As is a proud Warlord tradition, Thursday night saw staffers and friends alike descend on Bossman John’s splendidly-appointed games room for an evening of massed battle mayhem! The night’s entertainment would be a game of Black Powder, set in the Crimean War. The scenario saw a Russian force (commanded by Generals Colinsky, Adcockovich, and Vinyoff (the borscht-blooded alter-ego of yours truly!)) blunder into a far superior British army in entrenched positions, led by Brigadier-General Sir Peter Massingberd-Hely-Massingberd and Prince Wojtek of Poland (presumably on loan for the season!). The Russian objective was simple – survive, and win some honour for the Tsar! The British, meanwhile, were eager to sweep their adversaries from the field, and they had both the Light and Heavy Brigades, as well as the Guards Division, with which to do so!

The game began rather slowly, with the British troops somewhat reluctant to leave the safety of their defensive breastworks – after all, Russian tactics dictated they would attack at all costs! The soldiers of the Tsar, however, had other ideas (plus their commanders couldn’t roll dice for toffee), and shuffled forward awkwardly, unwilling to advance towards the cream of the British Empire. The British responded with… more of the same, before some gentle encouragement (read: pleading with the dice gods) from their commanders finally got them moving. The Light Brigade sallied forth, this time aimed at the correct enemy guns, while the Heavy Brigade on the opposite flank thundered forwards, directly towards our infantry!

With the flower of British cavalry hurtling towards them (and with my infantry staring the onrushing Heavy Brigade in the face!), the Russians did the only sensible thing. Taking a leaf out of Wellington’s book a half-century earlier… they formed square! The heavies marauded around my formation, achieving precisely nothing, and in return received a genuinely impressive volley from the nearest face of each square, which shook the entire brigade and led to a spot of cheering from the Russian generals (and some bad words from the British), and saw the horsemen stalled in front of the Russian positions – in perfect position to receive a countercharge from the Russian Cossacks and dragoons massing in the centre!

General Adcockovich duly obliged, smashing into the heavies with malice aforethought. Sadly, his dice must have been British agents, as they chose that moment to betray him, and his dragoons simply bounced off the formed-up Englishmen. Despite this setback, on the left General Colinsky’s infantry made a gallant advance against the Light Brigade, driving the lancers and hussars back and filling the Russians with the hope that they could, just maybe, snatch victory away from the British. Alas, this was to be short-lived, as the British infantry finally deigned to leave their comfortable defensive positions and began their advance towards the Russian squares.

As the British (particularly the Guards in the centre and a no-less-concerning brigade of regulars to my front) advanced on the Russians, their advantage in firepower began to show; P1851 Enfield rifle-muskets comfortably outranging the assorted collection of antiques and oddities fielded by the Tsar’s forces. If General Adcockovich couldn’t come to my aid with his cavalry soon, my squares would be easy meat for the British! A gallant charge was made, and one enemy unit was scattered to the four winds, but the Heavy Brigade’s retaliation was swift and brutal, overwhelming a unit of Cossacks with ease before getting stuck into the rest of the cavalry brigade. With a concerning smile, and no small amount of smack-talk, Brigadier-General Massingberd-Hely-Massingberd ordered his infantry forward, but not into a firing line as I’d initially feared… instead, the British fixed bayonets, and charged! With my brigade still stuck in square due to the proximity of the Heavy Brigade, there was little I could do except grin and bear it – and order my lads to pile in as best they could!

On the left, meanwhile, Colinsky was giving Prince Wojtek’s Light Brigade a hell of a fight, with his infantry punching well above their weight, alternately moving forward aggressively and forming defensive squares to drive the cavalry off. With that flank secure, it was up to Adcockovich’s cavalry to save the day on the right, before the Guards brigade arrived. With sabres and lances gleaming, they plunged into the ranks of British horsemen, hoping to seize the initiative with the violence of action. Alas, it was not to be, however, as the heavier British cavalry took a savage toll on the light Russian forces. Despite a valiant fight, the Tsar’s cavalry were beaten back in disorder, dooming the infantry to their fate.

Determined not to go down without a fight, I ordered my infantry to hold their squares steady and die hard, and (true to historical form) they laid in eagerly with musket-butt and bayonet. Badly outnumbered, there was only one way this could really have gone, as the British ignored their mounting casualties and grimly set about reducing the dogged Russians. As my brigade collapsed (and the flank along with it), much of the Russian cavalry was also fleeing in confusion, desperate to avoid being caught by the rampaging Heavy Brigade. Only General Colinsky’s brigade held some semblance of order, having assumed defensive positions after forcing back the Light Brigade. Seeing the collapse of the rest of the army, he very sensibly ordered a retreat, and the end of the game!

With an excellent time had by all, the only thing left to do was work out the winner! While the British had smashed us up and down the table, they hadn’t managed to wipe us all out, and we’d certainly fought honourably (according to us, at least!) – making it a clear Russian victory, indisputable and certain! I personally guarantee the veracity of this statement, and am sure there will be no dissent from any of the other generals present!

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