Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Friday, 18 May 2012

Where the Heck was I?

Today I was going to do a little post on my new Spanish line officers, but sadly I haven't finished painting them, so that will have to wait a day or so. I was also going to write up the next week of the solo campaign, but I haven't got the housekeeping sorted out yet, so that will have to wait as well.

One of the things which has taken up time in the last couple of weeks is the auction of various Historex items which I volunteered to sell on eBay to raise money for cancer charities. Since I volunteered I can hardly complain about the hassle, but it has reminded me of the amount of labour needed to sell stuff on eBay, especially if you are as verbose as I am when it comes to the listings. Then there's all the questions to answer, and all the peeking to see if anyone else is watching or bidding yet...

Everything is sold now - some 100 unopened kits from the 1970s, plus a collection of 60-odd finished figures. Some things I learned about Historex during the last few weeks:

(1) The interest is very substantially from outside the UK - most of the items have sold to buyers in Italy, Germany, France and the USA. Unfortunately, because of the weight, I could not offer the big collection of complete figures outside the UK, though most of the questions and interest I got came from overseas. In particular, the insured shipping cost of the 2Kg+ parcel to the USA worked out at about £90, which is crazy.

(2) Maybe predictably, the kits generated much more interest than the completed figures - there seems to be more interest in building them than purchasing someone else's efforts, however good. That shouldn't have been a surprise, I think.

(3) The completed figures are horrifyingly fragile - you dare not sneeze near them, and some of them will hardly support their own weight. A challenge - even for a fastidious (fusspot) packer like me. (I love the sound of bubblewrap in the morning.)

Anyway, they are all sold and mailed now - one or two still have to be formally accepted as safely received, but shipping has been remarkably quick. One small packet to Indianapolis arrived in a little over 2 days, which is fantastic. I have to make a detailed breakdown of proceeds-less-expenses, since I have to pay the net amount over to the charity, so I have been more than usually focused on the fees charged by eBay and PayPal. Man, they are not cheap. OK - I'm not really grousing - there is no other easy way to sell stuff like this, but the 10% completion fees on eBay really add up. However, I'm delighted to say that - assuming the last few items have arrived safely and we don't get into any disputes, we should have raised about £730 for the charity, so I'm very pleased with that.

It fairly knocked a hole in the time available for painting and other hobby stuff, though.

Next topic. I wrote a post not long ago about my apparent weakness for big shiny wargame books, and how they are usually not as useful as they might look. Well, I did it again. Having already bought and browsed Wargames Foundry's Napoleon rule book (great title, by the way, guys), I had decided against looking at Warlord Games Black Powder publication, which looked like another of the same sort of figure-promotion-disguised-as-rules jobs.

However, a few people whose judgement I have a lot of respect for have played the game and made positive noises about it. The most guarded comment I have heard was from John C, who said the game he played was "the most excellent fun, but had very little to do with Napoleonic warfare". So, when I got the chance of a good, cheap, second hand copy, I bought it, and it has been my bedtime reading this week - it is a bit large and heavy to be ideal for bedtime reading, and it also tends to hit the floor with an alarming thump when I doze off, but it has been most enjoyable.

It is refreshing to read a wargames book which appears to have been written by adults who have a nice way with humour and who can actually write both entertainingly and grammatically, and without getting unpleasantly nerdy or giving in to the temptation to slag other people's efforts. Anyway, the book is entertaining, the game looks like a lot of fun, and a few bells rang.

For a start, all ranges, moves and everything else are given in multiples of 6 inches - Ding! - hexes, I thought. I'm not sure if I intend to rush to try the rules - I think I'd like to sit in on someone else's game first. Fat chance around here. One slight difficulty I have is that, since the book is written in a nice, conversational style, there isn't a formal statement of scales and so on - or at least I didn't find one. The illustrated scenarios seem to be played with 28mm figures (as you would expect) on a 6-feet-by-12 table (and no-one expected that...), but they do not appear to be very large games, in the sense of numbers of units.

Anybody played Black Powder? Any views on what size of battle it works for? What did you think of it? I realise a lot of people use these rules, but I hadn't really considered them before. They look practical, and I like the simple, commonsense approach - anyone like to offer a brief critique?

If you'd like to invite me to watch a game, I'll be delighted - please just send the return air fare and I'll bring some beer.


  1. Well done on all the ebay sales! That's a lot of dosh you've raised for charidy! I've never played Black Powder, so can't really help, but I'm sure they're a reworking of Rick Preistly's Warmaster set of rules, if that helps???

    1. Thanks Ray - it may have been a useful exercise anyway to provide me with some aversion therapy for eBay! I wasn't aware of the rules ancestry, so thanks for that too.

  2. I've played about a score of BP games and quite enjoyed one of them. Another 3 or 4 were Ok. The rest were tedious more than fun and played either early on as part of a serious effort to not dismiss them or because I was being sociable.

    A couple of issues I have had include that there are frequent gotcha & rags to riches rules where dice deliver either severe results on a casual basis with no option for the player to have mitigated the possibility by tactics etc and not related to any apparent severity of circumstance or where extreme results, for either extreme good or extreme bad or something in the middle, rest on a toss of the dice.

    Over riding all this is too many occasions where I've seen players unable to do anything with their troops. They may as well have not sowed up on the day. All of these things are OK in moderation but as extreme and unlikely events, not the norm (imo of course)

    I suspect that some of these things are probably of little import to people who play often enough that a wasted game where your opponent is over run without you having to break sweat on any grey cells or who are there for a social outing but it can be pretty frustrating if not depressing for others.

    1. Ross - that's very valuable input - thanks a lot for that. I had a couple of emails also from guys who were rather less than wildly enthusiastic, so I guess I'll just read the book for the pictures.

      Interestingly, Ludovico suggested that BP might be useful for a solo game, since a lot of decision making comes down to the dice, and that some computerisation might get rid of all the dice. I'm going off the idea. It was probably an overreaction to the possibility of hexes, and the thought that a single skeleton might fit a wide range of wars.

  3. I have been at some quite large SYW games run to Black Powder rules. I didn't understand fully what was going on someof the time and there seemed to be a lot of add-on rules which changed from session to session. Games quite jolly but theres a fearful amount of dice rolling. A lot of time was spent dicing for activation, and the great heaps of dice get confusing. Good mechanism with saving throws for hits - simple but requires masses of dice. The fellows I played it with were very keen on it but seemed to have lots of hand written changes. I wouldn't spend much time on it if I were you.

    What happened to your ECW project. CHeers - Lou

    1. Lou - thanks very much - useful. I've had a bit of feedback on similar lines.

      ECW - still firmly in the plan - I have a load of figures, and will shortly be getting more. Haven't started painting anything yet, so must get on with that. One big obstacle is that my attempt to finish off the Peninsular War recruitment has generated more painting than I expected. Spaniards are main priority (and they still have virtually no cavalry), then some new Creeping Elegance stuff like replacing my British dragoons with proper PW ones (lower priority), then finishing off all those limber teams (lowest, but I'm determined it will get done). ECW painting doesn't have to wait until absolutely everything is done, so I'm hoping to get started soon. Pressure - I've successfully generated a whole new lead mountain!

  4. I did my own review of this rule set sometime ago. I have really mixed feelings about it. On one hand, it does offer great flexibility in creating units with special skills or unsual morale not commonly demonstrated in other rule sets. The movement is extremely simple, if one could also say unrealistic.

    Then on the other hand, so much of the rules are hard to commit to memory because of the loose nature of the rules. The games my group has played have been centered around rules questions, despite the fact we all have the rulebook and have played it quite a bit. We're veteran gamers and so when we all have problems with a rules, it isn't us, it is the rules.

    The movement is easy to abuse and difficult to predict. This kind of randomness is meant to display command and control issues, but it is a cheap immitation to real command and control problems. It is great eye candy and can be used for a multitude of periods, but is too wild for my tastes and as your friend John C stated, "the most excellent fun, but had very little to do with Napoleonic warfare". That's dead on.