Adepticon 2023 Blood & Plunder Tournament Report

Adepticon is one of the larger wargaming conventions in the USA and Firelock Games was able to attend as a vendor and event-host, making it a big event for Blood & Plunder (and Oak & Iron) this year! The Blood & Pigment Crew (half of us were able to go) was commissioned to run the tournaments and player events for Blood & Plunder and Oak & Iron this year and we want to share some of our experiences from the con with you, our readers! We ran demos, event games, and tournaments, but in this report, we’ll be reviewing the Blood & Plunder Tournament from the event.

Only half the Pigment crew was able to attend this year (Joseph and Jason), but we’re hoping to get more of us there next year. It was an awesome time!

At its heart, Blood & Plunder isn’t all about being a “tournament game.” I have found the players very friendly, and non-cutthroat. They usually enjoy the history and narrative of their games just as much or more than the competition. But, a tournament is a fantastic way to get some good, focused games in, play a static force list several times in a row, and play several different people in a row that helps you sharpen your game. Tournaments are great, but they aren’t all about winning (but I think everyone knows that winning once in a while feels pretty good).

So we’re going to run through these tournament results, but know that we aren’t really taking too much stock in this “data.”

2023 Adepticon Blood & Tournament Rules

This was a simple three-round, 200-point sea tournament for Blood & Plunder players. All the boring details (which proved helpful before the tournament was done) were spelled out in the tournament packet but the basics were:

  • Sea Battles
  • 200 Points or less
  • 3 Rounds Swiss Pairings with random starting tables
  • ~90-Minute Rounds
  • All official Blood & Plunder content is legal
  • 24 Player Limit
  • 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place awards of $100, $50, and $25 Firelock gift cards and a set of deluxe Fortune Coins awarded to the “best painted” force
  • Scenarios were Breakthrough, Control the Field, and Take and Hold
  • Wins score 3 Tournament Points, Losses score 0, and Draws (very rare) score 1 Tournament Point with ties broken by Strike Point Differential.
  • Games were played on “scrollable” 4×4’ sea mats with half of the tables containing 1-2 Shoals.

2023 Adepticon Blood & Plunder Tournament Participation

We had 24 slots open for this tournament and we had 20 registered for the event (this was the only one of the 6 Blood & Plunder events to not fill up with a waiting list). Two players were not able to attend so we had a total of 18 players in the event.

There was a wide range of experience levels present at the event, ranging from some long-time “pro players,” to casual players, to players who had just learned at the con, to a couple of players who had never played before! It was a bit of a wild mix!

I (Joseph) managed the tournament and did not play, but Blood & Pigment member (and Timber & Sail owner) Jason Klotz was able to participate.

2023 Adepticon Blood & Plunder Tournament Force Lists

There were some recognizable trends in the nationality and factions used in the forces brought to the tournament. Some of this data is not entirely helpful because we provided 4 loaner lists to players and those were chosen by us, mostly motivated by what we could put together quickly that would be fairly easy to manage on the first attempt. But here’s how the tournament lists broke down by nation and faction:

Tournament Force Nationalities

  • 7 Spanish
  • 4 Pirate
  • 4 English/British
  • 2 French
  • 1 Dutch

Of these lists, tournament organizers provided 2 Spanish, 1 English and 1 Dutch loaner force.

So “voluntary forces” included:

  • 5 Spanish
  • 4 Pirate
  • 3 English/British
  • 2 French

Alas, not one Native American list fought in this tournament.

Not all players turned in lists as they should have so I don’t have all the data on the forces themselves, but here are the factions present, to the best of my knowledge/educated guess.

Spanish Armada de Barlovento Force by Brian McLaughlin

Tournament Force Factions

  • 3 British Royal Navy
  • 2 Golden Age Pirates
  • 2 Armada de Barlovento
  • 2 French Buccaneers
  • 2 Spanish Armada (Both loaners)
  • 1 Spanish Mission Garrison
  • 1 Spanish Corsairs
  • 1 Unknown Spanish faction
  • 1 Caesar’s Men
  • 1 Blackbeard’s Men
  • 1 English Buccaneers (Loaner)
  • 1 Dutch Privateers (Loaner)

2023 Adepticon Blood & Plunder Results

Who were the winners? Which lists walked away with prizes? That’s what I always want to know! Here are the top 10 players with their respective factions:

  1. Mark Magdowski – Spanish Armada
  2. Niguel Vega – Caesar’s Men
  3. Jason Klotz – British Royal Navy
  4. Garrett Swader – Armada de Barlovento
  5. Brian McLaughlin – Armada de Barlovento
  6. Holly Hayden – Golden Age Pirates
  7. Kyle Plumbtree – Spanish Armada
  8. Jake Farris – British Royal Navy
  9. Dave Jessup – Blackbeard’s Men
  10. Josh Shivak – Spanish Mission Garrison

Spanish had a great showing! In addition to taking the top spot, the Spanish took spots 4, 5, 7, and 10! Talk about overpowered French! I mean…. Spanish! But there was a nice mix of Pirates, Spanish, and English in the top 3 spots.

Awesome Game Moments During the Tournament

  • One Spanish sloop with Light Cannons got off a Stern Rake on a Tartana with its three light cannons and accomplished the ultimate critical hit: the Catastrophic Damage followed by a second 10 causing the powder magazine to explode! The poor raked Tartana was entirely removed from the board
  • There was an attack from 4 Swivel Guns on the first turn of a game that scored 9 hits out of 12 dice. That’s a nice way to start your game!
  • On one table I saw a custom Cook character modeled with a dead chicken. That Cook wouldn’t die! Blackbeard was the last man left in his unit, but he refused to die or run!
  • One player was running big boy Blackbeard himself. His crew was getting smacked pretty hard by Spanish cannons and Expertly Drilled Soldados, but he managed to grapple the Spanish ship near the end of the game. His unit got hit again but he managed to survive and charge the Spanish, just Blackbeard and one other model left in this unit. Talk about Bold.
  • One unit of British Grenadiers attracted the focused fire of the enemy ship, but they just kept making their Saves. That 6 Shoot Save pushed down to 5 with Hard Cover is pretty solid! I don’t know how many hits they absorbed, but they never went to Shaken.
It may have been a competitive event, but there were smiles around the tables and plenty of fun banter to be had!

Prize Earning Games

  • The most insane moment of the whole tournament was at the top table in round 3. This game was being played for the top spot and tensions were high! Jason Klotz running a British Royal Navy Galleon with Chaloner Ogle and 8 Swivel Guns vs Niguel Vega running a Caesar’s Men Bermuda Sloop with 8 Swivel Guns.
    • Both players had 2 solid wins behind them.
    • Both players had Musicians to trigger Terror in their opponent (which cancel each other out).
    • Both players had False Colors if they were Attackers.
    • Both players had a +4 to their Roll for Attacker.

      The British list won the Attacker role, so they controlled that opening volley at some level, but the Bermuda Sloop had so many upgrades, it was scooting around the board super fast while the Galleon was a much slower and clumsy ship. Before the final round, we extended the event by 30 minutes for the last tournament round to give players enough time to really play out that entire game, and both Jason and Niguel were sweating bullets the entire time. Careful play, from both sides. The Galleon had the height advantage giving the pirates a weaker save, but the Pirate ship was so much faster it had a maneuverability advantage. The Pirate ship was made to board, but the British Galleon was so tall, it was very difficult to grapple and board all in the same activation.
      When time was called, it was still a tie with the same number of Strike Points. Granted another couple minutes to finish the game round and break the tie, they played a couple more careful activations. With no change in Strike Points it came down to Tie Breakers. Tournament rules are made to avoid ties if possible.
      • They tied with the same number of Strike Points.
      • So, it comes down to the point values of models killed. Both players tied.
      • The final tiebreaker was the number of models killed. STILL A TIE!
    • Tournament rules gave each player 1 Tournament Point for the tie instead of the 3 and 0 for win and loss. That kicked both of the top players to 2nd and 3rd place with two wins and one tie each. What a wild game!
  • Another highly entertaining moment in the tournament was during the last round at the second-highest table, which should have been playing for 3rd. At that table, Mark ended up beating Garrett Swader with a list Garrett had made as a loaner force for him! The winner of that game should have taken third place, but since the top table ended with a tie, Mark, after beating Garrett with Garrett’s force, took the championship!
L to R Jason Klotz (3rd), Niguel Vega (2nd), Mike Tunez (game designer), and Mark Magdowski (1st).

“The Meta” at the 2023 Adepticon Blood & Plunder Tournament

It’s interesting to see what the winning lists have in common after a tournament. The main thing they had in common is they had skilled players behind them. But in this case, there are some significant similarities. With a new expansion out with many new lists possible and an adjusted system for cannons, I didn’t exactly know what to look for as far as “the meta” at this tournament. The 2022 Historicon sea tournament leaned into Piraguas and Boats with a lot of Sloops and Brigantines making an appearance.

I’m missing data on a couple of lists, but here’s the ship data I have:

Notably absent are the Piraguas that dominated the Historicon event, as well as the 3 deck ships like the Fluyt and Light Frigate that fill the space between the Brigantine and the Galleon.

As far as categorizing the lists in different styles, that data is a little hard to pigeonhole as well, but here’s what I extrapolate from reviewing the lists I have.

  • 7 Balanced Force Lists with some cannons, swivels, and small arms
  • 4 Swivel Mania Lists focusing primary on swivel firepower
  • 2 Great Guns Lists focusing mostly on Medium Cannons
  • 2 Small Arms Lists focusing on musketry
  • 2 Fast Boarding Lists focusing primarily on getting close on boarding

The Winning Lists at 2023 Adepticon Blood & Plunder Tournament

And now I’ll give you the list you’ve really been wanting. Here are the top players with the factions, ships and lists types:

  1. Mark Magdowski – Spanish Armada – Bermuda Sloop – Swivel Mania
  2. Niguel Vega – Caesar’s Men – Bermuda Sloop – Swivel Mania/Fast Boarding crossover
  3. Jason Klotz – British Royal Navy – Galleon – Swivel Mania
  4. Kyle Plumbtree – Spanish Armada – Sloop – Balanced Force w/emphasis on Great Guns
  5. Brian McLaughlin – Armada de Barlovento – Sloop – Balanced Force
  6. Garrett Swader – Armada de Barlovento – Balandra – Swivel Mania
  7. Holly Hayden – Golden Age Pirates – Bermuda Sloop – Balanced Force
  8. Jake Farris – British Royal Navy – Sloop – Balanced w/emphasis on Great Guns
  9. Gary Nichols – French Buccaneers – Sloop – Balanced Force
  10. Robert Gendron – Spanish Corsairs – Tartana – Unkown
  11. Josh Shivak – Spanish Mission Garrison – Tartana/Longboat – Small Arms
  12. Dexter Heide – British Royal Navy – Sloop of War – Balanced Force
  13. Dave Jessup – Blackbeard’s Men – Bermuda Sloop – Balanced w/emphasis on Fast Boarding
Tensions continue to mount in a tense game between veteran players Niguel Vega and Jason Klotz

Top Forces Analysis

Looking at the top 3 Forces, they have Swivel Guns in common. Each of the placing lists had 8 Swivel Guns which really speaks to the strength of Swivels, even after the errata changed their costs from 2pts to 4pts a good while back. The top Spanish Force has some small arms mixed in, along with some serious boarding power. We will be publishing articles on all of the top 3 lists soon, but you can see the top list, built by Garrett Swader and used by Mark Magdowski, here as a pdf.

The #2 list was fast, with some serious upgrades on the Bermuda Sloop. It was fun to see historical commanders in Black Caesar in the #2 list and Chaloner Ogle in the #3 list. Niguel’s second place force had some small arms, solid boarding power, a good commander, a high number of models, and that crazy 24 swivel dice per turn.

Jason Klotz’s third place list was very slow, but was a hard counter to cannon lists with a Heavily Built Galleon, and good counter to boarding with that high freeboard, and a good aggressive list with that height advantage for the Swivel Guns. The British Royal Navy gave him the Tough rule all around, and Ogle provided a rare possibility to boost swivel’s accuracy with Strict. But again, the main firepower was those 8 Swivel Guns.

The other thing about these lists is they have a lot of men! The more models you have, the slower you get Strike Points and the longer you can man those Swivel Guns. At 32, 34, and 33 models, the top three lists were not small forces.

The 4th and 5th lists relied more on cannons but had a nice mix of units, including a solid unit of professional Spanish Soldiers.

Lots of men, strong commander, lots of attack dice: those are all things that help win tournaments!

A new 18th Century Sloop and older Resin sloop jocky for position among the shoals


It’s always fun to see a tournament play out and see players have a good time learning to play their lists, learning to counter new tactics, and learning to play the game better! The top lists were substantially different than the last forces I saw win a the Historicon tournament, and that seems to be a healthy place for the game. The top 3 lists were all from Raise the Black, but 4 of the top 10 were from older releases which is a good thing as well. A good mix of new and old playing at a competitive level is great!

Raise the Black gave both Great Guns and Fast Boarding styles of lists substantial new options, but neither one of those lists totally dominated either. I was a little afraid everyone would come with Medium Cannons and just blow each other up! Blood & Plunder makes a pretty great tournament game!

Please chime in with your experiences in the tournament if you were able to be there, or your previous experiences in other Blood & Plunder tournaments. What’s your favorite competitive list, or what do you think would make a power sea list at 200 points?

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