black powder colonial

Black Powder For Darkest Africa

The rules I use for my wargaming are mostly Hail Caesar, Pike & Shotte and Black Powder, all from Warlord Games.

My journey to these rules has been mostly about being fed up with, and not having time for, using a dozen sets of rules anymore.

I have a large Colonial/Darkest Africa collection and the guys down the club all played BP as well.  So I wondered if there was scope to get Colonial gaming up and running at the club quickly using BP for small unit actions.

I’ve read a lot of old nonsense on various gaming forums about Black Powder being “Battalion level”.  The truth is that a unit, is a unit is a unit.  A unit can be a Brigade, Regiment, Airplane, Tank, single figure, or even a block of wood.

So there is no reason why you can’t have small-scale colonial actions, where leaders control groups of companies of platoons.

I use the rules “as is”, with no messing around of the basic mechanisms at all.  The only change to the rules is that I exchange the Black Powder commanders in combat rules for the Hail Caesar ones.  That way, the leaders become more dynamic and have more personality.

Therefore a leader can attach before any round of combat if within 8″ (we always use the 2/3rd distance rules.  You can download the QR sheet for this from the BlackPowder Yahoo Group). They can contribute between 1-4 dice depending on how many attacks they are given (more on that in a minute).

The more attacks they put in, the higher chance there is of them being hit. 1 attack means they are hit on a 12 with two dice, 2 attacks 11-12 etc.  If hit, they are rolled for. 123 dead, 456 wounded (can no longer fight in combat but may issue orders).

The commander in chief can lead a command (brigade) or “float” using the standard BP commander in chief rules.

We find it more accurately reflects the personal intervention that small-scale colonial actions sometimes required, but at great risk to that leader.


So What Else Makes It Colonial Black Powder?

Well, I use a new special rule called “tribal skirmishers”.  These are skirmish units as per the normal rules (but without the  +1 to hit skirmisher bonus).  They can however charge a formed unit if it is shaken.  So they can wear down formed units and then charge them once shaken (if the tribal skirmishers are still around at that point!).

I have also created a new stat line sheet for all the types of units we use in our games.  You can download a PDF HERE if you would like to use the stats.

To go through them quickly (read: justify them to the purists):

1. British regulars are rare and tough.

2. Colonial volunteers (superbly represented by the North Star South African white volunteer figures) have good firepower but poor melee ability.

3. There are native regulars to represent the regular Askaris.

4. There are two sorts of levies to represent the constabulary-type troops, and local rubbish levies usually with muskets.

5. We have stats for mercenaries, who are usually ex-Egyptian army troops, or deserters, as often was found in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1890’s. We use Perry Bazingers for this as they look great.

6. The tribal units get decent stats BUT we give them levy 3+ rule.  We do this so that a smaller number of regulars can pin down larger numbers of tribal units.

7. Artillery stats should be self-explanatory.  We up the capability of maxims slightly from the core rules.

8. There are very basic gunboat rules at the bottom of the stat sheet. The gunboat is always a separate command under it’s captain who we always assume has a command rating of 8 with no special rules.


Injecting More Flavour: Using Leader Cards

We also use leader cards, picked by each player at the start of the game. Each card has:

1. Leader name

2. Leaders command rating

3. Leaders command characteristic (a single positive or negative attribute taken from the BP characteristics rules for aggressive, timid etc).

4. Close combat ability (usually 1-4 dice)

5. Special skill.  Some leaders have an additional skill, such as giving their units better fieldcraft to avoid rifle fire for example.

We have found that the cards create instant variation in the game, and allow for elements of roleplay.  With some of the special skills being “one shot weapons” it also introduces another element into players game strategies.


How To Use The Character Cards

Before the start of a game simply get each player to draw a card from the relevant deck.  For the natives this is simple.  Pick one card from the commander deck for your army leader and then one card per command (brigade) for the rest of your characters.

For the colonists it is slightly more complex to reflect formal military structures.  There are three decks,  Commanders, senior subordinates and subordinates.

The colonists always pick one card for their commander in chief. One card for a senior subordinate. Then one card per other command in their force.

So if you are allowing the colonists to have three commands (brigades) for their force structure, they would pull a Commander card, a senior sub card and two subordinate cards.

You could always randomise the amount allowed per army, perhaps by allowing a commander in chief and one subordinate per side and then rolling a D6 in some way to determine additional subordinates.

The cards can be downloaded as pdf’s here:

Character Cards Colonial Commanders

Character Cards Colonial Subcoms

Character Cards Colonial Senior Subcoms

Colonial Characters Native Commanders

Character Cards Native Subcoms