Monday, October 2, 2023

"Black Powder Edition N" Quick Reference Sheet!

One of my favorite blogs out there highlights quite a bit of Napoleonic goodness.  You may have seen, or commented on, the "Wargaming Everything" (W.E.) blog, especially after their ambitious attempt at cataloging Napoleonic rules.  For me, always desperate for more Napoleonic wargaming fodder to consume, the Wargaming Everything blog has much to read and it's easy to get lost in the battle reports and rules reviews (with batreps!).  (I should also mention there is plenty more historical wargaming going on in his previous posts - not just Napoleonic).

The "Wargaming Everything" Blog!  A keeper for the Favorites section on your browser!

And if you weren't sure what more to ask for, W.E. published a Napoleonic variant of the famous (and infamous) Black Powder rules which he calls, appropriately, "Black Powder Edition N".  For me, it was just what the doctor ordered, and I'm frankly ashamed I hadn't tried them when he posted them in spring of 2023.  

"Edition N" has many tweaks, all of them positive and done in the name of simplification, speed, and putting big battles on the table (If I may be so bold as to declare).  The turn sequence is retooled with firing coming before orders (a la "Glory Hallelujah"), and the shooting modifiers are removed, with units standing in for Regiments, this game has you managing divisions and so you are up a bit higher in the sky than a Brigade Colonel.

Movement and ranges are streamlined with the addition of MU's or movement units, which are equal to the frontage of a "Standard Infantry Unit" so in my case, 4 x 30mm stands or 120mm = 1 MU.

I also absolutely love the additions to shooting - with skirmishers streamlined into the firing information (think Blucher - there is now a volley range, and a skirmish fire range) so no more fiddly formations to deal with.  Units shoot a set number of dice when in volley range, and a set number of dice when in skirmish range.

Anyways, a few months ago I had been wanting to try "Edition N" and the I realized I needed a QRS to use during play, which I humbly present to you now, made without permission (because I have no way to contact the author).  The only change I made to W.E.'s work has been to re-introduce a single shooting modifier of -1 for units which are disordered/shaken, because I felt it was an important handicap.

You can find the link on the right hand side of this blog for a downloadable PDF of the QRS to give them a spin for yourself (if you have zero experience with Black Powder, you'll want a copy of the rules handy.)

Those of you who have downloaded will notice that there are more goodies I crammed onto the QRS such as unit stats, and the always controversial "national characteristics" which, if you take issue with, I will happily refer you to the Wargaming Everything blog, because I copied from his post.

While I used the cool, parchment-looking textured background, it would not copy over into my adobe PDF so it looks very plain on the download.

Also if you happen to see W.E., please let him know there is a QRS for his BLack Powder Edition N up floating around the internet.  If you try out his variant, do let him know how you liked it.  I will promise to do the same!

*Black Powder Edition N is the sole work of the Wargaming Everything Blog and their affiliated staff.  Used here without permission.  No challenge to their status is intended.  All rights reserved to the respective owners.


  1. Thanks Steve, very interesting indeed. I am re-looking at BP, simply because the relationship with Pike & Shotte and Hail Caesar, provides a huge stream-lining of rules across most of the periods that interest me. Will print off and study.

    1. Norm, interestingly I am doing the same thing. Hail Caesar, Pike and Shotte etc for having similar rules. I realized I have never tried BP edition N and so wanted to give it a go on the table. I needed all of the rules ammendments in one place to make sure I'm playing correctly. Make sure you download the file on the right as it has army list and stats too.

    2. Hi Steve, that is a hugely interesting post on Wargaming Everything, the author has done a splendid job on giving an explanation for his thought process and justification of rule change.

      After reading, I am left feeling that I like only some of the changes and that the quest to change includes some house rules that are really just personal rather than being a ‘necessary’ change, such as moving movement over to MU’s, when the usual and universal inch, half inch or centimetre works fine.

      There has been much ink spilled on swapping the positions of move and fire in the Sequence of Play. I think this only ever became an issue because of the potential in the game for extraordinary movement in the game - particularly three moves, allowing units to cross the table and then fire.

      This in my view was nicely dealt with in the Glory Hallelujah rules with the tweak that if ever a unit moves more than once they couldn’t then fire in the upcoming fire phase and this is something was also ‘borrowed’ in the Eagles supplement (Napoleonic), so I am more surprised that when BP went to a second edition, they didn’t simply include this as a standard .. or even an optional rule. I use it all the time and it tends to dampen down the big movements once units start to close.

      There is further help for BP by allowing units that are charged to contact to deliver a round of Closing Fire - further dampening down the effects of the ‘big move’.

      I’m also not convinced at the argument for getting rid of the Initiative rule. I think black powder is simply switching the focus of command from the directive nature of brigade command to the local initiative of battalion commanders, men who could and did lead from the front. They are acting on initiative, training and what they can see and the communication barriers to getting orders followed are much smaller. (Also the rule that allows disorder retreat is a healthy counter-balance to te standard command system).

      Initiative, combined with ‘Follow Me’ strikes me as a necessary counter-balance to the main command rules that based on the fickle nature of dice, can see units sitting on their hands turn after turn (probably attracting the biggest slice of criticism against the rules). Some of this inactivity is deliciously chaotic (which as said some wargamers do not like), but at other times it can look plain wrong for the circumstances, which is where Follow Me comes into play.

      I think BP deals with skirmishers adequately and makes a good stab at making them ‘different’ enough from other formations to add thematic flavour and a looser order is necessary to move through some terrain such as heavy woodland - it just is!

      Overall, I applaud what the author has done, it takes me back to the days when gamers were happy to take game systems apart (even boardgames) and house rule to get a game that sat more within their liking - or that old thing of taking the best of several rule sets and doing a mash-up. However …. yes, there would have to be one :-) for my money, and with 10 years of BP being gamed by a big chunk of the gaming fraternity, I am, on reflection, okay with sticking with BP pretty much as it stands, particularly on the Sequence of Play, which was clearly a central decision of design intent at the time.

      What needs to be remembered is that BP was designed by a group of gamers who played big games with lots of brigades on a 12’ x 6’ table and still had time to go to the pub afterwards and that many of us are trying to shoehorn BP on to our smaller tables with smaller forces, which causes some areas of rules pressure to crop up, but I would put the ‘big’ movement potential at the top of that list and that it is here that tweaks best serve us i.e. the Glory Hallelujah rule (just a personal opinion of course - I am most definitely not a fan boy etc as I play other rules more than BP - I am just playing Devil’s Advocate ).

      Sorry for the long comment :-)

    3. Thanks, Norm! Lengthy comments and discourse always welcome here :) My thoughts, and as I read your comment the voices of the group with whom I game were ringing in my head saying "why don't you just keep it as it is - it's perfectly fine as-is". They would agree whole-heartedly with you.

      The initial impression I got was that some of the more tactical detail is dispensed with in order to give a bigger sense of command. TBH, I've only played with skirmishers a few times in BP and those were with bigger figures IE 15mm! In my case now, using skirmishers on the table, admittedly a very important part of Napoleonics, is fiddly for my clumsy fingers using 10mm troops! I rather liked the volley/skirmish fire bit, but I certainly see your points.

      I will say another thing that grabbed me was the fact that the changes appear (I have not yet played this variant) to make the game go faster, and that's something my group will like as we never really get to game for longer than 3 or 4 hours.

      BP have always been a staple rules set for Horse and Musket here for their ease of play, and so you can expect to see plenty of Black Powder games on my table in the future! Edition N as well as "vanilla" Black Powder.

  2. Hi, I'm the author of the Wargaming Everything blog and put Edition N together. As Black Powder in itself is not my work and many chances are inspired by house rules from other wargamers or wargame rules, I do not feel that I have ownership over Edition N. Of course I'm happy when I get acknowledged for my work. Putting it all together was a long process and a result of many games that were never shown on my blog.

    Thank you very much for your praise and your work on the QRS, it honestly made my day! I will link to your sheet in my post so people can find it. I myself began work on a QRS sheet, but unfortunately, I'm having a rough year with little interest in wargaming.

    Btw. the -1 shooting modifier for Disordered/Shaken units is correct. I think it is a good original rule and I didn't change it. The way I presented the information in my post didn't make this entirely clear I guess.

    1. Cheers, Pascal! Welcome and thanks for commenting. I really liked your thoughts on BP and am looking forward to getting them onto the table. Believe me I completely understand about how life sometimes tends to get in the way of wargaming :) I hope the QRS is useful to you and others! I am looking forward to playing a game of "BP Edition N" soon.