Monday, December 28, 2020

Playing Black Powder 2nd Edition: The Seven Years War

High up on the gaming priorities of late was to get an introductory game of Black Powder 2nd edition onto the wargaming table.  I was also keen on getting my splendid 10mm, single based SYW stands out for their very first large-scale engagement!  

I laid out the 10mm, single-stand Seven Years War troops, Ken stopped by and the battle was joined!  

We played a rough equivalent scenario of the Battle of Hundorf from the "Argument of Kings" BP supplement.

There are a wealth of resources out there describing the updates to the rules and I will not delve into those changes here, instead focusing on the rules and of course the battle!

Ken as always played the Austrians and the Prussians were played by yours truly.  My forces are advancing to "clear out the Austrians" and continue Frederick's offensive!

View from the Austrian side.  Ken had not yet arrived or set up his forces.  These are merely the Austrian units laid out.  4 "Brigades" in Black Powder speak with Cavalry, the Grenadiers, Artillery as a separate command, and the infantry with 6 x battalions.  The Prussians have a similar force, although 1 less infantry Battalion, and 1 more Cavalry squadron.  All Cavalry is "heavy"

We played with 1/2 of the standard measurements so a move was 6" instead of 12", firing was 9" instead of 18" etc.  This had a nice effect of making the table bigger and allowed for more sweeping or grand maneuvers on my modest 6 x 4 table.

The first turn my only successful order is to get the guns atop the small hill to start softening up the Austrians.  

Prussian Cavalry rides out to meet the Austrian challengers on the right while the Prussian infantry marches through the gap between the woods and the town in front.

A small cavalry clash on the far right sees the Prussian cavalry fall back after losing to Austrian heavies!

Ken launches a grand charge of cavalry to which I counter charge and we meet in the middle!  A rough "parity" is reached and while Ken got the better of the engagement, the Austrian cavalry trotted back with damage as well!  (note we used red beads for hits and black beads for disorder).

Austrian Cuirassier charging into Prussian Dragoons.  Yes those are RISK pieces for the eagle-eyed among you!  No doubt the TMP crowd will have a field day with this picture!  I think they turned out quite well!

Meanwhile Ken forms a solid wall with his Austrian infantry, Artillery deploying in front to protect his line.  So far the battle is progressing nicely and the changes from edition 1 seem subtle enough to where all that is needed is a quick perusal of the rules in cases where we forgot stuff. 

Tough Austrians forming a wall to block the Prussians!

The Prussians seek more open ground to deploy and Ken surges his Grenadier Brigade forward to bottle them up!  A firefight opens along the line!

The Prussians treat the Grenadiers roughly in the firefight that develops and Ken tries out the "disordered retreat" rule (i think that's what it's called) and they are able to fall back.
Prussians shooting it out with the Austrian Grenadiers!  Note Ken's Army commander has joined to influence the Brigade Commander's die rolls.

Austrian guns unlimber and start hammering away at the Prussian lines.  "Artillery lends dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl."  FTG.

Close up of the Firefight on the Prussian left with Austrian Grenadiers - SHOCK HORROR that is a NAPOLEONIC GENERAL!  More historical demerits.....

Prussian Grenadiers march towards the lines, eager to get into combat 

Love the look of these guys!

Lots of disordered units on the left

Firing over the town at the Austrians beyond

The Prussian plan is to swing the line around and crash into the Austrians.  Well...that's the plan anyways!

A formidable line!

More cavalry fighting sees both Brigades breaking due to shaken units and they retire one after the other!  Seydlitz was not pleased! 

The Prussians enact their clever plan and the Grenadiers quickly move up into murderous close range of the Austrian guns, while teh rest of the infantry fail to move!  Their subsequent leader roll from teh Army commander fails to get them moving!  The Grenadiers will be frightfully exposed!

Grenadier Brigade moves to fight it out with the battery and eventually charges them.

Meanwhile teh Prussian cavalry limps off the field.

Shooting is joined along the line once the Prussians get themselves moving

The Prussians begin shooting at their Austrian Grenadier foes from the start of the battle and in top-center the reamining Grenadier Battalion dukes it out with the Austrian artillery.  They charge in and eliminate the battery!  Heavy combat indeed!

After an expensive combat, the Austrian Grenadier Brigade loses 1 Battalion and the other becomes shaken.  

The day was getting late and Ken and I called the game.  I "think" the Austrians won this engagement as I was nowhere near close to breaking the Austrian brigades that remained.  Ken skillfully rallied his Grenadier Brigade and they were doing fine, and the cream of the Austrian infantry were relatively untouched!  All in a day's work for the men of the ReichsArmee!   

Well we played a bunch of turns with much discussion and looking up rules we had forgotten in the rules.  

While not specifically referring to the changes between editions, one thing I'll note that I really like is the role of Army commanders which has changed from the first edition, and your Army commander will find himself moving all over the field at critical moments during the engagement.  Think Washington at Monmouth or Hancock at Gettysburg.

This was a very enjoyable battle and it's comforting to see how the mechanics of Black Powder come back to us after not having played in awhile.  Ken made the most of his elite troops and his Cavalry and disrupted my plans on breaking the Austrian line!  The game was a hard fought victory for the Austrians, and a fun afternoon of gaming.  We'll play Black Powder again.  Sorry - but I really like the rules.  I know they conjure up some very passionate feelings among more serious gamers, but I personally feel like those who are strapped for time could do worse, and Black Powder enables you to get a nice sized game (or an irresponsibly large-sized game) onto the table and fight a battle to a conclusion in a respectable amount of time.  I'm not sure what else you could ask for.  Plus the mechanisms are simple enough to basically be memorized after a game or two.  The "tool box" approach to add-ins is also much appreciated, and you can opt to play an easy game without alot of chrome, or your can add in all kinds of details to make your army behave and fight even more like its historical counterparts.

Thanks for stopping by - 2021 priority post due any day now!!  


  1. Steve, your troops look terrific on the table in their single BMU basing. As for rules, if you like them and they provide the type of game resolution you like, who can disagree? Well, anyone can disagree but you don't need to listen!

    I would enjoy seeing you play this same scenario with Honours of War.

    1. Thanks Jonathan! Honours of War - I had not considered that as it's been awhile since I've played it! Must give that a go in 2021!

  2. Great stuff Steve - the rules work well here, I love those bases for the units ...looks great.

    1. Thanks Darren! It was a good, fun game. Yes the single based SYW 10mm guys are secretly made up for whenever Borg publishes his Commands and Colors Seven Years War game! (not so secret anymore!!)

  3. Steve, really lovely looking game. What is the frontage of a unit?

    I am, as you know, a fan of Black Powder, ease of play and unpredictability being the main reasons and throwing a few unit attributes in can liven things up.

    Halving the measurements is the way to go, I have used inches to centimetres, but prefer the halving.

    I would never have guessed at the Risk figures until you said and even now I think you might have put the wrong photo in :-).

    1. Thank you Norm! You and I are BP fans for much of the same reasons. I like it because it's learned quickly and plays quickly as well. That was Ken's idea to halve the measurements and it worked like a charm. We'll do that again when using the single based 10mm guys. Ken wants to try it using my 15mm figures so we'll see how that goes.

      Yes can you believe it? Those Austrian Cuirassier are Risk figures! The ones where the figures wear tricorne hats. I ordered a bunch for extra heavy cavalry! :)

  4. Fear not, I won't be reporting you to the authenticity police. I haven't played much BP at all, so all I can say is that your battle looked grand - I'm always impressed at the effect of massed armies of small figures. Lovely!

    1. Thank you sir! Chances are someone at TMP has already done that and my historical gaming card might already be taken away :) Thanks for commenting Padre!

  5. I’m not a fan of BP, but had some good games with it for 6mm GNW. I might be biased because my Russians tended to win... But I was chatting to some other gamers at a show some years back and they found the same thing: BP worked very well for SYW/early horse and musket but sucked for everything else. No money exchanged hands for them to agree with me, either.

    1. No problem Jeffers I know it's not everyone's cup of tea/coffee. I have read that even people who don't like it, like it for earlier 18th century stuff which is along the lines of your comment :) I like it when we wargamers find common ground / eras / battlefields :)

  6. What a brilliant looking game. I have BP2 but haven't trotted it out in action yet.

    How do you find 10mm? I only discovered it the other day and am tempted for massed Ancients. I need another scale like a whole in the head but I can see the appeal- and your look amazing!

    1. Thank you Paul! I bought the Old Glory 10mm. There are a number of manufacturers who produce 10mm SYW but I prefer the look of the solid blocks of troops. They are the same brand as my napoleonics.

  7. Re BP, I have found that when you apply the movement rule found in Glory Hallelujah, it becomes a better game and is a good proposition for all BP games.

    The rule is that if a unit takes more than one movement order in a turn, it can't then fire in the same turn. It delivers a better quid-pro-quo between the movement and firing elements of the game.

    1. I agree with this Norm and use it across all my BPII games now.

    2. The house rule I use is to turn around the turn sequence. Firing comes first, then movement. This way you cannot move just into range and fire at static defenders in the same turn. Although you can fire and then charge which I think is in line with my historical reading.

    3. Doing that trades one “ problem” for another. It allows the side moving second to move out of range and/or arc before the side moving first gets to fire.

    4. Norm I have yet to try the GH modifications but I plan to this coming year.

  8. Great looking game Steve and your single based units certainly capture the feel of linear warfare. I'm a big fan of BPII now and it is certainly an improvement over the original edition. For the SYW I actually prefer using Honours of War, which I think capture the period perfectly, but I am biased as my friend wrote the rules and I helped playtest them!

    1. Thank you much Steve. I have played HoW once and will play them again as they do allow a big game to be played quickly!

  9. Interesting, thanks for the report. BP is another set due for a solo playtest. I took a pretty strong dislike to it upon my read through (1st edition) due to the endless verbosity making a coherent presentation of the rules difficult, and the "Hail Caesar/Warhammer" style saving throughs and innumerable special rules. Just seemed a very dated design with little new to offer, and needing the period supplements (for more $$$) to work better. The pictures of course were great, but while that may help sell a rules book, it has nothing to do with the quality of the game. Still, it deserves a turn on the table.