A Fanfare: Blood & Crowns

This week, a new Gamers Group appeared on Facebook, and a new channel appeared in Firelock’s Discord. One of the worst kept secrets in Firelock’s closet, ‘Blood & Crowns’ seems to be approaching an imminent release. Rather than an exciting foray into dentistry simulation, ‘Blood & Crowns’ will move the ‘B&’ timeline back to the Hundred Years War of the 14th century.

The excitement around this game is palpable, but information is still limited. I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of the early playtesting and development of Crowns, so I can (with permission) share some of what I know, combined with what the community has been told. So grab yourself some cold meat and hot wine, and settle in for a tale.

All photos in this post are courtesy of author Eric Hansen

A selection of characters, ready for the battlefield

The Premise

‘Blood & Crowns’ will be a 28mm-30mm Historical Skirmish Game in the same scale as ‘Plunder’, using 20-25mm round or square bases. The game timeline focuses on the Hundred Years War, and stretches from the 1314 victory of Robert the Bruce’s Scottish army at Bannockburn, to the outbreak of the War of the Roses in 1455. Fans of history will be happy to know that this timeline is already extensive – it takes up 10% pages of the “bound for editor” Word document.

Just like ‘Blood & Plunder,’ the Core rules of ‘Blood & Crowns’ will include rules for fighting both on land, and at sea. At the time of writing, there are 5 ships, ranging from the small and unfortunately named ‘Cockboat’, to the mighty ‘Roundship’. And yes, there are Cogs of course.

Men at Arms Afoot, a staple Blood & Crowns unit

Sieze the Initiative: How Does It Play?

Straight away: ‘Blood & Crowns’ will use the exact same card driven initiative system from ‘Blood & Plunder’.

In fact, ‘Blood & Crowns’ is the most ‘Blood &’ of all the “timeline” games which have built on Plunder’s initial success. You’ll find familiar Special Rules like Vendetta and Elusive, alongside thematic new rules like the incredibly fun Glory Hounds.

That’s not to say that there aren’t changes, but as a die-hard ‘Plunder’ fan, I will say that many of the changes feel like improvements to the traditional ‘Plunder’ system. For example, all of the verbage around units gaining Fatigue for Fighting or Shooting multiple times during an activation has been replaced by making those actions into ‘Limited’ actions which can only be taken once per activation, with units being able to Push to perform a second Limited Action.

Another change to the game actually effects the card-based initiative system. Now when a player wins the initiative bid, they can choose to allow their opponent to activate first. If you lose an initiative bid, you can spend a point of Favor (Crown’s Fortune) to steal the initiative and count as winning the bid. Your opponent can counter-spend a point of Favor in order to force a roll-off.

An assortment of units, all based on 25mm squares. Upon release, the push will be for 20mm rounds, but the game understands that some players may be hesitant to rebase collections

Forces & List Building

Similarly to ‘Plunder’, the forces (called ‘Companies’ for Crowns) are divided by Nationality first, and then by Faction. At the time of writing, the Nationalities are:

The Kingdom of England, Wales & Ireland

  • England in France (Crecy to Poitiers) 1345-56
  • English Army in Scotland
  • England in France (Agincourt to Orleans) 1415-44

The Kingdom of France

  • Army of France (Crecy to Poitiers) 1345-56
  • Army of France (Azincourt) 1415
  • Army of France (Orleans & The Loire) 1428-29


  • The Wars of Independence
  • The Border Rievers
  • The Scottish in France

The Iberian Kingdoms

  • The Castilian Civil War: Forces of Pedro de Castile (1351-69)
  • The Castilian Civil War: Enrique de Trastamara (1351-69)


  • Free Companies
  • Routiers
  • Pirates/Merchant Crew

One major diversion from ‘Plunder’ is that the units in ‘Crowns’ are all from a common pool. There are 21 units, plus an additional 3 Naval units. Among the common pool there are specific national troops, such as Scottish Gallowglass, Genoese crossbowmen, and the (in)famous English longbowmen.

An assortment of units – Light Cavalry, some Pikemen, and Bowmen with a new ‘Ready’ marker

These common units are often modified by your Faction list. For example, in the French Azincourt army, their Mounted Men at Arms are classed as ‘Burgundian’, with all Burgundian units in the force gaining the Mercenaries and Inexperienced special rules.

When building a force, you choose from one of the 13 legendary named characters (such as Jean of Arc) or a Standard Commander common to all forces. If you choose the latter, each Nationality has an optional upgrade to represent that character being a member of an elite order of nobility – such as the 26 knights of the English Order of the Garter.

After choosing a commander, you must add a suitable Retinue unit to his force. Different levels of commander have different retinue requirements. Your retinue is one of the more elite units on the battlefield; the hand-picked bodyguard of your leader. Retinues can be further upgraded to carry standards or royal banners.

Once you’ve picked a commander and retinue, your Faction choice will dictate which units you can add to your force. In another split from ‘Blood & Plunder’, Core and Support have become Main Battle, Vanguard, and Reserve. You may have 1 Vanguard per 2 Main, and 1 Reserve per 3 Main.
(Example: a force with 4 Main units, could include 2 Vanguard and 1 Reserve, for a total of 7 units)

Unit stats are identical to those of ‘Plunder’. You have Skills and Saves, plus Resolve. Unlike Plunder, unit sizes are not determined by game size, but by the unit itself. A unit of Feudal Levy is between 6-12 miniatures, while a unit of mounted Esquires is 3-8 figures. Another welcomed change from ‘Plunder’, is that points costs in ‘Crowns’ can climb into double digits. A Mounted Man at Arms is 12 points, while a lowly Footman is 4 points.

To the Victor, the Spoils – Scenarios

The victory conditions of ‘Blood & Crowns’ are one of my favorite parts of the whole system. While ‘Blood & Plunder’ assesses Strike Points for scenario objectives and for casualties, ‘Blood & Crowns’ assesses Renown for scenario objectives, casualties, and also for Feats of Arms. These are secondary objectives which are always in play, that players can attempt during the game. They include things like Glorious Charge – wiping out an enemy unit in a single Charge action.

Most flavorfully though, they include Capturing and Rescuing enemy characters. Enemy characters are rated as either Prize or Great Prize, and when a model with this rule is removed as casualty in Melee, they are captured and grant +1 Renown to the player who captured them. If your character is captured, you may attempt to Rescue them. Although they are still a casualty and will no longer fight, they grant you +1 Renown for their successful Rescue. Of course, they may be recaptured, or lost altogether if the unit is wiped out by a ranged attack. One of the flavorful special rules in the game is No Quarter – where characters are slain outright rather than captured.

The scenarios themselves are procedurally generated. There are random Deployment layouts, and then random Objectives overlaid onto these. Recommended table size is 3×3, 3×4, or 3×6 for the largest games.

Winning the game is the same as in ‘Blood & Plunder’ – having a difference in Renown of 2 or more will force Strike Checks (Rout Test in Crowns), but only after Turn 4.

A beautiful game of Blood & Crowns set up at ReCon

Firelock’s Commitment to the Game

So far, only ‘Blood & Plunder’ and ‘Oak & Iron’ have in-house miniatures for their games. All of the other Firelock titles are books only, with third-party support for miniatures. When asked about this, Firelock insider ‘Captain Bones’ on the Discord informed us that Firelock plans to make ships for this game, as well as offer miniatures for characters and a limited number of units.

With the Ship mechanics being identical to those of ‘Blood & Plunder’, it seems likely that any organized play of ‘Blood & Crowns’ will “require” the Firelock official ship models.

The most interest tidbit of information? The units and characters may be offered as .STL files for 3d printing. This might prove to be a testbed for further 3d printed releases in other lineups. For example, all the current ‘Blood & Plunder’ figures were prototyped with 3d print files.

In any case, ‘Blood & Crowns’ will be receiving a full-color, print book. Art references have been flying back and forth between the game’s author Eric, and Firelock’s chief graphic designer Lily.

Firelock has also had this game on display for demo play at a few conventions; most recently at Recon.

I wonder if we’ll get a collectible rolling tray like this one…

When Can I Get It?!

Currently, there is no release date for ‘Blood & Crowns’. Nobody inside of Firelock seems willing to provide a release date, and I don’t blame them. We know that Firelock doesn’t do any of their own printing for books, and historically, it’s been books which have hung them up and delayed them the most.

Firelock has confirmed that they are not doing any more Kickstarter releases for a long time. When Crowns releases, it’s going to be paid-for up front, and in Firelock’s hands to ship out immediately. That’s a massive relief.

If I were going to lay down money on a bet, I would not expect ‘Blood & Crowns’ until Q4 of 2023 at the earliest. The game just went out to editing in March. From there, it will have to be edited and formatted, printed, and arrive back at Firelock HQ. Sure, I can dare them to prove me wrong, and I’d be elated if they did; after all, it does seem odd that they’ve made a Crowns section of the Discord so quickly…

Behind-the-scenes chats with other designers within Firelock seem to point to a release schedule of

  • Oak & Iron version 2.0
  • Blood & Crowns
  • Blood & Steel: Wars of German Unification

There is also quite a bit of ‘Blood & Plunder’ content in the works, plus a few more projects that I can’t even begin to speculate on (including the ‘Under the Black Flag’ pirate RPG).

Crossbowmen with Pavisiers – one of my favorite units, since I might have suggested it!

I Can’t Wait!

I have been extremely excited for this release. I think that the ‘Blood &’ system fits this era perfectly, and I feel that late-medieval Knights will have a similar appeal to “younger fans of history” that Pirates had for ‘Blood & Plunder’.

I wish that I could upload rules, how-to-play, and teaser lists for this game, but until everything is finalized, my hands are tied. I’m already working on putting together armies for this game – I playtested it using loads of my old Bretonian Warhammer minis – and will hopefully get some Battle Reports up ahead of the release. So check back here regularly for more ‘Blood & Crowns’ content!

You and your silly English k-nig’hts!

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