Monday, 2 April 2012

Black Powder Weekend at the Hall of Heroes

The ‘Borodino 1812-2012’ project team have just had something of a Black Powder Napoleonic weekend. The reason being that one of our key players, Barry, was coming all the way up from Adelaide to participate in our routine 1st Sunday of the month practice game. This made it anything other than routine, as those who know Barry will avow! An ex Royal Artilleryman, lets just say he has not missed out on the confidence that seems to come naturally to all Gunners - it is clear that the gentlemanly and exuberant ethos of Black Powder could have been written for him!

Confident Coalition March Columns cross the Pratzen Heights...
So on the Saturday we had a relatively small game just to get Barry ‘ranged in’ (sorry!), as he had not played Black Powder before. With a big Borodino game on the morrow, to ring the changes we tried something else. As an excuse to get Troy to showcase his beaut Victrix Austrians, we decided on a scenario roughly based on Austerlitz, the point at which Soult’s corps flanks the unwitting Coalition columns on the Pratzen Heights.

Troy's Victrix Austrians - Wunderbar!
For our Borodino project, Barry is assuming the role of Eugene, and so has put together IV Corps, which in this game would have to stand in for Soult’s corps...

James's Warlord Russians
The game started with the French on the point of initiating the march up to the Pratzen to initiate the flank attacks, and I placed them 3 feet away from the hapless Coalition troops to allow a successfully inspirational spot of leadership from Soult/Eugene to start the game off quickly and maximise the tactical combat opportunities. Would Barry’s first ever Black Powder Command roll result in battlefield glory, or failure, or even the dreaded ‘Blunder’ table?
Soult / Eugene's IV Corps - all painted by the Mabuhay Miniature Painting Service ( for Barry

The gunner duly obliged – with a successful 3 move roll! The Italians went in hard. However the doughty Austrians, who they had picked on, whilst recoiling, did not flee the field entirely.
A March Column caught in the flank - now that's gotta hurt!
Would the weight of Coalition troops overwhelm the Italians, or would the rest of the French army come to the rescue?

Since Troy was having difficulty moving the rest of the French army up in support,

Barry committed his last reserve, the crack Italian Dragoon Bde.

However some dazzling dice throwing from Bryan (with a little help from the Umpire) ensured that the Russian Cuirassier Bde

Plastic vs Metal - Front Rank Cuirassiers and Perry Dragoons
was on hand to intercept the Dragoons before they could cut a swathe through the dense Coalition infantry masses, against which the Italians were now starting to struggle....

A clash between Dragoons and Cuirassiers is bound to be hard on the Dragoons, and so it proved...
A gallant Italian Dragoon falls from his steed...
The main event - Borodino - The Northern Sector! On Sunday, a large turnout meant that we could put on something of a dress rehearsal. The 22 foot table represented the Northern half of the Battlefield, from Borodino itself, across the Kolotcha to the Raevsky redoubt and beyond.

Bryan's Pavlov Grenadiers are drummed into  their battle positions.

The French team was ably led by Troy, and consisted of Matt; our very own ‘Napoleon’, who had organised staff to run the shop so he could concentrate on the game; Barry; Lachlan, who, despite his standout performance this day, was experiencing his first Black Powder game; Phillip, an old Black Powder hand by now; Blake, who was to experience the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune on the southern end of the table, but who managed to protect the central attacks against the redoubt from aggressive probing by his opposite number, Dave.

Setting up. L-R: John, Motty,  & Greg
As well as Dave, the Russian team consisted of Mark and Motty, a pair of stalwarts who had been allocated to defend the all important redoubt with Raevsky’s Corps. James held the centre, while Greg and Mick defended the Northern end of the table and had the task of holding Borodino itself.
Line Bn's move into position. Not all Russians were Grenadiers!

This Russian team of mixed Black Powder experience was led with an effective blend of carrot and stick by John, who in view of doubts about numbers had graciously agreed to leave the umpiring team and assume command of the defence of Holy Russia in her hour of need. I suspect that the Tsar will be reluctant to let him go back to the obscurity of his estates after his sterling performance in this game.

Both team captains acted as real Commander in Chiefs, both having decided not to directly command formations, leaving them free to both guide their less experienced teams, and monitor and correct the implementation of their carefully crafted battle plans. Both being Diggers of long experience, they held team briefs prior to the game, outlining what they expected from the team, and exhorting them to victory!

'On avant, mes Braves!' Lachlan orders his troops straight into the jaws of hell! L-R: Blake (just!), Philip, Troy, Barry, Lachlan, Mick, John, James, Motty and Mark.
Lachlan opened the batting for the French with a bold move, launching his Division against the Northern half of the Redoubt, whilst Philip attacked the Southern half. The attack was a model of a well coordinated deliberate attack.

Mark - 'General Raevsky' - looking distinctly unpeturbed. Such faith in his horny handed sons of Mother Russia!
Unfortunately this failed to impress the defenders, who extracted a heavy toll. Determined and relentless pressure from Philip and Lachlan eventually resulted in a foot hold, but this was eventually evicted by Mark and Motty.

The view from the North: Borodino, the Kolotcha, the Redoubt. Dave in the Green 'n Gold at the foot of the table, and Matt, a genial giant and propreitor of the 'Hall of Heroes', on the right
Meanwhile to the North Barry’s bold assaults on Borodino and environs were being repulsed by what seemed to him to be wall to wall Russian Grenadiers - indeed they not only had to be killed, but shoved over as well!

Greg, Mick and James not even breaking into a sweat to hold the village. However, at one point Barry was sufficiently on the verge of a breakthrough to look dangerous enough to stall Russian plans to deploy their heavy cavalry reserve as he inched painfully through the massed Russian hordes.

It was on the other, Southern flank that Blake and Dave were having a sweeping see-saw battle. Dave’s initial ambush, replicating Tuchkov’s orders in 1812, was well sprung and upset French plans thoroughly. Dave took John’s orders to ‘fight on the defensive, but exploit local conditions’ well beyond the letter of the law and at one point nearly advanced off the French table edge, but was repulsed by the timely commitment of the Saxon Heavy Cavalry brigade.

That Eureka moment - Eureka Cossacks wondering whether to 'ave a go' at Eureka Zastrow Kuirassiers. Probably best not, really...
Because we had invested time in proper team briefings, and wanted plenty of time for a comprehensive debrief about lessons learnt, we called a halt to proceedings after 8 moves.

‘After so much blood, so little result!’

Eugene's IV Corps threw everthing at Borodino, to little avail....
The game saw the inception of the ‘Victory Points’ system I want to use for the big day. To allow each team to come up with a realistic and achievable battle plan, rather than simply to ‘have at it’, teams could attempt to gain victory points by winning objectives or executing break through moves, but lost victory points by committing reserve formations. The system is still embryonic, and will need more thought.

However for this game, the Russians retained both the Redoubt and Borodino, and so scored 2 Victory points, without committing any reserves. The French were forced to commit 2 reserve formations, so the Russian team gained a convincing victory by 4 – O. However I suspect the French were thinking long term, and so did not display too many moves in this practice game!

Eugene's troops frustrated but undaunted - will their day come?
Personally I was extremely pleased with what we had achieved, and not a little relieved. Thirteen players, with very mixed levels of Black Powder experience, including a couple of absolute novices, were able to wield 8 Corps worth of models in a convincing and orchestrated manner, playing out 4 pairs of moves in under 3 hours of aggressive, determined yet wholly sporting play. It bodes well for the anniversary game itself!

I must end by recording my thanks to all players for combining hard tactics with gentle courtesy to make it such an enjoyable and challenging day, and to particularly thank John and Troy for their hard work and leadership in taking the project forward.


  1. Looks like a lovely weekend and two great games!

  2. Eight Corps of beautiful figures, fantastic table and 13 players. What a great day it must have been. When are you replaying Borodino? 7 september?

  3. Thanks gents!

    It looks as if the actual commemorative game will be on the 9th...

  4. That is a very intimidating hill...

    A beautiful looking game.

  5. looking good Sparker!


  6. That's a great looking game, Sparker!

  7. Great looking game Sparker and some beaut photos. Blackpowder are highly stylised, but will work well for a big game of the great battle of Borodino.
    I have taken the liberty of posting a link to this on the Wargaming Waterloo 2015 blog (
    Looking forward to those accounts and photos of Borodino come September.

  8. Thanks Gents! James as I have commented on your blog, if this goes well we intend to commemorate a series of major battles right up to the big day on the 18th of June 2015! 150th of Gettysburg next year, one of the 1814 battles the year after, and then Waterloo!

    With all due commemoration of Salamanca in July, Vitoria next year, of course!

  9. Wow that was very impressive, great figures and terrain. I like how you have introduced all the players.


  10. Brilliant looking game with loads of eye candy wish I was playing!!!

  11. Big game, lotsa players, really nice setup. What more can one hope for?

  12. Great Game.

    How do you rate Austrian units ? Line/Grenadiers/Grenzer/Jagers ???


  13. Thanks Stefano!

    Since it was simply a friendly training game on the Saturday we didn't worry too much about Austrian ratings, except to acknowledge that they were large units, so Stamina 4, Hand to Hand 8 etc...

  14. ohhh What Game! the table is bestial!!!