Swivel Mania – Blood & Plunder Sea Tactics Pt 5

Part 5 of 6 in our Sea Tactics force building series for Blood & Plunder. In this series, we’ve identified 6 different styles of forces people build for sea games looked at each one individually. In this article we are going to cover “Swivel Mania”, builds focused on using Swivel Guns as your primary offensive weapon.

The 6 types of sea forces this series covers include:

Each of these styles has specific strengths and weaknesses and some will be stronger in different scenarios. In this article, we will look at the Swivel Mania style of sea force in detail.

Broadside of Swivel guns

Article Contents

This will be a very detailed look, covering:

  1. Basic Elements Needed
  2. Strengths & Weaknesses
  3. Strong Ship Choices
  4. Appropriate Factions
  5. Strong Commanders & Characters
  6. Example Forces
  7. How it relates to the core scenarios

5. Swivel Mania Force Overview

This style of force combines elements of the Great Guns, Small Arms and possibly Low Profile Boats tactics. Swivel Guns are a very effective weapon in Blood & Plunder. They are the cheapest way to throw dice at sea. If you can manage your artillery crew efficiently, control the distance between you and your enemy, you can throw an insane number of dice every turn, raining death and discouragement down on that enemy ship.

Basic Elements of a Swivel Mania Force

In this build, we’re looking for a maximum number of Swivel Guns on our vessels, ways to reload them quickly, and maybe some ways to give bonuses to our target shoot numbers.

  • Lots of Swivel Guns
  • Lots of Sailors with Artillery Crew or Expert Artillery Crew to man the Swivels
  • Master Gunner for faster reload time
  • Ship with plenty of Swivel Gun mounts
  • Fatigue management to allow pushing units to reload and fire faster
Artillery crews ready to fire their swivel guns

Swivel Mania Strengths

Pound for pound and point for point, this is one of the cheapest ways to throw the most dice. You will be able to fire more dice faster than your opponent in pretty much every case if you min/max this build. Swivel Guns cost 4 points each (currently), throw 3 dice each, have a Shoot number of 6, only take 2 Reload markers after firing and can benefit from the easily obtainable Artillery Crew and Expert Artillery Crew Special Rules. Most other builds are paying more points per dice and they likely won’t be able to shoot as quickly as you can either, so there’s always a real opportunity to simply overwhelm your enemy with simple math.

Broadside dice and smoke

Swivel Guns can be used to make Defensive Attacks, unlike standard artillery. This covers one of the main weaknesses of that style of force build.

Swivel Mania Weaknesses

Honestly, there aren’t many weaknesses for this style of sea force. It is a “one trick pony” if optimized, but it’s such a good trick, it’s usually OK. Just keep shooting those swivels! Similar to the Great Guns build, if you start to fail or take a lot of Fatigue, it’s difficult to recover. If your units are assigned to your Swivel Guns ever Go Prone, it disrupts the entire cycle of reloading and firing (since you can’t fire on the same activation as Standing/Moving).

You have to be assigned to Swivel Guns, just like the rest of Artillery, which limits your flexibility. Your units on your guns can’t do other tasks on your ship like Sailing Actions, Repairs, etc., without leaving the guns, then using a Dedicated action to reassign to the Swivels. A Small Arms build have more flexibility to do anything that needs to be done without huge consequences, but they have to pay more points for their attack dice.

Swivel guns on the rear deck of a ship

Strong Ship Choices for Swivel Mania Forces

There are several considerations here. You clearly want a ship with the potential to carry a lot of Swivel Guns. The ships with the 4 Swivel mounts in the forecastle are generally the strongest choices.

Another consideration is elevation. In the Galleon and Fluyt, you can actually get an elevation advantage, penalizing your target’s Save tests, making your Swivels that much more deadly.

Speed, maneuverability, and safety from cannons are all considerations that can make Piraguas a really good option for this style of force as well! Low Profile can make you a tough target to hit from a cannon-focused (Great Guns) build.

  • Piragua
  • Tartana
  • Bermuda Sloop/Balandra
  • Sloop
  • Brigantine
  • Fluyt
  • Galleon
A lineup of Blood & Plunder ships that work well with Swivel Guns

Tips & Tricks for Swivel Mania Forces

  • Do whatever it takes to get the Expert Artillery Crew Special Rule on your primary units using Swivel Guns. The Dutch and English Sailor units get that rule by default. Other factions can acquire it through a Master Gunner or other means. But that ability to get two actions on a Heart, then get a third Reload action with the Special Rule, plus a Command Point action, mean you can get 3 actions with a spade, 4 with a heart, 3 with a Diamond, and 4 with a club. You can even get 5 or 6 total actions in a single turn with heart in some cases.
  • Try to keep your ship between 7-19.9 inches from your enemy. Swivel Guns don’t have any special Extended Range, so at past 20″ they can’t do any damage to crews (short of using Strict).
  • Remember you have a 360° firing arc, making sailing simpler. Focus on optimizing that range by going for a closer range for something like Great Guns and Small Arms or staying as far as you can from that crazy Fast Boarding list.

Use your commander and characters wisely

  • You’ll want a Master Gunner. His bonus to the Hit roll only applies, but that flexible Reload action is still worth it for 4 points unless you’re already maxed out with Command Points from your Commander.
  • The Unknown African character with the Indomitable Special Rule is a great character for a Swivel Gun force since it allows for pushing almost every turn!
  • You don’t need a real fancy commander for this force. Choose a cheap one, or one with a generic good ability to keep your force functioning. An Officer is also a good choice.
  • Strict is really the only Special Rule you can use to manipulate your Shoot number (Ruthless doesn’t work on Artillery), but it increases the need for Fatigue Management abilities.
A piragua configured for a Swivel Mania force build

Using Push To Get Extra Actions.

  • You can potentially shoot your Swivel Guns twice in the same activation. This can decide a game and really be worth it. Using the action management mentioned above, you can do a lot with a Swivel that only requires 2 Reloads. A Trained unit with Expert Artillery Crew and a Master Gunner can shoot, reload, free reload, shoot on a heart without even pushing! Even without the Master Gunner, you can push and shoot Twice on a heart activation card! If you have a unit on 4 Swivel Guns, that’s 12+12 dice in one activation. If you’re at anything less than 12″ that can be absoutely devastating!
  • With a Commander with the Motivated Special Rule, you can get up to 6 actions (Heart=2+1 free+push, then 2 actions off Motivated Command Point). This is 2 full cycles of shooting and reloading every single turn! You’ll get a lot of Fatigue really fast, but can do it for a turn or 2!
  • If you want to go to the final step of insanity, you can actually try having two units “hot swap” those swivel guns so you get even more shots out of them in a single turn! Activate one unit on the Swivel Guns, shoot, reload etc. Commander can then use a command to pop them off the guns, and Assign a new unit to those guns, then that unit can activate and use them again! Mathed out with optimal activation cards (Hearts), using two units plus a Command unit, you could possibly get 8 actions (or 9 with Motivated) on that set of Swivel Guns. It’s kind of expensive in points and lost opportunities, and it’s very silly, but it is the last step in the deep dark slide into SWIVEL MANIA!

Bonus Tips for Maximizing Swivel Guns

  • Strict can bring the base Shoot number down to 5. I don’t think there’s another rule that can actually change the base Shoot number for a Swivel Gun. This makes the Dutch stand out for Swivel forces as it’s available to Standard Commanders. But the English have some good access to this rule as well (more on that later).

Using Piraguas in Swivel Mania

Piraguas are very well suited for this style of force.

On the flip side, you don’t get Hard Cover for your models, and it’s VERY painful if you get rammed by a ship.

Dutch Commanders are great for Swivel Mania builds!

Strong Factions for Swivel Mania Forces

Any faction with core units with the Expert Artillery Crew special rule is going to be solid. A couple factions stick out as superior because of being able to bring the Unknown African Character from the Buccaneer’s Companion mini expansion. Another couple stick out because of their Fatigue management options which can allow for more pushing. Some of the Pirate Factions have good unit options and good commanders, but the possibility of being Drunk hurts Swivels a lot, so I’ve left them off this list. Natives can’t purchase Swivel Guns so I’ve left them off this list entirely.

  • British Royal Navy (RtB)
  • English Buccaneers (Core, NPBtL)
  • New England Privateers (FotF)
  • Brethren of the Coast (Core, NPBtL)
  • Dutch Privateer (NPBtL)
  • Dutch Navy (NPBtL)
  • Dutch Marine
  • The Flying Gang
  • Spanish Armada
  • French Canadian Privateers/Canadian Militia (NPBtL, RtB)
  • French Royal Navy (RtB)
  • Flibustiers de Graff (NPBtL)
4 Swivel Guns on the Fore Deck

I put the English/British Royal Navies at the very top because their artillery crew gets the Tough Special Rule alongside the Expert Artillery Crew Special Rule. Very potent combo when on the Swivels! And they have access to the Strict Special Rule as well!

Strong Commanders & Characters for Swivel Mania Forces

Commanders with Strict can be very good if you have room for extra Fatigue. The Motivated Special Rule can bring things to the next level as well. Commanders with Inspiring, Very Inspiring, Unwavering, Indomitable or Very Inspiring or even Lead By Example will be very effective at keeping your list running as well.

Low Cost (0-10pt)

  • Master Gunner (4)
  • Unknown African (3)
  • Experienced Dutch, British, & Unaligned European Standard Commanders (for Strict) (10)

Medium Cost (11-20

  • Chaloner Olge (20)
  • Experienced Dutch Sea Commander (15)
  • Stede Bonnet (18)
  • Seasoned English, Dutch & Unaligned European Standard Commanders (20)
  • Experienced French & English Buccaneer Commanders (15)
  • John Quelch (15)

High Cost (21+)

  • Pieter Schuyler (25)
  • Lauren’s De Graff (42)
  • Colonel Edward Morgan (25)
  • Pieter Stool (27)

Examples of Swivel Mania Forces

British Royal Navy Swivel Galleon

Blood & Plunder English Galleon force for for Swivel Mania

This is a bit of a silly list, but it is not bad! The Galleon is being underused, but if you can get the elevation advantage on Swivel Guns, that increases their lethality. The Sea Dogs have Expert Artillery Crew and they have a Master Gunner. The Commander can use the faction ability to make all the Swivels fire at once if you like. The extra unit of Sea Dogs can sail the ship with the Sailing Master, and the Anti-Grappling Measures and high freeboard keep aggressive boarding lists at bay. The Regulars can provide some other small arms fire and defend or attack with bayonets as needed. Not a conventional list, but not a bad force at all!

Dutch Draaibare Pistool Manie

Dutch Draaibare Pistool Manie

On the other extreme from the Galleon, you could run 12 Swivel Guns on 3 Piraguas. This force can dump out a crazy amount of Swivel Gun dice, but it lacks flexibility and can’t take any sailing actions without everything falling apart. Units are pushed up to 13 models with the Characters being the 13th.

Two Piraguas leading an attack

Swivel Mania and the 5 Core Scenarios

The 5 scenarios found in the core rulebook are still the most likely to see in use at a tournament. Swivel Mania can kind of do OK in all these scenarios as long as it responds appropriately to the style of list it’s facing (regarding distance maintained).

  1. Breakthrough – As the attacker or defender, this scenario forces ships to close the distance but doesn’t require boarding. Excellent suitability.
  2. Raid – This scenario requires you to take the enemy flagship, but if you just shoot all the enemy to death with a million Swivel dice, that won’t be hard. Medium Suitability
  3. Control the Field – This scenario encourages the Defender to fight their way upwind. The Attacker’s role is slightly easier here because they can set up last and have a good idea of where the defender needs to go. Setup is very flexible. Medium suitability.
  4. Take and Hold – Another “take the enemy ship” scenario. This will be fine for most games but could be pretty painful against the Great Guns style force since the game starts with ships presenting broadsides. A little hard to control distances in this scenario. Medium Suitability.
  5. Encounter – Deploying facing each other with the wind abeam, this is a decent setup for this style of force as your forward deck which usually has the most swivels, can close quickly and get off some deadly shots before breaking off. Watch out for the Faster Boarders in this scenario. Just work to keep your distance from something like that.
Pile of dice in front of a sloop miniature

Final Thoughts

Swivel Guns are really good in the meta right now. They have weaknesses, but if you can strike hard and strike first, you can often overwhelm your opponent to the point where it’s hard for them to recover. Swivel Guns have been nerfed in the past, doubling their cost from 2pts to 4pts per gun, but they remain a very effecient and effective way to fight at sea. Possibly even too good.

Additional Content Suggestions

Watch for an overview of the several primary styles of sea forces currently in Blood & Plunder coming soon.

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