Thursday 5 November 2015

The Just War Doctrine

Recently, our merry band convened for our second game of Black Powder using 6mm American Civil War models.

In the first test game, *mumble* months ago, each side consisted of just a few infantry units, so we could get a handle on the rules. Kieron and I had the union forces, against Wes and Pete's confederates.

It was in that test game that Kieron made the error of saying "that's just war" when Wes was bleating about the small disparity of numbers on each side. Black Powder doesn't use points, you see, so we'd just lined up the very small forces we had available and had at it. There was some scenario that we came up with, but at this remove I've no idea what it was.

Anyway. The "just war" comment seems to have made something of an impression. Pete in particular was so upset by it that he painted an entire army, in secret, before the next game. Wes also increased the size of his force and added some artillery. This feat is particularly impressive when you consider that Wes and Pete would both have had their vision blurred by bitter tears this whole time. The "that's just war, dickheads!" banner on Pete's command stand was a particularly stirring touch.

So, what we, the gallant and sportsmanlike players on the union side, thought would be another small skirmish was in fact a case of a very small union force being caught on the hop by a much larger formation of sneaky rebels!

The Black Powder rules really shone here. We were able to quickly come up with a rough scenario - the union force would try to retreat the length of the table, while partly encircled by the confederates. We figured that if the union could escape with more units than it lost, that could count as a union win - anything else would go to the confederacy. As simple as that! We deployed the union force around a small farm, with the confederates off the table - they would move on in their first turn.

I took pictures, but I can only vaguely remember what happened here, so I'll try to roughly sketch it out with the aid of the photos.

We'd decided that my mid-sized brigade would try to stall the rebel advance, so I lined it up by the farm in order to intercept Pete's large infantry force as it moved forward.

At the same time, Kieron's two smaller brigades struck out towards the location of the confederate flanking force. The hope was that they could fight through there, and then have a fairly open line of retreat.

Artillery opened up on my position, but mercifully didn't achieve much. I didn't have much to do there really, so fell back to the foot of a hill.

Pete's force got a bit disorganised (we'd decided that the rebels would be inexperienced so they had to roll a die to see if they got into trouble the first time they attacked) but in general they were rolling toward me. My plan was to retreat in stages, with a regiment firing at the advancing enemy as the rest of my force pulled away.

Kieron and Wes clashed, and things got messy there. After some shooting and even some charges, both of Wes' brigades had broken, but so had one of Kieron's. Kieron's second brigade wasn't looking too healthy either.

Pete's cavalry tried to get involved, but repeatedly did so badly on orders tests that it could only trot forward a bit and never actually met the enemy.

Back at the hill, I got into trouble. It all looked so simple - just keep falling back and give some fire to put the rebels off their stride - but I just couldn't get the dice to agree, and I failed the orders test several times in a row.

Thus it was that Pete's infantry was able to pour fire into mine and even bring up a cannon for enfilading fire, while I was caught out of formation and barely able to do anything in return. Eventually, my force succumbed to the inevitable and broke.

On the flank, Kieron made a try at rescuing something, but with only a single target left to aim at, the confederates were able to break his remaining brigade too.

So a loss to the union, but not a terrible one given the circumstances - we at least got rid of a couple of enemy brigades.

As I said earlier, I was impressed with how Black Powder handled this very uneven matchup. Right until the end, it never felt like there was nothing that Kieron and I could do, it always felt like a bit more luck would have seen us through it.

So it's a shame that we can never play it again, really...


  1. I'd like to point out that I didn't lose my second brigade and my small infantry only brigade thoroughly smashed Wes's larger force with artillery support.

    As far as I'm concerned. I won. :)

  2. I stand corrected. It wasn't looking good for your last brigade though, as I recall. Weren't they only "saved" by Pete breaking my brigade and ending the game?

  3. Neither of you seem to be dealing with this very well.

    Taste of your own medicine ànd the tears start....

    1. Would a better response be to silently sob for a whole year, painting feverishly whilst plotting 'revenge'?

      And still almost lose?