Black Powder has been the big thing in horse and musket this year. In fact, it's the biggest thing in horse & musket for quite a while. I've not paid it much attention until recently. After all if touches all of my prejudices, - it's a big glossy book, it covers a big non-period specific era, (from the Great Northern War* to the British in the Sudan in the 1890s) and it seems to be a platform for selling more 28mm figures. Sure the people playing it at shows seem to be having fun, but then a lot of people do and the games are often rubbish.
A couple of our group have played a game or two and taken the plunge and bought the book, so last night we had a game. We did an ACW scenario, but we did it in 15mm not 28mm and we used centimetres instead of inches for distances, principally because of the size of our table.
Well I have to say I enjoyed it. The basic game is almost devoid of period feel but you put that in with unit special characteristics, rules you make up yourself, and a reliance on players doing "the right thing". It plays quickly and cleanly and is fun. Admittedly that's only after one game and I don't know if the rule system might pall after a while.
Good things about the system, - the command / orders system is neat and has a lot in common with my command and control system in "Return to the River Don". The firing system is quick and efficient. Melee is effective if not imaginative. It hangs together and works, if you don't poke it too hard. An even points competition game it ain't.
Bad things about the system, - well, nothing really.
However the book is exceptionally irritating. This is a full colour hard-back book that runs to nearly 200 pages, and retails at £30. The rules are simple and could be explained in about 6 sides of A4 if you put in a few diagrams. Why does it take nearly 100 pages? Well, it is verbose and matey in its writing style which is fun but more suited to a magazine article than something trying to explain rules to me. Rules should be concise and clearly written. It has a good number of helpful diagrams, but mostly it has masses of pictures of 28mm figures from all the periods covered by the rules. Many of which are clearly not illustrating the game actually being played but presumably have been put in as wargamer pornography. It's like Delia Smith publishing a recipe book and sticking in photos of dishes she hasn't described.
The second half of the book is the real wind up. 80 plus pages of BATTLE REPORTS!!!! The 6 or 7 battles described certainly give you information about the armies involved and how they are simulated under the game system. I can't help thinking it would have been a whole lot more useful to have done 80 pages of army lists, showing the factors for troops for the whole period allegedly covered by the rules. At the very least they could have started with the War of Spanish Succession and picked armies at every 30 years or so to show the development. It's not like they haven't got the figures. THEY PRINTED ENOUGH PHOTOS OF THEM. The Battle Reports would have made good magazine articles or downloads on the web to help you once you've bought the rules.
I realise I'm a lonely voice in the wilderness on this matter. The three reviews on Amazon (including one from Charles Vasey) are 4 or 5 star. It's almost like wargamers want to have their pockets picked. I'm not objecting to quality. I like a nice production standard in a book, but I also expect to get decent actual content. The goal shouldn't be to pad something to 190 pages so the punter thinks he's getting value for money when the intellectual property in the book is short changing you.
Which is a way of saying can they please put a pdf on the Warlord Games website for War of the Spanish Succession armies.
(*Actually you can't use it for the GNW as it doesn't have rules for Swedish pike armed units)