Sunday, October 14, 2018

Black Powder 2 First Impressions

So I went in and pre-ordered BP2 earlier this fall.  My copy arrived in the post on Tuesday Oct 9th having been shipped on Sept 24th, not bad turnaround for shipping from the UK to the Canadian backwoods.  Curt got his copy on Friday the 5th, but we had the Thanksgiving Weekend in between so that's only one business day between.  Judging by forum and FB chatter, I'm actually ahead of the curve on this one - that's ominous IMHO!

First off, BP and it's stable mates are a bit like Marmite - either loved, hated or just put with since we don't want to make it ourselves - in the war-game community.  I find that they give a good game and allow a fun game to be played out in an evening.  They are easy to pick up and that works well with new players those unfamiliar with the period in play.  Furthermore they give a good framework and allow the players to tailor them as desired.  Basically you can follow BP like my wife follows a cookbook recipe - keep to the way it's written the first time mostly and then mess around with it once you know how things work out.

I won't go through an in-depth review of changes, because I don't have time to do a side by side comparison, I play HC, P&S and BP and can't keep the subtle changes straight anyway and since we tend to work from the rulebook as we play anyway rather than rely on aging and fading memories.

Briefly here's the good points on the new edition.

  • Visually it's what you expect - high quality printing with lots of eye candy - too bad the proof reading wasn't up to the same production standard (see below).
  • It's well organized.  Hallelujah there's an index!!  I found it very easy to navigate and had no trouble finding the rules I wanted - often there's cross referencing.  Well done lads.
  • I like the selection of scenarios - a wide range covering mainstream and no so mainstream periods.  There's also some valuable design notes on fitting historical battles into war-games scenarios.  Well done again.
  • They've expanded the rules on Generals, adding personality traits and other features.  Most of us could do the same but it's useful to have the rulebook examples as a template to follow along or ignore as we wish.
  • Having pre-ordered my copy came with a lovely figure of Russell Crowe from Master and Commander.  He won't fit into my current projects, but he might appear if I get back into War of 1812.
There are various fine tunings along the way that seem to bring the mechanisms in line with BP's younger siblings HC and P&S.  The ones I noted based on my read through and from following interweb chatter are.

  • Artillery can now ignore skirmishers and fire on supports.
  • Enfilade fire now retools misses instead of rolling twice the dice.
  • Evade rules are more variable- you might get away or you might get caught.  Also I believe March columns can also evade.
  • I think there are subtle changes within the command rolls and unit characteristics but have better things to do that work them all out!
  • There are subtle changes to Irregular units, mostly who gets considered irregular.  In the Napoleonic age Riflemen and Voltigeurs count as irregular skirmishers which seems appropriate.  Furthermore in the 1815 rearguard scenario, both British and French Light Cavalry units are Irregular.  This is no hard and fast rule, but there's interesting scope for the scenario designer or tailor.

Ok now the not so good - the typos.  Here are the one's that jump out at me so far.

  • This one is just annoying and has no effect of play but on p19 a picture of two lovely Napoleonic Chasseurs a Coeval Cheval Elite Company is labeled as French Cuirassiers.  Seriously?   You couldn't find a proof reader with even a rudimentary knowledge of the most well studied army in your period? Not one of you read a Blandford or Osprey or bought a box of Airfix Waterloo French Cavalry?  Reminds me of the first club armour game I played as a 13 year old and I confused T34s with Stalins.
  • This one is far more serious.  On p49 the Morale Dice (Saving Throw) modifiers in the table are completely wrong - they cut and paste the mods from the command roll table.  After 5 minutes of WTFing about why distance from the General affected casualties I worked it out.  Luckily the table on the QRS got it right, and it hasn't changed from what we're familiar with.
  • The enfilade fire rule mentioned above is correct in the rulebook p53, but wrong on the QRS p96.  So now we're left with the conundrum of is the rule book right (as with enfilade) or the QRS (like Saving Throws)?
Frankly I am disappointed with Warlord over the typos.  Personally I am a typo machine (ask my students) and I can work with typos in a lot of the hobby press.  But this was a high production, big box store rule book from an outfit that occupies a leadership position in the hobby.  I expect high production, leadership type production quality in proofreading as well as glossy pictures.  Warlord are not a cottage industry or a hobby press, they need to pull up their socks.  I've yet to see an official errata sheet or FAQs and that needs to hit the web ASAP.

However, once the typos are worked out I'm sure that BP2 will generate lots of fun games and get a lot of usage.  Hopefully it will generate interest in the Horse and Musket period in the hobby.