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Feb 6 11 1:09 AM

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Well we ran our first game of Black Powder (BP) last Thursday. Black Powder is a generic set of rules to cover the period of 1700-1900 (even the English Civil War with some modifications). Now I have chosen the Zulu War as it is a contest between radically different armies, hordes of spear armed Zulus against a small professional army of British with effective rifles, artillery and cavalry. It should have been a walk-over for the British but every now and then the Zulus emerged triumphant.

To make the game fit better onto a 6x4 table, the size of the units has been halved and also distances. British infantry units were 12 figures strong and 6 for the cavalry. The British gun was an empty base - I have lost the gun models for the time being. Zulu main units were 20 figures. The Zulus were of course WF and most of the British infantry WF as well. Still need work on most of the units, figures to be added, basing to be done.

So Mark and I divided up my small Zulu War forces as follows.

Mark (Zulus)
2 brigades of 2 units of Zulus
1 brigade of 1 unit of Zulus and 2 units of Zulu skirmishers  
As the game was later to prove 2 units in a brigade is suicidal - more on that later.

Justin (British)
1 brigade of 2 units of infantry with 1 gun
1 brigade of 2 units of cavalry

We played to a scenario devised by John Holroyd (who also did the map). A disabled gun with the infantry is crossing the board and the cavalry are off doing something else, when they hear the sound of gunfire and return to aid the column. The gun needs a 5,6 to be brought into action and likewise the cavalry (although they can only start rolling on the second turn).

The British rolled first turn and deployed from column of march into firing line, ready for the Zulus. Now in BP, you roll for each brigade (or unit in a brigade) to be able to move, if you roll really well, then you can make up to 3 moves and the Zulus rolled well. At the end of the first turn, the Zulus were in range to charge the British in the next turn, with more forces swinging round the flanks. British rifle fire was largely ineffective.

The Zulus charge and the battle hots up (we used Gale Force 9 blue wound markers to record the damage on units). 3 wounds means that a unit is shaken, fights at reduced effectiveness and cannot be given any orders, it is really useless until rallied. The British rolled well, getting the (imaginary) gun into action and the cavalry arrived on table, moving the 3 move maximum allowed. The Border horse had a special rule allowing them to operate well away from their brigade commander. So a unit of cavalry was sent against each flanking force of Zulus.

The British infantry fought hand-to-hand vs the Zulus and although hard hit managed to win one of the combats and drive the Zulus off (and destroy them).

With incredible dice rolls the British cavalry suffered no damage from the Zulu skirmishers but neither could they pass a roll to charge (our fault not the rules, the rules actually allow an Initiative move if the enemy is close enough).

Freed of their enemy to the front, a unit of British infantry, wheels round to add their firepower to the Border Horse. The Zulus are held (shaken) but not broken.

On the other flank, with an insanely good dice roll, one of the Zulu units hits a unit of British infantry who were rallying after their last combat. Hit in the flank is bad news and the British have no chance to fire as the Zulus sweep in.

On the right flank, the Zulus also charge, into the Border horse and against the British infantry. The infantry are too far away and the Zulus fail to charge in. Although the Zulus contact the Border horse, they are shaken by the shooting as they go in and their fighting ability is greatly reduced.

Short range fire from the British infantry.

The lancers finally charge into the flank of the Zulus. This is lethal but helped by the British infantry (needing 5 or more to get hits) rolling 6 out of 6 hits. Nothing the Zulus can do will match that and the last Zulu impi on the left is destroyed.

The Zulu skirmishers take on the 'easy meat' of the artillery crew, get a few hits with close range fire but the artillery roll well and no serious harm is done.

And on the right an advance by the Border horse and a unit of British infantry finished off the Zulus.

Certainly it was a fun game. It was also very fast once we had learnt the basics of the game. Finding the rule you wanted was not easy. I had forgotten my copy of the rules, so I have not yet marked it as I am wont to do with a set of rules.

It is a game of luck, no doubt about it. Loads of dice and if you roll well you are going to do well - so not a game for someone who wants to plan the game ahead.

The Zulus might have won in the centre if the attack line had been supported (with more units behind), so a lesson for the next game?

Also brigades of 2 units are crazy. Lose one of the two units and the other will withdraw. So bigger tougher brigades are needed.

Now the big problem seems to be with the stats of the British infantry - don't get me wrong they are as hard as nails - but in this game, their shooting merely tickled the Zulus and they out-fought the Zulus in combat. So for the next game we plan to reverse the stats for the British infantry, they will get 6 attacks for shooting and 3 for combat. Lets see how that works.

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Feb 12 11 2:46 AM

OK so here is the battle report for the second game - with tweaks to the stats to make the game work better

British infantry had their shooting and melee stats swapped. So now they roll 6 dice for shooting and 3 for melee.
The Britsh were organised into 2 units of infantry and the (imaginary , I must find it) artillery piece as one brigade, with the two units of cavalry as another.
The Zulus also were in two brigades,; one of 3 impis and the other of 2 impis and two units of skimishers. No rifles in any of the Zulu units.

As the mist lifted on the South African veldt, a column of British infantry are confronted by a mass of Zulu warriors - BTW this effect is easy to achieve, just walk in pouring rain to your venue and the camera lens steams up, creating the misty effect, I cleaned the lens for the next shots. The Zulus are advancing and the British are deploying out of their march columns into firing line.

John Holroyd played the British side and got lucky bringing the artillery piece into action on the first turn. However the cavalry stubbornly refused to enter the table, as we shall see.

The British firing line now formed,  the Zulus are subjected to withering fire. The artillery as usual were not very effective but the rifle fire - with new stats - quickly stopped the Zulus (they became Shaken). As the Zulu player I used skirmishers to mask the artillery (which would have been much better if it had been firing into the columns of Zulus) and also made a flanking move against the British left flank. All the while expecting the British cavalry to arrive and stop me. After the British fire, the leading impi was shaken and forced to retire. However that cleared the way for the impi at the rear to charge the British line, on its own however.

After charging in, the Zulus are shaken and the combat against the British infantry is an inconclusive draw. However the flanking force charges and wipes out the artillery, leaving the flank of the British infantry exposed. And the two shaken (unengaged) impis are being rallied by their commanders.

It was a close run thing for the Zulus, all along the line they have taken heavy damage. The number on the dice indicate hits (wounds?) suffered.

With his centre unit holding the Zulus, the British commander attempts to charge his unit into the flank of the Zulus and fluffs it with a roll of 11. NOTE: however we played this wrong and the British were close enough to make an Initiative move and charge in, OK lesson learned.

The end. The flanking Zulus come round behind the British line and charge into the rear of the British line (avoiding the rifle fire that stopped their comrades). The centre British unit already having already failed one round of combat is charged in the flank by the Zulus, overwhelmed and broken. And so with 2 units of the British brigade broken, the British are destroyed and the colours lost.

The cavalry not turning up exposed the British flanks and there was no way that they were going to win. With a bit more luck (better save rolls) the Zulus might have been able to charge the front of the British line but that sort of attack was never going to succeed, the British certainly would cause any Zulus coming in at the front to be shaken and then the combat is a fairly even affair. So this game felt more like we expected a Zulu wars battle to be fought in history. Certainly the British should always win if they fight on their terms - with full artillery and cavalry support. But this scenario gives a decent chance for either side to win and certainly choices to be made with the use of troops.

The Friday evening games are the club meeting of the Bolton Vikings

So thats it, with tweaking the British infantry stats, I think the games will work 'right' and now we can add some more and different troops and just have at it, exploring how Black Powder rules work. I have some work to do, finding those lost artillery peices and basing up the units that I have.

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