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"Pirate rules for games with lots and lots of figures?" Topic

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Early morning writer Inactive Member29 Aug 2017 9:25 p.m. PST

Okay, forget all the skirmish level rules – and I mean really forget them here – they won't work, or even come close for what I have in mind, though they may be your personal favorite rules.

What I'm looking for are rules that can handle Morgan's raid on Panama with hundreds and hundreds of figures per side. I have the figures and they are painted and based three figures to a stand for ease of movement. I already have Peter Pig's Pieces Of Eight and they don't allow the size of game I have in mind. I also don't want to 'adapt' historical rules for other periods, even if in the era.

I know this goes against the grain of what some of you think is appropriate for pirate gaming. Nevertheless, can anyone recommend rules for classic age of pirates (late 1600s to early/mid 1700s) games, primarily land action? (Ship to ship rules are easier to adapt, at least I think so.)

Thanks to anyone who can offer constructive input – even your own homegrown rules if they work and you are willing to share.


boy wundyr x Inactive Member29 Aug 2017 9:29 p.m. PST

Irregular Wars by Nic Wright.

Personal logo sillypoint Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2017 10:11 p.m. PST

I think Pikemens Lament maybe what you are looking for.

surdu2005 Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Aug 2017 11:45 p.m. PST

An oldie but goody is Blood and Swash / Thunder and Plunder. Blood and Swash was the set of rules for small groups of pirates, say four figures per player. Thunder and Plunder let players command several units of pirates. Thunder and Plunder eventually grew into GASLIGHT. The GASLIGHT Compendium is available from DriveThru and On Military Matters. GASLIGHT (specifically, Battles by GASLIGHT, which is part of the Compendium) can easily support the types of games you are describing.

Buck Surdu

Dexter Ward30 Aug 2017 1:50 a.m. PST

Field of Glory:Renaissance includes lists for Buccaneers and the like, and is very much a massed battle set.
It's a good set of rules all round.

Timmo uk30 Aug 2017 3:48 a.m. PST

The WRG George Gush Renaissance rules also had a book of supporting army lists for Buccaneer land armies and their foe. I think this is the set that FoGR grew from.

Tercio is another older massed battle action and I'm fairly sure that also has the army lists for the theatre you are looking at.

Forlorn Hope would work treat the pirate army the same as Montrose's Irish/Scottish army similar composition and tactics. No adapting needed.

Rakkasan30 Aug 2017 6:10 a.m. PST

I will second Blood and Swash / Thunder and Plunder and can also recommend Battles by GASLIGHT, The Sword and the Flame, and 800 Fighting Englishmen (big battle Sword and Flame). I have played all 4 rules in games with hundreds of figures per side. While they were Victorian colonial era or French and Indian War and not big pirate battles the rules all provide the necessary tools to game the pirate era as well.

Darkest Star Games Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Aug 2017 8:39 a.m. PST

Go with A Fist Full of Seamen, can have LOTS of figures.

corona66 Supporting Member of TMP30 Aug 2017 9:19 a.m. PST

DBR has an army list for Buccaneers and is a very good set of rules. I use my Buccaneers as you are planning but I also transport them to the Indian Ocean where they fight or ally themselves with Portuguese, Coastal Arabs, Ottomans, Moghuls and Hindus.

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP30 Aug 2017 10:44 a.m. PST

DBR is an excellent choice, I have done many such games with Buccaneers. The rules to take a bit of a learn to get into them.

Sample pic


A simple or set of rules is hordes of the thing, which is based on DBA. The rules can be read, learned and played in a couple days. I mostly just used pirates, and some natives, and some Spanish regulars, with a few extras like a herd of wild cattle, and some Jaguars. Both games can be played with elements of three figures on a base.


The whole story is here

Henry Martini30 Aug 2017 4:13 p.m. PST

This isn't pirate gaming, EMW… it's buccaneer gaming. To understand the difference you can do no better than read Angus Konstam's two Osprey books and take note of their contrasting emphases.

I don't have Irregular Wars, but from what I understand of it, despite being intended for small, DBA-size games, and nominally ending its historical coverage at the mid-17th century, the mechanisms might be simple enough to allow it to stretch to the sort of numbers you're planning to use.

Pike and Shotte should also be a workable solution, particularly as the basic manoeuvre unit in these small battles was the company, and the game unit is actually a pike or shot block/wing averaging a couple of hundred men (until you get to the late 17th century, when with no change of game measurements and no explanation the game unit magically becomes the battalion of several hundred men).

I don't know what the sources for the DBR buccaneer list were, but it's somewhat dodgy: all buccaneers should be rated as Shot (F), so the warband elements it mandates are a bit of a mystery. The FoGR list is a definite improvement.

corona66 Supporting Member of TMP30 Aug 2017 5:20 p.m. PST

Perhaps Henrymartini can offer his sources for stating that buccaneers were all fast shot?

John Leahy30 Aug 2017 6:01 p.m. PST

I am a big fan of Battles by Gaslight! I have the Blood and Swash rules too. Either way, the rules are excellent and can do what you want.

The Beast Rampant30 Aug 2017 10:06 p.m. PST

I think Irregular Wars and Pikeman's Lament are good considerations.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP31 Aug 2017 10:00 a.m. PST

I really enjoy playing DBA-RRR, but don't think it fits what the OP is looking for.

In addition to Gaslight and Blood & Swash, I would also consider Sword and the Flame, and Donnybrook.

Card-driven (or Bolt Action order dice) systems can work just fine for big battles if you divide the table into a number of sectors with terrain features that severely hamper line-of-fire across sectors. Let the players in each sector handle drawing from their own set of cards at their own speed. When a unit does move to a new sector, move their card to the new deck when that deck is next shuffled.

rmaker01 Sep 2017 10:46 a.m. PST

Don't overlook The Sword in the Caribbean from Sergeants Three.

Early morning writer Inactive Member02 Sep 2017 5:54 a.m. PST

First, thanks for all the responses. However, I'm wondering if there is a misinterpretation here. Many of the recommended rules will work readily by having a number of figures on the table representing hundreds of figures.

What I'm after are rules that allow hundreds of figures on the table – per side. So, if you believe your rules can handle this, please expand on how they handle so many figures. I've played DBA and don't much care for it. I have the GASLIGHT books and just don't see them stretching to this size of a game. I read up on Irregular Wars and the reviews suggest, again, these rules will handle perhaps scores of figures in a game – but hundreds?

Please provide further information to convince me the rules you've mentioned above can support my request or add in other suggestions.

Oh, I have Fist Full of Seamen and I'm afraid I'm a bit confused by the rules when trying to read them – though the games run with the rules by the author are some of the 'prettiest' games I've ever seen and certainly look like a lot of fun.

Look forward to further input. Thanks!

Dadster Supporting Member of TMP02 Sep 2017 11:39 a.m. PST

Would be interested in knowing as well.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2017 1:08 p.m. PST

I've seen TSATF handle Zulus by the hundreds at numerous conventions. Seems like it ought to handle Pirates just as numerically.

A mid-sized game of Donnybrook, each player has ~50-70 figures. Several players per side, with different sectors flipping their own activation cards would play just as quickly with hundreds.

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2017 1:39 p.m. PST

Yes, a variant for The sword & the Flame would likely work. But you'd have to create this yourself,I expect, I don't know of any existing rules.

Codsticker05 Sep 2017 6:57 p.m. PST

I am not sure why you wouldn't just use something like Pike and Shotte or Beneath the Lily Banners for something like this: "mob of pirates attacks small garrison". Choose appropriate troop types and away you go.

wingnut19 Sep 2017 11:24 a.m. PST

Early Morning Writer,
Please contact me with any questions you may have about FFoS at my Email address. I will be more than happy to show you how to adapt them to your scale (number of figures or size of miniature).
Your contributions to the TMP are both insightful and inspiring. Please keep building games worth playing.

Thank you

Early morning writer Inactive Member23 Sep 2017 6:19 a.m. PST


I will see if I can resurrect your email address. If not, may need it again. Will advise. Recovering from vacation – 12 days on the road is tiring. But had a great time (nothing to do with pirates, however).

DGT123 Inactive Member25 Sep 2017 11:13 a.m. PST

I use Pike & Shotte for my 30yw games. I have over 300+ figures for each side. It handles that size well. Can easily change stats or make special rules. Might be what your looking for. For my 600+ figure games I finish then in 4-5 hours easy enough for my 9 year old son to play :)

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