Friday, 25 June 2010

Black Powder House Rules

One of my New Year's resolutions was to cut out the house rules as much as possible. The main catalyst was joining the Portbury Knights wargaming club. This is the first club I've formally joined and attended regularly, and it soon became apparent that everything was much easier if you just played it out of the book. Everyone knew where you were coming from. And I soon found that those treasured house rules didn't really make that much difference to outcomes anyway. So my house rules for Black Powder are nothing to get excited about. Remember I only play SYW so all the house rules relate to this period.

As I will generally be playing on smaller tables than those featured in the rules, I quickly decided to reduce all disances by one third. This is easily done as all the distances in the book divide logically. This includes all firing, movement, command, initiative and proximity distances, except for the following:

Artillery ranges stayed the same, including the 6" short range. Artillery in the original game has artillery range set rather short in relation to infantry fire. I wanted to redress the balance a bit. I also added 'heavy artillery' with a range of 60", to represent those Brummers and 24 pounders.

Sizes of 'shoot through' gaps are retained. I'm still using 28mm figures so gaps reduced by a third seemed a little narrow.

Commander movement is 30". All my commanders are mounted in this period and two thirds of 48" is 32". 30" is just a nice rounded figure and easy to remember.

Attack column and mixed formation are not used, as they didn't feature in the SYW as far as I know. Square can only be used when units are forced to retire and the rules state that forming square is an alternative move (p.97).

Broken Brigades
An amendment here as I will generally be using smaller brigades (2 to 4 units) and I wanted them to be a bit less fragile. Therefore, a brigade cannot be broken unless at least one unit from the brigade has been destroyed or has left the table. All other rules remain the same.

Where a town or village is formed of 2 or 3 'blocks', units able to retire from one block to the next will not ignore a retire result from a break test. This is just a minor tweak to give attackers a reasonable chance of establishing a foothold in larger built up areas.

Unit sizes
My units as modelled for previous rule sets were smaller than those in the rulebook, and I had no wish to expand them, leading to a great deal more expense and painting. I like my 20 figure infantry units. Reduced unit sizes as compared to the rulebook also fitted in with the reduced move and firing distances. So my unit sizes are:
Infantry: small=8-12 figures, standard=16-20 figures, large=24-32 figures.
Cavalry: small=4-6 figures, standard=8-10 figures, large=12-16 figures.

Most of my unit stats are fairly standard, and I use as few 'special rules' as I can. Most line and grenadier infantry get 'first fire'. Grenadiers and cuirassiers get 'elite 4+'. Grenadiers usually get 'superbly drilled'. Grenz and Jagers get 'skirmish'. My heavy cavalry (i.e.cuirassiers) don't get the 'heavy cavalry' rule as I feel this makes them much more effective than is historically correct.
I prefer to make my grenadiers and cuirassiers a bit more stubborn by giving them a stamina of 4, and keeping a standard moral save of 4+. That way they take casualties at the normal rate but are just a bit tougher than normal troops.

Generally, I use a staff rating of 9 for the Prussians and 8 for the Austrians. And that's about it. I have found no need for any fundamental changes to how the rules work, such as altering the move sequence to 'I move, you fire, you move, I fire' as some have suggested. I just haven't found that the rules as written cause me any real problems.

Next Battle
I'm considering an adaption of the Gross Jagersdorf scenario available for download from the Edinburgh Wargamers site (on their Die Kriegskunst page). This offers a nice historical game on a 6' x 4' table, with forces I can more or less match. So stay tuned!