Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Black Powder at Belmont. Battle Station replayed

This was the 3rd and final play through of this small scenario. It was a small game for any of these rules but it was obviously way too small for Black Powder. So perhaps not a fair use of the rules but a fair comment on their flexibility in terms of game size as the other rules coped well.  I didn't keep careful track but this may have actually taken less time than the 15 minute Morschauser game!

I used the stats from the book for the troops and rated both commanders as staff value 8. I decided to treat the squadron of cavalry as a small unit of marauders. They and the artillery did not count towards the force's break point.

Once again I kept the same battle plans for consistency sake. On the first turn, the Rebel general ordered the cavalry to move around the enemy flank and they galloped off a triple move. The infantry refused their order. The Yankee infantry concealed on the hill declined to open fire at the cavalry skirmishers so it was on to turn 2. I started with the pinning force and this time it obediently marched forward 2 turns, unlimbered the gun and opened fire on the waiting Union infantry inflicting disorder and 1 casualty. The flanking force of infantry refused its order so the cavalry couldn't be given an order either. The Union reserve was ordered to about face and prepare for the cavalry but declined. The regiment blocking the road opened fire and disordered the Confederate pinning infantry.

On the 3rd turn, the flanking force kicked into gear and advanced 3 turns while the horse gun galloped forward and unlimbered next to them.  I now ordered the cavalry to sweep around the hill and attack and they duly did so with another triple turn. As in the first game, dismounting would have been smarter but I decided to repeat the charge, this time into the rear of the Union reserve. The cavalry had penalties for being a small unit and in skirmish formation so had 3 dice for 4,5 or 6, the infantry was unable to conduct closing fire and had a penalty for being attacked in the rear so had 6 dice for 5 or 6. When the dust settled the infantry was unscathed and the cavalry was disordered and shaken. It duly failed the morale check and was removed from the table,

Cell phone snap of the Yankees repelling the rebel cavalry by sheer indifference  

On their turn, the reserve moved smartly forward into the breastwork and the Yankee infantry opened fire all along the line leaving the lead unit of the flanking force disordered with 2 casualties. The 2nd line passed through into close range and they and the horse artillery blasted the enemy. The Yanks returned fire, shaking the pinning force. Another volley from the Confederates saw the end Union unit shaken with an extra casualty, they failed morale and routed while the regiment blocking the road also went shaken. This meant the Union brigade was now broken and on their next move, the remaining units would be forced to retreat as the enemy were within 12". The road was open.

Of all the games, this one was the least interesting and exciting. The jerky neck or nothing movement resulting from the command rolls was not as satisfying to me as the steady march of troops as the game unfolded even though they ended up at about the same spots at about the same game move. I also found the combat less engaging despite getting similar results. The cavalry attack in particular felt odd, it seemed unlikely that the Yanks would watch the cavalry making a wide sweep around the hill without reacting and then be charged in the rear and calmly disperse the enemy. If they had of faced about, the result would have been the same or worse but it would have felt better. The fire combat is as jerky feeling as the movement,  lots of die rolling leading to dribbles of casualties or nothing and then suddenly a lucky roll and an enemy goes shaken and 1 die decides if they stand or rout.

So, the rules work and I'll play them when a game is offered but I'm not likely to use them for my own games.

I also spent some time today thinking about  the question of how common it was for troops retreating from combat to rally and return to the fray but more on that tomorrow.


  1. Ross - fascinating series of posts. I don't know Black Powder so, as ever, I am not allowing my opinions to be cluttered with anything factual. The 'lumpiness' of the movement and fire effect which you observe in this last game is something which, I think, is OK in very big actions, since you have enough events and enough troops to average things out a bit. As you say in the narrative, the game was maybe too small for these rules - I'm surprised Black Powder played so fast, though - you obviously spend less time staring blankly at the battlefield than I do.

    You have caused me to dig out my old (1962) copy of Morschauser to read it over - sounds more fun than I remembered!

    Something very nostalgic about your photos of a small action involving Airfix ACW, which is exactly where I started. Your figures are much, much better painted than mine were, though. For some strange reason, I used to burn joss-sticks during those ACW battles - I remembered the smell of the incense when I saw your pics!


  2. Joss sticks? Says a lot right there doesn't it? Ah memories.

    I agree on the way these things average out somewhat in a bigger game. The only really good Black Powder game I played saw 5 or 6 brigades a side, measuring in cm instead of inches on a large table.


  3. Ross,

    I thought that you were going to do a "Hearts of Tin" playtest as well . . . was I mistaken?

    -- Jeff

  4. You're right Jeff, unfortunately Hearts of Tin is in the shop at the moment, as soon as I get it back I'm going to try a slightly different scenario with 1 or 2 more units.

  5. "The jerky neck or nothing movement resulting from the command rolls was not as satisfying to me as the steady march of troops as the game unfolded"

    Amen brother.... i'm a traditionalist, IGOUGO has worked for decades so why change it.. :o)

  6. Steve, I was a command control test guy for years but last year I started to feel like "I seen the light!"