Powder and Sword

Powder and Sword is a new wargaming rule encompassing both the strategic and tactical aspects of Napoleonic warfare.

The strategic rules are employed for campaign games evolving over a region, a country or a continent. Once the encounter of the two opposing armies on a limited geographical space has taken place, the logical result of the campaign game, players continue the game with the tactical rules on a table with figurines.

The strategic game:

The strategic game requires a referee and two players or groups of players. On the geographic zone where the campaign is to take place, the referee alone knows where the two opposing armies are initially positioned.

With the use of light cavalry units and messengers, the players conduct reconnaissance, via the referee, in order to first locate the enemy and then maneuver in such a way as to come to contact with the enemy in the best possible conditions to win: favorable terrain features, more numerous in troops with good moral, unbroken lines of communications with possibly a corps or two coming up on the enemy’s flank or rear!

After having mastered the basic strategic rules, players are free to incorporate optional ones such as the siege of fortified cities, the supply from a central depot or “off the land”, the effects of weather on movement and combat, marching “to the sound of the guns” or the attrition of troops as the campaign progresses.

Once the encounter of both armies has been established, the referee sets up the wargaming table depending on the terrain features present on the detailed maps employed (historical as well as Google maps) and manages off-table troops.

The tactical game:

The tactical game system is easily accessible to the inexperienced as well as to the veteran wargamer. The game phases are:

  • simultaneous artillery fire,
  • verification of command zones,
  • charges, countercharges and reactions to charges,
  • changing formation and movement,
  • simultaneous infantry fire,
  • rallying and the counting of victory points.

Charges and countercharges are achieved in an alternating manner between players, the fastest moving units charging first. This entails a multitude of fascinating tactical combinations.

The changing of formation can occur at any time during the movement phase. The movement of both sides is also conducted alternately, the slowest moving units advancing first in order to limit their possibilities, the fastest last. This cuts with the monotony of the classic “I move, you move” play sequence and permits more subtle games, rich in surprises and twists. It also best simulates the hazards of battle.

The heart of the game system is fire, notably infantry in line formation which can be devastating. Melees on the other hand, can only be successful against a weakened enemy unit, either in number or under unfavorable combat conditions. A unit will thus have to first weaken his opponent with fire until the opponent’s rout test requires it to flee. This can provoke a “contagious” rout effect on other nearby weakened friendly units, causing in turn the collapse of the army. If the opposing player has fresh reserves ready to capitalize on this new situation, the battle is won!

The chance factor is present in the game:

  • In the modification of each general’s ability level at the beginning of the game,
  • The possibility of additional tactical movements,
  • Rout, Square formation and rally tests,
  • And as one of the factors counted in fire and melee calculations.

It is however kept to a strict minimum so that the best tactician has the most chances of winning the game.

There are no unrealistic zones of control or activation of troops or the number of actions they may carry out in the upcoming turn. This generally creates frustration by preventing attacks from taking place and virtually making the planning of assaults impossible!

If in the course of the game, one side attains the quadruple of victory points compared to that of their opponent, the game ends in a decisive victory. This often leads to the changing of a player’s initial plans following unfavorable results, forcing him to conduct for example a temporary retreat, the time to rally his routed units before renewing his attack.

Generals play an important role permitting tactical movements, providing bonuses in melees and rallying routed, disorganized and damaged units. They can however quickly be overwhelmed by the number of units to rally following badly executed attacks.

The goal of the tactical rules is to permit a conclusive result after 2 to 3 hours of play, each player controlling one to two divisions. Bigger battles are of course possible with multi-player games.

In summary, these rules are fluid but nevertheless historical and enable tactically rich games where players can clearly feel:

  • The importance of fire, especially of infantry in line,
  • The hazards of battle due to simultaneous charging, changing of formation and movement,
  • The importance of carefully managing one’s generals especially in the critical moments of a battle,
  • The modification of initial plans due to the game evolution.

All figurines scales from 6 to 28 mm are compatible with the rules, as well as all basing systems.

Here are magazines which have published articles on the rules :

  • Miniature Wargames N°418, February 2018, p. 51-57
  • Wargames Soldiers and Strategy N° 93, December/January 2018, p. 76-78
  • Guerre et Histoire N° 39, Octobre 2017, p. 92

Excert of the table of contents :