Sunday 13 August 2023

Bierges 1815, (Epic) Black Powder rules

Warlord Games produces an A5 book covering 18 actions (plus 3 ‘what if’ games) from the Hundred Days Campaign, especially configured for their Epic Black Powder napoleonic range.

Flipping through, there is a nice sized action taken from the Wavre sector, called Assault at Bierges.

The name may be immediately familiar as Moulin de Bierges, to those who became involved in my recent e-mail Wavre campaign, whether as a player or a reader of the final write-up (link in the resource section below).

Here, the author has isolated the  battle and has Stülpnagel’s 12th Brigade (Prussian) defending the wooden bridge at Bierges from Hulot’s (French) attacking 14th Division.

The rules in play are the suggested Black Powder II set that come with the napoleonic starter Epic sets.

The post also includes a session with my own rules and a dabble with the 28’s in the same setting, so a bit of a rambling mix.

For the rest of this article, please use the ‘read more’ tab.

The Prussians are guarding one of the important bridges that cross the Dyle River, which has become swollen after recent storms and is passable only via the bridges. The French are desperate to cross the river here as all to attempts to cross further up at Wavre and Bas Wavre have failed. 

On the Prussian side of the table, behind the river, is the village with its mill, counting as a single BUA and on the French side of the river, the ground is very boggy, intersected by drainage ditches and counts as ‘difficult terrain’.

Click for larger

The French start off table and have 8 turns to capture the bridge (with a play estimation of 2 - 3 hours), which is represented by a French unit occupying the bridge for at least two consecutive turns, while not being in close combat.

Overall, the French have the slightly better troops, but the Prussians have the stronger position, more battalions and 2 gun batteries compared the single French battery. In our previous campaign battles for this location, the gun batteries mattered, so will they be dominant here?

The scenario describes using a 6´ x 4´ table. The action seems like it may very well be concentrated on that right side of the board and on the face of it, that 6´ width could be reduced, but I will go with it.

Measurements - I have been using just 2 Epic 60mm bases per battalion and halving all measurements, however on reading this scenario book, I get the impression that in the first instance the table is set up with normal Black Powder measurements in mind.

Since this is a timed scenario of 8 turns, I am assuming that play testing has relied upon this, so for my compromise, I will keep standard BP measurement and use 3 bases per battalion, giving a line frontage of 180mm and column frontage of 60mm.

Black Powder is fairly generic, so we will adopt some of the unit specialities for variety. For Prussia, this gives their fusiliers sharpshooter status and ability to skirmish. The Landwehr will have unreliable status, so are slightly harder to move from A to B and the Landwehr cavalry will be a small unit and have marauder status (helps with being in command).

Of note is that the Prussian horse artillery has a low stamina rating of ‘1’ this will make them more vulnerable that when I last used them under the Shadow of the Eagles rules.

For the French, the light battalions have sharpshooter status and both line and light infantry battalions are allowed to skirmish into terrain that they might not normally enter. 

Special Rules - I rather like the special rule in Glory Hallelujah that has any formation moving more than one move in a turn, not being able to then fire after movement. This is repeated in the Rising Eagles supplement and helps suppress the desire in this game to make big moves.

I also feel the ‘Brigade Break’ rule for small games is a bit severe, so I have very gently modified it, so that the brigade has to have more than half its battalions in shaken status or already lost before the brigade breaks. I will not apply the change to the Prussians, who have a very large brigade.  


French - the artillery has been allocated to Toussaint’s brigade, who will arrive on the table first and engage along the lower banks. Baume’s Brigade will follow, with the light battalions covering the flanks of the line troops, which will storm the bridge and village.

Prussian - simply hold firm. The fusileers are in the village and two musketeer battalions guard the bridge. Some of the landwehr will line the river banks with the artillery, while the rest provide a reserve.

Let’s roll dice!

The French get off to a good start for movement and make those big movements that BP is known for. This gets their troops into the difficult ground by the lower bank and close to the bridge road.

The French light infantry fail to deploy to the attack column’s flank and the march has been so fast, that the French artillery, with their view blocked by friendly units, cannot lay fire.

The French assault the first battalion of musketeers

The French assault columns at the bridge suffer casualties and become shaken, but manage to brush the first battalion of defending musketeers aside.

A fresh French battalion pushes through and continues the attack into the second battalion of musketeers.

The Prussians get the better of the close combat and the French battalion takes a Break Test and fails badly enough to leave the field!

This is a very serious set back for the French. However, the Prussian musketeers themselves had become shaken and fallen back and their fighting position was handed over to a landwehr unit.

Additionally, French light infantry had now moved up on the right wing and were engaging enemy artillery and the fusiliers at the village on the far bank.

Stülpnagel moved to personally help the musketeers rally, but with the French now standing on the bridge, unengaged and ready to call victory, the Prussian general was compelled to act and counter-attack with his landwehr.

Landwehr, supported by a second battalion, counter-attack the French on the bridge.

The attack was most vicious, managing to break the French battalion. This was the second French battalion leaving play and with another battalion in that brigade already shaken, the entire brigade breaks and disengages.

The remaining French Brigade, fighting below the bridge is not strong enough on its own to take the bridge, neither is it well placed to get into a decent attacking position in time before the scenario clock ends.


Above - There is no choice other than for the French to retire from the field …. defeated!

It is an enjoyable scenario and a tough one for the French, however, despite the advantage in Prussian numbers, there is not enough space around the bridge to deploy them all effectively, so they default to a useful reserve.

With the table already set and the troops out. I re-ran the scenario using my own Eagles at Quatre Bras rules. This saw a different outcome.

The French cleared the bridge. A Prussian battalion was lost, causing all other friendly units of the brigade to test - everyone went above and beyond and passed … except the last test at the village. The fusiliers lost their nerve and with my mouth still open! they pulled back, abandoning the village.

The French took the opportunity to move into the village unopposed, while another battalion defended the bridge. The French were in a good position to win. 

Landwehr counter-attacked both village and the bridge with gusto, but were unsuccessful, the game ending in a convincing French victory. 

Finally, I keep getting these out!

Trees and buildings were changed for their bigger brethren and the 28’s paraded on the table. This is not a re-running of the scenario, I just used the scenario theme together with those units that I have already glued up. 

I ran a quick game, again with my rules. The French line infantry charged across the bridge three times and three times were hurled back. With increasing losses and the brigade in no state to attack again, the commander sent in the Old Guard!

They had already taken heavy casualties from artillery fire and then from closing fire during the charge, but still they managed to press home the attack. However, already battered, they lost the melee and like the previous attempts, were thrown back across the bridge.

The windmill model here is interesting. It is a work in progress, and actually comes with the Epic stuff. It is an MDF build by Sarissa Precision Ltd and scaled to 15mm, but in my opinion, it is too large for the Epic, but I think it sits okay on a 28mm table, while obviously keeping footprint down. It has been primed and blocked in with brown umber and awaits dry brushing and the ground work done. 

The house is a resin from Battlescale in their 20mm range and gives a helpfully small foot print for the 28’s. The roof is designed to be lifted to put units in, but I always glue my buildings down tight. Here the line between roof and building body, which is noticeable, has been blended with Milliput and is awaiting primer.

Resource Section.

A complete write up of the recent Wavre multi player campaign played in association with this blog. LINK

My sister webspace ‘COMMANDERS’ is being re-configured to showcase various figure and boardgame systems that I am enjoying and gives a flavour of where current projects are up to. Link.