Bigshot – An Attempt at Fast Play Blackpowder

So as a follow up to my Blackpowder Skirmish rules Deathshot I’m attempting to put together some bigger scale Blackpowder rules I’m calling Bigshot. I’m initially using simple wooden blocks, although the humble block does have a certain appeal, not only in aesthetics, as I can repurpose these units as Moderns, Pike and Shot, Medieval, Dark Ages or Ancients. Using standard military designations (I think) the cross represents Infantry, the single diagonal line Cavalry and the dot as Artillery. I suppose Infantry remains the same regardless of era, Cavalry switches from chariots to horses, to tanks. I guess in an open battle I’d be better off using the artillery pieces as archers, then eventually cannons, and finally modern artillery.

7am. Caerdonian (Blue) vs The Rin Empire (Red)

So the rules in their very early form:

The game is played in rounds and during each round each player takes a turn. Roll off to determine which player takes the first turn in each round.

During your turn you can activate each of your units once each, a unit is a single base or piece. When a unit is activated you roll on the table below to see what orders are available to your unit. Along the top of the table is the die roll you score to activate the unit and down the side of the table is the number of hits the unit has taken so far in the battle:

0/1Move and AttackMove and AttackMove and AttackMove and AttackMove or AttackMove or Attack
2Move and AttackMove and AttackMove and AttackMove or AttackMove or AttackShoot
3Move and AttackMove and AttackMove or AttackMove or AttackShootNothing
4Move and AttackMove or AttackMove or AttackShootNothingRetreat 3″
5Move and AttackMove or AttackShootNothingRetreat 3″Rout
6Move and AttackMove or AttackNothingRetreat 3″RoutRout

You can always chose to take a worse order. When a unit routs remove it from play.

8am. The Caerdonian Cavalry attempted a quick attack on the left flank but the Rin Empire were prepared and countered.

Movement – An infantry unit can move 3″, cavalry 6″ or 3″ over rough ground and cannons can move 3″. Cannons can never attack and move in the same activation even if they rolled that order. When moving a unit can pivot up to 360 degrees and then move in a straight line forwards, or can move and then pivot. Units retreating 3″ can be moved backwards in a straight line. Add 3″ if a units entire move is on a road. A unit must stop moving at a river, spend their next move in the river, and can then move from the river on the next move. Canons cannot move through rivers.

Attacking – A unit can either shoot an enemy unit or if touching an enemy unit can fight them in melee.

Shooting –

RangeTarget in the OpenSoft CoverHard Cover
Infantry3″1 hit on a 4+1 hit on a 5+1 hit on a 6+
Canon Solid Shot24″1 hit on a 4+1 hit on a 5+1 hit on a 6+
Canon Canister6″D3 hitsD3-1 hitsD3-2 hits
Canon Grape3″D6 hitsD6-1 hitsD6-2 hits

Canons firing solid shot or Canister can shoot over other units, but cannot shoot enemy units touching friendly units.

You can shoot into things – forests, built up areas etc but not through them.

9am. The Caerdonian Cavalry start taking heavy losses as battle lines are drawn on the right flank.

Melee – Roll a die for the attacking unit and a die for the defending unit adding the following modifiers:

+1 if engaged in the enemy unit’s side.

+2 if engaged in the enemy unit’s rear.

+1 for cavalry.

-1 for cannons.

+1 if the enemy unit has taken more hits in the battle so far.

+1 for each friendly unit also touching the enemy unit.

+1 for attacking downhill.

The side that scores lower takes hits equal to the difference. In the case of a draw both sides take 1 hit.

10am. The first unit to break does so, a Caerdonian Cavalry Battalion. The Blue left is weakening.

When a unit has taken more than 6 hits you roll on the 6 hits row of the activation table unit the unit takes its 12th hit at which point it automatically routs.

11am the Caerdonian Cavalry crumbles. A few pockets of resistance remain in an attempt to hold up the Red cavalry long enough for the infantry to sure up their defences.

So you don’t have the board cluttered up with dice and counters I recommend keeping track of hits on a sheet of paper. Each unit is not only designated infantry, cavalry or cannons but also numbered to make this easy.

12am The Caerdonian General decided to order the full retreat back into the town and prepare for a siege. 5 hours after the battle began it was over, for now.

The rules have developed a little from my first game as you can see from my scribbled notes below, if I missed anything or if you think anything seems odd let me know, big black powder is not a thing I’m overly familiar with. Formations would be an option, but at the level we’re talking about I’m not sure if that’s a thing whatever rank you’re in the shoes of would be concerned with? I’d assume the guys would automatically get into the best formation given their situation?

Here are my original scribbled notes for rules and the other page I used to keep track of hits on units.

11 thoughts on “Bigshot – An Attempt at Fast Play Blackpowder

  1. If you envisioned using miniatures, what scale would you be thinking of? It’s not an era I have considered gaming myself, but I love the look of the formations on the tabletop. Mostly the fact they aren’t all completely linear. Nice work.

  2. Interesting combined orders & morale mechanism! I like it. Can a player decide not to activate a fragile unit, in case it runs away? If so, and it was in a good blocking position, it might just stand and absorb punishment until it reaches 12 hits which sounds a bit gamey.

    I’m no expert, but I think formations in the Napoleonic era were pretty fundamental. For instance, infantry in line can out-shoot infantry in column, but a line is more fragile and difficult to move, and of course infantry in square is strong vs cavalry but weak in firepower vs infantry and a sitting duck for artillery. Infantry might fight in formation or as skirmishers (either whole units if they were specialists, or more usually just the ‘flank’ companies), and change during a battle.

    Also, although a firefight could be a lengthy affair, melee would usually be quick and decisive – decided in one round, I reckon.

  3. Thanks for the comments, didn’t occurred to me you could leave a unit non-activated. I’ll have to add in that even if you want them to sit still you have to roll for them. I fully agree on formations, I’ll try to think of a quick and simple way to allow them hopefully without screwing up the simple activation system. As a bigger question I do wonder at what scale formations drop off in command and control concerns?

  4. Well, I’m guessing that it all depended on who the senior commanders were, how much trust they had in their subordinates and how much time they had to be involved/interfere! Wellington even though he was the army commander, could be pretty hands-on at times, especially when planning initial dispositions. But as a general rule, off the top of my head, I imagine the decisions would fall to the individual colonels and/or their brigade commander.

  5. Cool thanks! I guess as a war game though we do tend to ignore all the ranks, I want to play the captain, lieutenant and then imagine I’m the guy firing the LMG.

  6. of course! That and Germy’s sci fi. I’m always interested in systems which enable me to get vast numbers of troops on the battlefield, playing fast without my losing track of unit status or getting bored. I started with IM 6mm (using the proceeds of the sale of all my 25mm), but I was always destined for 2mm.

  7. I don’t think cannister would ever be fired over troops; it was a point-blank direct fire round. Were you perhaps thinking of Shrapnel’s spherical case, which was intended to burst over/in front of the target uk

  8. I don’t know. I spoke to someone who knows about this sort of thing but they could have been mistaken. I guessed it might be possible because of the 600m range on canister according to Google. I assumed grape although it’s a type of canister (or sometimes canister is a type of grape) depending on which book you’re reading was the very up close option?

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