoa and longboat, the Piragua is an interesting boat to include in your force and is a very strong choice in most cases.
With a Fortitude of 3 and Integrity of 4, the Piragua has a respectable number of “hitpoints” before it reaches 1 Fortitude which is where you start to get Critical Hits really fast. The Canoa and Longboat are very flimsy at 2/3. The Bark is the next step up with 4/4 which gives it an extra 4 hitpoints but when you factor in the Low Profile trait into the equation, the Piragua will often be harder to destroy than the light ships in the game. That Low Profile trait adds a +4 penalty to ranging shots when this ship is targeted with standard solid shot cannon fire. That means that half of the cannons targeting this ship will statistically miss when firing at 8″. It’s still a light craft and will take damage quickly from any decent cannon attack, but you can get lucky and dodge a lot of that incoming fire.
Being a one deck ship, it will still take a good amount of damage if rammed by a larger ship, so work hard to avoid getting rammed!
Being a boat, the Piragua only offers standard cover instead of Hard Cover that larger ships provide. If used by Natives, their solid Shoot Save numbers kind of make up for this disadvantage but with most European factions, you’ll be saving on 7’s instead of the standard 6 you expect at sea.
Speed and Maneuverability
The Piragua has the coveted 5″ sail setting! In addition to the 5″ speed it has a full 5″ turn which you will not find anywhere else in Blood & Plunder (for now at least). It does have a substantial -2″ windward penalty but that still means you can sail 3″ upwind which is pretty good.
The Galley 4 trait improves it’s maneuverability as well. This is basically a slightly upgraded Sweeps ability. You can plain-and-simple use the sweeps or you can keep the sails up and have the sweeps manned and then choose which to use during any given move. I usually just use one or the other but the option of being able to choose makes this boat very flexible and powerful.
Having Sweeps 4 means Natives can use Paddles 3″ for free as well. Sails are often better but sometimes going 3″ and ignoring the wind for free is a great option.
The Spanish Corsairs faction gets a +1″ bonus to all sweep settings so you can actually zoom around at 5″ regardless of wind direction or strength if you can keep the sweeps manned. The Piragua is a great choice for this faction.
The Easy to Handle trait makes the Piragua a little more flexible because you can more easily change sail settings and do advanced maneuvers with a standard action rather than a Dedicated Action. With only the 5″, 3″ and 0″ sail settings, it’s easy to get moving or slow down really quickly but on the flip side it lacks precision if you wanted to go slower or faster than one of those two numbers while under sail power. The simple solution is to use the Sweeps and then you can go whatever speed you want.
As a one-deck ship, the Piragua can only hold up to 2 units but the one deck is very large and can contain up to 23 models. It’s very rare that you would ever want to put more than 23 models into a boat like this. It’s plenty spacious!
The capacity to load up with 4 Swivel Guns is a huge boon for this boat as well. The speed and deadliness of Swivel Guns is well established and the ability to put 4 on a fast, nimble and hard-to-hit boat is amazing! This vessel has plenty of room for models to both man the swivels and the sweeps if desired.
It’s easy to load up this boat as a quick boarding vessel as well. With only 1 deck, you technically only need 2 models to row which makes it pretty cheap (use at least 4!) and leaves you plenty or room for a large boarding party.
The Light Gunboat option lets you mount a Light Cannon on the bow of the ship at the cost of reducing the number of Swivel Guns you can mount by 2. It can be fun to attempt to get those cheeky raking shots on your enemy with that little cannon, but in practice, I’ve found this option isn’t very strong and the 4 Swivel Guns is much more reliable.
Uses for the Piragua
The Piragua can be used in a variety of ways and can fit well into a large number of factions. Being a single deck ship, it can be used by any faction including the Natives and land-based factions which have ship limitations like the Expeditionary Forces.
The main ways I see the Piragua used include:
- Native flagship. This is the largest vessel the Natives can take and it can hold a couple large units and keep the Native commander relatively safe.
- Great alternative to the Bark in lower point sea games. At 100 points, the Piragua is very strong. You can load up on Swivels and muskets or a strong boarding party which could even start out on the Sweeps.
- Deadly auxiliary swivel platform in larger games. For 53 points, you can add a Piragua, 4 Swivel Guns and 10 crew to any sea list and it can support your main ship with deadly fire and possibly board the enemy ship while it’s focusing on your larger vessel.
- Fleet of Corsair Piraguas. You can build a very fun and aggressive Spanish Corsair fleet of Piraguas which can board in a hurry. You can spend around 100 points on each Piragua with a solid crew for the sweeps, a commander or Officer and strong boarding party.
- Fast and large landing ship for amphibious games. In some amphibious games you just want to get to land as fast as possible and this is certainly the best ship for the job. Not only can it move large units quickly, but you can just sail it right up onto the beach without any penalty and you’ll never have to bother with shoals since it’s a boat!
Forces Using the Piragua
This is a great starter force for Natives at sea that can be assembled with models from the starter box.
This list is pretty basic but could easily catch and cause trouble for most other ships in a 100 point game.
This force uses the Piragua as a flagship for the commander alongside 2 canoa. You can find a battle report featuring this list here.
This force brings a lot of muskets to land quickly and uses one of the two Piraguas as a little fort to fire Swivel Guns from once beached on land.
With a decently manned Sloop the centerpiece of this list, the Piragua can distract, throw down deadly fire with the Swivel Guns and even board with a nasty crew of Marins if it gets a chance.
This fleet of 3 Piraguas can be used several different ways with plenty of ranged and melee potential. Corso’s faction rules can be very advantageous when running a fleet like this. Both the Night Battle rule and the extra shoal you can put out combo perfectly with this boat.
I built this historical list for one of the scenarios in the Buccaneer’s Companion campaign. The Pirauga with a single unit manning the 4 swivel guns was probably the most effective part of this list. You can read a battle report using the list here.
If you want to start small, the Piragua is a great first ship to start your collection. It will always be valuable and useful in your fleet, you can play your first sea game with it, and it’s an excellent hobby project. Both the painting and rigging are fairly simple and easy to finish in just a couple sittings.
At $35, the price point of the Piragua seems pretty high when compared to the $18 Longboat/Canoa and the larger Bark which is only $4 more. But it’s worth every penny when it comes to gameplay!
The Piragua is a great little ship! It outclasses both the Longboat and Canoa in a major way and in many ways it outclasses the Bark as well. It can be used well in a wide variety of contexts and can find a home in every player’s fleet!