BLACK POWDER HOUSE RULES BP2  – May 2021 version 3

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. At the end I have some notes on commonly forgotten rules and important clarifications.  Latest changes are to the section on the Napoleonic Must Form Square Rule. 



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 many 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.  Importantly no new phases have been added to the game turn.

Initiative Phase

Declare and undertake initiative movement – there is no change to the basic rules for this.

Optional: 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. Counterchargers move to meet their chargers as usual.

Firing Phase

Moving player carries out firing as per the rules.

Optional: 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


The rules allow interpenetration of units at all times. We have debated this at different times as we think this is too free and leads to some very unrealistic tactics. Rule - We allow interpenetration by formed troops but not if a charge is involved. Chargers can interpenetrate their sides skirmishers.


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 infantry move at half speed through woods except when moving as the result of a break test when they move full speed.

Rule - Formed infantry 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.


Charging units becoming shaken by closing fire or suffering artillery hits take an Engaged in Combat Break Test.   This is as BP1 was written however this was amended by the FAQ No 18 as below.

Because the best result that cavalry can get from such a test is ‘retire’ this makes it practically impossible for cavalry to charge home onto artillery (they would have to suffer zero casualties from 3 shots per cannon requiring 3+to hit and -2 saves).

Rule - The test for cavalry when charging in should be taken using the Shooting results on the Break Test, and not the Hand-to-Hand results as you would for all other cases.


Attack columns get a +1 Morale save against everything other than artillery fire.  The problem here is that nothing defines when this ends in a melee/engagement.  This makes attack columns in ongoing melees suffer low losses compared with their opponents.  Even worse in a recent BP2 French Vs Russian action when it was 2 columns engaged.

 A possible solution is in Albion Triumphant - if the attack column’s opponent does not Retire or Break in the first round of melee then in subsequent rounds the attack column ceases to get its +1 Morale save.  This was used in the June 2019 TGG Waterloo game.

However I prefer a much simpler rule which is that an attack column gets a +1 Morale save as long as they are not Disordered or Shaken  or if you prefer only when they are not Shaken.


Some battlefields were noticeably wet for most of the day (Waterloo) or became very wet (Katzbach) and at some there were large areas covered in tall standing crops.  All of this slowed movement.  Due to this all units are limited to a maximum of 2 moves when ordered rather than the normal maximum of 3 moves.

Further Option - If you adopt this do you also change the Order Rolls so even, -1, -2 equal 1 move anything else 2 moves?


There is a new version of the Broken Brigade rule in BP2.  However given that Shaken units still count when brigades are being assessed as Broken I think this makes brigades very susceptible to becoming Broken.

My suggestion - a Brigade of more than 2 units is Broken when only 1 of its units remains unbroken.  The others have either Broken or Retired Shaken from the Table.  Once a brigade is declared Broken the rules in BP2 apply to the remaining unit.


This is a 2021 revision of the rules for squares which we have used successfully since June 2013.  The new element is that infantry cannot form square if the cavalry start their charge from only 1 move away.  They had their chance to form square in their previous turn. This idea could be used with the standard square rules.

Rule - Non disordered infantry in the open charged by cavalry to their front must attempt to form square as their charge response.  However if the cavalry are within 1 move the infantry cannot form square as a response and can just give closing fire. 

To form a square as a response 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 3 moves to contact then infantry have a command modifier of +1

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.


Under the basic rules skirmishers are very limited in the units they can charge. 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 shaken or disordered formed troops frontally and all troops in the flank or rear.


This is my idea for dealing with SYW/AWI legions which were mixed infantry and cavalry units.

Rule - Treat them as small skirmishing infantry units but give them an extra hand to hand dice, they shoot normally, move as infantry but evade as light cavalry so can evade cavalry and they have a cavalry evade move of 12" at 66% scale.

This rule is for small Legions eg Light Horse Harry Lee's or Pulaski's Legion. Larger Legions like Tarleton's was big enough to be split into distinct infantry and cavalry units.


The only extra formation that I suggest using.  The 4 deep infantry line allowed the British and Allied troops under Wellington at Waterloo to form up on the restricted battlefield.  It looks like an attack column i.e. 3 bases wide and 2 bases deep - but isn’t an attack column.  A unit in 4 deep line reduces its Hand to Hand and Shooting values by 1.  It does not count as being in column so does not suffer a +1 to being shot by artillery.


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”

Proximity distance is standard 12"

However we reduce Initiative distance to 8"



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.


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.


This rule applies to the famously uncontrollable British heavy Cavalry at Waterloo.  They get a +1 to a Charge Order, have a Ferocious Charge (Page 101) and must make a sweeping advance or advance upon the retiring enemy even if this takes them of the table.  They suffer a +2 to their command rule when dicing to return. 

This is from Albion Triumphant


Page 29 ORDERS – Not stating an order before rolling command dice is a Failed Order and a Blunder.

Page 31 COMMAND BONUSES AND PENALTIES - No command rating can be modified to more than 10 or less than 5.

Page 69 MORALE SAVES - Once a defender has lost a round of combat they no longer get cover saves. As an example normal troops Morale Save drops in a BUA from a 2+ to a 4+.

Page 80 UNITS THAT HOLD THEIR GROUND - Units struck in flank or rear which hold their ground after a round of the combat turn to face their opponent and automatically become disordered.



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.


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 and those that have undertaken a Disorderly Retreat this turn..


The Rules As Written can make BUAs seem like mini Hougoumonts.  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.