Tuesday, July 06, 2010

La Toulonge - Withdrawing the Guns 1813

Using fairly small forces myself an Neil gave Black Powder a try with the Napoleonics. As befits the rules I cooked up a little scenario rather than attempting to play a straight up fight as would in Napoleon.

The scenario in fact was inspired by one from an old issue of Wargames Illustrated, and revolved around the withdrawing of guns in the face of a superior enemy. The British forces were a Single mixed infantry brigade Of one Guard Battalion, Two Line and a Portuguese Militia regiment, with a detachment of rifles; and a battery of two guns under a separate command.

The British had to deploy in the middle of the table, with position of the Guns being fixed. Victory for the British would be dependant on the safe withdrawal of the guns.

The French on the other hand had two Brigades of infantry totalling 5 Line Regiments and one militia; and a regiment of Curiassiers. Their orders were above all else to capture the guns.

The only major addition to the rules was the allowance of "withdrawal by Prolong Fire"; i.e. the British guns were allowed to move back a base depth when the fired, directly back from the enemy; reflecting the guns being repositioned to the rear rather than to their initial deployment after the recoil from fire. None the less the guns would not be able to fire every turn if they were to have any hope of escaping.

The French advanced their infantry with a sense of urgency. The game allowed only six turns for them to take their objective. I had deployed the British expecting the French Cavalry to charge down our throats, but oddly Neil held them as a reserve instead, so I had to quickly redeploy the line regiments out of square; fortunately they responded to my orders.

The French columns marched forward a triple move immediately and closed the gap swiftly (we played this game with all measurements halved to make a 6 by 4 table usable)., but this left many of them a little short of range to pour fire on the British.

The British second turn delivered some fire across the French, but of not great debilitating effect. The French charged , causing the Rifles to withdraw, leaving them facing the Red line of British regiments. Another Regiment tried to reach the British Guns and payed savagely for it's optimism.

The 27th Ligne was wiped out be canister at close range, a spectacularly failed morale test (a three) saw the remains of the unit scatter back through the French lines. The Guards in the field on the British right were able to hold the remains of the French brigade facing them, But the other French Brigade was able to break a Line Battalion and as the British guns withdrew, the French looked to try and catch them.

Only now did it appear the Curiassiers were to enter the fray.

And so they might, but the Riflemen were able to disorder their formation and stop their crucial attack.

Seeing off another French Regiment the Guards advanced on the Flank of the French Militia. The Guns hurriedly forsook firing for moving at all speed, whilst the British Brigadier pleaded with the Portuguese to delay the French infantry; something they were only prepared to do by standing exactly where they had for the entire battle (a succession of failed command tests for them!).

The French deployed one regiment in line to engage the Portuguese, whilst the other made a last gasp dash to catch the guns.

And failed, although moving with some speed the Guns had executed a textbook withdrawal, and at the end of the last turn were still out of the grasp of the French.

So victory again the the British. An excellent game; that rattled along in less than two hours. Actually these armies were only a tiny bit smaller than the ones we failed to finish a game with the last time, and so on this basis we could use Black Powder to carry out larger games in an evening. With halved movements a standard club sized table is more than adequate for small to medium sized battles; though for larger games we will have to get two together or some other solution.

Tactically it seemed odd that Neil didn't lead with his cavalry, but perhaps he was afraid of it suffering at the hands of the guns. It did attack a disordered British square, but without much success.

I think myself and Neil game out of the game with a very positive impression of Black Powder for Napoleonics, it may lack some of the subtleties of Napoleon, but approached correctly, it produces a satisfying result in a reasonable amount of time, and without excessive micro management.

Great stuff!


  1. Black Powder is a universal set of rules and so fails to deal with little intricies of any period. however, we've found that by giving units the right characteristics makes all the difference.

  2. Black Powder is to my mind the best development in wargaming for a long time, weve used them for Napoleonic, Colonial AWI and ACW and with the right unit detail give an in period game every time

    Dave Tuck