6 July 2013

Searching for the war gamers Holy Grail is it Black powder?

I am pretty sure we have all, as we have got older, wanted one set of rules that we can use to play most of our games. I am no exception to this and neither is my main gaming opponent Kevin.
Whilst we are happy with the rules we use for our skirmish games it is a different story for those big battle games.

We have been playing war games a very long time and have possibly tried out every type of rules for most periods, lately however we have been talking a lot about the games we play and how we would love a set of rules that allow us to change periods without the problems of remembering which rules we are actually playing.

The major downside of having used so many sets, confusion sets in as an example, for Napoleonic games we have used - To the sound of the guns, Grand manner, Shako (all versions), General de brigade (still use), Age of Eagles, Lasalle and many more besides. A game often fails to reach a conclusion partly due to the clarity of mind. Often because we play many games and no longer play one set of rules often enough.

Just lately that has changed, we were introduced to Black Powder, and a personal tutorial was given to us by one of the contributors. That game was for the Seven Years War era, and we have played it a few times since, we have added a single house rule to add a little more flavour and have had thoroughly enjoyable games, with plenty of laughter.

However we had major reservations about using these for Napoleonic games due in part to our liking of General de Brigade as a game and the historical flavour the rules give. The downside of these rules is the time it can take to play a full game, and three hours or so on a Thursday evening often means we don't always get a result and have to discuss the likely outcome based on the dispositions on the last played turn.

Thursday saw us play a trial game of Black Powder using Napoleonic peninsular forces, based on the statistics for troops in the main rule book. We had about thirty battalions of infantry, 6 regiments of cavalry and 6 batteries on the table. We did notice that the games we had already played, had put us in a good place as we are already familiar with the play sheet and are able to work out some of the combat and melee odds without having to reference the sheets. We did have a couple of rules queries, 3 to be exact, but a quick glance at the rule book soon had those resolved. We had a superb game and achieved a clear result. Now I have to admit there is some fudging of the period, but it still remained fully playable and with character too ( hopefully a copy of Albion Triumphant will resolve these) but it wont be a problem if not. Again a good fun game with plenty of laughter at those dice rolls.

We have decided to have another Napoleonic game next week, just to be sure it plays well, this time we are going to do a re-fight of a historical battle. We will then test it for the American Civil War. At present it certainly looks as if we may have found one set of rules that covers all our powder and musket period gaming needs.

One of the main advantages of these rules is you can adjust unit sizes to suit yourself and your opponents, something we as a group particularly like, as we often play on a 6ft x 5ft table. So large units make it very difficult to manoeuvre. So we have adjusted the standard size to suit giving us a better feeling the added bonus is it will increase the amount of battalions we can field. We have also opted to use the 50% play sheet giving us a better ground scale. So they certainly tick some boxes for us.

So not quite the complete Holy Grail of rules, but certainly a big chunk of our gaming seems to be covered in this one rule book, with only troop statistics to adjust between the various periods means we should be able to remember and play between periods without the confusion that often features.

26 comments:

  1. I have a copy of this sitting on my shelf, but I think I need to get up and running with some smaller skirmish games first.

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  2. I'm going to resist the opportunity for an 'I told you so' about Black Powder...oh, hang on, no I'm not! ;)

    I find for any particular period, there's always going to be a particular rules set that does it better and in more detail (eg F&F for ACW). However, they're fantastic as a solid set of rules to cover lots of periods for people who want to get on and play. Equally BP is light enough to really facilitate multiplayer and involving non-wargamers.

    Personally, I've resisted the sourcebooks as I find reading up about a period and attributing stats more fun than looking up lists.

    Where these rules really shine is when you insist that everybody gives orders in character.

    Enjoy!

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  3. I'm a big fan of Warmaster and its variants. It nearly made our list of a one-stop game for all periods. Seeing as BP is derived from Warmaster it would very much fit the bill. We are thinking of backfitting some elements from BP into Warmaster even.

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  4. Blackpowder is a great set of rules and the level of abstraction which allows it to cover at least two centuries of warfare is a strength rather than a weakness. Hail Caesar is worth owning for ancient gaming, far better than clunky old WAB, but I have never continued the use of any Blackpowder supplements because the extra layer of complexity they add just creates confusion and slows the game down, defeating the point of using Blackpowder in the first place. I save those rules that fully indulge the period for long, lazy Sundays.

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  5. I have the book too, i started to look into it properly last week and am quite impressed by it. I like the idea of just 1 ruleset that can handle lots of different periods, and i have Hail Caesar too. They are both pretty similar.

    I'm just wondering how it will play in 6mm, as ive been collecting for a while for GdB.... http://stevenkelly1.blogspot.com/p/napoleonic.html

    Cheers
    Steve

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    1. It should work fine for 6mm the rules are not scale dependant, just make some adjustments for ranges etc

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  6. I think the strength of BP is their flexibilty. Pretty much like the old WRG 1685 rules, they allow for a wide variety of troop types to be represented and it's easy to put you own spin on a period to give it what you feel is its 'real' flavour. It's also easy to adjust elements of the rules without affecting the overall performance. You can make them as complex or as bland as you want; as fast or as slow as you like.

    A good set as a coverall and a good set to make into a more specialised 'simulation' of a period. Although I have two of them (pressies), I don't believe the supplements are worth buying though as they're no more valid (but a lot more expensive) than your own amendments, unless you know nothing about that historical period. But if you don't know anything about the period, why would you be gaming it anyway? (Maybe as a taster session at the club?) Got to say though that 'Pikeeee and Shotteeee', although only a supplement, are high up on my list of the worst sets of rules I've come across.

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    1. Glad I dont have an interest in Pike and shottee yet :)

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  7. I'm a big fan of Black Powder for casual/fun or convention games. The basic rules are easy to teach and intuitive and the command system gives a good balance of period feel and unpredictability - who doesn't squeal with joy when your opponent rolls box cars and has to consult the Blunder Table? I use BP for Nap's and ACW and it works great. It also lends itself to tweaking via the unit characteristics which add a lot of flavor to an army. It may not be the best historical simulation as movement is free flowing but as a game it's a lot of fun.

    I find Hail Caesar works even better for ancients and it's been my "go to game" for the past few years.

    As pointed out above, the supplements don't add a lot of value. I've purchased two "Last Argument of Kings" and "Rome's Dacian Wars". Since I play Romans and Dacians the Dacian war book is interesting. The "Last Argument of Kings" seems to be just a re-ordering of unit characteristics from the main book without anything new.

    I highly recommend the rules but not the supplements.

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    1. Great point and its for the fun we decided to use them, all dat games will see us fall back to our old faithfuls

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  8. I love the BP rules even though I do not get to play much its so nice to have a rules set for all flavours

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  9. I love BP to and as allready mentioned they got the Hail Caesar rules to. Simular and shares a lot of rules but somethings are diffrently. So their you got two rules that spans from the time human first gathered together to trow stones at another group til somwhere like the end of the 19th century.

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    1. I may get a copy of Hail Caesar and have a read

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  10. I do really like BP/Hail Caesar and find them the perfect silly putty rules that you can adjust to whatever period you want. It makes period transitions very smooth and play is also quick and easy.

    That's the positive and now comes the negative. It's strong points are also it's weak points in that in my opinion it gives a watered down feeling to each period it covers which isn't completely satisfying.

    Black Powder/Hail Caesar is like a potato in that it fills you up, but it sure would taste better with some butter, salt and cream added.

    If we are short on time or just want to play a game without too much fiddling then Black Powder/Hail Caesar are good for this, but when we wish for some more period immersion we usually play other rules.

    Christopher

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    1. Good points Christopher, and ones we shall likely adopt

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  11. Interesting post Andrew. I'll echo many of the above excellent comments in saying that we've also played many, many sets of Napoleonic rules over the years and were surprised and impressed with the simple elegance of BP. We've decided to go our own route having designed our own rules but I will be quick to add that several of our rules' core mechanics have been shamelessly stolen from BP (along with other fine rulesets). BP truly is the Swiss Army Knife of rules!

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    1. I like Swiss Army knives they at least work :)

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  12. I like the rules, though I do have some issues with the narrow band in which command operates and to a certain extent the movement. The big problem I have, and where ultimately the rules will fall down, is the supplements. Without the supplements the rules offer gamers the opportunity to create their forces to conform to their notion of how a particular army functioned, and to scale their armies to match their resources - with the supplements, it is just another set of rules pandering to competitive/unimaginative gamers.

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    1. We have found the narrow band of command in some way represents the fog of war, and does help you maintain formation or risk being out of command. My take on the supplements is they are useful for new gamers as a starting point for new periods everyone has to have some information to start with so they have a purpose, for established gamers then they are not needed.

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  13. I think so; this ruleset is really flexible, and you can play a lot of periods with it, having really fun games.

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  14. I love them.
    They are loads o fun and I'm really enjoying gaming again.
    Quick and simple to play, with the added bonus of not having to remember the rules of 5 different systems.
    Recommended...

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  15. Must admit I love the BP stable of rules (inc HC and P+S). I don't get to play many Horse and Musket games but those I have with this set of rules have always been fun and enjoyable, and able to complete in an evenings playing time period. That was one of the reason I got frustrated with GdeB... took too long to play and you never got a result in an evening, every game was a muddled draw in the middle of the board after 3+ hrs of play...
    My only issue with it is its focus on BIG battles, I haven't always found it readily easy to scale it down to smaller engagements...

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    1. Great points Scott, We will try a smaller engagement see how that plays, as like you say we have 3+ hours normally and with GdeB its become a farce, best saved for a weekends gaming

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