BLACK POWDER HOUSE RULES - APRIL 2014 UPDATE

As you will see from the reports in the blog I am an enthusiast for the Black Powder rules. I find them simple and fun to play. But a few issues have appeared in our games. So here are some house rules and ideas for house rules that we have used in our games or which I have seen suggested on other sites or which I have picked up from other BP rule sets. I have now added some notes on commonly forgotten rules and important clarifications at the end.  The most important change to the rules is the modified sequence of play which I think gives a much better game.  The latest addition is the modified rule for Mixed formations.

MODIFIED SEQUENCE OF PLAY
This comes from the WSS “& Blenheim” rule modifications by Ian Hopping available on the Yahoo BP Forum. We have used this revised turn sequence in all our games for at least 2 years and it seems to work well. It prevents the often complained issue of units making double or treble moves and firing at their enemy at short range when the enemy has not been able to fire. It also gives unit’s a chance to exploit the effect of their shooting by charging units that may have become shaken or disordered. As an example it allows shooting to disorganise or shake squares which can then be charged by cavalry in the command phase.  This version is my extended text of the original.

Initiative Phase
Declare and undertake initiative movement – there is no change to the basic rules for this.
All moving units to be marked as having moved this turn. (They cannot move again in Command Phase).
Reactions - Any units charged may deliver ‘Closing Fire’ at the end of the initiative. Units evading are moved at the end of the initiative moves. Counterchargers move to meet their chargers as usual.

Firing Phase
Moving player carries out firing as per the rules.
All firing units to be marked as having fired this turn (for modified Command Penalty).

Command Phase
Give orders and move as per the Command phase of the rules.
There is an additional command penalty:
“-1 if fired this turn”
Any units charged may deliver ‘Closing Fire’ if they have not fired before in this turn.

Melee Phase
Conduct Melees as per rules

INTERPENETRATION
The rules allow interpenetration of units at all times. We have debated this at different times as we think this is too free and could lead to some unrealistic tactics. Our initial house rule was that formed units could only interpenetrate other formed units as the result of retiring due to a break test. In our recent games we have relaxed this and allowed interpenetration by formed troops but not if a charge is involved. The third option comes from Hail Caesar.
Rule - option 1 - Formed units can only interpenetrate other formed units as the result of movement from a break test
Rule - option 2 - Formed units can interpenetrate other formed units except when a charge is involved.
Rule - option 3 - When Interpenetrating a formed friendly unit, if the centre of your formed unit does not pass through the friendly unit, then there is no penalty - however if the centre does pass through then you risk disorder - dice for each unit and on a score of 1,2,3 it becomes disordered.

TERRAIN
I don’t like the basic rules for moving thru woods in which everyone operates as skirmishers. I prefer that trained skirmishers still have advantages in wooded terrain so the 2 rules we have been using are:
Rule - Formed troops move at half speed through woods except when moving as the result of a break test when they move full speed.
Rule - Formed troops are not an ‘unclear target’ in woods. (To give them this would give them the same cover as skirmishers in woods).

To clarify - Troops in woods get the morale modifier for cover except when charging to contact or in hand to hand combat.

NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN SPECIAL RULE
Under the basic rules skirmishers can only charge formed troops who are already engaged in hand to hand combat. Allowing formed troops to move thru woods limit’s the effectives of Indian skirmishers in forest fighting so I suggest the following.
Rule - Indian skirmishers are allowed to charge skirmishers and shaken or disordered formed troops frontally and all troops in the flank or rear.

BREAK TESTS FOR SUPPORTING UNITS
Under the basic rules all units which could have supported a broken unit in hand to hand combat should test. This did seem excessive in our early games so we decided to limit this by nominating the units providing support so only up to 3 units need make this test - one on each flank and one to the rear.
Rule - Only the nominated units which provide the +1 support need test if the supported unit breaks - surplus supporting units do not need to test.

In addition we had issues with supporting units at full strength simply breaking on this test. We discussed the following rule but I have never applied it any of our games.
Rule - +1 per stamina strength point remaining above casualties in a supporting unit break test. Example a supporting unit with stamina of 3 which has not suffered any casualties would get a +3 in this break test i.e. the unit's minimum break test score would then be 5.

SUPPORTING UNITS
We did consider limiting the units that could provide support simply to the units in the same brigade. I have not applied this as it gives advantages to larger brigades.

66% MOVEMENT AND RANGES
We have often played games using the 66% version of the movement and the ranges. In these games we agree that though ranges and moves were decreased that given the physical size of the 28mm units that
Command radius is standard 12”
Support distance is standard 6”
However we reduce proximity distance to 8"


DISORDERED CAVALRY RALLY BACK
Often cavalry can be stopped standing disordered in front of units firing at them and as disordered are unable to move. There is a rule in Pike and Shot for disordered units rallying back my suggestion is that this can be applied to cavalry in BP.
Rule - a disordered cavalry unit not in combat can fall back a move under Initiative.


SKIRMISHERS
In the rules infantry skirmishers are unable to evade from charging cavalry and this has been a sore point in some of our games. In addition skirmishing units can almost completely halt the advance of enemy infantry.  Here are solutions to both these issues.

Rule - Infantry skirmishers can choose to evade if charged by enemy cavalry (note that skirmishers do not form square as a charge reaction). The charging enemy cavalry do not have to stop where they initially contacted the skirmishers, and can complete their charge move (which may mean they catch the skirmishers).

Rule - Evading skirmishers are disordered

MIXED FORMATIONS
In the rules mixed formations count as skirmishers to all shooting from their front.  I don’t think this should apply to artillery fire which should hit the main unit.
Rule – Mixed formations count as skirmishers to small arms fire from their front

SQUARES (NAPOLEONIC MUST FORM SQUARE RULE)
These are revised rules for squares which we used successfully in our big Waterloo refight in June 2013.

Rule - Non disordered infantry in the open charged by cavalry to their front must attempt to form square as their response.  To do so the infantry must pass an order test based on their brigadier’s command rating counting normal modifiers (except command radius) plus optionally the following: 
If cavalry need 2 moves to contact then infantry have a command modifier of +1
If cavalry need 3 moves to contact then infantry have a command modifier of +2
If they fail they stay in their formation, become disordered and deliver closing fire.

Normal square combat rules apply i.e. cavalry receive no charging bonuses.  However a square testing for a non cavalry combat break test applies all the break tests results.  If they retire they become disordered and form line formation.  As per the rules a square testing for losing or drawing a combat against only cavalry ignore all results except Break.

BROKEN BRIGADE RULE
I do not like the optional standard ‘Broken Brigade’ rule in BP and in particular it has a drastic effect on small brigades of two or three units such as cavalry brigades. To be honest in most of our games we have not applied any Broken Brigade rule. However I suggest the following 2 options.


Option 1
This makes brigades become harder to control as the battle goes on and units are lost. (I would not include the loss of tiny units or guns). This is a variant of a suggestion on the BP forum.
Rule  -1 Command Modifier for each lost or destroyed unit in the brigade.
Rule  -1 Break-Test modifier for each lost or destroyed unit in the same brigade.

Option 2
Pike & Shotte has an improved Broken brigade rule.  We tested them in our big Lutzen 1813 Napoleonic games and in the game simplified them down to this version.  The difference here is that Shaken units can still be rallied but have to be more than 12 inches
from the enemy or in defences etc.  Thus a broken brigade can recover.
A brigade is deemed broken if at the start of a turn more than half of its units (ignoring guns) are lost.

A unit is lost if:
a) it has been destroyed
b) it is shaken

Effect on units in broken brigades:
1) Units that have already left the table cannot return
2) Shaken units within 12 inches
of the enemy must retire except if occupying buildings, defences or in square.
3) Shaken units are allowed to make a free single retire move even if disordered.  Guns that do so are abandoned.
4) Unshaken units in a broken brigade can be given normal orders but their morale is reduced to 6+.

LEVY USEFUL RULE
This is taken from HAIL CAESAR. Useful for applying to militia - the problem with poorly trained troops is keeping them organised in action.  Value can be modified eg 2+ to 5+.   I would combine with Unreliable for militia units.
Levy Useful Rule - Unit must roll 4+ to remove disorder at the end of its turn.

STOIC USEFUL RULE
I used to give Russian Napoleonic infantry the Steady useful rule as suggested in the rulebook. However there is no risk of failure in the first break test with Steady which I think makes it too powerful a useful rule with units surviving in quite impossible situations. Some uncertainty is required. My solution is to use a version of Valiant but amended so that the unit can only reroll the first break test it makes rather than the first test it fails.
Stoic Useful Rule - Unit can reroll the first break test it makes.


POOR SHOTS USEFUL RULE
I apply this rule to Napoleonic Russian infantry (who were notoriously poor shots equipped by a variety of poor muskets) and some militia types e.g. Poor Patriot militia or Indian Mutiny Mobs
Poor Shots Useful Rule - Unit gets a -1 modifier to its shooting dice score.


LANCERS USEFUL RULE
Lancers I think are too powerful in the rules and should not have an advantage vs. enemy cavalry as they already get more hand to hand dice than light cavalry so this is my modified version.
Lancers Useful Rule - Infantry and artillery have -1 Morale Save versus charging lancers.

OFTEN FORGOTTEN RULES

COMMAND VALUE
No command rating can be modified to more than 10 or less than 5. Page 28.

VICTORIOUS UNITS

After winning a melee and it is no longer engaged with the enemy a unit can fall back including a disordered unit. Page 69

 
UNITS FIGHTING TO FLANK OR REAR

Units struck in flank or rear which after a round of the combat turn to face automatically become disordered. Page 73.

COVER/BUAs/MORALE SAVES
Once a defender has lost a round of combat they no longer get cover saves. So normal troops Morale Save drops from a 2+ to a 4+. Page 66



CLARIFICATIONS

THE PROXIMITY RULE
This is taken from a clarification by BP author Rick Priestly on the Yahoo BP Forum.

Once an enemy is within proximity distance a unit cannot move to its flank. It can only move forwards or backwards within its front and rear quarters; it cannot shuffle sideways. This does not prevent a unit turning to face so long as it remains within its front or rear quarter.

For example: - with enemy to the flank within 12 inches you could turn to face the threat just by turning through 90 degrees about your centre - or wheeling forward or back; and having done that you could (assuming you have more command moves) move towards the enemy.

Units making a charge order have to fulfil their order in the most direct way possible - which could be a turn to bring the enemy within the unit's front followed by a charge move. At least two moves would be required in this example.

REMOVING DISORDER
This is taken from the BP FAQ on the Warlord BP Forum.

At the end of each side’s turn all that side’s disorder markers are removed apart from units still engaged in combat and units from broken brigades. The rules for disorder are given as part of the rules for shooting – so they brashly assume we are talking about disorder resulting from enemy shooting. Hence ‘following turn’ is intended to refer to the other side’s turn. Bearing in mind that disorder can occur at other points in the game, the sentence should read, ‘A unit that becomes disordered remains disordered until the end of its own turn.’ (Note that this correction has been included in subsequent printings of the rulebook).


MIXED FORMATION
A unit in mixed-formation does not count both a +1 attack column morale save and -1 'to hit' for skirmishers (shooting is directed against either the skirmishers or the column). 

BUILT UP AREAS (BUAs)
The Rules As Written can make BUAs seem like mini Hougemonts.  At the start of games you should consider making a judgment about the strength of BUAs before the game begins based on their historical effect or on the effect you want them to have in a made up situation.

First off decide is the BUA is composed of mostly wooden structures or is more substantial. Based on that make the cover save either +1 or +2. Then don't automatically go with the default +3 support value for a Standard unit in a BUA. Make a conscious decision whether this should be +1, +2 or +3 (the BUA still cannot be supported by other units as is normal). Finally decide whether the 'ignore all break test results except Break' rule should apply on not.
By using all the above variables you can create all kinds of different strength villages and towns. It becomes easy to get those see saw results that happened so often in Napoleonic battles. No new rules mechanics are required, just a selective application of the rules already available.