Saturday, February 6, 2010

Black Powder Battle Report

I've had a one-off battle to try out the Black Powder Rules, and thought I'd post some photos & notes. Very loosely, the fight was a re-run in the style of the recent ‘Might & Reason’ ruleset battle of Froschbach from a month or two ago. I adopted a ‘pile everything on’ philosophy and decided to simply play every painted and based figure I could. Luftberg were there in full, of course. Aschenbach were mainly present, and could muster a decent show – they had only one Grenadier unit, a half-sized Fusilier regiment, and one missing Infantry regiment. Cavalry were also 75% done in Cuirassiers and Dragoons, so rather than field one full and one half-sized unit of each I put them all into one large unit of each – subtle as a brick through a window!

The battle plan adopted was pretty similar, mainly because I was curious how each rule-set would handle it. The field was roughly similar too – each side advanced in columns onto a field with a stream perpendicular to the two battle-lines, plus some hills to the edges.

Aschenbach went for the central Infantry attack with a mass of Cavalry on the right flank, to turn the line. Luftberg deployed similarly, but had Cavalry on both their flanks and deployed (as per the old ‘brigades’ standardising notion I had devised and not gotten round to using,) which meant that the left flank was all Dragoons & the right flank was all Cuirassiers. The whole army was preceded by the ‘Advance Guard’ brigade of shifty Irregular types, Croats and Hussars.

The battlefield (Photos courtesy of Google Earth)

The battle began with Luftberg proving themselves slightly above clueless, only getting basic single-move orders to fumble forward while Aschenbach were clearly able to move far faster. Generally all seemed favourable for Aschenbach’s big central attack, but although the attack brigade made good rolls and hurtled forward to catch the Luftberg troops still deploying, the other brigades lagged behind. The left infantry brigade was particularly troubled by the stream slowing it’s movement and the oncoming enemy cavalry. Clearly moving at max speed and ignoring the rest of the army is not a good idea!

The confused Luftberg advance

Aschenbach's neat battle-line advances

In the centre, Aschenbach hammered on with it’s two lead units up front – one Line Infantry, one Grenadiers – which crashed into a firefight with the lead Luftberg units. The rash advance suddenly looked very unwise, as the lumbering Luftberg masses steadily sorted themselves out – enlivened by the odd regiment ‘blundering’ it’s orders and sailing off in totally the wrong direction! Rapidly, the fight developed into Aschenbach’s two regiments locking horns with five enemy regiments! With both flanks enfiladed, Croats firing in on them, plus Hussars threatening their rear, it rapidly turned into a disaster. Both regiments became disordered, meaning they couldn’t be pulled back from the disastrous situation, and when they were finally hauled out they were badly shaken by the hot reception!

The lead units get enfiladed and disordered

Croats, Hungarians and Fusiliers struggle on the flank

The battered survivors back away, under pursuit

So, where were their supporting units? The cavalry brigade had a fantastic time smashing up the Luftberg dragoons opposite them, but they were weakened themselves and found that by the time they had seen off their opposite numbers, the Luftberg infantry were in place to hold them back. They never even had a chance to try it, as the central attack failed before they had reformed to come and assist, the useless show-boaters!

Aschenbach Cavalry - thanks a bunch, guys!

As to the left-flank infantry, what about them? Well, they advanced gamely enough but rolled badly for orders, plus the stream slowed them down further, representing a terrible dawdling when the crisis broke! As the Luftberg Cuirassier brigade closed in, they deployed into line and unlimbered their batteries to receive them. The disadvantage of having one flank wide open and cavalry-free quickly became obvious! Although one Cuirassier regiment was shot up and forced to a standstill, the other two proceeded to charge and outflank batteries and regiments one after the other, rolling up the line like an old carpet. Finally all Aschenbach units on the left bank of the river were swept away! With one flank wrecked, the other stalled, and the centre reeling, Aschenbach had clearly lost the day and retreated. A sterling victory for Luftberg!

Overall, disaster for Aschenbach was pretty likely as they weren’t bringing their ‘best game’ to the table, what with being only partially completed. Over-eager advances on good order rolls are clearly very unwise, as keeping your force together is pretty essential. An excellent, fun first game, which was far faster than Might & Reason as well as more action-packed!

It is also probably worth adding a little bit more about the Black Powder (BP) Rules, now they’ve been played. The advantage of superior orders seems best while ‘unengaged.’ Once units close up to the enemy, they are more limited in their movements and can make an automatic single move by initiative – and they’ll probably not need more than one. Well-led armies will want to engage in the dramatic flanking marches to turn an enemy line, as the higher order rolls will be useful here in the early stages. BP seems to be a good set of rules for mobile, dramatic battles (ie, the fun type!) I would also add that the 24-man unit is not critical to play. All you need to be able to do is show formations, so technically you could probably play it with a DBx-style of army, if you just used little counters or something to show if units were in line or column, etc. Mind you, you’d lose the visual effect, and a 4-figure unit might look a bit weird with three casualty markers at it’s base (almost more figures shot down than standing - embarrasing!)

The victor preens himself on an overlooking hill...

...While the loser slinks away. Let me know how it turns out, lads!


Bluebear Jeff said...

You say that "Black Powder" played more quickly than "Might & Reason" . . . but did you like them better? Do you think that they handled situations better?

More comments, please, sir.

-- Jeff

Fitz-Badger said...

Nice report and thanks for the comments about the rules! (although I wouldn't mind hearing additional comments about them. :) For example, one question close to the top of my list for any rulesset is how well they work for solo play. Easy to learn, quick to play, fun, simple but with scope for added drama (or comedy) are other things I look for.)

Capt Bill said...

Great report and photos. Thanks for sharing...

CWT said...


Jeff & Fitz-B, - I shall go into more detail on a future post if you like. Real life has intruded at the moment, as we have a house-guest staying over so wargaming is on a slight pause! However, I intend to run a small 'skirmish' solo game soon (all my games are solo) and I shall give a detailed roll-by-roll example of play, plus more comments.

Capt Bill - always a pleasure!


Archduke Piccolo said...

Fine armies and an interesting battle - a prelude to the more elaborate campaign you are planning, perhaps? What scale are the figures? Does 'Black Powder' cater for other scales? finally, it seems quite a few 'OSWs' admire, as I do, the Austrian Army sufficiently to model an Imagi-Nation upon it!