Guest article by Garrett Swader. Photos by Jake Farris
Playing Blood & Plunder in St. Augustine
Sometimes I have the urge to reconnect with the past and experience the history our hobby represents. Or sometimes I just feel like playing a game outside. Recently I had the privilege to participate in a destination game of Blood & Plunder in St. Augustine, Florida. I had made plans to attend the History Festival and Drake’s Raid reenactment this past May. St. Augustine is one of my favorite places to visit, and as a lover of early colonial history the city has a lot to offer. I had discussed with other members of the Blood & Plunder community, the possibility of playing an outdoor game at a historic location. I thought “why not during the History Festival?” My idea was received with enthusiasm, so I set to work finding a suitable place to set up card tables for a few hours to get in a game and soak in the atmosphere.
Finding a Venue to Play Blood & Plunder
My criteria for a location were:
- Lots of shade. It being the middle of May, I expected the weather to be hot and would prefer myself and my resin ships to stay as cool as possible.
- Needed to be near the beautiful historical district. My search led me to the Plaza de la Constitución. It was right in the middle of historic downtown, had lots of trees, and was previously the open market for the city. It was also right in front of the government house built in 1706 and across from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine which started construction during the second Spanish period in 1793. The location seemed perfect. I emailed the city’s Parks and Rec office to confirm that what we were planning to do was allowed. They confirmed and we were set!
With the location chosen, the next thing I needed was a scenario. The scenario I picked was a Historical scenario with ties to the 1702 siege of the city.
St. Augustine Scenario for Blood & Plunder
On November 8th 1702 the English forces arrive at St. Augustine by sea. Thirteen ships were sighted from the fort. By noon, Diego de la Sierra, the Spanish pilot who was stationed on the royal frigate “Nuestra señora de la Piedad y el Niño Jesús” commanded by Luis Alfonso which lay outside the bar with 16 men aboard, reported that the English were fast approaching the bar. Immediately, the governor ordered Captain Alfonso and Pilot Sierra to board the frigate and bring her over the bar into the harbor and anchor her alongside the other royal frigate, “La Gloria,” under the protection of the fort’s guns. Both navy men hastened to save their ship from the enemy. Could they do it?The siege of St. Augustine in 1702 Charles W. Arnade
Credit goes to Joseph Forster for the scenario. Historically the wind was too unruly to sail and the Nuestra Señora de la Piedad y el Niño Jesús was sunk by the Spanish to prevent capture.
As the game started the Nuestra señora de la Piedad y el Niño Jesús needed to get off the escape edge to safety while the English need to stop and capture the frigate if they can. We changed up this scenario to accommodate 4 players by adding points to each side.
Round 1 we rolled on the wind table, and rolled a 1 which is no effect. This was good news for the Spanish because the wind was still at their backs. The first few cards were spent getting ships into range.
Late in the first turn the Nuestra Señora de la Piedad y el Niño Jesús fired off a salvo of swivels from the front deck. Needing tens, no shot made contact, but the first shots were fired!
On the last activation the Light Guns of the Spanish Frigate were fired. Only one gun found its mark, but on the damage roll they scored two hits one of which was Lucky and caused a Leak on the front deck of the English Sloop.
Second round the Nuestra señora de la Piedad y el Niño Jesús was running hard for the objective. The wind roll put the table at a -1 to speed for the turn.
The English Brigantine was able to get into close range and fire and cause some casualties in the front deck of the Frigate. The leaky English sloop also sent a Lucky Light Gun shot straight through a swivel on the back deck of the Nuestra señora de la Piedad y el Niño Jesús.
Undaunted by the casualties and the damage to the ship, the Spaniards drove forward. Disaster almost struck the Spanish when they failed a run aground check late in the round moving over the bar. Luckily Diego de la Sierra was on board to guide the ship harmlessly over the shoals, escaping and giving the Spanish ultimate victory.
After the game I realized that we got the setup slightly wrong. All ships were supposed to start at the lowest possible sail setting >0. This made the game go quicker than intended but it also threw us into action a lot faster as well. Next time I want to play it as written and see if it makes a difference in the feel of the game.
Overall, we had a fantastic time playing Blood & Plunder at St. Augustine’s History Festival. The weather was great and everything worked out really well. We were able to show the game to people who would probably never step foot in a game store or convention and even to a tabletop gaming couple who had never heard of Blood & Plunder. My goal from the start was to be able to play this great game in a very picturesque environment and connect my ships and little metal/plastic men to the history they represent.
Hopefully this will inspire other people to do something similar. Special thanks to Colleen Swader, Jake Ferris, and Holly Hayden for helping me put on the game. Another special thanks to Jake Ferris for the fantastic pictures.
Additional Recommended Reading
- Check out St. Augustine’s massive fort in this 2021 Castillo San Marcos Tour with Joseph Forster
- Enjoy a 2021 tour of Mission San Luis.
- Preview of another scenario from the 1702 St. Augustine Campaign
- 2023 Summer of Plunder Announcement