|My Landwehr joining the fray, but outpaced by cavalry|
I am very grateful to the guys who made it possible: Patrick for organising, Erwin for writing the scenarios (with a little help), Jelle for selling his troops to me and Peter for lending part of his troops to me for the day.
Black Powder didn't disappoint. After 8 turns, which took us close to 6 hours to play, the Prussian troops had hardly entered Plancenoit. So instead of sweeping changes in the tide of battle, as in 1815, is was now a overloaded table with troops queuing whilst those at the front waited for the dice to roll their way. It made me wonder whether the BP guys that wrote the scenario actually playtested it.
|Turn 2: You are almost in Plancenoit!|
It's good to have some disorganisation, but you can just expect a 2D6 command roll to fail 4 out of 10 rolls if you rating is 8 and you need to roll that or lower. Which hamstrings most of your commands needlessly and raises frustration similarly. If that happens a couple of times of your 8 turns you play, well...
"This is why I don't play toy soldier games any more" a wise man once said...
|Beautiful La Haye Sainte Model|
On the other three tables they were able to (just about) finish their scenarios in time, but I have no idea whether those games felt historical. Then again, that was not the issue of the day. It was an excuse to paint miniatures and have a nice chat. Both those aims were achieved. I might be tempted to join the project next year if it helps me engage my American War of Independence miniatures. I might even pretend to play Black Powder.
|Hougoumont holds out|
Some day I will write the ultimate book on how Big Battles should be fought in miniature, but I'll just start with a few rules I've picked up over the years:
- Rules. Most commercial rules are too complex for big battles. Too many exceptions, too much waiting for other players. But you don't need complex rules with lots of chance (i.e. dice rolls): the decisions of generals should play the main role. So use only the barest minimum of rules
- Amount of troops. Limit this to about 7 units per player. More than that will mean they have to resolve combat with more than one player which slows resolution down. It also puts a lot of pressure on one player while others sit idly waiting for their troops to enter the table.
- Time pressure. The big battles I have participated in which gave the most excitement and sense of fulfilment were those with a pretty sharp turn sequence mercilessly enforced by the umpires.
- Hierarchy. Have commanders and sub commanders. In a tightly run battle, the challenge of command and control is at least as interesting as that of shoving units and rolling dice. It also gives the players the sense of being part of a bigger event.
- Umpires. Last Saturday was a very pleasant occasion, and rules arguments were few and readily solved. But be prepared for rules lawyers and have umpires to decide calls quickly. The game needs to move on. Also, make sure the umpires have the same interpretation or else the space between them will be exploited by competitive players. Umpires are also very useful in keeping the game moving