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Monday, October 3, 2011

First Black Powder game

OK so first of all you can see from the photos this is no ‘little demo/learning game’ I jumped in with both feet and probably into water over my head. I’m happy to report that despite that the game played well.

No points were used I simply wrote up two forces one an allied army of Austrians and British and the other French based on what I felt would work based on my study of this period (I set the battle in the War of Austrian Suspension). Keith indicated he felt the game played in a balanced manner as did Gordon so I think I was reasonably successful.

The battle started off with my infantry running forward on my right and center though my right Wing cavalry was less enthusiastic. On the left the Cavalry screened the infantry as intended. This was a result of my command rolls.

The orders function of this game is a key element and the one I was most concerned with but I found this system worked, since usually you can move, and you do have options to move with out making an order roll when you really need to.

Keith countered and we had a Cavalry battle that was a split decision (one unit retiring on both sides) right off. Over the next few turns Keith used his Grenadiers, Dragoons and British line troops to hammer my Right and Center. I got in several good blows of my own especially on his grenadiers when they had to face my closing fire… (Their “Steady” attribute meant their Breaks turned into retires) At the end of 4 turns I was in serious trouble in this area. Four of my infantry units were broken by a combination of English fire and German bayonets. Still the situation was only bad not desperate as my Irish and Swiss troops had formed a second line. Keith did have local superiority especially in Cavalry.

On the Left I had massed 4 units of cavalry with an infantry brigade in support I infantry and guns had broken Keith’s cavalry on this side and I was about to try and exploit this open area when we had to call the game.

The situation was ripe with opportunity and danger for both players just how a good balanced game should feel at about mid point… So I call Black Powder a win for me and for the Club.

Some observation about the game:

I have see BP described as a “division” level game. But I don’t think this is correct. It’s an army level game. I think the confusion is one of language.
The basic unit of BP is called a Unit so as not to cause confusion when speaking of regiment, battalion or Impis (spelling?). This is wise because these units really could be Companies, Battalion or Brigades (or any thing else) and as long as both players are playing at the same “level” it makes no difference.

The confusion comes when we start grouping these units into what I am going to call “Command Organizations” (COs) but BP calls them “Brigades.” The choice of that word is unfortunate as it leads one to make certain assumptions about the units below and the commander above. After all Brigades are made up of Battalions (or regiments) and are grouped into Divisions. Really though these COs could be Battalions, brigades or Divisions.

You then have an Army commander who is in fact an army commander, the lack of any intervening command structure between him and the “COs” I think has lead some to think he is a Division commander(since he has Brigades under him) but really he is the army commander.

I sincerely hope I am not confusing people further, but I probably am.

I think the command and control element of this game is a great strength and I am usually not a fan of having to roll to see if my units do what I want… still they worked well and added fair bit of flavor to the game.

Also adding flavor are the attributes you can assign to your troops. First Fire was devastating, Tough Fighters gave units a bit more kick and Steady was a real game changer (Keith would have had three more Broken units with out this). I think the Cards that have been added to the forum will really help with game play because there is a good bit to track. Gordon’s Token system was a great help in this regard but some things like First Fire, Steady and so on really need to be tracked with out adding clutter to the table.

Over all I was impressed and I'm looking forward to my next game.