A long awaited game of Black Powder last night between myself and Craig A.
The game was Napoleonic, French versus English. A straight forward slugging match fought on the edge of a town and with a road intersecting the battlefield diagonally from south west to north east.
Unfortunately we did not get to finish the game as most of the evening was taken discussing all things Napoleonic. Craig who is heavily involved in the 33rd Regiment of Foot is a fountain of knowledge on this period and I can never resist asking him questions on drill, formations etc which tends to mean the game is forgotten for long periods.
We decided to try and experimental “house rule” to introduce an element of ignorance of opposing forces. I suggested using the system in Principles of War where figures are not placed on the table but unit markers a deployed together with 3 or 4 “dummy” markers. The type and size of the unit is only revealed when within musket range. However we felt that this was probably a bit too draconian (unless the game is meant to take place at night or in fog). So we deployed as cards instead of miniatures and units were revealed only when moved. I think this would be very interesting in larger games where you may want the enemy to think you have a whole Cavalry Brigade in reserve when really you have some half-strength militia but with this smaller game where both sides had very few reserves it was a bit of a waste of time.
As suggested above, we both deployed with few reserves. I decided to occupy some woods on either flank and focus and frontal assault in the centre of Craig’s line. Craig moved off but deployed his Brigades in to a continuous line across the table anchored against the town. He had a single Cavalry brigade that took up a flanking position, echeloned out on his extreme left.
The Brigade occupying my extreme left moved off quickly and got to the wood on the left. They could not enter the wood as they were not light troops but I now had an opportunity to skirt round the wood and engage Craig on his right. My two central Brigades moved forward and formed in to Attack Columns to drive at the heart of the English Line. The Brigade on my right moved beyond the woods and formed square. The idea being they would block the English Cavalry from being able to charge the Attack Columns in the centre.
Unfortunately the Commander of my left Brigade trying to get round the wood had an attack of incompetence and for the rest of the game I was unable to get them moving beyond the wood.
My Brigades attacking the enemy centre in a traditional French manor got raked by Cannonade and Musketry and were soon stalling an taking casualties. However they pushed through this and smashed in to the English line. Unfortunately some disastrous saving throws (I only needed 3+ save and failed 3 out of 4) and an even worse break test saw my first column destroyed.
At the same time and error on my part meant that on of the English Cavalry regiments managed to get past my squares and charge another attack column in the flank, causing it to retire.
Things were not looking good for the French but luckily we had run out of time and so I did not have to suffer the shame of an all out defeat!
I enjoy playing Black Powder and there is no doubt that if we had not been gassing then the game would have reached a conclusion. It does lend itself better to larger games however with 7 or more Brigades which allows for a tactical reserve. When only playing with 3 or 4 brigades you can find that a large part of your force sits doing nothing which can be quite decisive.