Wednesday, March 6, 2019

"Black Powder" - Franco-Prussian War in 28mm


Prussian infantry advance in Franco-Prussian War action. These are 28mm figures from Wargames Foundry.
In the fall of 2017 I started off with a new project - gaming the Franco-Prussian War in 28mm.  When I started, I hoped to collect and paint sufficient figures to play both skirmish-style games and games with formed units.  While I was able to run a skirmish game in March of last year, it has taken a little more time to get enough units assembled to a game using formed units. But I have been (relatively) focused on making progress with this project through most of 2018 and into 2019.  Curt's Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge has proven to be an ideal motivational booster. The focus has paid off! I was very excited to run an inaugural game a couple of weeks ago! Here are a few pictures from the evening.

French line along the hills and forest to the left - Prussians advancing on to the table along the top right.
The scenario was for a small encounter battle, set in the very early stages of the war in the summer of 1870. The scenario is very loosely inspired by the Battle of Wissembourg. The Prussians were just beginning to cross the French border in force, and have encountered a small French blocking force.  Being aggressive Prussians, the solution was simple - get to grips with them, and get them out of the way! The French would hold out as long as they could, hoping their comrades would come marching toward the sound of the guns and help out...

The French line is anchored by a battery of muzzle-loading 12-pounders.
Founding Conscript Curt was visiting from Regina, which is always a lot of fun.  Curt and Dallas took command of the Prussian forces - five battalions of regular infantry, a battalion of Jagers, a regiment of dragoons, and two batteries of divisional artillery.  In the event the French resistance proved too stubborn, I also had a little "surprise" mechanism hidden up my sleeve whereby the Prussians could call on their corps artillery to assist with "blockage-removal..."

French Hussars in a blocking position along the road. In the distance, at the top left of the photo, Curt's units can be seen moving to take out that lone French battalion on the hill at the top of the photo.
The stoic French were commanded by Byron and MikeF.  The French forces consisted of three battalions of regular infantry, one battalion of "Turcos", a regiment of Hussars, a battery of 12-pounders and, last but not least, a mitrailleuse battery.

The French senior commanders ponder their situation...
Of course, the rules we used were "Black Powder".  One of the things I enjoy so much about those rules is how easy they are to customize.  When it comes to unit stats, I find Black Powder puts too many dice in the combat columns and not enough in the firepower columns.  Particularly in a conflict defined to a large extent by the performance of rifles like the French Chassepot, I wanted the players to be shooting (and, subsequently, for the Prussians to realize that the French rifles are awesome...). But with a great set of rules like "Black Powder", that's an easy fix... 

Dallas' Prussians take up position and engage the French line in a hot firefight...it is a tough go, as the French rifles were blazing.
So, boom, adjustments to the statistics were made - units overall had more firepower, but the French in particular had even more, while the Prussians had  extra stamina to reflect their larger-sized units and general willingness of their officers to happily plow them forward into the teeth of heavy fire...I also made a few tweaks to make the French Turcos to be rock-hard - by all accounts, they performed as such during the war. So they were ranked as "Elite", able to shake off "disorder" with a successful dice roll.

French battalion in position in the woods...Curt's Prussians are eyeing up that exposed flank...

French troops try to do their duty for the Second Empire!
The French forces occupied a line of hills and a wood covering an important road.  The Prussians would move on to the table on turn one, and look to bludgeon their way past these gallic upstarts... 

Curt moves to take the French flank, but the fire of the Chassepot rifles takes near-immediate effect...
Battle was joined! Things opened, naturally, with some command blunders on the Prussian side which saw Dragoons ignore instructions to threaten the French flank and instead simply wander on to the table and get in everyone's way.  Dallas moved his brigade forward to the cover offered by a walled road, and began trading fire with the French battalions on the ridge.

The French Mitrailleuse battery hammers away at the advancing Prussians.
Despite the wanderings of the Dragoons, the French flank was still a touch vulnerable, and Curt was determined to roll it up, so he sent an infantry battalion on a flank advance instead.  They would suffer heavily at the hands of French rifle fire as they advanced.

French battalion takes position to cover a gap in the line...
The Prussians brought their artillery to bear, and it started to have an effect on the French.  Curt managed to get an assault home, taking a French battalion in the flank and sweeping them from the table. Even as Chassepot and Mitrailleuse volleys took several Prussian units to the brink, and even broke one or two of them, the French line finally gave way on the sixth turn.  Fittingly the Turcos, who had ignored nearly every hit they took, and routinely dispensed with any disorder status thanks to their elite ranking (and MikeF's amazing dice rolls), were the final French unit still on the table - they would have covered the withdrawal...

The stars of the game, the French Turcos...

MikeF shook off nearly every hit from rifle fire and every "disorder" that came up...these guys were not in a mood to give ground...
Oh man, it was just great to see this game played! I had a ton of fun running it, and I hope the guys enjoyed it too.  One takeaway from the game that I will need to adjust for next time is the rate at which "disorder" occurs - because I significantly increased the rate of firing, I also materially increased the odds of a "6" being rolled in shooting, so it was tough for the Prussian infantry to keep moving.  In many ways, this is "historical", in the sense that the French rifle fire was murderous, but the Prussian players should at least have a chance to keep moving, and so I will likely make some adjustments to the "disorder" rate. But otherwise, "Black Powder" was fantastic - indeed, the ease of adjustment and customization is one of its greatest strengths as a rules set, and this game showed that once more.

Another view of the action from the road...casualties starting to pile up on the Prussian side...but they are victorious in the end!
While my 28mm Franco-Prussian war collection is still modest, at least we now have the basics for a game, and of course I will continue to add units here and there to "round out" the collection, allowing for some larger games in the future.  Big thanks to Curt for visiting, and to Dallas, Byron and MikeF for coming out to play - I hope they enjoy this new period as much as I do!

10 comments:

L'Empereur Zoom13 said...

Beautifull figures & table!
:-)

alex sengir said...

Great!

Phil said...

Glad to see this period played, great looking game!

Jason said...

That really does look superb! I think your collection is larger than mine and I started mine about 20 years ago!

The disorder rule as it stands is already really powerful I think. If you get 3 units firing at one enemy unit there is a 50% chance it will become disordered, that's a lot of potential for slowing up attacks - take care not to bog the game down! :-)

I really am inspired to do some more painting of FPW after seeing your troops in action.

Best wishes,
Jason

Neil Scott said...

Great looking figures

JamieM said...

What a fantastic looking game! Great to get all those lovely painted figures into action on the tabletop.

DaveV said...

Great looking game. There's something about seeing all those battalions maneuvering across the table.

john de terre neuve said...

Great looking game Greg.

John

Curt C said...

It was a fabulous game Greg and such a treat to finally see all your troops arrayed on the tabletop. Dallas and I had our work cut out for us, and most of our troops were shot to ribbons, but we managed to get in those few critical assaults to turn the tide. I agree that the disorder mechanism may need to be tweaked as it can get a bit brutal with more dice involved.

Dallas said...

Super fun and amazing looking game. Thanks again for putting it on for us Greg!