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Black Powder Cavalry Notes
Options for Erik Lee’s Civil War

Below are some suggested, and play-tested, improvements to my favorite war game.

-James LaFond

The Virginian

Robert E. Lee may not be deployed in the West or the Trans-Mississippi. If Lee is forced to retreat into the West the Union player should receive 1 victory point for every turn in which Lee is out of the East at turn’s end.

Aggressive Southern Naval Initiative

The CSA player is permitted to enter naval SPs as reinforcements.

Token Forces

This token force rule must be used if the cavalry option is used.

The following markers and far west counters are regarded as having an intrinsic defensive strength equal to ¼ strength point:

1. Depots

2. Control markers

3. Stockades

4. Forts

5. Fortresses

6. Indians

7. Texas Rangers

a. Token forces may be attacked by leaderless SPs [Strength Points], but only in territory friendly to the leaderless SPs.

b. Any result against a token force causes its elimination.

c. Civilized Indians may be commanded by Confederate leaders and attached to armies as quarter SP equivalents.

d. Texas Rangers and other Indian counters may not be moved with leaders and act and defend independently.

e. Token forces present during major combat do not affect combat but are affected by its results. Exception: Civilized Indians are counted toward the combat strength of a force with which they are stacked if the commanding leader rolls higher than his initiative rating prior to combat.

f. Depots only defend against token forces and cavalry forces. A depot occupied by an enemy SP converts as per standard rules.


[For a quick playable cavalry option turn to the last page or scroll to the end and try the ‘Raider’ option.]

The original design does attempt to address the different nature and scale of cavalry operations. The most significant problem with the original was the high relative command point expenditure it takes to move SPs as cavalry instead of infantry, when the inverse was historically the case. The other problem was that the resulting moves generally simulated the movement of more cavalry troopers than were ever actually commanded by that general. The following is an attempt to more accurately simulate period cavalry operations.

The base method here, being the expenditure of only 1 CP [Command Point]to activate a cavalry leader, has been played as a house rule among many Civil War players for decades.

The secondary aspect of this option is that cavalry and infantry SPs are not interchangeable, that cavalry force strength represents a separate parallel manpower pool.

1. The Cavalry Force

A cavalry leader is treated just as any other leader [except not being able to command SPs] until the controlling player declares that the leader is forming a force.

a. A cavalry force must be formed in friendly territory and in supply, at or adjacent to a VP city, depot, or friendly force of 2 SPs or greater. The friendly force may or may not be demoralized or in supply.

b. A cavalry leader controls cavalry SPs only, which are not interchangeable with standard SPs. Each cavalry SP is equal to half a standard SP.

c. A cavalry leader initially forms a force equal to his rank.

d. A brigadier’s force is initially and may not exceed 1 cavalry SP or brigade [or ½ SP].

e. A one-star general’s force is initially and may not exceed 2 cavalry SPs or a division [or 1 SP equivalent]

f. A 2-star general’s 3 cavalry SPs or a corp [or 1 ½ SPs].

g. The 3-star cavalry general Sheridan may command 4 cavalry SPs, essentially a cavalry army, [2 SPs]. See 14. Below for an option for ‘Sheridan’s conglomeration’

2. Cavalry Leader Activation

To activate a cavalry leader spend one command point, or use a die difference point only if there are no reinforcements that may be brought in. The controlling player then makes an initiative check. The initiative check is the key to utilizing cavalry leaders according to this system.

To make an initiative check roll one die and compare it to the leader’s initiative rating.

a. If the leader’s force is demoralized the activation roll is made at a -1.

b. If the result is less than the leader’s rating than that leader may not activate despite the point having been expended to activate him.

c. If the result is equal to the leader’s initiative he may attempt to re-moralize [see 5. below] or build that force.

d. If the result is greater than his initiative rating his force is automatically re-moralized and he may conduct operations; either building or rebuilding his force [see 4. below], or moving and engaging in combat with his existing force.

e. When a cavalry leader is killed or wounded his force disbands. Cavalry SPs may not remain on the board without their leader and are not convertible to SPs.

3. Maintaining a Token Cavalry Force

When a cavalry force is eliminated and the leader is not wounded or killed, the controlling player has the option of placing the leader on the game track or of retaining the leader in the field in command of a token cavalry force equal to ¼ SP. To indicate a token SP place a control marker beneath the leader counter. This is essentially a cadre.

a. If the cavalry force was not part of a larger retreating force, it must retreat to the nearest hex that will place it 2 hexes distant from all enemy forces.

b. A token cavalry force may not affect supply, railroad control, or screen medium or large forces.

c. An army commander with a token cavalry force under his command may utilize the cavalry leader’s tactical rating for retreat and combat but may not count the ¼ SP toward his strength.

d. The commander of a token cavalry force may, upon being activated as a leader for 1 CP, disband his force and move as a leader.

e. If a token cavalry force attacks a control marker and is eliminated by taking a result, and the token defender is also eliminated, control is regained in friendly territory and the location goes neutral in border territory.

All of the rules that apply to token forces above, and cavalry forces below, apply to this force.

4. Building/rebuilding a Cavalry Force

When a wounded or removed cavalry leader is returned to play his force is not automatically brought up to strength. He must build a new one. This is an argument for leaving a token cavalry command in the field.

The leader reenters play as any other leader.

Upon being activated, a returned or disbanded cavalry commander, or the commander of a token or under strength cavalry force, who meets the requirements for force creation above [see 1.] may attempt to build his force. An initiative roll is made, and the leader receives additional cavalry SPs equal to the positive die difference, up to but not exceeding his command limit. A roll equal to or less then his initiative rating results in no additional cavalry SPs being raised.

5. Demoralization and Re-moralization

Demoralized cavalry forces are treated as per the standard rules except:

a. They are permitted to retreat before combat. [In this option, when a cavalry force retreats before combat it behaves like a reacting army, and does not ‘screen’ the enemy force.]

b. Cavalry re-moralization may be conducted while out-of-supply. Demoralized cavalry forces out of supply at the end of a turn abide by the standard rules [loss of a point and continued demoralization].

c. A leader of a demoralized cavalry force makes his activation roll at a -1.

d. The leader of a demoralized cavalry force, if activated with a roll greater than his initiative rating, automatically re-moralizes his force, if the roll is equal to his initiative rating he must make an additional initiative check to re-moralize his force. A positive roll indicating re-moralization; and a roll equal to or less than indicating re-moralization and the loss of an SP. [This last result severely reduces combat effectiveness.]

e. A demoralized cavalry force will not cause a main force to become demoralized if they stack together. Likewise a demoralized infantry force does not demoralize cavalry.

6. Retreat Before Combat

When an enemy force moves into a hex containing a cavalry force, that force may attempt to retreat before combat. An initiative check is made.

a. If the result is greater than the leader’s initiative score the force retreats one hex.

b. If the result is equal to his score the leader makes a loss check before retreating [except when screening, as the loss check has already been made, see 7. below].

c. If the result is less than his initiative he must stay and fight the enemy.

d. A demoralized cavalry force attempting to retreat does so at a -1.

e. A cavalry force retreating from another cavalry force does so at a -1 cumulative with d.

f. A cavalry force retreating from a main force containing a cavalry leader does so at a -1 but if forced to stand and fight will only be obliged to fight the cavalry force, unless an adjusted ‘0’ or less is the result, in which case the entire force must be fought.

g. A retreating cavalry force that is forced to fight and fails to inflict a result is treated as if overrun, permitting the attacking force to continue movement.

h. A retreating cavalry force that is forced to fight and inflicts a result on the enemy successfully screens the attacking force, even if eliminated [see below].

7. Screening

This is an aggressive delaying retreat. Before attempting to screen an enemy force the cavalry leader makes a leader loss check. If he is not killed or wounded the screening process precedes according to Retreat Before Combat above. If a screening attempt is successful [a retreat result being achieved] the enemy force is screened and must cease movement upon entering the hex being vacated by the screening force. Demoralized cavalry forces may not screen.

a. It requires 3 cavalry SPs to screen a large force

b. It requires 2 cavalry SPs to screen a medium force

c. 1 cavalry SP can screen any size cavalry force but only a small main force.

d. A token cavalry force may screen up to 2 cavalry SPs, a token force, or a single leaderless SP; but may not screen a small force commanded by a leader.

8. Covering a Retreating Force

When an army containing a cavalry leader, or a force commanded by a 2-star or 3-star general which is stacked with a cavalry leader, is called upon to retreat after combat, the controlling player might opt to cover the retreat. This is done by making an initiative check for the cavalry leader being detached to cover the retreat.

a. If the result is greater than the initiative rating the cavalry leader stays behind in the hex that the main force retreated to and the main force is permitted to retreat one additional hex.

b. If the result is equal to his rating he makes a leader loss check [in addition to that made as a result of having participated in the previous combat] and the main force is permitted to retreat the additional hex, even if he is eliminated from the intervening hex. Historically this is what happened when Forest covered the Confederate retreat after Shiloh and stopped Sherman’s boys, who shot him in the process.

c. If the result is less than his rating he makes a leader loss check and the main force retreats normally.

d. A cavalry leader who attempts to cover a retreat against a force with cavalry does so at a -1.

e. The covering of the retreat precedes the cavalry’s sustaining a demoralization result. However, if the cavalry force was demoralized before the previous combat, the leader will cover the retreat at a -1.

9. Participation in Main Force Operations

a. When a cavalry leader is stacked with a main force, fractional equivalents are not retained.

Example: 3 cavalry SPs equal 1 and ½ SPs. If that cavalry force engaging a token or other cavalry force the fractions are retained, and it fights as a 1 and ½ SP force, which would give it 3 to 1 against a token force. However, in any combat against main force SPs it would fight as 1 SP. So any cavalry force that falls below 2 cavalry SPs will not contribute factors to a conventional battle.

10. Effecting Enemy Supply

a. For a cavalry force to block supply the leader must make an initiative check at the moment that the enemy player attempts to trace supply through that hex. Supply will be interdicted through that hex for the remainder of the turn [indicated with a die or purpose made counter] with a roll equal to or greater than his initiative rating.

b. To destroy a depot or ‘eat’ it for its own supply purposes, a cavalry force must first engage the depot in combat as a token force. If enemy SPs garrison the depot the depot is not counted as a token SP.

c. A cavalry unit may not convert a depot.

11. Cavalry Control of Hexes

a. Cavalry forces may not convert enemy VP cities and railroads, only friendly and neutral ones, and at the expense of a movement point.

b. Friendly and neutral VP cities and stockades may be converted by spending an additional movement point and successfully combating the token force occupying the site.

c. Cavalry forces that attack forts or fortresses have an additional column shift against them.

d. Main Force Note: When attacking forts and fortresses armies do not factor any attached cavalry SPs.

12. ‘The First with the Most’

Nathan Bedford Forest was the man that Robert E Lee said could have won the war for the Confederacy if he had been an army commander. This is debatable. What is not debatable was Forest’s effectiveness as a raider and as a subordinate during battles such as Shiloh. But he did not get along with his commanders. Forest’s victory at Brice’s Crossroads was eventually studied by the German High Command prior to World War II and helped serve as the model for mechanized warfare. In many ways Forest and his force filled a military role more akin to modern airborne, mechanized infantry and air-mobile forces then armor.

Note: I made a separate Forest rule to make up for the fact that this option takes some punch away from the cavalry. Forest was the only cavalry commander who regularly demanded his troopers stand up to infantry on their own terms, and employed tactics that permitted them to survive and prevail against conventional forces. He was also the only raider doing river interdiction and threatening to beat up 3-star generals.

a. Dismounting: Before any action occurs involving Forest as attacker or defender, the CSA player rolls an initiative check with one die. If the result is higher than Forest’s ‘2’ rating then his cavalry SPs fight as standard SPs. In major combat Forest usually dismounted his men and fought opposing infantry formations successfully.

b. Cowards & Women: After a CSA main force with which Forest is stacked sustains a demoralization result Forest will leave that force. Before the Forest counter is un-stacked from the main force and moved into an adjacent space, the CSA player may make a force-building roll [initiative check as per 4. Above] for Forest [He is moving out in disgust and stealing men from his commander]. Forest’s force will not be demoralized unless Forest misses his check by rolling a 1. He may well come away with additional troopers [a 3-6 roll]. If the main force commander had a negative tactical or army command rating that was used to adjust the combat result Forest will never again serve under that general and will not even stack with him! Forest actually threatened Bragg and his first notable act of the war was to refuse to obey an order to surrender.

c. River Interdiction: If Forest is stacked on a navigable river hex-side out of range of gunboats or ironclads he may, if he makes an initiative check, prevent the Union player from tracing supply along that river hex-side, but may not stop transports, for the remainder of the turn. This will be nullified when naval units are moved into place.

Additional Cavalry Options

The rules below permit a more complete portrayal of mobile warfare in the civil war but require additional counters.

13. More Cavalry Leaders

“In general, the cavalry of both sides became ever more indispensable as the war went on.”

-Designer’s notes preceding the cavalry rules

Unfortunately the actual game design does not address this. Rather it is the reverse, with attrition among the few representative cavalry leaders causing the game to become weighted toward infantry action late in the game.

I suggest the use of two types of optional leaders to reflect the growing importance of mobile operations in the later half of the war:

1. The addition of leaders to the leader pool beginning in 1863

2. The use of replacement leaders for certain standard cavalry leaders beginning in 1863. If the principal is killed in ‘61 or ’62 do not replace until ’63.

Additional Confederate Leaders

1. Wade Hampton, 2-star general, 3 initiative, must be entered in east

2. Abraham Buford, 1-star general, 3 initiative, must be entered in west

3. Jo Shelby, 1-star general, 2 initiative, +1 tactical, must be entered in Trans-Mississippi

Note: Shelby launched the last invasion of the North with 2 SPs into Missouri and won the last battle of the war at Brownsville Texas, with what would be a token force in this game.

Additional Union Leaders

1. William Sooy Smith, 2-star general, 4 initiative, -2 tactical, enter in west

2. Abel D. Streight, brigadier, 3 initiative, +1 tactical. Streight’s ‘mule’ cavalry must be entered in the west and moves only 5

3. Grenville M. Dodge, brigadier, 3 initiative, enter in west

4. George Armstrong Custer, brigadier, 3 initiative, +1 tactical

Note: Smith, Streight and Dodge represented the Union push to play catch up in the

mobile war fought behind the lines in the west. Having all of these Union brigadiers popping up is no fun for the CSA player.

Replacement Leaders

Upon the death of the following cavalry leaders the brigadier generals [These guys can only command a single cavalry SP or a token force] indicated should be placed on the next turn as a leader reinforcement.

1. Forest is replaced by James R. Chalmers, 2 initiative, +1 tactical, deployed in the west

2. Sheridan is replaced by Richard Blazer, 2 initiative, deployed in the east

3. Jeb Stuart is replaced by John D. Imbolden, 2 initiative, +1 tactical, deployed in the east

14. ‘Conglomerations’

Sheridan, Wade Hampton and William Sooy Smith may attach an infantry SP to their force. So long as that SP remains with the force the force moves at the infantry rate of 4. If the SP is dropped off the cavalry leader may continue moving to his full 6.

The original game depicted Sheridan with 15,000 cavalry troopers. He didn’t field more than 10,000 horsemen. The balance of his men were infantry so he could hold territory. This 4 cavalry SP with 1 infantry SP force, if built, can be big trouble in the Shenandoah.

Smith was a joke, but still a threat, and wade Hampton was just scraping together an ad-hoc force and owned the last CSA horses in the east.

The Civil War ‘Raider’ Cavalry Option

Cavalry leaders are placed as ‘lone leaders’, or ‘attached’ to armies as their intelligence element, or detached as ‘raiders’.

Cavalry leaders are brought in as per standard rules but may not move SPs.

A cavalry leader has three modes:

1. Lone leader indicated by an inverted counter.

2. Attached to an army, indicated by placing the counter on the army track.

3. Detached as a raider, indicated by placing the counter face up on the map.

To detach a cavalry leader as a raider he must be in supply in friendly territory. A CP is spent and an initiative roll is made. A cavalry leader that successfully detaches as a ‘raider’ has a number of intrinsic SPs equal to his rank, and has 6 movement points.

This leader remains in ‘raider mode’ until that player decides to disband or attach him.

A raider may conduct operations by expending 1 CP and then making an initiative check.

A raider adds his tactical rating to combat and may screen enemy forces.

Raiders that are demoralized do not demoralize friendly forces, nor do demoralized friendly forces demoralize raiders.

To re-moralize a raider must qualify to re-moralize according to the standard rules and make a successful initiative check for 1 CP.

Raiders that fail a re-moralization check or would be called upon to lose an SP at the end of a turn are inverted, having disbanded their force.

A raider may ‘disband’ his intrinsic force and then move as a leader for 1 CP.

A raider stacked with an army may attach to that army at no cost.

A cavalry leader attached to an army affects the reaction die roll with his tactical rating, adds his tactical rating to battles, and prevents that army from being screened by a raider.

A raider stacked with friendly SPs defends in a separate independent action before or after the conventional force, at the defending player’s discretion.

To conduct any of the following actions a raider must be un-demoralized and begin movement in supply. Exception: A raider may move onto a [friendly or enemy] depot and remove it and is now considered ‘in supply’ until his move ends.

Raiders may not convert depots.

Raiders may initiate combat by expending 1 MP.

Raiders may ‘cut’ a railroad hex by expending 1 MP. [Indicate with destruction marker.]

Raiders may not convert railroads, enemy or friendly.

Raiders may retake a friendly VP city by expending 1 MP.

Raiders may not take enemy VP cities.

Raiders may remove a control marker from a border state VP city at a cost of 2 MPs.

Raiders may not place or convert a control marker on a border state VP city.

Raiders do not affect trace supply.

Exception: A raider moving into a hex through which the controlling player wants to interdict enemy supply, may make an initiative check. A roll equal to or less than his rating fails to affect supply. A roll greater than his rating will only result in the interdiction of enemy supply through that hex if the raider can expend a number of movement points equal to the die difference. If successful an alert marker is placed on the raider and enemy trace and rail supply will be interdicted through this hex so long as the raider does not move.

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