By Joseph Forster
The more I play Blood & Plunder, the more I enjoy the Fortune mechanic in the game.
Wargames have to have some element of randomness and chance or they become an exercise in math. Relying on dice and cards drawn from a deck, Blood and Plunder has plenty of non-predictable elements. Chance, Fate, Providence, or Luck can be seen as a major factor in how history is shaped, especially stories as colorful as famous characters such as Morgan, Blackbeard, or Bartholomew Roberts, but in a competitive game, it is refreshing to have a built in mechanism that can help mitigate some of that random element. And that is (primarily) what Fortune does in Blood & Plunder.
In this article we’re going to:
- Look at the basics of how Fortune Points work in in Blood & Plunder
- Present some ideas on how to use those precious Fortune Points effectively
- Look at some of the trickier interactions between Fortune Points and the rest of the ruleset
- Theory-craft some forces that focus on Fortune
- and offer some sources for cool tokens to use as Fortune Points.
Chapter 10 of the rulebook presents the simple rules regarding Fortune.
Fortune represents the skill, luck, and influence of a force.
Every force begins the game with 3 Fortune points by default (though certain characters may increase or decrease that amount). Fortune is not replenished in the course of the game.
It then goes on to present the three ways in which Fortune can be used.
A player can spend a Fortune point to:
- Re-roll dice.
- Mulligan your activation cards
- Save a Commander
RE-ROLL: A player may re-roll all the dice for one Test or another roll that they are attempting, immediately after the original roll is made. The new results are final, even if they are worse than the original result. (Remember, any roll in blood & Plunder may be re-rolled only once.)
This is likely the ability that Fortune is most often spent on. The crucial moment has come. You have a perfect shot at an important enemy unit which could turn the tide of the game! And….you roll all misses… Noooo! Fear not! You can spend a Fortune Point to re-roll that entire handful of dice, giving Fate a new opportunity (no guarantee) to give you the numbers you want. It is important to note that you have to re-roll the entire set of dice, not just the results you don’t want.
When it comes to cannons, you have to be careful with Fortune. With a Ranging Shot and a Damage Shot, a cannon attack actually uses two different Tests and a Fortune point will only allow the re-roll of either the Ranging Shot or the Damage Dice, but not both.
MULLIGAN: Discard any number of Activation Cards in your hand and draw new cards to replace them. This may be done at any point in the turn.
Initiative is super important in Blood & Plunder. If forces are at a distance and units are just taking potshots at one another, that importance decreases, but if ships have grappled, or units have closed to charging distance, or units are already locked in melee combat, course of the game can easily be decided by who gets to take the first activation of a turn. Chance decides what you draw off the top of your deck but you can change your hand with your Fortune Points. No promise that it will be better, but you can at least make a choice to try to increase your chance of taking the initiative.
CHEAT DEATH: If your force’s, commander would be removed as a casualty, and there is a friendly unit within 8″, you may immediately move the commander to join the new unit. This may be done regardless of the type of unit, and even if the new unit is separated by impassable terrain.
Your Commander is a key element of your force. Without a leader, your force will lack coordination and effectiveness and your men will simply give up if the game is going against them. Rare is the game that is won with a fallen commander. You DO NOT want your commander to fall in battle. If your fearless leader is about to die, you can spend a Fortune Point to save that commander and move him to a new unit. This is probably the ability I see used least, but when used, it can be a game changer.
Basic Rules of Thumb for Using Fortune Points
I always struggle deciding between two basic approaches to using Fortune in a game. Do I want to use Fortune to:
- give myself an early advantage on attacks (aggressively) which my opponent will find hard to overcome in the mid/late game?
- mitigate disasters (defensively) when they come at me during the game?
If you like to fight aggressively, using Fortune to re-roll your attacks that roll poorer than the odds can reinforce your tactic. Sometimes hitting hard at the beginning can put your opponent on their heels and if you can keep the pressure up, they will never really recover. If they lose a couple models out of a key unit, take 2+ point of Fatigue, that unit will lose valuable time rallying, and you can possibly hit it again before it poses are real threat to your force.
But if you burn your Fortune early in the game, you’ll have no way to save your commander or save a crucial unit from a disastrous Save test in the last turns of the game.
Rule 1 – Don’t Spend All Your Fortune on the First Turn
Don’t follow Mike Tunez’s example. No matter how disappointing your rolls are on the first turn, offensively or defensively, don’t burn all your Fortune Points on turn 1! You will be sorry. There will very likely be a more decisive moment later in the game were you’ll be thankful to still have a Fortune Point.
Rule 2 – save one fortune for the late game
One rule of thumb you can try to follow is “Save at least one Fortune until turn 5.” If you at least have that goal in mind, it can slow your spending and leave you with some options going into the last part of the game.
Rule 3 – Don’t be quick to use a fortune on a “slightly less than average” save test
Run the averages in your head. If the probability says you should save one more model than you did, or maybe another model, it isn’t really worth the Fortune in most cases. It might feel a little better losing saving 2 of 3 hit models instead of 1, but that isn’t really worth a Fortune in most cases. I try to value a Fortune at around 7 points. Will that re-roll have a high chance of saving me more than 7 points? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve re-rolled a Save test and rolled exactly the same or an even worse result. Feels bad.
Rule 4 – don’t hesitate to use a fortune to cheat death
If you lose your Commander, your chances of losing the game increase exponentially. Not only do you lose you your Commander Points, but you will auto-lose the game if you are forced to take a Strike Test. Always Cheat Death!
Rule 5 – plan on using one fortune for a mulligan during most games
Seizing the initiative at the right moment can really tip the game in your favor. This is especially true if you have a powerful commander with more than one Command Point. Once units get close enough for a charge, or are already engaged in a melee, that first activation of a turn is vitally important. If you go first and cripple the enemy’s command unit before it activates, or charge a key unit that has 2 Fatigue before it can Rally, that can often set you on the course to win the game. The Buccaneer factions have this ability built in but don’t forget that any faction can spend a Fortune to discard their hand and draw a new hand of cards. And you can can do that two or three times in a row if necessary. If the game will be won or lost by that initiative, there’s no reason to keep that Fortune if you’re holding a hand of Clubs!
And that leads to the final rule:
Rule 6 – spend that fortune if you’re reasonably sure you’ll lose the game if you don’t
There’s no reason to lose a game with Fortune unspent if you can help it. If your command unit is about to be eliminated and there’s no way to Cheat Death, spend that Fortune on your Save roll, even if it’s a long shot. If you need initiative to survive, spend that Fortune to Mulligan. If you run your ship aground on a shoal and know you’ll be raked and destroyed if you’re beached, spend the Fortune to try to avoid that shoal! And most obviously, if you fail a Strike Test with your Commander, spend the Fortune to try and stay in the game!
Finally, here is a concise list of tests and situations I consider prime moments to spend Fortune:
- Save your Commander
- Re-roll a Save or Fatigue check during a game-deciding charge
- Stop your ship from becoming grounded on a shoal
- Pass a sailing test that would otherwise leave you drifting for more than one activation.
- Important Dedicated actions that you might only be able to attempt once (forcing the fortified door of a Stone Tower Fort, starting a fire in a scenario etc)
- Save test if the odds say you should save 8+ more points worth of models than you initially saved.
- One of your shoot tests that has the possibility of deciding the game and has underperformed the odds by more than one hit.
- An important grapple test. If boarding is your one tactic, you need to make it happen.
- Any test that will make you lose the game if you fail.
Rules that Interact with Fortune Points
This is going to be a weird and somewhat disconnected list of points here.
First I’ll start with pointing out a few things you can’t do with Fortune Points. On page 30 of the core rulebook, under Game Essentials: Dice and Tests, it states “If a die is rerolled due to a game mechanic (e.g., spending Fortune point), it may only be rerolled one.” You can’t re-roll a die more than once.
Now there are several other ways you can re-roll dice in a game of Blood & Plunder. Using pistols in a melee situation or using thrown weapons in a charge both let you re-roll misses. But to follow this overarching rule of never re-rolling a die twice, you cannot use a Fortune Point to re-roll a Thrown Weapons/Pistols charge once you’ve re-rolled those misses. You’ve already re-rolled them!
The Vendetta special rule lets you re-roll a single failed die when performing a Rally action. If you go ahead and use that re-roll, you can’t spend a Fortune to re-roll the whole Rally test. And the opposite is true as well. If you do spend a Fortune to re-roll the entire Rally test, you can’t use your Vendetta ability to re-roll a failed result on that test because all the dice have been re-rolled. The Expert Broadside!, Inspiring, Very Inspiring, Rain of Arrows, Siege Expert, and Vast Experience special rules all let you re-roll dice at some level as well and the same would apply to them. You can only re-roll a die once! These abilities basically give you a free Fortune point(ish) re-roll but that means you can’t combine that ability with a true Fortune Point.
Some factions have special rules that would fall under this same category. The French Canadian Privateers and French Royal Navy can re-roll the result of a Lucky or Critical Hit once per game. The Spanish Corsairs can re-roll a failed Throw Grapple Test once per turn. The English Caribbean Militia and North American English Militia (NPBtL) can re-roll failed Rally and Fatigue results on the first turn. The North American English Militia in Fire on the Frontier can re-roll a Fatigue test every turn without spending a Fortune, but again, if you use that ability, you can’t go on to spend a Fortune to re-roll those dice a second time.
To stay consistent with this “can’t re-roll more than once” rule, Poisoned Arrows become that much more unpleasant. Units hit by Poisoned Arrows are forced to re-roll one successful Fatigue result (invariably failing on the re-roll). If they have to re-roll those result, that means they can’t spend a Fortune to re-roll the whole test. Brutal! Now if they failed all the initial Fatigue dice and didn’t have to re-roll a success due to poison, you could reroll the whole test (and then you couldn’t re-roll the single die to Poison!).
The Misfortune at Sea is a unique Special Rule that prohibits forces led by certain commanders from using Fortune Points for certain types of tests.
Another thing you can’t do with a Fortune Point is re-roll the Attacker/Defender die. Before a battle, both players are supposed to roll a single d10, apply in appropriate modifiers, and the player with the highest result is the Attacker. Being the Attacker can be a big deal for some factions. While not entirely clear from the rules, it has been rule that, since this roll is performed before the game starts, players cannot use Fortune to re-roll this die.
But on to interactions that are more fun! My two favorite “Fortune rules” are Lucky and Felicitous. The Lucky Special Rule lets you regain the spent Fortune Point if the re-roll is not better than the original roll. The “rules” of spending Fortune change substantially if your commander has this Special Rule! You can spend Fortune looking for that outrageously lucky result, knowing you won’t have to actually spend the Fortune unless you get a good result! You still have to take the result of the second roll, but knowing that it’s going to be better, or you keep your Fortune is a real game changer. You can spend Fortune like crazy! Commanders with this Special Rule are rare. Henry Morgan and Alexandre Bras de Fer (Iron Arm) both have in in No Peace Beyond the Line, Captain Baptiste is Lucky in Fire on the Frontier, and it will make another couple appearances in Raise the Black.
Felicitous lets a commander regain a Fortune Point at the beginning of every turn that they would otherwise start the turn with no Fortune.
FELICITOUS: If a force that includes this Commander begins a turn with no Fortune Points, it immediately gains one.
Again, this can let you spend Fortune like a… drunken pirate. Spend it all on the first turn or two, and you can still start every other turn of the game with a Fortune Point! It’s amazing. The Legendary Laurens de Graff is the only commander in No Peace Beyond the Line to bear this powerful rule, and two new commanders in Raise the Black will have it as well.
The God’s Blessing or the Devil’s Luck Special Rule simply grants a force an additional Fortune Point at the start of a game. This ability is most common of the big Fortune rules. L’Olonnais, Henry Morgan, King Golden Cap, and Piet Heyn in No Peace Beyond the Line all have a fourth Fortune Point, and Sir William Phips and Modockawando from Fire on the Frontier have the rule as well. I have a “feeling “we’ll be seeing this rule on several of the notable pirates in Raise the Black (Blackbeard has it for sure!).
Superior Intelligence is a rarely seen Special Rule that lets that commander take a free mulligan during the game, the same as a Buccaneer faction rule. This isn’t directly related for Fortune, but having that ability for free can change the way you spend your Fortune Points. Benjamin Church is a good example of a commander with Superior Intelligence.
Characters that Interact with Fortune
The Spiritual Leader character is the primary character that interacts with Fortune Points. Costing 7 points, the Spiritual Leaders brings an additional Fortune Point to your force. That would be a fourth Fortune in most cases, or a fifth Fortune if you already had God’s Blessing of the Devil’s Luck on your commander. This is kind of where I get that value of 7 points for a Fortune token. The Spiritual Leader has some additional value but that Fortune Point is his main thing. This character is available to all factions which make it easy to combine it with God’s Blessing of the Devil’s Luck if you really want to run a “Fortunate Force”! If you Spiritual Leader dies or is captured, you do lose the Fortune Point (unless you already spent it…) so watch out for that.
If you want a “boss level” Spiritual Leader, the French and certain Native factions have access to both the Jesuit Priest Hostage/Advisor Character and the unique Father Thury Fighting Man Character in Fire on the Frontier. Jesuits in the Northeast functioned not only as missionaries and spiritual guides, but as spies and even as wartime commanders in some cases. The French Jesuit Priest essentially functions as a Spiritual Leader and a Spy Character at the same time. He brings a Fortune Point with him and he allows an activation card Mulligan. He’s expensive at 10 points, but he basically provides two extra Fortune Points, assuming that you would spend one on a mulligan over the course of a game. Father Thury, known to have fought and led Natives during King William’s War, is a Fighting Man that costs +10 points and essentially combines the free Fortune Point of a Spiritual Leader and the flexible Command Point of the Officer Character. It’s even conceivable to include both these characters in once force!
The Spy Character seems to be a little neglected, and while she doesn’t literally give you a Fortune Point, she provides that Mulligan that can otherwise only be bought with a Fortune Point. I’ve only just started to appreciate her ability to potentially stop an enemy from using the Lay in Wait rule. Take note of that because the Native lists can do some nasty things with Lay in Wait nowadays…
“Fortunate” Force Lists
As the force building opportunities expand with more commanders, factions and characters available, fun and crazy combos and interactions become more possible. It is now possible to make some fun forces that really double down on the Fortune mechanic. Let’s take a look at some weird combos.
Henry Morgan + Spiritual leader
This 200 point land list starts with 5 Fortune Points, doesn’t have to spend them if the re-rolled result is not better (Lucky), has a free Mulligan, and can swap out an activation card every turn through the Morgan’s Buccaneers faction ability. Assuming you spend your Fortune wildly and have Lucky refund you 3 times and you count your free Mulligan as a Fortune Point, you could “spend” 9 Fortune through the course of a game!
Laurens de graff + spiritual leader
If you have Mike Tunez level of urges to spend your Fortune on turn 1, this is a good force for you! Starting with 4 Fortune and gaining a Fortune on every turn where you start with no Fortune, you can spend big on that first turn, hopefully getting a decisive advantage through your manipulation of Fate, and then you still get a Fortune to spend every turn. If you spend all Four of your Fortune on turn 1, and use your Fortune-like mulligan, you could spend what amounts to 10 Fortune in one game with this list.
French Raiders + Father Thury + French Jesuit Priest
The French Raiders are a nasty bunch. Combine solid units with the Quick ability and 5 Fortune Points and a Mulligan and an extra Command point with Father Thury and you get a super nasty bunch!
Wabanaki + Modockawando + Father Thury + French Jesuit Priest
This is nutty. At 31 models, this is a small list for 200 points, but it starts with 6 Fortune Points, plus it has a Mulligan through the Jesuit Priest and the extra Command Point through Thury,
There’s probably some more interesting Fortune-focuses builds out there, but I find these pretty entertaining. Having the ability to mitigate bad rolls over and over again is powerful! These tend to be small lists because of the points spent on the commanders and extra Fortune Points, but if you can leverage that Fortune to keep your men alive or actually get them to hit harder, it can be worth it!
You can use any marker or token for a Fortune Point. You just need 3 (-6) tokens to track how many you’ve spent and retain. Firelock Games often includes some simple reproduction coins in their Kickstarters they’ve been known to send them out in direct orders as a promotional item as well. Coming in both weathered silver and shiny gold, these coins are approximate replicas of Spanish coins, with the large cross on one side and a coat of arms on the other. These are available on Amazon for $12.95 for 30, $22.95 for 100, or $39.95 for 200 if you plan on playing the super fortunate lists…
There’s a new trio of copper, silver and gold pirate coins on Amazon as well that is a little more interesting (although they incorrectly make the gold coin the largest). You can get 36 of these coins for $14.95. There are some other pirate coin options available on Amazon, but they are either plastic or less authentic.
If you want upgrade your bling a little more, you can find high quality reproductions of actual recovered Spanish coins wrecks from the 17th century on Etsy. These usually cost anywhere from $6 to $20 each but their extra weight, detail, and authenticity can be pleasing to a history nerd or coin/treasure enthusiast. This is a nice set of a large silver coin and a medium gold coin reproduction that costs $13.50.
And if you want to go even deeper into coin nerd territory, you can actually purchase genuine coins from the 17th century! Coin collecting used to be my main hobby so I kind of fell down this rabbit hole a couple years ago…
Copper cob (roughly imprinted) coins from “the pirate times” can be bought for around $15 on both Etsy and eBay! These are usually pretty dirty and the quality and detail can vary widely but for $15, you can have a piece of history in your hands. A tangible link to the past. I love that so much!
Copper coins are cheap, but if you start looking at silver Spanish, French, Dutch and English coins, the entry point is about $25 and goes up fast from there.
The iconic large Spanish 8 Reale coin known as the “piece of eight” sells on eBay for $175+. Spanish gold from the 18th century is surprisingly “affordable” (as far as gold goes), but 17th century gold is astronomically expensive ($20k and up!).
Over the past couple years I’ve picked up a few fun coins for each nationality.
For the Spanish, I have a couple 8 Reale coins I found for a bargain, plus some smaller silver and copper coins.
For the English I have some shillings (about the size of a quarter) bearing the likenesses of Charles II, William III, Queen Anne and King George.
The French made really crappy coins…
The copper coins are pretty cool with the recognizable Fleur de lis on the reverse, but their silver coins are paper thin and all the detail wears off. Stupid French…
Dutch coins are pretty cheap and have cool lions on them!
You can get copper coins from the early to mid 18th century from the East India Trading company for very cheap.
For the Natives, I didn’t really want to do coins so I bought some old trading beads but they were a little disappointing because they were so small. It’s easy to find 19th century beads, but 18th century trading beads are much harder and more expensive to purchase. When I started studying the New England Tribes, I picked up some real (recently made) wampum beads which are pretty cool. They’re small than I hoped as well, but at least they make a little more sense for natives than Spanish silver.
While obviously a non-necessary luxury, I’ve really enjoyed studying, tracking down and collecting some 17th century coinage to use as my Fortune Points. That physical link with people and events of the past is just so cool to me.
This turned out to be a larger topic that I anticipated! I love how the Fortune mechanic adds drama and hard choices to a game. Those Fortune Points represent a chance for you to change the course of the game and there are so many ways you can use that ability. Effectively using those chances can be a huge factor in your force doing well in a game!