The Napoleonic Wars, Black Powder, 28mm
Bill Gilchrist was keen to try out the new version of Black Powder. He went through it with a tooth-comb, and made a handy list of the main differences. So, not having time to read them wasn’t a problem – we had Bill to keep us right, and his list so we knew what to look out for. The divisional-level game was set in August 1813, and pitted a Russian army against a similar one of French and Wurttembergers. We played it on an 8×6 foot table, which was centred around a small town, representing Ostritz, to the east of Dresden. There wasn’t much finesse about this – two evenly matched forces were clashing, not to capture or hold an important spot, or even to cut a vital lines of communication. Our aim was more prosaic. We just wanted to try out the new rules. So, the evenly-matched forces lined up facing each other, and off we went. Bart and I played the French, Campbell was out German ally, while Bill and “Old Michael” (pictured above) took command of the Russians.Each side had twelve battalions of infantry, four regiments of cavalry, and four batteries. The infantry had skirmishers deployed – the Russians with their units, and the French in brigade-sized skirmisher screens. Then, off we went. The French went first, and I made such a splendid movement roll that I seized Ostritz before the Russians even got a chance to move. In fact the French and Allied players were pretty quick at advancing, apart from Cambell’s Wurttemberg cavalry, which stayed on their starting blocks. That quick start pretty much decided the pace of the battle. Bill and Michael were on the defensive from the start, and never got more that two feet across the table. On our left, Bill’s infantry brigade faced off Bart’s one, and the cavalry did the same. In Turn 2 though, Bill’s Smolenski dragoons retired off the table, never to return, thanks to disordering fire from the French horse guns. On my right the Wurttemberg infantry (above) were clashing too, with melees going on all along the line. For my part though, I relied on my artillery and skirmishers to soften up the enemy guns – then did something rash.
I stuck General de Brigade Pajol at the head of the 7th Hussars, and charged the Russian guns. It looked great, but only a fool would try something that stupid. True to form the hussars were shredded, and that was that. I just hope Harvey Keitel survived, so he could keep duelling with Keith Carradine. Sensibly I kept my other horse regiment, the 16th Chasseurs a Cheval in reserve for the rest of the game. Over on my left though, things were moving fast though. Having seen off part of Bill’s cavalry, the 2nd Cuirassiers and the horse guns drove the remaining Russian dragoons back to the table edge. The horse guns moved up and disordered their Russian counterparts, while the cuirassiers rode round and hit them in the flank. it was a pretty nifty move. This though was only Bart’s starter. The real course was the dismemberment of Bill’s infantry brigade. This called for some pretty nifty moving too, with the 6th Lancers pinning one battalion while foot guns and musketry stopped the other Russians cold too. Then, bit by bit the Russian strengths were eroded by hits and disorders, and first one and then the other lead battalion broke and ran. In Black Powder the Russians have a stoic characteristic, so the Russian foot can reroll their first failed morale test. Every time Bill did this he got a worse result than before. I got a bit distracted by my own duel in the centre, where I saw off one Russian gun battery with my own foot artillery, and the other – the nemesis of the 7th Hussars – with close-range musketry. So, in my part of the battlefield Bill was left with just his infantry, which started taking hits. His solution was to launch an all-out charge. It drove away my skirmish line, but brought him into contact with my French front line, which by then had deployed into a firing line, and was ready and waiting. The first Russian battalion was shredded, and was lifted from the table. The second though, actually got into contact, but lost the melee thanks to some lousy die rolls. SO, the fight continued, with the French now having a slight advantage. Meanwhile, on my left Bart was busy eviscerating what remained of Bill’s right flank. First he drove off the remaining Russian dragoons with horse artillery fire, then hit a Russian battalion deployed in line in both the front and the flank. It fought for a turn, but eventually it was all too much, and it melted away. So too did Bill’s last remaining unit over there, which was still in the fight, but so shaken that it kept being forced to retreat. Over on the right Campbell was finally getting the upper hand too. The turning point came when his Wurttemburger cavalry pinned a Russian battalion in square, allowing him to concentrate his attacks on the other front line Russian battalion. It eventually broke and ran under the weight of German fire. While things didn’t go as spectacularly as on the right, and the Russians still had a powerful cavalry reserve, the writing was on the wall.
In their centre and left the Russians were down to three battalions each. On Michael’s bit – the left flank – they also had a powerful brigade of cavalry, and the last remaining battery of Russian guns. So, while he was on the ropes, his flank was still holding its own. The centre though, was on its last legs, while the Russian right had pretty much been annihilated. So, this was a pretty comprehensive French win. As for the rules we played them “as written”, with the daft sequence of play (move then fire). Our normal way is to reverse these, and it all works much more smoothly. We’ll do that next time, but for now we were content to feel our way around the rules. My rashness cost me my only unit loss of the night – the 7th Hussars (below), with Pajol at their head.