Saturday, 30 April 2011

Black Powder day at the Hall of Heroes

French Lt Cav Bde - Perry Plastic Hussars and Front Rank Polish Lancers
On Saturday 30th April three of us from Wollongong and the Southern Highlands made the epic journey  up to the big city to join in the Black Powder Day at the Hall of Heroes, Campbelltown, Sydney. The Hall of Heroes is a new large gaming emporium which seems to devote more of its space and energy to encouraging gaming than in conducting retail sales...truly a FLGS (Friendly Local Games Store). Well local by Aussie standards anyway!

We got a warm welcome by proprietor Matt and the large group of friendly gamers which frequent the store. Perhaps as a snobby Brit, I was surprised at the level of interest and knowledge in the Napoleonic era. Matt and the crowd had said that this was a day to introduce Black Powder rules, since they didn't have much experience with them. However even the newcomers made surprising progress with them as the afternoon progressed.

As it was very much an introductory day for most of the participants, we opted for a small scale version of a well known and iconic battle - Waterloo! However since understandably Matt wanted to showcase the potential of the new 28mm Napoleonic plastics that he stocks, he had asked that most of the figures be confined to these types, which effectively ruled out my large collection of Minifigs. In any case, putting on a smaller game was going to help newcomers into the period. So effectively we did Waterloo light...

The French had 2 brigades of infantry, a cavalry brigade and a massed battery. The Brits had two Brigades of Infantry, and the Prusssians a mixed Brigade of 3 Infantry Bns, a Foot Battery and a small unit of Uhlans. With 6 Line Infantry Bns against 9, clearly the French would have to fight hard to win!

Since Black Powder really moves things along fast, we were able to get two games in during the afternoon. The victory conditions were two fold; the French had to either get a single formed unit off up the Brussels road to spread alarm and despondency, or prevent the Prussians linking up with the Brits.

Picton's Division, with the 71st Highland Light Infantry covering the flank...
Since this was a 'public' game, and very much a learning situation for the majority of players, it would have been wrong to add any of my tinkering and wrinkles with the troop stats, which were taken straight out of the book. It would be interesting to see how the British fared without the extra firepower I like to give them to reflect their greater attention to musketry...

I should add at this stage that it was a pleasure to play on professionally constructed and detailed wargaming terrain, which made all players think harder that usual about the effects of terrain, dead ground, and so on, and perhaps lead to my obsession with using Hal defile to outflank the French...

Dead ground can lead to unpleasant surprises! Front Rank Lancers await Calpe Prussians...
In the first game the French moved effectively to curtail the Prussian deployment, despite some heroic efforts by the outnumbered Prussian Uhlans...Unfortunately owing to a misreading of the 'must form square' rule, the Prussians were hampered by being constrained to constantly form square. At the time Jason, the Prussian Commander was told that any infantry units within a foot of enemy cavalry had to form square. Subsequently in the second game this was investigated more thoroughly and our interpretation is now that this clearly only applies to Infantry units directly charged.

Reese, commanding the all important central British Brigade covering the Brussels road, opted for a passive defence with his Line Battalions, but used his Artillery and skirmishers aggressively to disrupt and break up the French assaults for as long as possible...Meanwhile out on the British Flank, I planned a daring lightening stroke designed to single handly win the day! I would sneak my Bde up the 'Hal defile' on the Western edge of the table and emerge to outflank the French left, thus gaining eternal glory! My brilliant career was still born as a succession of poor command throws left my Bde stranded in the gulley, no real use to anyone....Effectively all I had contributed to the game was to weaken the British centre, which meant that eventually the repeated French attacks broke through to Brussels, handing victory to Gus and John despite the odds. Whilst I felt that the British could have done with more firepower, this should not detract from the achievement of the French players, since we all felt right to the end that they would be unable to break through.

After a brief break for lunch and some retail therapy - including some Perry plastic Prussians, we reconvened for a second game, but reshuffled the players, those that were prepared to fight a second battle swapping sides. So the Prussian command was given to Mark, and Phillip now joined me on the French team, John and Gus taking the Brits.

Since I have now played many games with Mark,  I felt confident in making some assumptions that he would fight with the Prussians in his usual aggresive style and concentrate in achieving the victory conditions, heading straight for a link up with the Brits, thus exposing his flank. I thus suggested to Phillip that he take his infantry Bde and the Cavalry and concentrate on taking the Prussians in the flank, thus preventing a link up with the Brits; since we both agreed that the chances of achieving a second breakthrough to Brussels was unlikely...I would merely feint at the British centre and take advantage of any gaps that might develop, and pound away with the grand battery...

Imagine my consternation when Mark used his opening moves to promptly swing his Brigades, not to his right to link up, but straight across and around to attempt to hit us in our flank! Simultaneously, the entire British Line started to advance, edging towards the Prussians...Truly, no plan survives contact with the enemy!

The British deploy forward...
 At this point we felt that we had to regain the initiative, and Phillip used his cavalry in a series of charges to attempt to delay the Prussians, although of course now we were wiser about the 'must form square' rule this was not as effective as in the previous game. In the centre Gus continued to engage with his skirmishers most effectively, disrupting my efforts to coordinate a tactically sophisticated and breathtakingly brilliant assault...Deep down at this point I felt that we were losing, but determined to at least launch one successful attack in order to go down with guns blazing, as it were...

The skirmishers conduct their 'petit guerre'
However, just as the darkest hour comes before the dawn, French hopes were revived with a British Command blunder forcing the centre British Brigade to retreat off the table - the road to Brussels was clear, if only we could exploit the opportunity...Phillip duly threw a great command roll to advance two regiments of light cavalry up to within a couple of feet of breaking through to victory. I was encouraged to keep on at the stubborn British Line, and attacked the 26th Cameronians. They were as steadfast as the origianls, and we settled down to a series of melee rounds...whilst all the while I was conscious of John marching his British Bde round to my flank. However it was time for all or nothing and we continued to concentrate on the Brussels road.

French Infantry assault the 26th Foot. Victrix leading, Perry in support.
Eventually we broke through, the British Bde becoming broken since all supporting units have to also take a break test, and the road to Brussels, and Glory, was open!

All in all a great day out, a chance to meet new mates, and increase our understanding of Black Powder rules, and hopefully raise the profile of Napoleonic gaming amongst the gaming community at large. My thanks to Matt and all at Hall of Heroes for making us so welcome!


  1. Well done that man . 3 cheers!!!!!

  2. Wow! Looks like a fun day was had by all. Lovely eye-candy on display there!