Sunday, 14 August 2011

Black Powder & Real Life

The table set up
So the plan was this. Use the big table. Use all of the figures. Play a Black Powder  War of Spanish Succession game. I’d got the table set up earlier in the week, got the figures out and tried to re-read BP. This latter part kept being interrupted by stuff happening, but no worry, -I had Thursday afternoon off to swot the final bits up.

In practice the Thursday off bit didn’t work out as planned. I knew I had to take my father to hospital for a pre-op check (nothing serious, - cataracts), but that shouldn’t take very long.

Hour and a half late going in we were. 90 minutes. Yes, 90 minutes late. And then my mother (bless her) realised she need to get some food in, so having done the hospital we’re off down Sainsbury’s. Where, for the first time in ages, she had one of her “note sure what I want sessions”, - basically 20 minutes shopping cost me 40 minutes.

Now that’s not significant, except it then pushes me in to rush hour coming home so I end up getting home later than I would normally do from work and the two or so hours to sort stuff is no longer available to me. However, I take 5 minutes to look at the table and make some quick changes, - namely removing the large built up area in the middle of the board. No scenario, however, just a line up and thrash it out battle.

No worries. There’s several of us got copies of BP, so lots of people to help out on the rules front. Except our BP expert has dropped out and of the two players who turn up one (let’s say Player A) has the same level as knowledge as me (quite fairly he pointed out it was my game so he expected me to have a fair idea of how it all worked) and the other (let’s say Player B), - well it’s his first game with the group for months and last probably looked at BP last year.

Rather than me umpire I teamed up with Player B against Player A. After all I fancied pushing the toys around. And we were Anglo Dutch, so I got the Anglo, and he got the Dutch.

We didn’t finish the game. After all friends who haven’t met for a while want to chat as well as play. And we were slowed down a bit by the constant flicking backwards and forwards through the rule book. I criticised BP for a lack of an index yesterday, which I feel is essential in a book with nearly 200 pages. However, to be fair, the contents list isn’t bad and the cross referencing is adequate but there’s still too much of the rules being scattered about the book amongst the matey-style text.

Having said that, when things moved they moved quite nicely. We were using Generals with a value of 8 – typically competent Generals under the rules – which means that command failures occur if you roll 9 or more on 2D6. That’s slightly more than a 1 in 4 chance, which is quite high.

The infantry close for a firefight.
The French went first and stepped forward. In response the Anglo Dutch centre stalled (that wretched comand role) and the right wing got in a tangle as the Dutch tried to negotiate round a wood and a small built up area. The left wing was the success where the Britsh Heavy Dragoons charged in on the French cavalry and managed to break the lead unit and the one behind them with a "sweeping advance". We're a bit light on the rules so I may have got away with murder on this wing. However the key tactic seems to be to induce a counter charge to seperate cavalry from their supports. Elsewhere the action still hangs in the balance (or is woefully indecisive depending on your point of view).

Show here are some gratuitously posted pictures of the game with little context.

The victorious British Cavlry now look a bit isolated

The French centre cavalry wait to deliver their attack (note Airfix cottage!)

The Dutch cavalry work their way round the end of their infantry line

A grand panoram. The Dutch are off table at the bottom (bits of La Haye Saint farmhouse in view)


  1. Think BP rules are good in that they can get a game played in a evening , however you can loose period feel if you don't think carefully about the added extra rules.

  2. Don't have a problem with the rules. Getting the add ons right for period flavour is key as you rightly point out.

    However they are good for "grand gesture" games with lots of stuff.

  3. Impressive looking game...

  4. Monty,

    Thanks. I think that you can get just as good an effect by using these 12 man battalions as with the big 30 figure+ units they have in the BP rule book.

    I think flags are important.