Monday, December 30, 2013

War of 1812 Black Powder Ideas

As my recent Painting Challenge entry shows, I'm dusting off my War of 1812 collections and plans.  Gaming wise, I like the simplicity and flexibility of the Black Powder system so will use this as my starting point.  One feature that really appeals is that a "unit" can represent a battalion for larger actions and a company or detachment for a small actions.

Most frustrations with BP deal with the orders and activation phase, which lead to all or nothing results that differ from command to command.  Perversely I think that this works for 1812 where nothing seemed to go according to plan.  However, I think I'll graft on the old chestnut of the Control Check from RossMac's With MacDuff to the Frontier rules.  Any command that fails it's Order rest rolls a d6 with results as follows.

  • 1-2 Unit may make a single move but may not advance
  • 3-4 Unit may make a single move as ordered.
  • 5-6 Unit continues its last move (e.g. units in a fire fight stand and shoot)
Once a commander fails an order test, any units without orders will also take a control check.

The other nice feature of BP is the "selection of useful rules" used to differentiate between unit qualities.  My first cut on applying this to 1812 goes as follows.

Redcoats:  By this I mean the numbered British regiments of foot who are acting as a collection of companies as a line infantry unit.  Basically, these are units who are trained to fight in the line of battle like Wellington's troops and include officers and NCOs with line of battle experience.  I don't include small detachments, composite units from several battalions, detached light companies, foreign and fencible regiments, royal marines or the Royal Veteran battalions.  The BP rules First Fire (extra fire dice on first contact)Reliable (+1 on command rolls), and Elite (may recover disorder on a 4+ without rallying) would apply to these units to give them an edge in fire fights and more likely to follow orders.  The BP  Mixed Formation (detached skirmishers)would not apply since they detached their light companies to skirmish.  Also the  Form Square (as a charge response) would not apply in North America - the one cavalry charge in the war was repulsed by fire from redcoats in line.

Regulars:  This includes most U.S. infantry regiments, US artillery serving as infantry, Canadian Fencible regiments, permanent Canadian (i.e. Incorporated and Select) militia units, marines acting as line infantry, Swiss and any British units not meeting the definition of redcoats.  These units are bog standard BP units who may used the Mixed Formation  (they frequently detached pickets) but can't use the Form Square rule.  US units trained by Winfield Scott prior to the 1814 Niagara campaign would get the First Fire bonus.

Regular Light Infantry: This includes detached British light companies, Canadian Fencible light infantry, US Rifle regiments, and infantry detachments acting as standalone roles.  They can Skirmish and have the Marauder (ignore distance penalties on command rolls) rule.  These would typically be small units.  Some units might get the Sharp Shooters rule (re-roll 1 missed shot) but I'd use this infrequently for flavour in particular scenarios.  The US Rifle regiments have rifles, but everyone else uses muskets.

Regular Light Cavalry: This includes British and US light dragoons, but not militia units.  They can Skirmish and have the Marauder (ignore distance penalties on command rolls) rule.  These would be small units.

Artillery: I would include not only regular artillerymen but also militia, sailors and marines manning guns.  No need for special rules here, although Crack and Stubborn could give morale bonuses for occasional scenario flavour.  There was a big range in gun calibre used (6-24 pounders) so pick your gun ranges to suit.  The smaller units mean that some howitzers (and mortars) can be used, and don't forget the marine rocket batteries.

Next time around we'll look at militia and irregular units...


  1. Some great ideas for altering Black Powder rules you have there. I really love the rules especially as they can be tinkered with so easily to make the rules so that they suit you or the period you are playing. I agree about the orders and activations - they can be frustrating. They normally affect games where I am desperately trying to hurry reinforcements along and I start throwing wonderfully high dice (just when I need good low scores to move fast!). Have you seen the Black Powder rule modifications suggested on Angus Konstam's website: There are some really good ideas there and I have adopted most of them.
    Best wishes,

    1. Jason
      Thanks for the link - a follow Angus' journal and I'll definitely give his ideas a look over.