EXCERPT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Back to Black

I made the trek over the mountain to Morden today for a game with Jeff. 15mm Black Powder was the order of the day, more specifically, the Crimean River scenario played with 15mm Napoleonic forces. Jeff's forces include my old Battle Honour French Revolution Russians so I was able to slip into my old personna of Prince Roskov and lead some of my old boys into action. Most of my cell phone pictures came out completely useless but these two fuzzy ones should give an idea of the game.

The game is a fairly straight forward attack on a pair of redoubts. The main twist is that the cavalry may be kept off table initially. A key feature as it turned out.   The armies are quite small with only 2 battalions per brigade so we agreed to modify the Broken Brigade rule so that Brigades would only  be broken when all units are shaken rather than 1/2.  (If not it would only have taken 3 hits to shake a British brigade, 4 for a Russian one and the game would probably have been over in 2 or 3 turns.)

I placed 1 brigade supporting my left hand battery, and 2 supporting the right hand one. Jeff masked my right hand redoubt with 1 brigade and launched 2 at the weaker left hand one, supported by 2 batteries.  He quickly found his supporting artillery masked and switched the guns to the other flank but with one thing and another, they barely fired a shot all day. In retrospect, Jeff should either have charged the redoubt or stood back at long rifle range but he advanced to close range and suffered heavily from cannister. 

I brought my 1st cavalry brigade on my right, hoping to outflank his masking force. He countered by bringing his light cavalry on his right to flank the other redoubt.  I deftly countered his counter by rolling low, bringing up my 2nd cavalry brigade, advancing across the table, falling up on his lead units with twice the men......and being routed by his ferocious Light Brigade!  (Rats!) 

On the other flank, I repulsed an attack by his infantry then counter attacked all along the line. His infantry managed to form  square but went disordered and broke. Aha!  Unfortunately, I  had rather forgotten about his Heavy Brigade. Its was Jeff's turn to deftly roll low, move onto the table, advance and charge into the rear of my cavalry and infantry. Oh dear! 
Out of the distant glare ride 5 small squadrons of British Heavy cavalry.

My lads put up a good fight but 1 battalion of infantry and a regiment of cavalry were broken while 1 more of each were driven back. It was some consolation that I finished off his last infantry battalion on that flank but there was nothing to stop Jeff's horsemen from over running the redoubt from the rear. In a desperate attempt to forestall a counterattack, Jeff let his cavalry pursue, breaking the 2nd infantry battalion from my 3rd Brigade and one of my Cossack units. They didn't go down without a fight, however, and by the time the dust settled, the Heavy Brigade was broken and its 5 regiments falling back as my last functioning battalion on that flank moved to take back the redoubt.   

British Guards advance on Russian line . 

On the other flank, things looked worse. A battalion of British guards routed one battalion and was closing in on one flank while a sole Russian Hussar regiment faced down a force of light cavalry, horse artillery and infantry on the other. However, its always darkest before the dawn and the combination of artillery and skirmish fire finally took its toll and with both battalions shaken, the Guards brigade was broken and had to retreat.  An impatient Jeff decided first to screen my cavalry with Highlanders while he used cavalry and horse artillery against the redoubt then turned some of the cavalry on my Hussars while sending another squadron against my last infantry unit. The Hussars were crushed and fled but they did enough damage to shake their opponents. Another squadron fell to artillery fire. The game hung in the balance, snake-eyes or box cars as my infantry hastily formed square and I would probably be broken and the redoubt over run. Like clockwork the soldiers ran to their places, formed square and saw off the cavalry. Minutes later their musket fire drove off the last squadron of British cavalry, breaking the brigade.

I seriously doubt that my last battalion could have driven off the horse artillery and highlanders but with both British cavalry brigades broken, the British couldn't win even if they did take the last redoubt.  Jeff offered to consider it a Russian victory but I'm content to consider it a Draw rescued from a  near total Russian defeat.

Black Powder was its usual choppy, wonky self but while at times I felt that my decisions and choices were pretty much irrelevant, there was no question that my rash counter attack on the right nearly cost me the game. If my troops hadn't "fought" (ie rolled) uncommonly well, (the Cossacks in particular scoring 4 or 5 hits on 5 dice several times, and my old veteran infantry managing to hang on for 2 turns and dealing out damage  after being charged in the rear), my right hand cavalry and infantry would have been routed and the redoubt taken  at almost no cost to Jeff.

I think I've played Black Powder often enough now to rate it a solid 3 out of 5 stars. A set that I will willingly play, but not my 1st choice.

An enjoyable afternoon of gaming when all is said and done.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the report and especially your notes at the end of your post. I got a copy of BP when Amazon.ca had it for $20 . . . but I've never had a chance to play it . . . so your comments are helpful.

    -- Jeff