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Bill's  Black Powder  rule amendments






Battles with model soldiers in the age of the musket

by Rick Priestley and Jervis Johnson


Published by Warlord Games

Price £27.50

Available in the UK from Warlord Games


Review by Bill Gilchrist  of the South-East Scotland Wargames Club






Following on from my reviews of Napoleon and Republic to Empire rules Angus lent his copy of Black Powder to examine.

The Basics:  Black Powder is a 184 page A4 sized hardback rule book. It's in full colour, with many colour photographs, plus numerous diagrams and maps. The subtitle - Battles with Model Soldiers in the Age of the Musket - tells you that the scope of the rules is what makes it different from Napoleon or R2E. It covers the whole of the "Horse & Musket" period, from the War of the Spanish Succession to the Second Sudan War.

The main rules cover 50 pages, with a further 26 pages given over to advanced rules. these cover such diverse subjects as squares, machine guns, rockets, the personal qualities of commanders, and Brigade or Army morale. The rules are well structured, with numerous diagrams showing things like allowable formations, angles of fire and how to move units into close combat.


The sequence of play is Side A determines command and moves, Side A shoots, then performs hand to hand combat. Side B then sorts out its command and moves, Side B shoots, and then fights in hand to hand combat. The opposing player is allowed to react to charges with closing fire, counter charges or by forming square. Command and control is operated through brigadiers and the overall CinC, who both can issue orders to individual units and brigades. These orders can allow units to move one to three moves at a time, depending on the commander quality and the dice roll.

Units within 12” proximity of the enemy can also move under their own initiative. This is the reverse of Napoleon where units within charge reach of the enemy need to pass a command test to act in any way whatsover. These multiple moves can be very long as a standard infantry move is 12” and cavalry 18”. With a triple move, a cavalry unit could move 54” in a single turn!

I have seen these rules described in some comments as a "Wargaming Toolkit". This is because the basic rules have to be very generic to cover such a wide period and what makes the rules adaptable to the specifics of the different eras are the six pages of ‘Useful Rules’. These 24 special rules or skills can be assigned to units to give them the morale, command, shooting and combat abilities to represent units in their specific era. These rules include such things as First Fire, Form Square, Reliable, Untested etc. As an example British Napoleonic Riflemen in the Peninsula war could be given the Sharpshooter and Skirmish special rules. In effect these special rules are similar to some of the national characteristics in the army lists in Napoleon.

72 pages of the book is used to describe the main campaigns in the period covered and more importantly set out in detail 7 scenarios from the different periods ranging from the Battle of Freeman’s Farm or 1st Saratoga (1777) in the American War of Independence to the Battle of El Teb (1884) in the 1st Sudan Campaign. The scenarios are fully described with background notes, maps, deployment, orders of battle which also out the special rules applied to the units in scenario and a description how the game played. I found the notes in the scenarios invaluable as an explanation of how these should be used to reflect the period being played.

At the end of the book there are for appendices covering unit sizing and basing, using larger and smaller models, template troops (i.e. the characteristics of standard troop types) and a suggested points system.

In my view these are the best of the three recent sets I've reviewed.  They're not as complex as R2E, and the command system is better than Napoleon.  they should also be better suited to big games. As with all rules there are certain elements that can only be tested by playing them. I certainly plan to give these rules an airing, and will be playtesting them at the SESWC soon, probably starting with a refight of Freeman’s Farm. Angus will write up the game report, and you can read it on the Journal page.

Suggested  Black Powder  rule amendments

    Black Powder supplement (The Last Argument of Kings) Review page



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