Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Sharp Practice 2 - Game 2: Spy Hunt

So, on to the second game of the weekend. We did some mild shuffling of the terrain and scenery and came up with a simple plot for the game.

Word has reached the respective HQs of both armies that a brave/notorious (depending on your point of view) female spy has been exposed (ooh-er) nearby, and both sides have dispatched a small force to bring her in before the enemy can get to her. Despite their recent exertions, the two forces from the first game are the closest troops to hand, and they are duly ordered into action once more.

On the run, the spy has gone into hiding in one of the cottages (placed in secret by a neutral assistant we drafted in for the purpose) in the small border hamlet of Frinchy. We'd have to enter and search (defined in the rules as a Task) these buildings in order to discover her, and naturally there'd be some violent competition to get there first.

The table for 'Spy Hunt', with initial troop positions after their turn 1 arrival via their deployment points:

Jase's Fleurian skirmishers and line infantry move rapidly towards Frinchy.

My Medetians were busy doing likewise at the other end of the table. Somewhat freakishly, both players managed to collect 4 command cards before the end of the first turn and both used them to activate their force commander a second time, granting them useful extra movement for their troops.

A unit of Fleurian Voltigeurs made quick progress to the nearest cottage and looked poised to enter and start searching. However, they hadn't counted on Brevet-Lieutenant Lambrusco leading his Bersaglieri rifles at speed to cross a fence and deliver a crushing volley which downed several men including Ensign Jacquere (who only came-to at the end of the battle to find that while he'd been out of action, his small group had been reduced to a single man!)

In the following turns Lambrusco left his men to cover the door while he dashed inside to check the premises for the elusive spy. Despite a quick, thorough search, he came up empty-handed.

Meanwhile, in the middle of the village things were hotting up. The Fleurians managed to take up some useful positions, hurting the Medetians with effective fire and knocking out their force commander, Captain Gattinara.

This left the Medetians with a command and control problem at a crucial time and they continued to come off worse in the on-going exchange of volleys. The leading column was halted, with casualties and shock building up. Another group under veteran Sergeant Fiorentina did manage to enter one of the other cottages to search it, but were badly shot up as they made their way inside.

Again they found nothing (albeit this was unknown to the Fleurian player) and clearly this meant that the spy was in the building that was currently surrounded by Fleurians. Damn!

By this time the Fleurian leader, Captain Corbieres, had established a strong central position and used a couple more flurries of command cards to very good effect. He was able to detach a group under Sergeant Luberon (whose derriere seemed to have recovered since the last game), who redeemed himself by duly locating the spy and escorting her at great speed through the trees and away from the fighting.

The Medetians tried to press forward to harry the enemy's withdrawal but struggled to make headway. Captain Gattinara rose groggily back to his feet but could do little to get a pursuit underway quickly enough. The Fleurians had won the race to find the spy and the firing petered out as they fell back the way they'd come.

Post-Action Round-up

After the game we drew a card to see which side the lady in question had been spying for, to ascertain her likely fate now she had been discovered. As (her) luck would have it, she turned out to be working for the Fleurians and therefore the outcome was a successful rescue of their own heroine! The men on the ground wouldn't have been privy to this information when they received their orders, they just had to carry out their mission as best they could.

So, glory for Corbieres and little for the Medetians this time, but there'd be another chance to win some honour soon enough. I'm keeping a bit of a tally on the leaders (Big Men) that are involved in my Sharp Practice games. There are chances to win promotion or receive awards for valour, and one or two are getting close to qualifying. Whether they can do so before making the ultimate sacrifice remains to be seen!

Similarly, the 'Black Widow', as I've decided to (code)name our spy, might return to be the subject of a future game...

One post-game note: neither my musician nor Jase's Holy Man had any impact in either game, circumstances just didn't give us a chance to call on their potentially beneficial effects. Next time perhaps!

Monday, 26 September 2016

Sharp Practice 2 - first games

In between drinking the occasional beer this weekend, my friend Jase and I gave SP2 a couple of goes using my 28mm post-Napoleonic imagi-nations collection. As expected, the rules gave a very satisfying gaming experience and, once we'd got the gist of things, we really got into the command challenges they present to players. I can certainly see why so many people are playing this revision of the rules.

After a small test session with a couple of groups a side to get some familiarity with the core mechanisms, we mixed and matched a bit with scenarios for the 2 games we played. For the first game we drew from Neil Thomas's One Hour Wargames book, which a lot of people seem to use as a go-to place for clearly defined, interesting scenarios. We chose no.4 Take the High Ground as it offered a focus for a fight and would get us into action pretty directly.

The table for game 1, with the hill objective clearly visible next to the road:

The forces were drawn from my Medetians and their perpetual enemy, Fleurie. I haven't  looked at the force/army lists for SP2 in any great detail yet, but clearly there's plenty of scope to tailor troop characteristics and capabilities to get to where you want. For simplicity, we went with the Medetians using Peninsular Portuguese unit types and the Fleurians using Peninsular French.

We rolled for sides, and at 60 points each, we had;

Leaders of levels III, II and I
5 groups of Line infantry
1 group of Skirmishers with rifles (Cacadores)

Leaders of levels III, II, I and I
2 groups of Grenadiers
2 groups of Line infantry
2 groups of Skirmishers with muskets (Voltigeurs)

For the first game we rolled for support and this generated us each 4 points worth to choose from the list.

As the Medetian commander I selected a further Level I leader to increase my command options a bit, and a musician to extend the command range of my leader.

Jase's Fleurians gained a Level I leader too, and a Holy Man for a bit of shock-removing inspiration when it would be needed.

No blow-by-blow account, but here's some of the action from Take the High Ground, SP-style..

The Medetians deployed 2 groups on the hill in a Formation. None shall pass...

.. well, except possibly that lot!

The Fleurians arrive en-mass, with skirmishers out in front and 2 assault columns following behind.

The first of the Medetian main force make a timely arrival in the form of a group of riflemen under Brevet-Lieutenant Lambrusco (who did sterling service as an Ensign in SP1 games, surviving several wounds)

Fleurian Voltigeurs move to the flanks to start harassing fire on the Medetian line, creating space for the columns to move through in the centre.

Men in blue start to fall and they're forced to loose off their initial volley to hit back at the pesky skirmishers.

But the columns are getting menacingly closer. The Fleurian Grenadier column decided to open up on the formation on the hill too, and did some damage - not least to their unfortunate leader Sergeant Luberon who was shot in the backside by his own men! C'est la Guerre :)

Despite this amusing set-back, a well-coordinated Fleurian attack sees Voltigeur fire cause further Medetian casualties and a lot of shock, which is followed up in the same turn by both columns hitting home. Although the defenders did some damage in the ensuing melees, they're almost wiped out and the survivors flee. Can the Fleurians get re-organised into line on top of the hill before the Medetians can launch a counter attack?

Although doughty Captain Gattinara has led the main Medetian body (3 groups of line infantry in a formation) forward in a fairly leisurely fashion, he suddenly gets a hurry on and the line surges forward a maximum roll of 12", arriving on the crest of the hill at the perfect moment.

Lambrusco's rifles have been pouring accurate fire into the flank of the nearest column, causing 3 casualties plus 10 shock in 2 rounds of shooting, and causing the Fleurians to recoil a little from the top of the hill. At that point 24 Medetians present their muskets and deliver a devastating first fire volley, clearing away both enemy columns and securing the hill, and victory.

Final positions. Although their plan was a good one, and they enjoyed initial success, the Fleurians are in too poor a shape to rally and try again. They concede the hill to the Medetians and withdraw. Losses were fairly even, as was the remaining force morale for both sides.

This was an excellent introduction game for us, we really enjoyed the command and control challenge generated by the randomness of the leader activations and the options presented by the command (flag) cards. There were always choices to be made, which you felt you could focus on without getting bogged down by the moving, shooting and fighting mechanisms, which were mostly committed to memory after the first few turns.

We then re-set the table for a second game, which will be the subject of the next post.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Some Progress on the 6mm SYW Armies

I've been carrying on with painting the Prussians and Austrians for this project, and the forces are growing slowly but steadily.

I'm aiming to develop the armies in reasonable proportions so I can get some use out of them as they expand - in other words I'm not painting all the cavalry first, for example. The Austrians have received the most attention so far, partly because they were starting from scratch, and partly because a fair number of the Prussians need re-basing which isn't a lot of fun!

For the Austrians I'm painting in batches comprising 5 infantry, 4 cavalry, 1 artillery battery and 1 Grenzer unit, plus commanders. I have about 7 or 8 of these batches to do to end up with the overall army I'm after. I'm currently painting the infantry that will complete batch 3.

Austrians so far:

For the Prussians the batches are a little smaller, due to the make-up of the army. They're running a batch behind the Austrians - although there'll be some quicker catching up once I've done a bunch of re-basing.

The Prussians so far:

I've found myself putting a bit more effort into the flags than I thought I would, no bad thing I guess. They'll certainly do for me. I wasn't going to do anything more for cavalry standards than just paint the base colour but I've done a bit more for the first Prussians and may now have to go back to do something on the Austrian ones too.

Lots more to do, but I'll get there eventually!