Raise the Black introduced a brand new 2-Player Starter Set for Blood and Plunder based on Blackbeard’s last battle. This set offers new players a way to get into Blood and Plunder at a reasonable cost. For veteran players, the kit is an easy way to add two ships and 26 miniatures to their collection. The kit comes with two 18th Century Plastic Sloops, 24 sailors, an two exclusive models: Edward “Blackbeard” Teach, and Lieutenant Robert Maynard.
What’s in the Box?
As the name implies, this kit is meant to be a starter set, and includes everything a new player needs to get into the game except for glue and paint. The box comes with a double sided paper game mat, a rule book, cardboard punch-out terrain and tokens, twelve 10-sided dice (d10s), two ship cards, two activation decks, 24 plastic sailor miniatures, and the exclusive Blackbeard and Maynard models. This means that after the kit is built, everything that is needed to play games of Blood and Plunder is at the buyer’s disposal. While the box is marketed as a 2-player set, there is nothing wrong with picking one up for yourself simply to bolster your current collection!
The Mat, Tokens, and Terrain
The double-sided paper game mat is of decent quality and is great for smaller games. The mat is just under 3’x3′ and has an ocean side very similar to the Oak and Iron mat that comes in that core box, and a “land” side that looks like grass with patches of dirt. It is slightly glossy and is tough enough to withstand miniatures and plastic ships sliding around on it.
The cardboard tokens are used in lieu of the usual marker dice to keep track of reloads, Fatigue, and conditions for both miniatures and ships. They are easy to read and identify, and provide a visual aid for units needing to reload or units that have taken fatigue from any matter of in-game reasons. I recommend separating these tokens with small zip-lock baggies for easy retrieval and storage.
The terrain that comes in the box is double-sided, just like the mat! One side has trees and/or a downed log and the other side represents shoals and rocks. These terrain pieces are essentially enlarged versions of the carboard terrain included in the Oak and iron Core Box and is a welcome addition to the kit. They are sized to be the correct size for the Submerged Hazard Sea event (Joseph’s favorite!) which saves you time on making your own.
The final cardboard goods included in the starter set are two double sided ship movement guides, a cardboard ruler, a wind direction marker, and a stinkpot smoke token. While most wargamers prefer to sue a tape measure (some even use fancy laser rangefinders!), the ruler is good enough to start with. The ship movement guides are double sided (a new-fangled feature!) and are used to move ships. The large smoke-like token is used to mark where stinkpot smoke is, and is a useful marker to have!
Rulebook, Activation Decks, and Ship Cards
The included rulebook is full-color and is a revised version of the core Blood and Plunder Rulebook. The main difference between the old rule book and the revised version are the updated Artillery Rules, the Index in the back, and the information for Blackbeard’s Men and Maynard’s Pirate Hunters. The updated Artillery Rules initially were a download available on the Firelock Games website and made their print debut in this book. The Index in the back of the book is better organized and makes finding specific rules and/or sections much easier than in the previous iteration.
Activation decks are important because they determine how units activate during games of Blood and Plunder. While a normal set of 52 playing cards will suffice, the decks made by Firelock include how many actions a unit can take on the cards, which is easier than having to consult a separate chart. While the skull and crossbones design is a holdover from the previous “Unaligned” Activation Deck, as of this writing (May 2023) the British Flag Deck is only available in the starter set, making it yet another exclusive item!
The final non-miniature goods featured in the kit are the two Ship Cards. One includes the stats for the Balandra, and the other for the Bermuda Sloop. The best thing to do with these cards is to put them in a postcard sleeve so that they can be marked with a dry-erase marker. These cards are like tokens but for ships, and help you mark reloads, damage, hull and rigging integrity, as well as conditions for the ships.
The unit cards listed on the back of the box were missed by the manufacturer but can be downloaded from Firelock Games’ website here.
While everything mentioned above is important, I know y you’re here: for that sweet plastic goodness! The starter set includes 24 plastic sailor miniatures, which is the equivalent of two boxes of plastic sailors. These can be built in a variety of ways, and to make an “even” spread, each ship would hold 12 miniatures. These models are meant to be generic and can be used to represent any of the various nationalities’ sailors, but are just at home being Pirate and English sailors as well.
The main draw to the starter set are the exclusive Blackbeard and Maynard models! They are only available in this starter set and are pretty awesome sculpts. Being plastic, you can use any leftover bits from your sailors to customize them further (I did this for my Blackbeard) or you can leave them as they are. Blackbeard looks absolutely ferocious and ready to run Maynard through, while his counterpart looks disciplined with the classic British stiff upper lip!
Note: I made my Maynard to look a little more butch by swapping the head with one that had a mustache and added a fancier hat. This is optional!
Rounding out the actual models are the two 18th Century Sloops included in the kit. They can be built as either a Balandra or Bermuda Sloop. The Balandra is slightly slower but is tankier while the Bermuda sloop is faster but less durable. I’d recommend building one of each as they both play differently and will maximize the amount of list-building options available from this kit. To differentiate between the two types of ships, build the Balandra without the extended bowspirit for easy identification.
How Should I Use the Starter Set?
There are two “main” ways to use the set and one “not required but recommended if you like fun” way to use it. The most obvious way is to create two Forces in order to play with a friend and/or run demo games at your Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS). For those who bought the set to satisfy 1 greedy pirate (don’t worry, you’ll get no judgement from this scurvy dog!), your options are less restrictive, especially if you already own more Blood and Plunder Minis.
Demo Games and/or Games with a Friend
The easiest way to handle your first game and/or demo games is to make two lists with 13 miniatures each (12 sailors and either Blackbeard or Maynard) that are similar for ease of use. The rulebook comes with the Blackbeard’s Last Battle scenario which is a fine place to start, but it does add a little more complexity. If you want something very basic, just use the Sea Encounter scenario on page 136 of your rulebook. The force lists in the Blackbeard’s Last Battle are fine but I have provided two alternate lists that offer similar models and slightly different ways to take out the opponent that I will feature below.
You can play at sea with the (almost) 3×3′ mat with shoals, or you can flip the mat and terrain over and play on land without the ships. Starting on land lets you learn the movement, shooting and cover rules without having the figure out how to manage the ships in your first game, but starting at sea simplifies movement (since you’re always on your ship) and cover (since you’re always in light cover).
This list contains two swivels to demonstrate how artillery works in Blood and Plunder. The Roundsmen are a Veteran unit that will show how a unit’s training level affects their activations. Both units have Grenadoes in case the player chooses to get close and board! The Balandra was chosen for flavor, as Maynard was hunting Blackbeard at the time.
Maynard’s list contains two units of Able Seaman and one of them has traded their Brace of Pistols for muskets, and added Sidearm Pistols to get a feel for both weapons and how Sidearms work. The unit with Muskets has Stinkpots or Firepots, and the unit without Muskets has Grenadoes. The Bermuda Sloop is faster, and may take control of the engagement depending on the skill of the player.
More for Me!
If you are using this set to join a local Blood and Plunder group at your FLGS or as a basis for starting your very own Blood and Plunder Collection, welcome aboard! First off, I’d recommend playing a few demos before breaking open your kit so you can get a feel for the game. If there’s any Nationalities and/or Factions you’re interested in playing, see if a local player can accommodate you. Once you have a few games under your proverbial belt, now you can start building!
24 Sailors is plenty to crew any one of your ships. If you wanted to run both, then an even split of 12 or more (Or less!) on either ship is also possible! The sailor models in the set are pretty generic, and can be used for any sailor model from the various nationalities.
The key here is armament. If the model is armed with a Pistol, Brace of Pistols, and/or a Standard Melee Weapon (all models have one), then you sailor box will accommodate. There are enough weapons included in the set to build 24 models armed with pistol(s) and a melee weapon, and you will have enough muskets to arm 16 models. If these are your first models, then I would recommend building 16 of them armed with a Pistol(s) and a Melee weapon, and then build 8 more armed with a musket, a single pistol, and a melee weapon. This will add flexibility when list building.
The instructions are pretty vague, but once you do one sprue, they are pretty easy. You can check out this article with part lists for building 24 unique pirates out of this starter box here if you would like some inspiration.
I’ve gone ahead and made several lists in the Force Builder for inspiration! These lists will let you run your minis as different nationalities’ units while you continue to play the game!
Blood & Plunder Starter Set Value
Before ending here, we should take a moment to appreciate the real value you get in this Two Player Starter Set. For $145, this is what you get in the box:
- Rulebook ($30)
- 24 Multi Part Sailor Models ($60)
- 2 Unique Commander Models w/Stat Cards ($20)
- 2 Hard Plastic Sloops ($78)
- 2 Activation Decks ($44)
- 1 Double Sided Game Mat ($5)
- Ship Movement Template ($5)
- Stinkpot Marker
- Wind Direction Marker
- Double Sided Shoal/Tree Punchboard Terrain ($5)
- 6x D10 ($10)
- Various Cardboard Marker Tokens ($5)
- 12″ Measuring Ruler
All told, that’s about $265 worth of Plunder! Incredible value.
If you’re a new player just getting into Blood and Plunder, or a veteran player looking for a cost-effective way tog et into the new plastics, the 2-Player Starter Set is a fantastic jumping off point. This is a welcome addition to the game and a great way to press-gang a friend into playing with you! The sheer value in this kit has lead to an explosion of new players that has allowed our community to grow.
If you’re interested in Blood & Plunder, The Blackbeard vs. Maynard 2-Player Starter Set is hands down the best, and most affordable way to get into the game.
Article & Photos by Dan Carlson