Saturday, March 10, 2018

Battling with Bastardized Black Powder: Big Bash Based upon Borodino, Part 3

We pick up the action with the Russians eagerly awaiting their half of Turn 3. However, what happened was... French Turn 4, as Napoleon played his "Seize the Initiative" card, giving the French a free Turn!

There was much lamenting in the Russian camp over this unexpected turn of events (neither side knew what cards the other had, nor what they did). but after some melodramatic wailing and and even a few brotherly hugs of  consolation, they did what Russians always do - dug in their heels on defense, and planned how to wear down the enemy until their chance would come!

French gave them little respite before pressing the attack! I believe that is the Old Guard behind the lines of French infantry in front of the Fleches. 

Napoleon himself looks on as the French attempt to take the Great Redoubt!

French cavalry charge Russians in the woods. As might be expected, this didn't end well for them, but some times you gotta try it to find out!

The very ground nearly shook with the roar of the canon and the sharp pops of musket fire all along the lines. 


French and Italian troops press the attack on Utitsa and the hanging Woods. 

Another view of the situation on the South of the field. 

And yet another view from the Russian perspective - they have plenty of reserves behind Utitsa! 

On the extreme North of the woods, a French column charges a Russian Line. 

Some of the heaviest fighting occurred around the Fleches.

Especially brutal was the combat in the French salient between the hanging Woods and the Fleches. 
"The Battle of the Bulge!"

Russian position between the Fleches and the Great Redoubt... 

and between the Great Redoubt and the Northern Woods. 

Aerial view of the Fleches.

French troops try to swarm the Great Redoubt. 

The Rusians seem to be gaining the upper hand in the Bulge.

In the great Redoubt, 2 Russian batteries are shaken and Disordered, another with 2 hits. This battery would be Shaken if it were anything but Russian, but the large Russian batteries have a stamina of 3... just like the Russian Infantry has a stamina of 4 instead of 3 like the French. Still, how much longer can the Russians hold this position?

We had three visitors to the game from HMGS East, including the Treasurer and a photographer. Jared's club has received modest financial support from a grant from HMGS, and they'd like to see similar, successful programs at other schools. 

General Uvarov contemplates when and where to best use the special effects of his Command Cards. 

Hours of combat can  be exhausting... even the miniature kind!

Close up of the fighting around Utitsa. 

Volatile situation around the Hanging Woods.

View from the ruissian side, looking just North of Utitsa. 

Close up of combat North of the Hanging Woods. 

Close ranks!

Intense fighting continues around the Fleches. 

The Hands of God (Junot) pluck a dispersed unit from the table. 

"The Bulge" again

Overview of the battle form the North near the end of French Turn 4.

The French attack upon Utitsa is defeated!

SCORE:  French 25, Russians 14 at the end of French Move 4,, Russian Move 2. The French have done some serious damage, but will it be enough? 

The Russians finally get their chance to strike back, and, if your humble correspondent's memory is correct, Kutusov plays the Counterattack card; all Russian infantry will get an additional +1 in Melee this Turn!

It is now 2: 20 PM, and the French seem a bit exhausted by two back to back turns of fighting!

Back to the action around Utitsa. 

Action in the Bulge and the two Southern Fleches. 

Situation at the Northern end of the field. 

Desperate fighting continues all along the line at the Fleches. 

View of the fighting at Utitsa, the Hanging Woods, and the Bulge from the French vantage point.

"Send in the Cossacks!" bellows Kutusov, comiting them from Reserve 

Blood bath at the Great Redoubt.

I believe this is the Cavalry of the Imperial Guardj ust North of the Great Redoubt... Chasseurs a Cheval, Grenadiers a Cheval, and the Chevau-Legers Lanciers Polonais. 

The ongoing meat grinder at the Fleches. 

Utitsa as seen from he Russian baseline.

Russian lines near the Hanging Woods. 

Panorama looking North from the Hanging Woods.

The Russian artillery defending the Great redoubt is badly battered, but does not break. 

Here's the situation in and around the Northern Woods. 

More or less impervious to the French cavalry, the French infantry is slowly grinding down the Russian squares. 

Kutusov commits the rest of his Reserves... all of them. They can not charge in their first appearance, but otherwise they enter on to the table up to 12:", and then dice for moves as usual. 

View of the Northern table from behind the French lines. 

Overviews of he table from the North...

and from the South.

Russian Heavy Cavalry to the Rescue near the Fleches!

The Russian defenders in the Great Redoubt are crumbling, but still control the objective!

The infantry of the Russian Guard enters the fray as well!

Kapsevitch and Lavarov battle the French to a bloody standstill around Utitsa. 

The French Salient is crumbling - note all the black markers!

The struggle around Utitsa from the French side. 

More fresh Russian troops enter he table. 

Battle lines at the Fleches. 

South of the Great Redoubt, the Russians have formed a sort of Divisional Square, pouring out fire all around into the flanks and rears of the French. 

Close up of this unique formation!

The Big Picture around the Great Redoubt. 

At the key moment, a true (?)Russian arrives wearing a Kalmnuck cap and playing Russian folk music to buoy the spirits of the warriors of the Tsar. "Save, oh God, thy people..."
I actually spent quite a bit of time with him later explaining the game etc, with a little gratuitous Napoleonic history thrown in, only to find that he teaches European History, LOL!

Russian Cuirassiers threaten to ride down Polish infantry near the Great Redoubt. 

Action South of the Redoubt again. 

The scene at Utitsa.

close up of fighting between Utitsa and the Fleches. 

Fierce fighting at the Fleches.

French positions in the North.

SCORE:  French 35, Russians 38 at the end of French Move 4,, Russian Move 3. The Russians have come roaring back!

The mood is somewhat tense as the French kick off their Move 5. It is now 3:30 PM. 

Pretty much everyone is in the thick of the action!

It's now or never - the French press the attack all along the line. 

at the Great Redoubt...

but the Russians hang on!

Near the Northwoods,  the Russian infantry hangs out grimly in their shaken squares. 

Bruyere and supporting troops launch a massive attack upon Utitsa. 

The Russians have the situation at the Hanging Woods well in hand.

The French have taken  two of the three Fleches! 

  Marshal Nay approaches Napoleon, begging for more troops to consolidate his success. 

The Emperor replies, "More Troops?!  And where do you expect me to get them? 
I am I supposed to paint them?!"

Situation at the end of French Turn 5; it is actually now 4:15 PM. With a Russian turn to come, and with them having plenty of  Fresh troops, it is doubtful that the French will be able to hold even the meager gains they have made (the + numbers are objective points). 
The battle is declared a Russian Victory, if not a decisive one. 

A little celebratory music for the Russian players;  "The Great Gate of Kiev",
from "Pictures at an Exhibition" by Modest Mussorgsky, as arranged for orchestra by Ravel.
This music was on the first album I ever bought!


For those who have asked, here are the rules modifications that Jared and company used for this game, followed by the QRS:

Modifications to Black Powder:

- We play grand tactical Black Powder, meaning every unit is a regiment, every command is a division, and divisions are organized into corps.

- I decreased movement rates to 6 inches for infantry, 9 inches for cavalry, and reduced weapon ranges to feel a bit more accurate (and for 15mm figures with a 4 foot wide table - Peter) .

- To demonstrated the ability of light cav, horse arty, and columns to move faster, I gave all of them +1 to command checks.

- Regarding orders- I allow units to take at least one move even if they fail their command check.  This keeps things moving quicker.  That said, if a command is failed, we still use the rule that no other commands can be given to that division.

- We don’t use the blunder table.

- Other than charges, limbering and unlimbering, and forming square, we allow players to roll their command check first, and then decide what they want to do with their increments. 

- We allow disordered troops to receive orders at a -1 penalty.  Additionally, we allow them to declare charges.

- We allow shaken troops to receive orders at a -2 penalty.  Additionally, we allow them to declare charges, though if they take a single hit the charge is stopped as per rules as written.

- I streamlined all of the special rules, which can be overwhelming, and incorporated unit abilities into stat lines.  Thus, I simplified the whole process so the students wouldn’t need to look up special rules every 5 minutes.

- We don’t use any light infantry, but make the assumption that they are present in front of regiments.  To reflect the better French skirmishing, we have them fire at +1 from 0-3in whereas the Russians take a -1 penalty at 3-6in and receive no bonus for short range OR closing fire.

- I use a victory point system not included in the rules.  1 point scored for “shaking” a unit, 1 point scored for “destroying” a unit, with bonuses if you destroy guard units and negatives for militia and Cossacks.  (Peter: I believe this is 2 points each for shaking/destroying Guard Units, and 0.5 point for Shaking/destroying Militia/Cossack units)


(Jared's version of the QRS has this nicely formatted with 2 columns per page, and it all fits on 2 page sides. I couldn't figure bout how to preserve that formatting for the blog post, so if you want a copy in PDF  format, just ask) 

Black Powder Quick Reference Sheet 

1) Sequence of Play:
A) Team A makes initiative moves, make command checks, and move all other troops.
B) Team A fires.
C) Team A carries out and resolves melee.
E) Team A removes disorders.
F) Repeat process for Team B

2) Command Chart-
Roll 2D6 to administer order.
Equal or 1 less than command rating= 1 segment
2 less= 2 segments
3 less or greater= 3 segments
FAIL- 1 segment- no more orders for that command
Assault Column, Light Cav, Horse Arty: +1 to command checks.
Divisional “Follow Me!”
Attach divisional commander to a single unit: +2 to command check

3) Movement Chart:
Infantry - 6in per segment
Limbered Arty- 6in per segment
Horse Arty- 9in per segment
Cavalry- 9in per segment
Commanders- 24in
Costs 1 segment to:
Change formation
Change facing
Column to Line= FREE

4) Shooting Ranges: in inches
Muskets- 0-3/3-6
Light Artillery- 0-12/12-24
Heavy Artillery- 0-16/16-32

5) Shooting Modifiers:
Base 4+ to hit
-1 shaken or disordered
-1 target is unlimbered artillery
-1 Russian muskets at long range
-1 shooter used 2 increments
-2 shooter used 3 increments
+1 French muskets at short range
+1 French closing fire
+1 artillery firing at 3in or less
+1 target is a square or column
Flank/Rear Shot= DOUBLE DICE
Formations + Shooting:
Assault Columns: Reduce to 1D6
Squares- 1D6 per facing up to maximum of 3D6 total shots.
Roll of “6” to hit = DISORDER
If the modified to hit is 7+, TWO “6s” cause ONE hit AND DISORDER.

6) Save Modifiers
+1 cover (against shooting only)
-1 hit by Light Artillery
-2 hit by Heavy Artillery

7) Close Combat Modifiers:
Base 4+ to hit
+1 Charging
+1 Locked in combat AND WON last round
-1 Shaken or disordered
-1 Engaged on flank or rear
Roll to hit and save as normal.
8) Combat Results:
Each side must determine their combat score.
Add the number of unsaved hits you caused +/- the following modifiers to determine total score.
+1 Defending an obstacle or cover
+1 Rear supported (max 2)
+1 Per flank supported (max 1 per flank)
+2 Infantry in assault column
+1 Cavalry vs infantry in assault column
+2 Cavalry vs infantry in line formation
+2 Infantry/cavalry vs artillery
+6 Square vs cavalry
Flank/Rear support=
Friendly unit facing same direction within 3 inches.
If winner is SHAKEN in combat, remove hits as if the unit just passed a break test.
Loser takes a break test!. Consult Break test chart.

Winner: No break test. May Sweeping Advance OR hold position. Cavalry may make a second charge.
Loser: Take a break test!. Consult Break test chart.
TIED COMBAT: Both sides take a break test IF SHAKEN AND TOOK AN EXTRA HIT, otherwise remain locked in melee.

9) Break Tests:
Break Test Modifiers:
-1 disordered
-1 shaken
-1 per excess hit past stamina
-1 unit hit by artillery this turn
-1 infantry in line defeated by cavalry in melee
-1 artillery defeated in melee
-1 unit shot at or in melee on flank or rear
Roll 2D6 +/- modifiers.  Consult chart to determine results.
7 or less- Unit destroyed.
8 or more- Unit holds ground.
4 or less- Unit destroyed.
5- Unit retires 1 move.
6- From shooting- Unit holds ground.  From melee- Unit retires 1 move.
7 or more- From shooting- Unit holds ground.  From melee- Unit retires 1 move.
4 or less- Unit destroyed.
5- Unit retires 1 move.
6- From shooting- Unit holds ground.  From melee- Unit retires 1 move.
7 or more- Unit holds ground.


  1. Splendid all the way round! The game was a real nail-biter and the kids seemed to all be deeply involved, which is what it´s all about.
    Thanks very much for writing up the rule changes, they look very much worth a go.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Basil. Jared wrote up the rule changes. Make note of the troop and leader ratings in the first post as well.

  2. Well! That was an epic struggle and refreshing to see a large group of young bucks (and does) locking horns on a huge and figure-filled table. Quite an accomplishment. I wager the participants remember this titanic struggle for a long time. Chapeau to Jared!

    Peter, what type of assistance did HMGS East provide?

    Your reporting very much appreciated.

    1. It was indeed an epic struggle, and I would certainly be surprised if it didn't stay with the participants for a long, long time.

      HMGS, as a non profit organization, has an annual budget for education; for example, for 2017, they budgeted $7,000 total for education. They have a regular grant application process for those requesting support. As a non profit, all of this available to the public on the HMGS East website. As to the amounts allocated to individual grants and what it was spent on and in what years, that level of detail is not provided. Whatever it was, I would say that they got an outstanding ROI here. I made my own contribution to the club a few months ago, a Complete Large River Set from my Wizard Kraft Kickstarter, and was happy to see some of it in use here.

    2. Peter, next time the collection plate is passed, let me know.

    3. We just need to get you to Historicon some year, Jon, and you can meet Jared (and Barry, and Tim from the UK, and myself, and other nefarious characters in person! :-)

    4. Well,perhaps some year you and Jake or Scott might make the trip together. There's a regular cadre from the West Coast that come out every year (and Tim from the UK). That would be a bit pricey for me, but Historicon is well worth the trip at least once!

  3. Hi, impressive and splendid battle. I would like a copy if the PDF QRS if it wouldn't be too much trouble?

    Steven DOT Whitesell AT gmail.

    Thank you sir.

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Steven. I enjoyed checking out your own blog. PDF is on its way

  4. Replies
    1. Had they fought Russian turn 4, the Russians would have been further ahead, I would say.

  5. Great to see youth involved in non electronic gaming :-)

  6. How wonderful Peter. The quality of the pictures and your commentary were very, very enjoyable. "Where do you expect me to get more reinforcements, Paint them" - Gold!!

    1. Thanks, Carlo. That last was of course a take off on Napoleon's alleged response to Ney at Waterloo after the fall of La Haye Sainte...

    2. Absolutely mate which made it, from my perspective, hilarious. I will “borrow that” term let me assure you Peter. Gold!

  7. Very entertaining, and it was nice to see the Russians eventually prevail. a very see-sawing engagement however.

    1. Thanks, Lawrence. The Russians earned their victory!

  8. Glad to see young people playing on a such beautiful and huge table, great looking game Peter!

    1. Thanks, Phil; Jared did a great job organizing it all, niot to mention painting the vast majority of the figures!

  9. A brilliantly organised and run experience by the looks of it. Well done to all involved, and the correct result :). Can you tell my napoleonics aren't French?


    1. Evidently not. Hard to have much Napoleonic War without some French, though!

    2. :-) Glad you enjoyed it regardless!