A while back, friend Colton embarked on a new frontier: Blood & Plunder by Firelock Games. This mostly historical miniatures skirmish game was talked about a lot but being the only owner in the group, there was not a lot of initiative to get it together and push it on his fellow gamers. Flash forward to now and his minis are painted, his terrain is set, and friend Colton is spoiling for a fight.
At an abandoned shrine somewhere in the Caribbean south, a Spanish militia commander spotted an English force at rest and decided to forge his destiny. This would be his first real test of battle in this foreign land and he was eager to show his prowess.
I took command of the Spanish force while Colton took the English. We were playing a 100 point game using the recommended land starting scenario in the book. Our forces were basic starter forces, mine being a mix of musket wielding green recruits backed up by some trained Lanceros melee fighters and a complement of Indian bowmen. The English were of obvious inferior stock, having mostly riflemen with a bombardier in the mix.
This was our first dust up into the mechanics of Blood & Plunder and we expected to get a few rules wrong. I don’t own the game so I’ll have to talk in vague non-game terms for most of it as Colton taught it to me over a glass of obligatory rum. We rolled off and I was chosen to be the attacker in the scenario. The objective was simple: kill your opponent’s force or be the one with the most left alive at the end of round 6. The game uses a “strike” system that are kind of like reverse VP. For every 25% of your total starting force you lose, you gain “strikes” and a comparison of these strikes (lower being better) determine the victor. If you outpace your opponent in strikes, you start to roll morale tests to see if your force is willing to stay on the field. If they fail, you’ll rout and lose the game. As the strike difference grows, the morale tests get harder.
This is a nice mechanic as it doesn’t care necessarily how many strikes you have, just how many more or less you have than your opponent. Infinity has a similar rule in Retreat where your force will retreat and cause the end of the game if X% of your original army is destroyed or unconscious. The difference there is that you could be on relatively even footing still with your opponent (each taking catastrophic losses) and yet, due to a few points, you might go into retreat while your opponent stays on the field.
With the engagement set, I, as the attack can hold half my attacking force back during deployment and then place them anywhere on the board in cover. This is a special ability of my army representing my sneakiness and willing to “lie in wait” for my enemy. Apparently I knew that English fool couldn’t resist setting up camp at this shrine and I was willing to make him pay.
The English layabouts marched in around the outer wall of the shrine, sometimes not even caring about cover.
The initiative system is pretty nice as it uses a card deck. You draw up cards equal to the number of groups you have and each activation phase of a turn, you and your opponent choose a card and reveal to see who has the highest and gets to activate a group first. Based on what suit you play, you gain so many actions (also based on how well trained your group is). Once the winner completes their activation, the losing card player activates one of their groups.
My Lanceros group seemed tough and pointy so I played a high card and ran them up, ready to ambush some English troops. The English activated his close group and sent them in to bomb my Lanceros but they were out of range. We missed a few initial special rules that would have allowed the bomb group to move before the activation and get into range but we were too far gone by the time we realized the error.
Even though my Lanceros group activated, I still had a good commander that could order them to charge in. Playing my last high card, I won initiative and moved my command group up and ordered the Lanceros to charge.
Since the English fools couldn’t see me before the charge, they couldn’t react and I slaughtered them easily. Attacking is a standard skill test to see how many hits you land and defenders rolling a defense skill test for each hit or model attacked (depending on what they are being attacked with). There are more aspects involved depending on weapons and types of attacks but in this case it was pretty simple. I hit with all four of my attacks and the 3 English troops failed their defense rolls, killing them to the man.
High from my devastating attack, I soon realized an issue. My Lanceros were surrounded by angry English riflemen.
Even with all those riflemen, it still took the English all their attacks to wipe out my Lanceros group. In the mean time, I moved my forces up and was able to get my bowmen to do a long range volley at some of the English riflemen. With some fortune token spending, I was able to reroll enough to kill two of the four. Tha was more than I expected and ended the round with the English at one strike to none for the Spanish
The start of this next round was critical for the English. My Lanceros pushed hard to get within charge range of his full command group of redcoats. He knew that would be a bad situation but didn’t know it would be even worse as I had a Spade suite to play that would allow those Lanceros to charge and then retreat (usually you lock into combat until one of the groups dies). Colton had the higher Spade though and got the Redcoats to back out of charge range while also commanding his other groups to reload.
My spade card was now a waste so I used it on my commander to get more of my forces into the fray. My musket men went inside the shrine to start a push into the English ranks and support my Lanceros. My bowmen went up to the same corner my now dead Lanceros group charged from.
One of his rifle groups had a bead on my musket men and ended up taking one down. We were now at one strike a piece and tied back up.
While the command redcoats were feeling cozy behind the shrine walls, I pushed my Lanceros with a last activation club card to give me 3 actions. They ran around the far corner and charged the redcoats from the rear. I couldn’t pull off their charge+retreat combo but the attack did kill 3 of their forces. Another Strike for the English and the round ended with the English off balance with 2 strikes to my 1. We were coming up to another critical first round activation.
I pulled crappy cards and could only muster a Hearts suit vs Colton’s Spade so he went first. His angry Redcoats then attacked and attacked again (via the commander’s command ability) and wiped out my second set of Lanceros. Luckily, this did not push me to another strike so I was still up 1 to 2.
I lost the initiative again but, the riflemen could only rally and reload. I then sent my bowmen in they ran into a better position and fired a volley at each of the remaining riflemen teams. One attack against each group, and I dropped two riflemen from each group. That wiped out one group but left the remaining one with one lone soul. He failed his resolve and took enough fatigue to rout completely. This put the English at 3 strikes and since he was two more than the Spanish, the English were defeated.
Of course we forgot that it wasn’t supposed to be an instant defeat but rather a morale roll but we called it anyway. There were 3 of my groups to his 1 and it was not looking good for the English.
The game was fun and I liked a lot of the unique rules like the initiative wager and activation bonus/penalty based on the card you played. It felt very unbalanced with Bow and Arrow units punching way outside their historical weight class. Colton read up and realized there was an updated FAQ/errata that nerfed bows pretty heavily. This was a relief as the game seemed odd bows would have very little drawback against a musket or rifle and yet hit about as hard with no need to reload powder.
We also misread firing at troops in the open, thinking that if you had no cover, you rolled no defense and just took the hits as they came. Obvious to us now, this is not the case. While the roll is crappy, you do at least get a roll and a lot of my arrow kills happened in the open. This likely wouldn’t have had nearly as many kills if playing by the latest rules. Despite that, it was a fun game and the system looks promising. We’ll hopefully give the game another turn before the month is out and see how it plays with a few more rules under our belt.