“What rulebooks do I need to buy” is a question that seems to get asked once a week – either on the Firelock Facebook Page, or on the Discord. It’s always some variation the question;
“does it have the new rules?” “does it include the Core Rules?”
“did the rules change?” “does it include the errata?”
“did they remember to put an Index in this one?”
“will it cure me of the mange?”
So, I wasn’t going to make a post like this, but I think it’s time that we admit it: most of us are illiterate pirates at best, and illiterate landlubbers at the very worst.
The Core Rulebooks
Right now, there are only 2 Core Rulebooks. There was no edition change, there are no compatibility issues! The book on the right is the original hardback version of the rules, and the book on the left is the new softcover from the ‘Raise the Black’ starter box.
There are some minor differences in wording, but major differences in content. Let’s have a quick overview of those:
- Page Numbers are preserved through the Rules section. This way, FAQs which reference the rules will be valid for either book.
- The softcover has been updated to reflect the wording of Errata V.1.3
- The softcover includes the Updated Artillery Rules which are now standard in Raise the Black
- The softcover includes the full, updated list of Special Rules and Equipment
- The softcover has all of the Standard Scenarios, plus Blackbeard’s Final Battle
- The softcover includes an Index
Now let’s have a look at what is not included in the softcover version of the book, because this will have some unfortunate implications later:
- The softcover does not include any Units or Force Lists except those necessary for the starter scenario
- The softcover does not include any of the Ships except the new Bermuda Sloop and Balandra
The hardcover book includes the original 17th century lists, as well as ship stats for the Sloop, Brigantine, Light Frigate, and Longboat.
If you have the hardcover rulebook and want to make sure that you are ready for Raise the Black, all of the changes are freely available online. To “update” your book to the current version of the rules, you would need to download the following documents from Firelock’s site (note: these links will open as PDFs or download automatically, depending on your browser)
- Blood & Plunder Errata v1.3 – this updates for all wording changes between the two books
- Blood & Plunder Updated Artillery Rules – these are the new, mandatory changes to Artillery
- Blood & Plunder Index – some of the early rulebooks do not include an index at the back of the book
Since writing this article, I have been made aware that there is a ‘Revised Edition’ of the hardcover book on it’s way to Firelock HQ! This copy of the book will be the same as the original hardcover, but will have all of the above ‘updates’ included (it will not include the ‘Raise the Black’ content.
Additionally, the PDF copy of the rules available for download on Firelock’s site will also be updated to reflect the current state of the rules.
The 17th Century
The hardcover Core Rules and the No Peace Beyond the Line expansion make up the game’s 17th Century offerings. The red book (known fondly as The Big Red Book) has both of these publications printed back to back. Literally, half way through the book you are shown the cover of ‘No Peace’ and then the page numbers start over at 1. The Big Red Book was a limited edition offering, and they’re quite dear these days – if you’re a collector and one comes up, try to get it.
We already discussed the contents of the hardcover Core Rules. What is included in No Peace?
- Nationality Rules and Forces for the Dutch and South American Natives
- Additional Forces for the English, French, and Spanish nationalities
- Additional Unaligned and Peripheral Forces, including several new nations.
- The original suite of Fighting Men and Hostages/Advisors
- Rules for all boats and ships, except the Tartana, Sixth Rate Frigate, and the Bermuda Sloop or Balandra
- 5 new advanced Scenarios, with alternate Weather and Event tables
- Army Scale rules for large and multiplayer games
- Campaign Rules for linked, narrative play
The No Peace book also has its own Errata, which will need to be applied both to the standalone white book, and to Big Red. You can download the errata from the Firelock website, or click here
As it is an expansion, you do not technically need a copy of No Peace to play ‘Blood & Plunder’. However, the included Campaign System is excellent, the advanced scenarios are a lot of fun, and many players that I’ve met say that they prefer the updated Weather/Event tables.
With a combination of the hardcover Core Rules and the No Peace supplement, you have everything you need to play B&P in the 17th century.
On the Online Force Builder, you will see forces drafted from the No Peace Beyond the Line expansion tagged with ‘NPBtL’
The 18th Century
The Raise the Black expansion plus the hardcover Core Rulebook will give you everything you need to play games of B&P in the 18th century. Despite what the photo shows, the deluxe leatherbound includes the softcover version of the core rulebook as its first half, and this is a bit of a problem. We’ve already discussed what’s in that book, so let’s have a look at what is included in the Raise the Black expansion
- Nationality Rules for the Pirates, and a reprise of the rules for North American Native units
- New force options for the English/British, French, Spanish, Dutch, and Native American factions
- The rules for the Tartana, Sixth Rate, and new Bermuda Sloop and Balandra
- New Fighting Men, Hostages/Advisors, and Ship Upgrades
- 5 new Land Scenarios, Amphibious Scenarios, and Sea Scenarios rather than the traditional “3-in-1” scenarios.
- A reprisal of all unit statlines in the game, but not their upgrade options
Now, let’s look at what is not included in either the Raise the Black expansion, or the Deluxe
- 17th Century Force Lists
- Any ships except the Longboat, Tartana, 6th Rate, Bermuda or Balandra
- Original Fighting Men, Hostages/Advisors
It’s unfortunate that the front half of the Deluxe book is just a copy of the softcover Core Rules. I really wish that Firelock had gone the extra mile of including a table of Ship Stats and the Fighting Men in the Deluxe Rulebook. With those included, the Deluxe book would include everything necessary to build a force for the 18th century, just like the Red book included everything necessary for games in the 17th.
These gaps can be filled in with the online Force Builder, and could be fleshed out with purchasable extras from Firelock (making the Ship Stat Cards available for purchase, and a pack of Character Cards), but at the time of writing that isn’t something we have to look forward to.
At the time of writing, there are no Erratas which pertain to Raise the Black.
Any reprised lists on the Force Builder which come from Raise the Black will be tagged with ‘RtB’.
Fire on the Frontier
There is one book that I would be remiss to not mention, and that is the Fire on the Frontier expansion. While I would consider No Peace Beyond the Line and Raise the Black to be essential for the “full 18th century” experience, Fire on the Frontier exists in a space where it is primarily relevant only to players who want to explore North American conflicts during the 17th Century. However, having said that, Fire on the Frontier is excellent, and a great value for the cost.
Inside Fire on the Frontier you will find:
- A ‘sub-nationality’ for the Natives Nationality, covering North America Tribes
- New, North American force options for the French and English nationalities
- New Fighting Men and Hostages/Advisors
- New Narrative scenarios
- New Fortification Rules for including a wider variety of structures in any game of B&P
- Reprised stat blocks for any relevant units from No Peace Beyond the Line
Fire on the Frontier alongside a copy of the hardcover rules is meant to provide players with everything they might need to play games of B&P set in North America during the 17th century (except the NPBtL ships). If you have a group that has been playing something like Flint and Feather or Muskets and Tomahawks, then the hardcover core book plus Fire on the Frontier would be excellent for you.
At the time of writing, there are no erratas for Fire on the Frontier
On the Force Builder, lists which originate in Fire on the Frontier are labeled with ‘FotF’
Character & Unit Decks
There are 3 Unit & Character Card sets for the game, and each is joined to one of the books. These packs are not a requirement, but they are extremely useful as they provide you with Forces and Force Options, Units, and Characters all in a handy card-based format. I find my decks most useful for teaching new players, because I can show them the units, complete with special rules on the reverse sides, and they can “tap them down” like M:tG whenever they have activated the unit. They can also keep the card with the unit if they want, to id the unit during play.
The creatively named ‘Unit & Character Card Set‘ handles the units and factions in the Core Rulebook. It also includes the French Milices des Caraibes and a few extra Named Characters. Interestingly, this set has separate cards for the different levels of Training available to each unit.
The much larger ‘NPBtL Unit & Character Card Set‘ includes all of the units and subfactions from No Peace, but also reprints some of the cards from the original set if they were changed for No Peace in any way (factions getting access to new units, for example). This set does not include the multiple cards for each training level, and instead has cards for all of the possible upgrades and equipment, including ‘Downgrade to Inexperienced,’ ‘Trained’ and ‘Upgrade to Veteran’ cards. I rarely use the equipment cards for things like weapon swaps, but I do keep them around when I have explosives equipped.
The ‘RtB Unit & Character Card Set ‘includes all of the units from Raise the Black, with no duplicates from the other sets, and no faction cards.
At the time of writing, there are alleged plans to release to a set of cards for Fire on the Frontier, but these have not been officially announced. It is likely that something will be said once the Kickstarter and Pre-Orders for Raise the Black have wrapped up.
I hope that this has helped you navigate what titles you need to buy or collect in order to get your games onto the table. If you are looking for the most efficient way to get all of the rules you need, then I would recommend finding a Red Book (Core Rules + No Peace) and then purchasing the Raise the Black expansion. Then you would only need to purchase Fire on the Frontier if you specifically want the factions, scenarios, or fortification rules (since the unit stats are in RtB)
Insofar as value, I think that the books are all very good except for the Deluxe 18th Century book (since you’ll still need other books). The leatherbound versions are beautiful. There are occasional worries about the binding quality of the hardcover books, because the spines gap: these books are bound so that they lay flat for easy reading during play – that is why the spines of the covers are not glued to the binding. Unless you’re dropping pages, you should have no need to panic.
Now, will we ever actually read and learn the rules? Eh. Maybe. I hear that the writers over at Blood & Pigment are all required to read them at least once a year – nerds! Anyway, Swivel Guns are 8pts and get 2 shots each, pretty sure 😉