Saturday, April 21, 2012

Experiments with Black Powder 6mm Napoleonics

Following my introduction to Lasalle last week I thought it would be interesting to try Black Powder Napoleonics & compare.  A year ago we did a bit of Black Powder 7YW in 15mm & liked it, but then Hail Caesar 28mm fever took over.  But I have all these 6mm Napoleonics and today finally got around to trying them out with BP.

The 6mm figures are based as follows:
- Russian Infantry: In column formation on 40x30mm stands.
- French infantry: As Russian except some skirmisher figs around the column.
- Cavalry: In single rank on 40x20mm stands.
- Artillery: 2 guns on a 40x20mm stand.
Unit sizes:
- Standard unit:  3 stands.
- Small unit: 2 stands.
- Large unit: 4 stands.
Scale: Half distances in the book.  This is in proportion to the unit sizes & allows typical battles to be done on a 6x4' table.

With these scales, I consider a stand to be a battalion, a “unit” a brigade, & a “brigade” a division.  Thus a typical force of 3 or 4 divisions is a Corps and should provide a good one night battle for two players.   

The ultimate aim of course is full blown Napoleonic battles (it is Borodino's 200th aniversary).  Multi-corps battles will work on a 10x6' table, though it will probably take a couple of nights to resolve one - which is not a problem - that's just more time to enjoy it.

To try out the system I played the Fighting Retreat at El Perez scenario from the book solo.  However as I  have only sorted out the French & Russian 6mms it became the Fighting Retreat at Elperezova with Russians retreating.  This Fighting Retreat scenario pretty well governs stratategy making this a good solo game. But still lots of tactical permuations are possible. 

In this solo battle the Russian rearguard delayed the French as best they could while the rest of the army rushed towards the Petitosova bridge and safety.  Two Russian columns marched towards the bridge (defended by 1 small French unit) while their cavalry on their right (left of pic) and an infantry division on their left tried to delay the main French force.

But the Petitosiva garrison held on heroically to fatally delay the Russian retreat. The pursuing French, having broken or driven back the rear guards, arrived in time to attack the bridgehead defence and take the road in front of the bridge to cut off the remains of the Russian force.  The French suffered significant losses, but the Russians only got 5 of their 15 units over the bridge to safety.  To win the Russians had to get 8 away, so it was pretty close in the end.

I got a few things confused with HC which I discovered progressively as I gradually got back into the BP way.  But it was certainly a good idea to do a solo battle before trying a proper battle.  The rules and the scale went together well & it all felt right.  Importantly, I could see that with just a few simplifications the game will run quickly enough for it to work with really big actions.   

It was interesting to play BP again after Hail Caesar.  Rick Priestly's achievement in producing two sets of rules with basically the same mechanics, but which convincingly reflect the character of the two different eras is remarkable.  It will be interesting to see Pike & Shotte - which is in the mail.

Comparison between Black Powder and Lasalle

After playing Lasalle a few nights back, I wanted to play Black Powder again to refresh my memory of it before comparing them.    They both provide a good straightforward game that doesn’t give you a headache.   Lasalle may be a tighter set with less ambiguities.   It is more measured and slower paced - move rates are slower and predicable and losses build gradually with less wild swings of fortune than in BP. I could happily play either, but my preference is Black Powder for the following reasons:
1) I like using a family of rules sets over different periods even though this is both an advantage and a curse - the common methods make it easier to remember how to play the game when you swap periods, but it’s also easy to confuse the points of difference. (Using half scale for BP helps as it makes the move distances consistent).
2) The wild swings of fortune in BP can be exasperating, but it also makes an exciting game.
3) I like the BP command system.
4) I like the BP/HC philosophy of the rules being a tool box that you can fiddle with by adopting optional or house rules (so you can easily eliminate any issues that seriously annoy you).
5)  I think BP lends itself better to scaling up for fighting big battles with 6mm figs.

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