Friday, 19 August 2011

Wargaming in Winter

Thursday night saw the second session with the Black Powder WSS game. We all had our winter woollies on and the heating turned on as we were in the garage and obviously as it’s the middle of August the temperature barely got above freezing.

We’re making slow progress, partly due to the rule book page turning, but also because we’re a sociable bunch. I think I’m also not driving the game as much as usual. When I’m working on my own rules I need to get results in an evening and so push the game along. With someone else’s system I don’t find the pressure so great.

Having said that the game moved on quite a bit. The cavalry action on the Anglo-Dutch left flank see-sawed, first seeming to be an overwhelming English achievement before the French managed to turn it about – partly through rallying some units that had only been forced to retire, rather than being broken completely. I think I need to re-read the sections on how you can make a charge as my initial reading suggests that the interpenetration rules enable you to charge through one of your own units. Having used this tactic a couple of times, - it enables a front line of troops to absorb a load of fire so that the charging troops only have to suffer closing fire before melee – I have to say it looks a bit odd. But then the break test is particularly brutal, most of the effect comes from the die roll and not any modifiers, so there’s only a limited amount you can do, tactically, to offset outrageous bad luck (although in fairness the rules do ensure you don’t get stuck in interminable rounds of mind-numbing melee combat).

In order to have some period flavour in the game I made the Anglo-Dutch cavalry “Heavy Cavalry” and gave the infantry “First Fire”. I also made one unit of French cavalry Carabineers who were also “Heavy Cavalry”. This unbalanced the game a little bit, so the buildings on the table as on the French half of the table to give them a more defendable line without overdoing it.

Phil, playing the French, took full advantage of the buildings to anchor his line and this is proving to be problematic for us Anglo-Dutch.

Anyway, as said above, after initial good fortune the Anglo-Dutch left wing, consisting of English cavalry, has finally been driven off through the French concentrating all of their cavalry against them and pivoting the attack on an occupied building.

The English cavalry on the attack. What could possibly go wrong?

Of course this does mean that there are no cavalry to oppose the brave Dutch boys under General von Kemp on the right. Alas for him, however, the cramped conditions and the activation system is making it rather heavy weather for him. However I think he is winning the infantry fight, just, and if he can get our massed artillery into play then maybe it’ll all conclude quicker than expected.

The Dutch cavalry mass on the right. Rather timidly

The infantry firefight in the middle seems to be in the balance, with one or two units broken on either side. The English forced the centre with a stunning bayonet charge from their support line. However breaking their opponents unmasked the guns deployed behind which then opened up and broke the previously victorious battalion. I’m faced with the need to exploit this breakthrough quickly before Phil’s horse can turn in on the flank. I have a reserve unit hurrying across to provide a block, but the absence of an ability to form squares may play me ill. On the other hand I’m not sure I want to be doing that anyway in the face of the French cannon.

We wound up earlier than we probably needed to and retreated indoors for hot drinks. There’s more to do next week if the players are willing.

I suppose this blog is both relevant and out of date at the same time. The BP supplement for the 18th Century is now out and about and there’s some comments coming through. I’ve looked at the TMP thread (see comment on the recent BP blog of mine for the link) and had a poke around the yahoo group.

Not having seen it the reviews & comments are making me think it’s a mixed bag. The elements that made the original BP popular are clearly there, and those who loved that aspect of BP are going for it here. That is the big glossy format, with big glossy pictures and jauntily written battle reports.

The unique selling points of the volume however aren’t getting a universal thumbs up. What this book is supposed to give us is an 18th century supplement, - ie rules, unit values and (yuk) potted history for all the major conflicts. Given the subject matter the coverage is going to be brief in a book of this size and the author is already on record that he had to pare the information down quite a bit (not as much as Ford Prefect and the revised entry for Earth in the H2G2. No one would describe the 18th century as “mostly harmless”). That means that corners will be cut and so errors will creep in. My reading of the various boards and groups would indicate to me that a lot of 18th century enthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting this so the can officially join in all the BP fun the Napoleonic and Colonial wargaming chaps have been having. And some of them aren’t impressed, - there’s a high level of pedantry (in the best possible sense) being spread around. Whether you think the errors are material or not is a moot point. I wouldn’t turn to a book like this for my historical background anyway (okay so I have a thing for Osprey books, but I read proper history too, you know.) However there are points coming out as to whether the rule modifications are right or not, which is more of a concern. There’s a posting saying that someone had a successful 7YW game, but without knowing what the rule changes are it is difficult to say. An outline of what they’ve done would be helpful. Or as I said, I’ll have to flick through a copy on a stand somewhere. Or talk to someone playing it at a show.


  1. Having once spent a very chilly afternoon in your garage, I shiver empathetically!

  2. Yes, but that game was in March. This is supposed to be summer!!!

  3. Not sure if you have seen this take on Black Powder for WSS?

  4. Yes, - I've been following Last Hussar for a while, and I've got his "Blenheim Palace" rules as well. We may well go back to use them after this game.

    It's cheaper thasn buying the supplement.

  5. Just noticed - the charge through your own side is illegal because you can't "see" the target.

    Poor piece of draughtsmanship in the rules, to be honest. I wish they'd just write rules rather than try and be all jokey and blokey with it.