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Author Topic: Black Powder Red Earth - Rules Overview  (Read 616 times)

Offline Manchu

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Black Powder Red Earth - Rules Overview
« on: May 04, 2022, 03:48:35 AM »
Black Powder Red Earth (BPRE) is an ultra modern skirmish game set in a fictional North African failed stated called Awbari where PMC operators face off in terrain-dense battlespaces. The game is published by a company called Echelon Software, who also produce a video game and graphic novels featuring the same setting. BPRE is marketed as an unforgiving, fast play miniatures game. You can take a look at Echelon’s site here.

The game can be purchased in a comprehensive “intro box” for 275USD (not including pricey shipping) called the Complete Target Package. It comes with tokens, cards, 2D terrain elements, an acrylic grenade/UAV strike template, and 31 Zbrush-designed resin 28mm figures. This is enough figures to build out all kinds of forces for either side of the conflict. The Western-backed PMC team, called CT Scorch, will deploy around 5 figures per game (out of 10 included in the box) whereas the Chinese-backed PMC and their terrorist allies, the Aayari Network, will deploy around twice that or more (out of 21 included). Not included are a play mat of any kind, dice, or any kind of measuring tool. Any d10s or measuring tool (using inches) will work; these elements are non-proprietary. The cards, tokens, and 2D terrain elements are high quality, with the latter two categories being printed on 3mm PVC.

All of these components can be purchased separately but the Complete Target Package is an overall better deal by comparison. The rulebook can be purchased by itself on Amazon for 35USD. The 2D terrain elements and cards are not strictly necessary to play. If you already have some figures and terrain, you will only need the rulebook. Although BPRE is designed to emulate ultra modern combat, there’s no reason at all that you could not use sci fi figures (such as North Star’s plastic Stargrave figures) and terrain, as well as any generic tokens to keep track of activations. The “battlespaces” (pre-made terrain layouts) included in the rulebook use the official 2D terrain elements but there is no real reason you have to use them — just be sure to use a high density of terrain.

Basic Mechanics

Resolution is rolling at or above a TN on 2d10. LOS is either obstructed or not. Intervening cover obviously obstructs LOS. Less obviously, LOS is obstructed unless the shooting figure can draw LOS from any point of its base (that doesn’t pass through intervening terrain) to the center of the target figure’s base. Facing matters: figures may shoot (a) in an arc to their right extending out 45 degrees from and (b) in an arc to their left extending out 90 degrees from the center front of its base. Forces are meant to be chosen AFTER the mission and layout are determined.

Turn Structure

Each turn of BPRE is broken into three combat phases and a cleanup phase.

In the Direct Fire phase, the players (starting with the assaulting player) take turns activating a single figure. That figure may fire with +1 modifier on any enemy figure in LOS. Figures with the Frag keyword may also throw grenades during this phase. Any activated figure receives an activation token. At any time, a player may pass but then cannot activate any further figures during the phase.

In the Maneuver Phase, the players (starting with the assaulting player) take turns activating a single figure not already marked with an activation token. The figure may move up to its movement rating (generally 6 inches) and fire at any point during its movement. If a figure moves through LOS of enemy figures that have not been marked with an activation token, those figures may take an Immediate Action to make reaction shots on the moving figure with a -3 modifier. Each figure that does so receives an activation token. Note that because figures can shoot at any point during their movement, they may be able to “pop out” of terrain to shoot and then “pop back” in. As with the Direct Fire phase, a player can pass at any time, forfeiting any remaining activations during the phase.

At the start of the Finishing Phase, all activation tokens are removed. Any grenades are then resolved (both scattering and detonating). Then, the players (starting with the assaulting player) take turns activating a single figure not already marked with an activation token that is within 3 inches of AND has LOS to an enemy figure to take a shot on that enemy figure.

During the Cleanup Phase, all activation tokens are removed and Staggered figures lose that status. Play then proceeds to Direct Fire Phase of the next turn.


As mentioned above, BPRE is fought between a smaller, more elite force and a larger, more varied force. Each side has four classes of figures. The CT Scorch classes generally are significantly better shots and have body armor that provides saves when they receive effective fire. By contrast, the Aayari Network classes are a mixed bag and their grunts are bad shots, even susceptible to friendly fire, with no body armor at all. If a figure makes its save it is Staggered UNLESS the save is made on a 20. Staggered means it is marked with an activation token and cannot make further saves against effective fire. Regardless of saves, a shooting result of 20 is always lethal (with no save) so even the humblest terrorists have a chance of outright killing the most expensive figures in the game with a single shot.

Aayari Network teams can be led by Chinese-funded PMC operators but even these classes are not as capable as CT Scorch operators. CT Scorch also has access to the Recce class, which is significantly more maneuverable than any other figure in the game. Of course, the Aayari Network has access to cheaper figures (including suicide bombers!) so they will always outnumber their opponents. The leader classes on both sides can bring UAV support and certain classes are also equipped with frag grenades in addition to their battle rifles. Speaking of which, CT Scorch can deploy an Automatic Rifleman to provide a fearsome fire base. Aayari’s response is more modest but half the cost.

Missing Elements?

There are a couple of iconic concepts that are not explicit mechanics in BPRE. There is no overwatch status, for example, although Immediate Actions during the Maneuver Phase work out to a system where every figure might be “in overwatch.” Likewise, there is no suppressive fire or pinning mechanic. All fire is presumptively fire for effect, although the possibility of staggering a figure with body armor works out to a kind of pinning mechanic. There is no equipment or wound granularity: every figure of a given class has the same load out and, at any given moment, is either alive or dead. Finally, there is no reallybsubstantive fog of war: each player has complete knowledge of the other’s figures and the positions thereof. One exception is the option to hold some figures in reserve for later deployment as Quick Reaction Forces. The only other FOW element is that each player has a hand of Intervention Cards that can have small effects on gameplay, and these cards are unknown to the opposing player until played.

None of this is particularly surprising considering the design brief for BPRE most likely highly prioritized speed of play, including as a means to that end lethality. I say “speed of play” but another way of talking about that feeling/result might be “smoothness of play.” BPRE is meant to played in small campaigns of 3-5 games that, altogether, take between 30 minutes to 3 hours. This seems more like an aspiration than a starting point, considering that players will need to get a handle on tactics (given how unforgiving play can be) and, more specifically, keep a careful eye on all potential LOS. Getting too far into the weeds, while prospectively fostering realism, would be directly contrary to that goal.

Preliminary Thoughts

I am not especially knowledgable about ultra modern spec ops so I can’t judge whether BPRE is a more or less accurate or realistic emulation of this kind of fighting. But this ruleset looks very compelling as a low model-count, asymmetric skirmish game because of straightforward mechanics that appear to give rise to tactical choices between bad and worse options. My expectation is that playing BPRE will feel pretty terrifying most of the time but, when smart plays pay off, it will feel very well earned. Buying into all the official figures and components, as nice as they are, is a fairly eyewatering prospect and even domestic shipping in the US is expensive (for me 30USD for the Complete Target Package) but making a 35USD rulebook available through Amazon means the game is nonetheless accessible to those who want to try it with their existing miniatures and terrain collection.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2022, 08:02:43 AM by Manchu »

Offline Dragonstriker

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Re: Black Powder Red Earth - Rules Overview
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2022, 06:14:37 AM »
The package has increased in price since last week, but now includes the additional 21 opfor minis; it was $200 with CT Scorch only included.
The “resin” appears to be siocast, but I haven’t yet spent the $532 (ouch) AUD to get the package to find out.
I have the metal CT Ember six figure pack from Spectre however and they are fantastic; in my opinion the best figures that Spectre sell.


The resin CT Scorch includes 9 (all armed with Bravo Company Cold Harbor Assaulter Carbines https://soldiersystems.net/2018/11/29/bravo-company-cold-harbor-assaulter-carbine/) carbine armed poses and a Knight’s Armament LAMG https://www.knightarmco.com/12627/shop/military/machine-gun/lamg.*

One other thing that @manchu didn’t mention in the terrain setup is that the play area is intended to be 26”x 26”; a very compact footprint that should encourage quick (high lethality) games once players are used to the rules.

*Ember (Spectre) & Scorch (_Echelon) sculpts are different, I found out today.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2022, 01:47:33 PM by Dragonstriker »

Offline Daeothar

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Re: Black Powder Red Earth - Rules Overview
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2022, 07:38:02 AM »
The PC game looks nice; right up my alley, and should I get back into comics, the BPRE ones would be high on the list.

I'm interested in the rules (I have enough operatirs and bad guys for a small game), but I'm curious as to how it weighs up against Spectre Operations. I got to play a demo game of that just this weekend and I really liked it.

Also; how weird is it that Spectre would be making and selling miniatures to go with a competing system?
Miniatures you say? Well I too, like to live dangerously...
Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face - Mike Tyson

Offline Dragonstriker

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Re: Black Powder Red Earth - Rules Overview
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2022, 10:05:23 PM »
Updating for future reference.
The BPRE 28mm models are polyurethane resin cast on sprues.
They are not siocast (which is nylon).

Offline diehard

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Re: Black Powder Red Earth - Rules Overview
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2022, 01:19:54 AM »
I wasn't aware of Spectre Miniatures, just popped on their site and had a look, they have some pretty nice stuff some of which I have in mind to potentially aquire. Can anyone say if the lean to the big or small size (28 or more 32) and how crisp the details are?
We haul ours to kick theirs.

Offline Daeothar

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Re: Black Powder Red Earth - Rules Overview
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2022, 01:11:32 PM »
I'd say they're middle of the road, closer to 28mm, but more realistically proportioned than heroic.

They would work well together with Crooked Dice or Hasslefree I think, but I haven't really seen a picture of them, compared with other lines...


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