Black Powder Fog of War

LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1860.

Warlord Games publishes the Black Powder rules written by Rick Priestley and Jervis Johnson (both of Games Workshop fame). This rule set creates a Warmaster-esque environment for gamers to recreate historical battles and create their own spanning from the War of the Spanish Succession and ending with the Mahdist uprising in the Sudan.

A lot of excitement surrounds these rules not least of which is a result of the co-authors. My interest washed the sleep from its eyes at the chance to use supposedly good rules for one of my favorite settings from all of history. The American Revolutionary War or American War of Independence (AWI) in gaming parlance. Immersing myself in a few discussions and several issues of Battlegames Magazine prodded my purchase of this rule set. The hardcover book arrived less than five business days later.

Excitement gushed from every fiber of my being and then was, promptly, stampeded on when I tried to understand how to use the book to create an army. Just where would I begin? Coming from a Games Workshop/Privateer Press/Battlefront Miniatures background I was completely unprepared for this new and alien world. The beautifully designed and illustrated book has no army lists! Instead of pages devoted to army composition, unit types (Core, Special, Rare) I found numerous pages on how to play the game but none on how to build the army.

A friend told me a typical size force would be 3,000 pts. They said this equated to a 2,000 pt Warhammer 40k or Warhammer Fantasy army. Surely points values existed. Frantic searching produced no official points (*NOTE* Tom later remarked that point values are somewhere in the back of the book, which I found and noted lack of rigidity provided to the points values by the authors). How the heck are gamers supposed to have an even fight?

So no army composition guidelines and no concrete points listings. There must, I thought, be rules for choosing what type of battle will be fought. There isn’t but there are a nice selection of historical battles from different conflicts, which highlight types of battles and scenarios.

All of this left me reeling and wondering how I would know what I needed to buy to build my army. Changing gears I plowed into 28mm AWI manufacturers and got nowhere fast. Clearly, help would be needed so I implored Henry Hyde, editor of Battlegames Magazine, to impart some wisdom. He e-mailed me a thoroughly researched and helpful listing of manufacturers, with links, and advice for this reluctant assembler and painter. You can find his annotated list at the bottom of this posting.

A couple late nights picking what I do and don’t like in AWI miniatures led to e-mails to Minifigs UK (Minifigs USA seems down for the count) and Neal Capatano at The Warstore.

At last I placed an order for some Perry Miniatures to begin my Black Powder journey. One pack of American Militia walking single file, one pack of Southern Militia/Continental Command advancing in shirt sleeves, and one pack of Southern Militia in a firing line will all soon be in my hands at the cost of $41.92 (including shipping and handling).

What does this mean in game terms? I haven’t the foggiest. A brief discussion with Tom resulted in my learning to buy the models first and the rules last. As you may have guessed this entire process is so unfamiliar and disjointing for me. It is truly unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in the GW/Private Press/FoW universe that I really don’t know how to proceed. Every question answered births numerous queries.

With all the help I can get I know that I’ll figure out how to build an army and play Black Powder. Until then I’m glued into a roller coaster without a safety harness and hoping for a net.

If you can untangle the Gordian’s Knot in my mind I’d be most appreciative in your communication.

Henry’s e-mail to me with annotated list of AWI model manufacturers

Hi Jonathan

Sheesh! How long is a piece of string! I should charge you for a question like that! :-D

Okay, from what you’re saying, I assume you mean 28mm?

The Perry’s are by far and away the best range and the most extensive. Their range is, at the moment, all metal, so no assembly required. They carry a lot of detail and are not cheap.

If you want ‘old school’ and less costly, but in a slightly smaller scale, then look at Miniature Figurines (Minifigs). They are 25mm, slightly ‘stiff’, but nice clean castings and considerably less expensive. There is a Minifigs USA as well as the ‘mother’ UK version. Try (website defunct, try Minifigs UK)

Another excellent option is Foundry (see for US supplier) — hardly surprising, because I believe they were originally sculpted by the Perrys! Again, though, they aren’t the cheapest option.

Another excellent quality manufacturer is Eureka, based in Australia, see

Much cheaper, and US based, are Old Glory. They call their size 25mm, and they certainly are smaller than Perrys: see

Then there’s Dixon — personally, I don’t like the proportions, but some love them:

Again on your side of the pond, and considered by some to be very desirable indeed, are Scruby: see though the website is a bit of a nightmare!

And finally, an extensive range can be found at Redoubt in 28mm.

ALL the above are metal — no assembly required, just a bit of filing to get rid of mould lines/flash.

And if you really want to save money by going 20mm plastic instead of 28mm metal, there are of course Revell, Airfix, Italeri, Imex and others selling boxes via toy shops and hobby shops: see for details and reviews.

Okay, finally, if you’re not keen on complicated painting, definitely go American, and produce an army based mostly on militia with a few Continental regiments thrown in. Many militiamen wore whatever they liked, so nobody can criticise your painting! Avoid Hessians — really complex uniforms and mitre helmets, including some with pinstriped trousers! Eek! And they were, of course, mercenaries in the British army, not really a separate force. The only other truly separate army were the French, way up north or way, way down south. If you fancied some quirky campaigns and lots of white uniforms, then of course they are an option.

The fact of the matter is that the British won almost all of the battles, but the Americans (with French help) won the war, so if you’re going to be remotely historical, then you just have to suck that up!

If you want inspiration, check out Giles Allison’s painting blog at (NB He collects for the “British Grenadier” rules so his units are all very small.) Also see my online album of a huge Long Island game from a couple of years ago that featured in issue 16 (click link to go to official website to buy digital issue: — many of the figures belong to Giles.


Best wishes


4 Comments on “Black Powder Fog of War”

  1. Paul

    Black Powder is an awesome set of rules. I use them for ACW (15mm). My advice to you is build one brigade per side first. That will be the Commander, and three standard size regiments. A regiment will have 24 figures in it. Once you have your first brigade you can start playing. And build up your army from there. p.s The book was written by Rick Priestley and Jervis Johnson. Thorpe has nothing to do with it at all.

    1. Jonathan J. Reinhart Post author


      You are lifting up my spirit. I ordered 18 figs (1 command, 1 militia advancing, 1 southern militia firing). Based on what you are saying I have almost an entire regiment. If I thought about it a little more then I would have purchased a fourth group of six guys to complete the regiment.

      ACW was my other period of interest. People surely use these rules for Napoleonics but that has never really been my thing,

      You can see how discombobulated I am when I got one of the author’s names wrong. That is a LOT of egg on my face. Many apologies to everyone on that and many thanks to you, Paul, for noticing the error and for your help with everything else.

      Jonathan “The Confused”

  2. Adrian

    The Black Powder rules are very enjoyable to play. I was able to play in a BP game at Historicon last year; the game was sponsored by Warlord games and the Perry brothers, all of whom were present as players/advisors for us new to the rule set. It was one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had at a con (or anywhere). This in spite of the fact that my British regulars were rolled up like a cheap rug early on by the French and the situation had to be retrieved by 2 regiments of Portuguese Cacadores.

    As I mentioned, once there is actual paint or your smelly Colonials, I’ll order my Hessians.

    A couple of things about the rules, which will be obvious as you read them.

    1. They’re more guidelines than actual rules. The authors take the position that wargaming is a gentleman’s sport and that ambiguities will be resolved in an appropriate manner. Meaning, the rules aren’t exactly tight; there is a lot of room for interpretation. I don’t consider this to be a bad thing, as long as the interpretations are worked out beforehand as much as possible.

    2. Yes, there is a point system for building forces. It is almost useless, and was added only because a certain segment of the community expects such things. The expectation is that someone will develop a plausible scenario, including the forces that will participate, based on an actual battle or a likely “might have been”. This eliminates the need for a point system, but does make pick up games a little harder.

    I’m excited by the level of interest in Black Powder at Battleground and hope we can it going there.

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