Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Battle Report - 18 Feb 2013 - Black Powder

For once, a night down the club where I didn't have to bring anything (bar the usual pint of milk for the tea drinkers!). Gary ran (and supplied all the 28mm figures for) a Napoleonic Black Powder scenario (an encounter from the Albion Triumphant book), which pitted AndyH and my French against his and Dewi's Anglo-Portuguese.

We did fairly well at the start - my left flank got laid into the British (who'd adopted their customary spot atop a hill), while Andy's right advanced to face off against Dewi's cavalry... unfortunately (for him) Dewi's Portuguese decided their nice spot in the back of the British lines was right where they wanted to stay, thank you very much.

As I've said before, my one problem with Black Powder and its relatives is that it is possible to wind up not doing anything with a unit for several turns if your dice suck. (Before you ask, I love the rest of the system!) The counter-argument, of course, that gets trotted out is that with the Lardies' 'Tea Break' mechanic, it's equally possible not to move. But:

  1. It happens on a neutral draw of a card, not your own dice roll. To me, this makes it better (and yes, some people I know disagree). Part of it is that it feels less your fault, and part of it is that activation in IABSM and similar games is a positive act: you draw a card to see who activates, rather than rolling a dice for every commander to see if they fail to activate;
  2. Messing up a command roll in BP basically kills any more actions from that command, or (if you louse up with your general) the whole army;
  3. The density of Big Men in games like IABSM is considerably greater, so the odds on getting someone to give key orders is higher.
Anyway. By the time Dewi's Portuguese eventually got off their duffs and activated, it was all looking a bit close: and then, as they say, it wasn't. One British turn saw Andy and I lose about five battalions to failed morale checks (for entirely good reasons), and that was pretty much all she wrote. We even managed to rout one of Dewi's cavalry, get stuck in with a follow through charge and get routed.... Gary says he's never actually seen one succeed. Pity he didn't mention that beforehand! 

My views on the activation aside, though? I love Black Powder, just for the sheer scale and feel of it, and the fact that we got through a complete and fun battle in 4 turns on an 8'x'6' table with about 15 units a side in 2 1/2 hours (a fair bit of which was us being rusty with the rules). 

Thanks (as ever) to Andy, Dewi and Gary for the game, especially the latter for his awesome collection of figures. Next month? An all day refight of Quatre Bras.


  1. Very impressive looking game!

  2. Excellent looking game and figures; I've yet to pick a copy of Albion Triumphant. Best, Dean

  3. Good looking game! Black Powder has become the rule set of choice for my gaming group as well and for many of the same reasons, namely it plays fast even with a lot of units on the table and it is very good at giving a "grand scale" feel.

    One local variation on the rules we've tried and it seems to work well is that if a commander fails to issue an order to a unit, that does NOT end him from giving orders to other units in his command (unless the failure is due to a blunder). We still halt all orders if the commanding general fails for any reason, but if you just use him last, that effect isn't crippling anyway.


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