Sunday, 24 March 2019

Monkey Business: monkeying with Black Powder

Black Powder from Warlord Games is a well-known set of rules for wargames set in the period when black powder was used in firearms, so roughly from 1700± to the late 19th Century. It is quite popular and very playable. There are also some "problems" with it. It's ancestor is GW's Warmaster, a large battle, small figure fantasy combat game that I will readily admit is a favourite of mine. Black Powder carries that DNA from that fantasy game.

At the Hamilton Road Games Group, during a pre-convention lull, I offered to host a Black Powder game set in the American Civil War using the Black Powder special rules addition for the ACW, Glory Hallelujah! There are certain aspects of the ACW that are distinctive and need to be noted and played. I'll note a few of those things later,

I laid out a table and set up 3 Confederate infantry brigades, one cavalry brigade, and an three battery artillery reserve. The Union had 4 brigades of infantry, a brigade of cavalry and an artillery reserve of four batteries. Kevin, Kevin's daughter, Andy, and Ian took on the Union while Bear and I commanded the Confederates. (This is no surprise since Bear always prefers the South, so he had the Stonewall brigade of Virginians and the three regiment cavalry brigade. I took the reserve, the Texas Brigade (forgive me, Wife!), and a brigade of Georgians and Alabamans. Kevin was over all commander of the Federal troops and ran the Iron Brigade and the Irish Brigade. Ian commanded the Zouave Brigade which never really existed, but I make it up because it is very colourful. Andy assisted Kevin's daughter is captaining a brigade of cavalry and a brigade of mostly US regular infantry.  The setting was northern Virginia, with the Federals trying to break through to Petersburg and Richmond. The Rebels had to hold them back.

Bear was to hold a small town on the right of the Confederate lines. He extended his infantry further to the right and dismounted two regiments of cavalry who took up a position at a hedge line.

The Irish Brigade advanced toward the Georgians and engaged them "energetically."
This photo was taken later in the game when the Irish broke through the Rebel line.

Union cavalry threatening the far left flank of the Texas Brigade.
Lone Star troops don't scare that easily!

The Regulars advance. They also had the 39th New York - the Garabaldi Regiment with them.
Kevin's daughter with Andy's advice held back and used the cannon to pick at the Texans. Ian kept his Zouaves in column to move quickly and expand his front to his left, causing Bear to spread himself thinner on the Rebel right. Kevin came on quickly with the Irish in company with Berdan's 1st US Sharpshooters. My cannon was only moderately effective.

The 18th Alabama awaits a further federal assault. The two rings show casualties.
The stand turned backwards shows the unit is 'disorganized' due to morale.
The 5th Texas stands firm... for a time anyway.
The gallant Iron Brigade of the West advances on Bearsboro... or whatever we named the town.

The Federal artillery reserve as a grand battery - two 12# Napoleon smoothbores and two 3-inch rifled guns.
The two figure stand is the division commander while the single stand is the brigadier.
(I named Kevin "Pap Thomas" for the day.)

Dismounted cavalry in Bearsboro.
The Iron Brigade assaults the second dismounted regiments.
The blue-coats behind them are really Confederate dismounted cavalry;
I ran out of Rebel figures!

The Rebel Artillery reserve - two Napoleons and one 3-inch.
Under the unrelenting attack of the Irish Brigade, two of the Georgia-Alabama brigade gave way, wrecking the brigade according to the rules. That was the end of the game since one of the three roads to Petersburg/Richmond was in Union hands and a second was close.

The band of the 54th Pennsylvania Volunteers play some lively music while they advance.
A look down the whole battlefield.

Ian's Zouaves attempt a flank march.

The 7th Georgia and the 22nd Alabama with the brigade's battery watch the advance of the Irish Brigade.

The music of the Confederate forces.
Oddly the fifers are playing their instruments BACKWARDS.
They're either very, very good or the sculptor had no idea how the thing was played!

Berdan's and an Irish regiment from Massachusetts advance on the Texans.

A gunner's view of the advancing Regulars.
I made a lot of mistakes setting the game up. I expected more people so I left out a brigade from each army. The table should have been smaller. We all botched the rules since we hadn't played Black Powder for quite a while.

Lessons learned:
- realize that rifled artillery and rifled muskets have longer ranges (in the rules)
- remember that you cannot charge on initiative, but only on orders (in the special ACW rules)
- Using 15mm figures, start closer 'cause it'll take forever to get in range.

Hamilton Road House rules:
- When rolling for command as the rules require, a unit can always move one move... even if the command fails
- Command rolls must be done if you 'push' your troops, i.e. if you desire a second move or want your troops to charge. Command failure says you cannot do that thing. Troops failing to charge can still fire their muskets. Some troops have a special rule that permits charges on initiative, usually units that are vicious and historically nasty.
- If you dismount cavalry, they deploy as skirmishers and not as line troops. They probably won't stand up to other troops in hand-to-hand and they respond to break tests as cavalry and not infantry when there's a difference.
-- There are other things that I can't remember since I've been working today. I'll bring them up later.

However... was it a fun game?

Oh, Yes!
Until next time, then...

More Kings of War on Hamilton Road

It appears that the Mantic Games "Kings of War" has made inroads in the Hamilton Road Games Group in London, ON. There were skeptics... as there should be... but a number have come to enjoy this large army fantasy game.

First off, a few photos of my wife's Baselian army. Drawing from the historical Byzantine Empire but "warping" it more than a little, Beth felt that the army list would lend itself to an Arthurian Mythos treatment. She's well on her way.

Beth's Phoenix ... using Reaper Miniatures model, at it's fiery best.

Bolt throwers, using Whiz Kids D&D Ballistae and crew drawn from whatever I could find.
Two Saturday's ago, Andy tried his hand at KoW using a Britonnian army he'd had for a long time. He faced off against Ralph's "Empire" army in a Battle Royal.
Andy's quite-colourful knights, light cavalry, and Robin-hood style archers.

Ralph's knights, light horse archers, and arquebusiers/"Commanded Shot".
Behind them is a unit of greatswords.

The greatswords and a large clump of spears, actually a unit size referred to as a "horde" by the rules.
They are allowed the "Phalanx" rule with forbids a frontal charge by cavalry.
Sunlight! It's been a dark and dreary winter in Southwestern Ontario and the sight of the sun is welcome!
The 'battle mat' is Ralph's, purchased from a firm in the Czech Republic he said.

Andy's force - loads of knights and a TON of archers. That much missile power cannot be ignored!

Ralph's light horse archers who began life as Skythians or some other steppe folk.

Andy's force is incredibly colourful and a lot of fun to see deployed.
Ralph's battle line. His cavalry was kept on the flanks and the centre was filled with foot troops.

Andy's force doesn't lack for chivalry. He says there's more at home, itching to get on the field.

Need I say this will NOT end well for the handgunners?
The d10's keep track of the casualties. A Regiment of Kights can take alot more punishment than a 'troop' of gunners.

Knights charge the greatswords while the archers get into hand-to-hand combat.
To be honest, I didn't expect that, but it worked for Andy whose archers swarmed Ralph's troops
after showering them with arrows
Knights, bowman, and crossbowmen of Ralph's army.
This from the second game, where he and I squared off.

An impressive of spears in phalanx from Cambridge backed by a cannon. Ralph also took a mortar.
I took two cannon.
My regiment of knights and a phalanx horde of spears under the banners of the Black Company
(a mailed fist with German text around it.)
The horsed figure is "The Captain", a hero-type general who permits shifting of up to three of the army's units
prior to the start of the game, 'cause he's a 'superior tactician.' I recommend taking him and using a more humble figure
... just to throw off your opponent.

Ahh! My favourite unit - the horde of heavy pikemen in phalanx. The unit is mostly Old Glory's pikemen
from their Italian Wars range with a few additions - command, music, etc. You can also see one of my cannon,
a regiment of archers, a troop of 'rifles', and my giant, "Tiny." I wanted a more vicious name, but Andy called him
"Tiny" and it stuck. He slapped around Ralph's archers and crossbowmen, and chased around the copse of trees
to mess with the mortar hidden there (It can be seen to the right of the trees at the top of the photo,)
We're really enjoying this set of rules and we've seen 3 different Kings of Men armies, two different Salamander armies (re-titled Lizardmen), and an Elvish host. I waiting to see my son's dwarves, by wife's Baselians, and Samurai Kings of Men army rumoured to be in the wings.

There will be more...