By Joseph Forster
Fire on Frontier is releasing any day now! As of today (January 8th), the book had been shipped from the printer to Firelock Games so it should be shipping soon!
Fire on the Frontier has a whole chapter devoted to Fortifications and one of the best and most interesting structures (in my opinion) in that chapter is the Blockhouse. The Blockhouse served as a cheap but effective wooden defensive structure throughout North American in the 17th and 18th century. Built of heavy wood logs or beams, most blockhouses were square, two (tall) stories in height, and the upper level often overhung the bottom level and could mount a few cannons or swivel guns.
Here’s a preview of stats for the Wooden Blockhouse in Fire on the Frontier:
There is some variety in styles of Blockhouses found in the New World and these rules allow for either a open top or closed top second story. The closed top grants the Superior Cover Trait which protects your models insanely well, but limits you to firing no more than 4 models at a time. The open topped variation loses that Superior Cover Trait, but you can fire full volleys off the top, and even Drilled and Expertly Drilled volleys from elevation which can prove extremely deadly.
For 15 points, this structure can drastically change the dynamics of a battle. With cannons mounted on the second story, you can open dangerous lines of fire that can cover the most of the board. Even without cannons, you can fill the structure with marksmen that will be hard to dislodge through small arms or a rush at the fortified door.
Now while we will (soon) have full rules for a Blockhouse, Firelock Games doesn’t currently sell a Blockhouse model. Fortunately, there are several decent options currently available from other makers and here we’re going to look at a couple good options that work well with Blood & Plunder.
First up we have the 4Ground Log Timber Blockhouse. I bought this model for Blood & Plunder before the first Kickstarter was even delivered!
The cupola isn’t very common but I found this 1775 example in Ohio.
These model is pretty ideal for Blood & Plunder. With 4 cannon ports in the upper level, plenty of narrow loopholes for muskets and the usual 4Ground functionality of detachable sections and doors, this is a great piece of gaming terrain.
The only functionality complaint is the lower level has 3 cannon embrasures which are not part of the Firelock design.
The size is appropriate but slightly on the small side but that’s usually nice for a 3’x4′ board.
The kit is a slightly older 4Ground product and it isn’t the very best of their line, but it’s very serviceable and matches the new Blockhouse stats really well. Right now it retails for $43.40 on the 4Ground website.
Empires at War
This next blockhouse is created by Empires at War. This is a simpler kit and it comes in a dark brown or an “unpainted” color. I bought mine off of eBay but the shipping from UK made it pretty expensive. The price is listed at $20 for the unpainted and $24 for the “painted” kit on the Empires at War website.
The Empires at War stuff is solid but I consider the quality (looks and function) a tier lower than 4Ground.
This model looks like it was modeled directly after the photo on the Blockhouse Wikipedia page. This blockhouse, part of Fort Edward in Nova Scotia, was built in 1755 and is the oldest blockhouse in North America (according to Wikipedia).
I find the large, square windows a little strange on this model, but they’re clearly based on a historical example! It’s unfortunate that the upper story windows are too high for a cannon on a naval carriage to use comfortably.
The roof lifts off and then the top story comes off as well for access to the lower level. The windows and doors have to be glued in the open or closed positions. A nice and very functional model but not as nice as the 4Ground Blockhouse.
You can buy this from Empires at War prebuilt but it costs about twice as much ($48).
I bought this next blockhouse on eBay as well, but I don’t really know who made it! It looks a lot like a blockhouse made by Ironclad Miniatures.
This is a weird piece, with a stucco finish on the lower level. The current Ironclad Miniatures blockhouse is all log construction is probably more authentic for the North American Frontier in the late 27th century.
Here a picture of their 28mm blockhouse, offered at 20 pounds ($27).
I’m not positive these are from the same maker, but some details looked really similar. My model is heavy resin and easily scratched and it also lacks cannon ports, but other than that, it’s a decent model. I might pick up one of these all-log blockhouses as well.
The upper level is just tall enough for 28mm models.
And last we come to the Firelock Model that may or may not ever get produced. They were kind enough to send me a test model a while back. This model turned out to be difficult to cast so it might not ever come to retail.
This blockhouse is a very different style, based directly off the Spanish blockhouse at Mission San Luis in Tallahassee. I don’t know if this will ever be available from Firelock, but it could be crafted fairly easily (hint hint Dexter).
This model is scaled down a lot. A model true to the scale of the historical blockhouse would be 15″x8.5″.
This style would be more appropriate for the SE North American continent but less appropriate for King Philip’s or King William’s War in the NE.
This model works perfectly for the stats included in Fire on the Frontier with 4 gun embrasures on the top level and none on the bottom. The upper story is substantially smaller than some of the other models I’ve discussed here and it’s the only open topped model I know of.
I currently have two more blockhouses in the mail coming from Acheson Creations. They produce a Timber Blockhouse for $30 that looks solid.
There’s no cannon embrasures but it’s a classic design and it’s cheap.
They also have a Log Blockhouse for $24. This model has ports that should work for cannons in the upper story, but it doesn’t even have slots for muskets on the ground floor. I’ll be getting these this week and I’ll post pictures when I get them painted up.
The fortifications rules in Fire on the Frontier should open up some new ways to play Blood & Plunder. I think the Blockhouse will be a fun (and strong) option to take in a defensive force.
I hope Firelock can eventually produce resin model with their signature quality but right now we will have to settle for a third party model. I personally like the 4Ground model best right now but I haven’t yet painted up the Acheson models
You can find:
The 4Ground mdf model here ($43.40)
The Empires at War mdf model here ($23-$48)
The Ironclad Model resin here ($27)
The Acheson Timber Blockhouse resin model here ($30.40)
And the Acheson Log Blockhouse resin model here ($24)