Saturday, 30 May 2015

Steiner & le Duc, Game 3 - Black Powder (or...Where the hell is Grouchy - he's got the good dice???)

Another excellent game at Sgt Steiner's, with his beautiful 15mm Napoleonics.

I’ve slated Black Powder (through Pike & Shotte) in previous posts, and it does have its disadvantages, but the recent game at Sgt Steiner’s bunker was certainly tense.

Things to note from the game:

The Good
  • ·        The orders system is subtle and adds just the right amount of restriction to what the general can do. (Also be careful what you wish for, and careful when announcing those charges!)
  • ·        Movement is simple, intuitive and reduces hassle to an absolute minimum.
  • ·        The system can be bent, spun, moulded and hacked into just about anything you want – in terms of play sequence and content.

The Bad
  • ·        I’m still not convinced by the activation roll, and it seems a little arbitrary – but then I’m in love with the gamey Maurice method. Granted, troops in this period don’t always do what you want them to, though bad dice rolls can completely remove the general’s ability to manage the army (while in Maurice, you can always gauge that resource going down, or at least plan for the next turn). Even with a few average brigade commanders in BP, you can really get whacked by some dice rolls outside the bell curve.
  • ·        We forgot some subtleties like disorder when rolling sixes during firefights. Though there are a lot of these little ‘hidden’ things in the rules that work off the roll or its effects. Experience with the rules would probably cater for this, though I think it gets a little ‘warhammer-esque’ at times. A symptom of the rules’ heritage I suppose.
  • ·        Melee; I had this problem in my Pike & Shotte game. Markers, bits, rolls, more markers, checking and moving and… If this system is meant to put you off charging home, it works.
The Ugly
  • ·        We had notoriously random dice rolls in this game - at both ends of the bell curve, which didn’t grant activation at critical moments or threw command blunders in for a laugh (3 times - how the rules work of course) yet also meant that reinforcements didn’t appear at all (house rules – but a great provider of tension). A particularly gruesome example of this was when the French Guard cavalry seemed to get lost on their way to the battlefield. They would have had a decidedly influential effect on the game..if they had only marched to the ‘sound of the guns’. Where is Grouchy???

 Prussian right flank. These guys didn't last very long against experienced French cavalry.

The Prussian centre. This brigade would form a thin 'blue' line in the centre.

The French move to attack early on.

French skirmishers deploy as Prussians move to hold the centre.

Blucher appeared (that's Dave Blucher, Division Commander of course - not the older bloke with the pipe) to encourage the troops.

 The Prussian lines formed in centre, ready for French columns.

After being decimated by the cavalry action on the right flank, the Prussians secured it with a spare infantry brigade.

There's a little Landwehr cavalry unit in there. They seemed to be in a daft position, but it turned out ok for them.

French Old Guard advancing (gulp!)

Just in the nick of time, Prussian cavalry arrived to secure the Prussian left.

Landwehr vs Young Guard flank...(It's blurry because my hands were shaking!)

The battering in the centre goes on. French reserves take their time to arrive, but the Prussians seemed to be working to a timetable. "Good to see you Herr Steinmetz."

 BP Lessons Learned #23 - don't assault infantry ensconced in town!
Flanks, rear, front...'Merde!'

A tense game with 'ooohs', 'aaahs' and various expletives (oh those bloody dice). Highly entertaining however. Perhaps more games with BP, and as stated, it's always eminently hackable. More to come I think. Next game probably Beneath the Lily Banners.


  1. Cool game chaps, I do both love and hate games, when unexpected things happen, but that's dice for you??
    Looking forward to more BLB2!

  2. Twas an entertaining game full of drama and incidents (a quite a few Waterloo quotes) which may be the best thing to say about BP ?
    I agree melee a tad convoluted but suspect it's our lack of rules knowledge making it seem more difficult than it actually is.
    Remembering the various unit traits I found hardest to recall I don't think I used my a Reliability or Elite status at all as forgotten in the heat of battle :-)

    Dice hate me................

  3. Solid AAR, Darren. I, too, have been a victim of BP's untimely command blunders:
    Bottom line- a British brigade won a melee victory in front of the southern ridge at Vimeiro, only to have the entire brigade leave the hill on the turn immediatley after!

    I like your thoughts on Black Powder. As a solo gamer 90% of the time, BP is a necessary evil for me as it introduces enough chance and artificiality that I don't always feel like I'm only playing against myself as an opponent.

    That and the rules were very easy to pick up.

    You guys also pointed out some things I struggle with in regards to Black Powder - forgetting the unit "special attributes" and also the small, subtle rules like rolling 6 disorders the opponent when firing.

    The less people you have playing, the easier it is to overlook some of these rules.