Our series showcasing the “Pirates of Legend” miniatures got bogged down, but we’re back! This time with another quick article of two female pirates assembled and painted, and ready to play in Blood & Plunder. In this article, we will look at the Anne Bonny and Mary Read miniatures. These fearsome lady pirates can be found in the Pirates of Legend plastic miniatures box from Firelock Games.
Mary Read in History
Anny Bonny and Mary Read are some of the best-documented female pirates in history. We owe most of the recorded history we know (some air quotes might be in order here) to Charles Johnson. He devotes an entire chapter to each of these ladies in his A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates.
Johnson tells us Mary Read was born in England and started passing herself off as a boy fairly early in life to gain employment. The story goes that she first served a French noblewoman as a “foot boy.” She then served in some capacity on an English man-of-war before serving in an infantry unit in the Flanders. Eventually, she finds herself in a unit of cavalry where she is said to have fallen in love with another soldier and married. But happiness was short lived and her husband died and she sought her fortune on a ship bound for the West Indies.
Fortune found her in the form of an English pirate ship and she joined the “privateer” crew. There she fell in with the colorful “Calico” Jack Rackham and Anne Bonny. In this crew, she found a new lover and rumors say she fought and killed a man who challenged him to a duel. By all accounts, Mary Read was a fierce and capable fighter and pirate!
When the law finally caught up to Mary Read, she was credited with being one of the only pirates to fight back against Jonathan Barnet and his English crew. Her trial and conviction of piracy led to a sentence of execution. This was stayed as she was found to be “quick with child.” Sadly, while still in custody, she fell sick and died.
Anne Bonny in History
Charles Johnson gives Anne Bonny an entire chapter as well! In many ways, Bonny and Read’s careers look very similar, but they are very different women. Anne Bonny was born in Ireland as an illegitimate daughter to an Irish attorney. Johnson focuses more on her amorous exploits, including severely beating a man giving her unwanted attention. She married a poor seaman but left him to be with the more exciting Jack Rackham. It appears she took the King’s Pardon, but quickly went back to piracy in which “nobody was more forward or courageous than she.” One of their more remarkable exploits was the theft of the 12-ton sloop, William, in Nassau. She, Jack and Mary managed to knick it right under the nose of Woodes Rogers.
Like Anne, she also was spared from the noose by her belly. She left poor Rackham with the infamous words, “If he had fought like a man, he need not have been hanged like a dog.” Her fate is unknown as there is no record of her execution or death.
Painting the Anne Bonny & Mary Read Miniatures
I chose to base my paint jobs on the miniatures in the Raise the Black expansion. Using blue as the primary color for the swarthy Read, and browns and reds for Bonny.
I used Games Workshop’s tans and whites for Read’s paints and Bonny’s shirt.
Being from Ireland, it is common to portray Bonny with red hair which I accomplished here with some Contrast Paint used as a glaze over a light tan base.
I used my favorite weathering paint, GW Typhus Corrosion on both their trousers.
Playing with Anne Bonny & Mary Read in Blood & Plunder
Bonny and Read never actually captains of a ship so they cannot be used as Commanders in Blood & Plunder. However, you can add them to your force as Characters.
In Blood & Plunder, Characters function as “mini commanders,” granting extra special rules and abilities to the unit they are attached. Bonny & Read are both 3-point upgrade characters, helping your pirates punch hard in a melee and stay brave throughout the battle.
Jack Rackham as the Force Commander
Both of these ladies can only be used in a force commanded by Jack Rackham. Luckily, Rackham is very affordable at 8pts and not that bad for what you’re paying. Calico Jack is a solid commander and we cover him in our review of the Golden Age Pirates.
Be sure to check out the guest article by Eric Goebel about his Jack Rackham tournament force from Historicon.
Mary Read as a Fighting Man Character Model
At +3 points, Mary Read, the more warlike of the two, brings 3 things to her unit: Battle Hardened, Tough, and a special rule making her unit’s charges more terrifying. The Battle Hardened and Tough Special Rules both help her unit stay in the action and keep Fatigue off. Battle Hardened lets her unit roll 1 less die in the Fatigue Test after a hostile unit performs a Fight action. Tough auto removes 1 point of Fatigue at the end of its activation (as long as they didn’t voluntarily gain Fatigue during its activation). These are both welcome rules in a Faction that relies heavily on the cheap Pirate unit that has infamously bad stats (but excellent weaponry).
The final rule makes an enemy unit roll an additional die during a Fatigue test after Mary Read’s unit performs a Fight action against it. When Pirates board, they want that first blow to be decisive, and this helps break the morale of the enemy. This may seem a small perk, but when combined with the Pirate unit’s War Cry ability (also triggering on a Charge) you are almost sure to weaken the resolve of your enemy. Even if your pirates only kill 1 man in a charge, Mary Read’s unit with her ability and War Cry will force that enemy unit to roll 4 dice in the Fatigue test (1 for getting hit, 1 for man dying, 1 for War Cry, 1 for Mary Read’s ability). It’s a deadly combo.
Anne Bonny as a Fighting Man Character Model
Anne’s rules are very similar but with a little different twist. Bonny replaces Read’s defensive-oriented Battle Hardened with the offensive Brawlers Special Rule. This ability lets her unit roll additional dice for each 10 rolled during a Fight Test. Not the best rule ever, but it can make a difference!
Overall I find Mary Read a touch stronger and more reliable. That said, both are great additions to your pirate, I mean PRIVATEER crew.
Bonny and Read Force List
This modest 150pt sea force, uses almost all 24 sailor models from the Core Set. The crew is supplemented by Bonny, Read, and Rackham on a Bermuda Sloop with Reinforced Bulkheads and 4 Swivel Guns. Don’t forget that the 3-point cost for Bonny and Read is on top of the cost for the model. Their 3 point cost is an upgrade cost, not the full model. Example: upgrading a 3pt Pirate model to Bonny for an additional 3 points means it’s a 6pt model. Upgrade a Veteran Roundsman with Read costs 9 points (10 if you include a musket).
This force can hit hard with Swivel guns and Roundsmen with muskets while the ships close for combat. Once you board you then hit like a freight train. All of your units are Ruthless, primed by Rackham’s Terror rule and further exploited by War Cry and the ladies’ built-in scare factor.
Special Edition “Rackham, Read and Bonny ‘s Last Battle” Scenario
The November 2023 issue of the Game Trade magazine included a simple scenario representing the final fight of Bonny, Read, and Rackham against Jonathan Barnet. This fun scenario by Guy Rheuark and myself is based on a historical encounter.
This small 115-point scenario lets you play out Bonny and Read’s last fight. Will they stay sober and fight off the pirate hunters, or drunkenly charge and capture the English ship?
Further Reading on Anne Bonny and Mary Read
The best reading you can do is crack open your copy of Raise the Black and read through Benerson Little’s biographies of both women. As a leading pirate historian, he provides the myths and appropriate disclaimers while honoring the history and people of the past.
If you want the full story from a contemporary, pick up Captain Charles Johnson’s landmark work, A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates. Benerson Little devotes a chapter to female pirates in his The Golden Age of Piracy. Against my expectations, Pirate Women by Laura Sook Duncombe seems to give a pretty balanced portrait of these two women (aside from suggesting Bartholomew Roberts may have also been a woman!).
Purchasing Anne Bonny and Mary Read
Bonny, Read, Rackham, and many other pirates of legend are included in the Pirates of Legend plastic box set. These are multipart, hard plastic miniatures of great quality and easy to put together (be super careful of Rackham’s flimsy sword!).
It’s great to have these two famous pirates in the game of Blood & Plunder! If you enjoy playing pirates, you owe it to yourself to get Bonny and Read painted up and on the deck of your ships, ready to terrorize your enemy in your next game of Blood & Plunder!