Another dip into C S Grant's scenario book provided the background for another run through of the Black Powder rules between me and Neil. This time a slightly down scaled version of the Breakout scenario from said book.
The French assembled around a Bridge over the Leze river, south of Toulouse; with orders to execute a fighting withdrawal against a pursuing British force believed to be closing on the bridge. Their initial deployment was within a tight box around the Bridge, into which they squeezed a Brigade of Infantry (4 Battalions) a Brigade of Heavy Cavalry (2 Regiments) and a half Battery of Guns.
Unknown to the French was the fact that the British had found crossings either side of their position in the night, and had thrown a mixture of troops across the river already in an attempt to trap the French. First among these was a regiment of Light Dragoons who appeared in the hills to the North.
The French moved their infantry into squares On the open ground north of the road to block the Dragoons, whilst their own Cavalry divided to face expected enemies. Sadly the deployment of the French troops was cumbersome, and the British infantry Brigade arrived in close proximity to them mid-deployment.
However the threat of French heavy cavalry was enough to slow down the British, who naturally formed square in the face of the enemy. For the French though, the Cavalry was locking their Infantry from making any useful activity.
The French artillery proved equally confused, getting stuck in reed beds on the river bank. At this stage a further surprise greeted the French, as a regiment of Spanish Hussars appeared on their southern Flank!
However the Light Dragoons were mauled by French Musketry and held at arms length. But attempt to reform the French infantry failed miserably when one of the Battalions of foot blundered and marched off in the wrong direction; somehow becoming disordered in the process and allowing itself to be harried by the cavalry. Whilst blocking the French forces trying to drive off the British! Neil does like to roll double sixes!
Eventually the French were able to clear the lines a little, and the Curiassiers were able to push the Dragoons back. The Spanish Hussars made slow progress forwards, but were contained by a hail of shot from the now extricated French Guns.
On the opposite bank the French infantry engaged the left flank of the British with some success, though the other Battalion of French was forced to withdraw by British musketry.
However, the final British reserves had arrived at this stage, closing off the escape routes for the French. Two Battalions of Militia and a light gun blocked the road to the East after a long night march.
To the North the Curiassiers finally put the Light Dragoons to rout, but the French infantry were still in a confused state. West of the river the other Curiassier regiment attempted to charge the British lines, but once again they formed square and held the French at bay.
A tired French regiment also found itself flanked by two fresh line Battalions. The British cannon began to engage the French on the bridge.
At first the militia were able only to pause and offer harassment with their cannon; but soon they would begin an advance that would close the trap on the French.
As the window of opportunity for the French to escape passed they found themselves in grave trouble. The French infantry still west of the Bridge were destroyed by British musketry, and the Cavalry found themselves cut off and in sore danger.
The French infantry on the Bridge, and to the north east rushed to block off the advancing militia; but were not in time to save their artillery from being overrun. The Curiassiers proved unwilling to charge the militia, thus missing the opportunity to released their infantry from the British trap.
And so when the game ended, after eight turns, the French had failed to escape. Poor coordination had meant that too many of their troops had been embroiled in fighting the British main thrust, whilst opportunities to withdraw in order had been lost.
Another excellent game; and in response to some of the results, I'll also throw out some conclusions on Black Powder as a set of rules.
As has been said elsewhere BP is a good toolkit for games in the period loosely 1650 to 1900. It really revolves on which special rules you apply to units. For example, Neil was a little disappointed that his Columns were not the steamrollers they are in 'Napoleon'. I feel they are too powerful in 'N' but reckon that in BP French Columns of attack probably deserve the Bloodthirsty rule (reroll misses in first round of melee) to reflect their determination to get stuck in and psychological effect on most enemies.
The Light Dragoons and Hussars were Marauders - No command radius restrictions, and the Dragoons being British were obliged to charge at any opportunity. Curiassiers were heavy with +3 to melee resolution, but it didn't really help, the militia were unreliable, but I don't feel this was quite enough and in future I will reduce the combat prowess of militia units.
Overall, and there are still aspects of the rules we either forget or don't use yet, I think that Black Powder are ideal for this sort of fast moving relatively simple game. I love the fact they don't operate on a points system (though you can use one if you must), and for scenario's and historical matches they are just great. From this point on for me 'Napoleon' will serve mainly as a source book for background and uniforms.
Black Powder may have some weaknesses, but they are pretty inconsequential. It is a simple and comprehensive set of rules. And it allows good fast play with fun, believable results.