Friday, December 31, 2010

Black Powder! (First Game)

So… Black Powder

John Bertolini popped by last night to try out Black Powder. John’s actually played it before. He played a Napoleonic game with Curt back in November.

[New France, 1758]


British and French are vying for supremacy in the new world…

Sorry, I spent so much time reading rules I didn‘t really have time to come up with a clever scenario…


Simple meeting engagement.


British Brigade

Brigadier Angus Bottomwallow
78th Regt. of Foote (Fraser’s Highlanders)
35th Regt. of Foote
48th Regt. of Foote.
Rangers and Indians (Small, Skirmish)
2 batteries Light Artillery

French Brigade

Le Marquis d’Hiver
R. du Guyenne
R. du Langedoc
R. de La Sarre
Indiens et le Marine (Small, Skirmish)
Corps de Cavalrie
2 batteries Light Artillery


Hmmmmm…. I didn’t take so many pictures (must have spent too much time looking in the rule book…).

The table I have is 5’ across, 8’ long. A pretty big table by local standards (most seem to play on 4x6). I have a sense the rules were written for much bigger tables than even mine! I wondered if maybe we should halve all distances, John assured me things would be fine…

WE set up some troops and diced for who went first.

Turn One

Brigadier Angus Bottomwallow ordered his entire brigade to advance towards the French with all haste. They did so!

(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)

Before John even had a go my troops were over halfway across the table… so much for maneuvering.

Overwhelmed by the ferocity of the British advance the french… did nothing…

Turn Two

Luckily I’d forgotten to move Brigadier Bottomwallow at the end of my command phase (I guess he, too, was a little overwhelmed by the ferocity of the British advance!) so was unable to get orders up to his troops and thus they held their ground. He did manage to reposition himself to take control of the situation the following turn

On the French move the Regt. du Langedoc advanced towards the highlanders on their side of the river. Regt de La Sarre advanced and formed into line to the right of Regt. du Langedoc. I think the guns moght have moved up as well. Then, to get them moving Le Marquis d’Hiver galloped up to La Regt. du Guyenne and cried “Follow Me!” and marched them up the road and across the river.

The French fired off their muskets to no effect.

Turn Three

The 78th Highlanders used initiative to charge the Regt. du Langedoc, The French closing fire was withering and the Highlanders were disordered, but made it into contact. The 35th, also using initiative, crossed the river and supported the Highlanders charge. The 48th … I can’t remember if they used initiative and simply advanced towards le Regt de La Sarre, or if they were ordered to charge in…?

The Highlanders and Regt. du Langedoc battled it out. I think the combat was a draw but the highlanders had to make a break test because they were shaken…

Hmmmm I think the 48th made it into combat and also fought the French to a draw…

The Highalnders, I belive failed their break test and fled the field, the 48th stuck around to fight another turn.

I think on the following turn the 48th lost the combat or had taken enough casualties to take a break test and they, too, departed the field of battle.

AT this point I think the British Brigade should have broken… but I hadn’t actually read that far in the rules so we played on a bit further…

La Regt. du Guyenne had made it across the river… in marching column… on the second turn… but they failed to do anything the third turn giving my battery of light guns two turns of firing at them. I think I only caused two casualties. On the fourth turn they did manage to form into line and charge the guns (with another “Follow Me!” order). Unfortunately the closing fire was devastating and La Regt. du Guyenne was obliged to make a break test and fled the field – along with Le Marquis d’Hiver…

After the 78th and 48th had departed, the 35th and Regt. du Langedoc exchanged fire with little effect. The 35th probably should have retired across the river (brigade breaking and all…)

The other battery of light artillery and the Rangers and Indians in the woods brought down enough fire on Le Regt de La Sarre that they were obliged to retire from the field as well…

A draw…?

It was fun enough. I’d definitely play it again.

I have to say I was totally happy with the DBA Extension for 1500 – 1900AD. I also hate reading rules. I find them dreadfully boring. As rules go, black powder is well written enough and for the first dozen or so pages was quite entertaining… by the time I’d reached page 50 and still hadn’t finished the rules for shooting – let alone close combat or morale or anything… it was getting a bit tiring… By the time I was at page 63 and still didn’t know how close combat or morale worked down right tedious (again, my preference – DBA – four pages…). The fact that I’d have to rebase my units (not going to happen) or add additional stands (see previous post) to my units to be able to make the requisite formations did not further ingratiate me to these rules… By the time John showed up Thursday evening I’d only gotten to page 70… hadn’t finished reading about morale, hadn’t gotten to any of the advanced rules or anything about stats for troops or how games even ended… and by that point I’d forgotten most of what I’d read about the command phase… but I decided to wing it – it’s similar enough to Warmaster (which I’d read before, but never played) and Cold War Commander (which I’ve played extensively, but not in the last two years… or so…).

In the rules there is a lot of commentary about “being a gentlemen gamer”. In an Interview with Rick Priestley, Priestley actually refers to it as “a book about gaming presented as a set of wargaming rules”. This was all fun for the first bit… and I was thinking some of the chaps I’ve played with could really do with reading these, if only for the commentary about being a gentlemen (good sport). But as the rules wore on I came to realize that all this talk was really pointing out how loose the rules are (and thus potentially open to abuse and/or disagreement) and while it would be nice if everyone playing the game actually read these bits (and actually took them to heart) I had a feeling that in our circle, as in many, I’ll be the only one to actually read the rules and will have to teach them to everyone else and they will gain none of the benefit of reading the commentary and in the end it only added pages to what I had to read through…

Anyway… I’ll have to finish reading it at some point… and they likely read through the whole mess again…

The other bonus to the DBA-x is that there is a fairly simple campaign system that I had imagined we’d be able to use at some point to play a 18th Century horse and musket imagination campaign with at some point…

Coming soon on Tim’s Miniature Wargaming Blog:

Hard to say… probably a painting update with some newly painted figures of some sort…


  1. So, what advantages does BP have over the DBA extension? I think DBA is great, but I have never been a big fan of the rock/paper/scissors aspect of the DBA system.

    Your bit about gentlemanly gaming worries me, as like you I see it as more of an admission that the rules are loose. Of course I have not read them, so I might be wrong. Insert long discussion on the merits of simple/complex rules systems here.

    See you Saturday!

  2. Advantages of Black Powder over DBA.

    John's Toys and My toys can play together even though their bases are different.

    um.... I think that's about it.

    On the surface that might seem like a really big bonus because considering he's the only other guy in town that can be bothered to collects and paint toys (and he does have an awful lot of them) one would think that would double our potential for gaming... but considering the number of figures required it's less so.

    it's quick... but so is DBA.


    LOTS of rules to read and remember.

    The detail includes a lot of what is abstracted in DBA (formations like assault columns and squares, charge reactions, etc) - which is a plus for those who like to see that on the table, but for those that don't know a lot about the era and it's tactics or military history in general (which is a lot of our regular group) that's not really a benefit.

    It needs a LOT more space and a LOT more figures to play.

    That's great for putting on big spectacle battles that play relatively quickly... but then, we've put on some pretty Big Battle DBA/HOTT games that played out really quickly - that totally included players that had never played the game before - This doesn't seem like a system that people with as little experience in gamin' could just walk in and play.

    Also with bigger forces required I think it even less likely that anyone else would ever even attempt to collect and paint a horse and musket army of their very own (whether imagi-nation or otherwise).

    While we've, mre or less, run successfull campaigns with DBA and I think we totally could run a Seven Years War (or 18th Century Imagi-Nation) campaign with DBA... it just wouldn't work with Black Powder... not a map campaign like we've played over a weekend...

    An extended narrative campaign - which could be totally fun - is the best we'd be able to pull off with Black Powder...

    Not saying it isn't a good game. Not saying I'm not going to play it. Just saying, after think ing about it a lot over the last week, since last night, and even since I posted this battle report, I think it has limited potential for a campaign and I am all about the campaigns...

    Hopefully we can get you out to try it in the next week or so... and try a couple more SYW-DBA games - both single, 12-stand army match-ups (like we'd have in a campaign) and some big battles...

  3. I had a similar reaction to Black Powder. I thought Black Powder was an improvement on the rest of the Warmaster line (getting rid of stand removal and the like) but I don't see it as better than DBHx.

    My take (after trying lots of rules) is that having more than two levels of command in any game becomes quickly unworkable. In DBA you are the CnC ordering an army and you are the general or colonel moving a unit--everything else is abstracted away.

    In BP you are the CnC commanding an army, the general commanding brigades, the colonel commanding units and the captain assing about with the position of individual bases.

    I get the allure of being able to form square and re-enact the great moments in history but the cost is 70-some extra pages of rules and a lot more opportunity for disputes, errors and grey zones.

    With DBA you can be done in 30-60 minutes. With BP, you are looking at two hours minimum and you need a lot of more space and figures. For me, the more abstract DBA rules are better. But YMMV and BP is much better than previous WM games.

  4. I love DBA, it's a great system that lets us play fast games, and build lots of armies.

    BP, on the other hand, gives us great big games, with more figures, more detail, and more character. That equals bigger, slower games.

    I see them as different beasts, really. I love DBA, but I'm also getting into BP so I can push around hundreds of figures without too much foolishness (I hope).

  5. Black Powder is a great game. If it is played in the spirit as intended everyone goes away happy and wanting more.

  6. Nice battle report, Tim!

    I found that you don't need to read these rules cover-to-cover. Just skim the highlights, get the mechanics down (they are pretty simple actually) and then delve into the fluff if you want to. I also thought the levels of command to be pretty easy and straightforward (but then again I broke my teeth on 'Empire' and 'From Valmy to Waterloo' so pretty much anything would seem simple and transparent now). As Tim says, the game is meant for large tables and large collections of figures and the writers make no bones about it. I personally like the rules but I could see how players used to DBA scales and mechanics could find BP a definite escalation.