Monday, 10 April 2017

Updated Black Powder Index, Huzzah!

We can now find the rules quickly, Huzzah!
We have updated our Index for the Black Powder Rulebook.
A couple of alternate lookup terms have been added, and the page numbers of rules contained the the Albion Triumphant Supplements 1 and 2 are included.

Enjoy!

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Black Powder - the next Boot Camp from the Demo Gamers

British Riflemen shoot at French Skirmishers
Yesterday I was treated to a most enjoyable game of Black Powder by a fellow gamer and his son. They both got into wargaming after one of our early Bolt Action Boot Camps and play World War II wargames as well as Napoleonic.
My vision of Napoleonic gaming has always been of grand majestic battles spanning large tables and taking a ponderous time to complete.
Not so with Black Powder from Warlord Games.
In this battle, my main army comprised four battalions of British Line infantry, a Rifle Battalion, an Artillery battery with the Brigade commander and General. I had additional reinforcements of similar size that would come on in turn six.
My excellent opponent commanded similar French forces with four line battalions, skirmishers and an artillery battery with Brigade commander and General, plus he had reinforcements of similar size.
My riflemen were hidden on the board and his skirmishers were at the crossroads. Soon enough I revealed my position by shooting at him - as one does. And then the action came thick and fast!

My always smiling, yet challenging, French Opponent
His French line raced up to the river's edge and then my forces started to arrive. Shortly afterwards the rest of my forces arrived and I defended my little area behind the fordable river.
His General then commanded two of his battalions to advance on my right flank but he rolled a 12 - a blunder. His two battalions did a quick charge right into my thin red line! I was stunned at how quick the game moved.
My Red Jackets defended well, forcing the first battalion back. The second battalion was unable to contact in his turn, so when it came my turn I charged him. I did not have enough options to change formation so I just charged in Line formation, hitting both his front and side.
It worked, so I'm not complaining and with a little help from the riflemen the two very brave (or foolish) French units were destroyed.
Suddenly my opponent was faced with the imminent collapse of his French forces.

Two British Lines charge the exposed French column

Luckily his reinforcements arrived and rather than contest my right flank he reinforced the crumbling main attack. Boom! Suddenly there they were on my flank getting all these enfilade fire bonuses. Aargh.
Somehow I was able to fail just enough to force a falling back which is just what I wanted for the exposed two battalions. And then with some very handy moves and dice rolls I forced the French over the edge and they ran, forcing the reinforcements to fall back as well.
The English had held their positions and jeered at their retreating foes.
But more importantly we both won. The game was enjoyable and could have gone either way at many points. My pre-conceptions regarding Musket Era wargaming was shaken and I now had the perfect game with which we can use to train new players.


Aargh! The French rush up and attack my flank.
We are now working with my fellow gamers so that at future Demo Gamers Boot Camps we will have Bolt Action AND Black Powder games for the public to try.
Why do we reckon Black Powder is the perfect set of rules to use for demo games?
My Napoleonic guys are coming out of the closet.

  1. The rules are simple and easy to learn
  2. A game can successfully be completed in 2.5 hours
  3. A force of 4 line battalions, Skirmishers, Artillery, Brigade Commander and General is enough troops to learn the rules and have various tactical challenges.
  4. Action happens quickly and your choices impact the results. It is not just a game of rolling dice.
  5. The game teaches you about history and demonstrates historical tactics and strategy without excess complications
Naturally, the first thing we have done is create an Index for the rules. You can download a copy from here. Just print it at 100% and it fits beautifully in the inside back or front covers.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Bolt Action 2 is an excellent upgrade - Except for one thing

Tanks are about - the buildings are a trap!

See - even BB8 isn't smiling
The 2nd edition of the Bolt Action WWII rules is an excellent improvement.
Of course, you really need to get the index to find all the rules when you need them (from right here).
We have just completed our second Bolt Action Boot Camp at Cancon 2017 and helped 24 players learn Bolt Action. It was great fun and the changes made in the 2nd edition have really helped iron out many areas which were under or over powered. Since the 2nd edition was released we have run three boot camps (MOAB 2016, Little Wars 2016 and Cancon 2017) plus many practice games at our club and at home.

Some of the improvements (in no particular order) are:

HE vs Buildings - Buildings are great defence against infantry fire, but less of a bunker with a -1 to the kill chance. However when and HE is around it is better to not be in buildings. This changes strategy for the better as men are in and out of buildings depending on the situation, providing for a bigger variety of tactical choices.
DOWN order - now a -2 to hit and if you keep the DOWN order at the end of the turn you remove D3 pins, makes DOWN a valid option. If you do find yourself trapped in a building with a HE weapon against you, going down can reduce casualties in half so you can see them just hunkering down and trying to withstand the storm.
RALLY order - Now very worthwhile. You still use a turn to refresh and get back on track, but one turn in a 6 turn game is a big deal. The unit that is easily pinned  still can't do what it wants and the RALLY allows it to attempt some sort of comeback.
AMBUSH order - IF nothing moves in your cleverly placed Ambush, you can still try and give it a shot at the end of the turn.
RECCE changes - made it a more realistic option and reduced the old "whack-a-mole" method of fighting a Recce vehicle.
YOU MAN, Snap to Action - A verbose named rule which we shorten to "Come with Me" or something similar, this totally changes how we use HQ units. It is now well worth paying for a Level 2 Lieutenant. +2 to morale and can activate 2 other units (Germans get 3). We really like how this played out in our games.
LMG/MMG dice - The extra dice for LMGs and MMGs make them better value and more feared.
ASSAULT Rifle - dropping the range to 18" was a good move. Often in an Advance situation, the riflemen had a -1 for moving and the Assault rifles a -1 for long range.
PINTLE Weapons - making the tank Open Topped if they fire their pintle mounted weapons was another good change which made those American HMGs think twice before blasting away.
All these and more are great and worthwhile changes which affect the game in positive ways.

However there is one change that we have decided is a problem.

TEMPLATES

In every other area of Bolt Action placement of individual figures is not critical. If one guy is in range or touches something it is assumed they all are. To determine hits, just roll dice and the game moves on quickly. But now, using templates the game stops, you hold the template over the figures, place it several times to see the maximum number of figures you touch, negotiate with the opponent and then roll to kill.
Consider the photo examples on pages 69 and 70 in the rule book. I reckon that careful placing of the template in Diagram 9A could result in 4 hits if the template is moved a little upwards, touching 4 bases. Diagram 9B now shows that modelling a gun and crew has to consider templates rather than aesthetic concerns which degrades from the game. In Diagram 10, moving the double template upwards should touch 4 models too.
So even from the 3 examples in the book we have 3 problems. How much longer does it take to manipulate a template over the figures with issues of placement of your eye on figures in difficult to reach places on the well terrained board? Roll dice - seconds. Place and re-place template, negotiate with opponent, leave sour taste if you win the argument - minutes.
If the board uses scenery well, the figures are placed where they can and we should assume they are placed in various positions around the cover. But the Template insists they are where they are. If you just pile them into a small space because the bases are too big, a nasty template user can say he touches 8 guys using his 1" circle because that is how they are placed.
Our experience using templates over the last thirty or so public and other private games, with over 50 different players, have resulted in our following experiences:
1. Templates break from the simplicity of the game in determining number of hits.
2. They break from the ease of play by stressing exact placement of figures in this one single area.
3. They are a point of contention and potential disagreement which a simple dice roll avoided in the past
4. It's another bit of equipment you need beyond the dice and tape measure
5. It slows down the combat resolution
6. Have you tried looking straight down on figures in the middle of the board?
So, in future Bolt Action Boot Camps we will NOT be using templates. Instead we will use the casualty calculation of HE vs men in buildings. (HE Chart Page 70) This means combat resolution will be streamlined and potential contentions removed.
Roll to hit, roll to determine number of hits, roll to kill, roll for Pins. Resolution over in under a minute. Contention points reduced to zero.


Friday, 13 January 2017

Maginot Line December 1944

A little probe from the first Germans
It's that time of year and we are getting ready for a new Bolt Action Boot Camp at Cancon 2017 over the Australia Day weekend Fri 27 and Sat 28 January.
This year we are trying a few new ideas.
Firstly the key to a good game with enough variety in the time available is not just the points, but more the dice count.
Secondly in the past we have kept the multiple player matches aligned so that each pair of players share a dice bag but wait for the other player's to finish before the next turn starts. We are trying some flexibility by having 2 games on the same 8 x 4 board which is really two 4 x 4 boards joined together. This way we can start a game as soon as we rest after the previous one.
A little counter probe from the US
This side
And that side

Background:

In December 1944 the Maginot Line near the border of France and Germany was basically a shell of it's former "glory". Having been bypassed in 1940 and forced to surrender when race surrendered it had never been tested. By 1944 it had been stripped of most of it's guns but still formed a formidable fortress.
The Germans did not like a static defence and so used the fortress as storage rather than a place to hold and preferred the areas around the fortress so they could stage their favourite tactic of counter attacking and fluid defence.
(More information can be found at Military History Online - a fascinating read.)
We also first heard about this series of battles in the amazing book Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck.

The Game:

We have two armies for each of the Germans and the US. One a lighter force of 750 points and the other tougher with some armour of 1,100 points. To simplify the game each half of the board has two objectives and both sides start from the edges.

Germany - 750 points:

85 - First Lt + Minion (Regular)
2 x 127 - Volks Grenadier (9 men: NCO Assault Rifle, 1 LMG, 4 Assault Rifles, 3 Rifles, 2 PzFaust)
30 - Medic (Veteran)
2 x 120 - Heer Regular (10 Men: NCO Rifle, 1 LMG, 8 Rifles)
50 - MMG Team (Regular)
95 - Sdkfz 222 (Regular)
754 Points - 8 Dice

US - 750 Points:

85 - First Lt + Minion (Regular)
4 x 120 - US Regular (11 Men: NCO Rifle, 2 x BAR, 8 x Rifle)
50 - MMG Team (Regular)
135 - M8 Armoured Car (Regular - With Pintle HMG)
750 Points - 7 Dice

Germany - 1,100 points:

95 - First Lt + 2 Minions (Regular)
2 x 185 - Heer Veterans (10 men: NCO Assault Rifle, 2 x LMG, 7 x Rifle, 2 x PzFaust)
30 - Medic (Veteran)
2 x 135 - Heer Grenadier (Regular) (10 Men: NCO Assault Rifle, 1 LMG, 8 Rifle, 2 x zFaust)
245 - PzIVH with Schurzen (Regular)
89 - Sdkfz 251 Hanomag (Regular)
1099 points - 8 Dice

US - 1,100 points

85 - First Lt + Minion (Regular)
2 x 208 - Paratrooper Veteran (12 men: NCO Rifle, 2 x LMG, 9 x Rifle)
2 x 110 - Regular Infantry (10 Men: NCO Rifle, 2 x BAR, 7 x Rifle)
60 - Bazooka Team (Regular)
230 - M4A1 Sherman with Pintle HMG (Regular)
99 - M3 Half Track with Pintle HMG (Regular)
1,110 points - 8 Dice

Now for the play-testing tomorrow!

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