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"Général de Brigade vs Black Powder" Topic

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2,263 hits since 22 Nov 2017
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Bayard22 Nov 2017 6:52 a.m. PST

I played my first battle with GdB rules last weekend, so I wrote small review ;) English text is in red :)


olicana22 Nov 2017 9:22 a.m. PST

Thanks for the review.

I moved away from complex 'historically accurate' rules to rules with a simpler more fluid game play some time ago. Your review has helped me make the decision not to buy GdB.

Horses for courses.

Esquire Supporting Member of TMP22 Nov 2017 9:24 a.m. PST

Agree wholeheartedly with your analysis -- but we are in a Golden Age for this hobby and there are so many choices. But I strongly prefer GdB. But again, just my choice.

GarryWills22 Nov 2017 10:11 a.m. PST

Thanks for your review.

I think you are being a bit harsh on BP in a number of areas. For example
1. the author is very clear that close combat in BP is not just melee but includes close range musketry etc and therefore can last long periods. This is done to simplify play.

2. the order system in BP is by design a source of variation in the game. Yes you can have a single club night game ruined by a series of poor command rolls, but really BP is best judged over a series of games. If you believe that the battle of Waterloo would have had the same result if it had been fought again on the Monday, this may not be to your liking but I think the GdB system is too predictable. Interestingly General dArmee has introduced a more variable command and control system.
3. BP still rewards proper preparation of assaults along historical lines- if you dive into contact asap just because you can, you tend to open yourself up to the vagaries of the variable Break test.
4. the period specific BP supplements are well worth looking at.

At the end of the day – it all depends on your view of history and the type of game you want to play.

Thanks again


IronDuke596 Supporting Member of TMP22 Nov 2017 10:45 a.m. PST

A very good and fair analysis of both BP and GdeB. I too prefer GdeB for many of the reasons that you state.

Overall, I find that GdeB is a good balance between realistic rules that accurately reflect Napoleonic tactics; and quick play rules, which frequently over simplify tactics in favor of speed of play. For me it most important for a set of rules to reflect the tactical granularity of napoleonic warfare.

However, as implied the beauty of a set of rules is depended upon individual requirements. Some gamers must have a set rules that will complete a game in an evening and others are more concerned with the tactical accuracy and the game length is not important (within reason).

Again, a good report and thanks for sharing it here.

aegiscg4722 Nov 2017 11:06 a.m. PST

General d'Armee, however, seems to be GDB done right. After playing GDB several times several of us thought it moved a little too slowly and parts of it were confusing at times. GDA seems to have solved many of GDB's issues and turns go by much more quickly.

While I like Hail Caesar/Warmaster, something doesn't quite click with Black Powder. I can't quite put my finger on it, but at times it just doesn't seem to work well for horse and musket.

Northern Monkey22 Nov 2017 4:27 p.m. PST

Why is this discussion about GDB when the author has published a more updated set with GDA?

Mr Elmo22 Nov 2017 6:09 p.m. PST

My problem with Black Powder is that it doesn't support 25mm play on a 4x6 table. If you want 15mm and inches to cm it seems to do fine.

Bandolier22 Nov 2017 10:46 p.m. PST

I also generally agree with your assessment.

The main problem I have with BP is the command system. Too random and nonsensical. GdB handles command much better, but no-one I know wants to put in the time to learn it.

Bayard23 Nov 2017 3:35 a.m. PST

Tahnk you all for your responses.

For historical wargaming I prefer accurate rules, which are still fun to play (like GdB). For pure fun I have fantasy and sci-fi ;)

I'm aware of all the things you pointed out, but as I wrote the main difference between GdB and BP is that BP is pure fun, while GdB is also quite accurate. I played many games with BP and napoleonic suplements and I can only say that they add some flavor, but again- not accuracy. I had many situations in my BP games which did not and could not happen on real battlefields. There are also some rules that have no sense for me (for example prohibition of charging formed squares by cavalry- such clashes should generally end bad for cavalry, but also there should be tiny chance of success).

My main complaint for BP is however lack of class differentiation for various units. In my games, with average rolls, Prussian Landwehr isn't much worse than Vistula Legion or other French/ Polish elite infantry. They may have some special rules, but overall performance of this units is quite similar, while it shouldn't be.

But, as you wrote- "it all depends on your view of history and the type of game you want to play" ;)

I have to try GdA. I saw a gameplay and I read the rules, but for big battles we have our own rule set in my Club. We nedded something smaller for division- level games, and I liked the details of GdB. In GdA I like the roll for each division to see, if they obbey orders. I'll probably introduce this rule to my GdB games.

@Northern Monkey
GdA is not updated GdB. There are similarities, but both rulesets are different and designed for different levels of games.

olicana23 Nov 2017 4:07 a.m. PST

For historical wargaming I prefer accurate rules, which are still fun to play (like GdB). For pure fun I have fantasy and sci-fi ;)

As said, horses for courses. We don't play fantasy (except X Wing as a filler game occasionally) and quick easy fun is generally the aim of all of our games. We quite often play Napoleonics using Command and Colours on a hexed table for just that reason – and that certainly isn't a 'historically accurate' system either but, it's a hoot of a game.

Chad4723 Nov 2017 7:30 a.m. PST


To vary the units you simply adjust their various combat abilities, morale and stamina values. I have successfully done this to differentiate the French and 1st Coalition forces for the French Revolution. The results I got were as close to what I would have expected based on my reading of the period.

Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP23 Nov 2017 10:22 a.m. PST

I'd settle for a Napoleonic ruleset that actually looked like a Napoleonic battle when played on the tabletop. Still looking, but thanks for the review!

Marc at work23 Nov 2017 10:48 a.m. PST

Jeff – do you have a picture of what you think it should look like please

Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP23 Nov 2017 12:28 p.m. PST

Sure Marc--check out the Napoleonic Battlefield Photos Facebook group--great resource.

pbishop1224 Nov 2017 3:19 a.m. PST

BP sits on my bookshelf collecting dust. GdBde is worn out from use.

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2017 4:33 a.m. PST

check out the Napoleonic Battlefield Photos Facebook group--great resource.

I've looked and failed – could someone please point me to this?

Capitano Fevola Inactive Member24 Nov 2017 7:10 p.m. PST

I agree the BP has issues, but the Warlords system is very amenable to being house ruled to suit one's prejudices. In our group we prefer Hail Caesar to BP & we house rule it to allow us to use it in other periods. I think our Napoleonic battles using modified Hail Caesar provide a good very plausible game without too much work & look pretty right. See link

Marcus Brutus24 Nov 2017 7:44 p.m. PST

GdeB is pretty boring to play. Just because the system is complex doesn't make it accurate or historical. Just slow. I have to admit General d'Armee sounds very interesting and I plan to buy it to look over.

Trajanus25 Nov 2017 2:35 a.m. PST

General d'Armee are a much better set of rules. Faster and more playable. They are also far easier to scale up for larger games and much easier too read.

Slight technical point from higher up this thread, the activation rolls referred to are not made by Divisions but rather the Brigades within each Division.

Players move Brigades on table but actually shoot and melee etc with the individual Regiments/Battalions within their Brigades.

Johnp400025 Nov 2017 3:55 a.m. PST

I always found BP is the perfect pick up game especially with new gamers.After reading Gdbde, it just seemed too much time and effort involved to learn such a detailed system.

Marc at work25 Nov 2017 9:57 a.m. PST

Whirlwind – glad I'm not the only one not to find the FB link. Jeff – have you a direct link please? Thanks

Grymauch25 Nov 2017 12:52 p.m. PST

I have not played Black Powder but I have played Hail Caesar so I am familiar with the style of rules. I have found General de Brigade superior in every respect apart from it cannot be played quickly if a sizeable game, but for me that is not an issue.

Having tried several of the new generation of rules that have surfaced over recent years I have decided to try no more. General de Brigade for me long term.

If you are limited to 2 to 3 hours max play though, unless you a playing a small action, then maybe games like BP will be for you.

Bayard27 Nov 2017 3:19 a.m. PST

I totally agree. I have no problem with playing one battle during several weekends- I have enough space in my club to afford it. I'm also a fanatic of Napoleonic era and "hardcore" wargamer- for me the game is interesting if it is accurate. GdB rules are not perfect, I would change few things (and make them more complicated in the result :P) but are much better than BP from my point of view.
@Marcus Brutus
It depends what you are looking for ;) I don't think GdB is boring. I have to try GdA rules, but after first reading I don't think they are better for me than GdB. Maybe faster, but I like the detail of GdB rules ;)

Trajanus27 Nov 2017 5:45 a.m. PST

Lots of mentions concerning "detail" in GdB. Someone like to comment on what "detail" and why its worth it?

Yes, the description and requirements of Orders is detailed. On the other hand, every type of formation change is a full move or one half of one. Detailed?

Bayard28 Nov 2017 3:48 a.m. PST

Ground scale in GdB is about 1mm=1 meter. So infantry unit in column can make 9 inches in one move- it's about 228 meters. Time needed to cross this distance in good conditions is about 3-5 minutes in normal step (depending on the army). According to George Nafziger, most of the maneuvers of formation change took between 1 and 4 minutes (even more in case of british forming line from column), and his calculations assumed perfect conditions. So one full turn in GdB is about 5 minutes of real time. So even this is detailed ;)
But what I like most is charge procedure- good chance for stoping assaulting infantry with fire and routing defenders without physical contact of two units is really great and realistic.

Trajanus28 Nov 2017 8:40 a.m. PST


I see what you are getting at but I'm not sure it works like that. Firstly the author declines to quote a time scale hence you are having to work one out for yourself, not a problem.

However although the 9 inches happens to convert to a convent time, the 15cm for 15mm scale doesn't, its only around 2.6 minutes of real time.

Maximum musket range is 12 inches or 304 yards but shrinks to a more realistic 20cm or 200 yards in 15mm.

What I'm driving at here are the measurements are a convenience, some work some don't. Virtually all rules writers do this. Which is why few people bother to fix a distance/time relationship properly, not to mention it would mean everyone rebasing, as the unit frontages need to be in keeping with the ground scale, as well as weapon ranges.

Given these rules are supposed to be dealing with brigades the "detail" should cover changes of formation far more precisely to reflect Brigade Commanders decisions.

You have read Nafziger so you know there were different types of column, with the sub units at different intervals and different ways of forming line accordingly.

Forming on the center, to the right, to the left etc. was a key decision that had to be made dependent on this and the time taken was important. Saying it all took place within five minutes might be true but if you only had 1.5 mins to do some thing that took 3.00 you were in trouble.

Taking a single turn to do anything means you are always able to make the right choice and have the right amount of time. That's not "detail" its a free pass.

I wouldn't say that GdA gets everything right. No rules do but at least the decisions a player makes are more in keeping with those a Divisional Commander would make. The player is let of too lightly in GdB although I would have to say that's even more so in BP.

Marc at work30 Dec 2017 3:59 a.m. PST

Was anybody able to find the pictures Jeff referred to above please. I have searched and failed.



Stoppage30 Dec 2017 1:54 p.m. PST
Marc at work05 Jan 2018 9:45 a.m. PST

Thanks – requested to join the FB group


Bob Runnicles12 Jan 2018 12:20 p.m. PST

"BP sits on my bookshelf collecting dust. GdBde is worn out from use."

Funny but my experience is almost the opposite (though I will probably check out GdA too, I'm a sucker for rules systems lol). It's not the time frame thing either, I've played several of Clash Of Arms' Games 'La Bataille' Napoleonic boardgames (and other large strategy boardgames) that have lasted entire weekends or longer. I just can't get that level of interest from anyone at the miniatures gaming club that I go to, games like Black Powder are about the limit. At the end of the day we have fun and that is surely what this hobby is all about, right?

Bob Runnicles12 Jan 2018 1:47 p.m. PST

Went ahead and ordered the pdf for GdA (I have access to a nice color laser printer at work so that takes care of printing it lol), looking forward to giving it a read. So far I like what I see.

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