By Joseph Forster
As the Raise the Black Kickstarter moves towards completion, I know we’re all getting impatient for this expansion! It’s been a long wait! One of the (several) curses of the Kickstarter model is the span of time between the hype of the campaign and delivery of the product. It’s easy to either get impatient and frustrated, or, even worse, start to lose interest in what looked so cool during the Kickstarter campaign.
So let me recommend some reading that will help you get that hype back on for delivery later this year!
The Republic of Pirates
First, I’d like to recommend The Republic of Pirates, by Colin Woodard. Raise the Black is going to give us all those “Golden Age” pirates that have become so well known and romanticized and this book provides a good look at them. At around 300 short pages, this is a fairly easy read. I listened to it on Audible last summer and I have used a hard copy for reference since.
With the historically appropriate subtitle “Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man who Brought Them Down,” The Republic of Pirates tells the story of the Golden Age pirates by focusing primarily on Blackbeard, Samuel Bellamy, Charles Vane, and, the “Man who Brought them Down,” Woodes Rogers.
All these men (and more) will be playable characters in Raise the Black! The other famous characters like Anne Bonny, Jack Rackham, Stede Bonnet, Benjamin Hornigold are also touched on, but extra attention is given to the Teach, Bellamy, Vane, and Rogers.
The book doesn’t assume you know much about the background and history of the era and the first half of the book outlines the world situation, how that affected the New World and how that set the stage for an “explosion of piracy.” The second half of the book focuses on the piratical careers of the previously mentioned pirates and Woodes Rogers, the man who worked so hard to make sure those careers were short and did not have a happy ending. The last chapters cover how piracy was suppressed, either by forgiveness, battle or hanging. The book isn’t overly fancy but it does have some excellent graphics including various maps, ship drawings, and a helpful graph of 18th century economics.
I enjoyed this book as it gave both some of the romanticized version of how we often see the pirates of this era, and then the more brutal truth of the situation. It’s a very approachable book that can be enjoyed by all. It might prove too light if you already know the period backwards and forwards and want something more focused and detailed. This covers a lot in 300 pages. You can buy the softcover book on Amazon for $11 , get in on Kindle for $10, or get the audiobook (suitably narrated) on Audible for 1 credit or $26.
Queen Anne’s War
The Raise the Black expansion will also cover the early 18th century conflict known as Queen Anne’s War in the New World. I have found books on this conflict harder to come by, but I’d like to recommend the recent book by Michael G. Laramie. This book was on preorder when the Raise the Black Kickstarter went up but it has been delivered since and I have worked through most of it and found it helpful in understanding this sprawling and complex war. This is a much denser read than The Republic of Pirates and has taken more dedication on my part to get through it. But it is much easier to read than the expensive and older alternative, The Southern Frontier by Verner Crane (1899).
The book is well organized and clearly written, but I didn’t find the writing Very Inspiring. Queen Anne’s War, much like King William’s War before it, was long, complex, and spread out across a vast lands and seas. This book manages to cover this complex conflict well, but it is very sectionalized, focusing heavily on one theater before moving on part of the war. While this provides a clear narrative on each theater individually, it doesn’t help build a solid timeline of events very well since you might finish a chapter in 1707 in Canada, then jump into the next chapter in Florida in the 1560’s! I tried to get a basic outline of the war from a source like Wikipedia before diving into the details here. Laramie diligently sets up each theater with helpful history going back more than a century in some cases so the reader can interpret the events of Queen Anne’s War with context. The background is good, and in most cases, concise, but if you just want the 18th century story, you can easily skip chapters here and there and get the basics of the war without reading the entire book.
The book has a lot of excellent period illustrations, mostly and portraits of important locations and characters. These maps are particularly impressive, dug from achieves beyond Google’s long reach. The Notes and Bibliography in the back of the book are treasure troves for anyone interested in tracking down source material and more books on the subject.
Queen Anne’s War is currently $35 in hardcover on Amazon and $26 for the Kindle edition. Being a new book, there aren’t many used copies out there but I did see it selling for less than $30 on eBay. I am not aware of any audiobook version of this title.
This isn’t the most casual read but this book will help you understand and enjoy many of the new forces, commanders and scenarios that will be present in the new Raise the Black book for Blood & Plunder.
The more history I’ve read on the period, the richer Blood & Plunder becomes for me! I highly recommend picking up a book or two on the early 18th century in the New World and brushing up on your history to get pumped up for Raise the Black arriving later this year! (Disclaimer: I don’t know when RtB will be delivered but I know Firelock Games is working their hardest to get it to their backers!)
BTW, if you’re reading this right after it was published, head over to the Blood & Pigment Facebook page to enter a giveaway of the new Fire on the Frontier book and some minis!
Happy gaming (and reading)!