Black Powder Game: Rule Thoughts & Scenario elements

I hope most gamers out there get more games in than I tend to. This morning my good mate Grant and I finished a two-day Spanish Peninsular wargame using Black Powder; the second game in four months. I must say, we really enjoy the rules and it has completely revitalized this period for me.

My gaming colleagues and I were long time players in WRG and then Grand Manner rules which were always hard going for the infrequent gamer. We invariably ended up with sore feet, a bad back from all that stooping but most of all a splitting headache from all the chart reading and number crunching. In the end, it was a chore - but not so with Black Powder. I just love it.

Having declared my enthusiasm, there remain a few house rules we are developing which I thought to share. A) Horse Artillery are permitted free limbering and unlimbering without affecting their ability to fire. We find this enables them to teleport about the field like an Enterprise Away-Team which is a galaxy too far away for us. Whilst we haven't fleshed out an alternative yet, it's definitely on the drawing board. Perhaps just a -1 to hit if the battery moved?

B) Interpenetration is too permissible in this game for us. Perhaps it's our own gaming history getting in the way but we feel there needs to be limits. In print, there exist no impediment to friendly interpenetration or consequences. We propose no penetration of squares; infantry or cavalry in columns and all interpenetration disorders both units.

C) Disorder can be rallied against with the morale (save) rolls. For every hit from a roll of six (d6) which imposes disorder, a morale roll (save) of 6 removes the effect. Neither of us were entirely convinced that every disorder affect from skirmish fire and musketry would necessarily disorder a formed body of troops so we believe this will return some balance.

D) Heavy Guns are not specifically provided for and we felt that 9pdr through to 12 pdr guns should have some delineated presence in the game. Similar to the Heavy Cavalry attribute, a +1 dice per battery of 9pdr and +2 dice per 12pdr battery should make a difference.  A penalty for larger ordinance for balance will be -1 to hit if the firer's move at all (unlimbering or man-handling).

Whilst Black Powder provides for single gun batteries, we have retained our three and four guns batteries and believe we retain a balance. 
Scenario Features

Grant and I randomly generated our scenery options and developed an order of march. Our game was designed for a meeting engagement, constantly reinforced throughout the battle. We dice for entry from the first turn and I didn't even get onto the table until turn three - enabling Grant to dominate the field with his cavalry. We dice for each battalion, battery and single squadron of cavalry with a 1-3 in 6 chance. If we diced successfully, we diced immediately for the next unit and continued to roll our units on until failure for that round.

We find that this enables our whole armies to be played over time whilst avoiding an overcrowded table and allowing for significant maneuver. The battle see-sawed radically at times and both sides experienced desperate shortages in specific arms from time to time. Like the last few games we have played, neither of us were confident of the outcome until the last round - a deciding and disastrous round for one of us.

This game featured several instances of cavalry getting pinned and isolated through disorder before routing under a galling fire. The British rifles once more proved hard to destroy due to their skirmish formation whilst pinning enemy formations time and time again. Allied rocketry pinned rear echelons throughout the game and the ability to fire from the rear was particularly valued and despised. The French cavalry (particularly the lancers) corralled the allies and prevented a developed front; forcing several reactive squares. Interestingly, each side formed square on a number of occasions - on two occasions those troops were over-extended and in the end, collapsed under melee attack.

In the end, all units got onto the table and whilst the British attained a victory with a residual 7:2 field presence, they were under extreme pressure and contemplated capitulation right up to the end. Another close run thing.



  1. For me, I feel the chances of not moving in Black Powder are too high - I played in a BP AWI game with a commander rated 8 and I failed to move the first 3 game turns. For this type of game I prefer to play Piquet: Field of Battle II which is very similar to BP (commanders roll to move 1-3 movement segments, standard unit sizes, units take 4 hits) with the added element that the turn segments are randomized in a card deck, plus you can shoot at any time - even during the opponent's move (like opportunity fire).


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