Saturday, January 25, 2014

First Game of Black Powder (Modified)


So I finally got around to playing a game of Black Powder.  You'll recall I finished up the forces about a month ago then needed to tinker with the rules a bit (partly because it's who I am and partly to make it a bit more interesting from a solo standpoint) before getting a game in.  Surprisingly the rules are pretty much intact, at least so far as I recall.  The major changes were the turn sequence and I added a 'skill test' for closing actions.

Regarding the turn sequence, for me it's always more fun in solo games if it's not an IGOUGO sequence, so I put each side on cards, one for each brigade and CinC.  It's 'Bolt Action' style, meaning a card comes out for one side or the other, and the commander chooses which of his units to activate.  Changing to this meant there could be no more 'Side A moves, shoots, then melees, then Side B does same.'  So 'shoot' became an order, as did reload, and when you charge into melee it's carried out right away.

But, just like there's 'closing actions' in the regular Black Powder rules, I have them too.  My only change to them was to add a skill test, so that a closing action wouldn't be automatic, you had to pass a test in order to be able to form square or carry out closing fire, etc...  I'm sure I screwed up the rules in places, but other than the stuff I mentioned I believe I'm playing the rules as written.  I will say I screwed up the 'disordered' deal constantly; very infrequently did I check to see if one of the hits was a '6'...

So, the game was a lot of fun, but really dragged on.  I'd say I had a fantastic time for the first four hours, was pretty happy for the following 30 minutes, then I was simply exhausted for the last 50 minutes.  Part of the problem was I couldn't figure a spot to logically end the game; there were multiple times during the fight where I could (should) have declared one side or the other the winner, and if just one more thing would have gone right for that side I would have.

But every time one side had the advantage, they either screwed a command roll and lost the opportunity, or carried out an action that ended up being indecisive and letting the enemy back in the game.  Ultimately it was a slaughterhouse and a draw, and when I threw in the towel I figured it made sense by that time that the sun had gone down and the two sides fell back to lick their wounds.

So here lies the results of 6 turns over 5 hours and 20 minutes.  I started the game with Brits/Prussians owning one table edge and the French owning the other; neither side had any forces on the table, but brought them on when a card was drawn and they passed a command roll.  Let's get to work.

Overview of table looking from west to east, from the French baseline towards the British/Prussian baseline.  When I initially set the table up I had a had a river running across the table, north and south (left to right), but decided to simplify things as this was my first go.

French baseline.

British baseline.

The French, though both sides are set up almost exactly the same.  There are four infantry brigades, each with Brigadier, four infantry battalions, and an artillery battery (all foot).  There is a Light Cavalry Brigade of a Brigadier, two Hussar regiments (or is it supposed to be squadrons, I don't know), and a Chasseur regiment.  Lastly there is a Heavy Cavalry Regiment of a Brigadier, two Cuirassier regiments, and a regiment of Dragoons.

The Allies have two British infantry brigades, a Dutch infantry brigade (though one battalion is British), and a Prussian infantry brigade.  Also, one of the British infantry brigades has a horse arty battery instead of a foot arty battery.  The Light Cavalry brigade has a regiment of British Hussars, a regiment of British Light Dragoons, and a regiment of Dutch Hussars.  The Heavy Cavalry brigade of Scots Greys, British Dragoons, and Prussian Hussars.  The CinC is, of course, British (on a white horse).

Turn 1:
Brit Light Cavalry Brigade came on first,  but only got one action, so barely on the board (top left).  The British 1st Brigade came on like champions with 3 actions, and climbed the hill (foreground in road column), and the 2nd Brigade got three actions also, pulling up behind 1st Brigade and forming up in double line.  The last action of the turn was the Brit CinC coming on, but only 1 action got him next to the Lt Cav Bde (white horse).  There is a road just to the left (north) of the pic, in which the Dutch Brigade tried to come up, but it failed its command roll and remained off table.

The Brit Hvy Cav Bde came on in the center, with three actions, getting into position and forming up in line (the hill at front left is the hill occupied by 1st/2nd Brigades).

At far top right (SW), the Prussian Brigade rolled up one action and got onto the table in road column.

The overall Allied line at the end of turn 1; all forces are on but the Dutch Brigade.

The French Lt Cav Bde got three actions and mounted their hill, opposite the Brit 1st and 2nd Brigades.  They were followed by the 1st Brigade (one action, top) and 2nd Brigade (two actions, center).  The French CinC also came on in the center, taking up position behind the Lt Cav Bde.

On the French right, 4th Brigade came up the south road after 3rd Brigade failed its command roll.  The French Hvy Cav Bde also failed its roll.

The French line, with 4th Bde at left, Lt Cav Bde and CinC on hill at right, and 2nd and 1st Brigades at top.  3rd Brigade and the Hvy Cav Bde are still off table.

The whole table, looking north to south.  Prussians at top left, opposite French 3rd Brigade, and both sides taking up hill positions in the center.

Turn 2: The turn starts with a French card, and the 4th Brigade on the south road would be really handy if it could move up a bit and get into line, anchoring on the village.  Instead it rolls a command blunder, but it's pretty innocuous as it's a 'make one move right,' which it does, hugging the south treeline.

So let me start showing my lack of knowledge regarding Napoleonic strategy and tactics, as well as my own impetuousness.  With the hill not yet mounted, and worried the Prussian Brigade and Allied Hvy Cav Bde are in position to whack 4th Brigade (still in road column after its blunder).  So, it's time to act decisively.

In the game I pretty consistently rolled up great for cavalry and not so great for infantry, and this is one of those times.  The French CinC, atop the hill, nodded at the Lt Cav Brigadier, who signaled the charge, and with that the 2 Hussar and one Chasseur Regiments went thundering down the hill, across the couple hundred yards separating them from the British hill, and back up the British hill (3 actions).

The Brit 1st Brigade's Horse Arty Btty passed its test and evaded, falling back (far left), while two of the 1st Brigade's infantry battalions formed square, but two others were unable!  The French cavalry crashed into 2nd Brigade's foot artillery battery (caught flat footed as well) and the two 1st Brigade battalions in road column.

The Ft Arty battery was immediately overrun, whilst one infantry battalion was shaken (3 hits, held their ground on the break test), and the other took one hit.  All three French Cav regiments took a hit.

-Brit 1st Bde activated; the two Inf Bns in column moved right (north) away from the French cav, while the two Bns in square got three actions (fire-reload-fire), but to no effect.
-Brit 2nd Bde activated, with a plan to pull off a shoot then charge the French Cav (who stood a decent chance of being caught flat footed following the melee); problem is, they only got one action, and the fire was ineffective.
-Brit Lt Cav Bde charges into the scrum, getting at the two French Hussar regiments (one managed a countercharge, which was all that was available as the Brits had rolled 3 actions and the French regiment couldn't have outrun them).  Most everybody takes a hit or two, and one of the French Hussar regiments fails its break test and retires (top right).  Dead center is the other French Hussar regiment (Blue/Brown with 2 hits), with Dutch and Brit Hussars both sporting a hit, and the Chasseurs (in green) are next to one of the 1st Bde squares.

French 1st Bde climbs their hill.

In the south, the Prussians have designs on the blundered French 4th Bde, but manage only 1 action and creep forward.

The Brit Hvy Cav Bde activates, not quite sure whether to head left/south (help Prussian Bde put away French 4th Bde) or right/north (to help the mess on the Brit hill).  They choose the latter, and the Greys run down the retreating French Hussar regiment whilst eh Brit Dragoons and Prussian Hussars charge the French Chasseurs.  Very quickly the two engagements eliminate the two French regiments (though another French Hussar regiment is still in the middle of the scrum, with its CO).

The French 2nd Bde (center) fails, while the French Hvy Cav Bde comes on, moving up towards 4th Bde.

The Brit CinC moves up the hill and rallies a hit off one of the Inf Bns, while the Dutch Bde makes its entrance onto the field of battle.

The French 3rd Bde, still off-table, fails its command roll again and remains off table.  The French CinC sits tight next to his 1st Bde atop the hill.

Table at end of turn 2, with big mess on Brit hill (center left), French trying to get strong on their hill (center right), Prussians and French 4th Bde dallying about at top (south), and the Dutch coming on at bottom left.

Turn 3:
French are up first again, and try to get their 4th Bde (who blundered up to the treeline last turn) in the game, but they fail their command roll!  The Allies are up next, and the Prussian Bde rolls up three actions: advance, form double line, and fire.  The white beads are individual/excess hits, red beads are shaken, and yellow beads are disordered (I actually remembered to check this time).

Then the Dutch Bde (on the north road) failed its command roll, and the French 2nd Bde (at rear of French hill) decided to go to help the French 4th Bde, but only got one action to move in that direction.

Again sensing things slipping from his grasp, the French CinC send a note to his Hvy Cav Bde commander, and they take off at the trot, coming to the aid of 4th Bde by closing with the Prussian Bde!  The Prussian Bde was in double line, with two line battalions, a Jaeger Bn, and a Grenadier Bn.  All but the Grenadier Bn got into square, so 1st Cuirassiers (center) crashed into the flank of the Grenadier Bn (because it was engaged to its front), whilst the Dragoons and 2nd Cuirassiers (bottom) screened the action from the Brit Hvy Cav Bde.

The Prussian Grenadiers took two hits to the Cuirassiers none, and so took a break test.  They failed, falling back in disorder (top left), leaving three Bns in square (still threatened by cav), ripe for the picking if 4th Bde could get off its ass.

During the confusion, the French Lt Cav Brigadier grabs the lead troopers of the the remaining Hussar regiment and leads them past the Brits to the shelter of the French Hvy Cav Bde!

On the French hill, the 1st Bde commander decides to extend his line and refuse his left flank (due to Dutch Bde moving up from north (bottom left, not pictured).  Meanwhile, their artillery puts three hits on the Prussian Hussar regiment, shaking it, and two hits on one of the Brit 1st Bde's Inf Bns.

The Brit Hvy Cav Bde can't manage to reform, but it does separate itself from the scrum on Brit hill, and moves south so as to not leave the French Hvy Cav unchallenged.

The Brit Lt Cav Bde is able to reform and move up in line ahead of the Dutch Bde.

The Brit 1st Bde (bottom left) tries to reform itself, first giving orders to its Horse Arty Btty, but a blunder is rolled...  The blunder has the battery make two moves away from nearest enemy which... carries them right off the table.  The two Brit infantry brigades are now without artillery.

The Brit 2nd Bde (center, with Hvy Cav Bde at top right) trying to fill the void caused by 1st Bde's dallying, forms road column, moves atop Brit hill, then shakes out into double line (the cotton shows they are 'fired' and need to reload).

The French 3rd Bde finally passes a command roll and comes on the table with one action, while the Brit CinC tries but fails to rally some 1st Bde infantry, while the French CinC darts right (south) up to 4th Bde and rallies.

Table at the end of turn 3.  After turn 2 I thought the Brits were in a commanding position, now I'm leaning towards the French.

Oh, and at far right is the newly arrived French 3rd Brigade (1st is in line on the hill, and 2nd is in road column trying to reach 4th Bde at top left).

The Dutch Bde moves up and shakes into double line, threatening the left flank of French hill.

Stealing a play from the Brits' playbook, the French 4th Bde  (center right, with Prussian Bde in squares to left and French Hvy Cav at bottom center) shakes out into line, fires...

Then charges!  However, it was all quite anticlimactic.  If the French would have whooped some ass here, I'd figure the game was about over, what with them having a strong presence on the right (2 Inf Bde and Hvy  Cav Bde opposed only by a beat up, disordered Hvy Cav Bde), being organized in the center (vice the Brits still trying to sort themselves and lacking mass/concentration with the Dutch and Lt Cav Bde), and the French 3rd Bde coming up the road to counter the Dutch and Lt Cav brigades.

But that's not what happened.  The Prussians, despite being in square, didn't suffer much from the shooting.  When the French charged, the Prussians were able to shake out into lines, and so they didn't suffer a lot there.  Two of their Inf Bns had to take break tests, but they both passed!  And then the French 2nd Infantry Brigade, which could have followed up and swept the Prussians aside, failed its command roll!

The Brit Lt Cav Bde (center) passed through the Dutch Bde (off camera to center left), moved past French hill (top left), and formed up in line to screen the Dutch Bde from the advancing French 3rd Bde (far right).  This would seem to buy some time for the Allies to really push French hill; the Lt Cav are screening the French 3rd, the Hvy Cav are keeping the southern flank (where things aren't going so hot) segregated from the center, so if the Dutch, 1st, and 2nd Brigades can get their stuff together, they should be able to sweep aside the one French brigade (1st Bde) atop French hill and collapse their center...

Then the Brit 1st Bde failed its command roll (after blundering last turn).

And then the French had a decision to make.  Since the French 2nd Bde failed its command roll, the only way to sweep the Prussian Bde aside would be to send the French Hvy Cav in, but doing so would turn their backs to the Brit Hvy Cav.  So the French Hvy Cav charged the Brit Hvy Cav, with the Dragoons and 2nd Cuirassiers teaming up on the Scots Greys, and 1st Cuirassiers going after the Prussian Hussars (leaving the Brit Dragoons standing idly by once they failed their closing action skill test).

The Greys gave out a hit but took two, and despite becoming disordered they passed their break test.  The Prussian Hussars weren't so lucky and were easily broken.

The French 3rd Bde formed extended line to begin slowly pushing back the Brit Lt Cav Bde.  But, that was the point, so the Brits Lt Cav is accomplishing its mission by forcing the French infantry to deploy into line and slowly move forward (oh yeah, I changed movement rates in the rules too, so that moving in line is pretty doggone slow, with attack column twice as fast and march/road column three times as fast).

Back in the south with 4th Bde, the French CinC fails at rallying some troops, and the French Lt Cav, who's down to only one Hussar regiment but has some easy pickings in front of it (it could hit already beat up Prussian infantry in the flank), fails its command roll.

In the center the French 1st Bde's Ft Arty Btty (atop French hill) pounds one of the Brit 1st Bde's Inf Bns, but it passes its test and the Brit CinC comes over and rallies a couple hits off...

And this is the one time I came across something I was unsure of with the rules (and didn't feel like taking the time to thumb through the book): each brigade has to activate, and the Scots Greys are engaged (base to base contact with two French Hvy Cav regiments).  I forget what I was trying to do, but the command roll for the Brit Hvy Cav Bde failed; nevertheless, I think the Bde still counts as 'activated,' and since the Greys were engaged in melee, I had them fight it out again.

I may have screwed up, but the French rolled up 9 hits, and despite the Greys' saving 8 of them, that one made them shaken, and they failed their break test, running away.  That's them in the foreground, with the Brit Dragoons, who really could have helped things out with just one activation, sitting idly in front of the three French Hvy Cav regiments...

Incredibly, the Prussian Bde extricated itself from melee with the French 4th Bde, falls back, forms line, and fires, getting enough hits on the two lead French Inf Bns to make them shaken (red beads).  Keep in mind that just a minute ago I thought the Prussians were going to be easily swept aside.  It seems they've found their testicular fortitude...

Just a second ago the Brit CinC was ruminating about getting the Dutch and the Brit 1st and 2nd Bdes together to beat up on the French 1st Bde across the way on their hill.  The Dutch moves up halfheartedly, but the Brit 1st Bde failed its roll, and the 2nd Bde has similar problems...

Now there's the issue of the left flank; while the Prussians are putting up a brave fight, it can't last forever, and with the Hvy Cav Bde practically gone (the Dragoons are fun, just sitting there, but the Prussian Hussars broke and the Greys are running for the exit), something needs to be done.  I know, I'll order the back line (the 3rd and 4th battalions of the brigade) to face left, move forward to refuse the flank, and (if I'm lucky and get three actions) fire at the French Hvy Cav milling about!

But I don't get lucky, I roll a blunder, and so the 3rd and 4th battalions make two moves away from the nearest enemy.  That's them in the foreground, running away from the French Cav at top, past the absolute mess of 1st Bde at center right, and leaving the other two Inf Bns of 2nd Bde all by their lonesome (upper center, in line).  End of turn 4.

Table at end of turn 4.  You can see Prussian and French 4th Bdes duking it out at top center, with French 2nd Bde (just to right) trying to get into action and French Hvy Cav Bde (just below 4th Bde).  Center is just the French 1st Bde sitting atop French hill (center right), with the Dutch (bottom center) kinda staring at them and the Brit 1st and 2nd Bdes having all kind of problems on/around Brit hill.  At far right you can see the Brit Lt Cav screening off the French 3rd Bde.

Turn 5:
The Prussian Bde pulls off three actions, going Reload-Shoot-Reload.  They break a Legere Bn and stand ready for a French charge with loaded muskets.

Then the French 2nd Brigade pulled off three actions, a Move, Form Attack Column, and Charge!  But they didn't quite reach...  The Prussians stand fast, staring down the large French force opposite them.

So the French Hussars decide to charge, forcing a couple battalions back into square, but the Prussian Jaeger Bn gets caught out!  But the Prussians manage only one hit, and the Jaegers get three on the French Cavalry (???!!!), who subsequently fail their break test and run screaming from the field of battle!  (what the hell just happened???!!!)

French are up again, and so the 2nd Cuirassiers and French Dragoons set upon the Brit Dragoons, while the 1st Cuirassiers run down the Greys.

The Brit Dragoons broke, and the Greys ran again, but are still on the table.  That's them in the foreground, leaving the French Cuirassiers in the dust...

Back to the French 4th Brigade, opposite the Prussians.  The French fire, racking up some hits and causing a break test, though it's passed.

Then one of their battalions charges, and breaks the Prussian Jaegers.  Still bitter to have seen the Jaegers break the French Hussars last turn though...

The Brit 2nd Bde activates; it's 1st and 2nd Bns slide left and reload, staring at the French Hvy Cav, whilst its 3rd and 4th Bns (blundered and ran away last turn) start moving back into position (center, with 1st Bde at bottom left).  The Brit CinC rallies some units in 1st Brigade.

Who decides to get its ass in gear finally (this is Turn 5, and they've been in turmoil since the beginning of turn 2 when the French through their Lt Cav at Brit hill).  1st Bde forms attack column and charges, though doesn't quite get there.

Good shot of how things are progressing regarding French hill.  The French 1st Bde sits atop the hill, whilst the Brit 1st Bde has just parked directly in front of them.  The Dutch are milling about at bottom center, with the Lt Cav Bde just to their right, having been slowly but steadily backed up by the French 3rd Bde (top right), who just moved up and is now almost tied in with the French 1st Bde.

The Dutch work up the courage to charge and, ah, no they didn't, they failed their command roll...

While atop the hill, the French 1st Bde want to go Fire-Load-Fire, but only gets a 'Fire,' managing only a few, indecisive hits.

The French CinC, still to the south with 4th Bde fighting the Prussians, tries unsuccessfully to rally the troops.

Table at end of turn 5.  Things are finally getting interesting in the center, though who will come out on top is anyone's guess.  So, for everyone laughing at me about launching the French Lt Cav on Turn 2, it's only now in Turn 5 the Brits have been able to get anything going in the center, and the French (with 3rd Bde tied in and winning the fight in the south against the Prussians) are in a much better position than they were/would have been at that time.  At least that's what I'm telling myself...

Turn 6:
The French 1st Bde (off camera to top) have the Brit 1st Bde sitting in front of them, and badly want to blast them, but manage only one action and so they reload.  The Dutch (center left) form attack column and move ahead, but not very far.  However, the French 3rd Bde (far right) tears it up; they move up, fire, and reload. with their fusillade scoring a number of hits on the Brit Lt Cav and forcing two of its regiments to fall back in disorder (one regiment and the Brigadier is sat squarely between the Dutch and French 3rd Bde, whilst the two regiments that fell back are in the bottom left corner).

Once again the Prussian Bde finds itself getting smacked around, and once again it falls back, re-forms into line, and fires at the French 4th Bde.  The French 4th then activates, and while trying to square away one of its battalions it rolls a blunder, and that battalion is forced to charge the Prussians.  He gets two hits on one of the Prussian Bns, and forces a break test, but the Prussian holds!  Damned Prussians!!!

Instead of doing something useful and productive, the French Hv Cav Bde reforms and runs down the Scots Greys regiment, finally eliminating them...  It's cool and all, but they were already pretty much done.

With the French Hvy Cav out of the way, the Brit 2nd Bde moves up and its 1st and 2nd Bns fire into the flank of the French 2nd Bde, who should have been clean and fresh to go and slaughter the Prussians but has now taken several hits and must divert some attention to the Brit 2nd Brigade...

And then the Brit 1st Bde charges!  Closing fire manages a couple hits and actually breaks one of the Brit Bns, but they close with the French and are winning the melee, meaning break tests are forced.

But both of the hard-pressed French battalions pass their break tests with a 'hold!'

With the French 3rd Bde (top right) bearing down on them, the remaining Brit Lt Cav fall back to their retreated brethren (bottom left), where the Brit CinC meets them and rallies a couple hits off the Dutch Hussars (though I think the rules say you can only do one per turn...).

Back with the Prussians, the French 2nd Brigade sends two of its battalions against the flank of one of the Prussian battalions, and nothing happens!!!  The French score eight hits, but the Prussian battalion saves all of them!  The Prussian gets one his on each of his foes, but they are both saves as well, so absolutely nothing happened.

Lets' review here, and I hope I'm doing something wrong.  The Prussian is engaged by a French battalion to his front, thereby making it possible for him to be engaged to his flank (the French units still moving in the most direct manner).  The French get no bonus for outnumbering the Prussian (everybody gets their normal number of melee die), and the French get no bonus for hitting the Prussians in the flank (no bonus for melee, but you double the dice if you fire at someone's flank).  The only knock on the Prussian is that he 1) has to split his melee dice between the attackers and 2) his 'to hit' value is -1 because he's engaged to his flank/rear.  My biggest heartburn is that I believe a unit's morale save should be negatively affected when engaged to their flank or rear.  There's no way the Prussian's save should have been 4+ when he's got two French battalions on his flank.

I will be the first to admit I am probably screwing up.  If that's the case, please someone shoot me the page number.

The other two battalions of the 2nd Bde (center) turn left, form line, and fire to no effect at the British 2nd Bde (bottom).

The very last action of the game was when the French CinC rallied some hits off of the 4th Brigade.

The table at the end of turn 6, after five hours and twenty minutes and my wife and kids begging me to get out of my toy room...

Like I said, I had a lot of fun, but it really drug on and I just couldn't figure out a way to end it.  Every time someone had the advantage they blew it, either with poor command rolls, poor combat rolls, or the opponent's incredible saving and break test rolls.

I really enjoyed how the rules worked out for me, though I need to look up/clarify a couple things.  But they were pretty small things, the 'bones' of the rules are outstanding.  It probably seems silly/crazy, but I loved how it worked with both sides starting off the table and having to roll to get on.  I just remembered, another thing I need to look at is brigade morale.  I've got it down regarding a unit having to take a break test, but what about a brigade that's lost 50% of its units? I'm sure that one is in the book, I just neglected to put it in my cheatsheet.

I will definitely get to this again, but for now I've got WWII stuff to dive into.


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