I call this a ‘new project’ but in honesty it’s hardly new. I first picked up the Black Powder rules at TotalCon 24, over a year ago. I read through them, liked the open ended nature of the system, then shelved the book. I was deeply involved in Flames of War then and lack of spare time nixed any idea of painting up figures for anything other than FoW. That and the fact that my gaming group at the time was wholly devoted to Battlefront and Flames of War meant that any side project just wouldn’t get played.
I attended Historicon 2010 and had the opportunity to play in a massive Black Powder demo game that was sponsored by Warlord Games and the Perry brothers, all of whom were present to participate as players and advisers. This was my first time playing the rules and I was thoroughly impressed. Even on the massive scale of the demo game (I believe the table was 24′ x 8′) and countless figures the game played very fast and smooth. This is doubly impressive given that most of the players had no experience with the rules, other than myself and a handful of others who had at least read them.
I hesitate to call Black Powder ‘simple’ because that word has negative connotations for some hard core historical gamers. But, there isn’t a lot of nitty gritty detail to get in the way of the game, and this of course contributes to the system’s high playability. There are of course distinctions between troop types, morale levels, armament and so forth, and when playing the differences between units feels right, but this is accomplished without the endless tables and stat cards of some systems. I’m not knocking stat cards and tables by the way, some of my favorite games (ASL) are buried in them. I’m just saying they aren’t necessarily needed, and their absence doesn’t make a game less worthy.
Part of the reason for lack of hardcore detail is the open ended nature of the system. Using the Black Powder rules, you can simulate any conflict that occurred during the “black powder” era which can be roughly defined as the 200 year period from 1700-1900. Clearly including all the minutiae for every possible troop type in the period is not practical. And it is not necessary. As I said earlier the system evokes the proper ‘feel’ and that is what matters. You can certainly tell the difference when your militia levy goes toe to toe with a veteran grenadier regiment for example. And different weapon types are differentiated as well, rifles, muskets, rifle-muskets, breech loading carbines all have different characteristics that have a measurable effect on the game.
Recently, there has been a flurry of interest in Black Powder at my local game store, Battleground Games & Hobbies. This has encouraged me to pick the game up again; several of the store regulars have forces already for the AWI period. My preferred periods are ACW and Napleonic, but I can work with Rev War just fine. A friend of mine has begun collecting figures to field a Colonial militia force. Jonathan (CWF Gamecast) is known for developing a strong interest in a particular game, but having weak follow through when it comes to modeling. My challenge to him was once I saw some paint on his colonials, I would place an order for enough figures for my first Hessian regiment.
As can be seen from his blog post, he is on his way, so I will order my Hessian troops this weekend. More painting *sigh*. Not my favorite part of the the hobby, but the 28mm Perry figures should be easier on my old eyes than the 15mm figs I painted up for Flames of War.