The Seven Years War, Black Powder, 28mm
It isn’t often that you dread playing a game with lots of your favourite figures. The reason was, Black Powder have several critics in the club, most of whom seem to be people who’ve never read the rules. Well, last week Dougie challenged our nay-saying pal Kevan to a game, and talked me into bringing along my French as cannon-fodder. We set up the game as a straightforward battle, having about twelve battalions apiece, supported by cavalry and artillery. The Prussians had the edge in cavalry, while the French had slightly more infantry. This is the largest size of Seven Years War game we’ve completed on a regular club night using our own Die Kriegskunst (DKK) rules. Therefore, while part of the exercise was to persuade Kevan the rules weren’t the turkey he claimed, we also wanted to see how quickly we could get through a game this size -with about 300 figures a side. Kevan and Dougie commanded the Prussians, while I took the French.Incidentally, we played this game using our normal Die Kriegskunst-sized (1:40 ratio) units, but made the “standard” Black Powder unit 16-19 figures strong to suit our armies, rather than the 24-30 figures suggested in the rules. Frankly the size of units isn’t an issue, which makes it pretty easy to try out the rules using existing toys.The Prussians began by advancing across the table, which suited the French, who’d opted to fight a defensive battle. Within 20 minutes of starting the game the two infantry lines were locked in a grim battle, with both sides pouring musketry fire into the enemy line. The French centre was anchored by a small redoubt, and the gun there did sterling work with canister, which stopped being so amusing when the Prussians brought up their own guns. Still, it was clear that both sides were locked together, and it would take time to wear down the enemy line, unless one side or the other elected to charge home with the bayonet.Then the cavalry managed to get into contact. The Prussian horse on their left flank was delayed by a “blunder”, which initially sent them back to the table edge rather than charging into contact. On the right the Prussians cuirassiers advanced steadily, only to be charged by the Bercheny hussars. Amazingly the French hussars held firm, and eventually forced a break test on the unsupported Prussian horse. They fled the field thanks to the first of three catastrophic break test rolls by the Prussian cavalry. With hindsight we should have rated the cuirassiers “Steady”, which would have given them a re-roll, but mid-battle isn’t a time to debate such things. The Prussians sent in another regiment of dragoons, but while they routed one of the two Bercheny detachments, the remainder stood firm. Eventually both sides withdrew their battered cavalry, as they were shaken, disordered and in no condition to continue the fight. I love my Bercheny hussars…By this time the Prussian left wing cavalry had got their act together, and they were assisted by jaegers and artillery, who softened the waiting French horse up before the two sides met. The two sides charged and counter-charged, and a long drawn-out melee ended with the Prussians having to take another break test. True to form they rolled a “4” and headed off the table. A small supporting unit of Prussian Green Hussars therefore had to test too, and this time Kevan rolled a “3”! The French did marginally better, but still had to pull back to lick their wounds.Still it meant that with more luck than judgement the French had won the cavalry fight. By that time the French infantry line was in a bad way. The Prussians had used their superior manoeuvring ability to rotate their front-line units, but while the French were still holding on – aided by the gun in the redoubt – their long-term prospects looked bleak. The decision was made to pull back to regroup, covered by the Grenadiers de France and the battered cavalry. At that point the players reached a gentlemanly compromise and declared the game a draw. Both the French and the Prussians had done well, but not well enough to win the game.As for the rules, Kevan later said that he’d entered the game with the mean-spirited intention of showing just how bad they were. By the end he had to admit that he enjoyed himself, even though the rules produced a few strange results. I think he meant those three unlucky break tests, but we all agreed that sometimes luck flies in the face of the odds, and “shit happens”. I’ve played Kevan in WW2 games where he’s rolled a “double six” and absolutely trashed my Allied armour. I didn’t see him complaining then… therefore, as the French player I had absolutely no problem with seeing his cavalry break and run! The game played fairly quickly, and while Kevan retains many of his doubts about the rules, not only has he promised to consider trying them out in our big Seven Years War game in April, but between now and then he might even get round to reading them! For my part I like Black Powder – and I can see them getting a lot of use in our club. Incidentally, another BP Seven Years War game was played out on another table, and everyone seemed to enjoy their fast-paced game.