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|11 MAY 2011 at 11:54am|
Posts : 10480
Joined: 13 NOV 2010
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Posted In: Articles : Book Review
I have to confess that these rules have sat on my review pile for too long. But having got round to reviewing them I wish everything that came my way were so easy to deal with!
I like everything about this set of rules from the basic design philosophy to the attention to detail in the layout of the rule book. And it is difficult to know where to start. I think the first thing to say is that these rules are serious in terms of their mechanisms but don?t take themselves too seriously. You get the idea very early on with the Foreword clearly stating ?Black Powder is a game for militarily inclined gentlemen with straight backs, bristling beards and rheumy eyes that have seen a thing or two?. If that is the type of gamer you are you will be encouraged further in the 4th paragraph of the main body of the rules which makes it clear ?The Black Powder game is first, foremost and most decidedly an entertainment?. We wargamers ignore that outlook at our peril.
The more insightful would have noticed something of the ethos of the rules from the cover. This is splendidly illustrated by Peter Dennis in the form of faux cigarette cards showing various soldiers of the black powder period ? Johnny Reb, French line Infantry etc The name of the brand? of cigarette if you look carefully is Black Lung!
Okay what are these rules for? Well they aim to cover the period of warfare from the War of Spanish Succession (1701 to 1714) up to the Second Sudan War (1896 to 189; the classic period of the flintlock musket therefore. Although of course the rules do have to allow for later breach loading rifles and the early machine guns like the Gatling. However Maxim?s are not allowed as the authors consider ?the use of such weapons thoroughly unsporting and wouldn?t really like to encourage irredeemable rotters by providing rules for them?.
The rules cover the basics you?d expect ? orders to troops, movement, formations, firing, artillery, cavalry, charging and hand to hand combat; pretty straightforward. The basic unit is the battalion which are combined with artillery and cavalry as you like into brigades. Each unit has a factor for hand to hand, shooting, morale and stamina (which represents how many casualties it can take). These are modified by unit size (which can be large, standard, small or tiny) and can be further modified by special characteristics that can be given to units. These are called ?Useful rules? or special rules in the rulebook and are a way of individualising particular units, types of units or showing certain national characteristics. They include Marauders (ignore distance modifiers for commands), Sharp shooters (can re-roll a missed shot) and Stubborn (re-roll one failed Morale Save).
Orders are given in a fairly flexible way ? you explain what you want a unit (or units) to do and then dice to see if the order is successfully issued and how fast the units concerned react and subsequently move. There are also some standard orders you can give. Shooting is a simple process. You get a number of dice depending on unit size, the number is modified up or down by various factors and then you need to score 4 or more to hit again with a few modifiers. The rest of the rules are equally straightforward. I was happy to commence a game after one read through of the rules. There are plenty of diagrams to explain some of the trickier concepts like support from other units.
are no army lists associated with the rules, however there is a 2 page appendix
giving some standard statistics for Napoleonic era units and some standard
troop templates for some of the basic unit types (eg light infantry battalions,
heavy cavalry, Hussars etc). Also there
are seven scenarios given in the back of the rulebook ? these cover the
American War of Independence, Napoleonic Spanish Peninsular, the Carlist Wars,
the Crimea, American Civil War, the Zulu War and the
The layout of the rules themselves is excellent. They pack a lot in (not just the rules or the scenarios mentioned above) but stay on the right side of not being able to see the wood (the rules) for the trees (all the other bits!).
?other bits? include excellent colour photos of model figures on every
page. These are mainly action or battles
in progress shots with the odd single figure to draw the eye to sub sections of
the rules. The photos cover armies from
a range of conflicts, again bringing to the reader?s attention the ubiquity of
the rules. There are also little
information boxes giving details of weapons, descriptions of real life
characters or events, vignettes and anecdotes.
These almost distract from the rules but are spaced just enough apart to
provide the equivalent of a small halt for
is also a timeline that runs along the bottom of each page taking us from 1700
(the Great Northern War) on page 2 all the way to the Boxer Rebellion on page
107. Totally unnecessary of course but
utterly endearing. And other than
sections on unit basing, using different
scales of figures, a suggested points system (for those that require such
detail) and a quick reference sheet there is a short potted history (?the Age
of the Musket?) of the various wars and conflicts that took place during the
period covered by the rules. I counted
13 separate wars or types of extended conflict (like the Pony Wars of the
American West) plus some commentary boxes mentioning some of the more obscure
wars (eg the nineteenth century Wars of Liberation in
These rules are highly recommended but be warned you do have to have the right mindset to get the most out of them. So get out your spyglass, mount your finest charger, obtain some excellent cigars and a fine brandy and enter the age of Black Powder (also I think you probably need to say ?Old Boy? or Old Chap? a great deal!). Pip, pip dear thing!
Available now from Warlord Games currently priced £30.00
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