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"Black Powder - Napoleonic House Rules Resources" Topic

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SquadPainter19 Sep 2010 10:35 p.m. PST

I have read a few reviews and seen a number of battle reports on Black Powder and the game looks like fun.

One of the concerns that I have heard repeated is that the rules are a bit vanilla because they cover so many periods. I am not here to debate that aspect; instead am wondering if anyone knows of any posted house rules that give Black Powder a more Napoleonic feel?

Thanks for your time!

tomrommel120 Sep 2010 2:36 a.m. PST

there are a few rules in the book for that more napoleonic feel

advocate20 Sep 2010 2:57 a.m. PST

I'd say that of all periods, Napoleonic is best catered for in the basic Black Powder book. A Napoleonic supplement has been promised, but I'm really not sure what this will offer.

Sparker Inactive Member20 Sep 2010 4:03 a.m. PST

Look at the warlord games website Black Powder forum, you may find some house adjustments there.

Like most people I have tinkered with the Artillery ranges, I have also upped the firepower of British line battalions to 6! My mates and I will find out how that works when we refight Bussaco on the the 200th anniversary next Monday…(I'm on the French team, so its OK…)

For what its worth I feel that BP gives a very good Napoleonic game…

Lentulus Inactive Member20 Sep 2010 5:34 a.m. PST

"I have heard repeated is that the rules are a bit vanilla"

More like it comes with a full spice rack for a 200 year range. The trick is picking the right ingredients for your period.

Maxshadow20 Sep 2010 6:02 a.m. PST

I agree with Lentulus. They offer alot of flexibility to adjust for each campaign or period.

SquadPainter20 Sep 2010 7:16 a.m. PST

That is good advice. I will check out the Warlord's forum.

Thanks also for mentioning that Black Powder does have some rules and items in there for a Napoleonic flavor. Now I am even more excited to order it.

Thanks again for the help!

Dutch508 Inactive Member20 Sep 2010 8:11 a.m. PST

Our group just played our first Black Powder Napoleonic game. There were a few things that came up that we couldn't find in the rules, a problem I am sure that was our's not the books. Battle report at my website:

We struggled with the skirmishers. I am not sure we played them just right. One question was 'Are skirmishers driven in my a charging line of infantry or can they stay and fight. We all thought they should be driven in but could not find the rule for it.

The book itself had us flipping back and forth trying to find the correct table for various things. I'll have to put together one sheet with all the tables on them.

It was a fun game for our first.

forwardmarchstudios20 Sep 2010 9:42 a.m. PST

Skirmishers are driven in when the unit is charged by another formed unit. It's in the section on mixed formations, I forget the page number.

A unit can also be given orders to advance towards an enemy mixed formation in order to drive the skirmishers back, in which case it is moved towards the enemy but not into contact. In this case also, the skirmishers are put back into their unit.

bill5549 Inactive Member20 Sep 2010 9:45 a.m. PST


The skirmishers rules are very simple and I think effective.

When charged a mixed formation (ie a line or attack column) with skirmishers thrown out reverts back to being a line or column – the skirmishers rejoin the unit automatically.

See 2nd para of page 79 of the rules.

Dutch508 Inactive Member20 Sep 2010 9:52 a.m. PST

Thanks. This was a skirmish screen from a seperate unit, the 95th and 60th to be exact. Do they then fall back through the line troops to reform (as we played it)?

Like I said, this was our first game using the rules and we enjoyed it. Questions always come up in any set of rules.

We had a small village on the right flack defended by an Infantry battalion and two companies of rifles. I thought the way the rules worked was very realistic. My battalions tried all game to gain a foothold. The British player rolled very well on his break tests and they held their ground even after suffering heavy casualties.

When I first read the rules I wasn't sure about the whole, "three move" if your commander rolls well but it gives a certain feeling of uncertainty to the game. Can my men move into position in time?

Fun set of rules.

kevanG20 Sep 2010 10:16 a.m. PST

and relatively cheap


David O Brien20 Sep 2010 11:05 a.m. PST

Are you saying Bill that there is absolutely no chance of skirmishers ever being caught when being charged and that every man that was sent out to skirmish always comes back?

mex10mm20 Sep 2010 12:39 p.m. PST

@ Dutch508
If the skirmish line was formed by different units (not the same unit using "Mixed Formation" rule) then the skirmishers can "evade" if charged by non-skirmish infantry. (BP pgs. 62-63 under "Charge Responses")
The evading unit is retired one full move in the opposite direction of the charging unit. If the unit is unable to retire a full move then it can move 2 full moves and become "disordered" (as in a "Break Test" result BP pg.73)
Also, units in the same side can interpenetrate other "friendly" units (BP pg. 33)so an evading unit can "pass trough" frendly units; But, keep in mind that "Disordered" units can not evade.
So, it is perfectlly "legal" for non-disordered skirmisher units to evade an enemy infantry charge and then "reform" behind a friendly unit.
HopE this helps.

mex10mm20 Sep 2010 12:55 p.m. PST

@ David O Brien. Yes and No.
If the skirmishers are part of a unit using the "Mixed Formation" rule then the skirmishers can "return" to the unit if charged.
If the skirmishing unit is a different unit then it can evade a charge only from a non-skirmish infantry and only if they are not "disordered".
As if all men sent to skirmish return, one must guess that some of them are killed or wounded, some captured and some just "get lost" but not in sufficient numbers to affect the unit overall fighting capabilities.

kevanG20 Sep 2010 12:55 p.m. PST

Actually, Dave, In the case of skirmishers, they will automatically close ranks ready to fight…unless they decide to evade or countercharge.

There isnt a modifier to the opponents hit number for catching skirmishers anyway. Just skirmish units find it harder to hit them

bill5549 Inactive Member20 Sep 2010 12:57 p.m. PST


Yes in BP there is absolutely no chance of skirmishers ever being caught when being charged (To clarify that is skirmishers from a mixed formation) and yes every man that was sent out to skirmish always comes back.

Skirmishers thrown out to create a mixed formation unit do not have a distinct existence from their unit. Their effect is to partly shield the unit from infantry fire and they also improve the unit's firing. It is the unit that suffers the casualties.

When a mixed formation unit is charged the skirmishers are automatically absorbed back into their unit they have no other option. The unit can then do its charge response eg give closing fire or form square.

When I have used mixed formation units in BP I dont bother to take of stands when the skirmishers deploy instead I simply put out some extra stands of skirmishers to show that a unit is in a mixed formation.

forwardmarchstudios20 Sep 2010 1:30 p.m. PST

"When I have used mixed formation units in BP I dont bother to take of stands when the skirmishers deploy instead I simply put out some extra stands of skirmishers to show that a unit is in a mixed formation."

I do the same thing, it looks better….

Dutch508 Inactive Member20 Sep 2010 3:33 p.m. PST

mex, yes it helps. Thanks! Bill, that helps too.

David O Brien21 Sep 2010 3:18 a.m. PST

I thought the skirmishers were too effective in the Colonial games we played it sounds as if they are even worse in Napoleonics, I never noticed this happening in the club games although that was about 7 months ago so perhaps they have changed now.

kevanG21 Sep 2010 4:00 a.m. PST

Never a skirmisher blundered to get caught in combat in skirmish…..but 1 in 36 commands from napoleon and cuesta are a 'blunder'.

…..Baton in every backpack explains how quickly the commands get through

Sparker Inactive Member21 Sep 2010 3:01 p.m. PST


You don't think even Napoleon's orders got fouled up or misinterpreted at least 1 in 36 times? You a member of the ADC's union or something?

kevanG21 Sep 2010 4:50 p.m. PST

I bet that skirmishers got caught in skirmish by cavalry more often than Napoleon blundered with brigades…..alhough he blunders at exactly the same rate as Cuesta, which is nice….I find that adds period flavour. I feel that Cuesta is underated in most rules and its good to see the balance restored with every general in the universe having the same blunder rate….across the entire span of 200 odd years

DaveOB, no one was using them for Napoleonics seven months ago. It was SYW and there were few to no skirmish units, no attack columns and no mixed formations.

A Quinn Martin Production Inactive Member22 Sep 2010 2:26 a.m. PST

Infantry skirmishers can't evade from cavalry in Black Powder, they always get caught.

kevanG22 Sep 2010 3:48 a.m. PST

No They always form up!

Maxshadow22 Sep 2010 4:18 a.m. PST

Its not the generals blunder that's being modeled its the transmission of orders. A bit like miss reading a set of rules. Though in your case I'm certain its deliberate.

A Quinn Martin Production Inactive Member22 Sep 2010 4:38 a.m. PST

I haven't got the rules in front of me, but I'm not sure that is the case. When skirmishers are contacted, they contract to the size of the unit charging them, but they are still in skirmish order. I'm pretty sure this is what the diagram shows. If this weren't the case, the combat modifier penalty for being a skirmisher would rarely apply. I'm willing to be proven wrong though.

kevanG22 Sep 2010 4:52 a.m. PST

Yes, I got that bit about transmission of orders. I especially like it when it happens to the commander with his reserve right beside him turn after turn….

My all time favourite is Artillary polevaulting out their redoubt on a blunder is especially amusing when all you wanted to do was pivot to fire at the nearest target.

One wouldn't want to construe that event as being a bit 'off' because a gentleman wouldnt suggest that there was something amiss. He could be perceived as taking advantage of his opponent by suggesting maybe he should not have to be polevaulting his gunners into his enemy's face…would scare the ladyfolk and the Horses and maybe stain a gentleman's smoking jacket or charactor or even inflame his gout…One wouldnt want that for a gentleman.

Oh how many people have accused me of misreading the rules and saying "you can't do that…its not done like that" and then found that it was exactly like that…why ? Because THEY mis-read the rules.

aecurtis Fezian Inactive Member22 Sep 2010 7:20 a.m. PST

I take it these rules show great promise, with their clarity and ease of comprehension?


David O Brien22 Sep 2010 7:25 a.m. PST

It sounds as if they have followed the Phil Barker style of rules writing and by the time version 4 comes out that only means that there will be at least 4 ways of interpretating the rules. But lots of guys in my club seem to enjoy them.

kevanG22 Sep 2010 8:05 a.m. PST

'I take it these rules show great promise, with their clarity and ease of comprehension?'

yes…..well, I 've comprehended how they work and its quite clear whats there if you look.

"But lots of guys in my club seem to enjoy them."
… Not all of them. The last comment I heard from someone was they were 'a bit freaky'

David O Brien22 Sep 2010 8:10 a.m. PST

Well they were all the rage when I was last there 7 months past, with lots of playing are they only now starting to see the faults? It's taken them long enough.

Sparker Inactive Member22 Sep 2010 3:25 p.m. PST

Well clearly we have coterie of gamers whose minds are firmly made up on the issue, so I won't address this to KevanG et al directly…

But for those who are reading this thread and wondering about whether to give these rules a fair go I would point ourt about the blunder issue between Cuestaf and The Man Himself.

The blunder issue is not meant as an assessment of the leadership or tactical or strategic ability of the general, his command value, if you will. That is addressed by the,….wait for it….Command Value!

The blunder is a bit of fun whereby if you happen to throw a double six on executing orders, you have to consult a blunder table, where a further throw can result in anything from an immeadiate charge at the nearest enemy (shades of the Light Brigade in the Crimea) to an immeadiate rout (reminiscent prehaps of the Spanish division at Talavera. So not only does it add to the unpredictablitiy of the game (this is warfare we are trying to simulate here folks!) but it does seem to give a realistic element of 'the friction of war' as Clauswitz has it.

I hope by dropping in some examples I have shown that the authors of BP, IMHO, have somehow put together a set of rules that is not onlye asy to plan, but that at a certain level, gives what seems to be an authentic flavour of Napoleonic Warfare. (Can't really speak to the other periods…)

This is something of a hobby horse, but I also feel its no coincidence that the most die in the wool resistance to these rules comes from the US side of the pond.

I've had the priviledge to work with US sailors and marines for many years now, and finer and more generous people you could not wish to meet. However, in some respects I beleive that Americans generally seek much more specific and detailed guidance in certain procedural situations, perhaps compared to Brits. These rule require a lot of pregame work, and a certain amount of period knowledge, TO 'make it up on the hoof' so to speak….

Lentulus Inactive Member22 Sep 2010 3:58 p.m. PST

with their clarity and ease of comprehension?

Well, personal preferences in writing styles vary, but (like most rules) if you have not decided beforehand what they are supposed to say they work pretty well, for me at least.

kevanG22 Sep 2010 4:04 p.m. PST

Sparker, I just wondered if you thought it was okay that numerically, Napoleon rolls on the blunder table more often than Cuesta will

……since he will have statistically more actual rolls

……him having more successes 'n' ya all.

Anyone else realise this?

Better the command value,…..means more actual command rolls, ….more actual rolls, more blunders numerically.

I find this captures the Blunderonic period perfectly myself.

David O Brien22 Sep 2010 5:57 p.m. PST

I don't know about the other rule doubters but KevanG and myself are not from over the pond and I don't understand what your geographical location has to do with rule preferences.

Lentulus Inactive Member22 Sep 2010 6:32 p.m. PST

"…..means more actual command rolls, "


Sparker Inactive Member22 Sep 2010 8:29 p.m. PST

Geography has nothing to do with it, but I think maybe a difference in culture does. My theory, only from 22 years of close observation, is that folks from the US like to have very specific language and firmly tied down dos and don'ts when it comes to following written procedures, whilst, generally, Brits are happy with more informal and loosely written 'guidance' rather than 'regulations', even in potentially tricky situations concerning airspace or waterspace management…

But if KevanG and AECurtis are lucky enough to be denizens of the Sceptred Isle then I guess I may have to rethink…!

But I still don't get why Napoleon is going to throw more on the Blunder table than Cuesta? I would have thought with a presumably higher command value requiring less throws to get his troops to where he wants them, Napoleon would have far less command throws, and therefore less opportunity to blunder…Yes, he will pass more throws and therefore have the opportunity to give more orders, but if he has a slick plan and has kept a reserve in hand he won't need to give 1001 orders each go…

Which once more leads round to how elegant these rules are if you have a high command value, you need to give less orders to achieve the same amount of manoeuvre, therefore you are less likely to encounter staff snafus in the form of throwing on the blunder table perfick!

aecurtis Fezian Inactive Member22 Sep 2010 8:47 p.m. PST

Well, you're wrong about me, on all counts. I'm not from the UK; I don't own or play BP (nor am I likely to); I'm *asking* about this game, with some degree of skepticism, since it's apparent from this thread alone that the rules are *not* clear enough to prevent misunderstandings.

Misunderstandings about logic and probability are another matter; Kevan can deal with that.


Sparker Inactive Member23 Sep 2010 2:29 a.m. PST

Ok Allen, I'm sorry, I knew you were from the US, I guess I was trying to yank your chain ('Yank' – geddit? Oh never mind!)

If I recall correctly you were a US tanker and have been a mine of information on armour topics on this forum, for which thanks…

But I still disagree with you about the alleged lack of clarity of these rules…

kevanG23 Sep 2010 5:16 a.m. PST

" "…..means more actual command rolls, "


Because you fail less and can then proceed to roll again….

If you want some numbers…

Command value 8 will succeed 26 times out of 36 attempts while command value 6 will succeed 15 times out of 36 attempts.
Each success gives you the chance to roll again,

even ignoring multiple successes from the extra chances to roll, you will have 62 attempts for Napoleon to roll a blunder to 51 rolls for cuesta.

So, all things being even, napoleon will have more blunders because he has a better command value and will roll the command dice more often than cuesta

Acctually, The trick when playing Cuesta is quite interesting. He can avoid blunders almost entirely at no detriment by generally deploying in static positions, not attempting to roll to command, sit behind defences and use the automatic command within 12 inches rule that doesnt need command rolls.
Quite historic,…and leaves Napoleon doing all the blundering.

Anyone ever read "blundering to glory"?


I have the little white and red covered version

MajorB23 Sep 2010 1:15 p.m. PST

But even a brillaint commander can only roll once for each unit or brigade he attempts to command.

kevanG23 Sep 2010 5:16 p.m. PST

'But even a brillaint commander can only roll once for each unit or brigade he attempts to command.'

Unil he fails…and if he fails? He stops and doesnt get to roll for any further units….and if he stops…..he cant roll a blunder.

who fails most? Cuesta!

Sparker Inactive Member23 Sep 2010 7:39 p.m. PST


I think you've missed the point somewhat. Yes a higher command value means less liklihood of failure on the command rolls, which theoretically mean you can make further rolls, and therefore more chance of throwing a double 6 and blundering. We get it….Well spotted!

But…That commander doesnt HAVE TO keep making command rules if he doesnt want to. And if hes got his stuff in 1 sock he won't, so your rather arcane point won't be a problem 99.999% of the time.

And even if it does crop up, well in reality if you keep overdriving your staffs and continually issuing order after order to the same formation, well some one IS going to blunder…

And again, your point about Cuesta being advised to stick to fighting behind defences kinda brings out the authenticity of these rules As you say yourself, if you were in Cuesta's position, but without his enourmous ego, wouldn't you have stuck to fighting in fixed defences considering the training level of his army?

Yes I did enjoy Connelly's book but I 'm not sure I agree with his standpoint – obvioulsy a devotee of the cockup theory of history…

kevanG24 Sep 2010 3:28 a.m. PST

"so your rather arcane point won't be a problem 99.999% of the time."

the percentage is the same as the difference in command rolls, So having command 6 v command 8 will also not be an affect on command rolls 99.9999% of the time….yeah , right

I am fairly certain that most people would disagree with that as a statement, but It could work in 1984 with Doublethink….

This is a fundamental and realistic effect in the game which heavily influences the feel for the period / and / this effect is out of kilter with what I would expect, but doesnt have any impact on the game.

Good luck with that.

MajorB24 Sep 2010 4:33 a.m. PST

The probability of a blunder (which may be a good thing as well as a bad thing) is dependent on the number of command rolls a given commander makes. A well organised force able to take advantage of brigade orders and local initiative will roll less command rolls than a commander who tries to micro manage every battalion.

The maximum possible number of command rolls is equal to the number of units in the force. The actual maximum number is limited by "first failure" (a command roll failure prevents further rolls for that commander in the turn). The minimum possible number is 0 – the commander doesn't need to issue any because his troops are where he wants them to be. Whether to make a roll or not is a player command decision. A good commander will not necessarily make more command rolls than his less able opponent.

The probability of a blunder is thus not dependent on the commander's command rating.

kevanG24 Sep 2010 5:29 a.m. PST

'The probability of a blunder is thus not dependent on the commander's command rating.'

No one said it was….The aggregate number he will make will be dependant on his command rating…because he will succeed more often and get more rolls….Ain't statistics a bitch.

And if they both are good commanders doing what you say????

Cuesta will STILL fail more often and will be rolling LESS than Napoleon and will have less blunders….unless of course you beleive that 8 isn't actually any more than 6.

MajorB24 Sep 2010 5:41 a.m. PST

The aggregate number he will make will be dependant on his command rating…because he will succeed more often and get more rolls….Ain't statistics a bitch.

I disagree. As I said the aggregate number will depend on whether the troops are in the right place (and hence do not need orders) and on whether he can make group orders to brigades as well the probability of failure.

kevanG24 Sep 2010 7:20 a.m. PST

You disagree….8 isnt more than 6.

The aggregate number will be determined by the number of rolls and 8 doesnt get more rolls than 6 because it depends where the troops are….

kevanG24 Sep 2010 7:27 a.m. PST

Is that clear now Allen?

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