So you’re interested in Blood & Plunder! You have chosen wisely! It’s a great game. Read on to learn more about Blood & Plunder, how you might want to approach the game and what the best approach to buying in might be for you.
- What is Blood and Plunder?
- How Do You Play Blood & Plunder
- How Much Does it Cost to Get Into Blood & Plunder?
- What Do You Need to Get Started with Blood & Plunder?
- What Nation Should You Start With?
- How to Learn to Play Blood & Plunder
- Blood & Plunder Community Resources
- How to Buy Into Blood & Plunder
What is Blood & Plunder?
Blood & Plunder is a fast paced 28mm skirmish miniatures game set in the Golden Age of Piracy in the Americas and surrounding Caribbean and Atlantic made by Firelock Games. Players can play pirate, colonial, or even native American forces in sea, land, and even amphibious engagements.
Blood & Plunder is a historically based game set that covers the years 1620’s-1730. The ruleset is a flexible system where you can fight epic naval engagements with the likes of Black Bart Roberts, Henry Morgan, and Blackbeard. You can defend Spanish a port city from raiding Buccaneers or you can spring the perfect night raid with your Native American braves against an unsuspecting New England village. In fact, you can play as any one of 99 different factions under Pirate, Spanish, English, French, Dutch, Native American, and the flags of many minor nations.
How Does Blood & Plunder Play?
Blood & Plunder is perfect for the small-scale pirate and raiding conflicts common in the Americas during the 17-18th centuries. Players assemble forces of 10-40 miniatures led by a commander. Forces are divided into distinct units, each with a unique historical & gaming flavor. Scenarios last 45-120 minutes and range from the simple, generic tournament style, to more story-driven, or historical scenarios.
Units can have varying experience levels and a variety of flavorful special rules. In each game round units are activated through a innovative card activation system that fosters deep, tactical, and tense gameplay yet is extremely simple to grasp. Games typically last a max of 6 Turns and can last from 30min to 2-3 hours with 1-1.5 hrs being the average.
Additional features of Blood & Plunder include realistic and intuitive ship movement, an excellent fatigue mechanic, and dynamic force-building options.
Blood & Plunder Game Styles
Using all the same rules, Blood & Plunder can be played:
- At Sea – Powerful Frigates, massive Galleons, and quick Sloops can face off in deep or coastal waters
- On Land – Militia, armies, and raiding parties can fight through forests, towns or the beaches of New England, Florida, Caribbean Isles or the Spanish Main
- Amphibious – Asymmetric forces can vie for control of a port town, a beached ship, or a pile of booty on the beach.
The Blood & Plunder system is flexible, making all three settings enjoyable.
How Much Does It Cost To Get Started with Blood & Plunder?
Realistically, getting started in Blood & Plunder is going to cost around $150-250. This will get you a starter army of minis, the core rules, and a small ship. We’ll cover that and some specific recommendations of what to buy below.
What Do You Need to Get Started with Blood & Plunder?
There are a few options for getting started with the game. The first and probably the best option is to purchase the new 2-player Raise the Black Starter set. We’ll discuss option for buying into the game later.
Getting Started with Raise the Black
The Blackbeard vs. Maynard 2-player starter box makes jumping into the game super easy and simple! This 2-player starter box includes:
- 26 Multi Part Plastic Minis (including Blackbeard and Maynard)
- 2 Customizable Plastic Sloops
- Double-sided Paper Game Mat
- Softcover Rulebook
- 2 Activation Decks
- Ship, Unit and Commander Stat Cards
- Turning Gauge, Wind Gauge and Stinkpot Smoke Marker
- Double-sided Cardboard Terrain Pieces
- 6 d10
- Marker Tokens for Fatigue, Movement, Reloads, etc
- Ranger Ruler
This massive box is currently $145 which is incredible savings when compared to buying everything individually. With just this box, you can assemble your models and ships, lay out your game mat, and start gaming with no additional product at all!
But in the meantime, if you want to dive into the game now (which is understandable), here’s what you need:
- Some Terrain
- Deck of Cards
- Measuring Device
- Game Mat (optional)
- Fortune Tokens (optional)
Blood & Plunder Miniatures
You need some minis to play a miniatures game! Firelock Games has created a fantastic (and authentic) line of 28mm miniatures for their game. The Firelock Games miniature line is made of finely detailed cast metal (soon to be SioCast!) and plastic kits! So if you prefer metal miniatures that need no assembly or love the customization that comes with plastic, your interests are covered!
The main difference between the metal models and plastic kits its the amount of miniatures they come with. The metals come in either a 25 model Nation Starter Boxes or smaller packages of 4 miniatures. The plastics come with enough parts to make 12 models, and have customization options depending on the upgrades. The metal models tend to represent specific units from the different Nationalities, while the plastic models are more generic and can be sued for a variety of units, depending on the box.
Forces usually use 10-40 miniatures and the Starter Boxes are set up to more easily facilitate land games so if you want to get straight to piratical sea action, you might want a few extra Sailors of your chosen nation to load the guns and man the sheets and braces if you stick to the metal models.
As mentioned earlier, the plastic models are more generic but offer a wide variety of customization. Currently there are several boxes that are meant for different types on units: Sailors, Militia, Soldiers, Cavalry, and Native Americans. The only non-generic box is the Pirates of Legend, which contains 10 models based on historical Commanders and Characters. While these lack the customization that comes with the other kits due to their sculpts, if you are a creative kitbasher (the art of combining parts from different kits to create a whole new model) this box can help you create your own unique take on the historical characters.
In addition to the 28mm figures, you’ll need a ship (or two) to play games at sea. Firelock Games makes a good selection of resin ships for the game. They also offer a mdf Corvette ship and the new plastic Sloop models. There are two sloops that are part of the upcoming 2-player starter set. A resin Sloop is always a great place to start!
What Blood & Plunder Rulebooks Do You Need?
As a wargame, there is a lot of content available for Blood & Plunder. It can be confusing to know which books are which and what they include. Let’s look at what each book includes and why you may or may not want to get each of them.
The current selection of books available for Blood & Plunder includes:
- Blood & Plunder Core Rulebook
- No Peace Beyond the Line Expansion
- Fire on the Frontier Expansion
- Raise the Black Expansion
- Blood & Plunder Rulebook from the Two-Player Starter Box
Blood & Plunder Rulebook & Expansion Book Overview
Here is a quick rundown of all available books and our recommendations on which items to consider when getting started.
Blood & Plunder Core Rulebook
The core Blood & Plunder rulebook is a nice hardcover book of 156 pages. It contains all the rules you need to play along with forces lists for 7 different factions and 15 scenarios. The hard copy costs $40 and you can get a pdf version for only $15.
Once the Raise the Black content ships in 2023, you will want to get the latest version of the rules. This will include all of the errata released for the game as well as the new Artillery Rules.
If you buy the 2-Player Starter Box, you don’t need this book as it’s already included.
No Peace Beyond the Line Expansion
No Peace Beyond the Line is a huge expansion that offers a massive number of new forces and commander options. The Dutch, Native Americans, and many minor colonial European powers are added, along with new factions for the Pirates, English, Spanish and French. It also includes additional ships, some more advanced ship and cannon rules, a campaign system and several new scenarios.
This book is useful for learning the units and forces available to each Nation/Faction. It’s very helpful for building your forces before you play a game. While the units are in the online force builder tool, it doesn’t have all the details.
This book should DEFINITELY be at the top of your “to buy list”. If you don’t have a copy, here is the link to No Peace Beyond the Line on Firelock Games.
Fire on the Frontier Expansion
Fire on the Frontier is a smaller softcover expansion that specifically covers some of the colonial wars of the late 17th century in North America. It is crammed full of historical content so it’s a great experience for both wargaming and learning.
- new force-building lists for England, France, and the Native Americans
- 7 Native American tribes and Alliances
- 5 English factions including New England Milita and Villiage Garrisons)
- 4 French factions including Iberville’s Expeditionary Force
- 22 Commanders
- 5 New Characters & Fighting Men
- Rules for Fortifications and stats for new fortifications like Palisades and Blockhouses
- Historical scenarios, including King Philip’s War and King William’s War.
- Rules and stats for an Unaligned Unit of Civilians
This book is an excellent option if you want to extend the game from the Caribbean into the North American, Colonial America theater. However, if you are in the game purely for the pirate genre, this doesn’t have much content for you other than the Fortifications rules. If you play Natives or have any interest in colonial, pre-American Revolutionary war content, this is highly recommended addition to the game.
NOTE: You need to get the No Peace Beyond the Line expansion to fully use this book.
Raise the Black Expansion
This fresh expansion brings Blood & Plunder into the early 18th century and introduces all the household names like Blackbeard, Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Black Bart Roberts, Charles Vane, and the entire pirate crew into the game. In addition to the Pirate forces, the book contains the pirate hunters, navies from various nations, the army and militia forces and even the native American factions that were warring against each during the first third of the 18th century.
This is very similar concept to the No Peace Beyond the Line Expansion, but focuses on the 18th Century instead of the 17th Century. This is a MUST HAVE book if you want to fully explore the full pirate part of this game.
Blood & Plunder Rulebook from the Two-Player Starter Box
This is a slightly slimmer and updated version of the core rulebook. In a softcover format, this rulebook contains the complete ruleset but doesn’t include as many force lists as the hardcover rulebook.
Deluxe 17th Century Rulebook
This beautiful book combines the core rulebook with No Peace Beyond the Line in an awesome leatherette binding with metal corner guards on the cover. The pages are made of a thick cottony type material with rough cut edges to give it a historical feel.
It’s not a must-have as it doesn’t actually release new content, and more of a luxury, collector’s, but a very useful and eye-catching book. However, it’s one you may want to add to your collection at some point.
This leatherette-bound edition combines the updated Blood & Plunder core rulebook and the Raise the Black expansion in one single book. Like the 17th Century version, its pages are of a different material and frayed a bit at the edges to give it a historical feel rather than the typical high gloss print style of the other rule books.
This book is more for collectability purposes than heavy use as a reference tool.
Recommendations Summary for Blood & Plunder Rulebooks
You need the Core Rulebook, No Peace Beyond the Line is a wonderful supplement that fleshes out the game in a huge way, Fire on the Frontier is a little more focused (and you need No Peace Beyond the Line to use it) and Raise the Black focuses more on the true Pirates. Buy the Core Rulebook now and put No Peace Beyond the Line and/or Raise the Black on your Christmas list. Snag Fire on the Frontier if you are interested in the French/Native/English conflicts of the late 17th century.
Blood & Plunder Dice
The Blood & Plunder system is built around tests using d10’s so you’ll need 6-12 d10’s. Firelock Games sells some beautiful dice, but you can use any standard d10! During the game, you’ll need to track various conditions including Fatigue and Reloads on your units, and effects like critical damage on ships etc. Firelock Games offers a set of dice to help with that, but you can use generic d6’s for this if you want to save some money.
- Red Plunder Dice (d10)
- Bone Plunder Dice (d10)
- Spanish/English/French/Pirate Nation Dice (d10)
- Fatigue Dice (d6)
- Reload Dice (d6)
- Critical Damage Dice (d6)
- Status Dice (d6)
Suitable Generic Dice
- Any standard d10’s for attacks and tests
- Small red d6’s for Fatigue markers
- Small black d6’s for Reload markers
Blood & Plunder Terrain
You can go simple or dive deep into collecting terrain for a game like Blood & Plunder, but you will want some sort of terrain on your board when you play. On the cheap side of things, you can put together simple structures out of cardboard and cutout paper templates of area terrain like forests. As you continue to play, you can pick up a few buildings in mdf, resin or 3D printed and get some trees and scatter terrain. With some work and care, you can make some really great terrain pieces on the cheap. Check out The Plunder Den YouTube channel for an amazing series of videos on making your terrain specifically for Blood & Plunder.
If you are looking for more specific recommendations on terrain, check out our Wargaming Terrain recommendations and reviews section of the blog.
Blood & Plunder Activation Deck
Blood & Plunder uses a standard decks of playing cards to determine activation. Each player in a game of Blood & Plunder will need a standard 52 (+2) card deck to play the game. Each turn, playesr draw a hand of cards from this deck and use the cards to determine player initiative order and how many actions each unit will take.
You can use a standard deck of cards you already have or you can purchase one of the nice Activation Decks Firelock Games produces that has some helpful information printed on the card, along with beautiful layout and graphics. These have prompts printed on the decks to help you keep track of how many actions you get on your turn based on the unit’s Experience level.
If you get the 2-Player Raise the Black Starter Set it will come with 2 Activation Decks (British & Pirates). But there are Activation Decks with a unique back for each faction in the game.
You’ll need a standard tape measurer to determine distances and calculate range while playing the game. Any tape measurer will do.
If playing at sea, you’ll want the ship movement template as well. You can purchase the turning template from Firelock Games as part of the full template set or you can buy a nice double sided turning gauge from Laser Dreamworks. If you’re crafty, you can create your own template using the pattern in the back of the Blood & Plunder rulebook.
Optional Additional Accessories
With miniatures, dice, an activation deck, and some terrain, you have everything you need to play a game of Blood & Plunder. Once you have these basics, you may want to add a couple optional items that will make your games that much more enjoyable.
You can play on a bare tabletop, but a mat with some ground or sea texture takes your game to the next level.
Tablewar makes a great selection of mats for Blood & Plunder. They have several sea mats, amphibious mats and Caribbean land mats. They even have a set of overlays that includes shoals and islands that allow for a lot of customization in your sea and amphibious games. Frontline also produces a great selection of land and sea gaming mats.
\For land games, a 3×4′ mat is the “standard size” although a 3×3′ is suitable for smaller games as well. For sea games, 4×4′ is standard but if you know the tables you’ll be playing on allow it, a 4×6′ is very convenient since it gives you more space for your ships to sail around (and most scenarios allow you to “scroll the board”.
One of the mechanics in the game requires 3 (or more) tokens to use as “Fortune Points.” These are usually represented with coins. They can be spent one of several ways during the game. You can use anything to represent these tokens, but blinging your game out with some fun pirate coins is a really fun way to go. Every force starts with 3 Fortune and some commanders (like Henry Morgan) get additional Fortune tokens.
Unit & Commander Stat Cards
While not necessary, stats cards can be a nice accessory and quick reference tool during games. You can get the core set of 17th century commanders and units here, the No Peace Beyond the Line set here, and the Raise the Black set here. The rulebooks contains all the stats for your commanders and units, and you can can print out full stats for everything in your force using the free online Force Builder website, but some people enjoy using physical stat cards.
What Nation or Force Should You Play?
Blood & Plunder has 7 main “Nations”. These represent the major historical powers of the time period. Within each Nation, the game also includes a larger number of “Factions”. A Faction is a specific subset of models
When selecting a force, you first will want to choose what Nation you want to play within, then maybe pick a Faction to focus on for your first army. You can currently play Blood & Plunder as:
The Pirates are sea focused, with good sailors and naval combat skills. They are aggressive and good at melee combat but tend to be poorly disciplined and susceptible to Fatigue (e.g. low morale). They tend to field a larger number of models with lower skills/attributes.
The English are the most well-rounded Nation. They have moderate skills in both land and sea combat. Their troops tend to be well disciples and hearty. They include anything from common sailors, to militia through uniformed soldiers and cavalry. They are an excellent starting faction as they are a more “generic” or flexible faction that is good at a little bit of everything.
The French have a very aggressive play style. They tend to have the best musketry and weapons in the game allowing them to hit hard, but they can be a bit fragile. They have a number of specialized and elite units making them a more finessed style of play.
The Dutch are skilled sailors and one of the most dominant factions at sea. Their models are very strong in Melee and excellent for boarding actions. As one of the newer factions, they don’t have as many unit options as the other factions, but they are very good at what they do. Their elite units are expensive to field (in terms of points) but are arguably some of the best in the game.
The Natives are excellent warriors on land. While they lack the larger ships of other nations, they make up for it with larger numbers of small canoas & piraguas. They are definitely a finesse style of play that focuses on quick strikes and fading away. Most Native models are excellent in Melee and often get terrain or movement-style bonuses. They may not be as popular as the more traditional European factions, but that gives them an advantage in competitive play as other players aren’t as familiar with their tactics.
The Spanish are the “horde army” of Blood & Plunder. Their armies tend to be numerous and tactics focus on winning by attrition. As their empire was largely in decline during the historical period, they tend to have lower-quality weaponry and poorly equipped troops. However, they are ruthless in combat and have a lot of Fatigue focused abilities designed to put fear into their enemies.
Unaligned & Peripheral Nations
This is a bit of a catch-all category for many of the minor power nations for the time period. It covers a wide variety of factions from the Scottish, Swedish, Black Caribs, Portuguese, Maroons, and many more. They include a wide variety of play styles and flavors. Many of them do not have their own models but borrow from the other 6 core nations.
This is probably a good second option for new players. And once you buy into a main faction you will likely have several model options that automatically cross over.
Within each of these Nations, there are several different factions you can use that will give your force some special rules and commander and unit options. For example, the English Caribbean Militia in the core rulebook would include more inexperienced militia troops while the English Buccaneers would include more experienced sailor units.
You can start with any of those nations, but the core rulebook focuses on Spanish and English while including a few Pirate and French factions. If you want to play as Dutch or Native Americans, you should really get the No Peace Beyond the Line or Raise the Black expansion book. The Native Americans are the most difficult starter nation as they tend to have more rules and take a greater understanding of the game to play effectively. The English faction is a very well-rounded and easy starting faction. The Pirates are a great choice for starting at sea. The Raise the Black book really opens up the game for the real die-hard pirate player.
For more information on the topic check out our Ultimate Guide to Blood & Plunder Nations & Factions
Learning How to Play Blood & Plunder
You’ll want to read the rulebook to get a good grasp of the full ruleset. But there are a few great video options for learning the rules as well.
- Firelock Games YouTube Learn to Play Playlist
- OnTableTop (formerly Beasts of War) Learn to Play Video
- Blood & Pigment Quick Start Video
These videos can get you going a little faster and help with some visual examples for learning to play Blood & Plunder. The game system isn’t difficult, so it’s easy to pick up, but it’s pretty comprehensive as far as war gaming rulesets go, so there’s a good bit to mine out of the rulebook.
Learning from a real, live person is always the best so check around and see if there is a local group you can plug in to or another player in your area you can learn from. You can find players in your area using the Firelock Games Players Locator Map (please add yourself as well!).
Blood & Plunder Community & Resources
Connecting with the online community can be a great way to learn more about Blood & Plunder, meet active players. It can also help inspire painting your ships and forces and get your questions answered.
You can join Blood & Plunder players on Facebook and Discord where there are discussions and content posted daily. You can find Facebook groups for players in different locations as well.
No Dice No Glory has a great podcast dedicated to Blood & Plunder: Tales of the Sail. You can find them on Facebook, or on the No Dice No Glory blog or join their online community on Discord.
You can find many more helpful resources on our Blood & Plunder Links page.
Buying-In To Blood & Plunder
Getting Started with the Raise the Black 2-Player Starter Box
The best want to get started with Blood & Plunder is to pick up the Blackbeard vs Maynard Two Player Starter Box. This is a mammoth of a box with everything you need to play the game bundled together at a great price. You can currently preorder this box now on the Firelock Games website for $145.
If the two player starter box hasn’t been released yet and you want to get started now (which you should!), Firelock Games offers several different bundles at a discount.
For additional suggestions on Raise the Black miniature expansion packs check out our Complete Guide to Raise the Black Plastic Miniature Sprues.
Nation Starter Bundles
This bundle contains a starter box of 25 metal minis, a deck of activation cards and a ship of your choice. If you get the Sloop as your ship, this costs $178 and saves you $25 over buying these items individually. You will need to purchase the rulebook as well. When selecting a Nation Starter Bundle, steer clear of the Pirates and Privateers Box as this meant to be more of a supplement to an existing Force rather than a starting point.
Two Player Starter Bundle
This is a great way to get started, especially if you have a friend or significant other that is interested in playing the game with you. This bundle contains the rulebook, 13 models forces from your choice of two different nations, 4 d10’s and two activations decks from your choice of nations (this bundle does not include any ships). This bundle costs $135 and saves you almost $60!
Deluxe Two Player Starter Set
This is a huge bundle but it saves you a ton of money! Including the deluxe rulebook that combines the core book and the No Peace Beyond the Line expansion book, two starter boxes, two activation decks, two Bark ships, 12 d10’s, marker dice and the Deluxe Template Set, this bundle costs $325 and saves you more than $200! It’s a hefty investment, but it offers huge savings!
Buying in “Manually”
If you want to construct your own collection outside of the 2-Player Starter Box or Nationality Bundles, it is possible to buy into Blood and Plunder “Manually”. There are 3 main ways of buying into the game manually: Plastics for Land, Plastics, for Sea, and Metals for Land. Please note, this is for players who have played miniature wargames before, and have played around on the online Force Builder enough to know which Nationality and Faction they wish to play, or simply have their heart set on starting with a Nationality or Faction and want to assemble their Force from scratch. These are valid ways to approach buying in! However, if you are new to miniature wargames, you should stick to the 2-Player Starter Box or a Nationality Bundle.
If you choose to just dive headfirst into the plastic kits for land battles, you can buy 3 boxes of plastic models, a metal commander (this can be omitted if you want to kitbash a commander from your boxes, but the metal commanders look amazing) and the core Blood and Plunder Rulebook all for $140 before shipping. This will give you a total of 37 models.
For the aspiring sailor, buying for a sea battles is very similar. You will need to buy two boxes of plastic models (I recommend two boxes of sailors or a box of sailors and a box of militia depending on your chosen Nationality and Faction), a plastic 18th Century Sloop Kit, a metal commander (less optional than the land battle buy-in because you’ll want all 24 models to be units and not lose a model making a commander, but its possible), and a Core Rulebook. This will give you 25 models (the same amount in a metal Nationality Starter Box!), a solid ship, and a rulebook for $150 before shipping.
Last, and certainly not least, if you don’t want to assemble your models and have very little interest on taking to the high seas, all you’ll need to do is grab a Nationality Starter Box (this comes with 25 models which includes a commander) and the Core Rulebook.
One final point on buying in manually: These all fall within that lower end of the rough $150 minimum to get into the game. If your budget for buying in is bigger, you can always add more plastic boxes or metal packages, expansion rulebooks, more or bigger ships, and accessories like the fancy dice and activation decks.
Welcome to the Game!
Blood & Plunder is a fantastic skirmish miniatures game with a vibrant and growing base of players. Jump on in! The water is fine! Blood & Plunder is about 5 years old and is just receiving its second major expansion in Raise the Black and there’s more expansions in development. With the new, more affordable plastic miniatures & ships, and a fantastic starter box on its way, there has never been a better time to jump into Blood & Plunder!
By Joseph Forster
Additional Content Suggestions
- Learn how to make a Blood & Plunder force in our 4-part series:
- Ultimate Guide to Blood & Plunder Ships – Get the stats, reviews, assembly & painting guides for every Blood & Plunder ship produced by Firelock Games.
- Ultimate Guide to Blood & Plunder Nations & Factions
- Strategy & Tactics article: Deciding What to Bring to War and Making a List. It covers multiple suggestions on choosing the right units and how to prep for a fight before the start of the battle.
2 thoughts on “Getting Started with Blood and Plunder”
Does the new RtB starter set include force lists and scenarios like the full rules? Mines still in the mail, but I’d thought you needed the full rules for other factions and more scenario options
The Starter set comes with:
FORCE LISTS – Basic content for the British and Pirates Nations + some characters. To get the full set of units for “Raise the Black” you need to actual expansion set book: https://www.firelockgames.com/product/raise-the-black-expansion-book/?ref=pigment
SCENARIOS – a Land, Sea and Ampbious version of 5 different Scenario types (e.g. 15 scenarios) + a bonus “Blackbeard’s Final Battle”. It also has rules for making your own scenarios and content for things like night fighting, sentries/alarms, limited visibility, etc.