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"Black powder disaster - new rule set ?" Topic

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HappyHiker05 Nov 2017 10:39 a.m. PST

So I need help. I've been playing kings of war and black powder with my 9 year old son(9 may just be too young) anyway we've had a good time playing kings of war. But this year we've been painting up napolionic s for black powder and had a few ok games. Today we went for a 'big' 8 battalion aside battle. It was a disaster. Nobody ever dies we played for hours until even I got bored and gave up. I've had to promise we'll never play bp again. So maybe I'm getting the rules wrong, bp has lots of modifiers etc, but it boils down to attack a unit from all sides and totally smash it, take the break test, even with a -5 modifier due to being smashed, roll a 11 unit retires. Everybody just retired not broken, game went on forever.

So is there a really simple rule set simpler than bp? With minimum admin, and ideally not too much u go I go? I was thinking over the hills, but the fatigue counters my be too much admin ? Or is bp as simple as it gets? Or am I just playing it wrong?

I guess the alternative is to mod kow for napolionics?

YogiBearMinis Supporting Member of TMP05 Nov 2017 11:14 a.m. PST

What about just using a Kings of War modified historical set for black powder era? I have seen such mods floating around internet.

HappyHiker05 Nov 2017 11:35 a.m. PST

Ok that sounds interesting, there weren't any when I looked a year ago, but I'll do another search, do they allow for Change in formation – gotta have that for napolionics.

Neal Smith05 Nov 2017 12:00 p.m. PST

I don't know which convo to respond to… :)

Sounds like units are brigades? I've never played BP…

I like Grande Armee: link

Here is a review with some more info than the buy page: link

MajorB05 Nov 2017 12:23 p.m. PST

Sounds like units are brigades? I've never played BP…

No. In BP several units make a brigade.

HappyHiker05 Nov 2017 1:10 p.m. PST

Think grande armed is a grande er scale, I need a unit as a battalion and ideally compatable with bp basing (24 men on 20mm bases as a battalion).
i realise a which rules is best question is never going to go anywhere, everyone has a different opinion.

So have I played bp wrong ? What's the easiest ( forget best) napolionics rules ?

There's a version of kow eagles and colours ? Is that the one that's floating the most ?

wrgmr105 Nov 2017 1:21 p.m. PST

I recommend Shako 2. Battalion level, and you can have a good result in 3 or less hours. 8 battalions a side would be an hour or less. We play with 30 to 50 battalions aside in 3 hours.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP05 Nov 2017 2:20 p.m. PST

HappyHiker, Larry Brom's 'Before I Was a Marshal…' rules
are the easiest and you reach a conclusion in about 3
hours, presuming no more than a small Corps per side
(about 20 battalions of 20 figures each)

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Nov 2017 2:42 p.m. PST

I would recommend "LaSalle" as a good option. Fast and fun to play, and straight forward enough for your son to pick up. Units definitely die in LaSalle.

You might also just take a gander at my rules summaries page. I have written detailed summaries of Napoleonics rules (inlcuding LaSalle) here:


Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Nov 2017 2:45 p.m. PST

Incidentally, we play Black Powder fairly often, and we find it pretty bloody, so the possibility exists you're playing something wrong. But you have to hammer w unit a few times before it breaks. Pretty hard to wipe a unit out in one turn (which is how it should be).

Of course if you roll 10+ every time on break tests, then yes, the game will last forever.

HappyHiker05 Nov 2017 4:36 p.m. PST

I think the issue I have with bp is, it's very easy to score 3 hits to shake a unit, but then no matter how many more hits you score, if it passes a break test, it goes back to 3 again, in our case forever. It's a shame, I really wanted to like bp. With kow the hits accumulate until it fails the nerve test, that seems more realistic to me. Having checked out all the rules above, they all seem to have a similarity and at £20.00 GBP+ a set I can't try them all. I reckon a modified kow would suit us. I can't find a comprehensive mod though, just a few stat tweaks.

Maybe standard kow, British shoot a bit better, french have a slightly higher nerve value, line get more shoot dice, square gets much better defence against cavalry, and we're away ? But then what about skirmishes…..

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP05 Nov 2017 5:40 p.m. PST

What's the easiest ( forget best) napolionics rules ?

Easiest set: Neil Thomas. Either the one in his Wargaming: An Introduction, his dedicated Napoleonic Wargaming book, his Simplicity in Practice in Battlegames 23 or his set in One-Hour Wargames.

I Drink Your Milkshake05 Nov 2017 6:50 p.m. PST

For dead simple and easy I like Rank and File by Crusader games. link

Never had a bad game, and as I said….simple.

Personal logo Narratio Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 12:15 a.m. PST

Ditto Rank and File, my go to H&M rules

Navy Fower Wun Seven Inactive Member06 Nov 2017 12:19 a.m. PST

I love BP, for simplicity and period flavour. But starting with a game of 8 units a side may not be the best start?

CATenWolde Inactive Member06 Nov 2017 3:31 a.m. PST

Another vote for Rank & File for the simple/classic end of the Napoleonic rules spectrum.

Shako is another option, but somewhat more complex, although not overly so.

surdu2005 Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 4:31 a.m. PST

It seems like this thread has become more about recommending other rules sets rather than helping to diagnose what maybe you missed in Black Powder. In that vein, in addition to the other fine rules sets, I would like to call you attention to Combat Patrol ( There is a FREE Napoleonic supplement for the game, and we have successfully run games using the rules with younger gamers.


HappyHiker06 Nov 2017 4:54 a.m. PST

Rank and file looks promising and its £6.00 GBP for the download version ! Is there a paper version too ?

The black powder forum is still down, but if anyone can spot what I did wrong I'd like to know. Though I think there's little chance of my lad ever agreeing to playing it again. ( I also hated all the little rules, I'd invariably forget to apply anyway.)

Marc at work06 Nov 2017 5:05 a.m. PST

We find BP gives a suitably bloody game – but we roll 3's a lot so maybe that's the difference

Marc at work06 Nov 2017 5:06 a.m. PST

And a 9 year old may struggle. But I often find one game of any system is not enough to judge. We felt BattleGroup Kursk wasn't working but on the third game it clicked and gave a brilliant result. Same with BP. Good luck

HappyHiker06 Nov 2017 5:34 a.m. PST

we've actually play about 4 games of BP, the first 3 were much smaller and didn't drag on so much.

The problem I had was artillery always breaks on losing combat(which may be realistic ?) and with 1 dice melee, it always lost. Almost all other combat resulted in someone retiring 1 move but not routing(for ever!). Now, to be fair lots of units were shaken, and if the rule was a shaken unit breaks instead of retires it might have made more sense. I think we did actually allow shaken units to charge, but otherwise we'd have had a table of almost all shaken units just shooting at each other.

Gnu200006 Nov 2017 6:14 a.m. PST

In BP once half of the units in a brigade are shaken, the brigade is broken and has to retire. So you don't have to destroy units to put them out of the game. Like it or loathe it, games are usually pretty quick.

Marc at work06 Nov 2017 6:37 a.m. PST

And you should be rallying those shaken units, not charging.

It maybe the results just aren't going where you need them to for a 9yo. I haven't seen the same issues with our big games

HappyHiker06 Nov 2017 6:39 a.m. PST

ah ok, well we didn't play that. It would have made a very quick game as it only takes 3 hits to shake a unit. I'm not sure that makes it better, but at least I understand why now. I think I better try rank and file or Shako II or just mod KOW, I doubt we'll be returning to BP now anyway.

21eRegt06 Nov 2017 6:43 a.m. PST

I've played BP in games from 1640-1846 and find it an essentially flawed system. I've never had a satisfactory game that "felt right." If the game gives us historic results via an abstracted path I can live with it. But BP just doesn't work for me at any level so I'd recommend cutting your losses and investigating some of the other systems mentioned above.

Chad4707 Nov 2017 5:59 a.m. PST

I am currently using the BP toolbox approach to test it for the French Revolution as apart from Le Feu Sacre and Age of Eagles other rules just pay lip service to the period. My comments would be:

1, Rolling 11 on the Break Test seems a very high result and should not be so frequent a result on 2D6.
2. Are you making the -1 deduction for each ‘excess' hit over the stamina/shaken hits?
3. Are any of your hit die a natural 6, which causes disorder with a further -1 on the Break Test?
4. Have you experimented with lower combat, morale and stamina factors to increase the likelihood of greater hits, lower saves and unit collapse?

My first test based on a 1792 scenario of French vs Prussians worked very well and gave the result my research indicated was the most likely. Next test will be a 1793 scenario in which the French will be improved by adjusting the options used in the first test.

HappyHiker07 Nov 2017 7:55 a.m. PST

yeah the 11 on break test was just once, but it was the final straw, when even getting a -5 for excess casualties and the unit still didn't break we just gave up on the game.
I think the upshot was the brigade should have broken ages ago due to > 50% shaken. My view is its very easy to get shaken. If people like BP then fine, I found it full of complicated little rules and wasn't much fun. My 9 year old hates it now. Rank and File sounds like it'll be perfect for him, stand removal and casualty counters and even chasing routed units with cavalry, right up his street, much more fun, if less accurate. (Shako II cost £38.00 GBP now, so forget that)

Herce Salon de Guerre08 Nov 2017 1:15 p.m. PST

Grand Manner,, lots of carnage 8 btn game with guns and cav done in two hours

tshryock Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Nov 2017 8:40 p.m. PST

Commands&Colors with minis -- either on a hex mat or just use 6 inches of movement for each "hex" moved. If you don't want to use the left-right-center commands, then just assign a sector to a particular commander, so "left" cards equate to general Morand's command, center to general Desaix, etc.

Jefthing Inactive Member09 Nov 2017 3:49 a.m. PST

I agree with Whirlwind, go for Neil Thomas. His Napoleonic rules are designed for games with 8 units per side. I would suggest adopting the artillery rules from his Intro to Wargaming book, though. I went through a score of rules, including from, before settling on these as a playable set that gives historical results (to me, anyway).

The one hour rules are more basic, but can be tweaked with little effort to differentiate troop class etc. My 8-year old picked them up in a matter of minutes and thoroughly enjoyed the game.

I sold my copy of BP for 99p, which was 99p more than it was worth.

HappyHiker09 Nov 2017 6:39 a.m. PST

"I sold my copy of BP for 99p, which was 99p more than it was worth."

Harsh but Funny :-). We'll give Rank and File a go and if that doesn't work try the other suggestions.

Rules aren't cheap(though the internet is a source of many things!) and I'm too lazy to read lots of them. Its funny I hated warhammer rules(no comment on the company) because it was too complicated and BP is written by the same guy. I should have stopped when the break test needed a table to look up rather than a simple rule. Oh well, got us both into painting Napoleonics, and their plastics are alright( if you like marching and rubbish horses)

cae5ar09 Nov 2017 3:25 p.m. PST

Interested to hear how you go with Rank & File and your impressions on any other simple Napoleonic rules you come across in your quest.

HappyHiker12 Nov 2017 2:59 a.m. PST

So I played a solo test of Rank and File and this is what I thought
The game uses phases rather than a Igo Ugo, which I found confusing at first but got used to. For solo play IGO UGO probably makes more sense. For my Son I think the Phases will be better(no waiting around). The Melee works really well and resolves in a single turn. The base removal is a great way of reducing attacks as morale depletes and very visual. The routing off the table rather than just being removed is great and lets you chase routers, which is fun, if not strictly accurate when done with infantry.

Theres 2 bits I didnt like. The firing phase is followed by the morale phase so you have to mark any units that lose a stand in 1 phase, then resolve morale in the next phase that was fiddly. Though I suspect you could merge them in to the same phase and just resolve the morale at the time you remove the stands. The other bit was the morale test. For regulars its 4+ on 1d6 but gets worse as you lose stands. thats 50% or worse and quite hard to pass. Specifically when you charge a unit, they get to fire, on a 6 base line thats on average 3 hits which will remove a base, so you take a morale test with a <50% of passing. So 25% of charges falter. In my game it was more like 50% and made charging very dangerous, meaning fire fights were safer. Maybe thats accurate ? The same morale test is used to form hasty square and rally, both of which mainly failed. The forum suggests using 1d8 for morale tests, or I think raising the starting morale so regulars save on a 3+ might help fix this, but I didn't try.

Having said that the game was fast and fun and resolved. The rules are much simpler than Black Powder, I didnt keep forgetting things. The cavalry performed as expected, in BP they seem pretty rubbish. The rules encourage multiple units to attack, where as BP only allows 1 unit on 1 unit with the rest in support, which I'd always hated. Hasty squares often fail, so you have to order your unit into a square. And if you are William of Orange you can chose not to. I like that, moral dilemma. In BP the must form square had 5/6 chance of passing so we never voluntarily formed square, just let the rule deal with it. Flank attacks are rewarded better than in BP too. Actually It made me realise how many things I didnt like about BP.

So in summary, simple, visual, supprisingly accurate(as far as I know) much better than BP, certainly as I played it.
The Morale system needs a tweak, not much but something. Shako II might give a better adult game, but for me and a 9 year old, I think this is the rule set for us.

cae5ar12 Nov 2017 6:18 p.m. PST

Great feedback, very interesting, thanks.

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