This is a review of the Blood & Plunder expansion Fire on the Frontier by Firelock Games released in early 2022. Fire on the Frontier is full of things I like. I have played several games using the new factions, rules, and scenarios. This review details this book’s contents, how I feel about them, and what they add to Blood & Plunder.
This is the first Blood and Plunder game expansion since No Peace Beyond the Line in 2018. The intervening years had a slow drip of new things like the Tartana, 6th rate Frigate, Stone Tower fort, and Palisade. However, this book is more in line with what war gamers expect from a living game. It adds a ton of historical content that is both interesting and fun to incorporate into the game.
I do want to put a few things up front before we get going. The first is that one of the authors, Joseph Forster, is my friend and the person running Blood and Pigment. The other is that I helped playtested some of the factions, units, commanders, and scenarios in this book (for free). My name is in the credits, so I’m not an unbiased source (though I did pay for my book and pdf). These factors helped me really want to use this book though so there may be bias. On the other hand, because I have firsthand knowledge it makes me a reliable source and this perspective helps me share what I know with you.
With that in the open, let’s open Fire on the Frontier.
Fire on the Frontier – Content and the History Section
Fire on the Frontier is split up into eight sections: An Introduction, History, The Native Americans, The English, The French, Fortifications, Scenarios, and Appendix. This softcover book is 77 pages long, and the print is of good quality. The paper has a different look from the brownish, yellow of other Blood & Plunder releases. This is a bit more gray which has a higher contrast making the font easier to read.
The first thing that I noticed when looking through the book was the change to the History section. Whereas previous books have a two-page Caribbean setting description, and a timeline of events, Fire on the Frontier starts with 22 pages of a narrative timeline. This section is one of the best parts of this book, surprisingly. To be honesty, I bought the book for the rules and skipped the history initially. However, when I went back, the prose, art, and maps pulled me into the setting and I learned a lot of great information.
This historical section is very well written. It’s analysis and commentary on people’s lives and that comes through in the writing. The history chapter also stakes out the crux of the rest of the book: King Philip’s War and King William’s War. If you are going to use a faction from this book, reading through what that faction did in these wars serves as a great inspiration.
King Philip’s War– 1675
King Philip’s War, also known as Metacom’s War, was a conflict between Native American tribes and English colonists in New England in 1675. The war was sparked by tension between the Wampanoag tribe and English settlers over land rights and the spread of Christianity. The Wampanoags, led by Metacom (also known as King Philip), formed a coalition with other tribes and launched coordinated attacks on English towns and settlements. The war lasted for more than a year and resulted in significant loss of life on both sides. In the end, the English emerged victorious and the Native Americans were forced to cede their land and submit to English rule. The war had a lasting impact on the relationship between Native Americans and colonists in New England.
King William’s War – 1689-1697
King William’s War was a conflict fought between France and England in North America from 1689 to 1697. The war was sparked by the accession of William III of England, who was hostile to the French king Louis XIV, and by ongoing disputes over territory in North America. It was fought primarily in Canada and involved a series of raids and skirmishes between French and English colonial forces and their Native American allies. The war ended with the Treaty of Ryswick, which returned some territories to their pre-war owners but did not resolve underlying disputes. This set the stage for further conflicts between France and England in North America, including the French and Indian War.
Fire on the Frontier – The Nationality Chapters
This book contains three national focused chapters: the Native American, the English, and the French. Fire on the Frontier moves the Native American section to the front of the Nationality list. The most exciting thing on the first page of each Nationality are lists of which Factions participated in each conflict. This is a great feature in a historical wargame and takes the guesswork out of matching up historic rivals. It also helps in constructing a narrative story around a game which makes it more interesting.
- New England Tribes
- Northeastern Woodland Tribes
- Southeastern Woodland Tribes
- Golden Island Tribe
- King Philip’s Alliance
- Stonewall Joh
- Black Kettle
- King Philip
- Church’s Raiders
- New England Militia
- New England Privateers
- New England Village Garrison
- Sir William Phips
- Josiah Winslow
- Samuel Moseley
- Pieter Schuyler
- Captain Miles Morgan
- Benjamin Church
- French Raiders
- Iberville’s Expeditionary Force
- French Canadian Privateers
- New France Garrison
- Louis de Baude de Frontenac
- Captain Baptiste
- Joseph-Francois Hertel de la Fresniere
- Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie de Saint Castin
- Pierre Lemoyne d’Iberville
Native American content in Fire on the Frontier
The Native American chapter is the longest. It fills in the details of the Northern Native American tribes that were out of focus in No Peace Beyond the Line. The English and French also have meaty chapters, with new factions, Legendary factions, commanders, special characters, and new units. The storytelling of the factions in this book is also clever. The New England Militia became the North American English Militia, and the unit selection and faction rules help show this metamorphosis by rewarding you for playing trained English Militia by giving them Elusive.
One of the ways this book helps elevate the Northwestern Native Americans is by introducing three new model lines:
All three of the Nationalities in this book use these models, with the Braves often being a Core Unit. The detail on these models is amazing. The are extremely fun to paint and look beautiful on the gaming table.
New England Villiage Garrison Faction in Fire on the Frontier
Of all the factions in the book my favorite is the New England Village Garrison, partially because of how bad it is. This faction is tied closely with the fortification section, and I will go into these later. The new Unaligned Civilian unit is the poster child of this force and is terrible by design. Civilians aren’t meant to be combat models so their use in a skirmish game is interesting. This faction is also the home of the unique English 10-point character, the Angel of Hadley.
New Characters in Fire on the Frontier
There are 5 new Characters in this book. They include the following:
- Native Sharpshooter
- The Angel of Hadley, William Goffee
- Praying Indian
- Father Thury
- French Jesuit PRiest
The special 10-point characters are something new and exciting in the game. They are great a way to change the way you might play the game. The small-scale conflicts of King Philip’s War and King William’s War are a good fit for a Blood & Plunder. The matches work well for 100-150 point land skirmishes. These high-point characters are like mini commanders, letting a smaller force have an outsized effect without paying for expensive commanders.
Fire on the Frontier – Fortifications
Finally, the rules for Fortifications have been expanded upon and put in a book, almost a year after Firelock Games released their palisade fort! This chapter is meaty, going over some history of their use, before diving right into the new rules that make them work in Blood & Plunder.
Right away the rules mention that Fortifications are optional, and both players need to agree to their use. This is just like the use of Gundecks on the Galleon and supports Blood & Plunder being a more gentlemanly game than one focused on power gaming. I like that these rules are optional because while fortifications are good and fun to play with, they can change the scope of play significantly from the standard skirmish style of play. Assaulting a Stone Tower Fort or Blockhouse is difficult so extra preparation for your forces needs to be taken. Each fortification’s stats are also listed in this section, with the only reprint from the core rulebook being the Gun Emplacement (which now has proper rules and a model!).
List Fortification Types Included in Fire on the Frontier
- Wooden Blockhouse – A small fortress tower, typically two or three stories high, with loopholes for muskets and cannons. Blockhouses were an important element of colonial defense in New England.
- Garrison House – A fortified meeting hall or shelter used for protection against attacks by Native Americans and raiders in colonial America.
- Stone Tower – A strong defense fortification
- Fortified Buildings – Upgrade option for standard buildings that reinforces the doors and windows to defend from attack.
- Gun Emplacements – Protect barriers for a single cannon and its gun crew
- Palisade Walls – Straight-line wood defensive walls
- Palisade Bastions – Angled corners of wooden forts capable of supporting more men and artillery
Each fortification type also includes a brief set of rules and a series of attributes similar to those on the standard Units and Commanders in the game. There are 8 Attributes defined for Fortifications, each with a brief description of how they affect game mechanics. They include things like Heavily Built, Superior Cover, and Reinforced Platform. This standardization of the rules is well done and helps players know how each fortification type works.
Scenarios in Fire on the Frontier
Right after the Fortification Chapter is the Scenario Chapter, and a good place to try out the new fortification rules. The historical scenarios reenact a particular battle or raid. These are fun to put together and play and try to be very accurate. There are 4 Historical Scenarios and 2 Standard Scenarios, but I wish there were more. To be fair, several of the scenario do come with 2-4 optional rules and changes which does add a fair amount of replayability to each of them.
Each of the Historical Scenarios includes a brief background and rules for setup. They come with predefined force lists that help represent the historical forces present so they are ready to play with minimal preparation. However, they also have rules and guidelines for building your own forces if you prefer customization or just playing the scenario with completely unrelated factions (e.g. pirates vs Spanish), Personally, I enjoyed and suggest using the force lists provided and playing each side.
“Ambush” and “Total War” Generic Scenarios
There are two generic scenarios in the book that are playable in any theater and time period of Blood & Plunder. They are slightly different from historical scenarios and other scenarios in the other expansions, as they can be very asymmetric. Playing as the Defender of Ambush and Total War is hard, with the game noticeably stacked against you (or exciting for you). I found you often had to play them once just to get a feel for them to be able to better defend yourself in the next session.
I learned of King Philip’s War prior to reading this book, and it was framed as an oddity of American history, and an origin story of sorts. I knew even less of King William’s war. Fire on the Frontier is a great way to learn this actual history of the time period in a way that really makes it exciting and the stories come alive. Fire on the Frontier feels like an experiment in style for Firelock, as it focuses on two specific conflicts for Blood & Plunder in a way that the previous expansions didn’t. Rather than being an open world, it is much more rooted in history.
What does this book have for Spanish, Pirate, and Dutch players, though? No much… I’ve heard this complaint a few times, and it is understandable that these nations may feel left out by this expansion. But my main response is that these Nationalities do share some models with English and French factions. Blood & Plunder is also more fun when you try different factions. This is meant to be a historical game and frankly, those nations weren’t involved in the book so there isn’t a reason to add them. Hopefully, new products in the future will focus on other areas that include them to greater depth.
In summary, Fire on the Frontier book is filled with surprisingly enjoyable stuff, and some clever rules, and is only $35.00 for the Softcover, or $20 for the PDF. It’s definitely worth getting the book.
Book Review by Guy Rheuark
Suggested Additional Reading
- Read our review of the No Peace Beyond the Line expansion book.
- Check out the Iroquois faction review, part of which comes from Fire on the Frontier
- Check out the King Philip legendary commander model.
- Check out the Benjamin Church legendary commander model.
- Read an overview of all the current Blood & Plunder rulebooks over on The Dead Man’s Chest blog.
- Check out this tournament winning Wabanaki force built from Fire on the Frontier.
- Summary video of the events of King Philip’s War
- Battle Report Video on The Great Swamp Fight from Fire on the Frontier
- Battle Report on The Battle of Hudson’s Bay (below) from Fire on the Frontier
- Battle Report video on the Ambush scenario from Fire on the Frontier
- Blood & Plunder: Fire on the Frontier in Softcover, PDF and as a package deal for both.
- Native American Braves models, used extensively in this expansion.
- Legendary Commanders King Philip, Benjamin Church and Pierre Lemoyne d’Ibervillew (coming soon) models.
- King William’s War by Michael G. Laramie
- Subjects Unto the Same King by Jenny Hale Pulsipher
- Palisade Fort and Palisade Bastion
- New England Houses from Things From the Basement