Review: Black Powder – The Last Argument of Kings

Rating: 4 stars

Almost as soon as the original ‘Black Powder’ rules were released, there were rumblings about adapting these rules for fighting the earlier Horse & Musket period, and this supplement – penned by Pete Brown – formalises these adaptations. Black Powder: The Last Argument of Kings aims to cover the majority of conflicts that were fought in the 18th Century – a time when it seems most of Europe was at war, and military battle tactics were being revolutionised by the widespread use of the flintlock musket.

This book starts with an introduction to this period, giving an overview of how armies were raised, and how battles were fought. The role of infantry, cavalry and artillery on the battlefield are outlined, along with a basic introduction to tactics.

Following this, there is a brief discussion on uniforms, for this one of the most colourful periods to game, and then the special rules for adapting Black Powder to the 18th Century are laid out. These adaptations include notes on formations, moving and firing, the use of grenades, dragoons, notes on cavalry attacking infantry etc.

As with Black Powder, each conflict of the 18th Century is addressed in turn, starting with a brief overview and then a scenario based on one of the major battles of the period. These battle reports given space for the various army lists to be published, along with orders of battle so that you can re-fight the battles outlined in the text.

The conflicts and battles in the book are:

  • The War of the Spanish Succession (Blenheim 1704)
  • The Great Northern War (Holowczyn 1708)
  • The Austro-Turkish Wars (Petrovardin 1716)
  • The Wars of the Austrian Succession (Fontenoy 1745)
  • The Wars of the English Succession (Includes a campaign covering the 1745 rebellion)
  • The Seven Years War (Hundorf 1762)

The final two chapters cover The French Indian War, The War in India, and fighting amphibious raids in the period.

Army lists appear throughout the book, and include the British, Swedes, Russians, Ottoman, Austrians, French, Highland, Prussian & European Armies in both America and India, along with their oppositions. Where the army lists are presented, there is also a 2 page introduction to that army, outlining its organisation, equipment and giving some basic notes on military doctrine.

The book is illustrated throughout with photographs of various wargames units along with lots of pictures of wargames in progress (these have been ‘touched up’ in most cases so that the figure basing apparently flows into the table). With a single exception, these would appear to feature 28mm figures, which is a little disappointing as the implication is that these rules are designed for that scale. Yes, 28mm figures probably give the best gaming photographs, but more examples of 15mm, 10mm or even 6mm games would have been a nice touch.

However, that is a minor grumble in what is otherwise an excellent publication. Whilst there are areas in the book that enthusiasts for the period might find open to some debate (especially around what special rules apply to units in the army lists) I think the book is an excellent introduction into a genre of gaming that has been a mainstay of the hobby for several decades. The book certainly helps promote the colour and spectacle of the 18th Century, whilst giving the novice gamer lots to think about as they start playing in the period.

Whilst the 18th Century is not a period to which I have a great leaning, this book has certainly raised my interest.

Disclosure: A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher

 

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