GTM #218 - Guns & Ships
by Megan Herrin, Firelock Games

The Bark

The Bark is the newest addition to Blood & Plunder’s growing fleet. Although smaller than many of its adversaries, this ship demands competition and threatens to make away with a formidable prize—or may be captured as such. It’s a relatively unencumbering jack-of-all-trades used by any trades from fishers to buccaneers. She might not be a 54-gun man-of-war, but this ally is petite and versatile enough to fire at a larger enemy and escape intact. 

And Its History

The Bark was as common as a single-mast sloop in the Caribbean, and relatively easy to acquire throughout the coasts. It was a square-rigged workhorse used by merchants and fishermen alike for its versatility, and buccaneers picked it up for the same reason. The ship ranged from one to three masts and was designed not for speed, but for cargo—sturdy and unromantic, ready to get the job done. 

When they had no other options at their disposal, Spaniards often outfitted barks as small fighting vessels, which they called armadillas, to wage war against buccaneers. One of the most famous buccaneer battles against the Spanish pits buccaneers in canoes and piraguas (long vessels carved from one tree trunk and sometimes outfitted with a sail), against three Spanish armadilla barks. 

One morning off the coast of Panama (new Panama, as Henry Morgan had previously burned old Panama to the ground), a crew of buccaneers in piraguas and canoes sought to take on a prize of five large ships and three barks. As they rowed towards their target, however, the barks that they had assumed to be anchored made sail straight toward them! The buccaneers were widespread in the canoes and piraguas, the canoes in the lead toward the coast. Piraguas fell behind, being heavier and therefore slower. As the barks cruised toward them, the buccaneers became a bit concerned that the barks would simply run right over them, dragging the significantly smaller boats under their wake. 

The pirates knew the only hope for the entire crew’s survival lay in escape. They rowed hard back in the direction they had come from. The canoes, swift and light, managed to escaped the pull of the ships. The piraguas caught up to them and the barks were unable to catch them, since it would involve sailing directly into the wind. But there are few rivalries as relentless as that of the Spanish and the English after Henry Morgan set Panama aflame. The men of the larger Spanish crafts outnumbered the English in lightweight paddle boats more than three to one. They would not let the pirates go without a fight. 

The barks shot their first volley from the cannons. The buccaneers, experts with their muskets, loaded their prized weapons and fired in return despite their odds. Canoes and piraguas were shattered by cannon fire, sending chunks of splintered wood in all directions. Buccaneers threw themselves into the roiling waters and swam to their comrades or dragged themselves up the sides of the barks to start a fight of cutlasses and pistols.

 The long and bloody massacre lasted three hours and was punctuated by the smog of an explosion from the stern of a bark, where more than one buccaneer grenade had been lobbed too close to a jar of powder. There were few survivors, many of whom were badly burned and horribly wounded. 

The details of this encounter are provided by historical consultant, Benerson Little, who is known for his work with the award-winning television series, Black Sails. He now contributes to Firelock Games and the effort to create an accurate historical depiction of the game set in The Golden Age of Piracy.


Meagan likes coffee, history, sci-fi, hobby crafts, and fun games. She especially loves any combination thereof, even more if it’s all five simultaneously.