TITLE: Grand Manouevre: Black Powder & Blue Steel Napoleonic Miniatures Wargame Rules
AUTHOR: Michael Collins
PUBLISHER: Michael Collins
PUBLICATION DATE: 2010 (edited 2013)
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:
PRICE: 10.00 GBP in 2015
REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin
PERIOD COVERED: The Napoleonic Wars
Grand Manoeuvre: Black Powder & Blue Steel comes as a number of files in PDF format. The main book comes in three parts. Part One includes game scales, tactics (how units manoeuvre from one formation to another), period back ground and detailed ratings for generals of the period. Part Two lays out the rules proper, in the order of the sequence of play. Part Three is an 8 page rules and chart summary. Once players have read the rules they should be able to play using just this summary booklet. Besides the main book a number of other files including game aids such as unit labels, order cards, unit classifications etc.
You also get a “toner-friendly” black and white version as well.
SCOPE: BPBS is designed to allow gamers to re-fight large games of the period at the tactical level.
ARMY SIZE: Unit sizes are standardized at 4 stands per battalion, so large battles will require a large number of units.
- The base unit is the infantry battalion, made up of four bases of formed troops and a base of skirmishers.
- Cavalry is deployed in regiments of four bases, though they may be smaller if of especially low strength.
- Artillery is deployed in batteries of generally two gun models.
- Ground Scale: 1 cm = 20.94 meters or 58.2 yards to the inch. The ground scale was backed into based on infantry units with an 80 mm frontage (4 bases of 20mm width each).
- Time scale 1 turn = 4 minutes
- Figure/Base Ratio: To speed play units are standardized at 4 bases each, though bases represent very roughly 100-150 men each.
- Recommended Figure Size: 6mm. Conversions for other figure sizes are included.
- Table Size: Not stated. Given the ground scale, to re-fight sizable battles will require very large spaces.
- Game Length: Not stated.
- Three Rank Infantry: 20x15
- Two Rank Infantry: 20x10
- Infantry Skirmishers: 40x20
- Cavalry: 20x15
- Artillery: 12x20 or as wide as necessary to field a gun model and crew.
- Generals: 25x25
Turns in BPBS are carried out simultaneously. Players must perform activities in the following sequence:
- Orders Phase: Orders issued by C.I.C. Subordinates check initiative
- Morale Phase: Players conduct Command Reactions, Brigade/Divisional Morale Check, and Rally routing or disordered units.
- Movement Phase: Units take Manoeuvre Tests, Move and change formation. Then Generals move.
- Artillery Phase: Fire is first resolved against troops, then counter-battery is resolved.
- Combat Phase: resolved in sequence: Skirmishers, Formed Units, Melees and finally Pursuits.
The Orders System:
An important component of BPBS is the written orders system. Orders are written and then carried by an aide to the appropriate commander. the aide must move to a command’s regulating battalion (see below) for an order to be carried out.
The three main order types are Advance, Hold and Withdraw. Additionally, support, reserve, screening and disengaging functions may modify these three major order types.
Advance orders may be of varying levels. A commander may order an assault, or he may order an advance to simply demonstrate in front of a certain position. The rules do not define the orders in great depth. They provide more general guidance for how orders are to be written and acted upon, expecting players to follow the spirit of the system.
Hold orders require a command to defend a position, though again it may do more than simply sit there. Passage of lines to relieve the front, refusing a flank or extending a line are all permissible under a Hold order.
Withdraw orders are likewise broadly construed. They may be a pell mell “get the hell out of there” or they may call for a slow fighting rearguard.
Subordinate generals may take an initiative test to change orders on their own. In order to make a test, he must have visible enemy commands within 60 cm (about 900 scale yards) of his position. A test is simply a die roll measured against the general’s rating. Brilliant commanders pass on anything but a 1, poor commanders only pass on a 5 or 6.
The basic movement rules of BPBS are familiar enough. Units have a set movement allowance. Wheels measure the outside arc, units may oblique etc. Terrain, changes of formation and certain manouevres cost a fraction of the unit’s movement allowance. There are detailed rules for passage of lines, and the introduction of Regulating Battalions.
Each brigade has a Regulating Battalion. The Brigade commander is located with the Regulating Battalion. Units must align to this battalion and maintain that alignment. Whether deployed in lines or columns, the component units must maintain distance, gaps and formation. The rules spell out how to account for battalions moving different speeds.
Additionally, BPBS sometimes calls for a Manouevre Test. This is essentially a morale test. It must be taken when attempting unusual manouevres such as deploying skirmishers when within combat range (4cm) of the enemy, assaulting a bridge, or to change formation in combat range. Units that fail the test generally remain in place and become disordered.
In keeping with the overall design philosophy, artillery is broken down into a few large groups. Regardless of whether you fire a section or a battery, the resolution is the same. Batteries have a 45o arc of fire, and the usual limitations: they must have a clear LOS, may note fire through friendly units (even skirmishers), and generally must fire on the closest enemy unit. Artillery on an elevation may, in some cases, fire over friendly units.
To resolve fire, a D6 for each firing battery is rolled. Modifiers are applied, which include cover, target formation, morale, fatigue etc. To use the results chart you locate the gun type, read across to the range, and then down to your die roll. Artillery can cause an enemy unit to become disordered, to recoil or to lower their morale.
Counter battery fire works much the same way except the results are to miss, silence the target, or cause a hit and silence the target.
Combat comes in two varieties - skirmish combat, and combat between formed units. Both are resolved in the same way, with opposed die rolls.
In combat each side rolls a die. This is then modified formation, cover, flanks and so on. In addition, each side may get a +1 for unit quality. Elite units get the +1 on any die roll but a 1, levies get it only on a 6. The final two modified die rolls are subtracted and a differential calculated. The side with the higher total has “won” and the degree is determined by the difference between modified die rolls.
A major modifier for combat between formed units is the relative Unit Class of the combatants. An Elite facing a levy receives a +5, for example.
Effects are either to cause disorder, cause a morale effect, and possibly recoil.
As can be seen from the combat and artillery rules, the entire game is driven by morale effects. There are no casualties per se. Units simply suffer disorder and morale breakdowns until they rout or are victorious. Morale tests are quite simple. Roll a die, add/subtract any appropriate modifiers, and check against your target. Elites pass on a 2+, levies on a 6+.
There are also unit morale checks - when a given percentage of units are shaken or dispirited, the entire unit must make a morale check, or be forced to retire.
Units that can be protected by unshaken friendly units can recover automatically, so there is a real point to pulling units out of the line.
There are no scenarios included with the book, nor army lists in the normal sense. There are troop and commander ratings which should allow gamers to easily translate any historical OOB into a scenario list for BPBS.
There are some free scenarios located here.
There are some interesting concepts and mechanisms in BPBS, such as the combat system and the need for regulating battalions during movement. I think this nicely captures the way in which a commander had to be an especially good traffic cop, or risk getting his command entangled with itself.
I must admit the style of writing and presentation severely irked me. It is written in a breezy form of bulleted lists rather than paragraphs. So don’t be fooled by the apparent length of the book. The rules themselves could easily have been formatted to one third or one quarter their current page count. Fortunately the 8 page rules outline (which is a combination of turn sequence notes and all necessary charts) is a nice idea and would definitely be a great hand out for players new to the game. To my sensibility I would have (if acting as editor) rewritten the rules into paragraph form, and tightened up the format, moving a lot of the ancillary material into appendices.
Not played. There is a nice AAR by the author posted on TMP here.