Benjamin Hornigold: Notorious Pirate & Privateer of the Caribbean

Benjamin Hornigold is arguably one of the most important figures in the history of the Golden Age of Piracy. In fact, he is considered by many to be one of its “founding fathers”. In this article, we’ll cover Benjamin Hornigold’s historical significance, how to make your own custom miniature, review his Blood & Plunder stats and look at some force-building options to use in your games.

Benjamin Hornigold Historical Background

Historic wood burning art of Benjamin Hornigold

Benjamin Hornigold was an Englishman whose early background is largely unrecorded. It is possible he was a navy officer or privateer during the Queen Anne’s War. The earliest records of his past indicate that he was involved in the raid of merchant ships off the Bahamas in 1713. Known for daring raids and clever tactics, he quickly became one of the most successful pirates of his time. Despite his criminal acts and strict leadership, he was known for his “generosity” and “fairness”. As an English patriot, he was a man of principles who initially only attacked Spanish vessels, allowing English prizes to go free.

The veritable “Godfather” of piracy he was the mentor or had dealings with such legends as Edward “Blackbeard” Teach, Sam Bellamy, Stede Bonnet, and Oliver “La Buse” Lavasseur.

Hornigold – Life Events & Timeline

  • Born in England around 1660 or 1680… conflicting accounts exist.
  • Likely served in the navy or as a commissioned privateer before turning to piracy in 1713. Though there are theories his family moved to the Bahamas as Puritans to escape persecution.
  • Operating in the waters of the Bahamas and the Caribbean with two piraguas, his crew captured the sloop, Happy Return
  • July 30, 1715, Henry Jennings sparred with Benjamin Hornigold over prizes related to several French and Spanish prizes
  • 1714 he establishes a relationship with John Cockram to regularly fence stolen goods from the Bahamas to Charles Town & Boston.
  • Republic of Pirates outlines details of his raids as captain of the Happy Return along the Spanish shores of Florida and Cuba in the summer of 1714, bringing home plunder worth £11,500.
  • November 1715, Hornigold seizes the English ship Mary, a large sloop with a capacity for 140 men and six great guns, and 8 swivels. He sails to Nassau and declares it a pirate haven, organizing the group into “The Flying Gang.”
  • December 1716, the Henry Timberlake deposition tells of Hornigold and “Edward Thache” (aka Blackbeard) operating two ships of 8 guns and 90 crew each.
  • Oliver Lavasseur, aka La Buse, joins forces with Benjamin Hornigold and Sam Bellamy. They capture multiple prizes
  • September 1717, Hornigold and Teach met Stede Bonnet and his ship Revenge. At Hornigold’s suggestion, Bonnet agrees to let Teach command the Revenge while he recovers from his wounds..
  • January 1718, roughly 300 pirates, including Benjamin and John Cockram accepted the King’s pardon and agree to end their lives of piracy.
  • He accepted a commission as a privateer from Woodes Rogers. He was tasked to protect trade ships and hunt down pirates in the region. During the next year, he captured 13 pirate captains, including Nicholas Woodall and John Augur.
  • He died in a hurricane in 1719. His ship was allegedly dashed upon an uncharted reef, only 5 members of the crew survived.

Video Games Featuring Benjamin Hornigold

Because of his fame and central role in the historical narrative of piracy, Hornigold he has been featured in multiple video games over the years. One of the most prominent is Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. Hornigold takes your player character under his wing and teaches him the ropes of sailing a ship and conducting a variety of raids as a pirate. While obviously a work of fiction this is a fitting role for Hornigold as he was a mentor to other pirates. He was such a pivotal character he got his own McFarlane Toys’ Action Figure.

Benjamin Hornigold in The Lost Pirate Kingdom Documentary Series

“The Lost Pirate Kingdom” is a 6 part Netflix documentary series that explores the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean. The series examines the lives of infamous pirate captains, such as Henry Jennings, Sam Bellamy, Blackbeard, Calico Jack, and of course Benjamin Hornigold. The series does a great job of discussing the impact piracy had on the world. It features a number of interviews with experts blended with actors reenacting possible scenarios from the period. If you’ve not yet watched it, I highly recommend you at it to your Netflix queue.

Benjamin Hornigold in the STARZ “Black Sails” Series

Next to Pirates of the Caribbean, Black Sails is probably the most popular film series related to piracy. Despite the series taking obvious artistic liberties for a good story, it is one of my favorite interpretations of Hornigold. His character’s portrayal is the one I used to craft my Blood & plunder miniature later. He is depicted as more of an elder statesman or grizzled gentleman of fortune. As previously noted, Hornigold’s exact age is unknown, but there is a strong case that the would have been 55-60 years old at the height of his pirate career.

This comes from a marriage record from Saint Matthew’s Parish, Ipswich, Suffolk County, England dated January 8, 1679. The record notes a “Ben Hornigold” married to “Sarah Mosse”. To be wed at that time means he would have likely had a birthdate of around 1655-1660. Which means he would have been about fifty-five to sixty years old in 1715.  There are additional tax records referring to Hornigold that would line up with this date.

Benjamin Hornigold Miniature

Hornigold was a man of great success in his ventures as a pirate. As such he could afford a more wealthy wardrobe rather than rags or worn clothing. I see him in the role of a sophisticated gentleman with a rough and tumble side. While he may not have served in the navy, his years of experience and leadership skills lend him a bit of a military flair.

How To Kitbash a Custom Benjamin Hornigold Miniature

Creating the miniature is a relatively simple kitbash. There aren’t any major conversion steps or complicated custom crafting steps. It’s largely just trimmings a few joints and angles to get things to fit together nicely. Here is a parts list of what I used to build my version of the miniature.

Parts List

Blood & Plunder soldier model used for Benjamin Hornigold
Soldier Model A7
  • Body – Soldier A7
  • Left Arm – Cavalry B16 or B13 – cut the shoulder to change the angle down
  • Right Arm – Soldier E5 – cut shoulder
  • Right Hand – Box of Plunder Casualty marker
  • Sword on hip – Sailor P32
  • Head – Sailor P19 – Cut nub on top to get the hat to work. Cut the angle on the neck. Additionally, I had to trim the jacket edges to get the head in the slot properly
  • Hat – Cavalry B15

Body – The core of this build is selecting the right body. For the purpose of his stance, I selected the Soldier A7 model.

Arms – Some of the hands/arms could be easily interchanged with other models. I went with the left arm of a cavalry model because I wanted to have the pistol hand angled down in a non-combat stance. I like the idea of Benjamin negotiating an enemy’s surrender first, but then whenever things go sideways, he is more than capable of inflicting violence on his opponents. The one downside of the calvary arm is that it has very different decor on the cuffs. The opposite arm being from the soldier model has larger buttons and a lack of grooves in the cuff. I tried to obfuscate it with the paint job.

Head – The head is the fiddliest bit to get right. I had to trim it multiple times and trim the collar and edges of the jacket to get it to fit in the slot properly. Dry fit it in place multiple times and keep your fingers safe. As I shared before, I use a self-healing cutting mat that helps absorb the model a bit so it hopefully doesn’t roll/flip across the room as much (… in theory). If you don’t have one, I highly recommend picking one up.

Painting the Benjamin Hornigold Miniature

Throughout the Black Sails series, Hornigold wears a number of different outfits. When we first meet him he wears a deep turquoise jacket, which I liked, but it made him look too close to my custom Woodes Rogers miniature. Instead, I went with the more drab grey. Unlike the esteemed Joseph Forster, I tend not to pay much attention to the colors I’m selecting and I’m horrible about writing them down in the moment. I also use a blend of “professional” miniature paints and cheap craft paints from my local big box retailers. This often leads to me mixing and blending my own colors to get exactly what I’m looking for.

I went for bushier grey eyebrows and a mustache and goatee that gave him a bit of a Colonel Sanders look, but I liked it. If you notice the sleeve cuffs I just faked matching styles with the paint job.

Hornigold as a Commander in Blood & Plunder

As a veteran pirate Hornigold has 3 Command Points and a 12″ command range putting him on par with many Legendary Commanders. He began as a pirate, but after being pardoned, he joins the British in hunting down his fellow pirates. In light of this, he is a special character in that can command both Pirate forces and British Privateers, which allows him to span across two Nations.

Benjamin Hornigold custom Blood & Plunder miniature on a dock
Miniature built and painted by Joseph Forster

Special Rules Breakdown

He has 4 special rules:

  • Bold – It’s typically better to avoid being Shaken or entangled in Melee, but this lets him continue to bark orders and use Command Points without limitation.
  • Cold Blooded – This is more common among the Pirate leaders and gives your Unit and anyone given a Command Point the Ruthless Ability. Ruthless gives you a -1 to all Shoot Tests against enemies with more Fatigue than you. One tactic is to use your smallest unit to inflict one Fatigue on an Enemy. After that attack, follow up with Ruthless attacks from all your other Units to maximize its effectiveness.
  • Inspiring – This is fitting for a venerated leader like Hornigold. It will help you keep the Fatigue at bay and your units shooting at maximum speed.
  • God’s Blessing or the Devil’s Luck – Granting an extra Fortune Point lets you do all sorts of fun things. Check out our Fortune Points Strategies and Tactics article for more ideas.
Benjamin Hornigold miniature on a balcony

Force Lists With Benjamin Hornigold

Here are a few options for you to use in your games of Blood & Plunder. There are additional force-building options in our Golden Age Pirates – Blood & Plunder Faction Review that can be altered to use Hornigold as a commander.

150pts The Flying Gang – Bermuda Sloop – Boarding

Due to his higher cost, he is better suited for higher-point games, but this is a 150 pt build. This force is playable using just forces from the starter box set to make up your force. It’s a Bermuda Sloop with a freshly careened hull to close on the enemy quickly. The Fore Deck is loaded with 6 swivel guns on the front to soften the enemy as you approach. A unit of European Sailors with Muskets on the rear deck to compliment the swivels with some long-range musket fire as you close. AI threw a Cook in to fill the 2pt gap and get Brawlers on one of your units.

Benjamin Hornigold on the deck of a Bermuda sloop surrounded by fellow pirates

200 British Privateers – Benjamin Hornigold Pirate Hunter

A more experienced strike force designed to close quickly on an opponent with the fast Sloop of War ship. 12 Sea Dogs pumping out shots on the Swivels and veteran Able Seaman with a Grizzled Vet and Freebooters w/SharpShooter to all pour in rapid musket fire on your enemy.

500pt The Flying Gang – Fort Nassau

The Flying Gang – Fort Nassau

Shortly after Benjamin Hornigold formed The Flying Gang, he claimed Nassau as a pirate haven – a pirate republic of sorts. All pirates who came were deemed to be under his protection and thumbed his nose at the European powers. Overlooking the harbor was a fort armed with 22 cannons, first built in 1697. The fort had seen better days as it had suffered damage from Spanish and French raids years in 1700 and 1702 leaving most of its guns immobilized. While he never fully restored the fortifications, Hornigold did shore up the fort’s defenses to secure his new pirate stronghold.

Quick sketch of a proposed fort using the towers and palisade walls using rules Fire on the Frontier

With the purpose of creating a mini fort in mind, this Force is one that can be used for a large amphibious battle featuring a small “Fort Nassau”. The number of points thrown at the terrain is a bit ridiculous but it will definitely shake up the norm of a standard game.

  • 2 Heavy Cannons with 12 Pirates and 2 Medium Cannons with 12 Pirates on the top of each Tower; all with Muskets
  • 9 Euro Sailors w/Muskets on the lower level of the Towers
  • 2 Units of 8 Pirates and 8 Euro Sailors all with Muskets defending the walls
  • Terrain – rules for Fortifications terrain are found in the Fire on the Frontier expansion book
    • 60 pts – 2 Stone Towers
    • 30 pts – 10 Palisade Walls with “Additional Defenses”
Benjamin Hornigold at the door of a stone fort

500pt Golden Age Pirate – 6th Rate Frigate Mary – Boarding

This is meant to capture the concept of Hornigold’s captured English ship Mary. By historical accounts, it was a large sloop of war with a capacity for 140 men and six great guns, and 8 swivels. The term “sloop of war” was really a generic term applied to any ship armed primarily for combat. It’s not currently possible to get to 140 men on a ship in Blood & Plunder without taking a galleon. In light of that limitation, this force then pushes the 6th Rate Frigate to near its maximum capacity.

  • Fore Deck = 12 Marins and a Grizzled Vet with only melee weapons manning the 4 swivel guns & 8 Veteran Euro Sailors (4 in the Fighting Tops) with a Sharpshooter to snipe at the enemy as you close.
  • Gun Deck = 3 Pairs of Heavy Cannons. With Golden Age Pirates you can take Grapeshot for free. This means it’s your call on pummeling the enemy with standard round shot as you close or turning their decks into a meat grinder with grapeshot. 2 units of 15 Pirates each, 1 with a Captured Merchant (Hostage) to help bolster their low Shoot Save and protect them from incoming fire. A Master Gunner to speed the Cannons. Hornigold and Musician to help monitor Fatigue.
  • Mid Deck = Similar to the Fore Deck with 12 Marins and a Cook for Brawlers on 2 Swivels and 8 Veteran Euro Sailors (4 in the Fighting Tops) with a Sharp Eyed Lookout to make sure you’re the attacker in the Scenario and avoid getting caught Drunk from Faction penalty.
  • Poop Deck = 2 Units of 7 Veteran Zeeliden to man the sheets & shrouds and plink with Muskets and Swivels as you close. A Son of Nepturne

Final Thoughts on Hornigold

This turned out to be one of my more favorite custom minis that I’ve built. He is one of the historical figures from the time period I most respect and identify with personally. As a result, being able to bring him to life was fun or “historically satisfying” as some folks around here call it.

His flexibility for multiple roles makes him a solid option on both Land and Sea. Given that he lacks Broadside! and Commodore, he’s best used on smaller ships or as a Land Commander. For 30 points he gives you two more abilities you can’t get form a Seasoned Commander (20pts) for only 10 points making him a solid upgrade option. Additionally, at 30 points, he’s not the best choice for games smaller than 150pt Land matches or 200pts+ at Sea.

Miniatures painted by Joseph Forster

Suggested Additional Reading

The article, kitbashed mini, and miniature painted by Jason Klotz (except where noted)

Blood & Plunder commander miniatures.
Miniatures painted by Joseph Forster

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