Black Powder Overview – Part 2

In Part 1 we covered the basics of command and movement.  In part 2 we will get to the good stuff…COMBAT!

First, lets take a look at the anatomy of a unit.  Units are rated for Shooting, Melee, Morale, Stamina and Special Rules.  Shooting and melee values are the number of dice a unit gets to roll when it performs that kind of combat.  The melee value for an average unit is 6 dice while the shooting value for a unit is 3 dice. These numbers can go up or down if the unit is larger or smaller.  There is also a rule for tiny units.  They get 1 die.  The morale value is a saving roll number.  The lower the number, the better.  When a unit gets hit in combat, it makes a morale check for each hit received.  The average unit has a 4+ morale check.  The stamina number is the number of hits a unit can take before it becomes shaken and has to make a break test.   The average unit has 3 stamina points.  Special rules are just that.  They are special advantages or disadvantages that a unit might possess.  There is a heavy cavalry advantage, for example, that that makes cavalry more likely to drive back a defender.


Shooting occurs during the shooting step of the game turn.  It represents the ability of a unit to shoot at 20 yards or greater, according to the rules.  To shoot, grab the appropriate number of dice for the shooting unit and roll them.  The target number for each die is a 4+.  For each each die that is greater or equal to the target number, 1 hit is scored.  If any dice come up ‘6’, the target unit is also disordered.  The defender now grabs a number of dice equal to the number of hits received.  For each die that equals or exceeds the target unit’s morale number, 1 hit is negated.  Note that a unit that was hit with a disordering shot is disordered even if the player saved every shot.

Each hit reduces the stamina of the unit by 1.  If the stamina reaches 0 or less, the unit must make a break test. For each point below 0, a -1 penalty is applied to the break test.  lower is worse than higher.  Results can range from halt and do nothing to break and rout of the board.  Break tests are usually taken by shaken units (units that have 0 or less stamina).  Once the break test is taken, the unit’s excess hits below 0 are removed.  If it is hit again, it takes another break test.

Units can be rallied with a rally order from it’s commander or the CinC.  The commander cannot perform any other orders so it is best to try and make this the last order that commander issues.  If he makes the order test, the commander is moved to the unit and that unit removes 1 hit.  He may issue the order again on subsequent turns removing more hits but can never remove the last hit.

Defenders can shoot in certain circumstances.  If a defending unit is charged frontally, it may take a defensive shot before melee starts.  If a defending unit has it’s front crossed at close range (6″), it also can take a defensive shot on the crossing attacker.


Melee combat represents close range musket fire (under 20 yards) as well as hand to hand combat.  Units that are in base combat are said to be in melee.  They may contact a unit in any fashion but the attacker usually lines up with the defender. Both sides get to roll dice to try and hit the other side using the melee value.  Melee is resolved by comparing the total number of hits and the modifying that with situational modifiers.  The higher number (the side that scored the highest number of hits plus modifiers) is the winner.  The loser is driven back a move (I think) and has to make a break point if it became shaken as a result of combat.

Odds and Ends

The end of the book has advanced rules for period specific combat, special rules mentioned above to add abilities to units and a selection of scenarios for various black powder eras.  The scenarios have army lists, scenario descriptions and scenario special rules.  There is also a point cost system and troop templates for you to devise your own units for whatever time period you are playing in.  You can get unit ideas from the scenario section orders of battle.


This concludes my overview of Warlord Game’s Black Powder Rules.  The game is rather complete.  It can be purchased in the USA from for about $31.  I bought mine as a preorder for only $20!  You can also buy the game directly from Warlord Games for 30 GBP.

Black Powder
By Rick Priestley and Jervis Johnson
Published by Warlord Games

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