Sharp Practice Game – Destination Bakhala

This weekend 4 fellow-members of the LAW forum came for a big game of Sharp Practice, set within my early 19th century fictitious colonial background.

The plot was that a sepoy mutiny, aided by the notorious corsair El Kebab, had occurred at the Fleurian trading colony at Bakhala. Naturally the Fleurians wanted it back, and roped in their French allies to help. The Medetians turned up too, wanting to deal with El Kebab. Finally, the newly self-proclaimed Maharaja just wanted to see off all-comers and keep hold of his new domain.

LT’s very generous offer of some amazing Indian mutiny buildings provided the inspiration for the table set-up, which saw 3 arrival points for the European forces, and 2 major buildings to be held by the Maharaja and Corsair leader respectively. Naturally there were some slightly conflicting objectives for the players, and some side missions to attempt too – such as finding loot and releasing prisoners. El Kebab needed to escape on his ship, taking whatever ill-gotten gains he could with him.

The forces were:

  • The Maharaja and his mutinous sepoys – played in Hollywood bad guy style by Goat Major

  • The Fleurian expedition under Major Villard, played with impeccable tactical finesse by Jamanicus

  • The French colonial troops under the ultra reactionary Major Chevauchee (accompanied by his mobile guillotine), played by the young Napoleon,  Jeremy

  • The Medetian naval detachment under Commander Nero, played by old sea dog Levied Troop

  • The despicable El Kebab, terror of the high seas, with his vicious crew, played in a scurvy cove style by me

The general scene, as shown in the player’s briefings, was:

Here’s Bakhala itself, with the government building and Governor’s mansion, before all hell broke loose:

As well as the buildings, LT brought some additional jungle bases which fitted in well, and GM’s Frost/Sandgrave ruins and other features really added flavour to the setting. The table was 9 x 4.5 feet, the biggest I’ve ever set up and about the maximum possible for the space available. I managed to finish my jungle bases, as well as some additionally needed terrain boards, just in time. They were long overdue and it’s great to get them done. I also assembled and painted 2 bridges and 3 sampans for the game.

There were a total of about 350 figures in use, although taking early casualties and late arrivals into account, not all were on the table at the same time!

On arrival, the attackers were handed their orders which told them which of the 4 approach routes they’d be taking. The Medetians came by boat via the swamp, the Fleurians came through the hills and the French through the jungle. The Maharaja and El Kebab deployed a third of their forces on watch, and each placed 2 (apparently myopic) sentries further out to give early warning of any approaching enemies.

Everyone gathered their forces, selected some support options, and placed their deployment points. Then the first activation chip was drawn and we were off, with all the usual excitement and consternation of random arrivals and unpredictable events. Nevertheless, everyone formulated a plan and did their best to stick to it, trying to use their command options to the best advantage. The rules always give an excellent game and we used a few house rules to handle the multi-player apect.

The fortunes of the various leaders and their forces went something like this:

The French battled their way forward from the jungle, confronted by increasing numbers of corsairs. The guillotine rumbled into view, causing fear and shock (1 point per group) to all enemies who saw it. Major Chevauchee led from the front, directing his men to crush all opposition and personally fighting in several bloody melees.

His men liberated loot from the Governor’s house (though sensibly refrained from heading upstairs when they spotted the glint of many scimitars – El Kebab’s dreaded Red Blades were lurking in ambush), and then pushed on to be on the verge of crossing the river and cutting the corsair leader off from his ship.

Their actions at Bakhala certainly added lustre to the reputation of the French army.

The Fleurians came from the hills in fine style, Major Villard commanding contingents of line troops, grenadiers, voltigeurs and artillery. Then they bumped into El Kebab’s defences, in particular an ancient artillery piece that did considerable execution.

Steady volleys and steady leadership, despite Villard picking up a wound, finally saw off the enemy and only the arrival of darkness prevented a final assault on the key government building across the river. Fleurie would have to try again to recover it’s colony.

The Medetians – sailors, marines and army regulars under Commander Nero came by boat and were in the thick of it from the start. Erratic oarsmanship resulted in a piecemeal assault, and the mutineers’ cannon balls splashing down among (and sometimes into) the boats didn’t make things any easier.

Numerous landings took place, some only to be met with bayonets and scimitars and cut down or pushed back to the boats. Under a hail of sepoy fire it was to be a hard day for all of Medetia’s brave units.

Despite these challenges, and losses among their officers, they were still battling hard at the end, closing in by boat on El Kebab’s escape route. Most dramatically one group very sneakily managed to gain entrance to the rear of the government building and set it alight from within! Back home for tea and medals then, and to plan another hunt for the slippery corsairs.

The Maharaja, resplendent in his gilded armour and helmet, managed affairs from atop his new ‘palace’. His previous career as a lowly sepoy sergeant had taught him how to lead men, and his little army gave a bloody nose to any who dared challenge his rule.

He even launched a late cavalry charge at the French, which caused a lot of alarm, if not actual results. His prized elephant was kept in reserve as an escape vehicle, but wasn’t required!

Marvellous parade-ground marching by the Maharaja’s newly-loyal sepoys, lovely converted figures by GM:

That man knows how to defend a building!

At the end, he still held his palace, but there was the small matter of it being on fire and his victorious men were soon ordered to the river to get water!

El Kebab’s day had already involved putting out a fire – his mansion had attracted a burning cinder from the nearby fighting and required him to urgently order 2 units to form a bucket detail!

However, with the fire out, his problems were only just beginning. His forces, handy in a fight but no real match for trained regulars, were being hammered from all sides by the French and Fleurians. Despite a brave stand around the gun, and some frenzied charges into the French columns, things were crumbling and only his ferocious reputation kept his men’s morale from collapsing. The loss of several of his key henchmen also contributed to El Kebab’s misfortunes.

By the end, he was forced to charge out of the mansion at the head of his Red Blades to push back the French voltigeurs. Nearly killing Major Chevauchee in the melee, he then wheeled his men left and headed for the bridge and his ship. The night would be spent groping their way in the dark downriver to the sea. It was another close escape!

So, that was how ‘Destination Bakhala’ played out. Everyone got stuck in and saw plenty of action, and everything was done with an excellent spirit and a desire to make it an enjoyable day all-round. Well done guys, and you’re all cordially invited to come back for a follow-on game if you fancy it.

After all, there’s a lot of unfinished business in the jungle and on the high seas…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Brilliant Weekend In Essex (yes, really)

I can’t believe it’s over 3 weeks ago already, and I’m only just posting now! LAW forum member Essex Boy finally had a few of us down for a first game in ‘The Shed’. This snazzy new venue has reached almost mythical status, due to the length of time it’s taken him to get it ready. But, it was most certainly worth the wait.

The Shed has very good lighting and heating, and a decent amount of space for 6 people to play a decent-sized game. Every wargamer’s deam 🙂

Essex flag bunting greeted us on our arrival! You can’t have everything I suppose.

Inside was an excellent custom-prepared battlefield, assembled that very morning (with the help of a just-woken Andy apparently!)

We were using Iain and Gary’s 20mm WSS armies, plus a brigade of Andy’s Savage Swans and Altfritzenbergers that he’d painted for the occasion. The troops all looked superb, and together with the terrain, presented a real spectacle and were a pleasure to play with.

Iain had devised a cunning scenario which called for both sides to fight for control of the numerous road junctions. Andy and I played as the defending Franco-Bavarian (and Alfritzenberg) commanders, with Gary, Tim and Simon controlling the allies. Iain ran the game, umpired and took control of the odd unit of locals who popped up to surprise the allied attackers.

The rules used were Rank & File and they gave a decent period feel, were easy to learn/remember, and allowed the game to move along at a good pace. There were close-fought actions all over the battlefield, with attritional losses building up steadily (and often worryingly) during the day. By the end Andy and I had just about held on, and controlled enough of the roads to be declared the victors. It was getting very close though!

Once the game had been wrapped up, we had a good evening filled with Mexican food and plenty of beer, and all promised to come again when The Shed doors are open again to the LAW mob.

Big thanks to Iain for all the effort he put in, and for the others for their contributions and great company. This type of weekend is always an excellent way to spend hobby and social time, and this was no exception.

Lion Rampant in the Late Roman Era

Well it’s still cold and we’ve had more snow, so I thought some further gaming on the winter terrain was appropriate. I also recently re-read The Eagle in the Snow by Wallace Breem, so out came some Late Romans and their Goth enemies and over the weekend I played a few solo games using the excellent Lion Rampant rules.

I wanted to try some of the scenarios I hadn’t played before, so picked two 24 point forces and had a few goes of ‘Hammer and Anvil’, and one of ‘The Messenger’. Both require the forces to move a lot to achieve their objectives, which is always a challenge with the unpredictable activation rules in the Rampant series! My house rule is that all leaders have the Commanding trait to gain a re-roll on the first failed activation roll each turn (if the unit is within 12″). This suits me better, but a good plan can still be ruined when things don’t happen for you.

The figures are 15mm and I played at half-scale (ie. 2″ in the rules being 1″ on the table). It worked well on a 4’x3′.

The Hammer and Anvil games proved very tough to win for the side trying to exit the opposite table edge, but I did manage it once out of 3 attempts. I swapped the forces around to give each side a chance to attack and defend.

The Goths managed to get the Messenger through in the last game I played, having had a rough time of it initially.

All the games proved exciting, with some challenging decisions (even playing solo) and lots of incidents. I may just have to play a few more now!

15mm Frostgrave – First Game

After all that scenery making it seemed logical to give 15mm Frostgrave a go. So, we played a 3 player game on a 3’x3′ table, using the basic treasure-grab scenario. We had a Chronomancer, an Illusionist and a Thaumaturge, each with a reasonably typical starting warband.

There were a good variety of figures in use, including lots of adventurers/characters, but also some Orcs and even the odd Lizardman as thugs and thieves.

The table was put together fairly randomly, but with plenty of raised areas, especially towards the middle to create an interesting setting to game over. We placed 2 treasure as centrally as possible, the players then placed more 2 each, and off we went!

We were using a few light house rules, designed to encourage a broad use of spells, keep the focus on treasure and the mission, and provide a greater likelihood of random monsters appearing. Apart from the last, which still only generated a single bear, they seemed to work well and everyone was prioritising their spells and movement over just lots of shooting and fighting (although there was a fair bit of that too!)

Crossbows on the roof – nasty!

Anti-crossbowman fog spell:

Cat and mouse in the old courtyard:

Creeping up to the treasure:

The surprise bear was dealt with very efficiently:

General action shots:

The Chronomancer tries a last spell before legging it:

The game took a good while to get through, but everyone needed time to learn the rules and get used to things. I think there were more than 15 different spells cast in all, which provided a lot of variety to the action. Playing against two opponents was a lot of fun and made things very unpredictable.

For me the most dramatic moment was when the Chronomancer’s apprentice managed to cast Scatter Shot, with my wizard and half my warband in range. Only a few cuts and scratches were suffered, but it was pretty worrying at the time! My archer was able to remove the risk of it happening again with a well-placed arrow.

At the end, honours were pretty even in terms of treasure and experience points. We’ll certainly be playing again with these warbands and we have a bit of gold to spend in the meantime!

Sci-fi Rampant – Sausages With Mustard Scenario

Last weekend Jase and I played one of the scenarios from Lion Rampant, using our 15mm sci-fi stuff. Jase brought his ‘dogmen’  force and I used my mercenaries, which included several new additions since the last game.

The mission is for one side (me, the defender) to protect a number of buildings/features in the centre of the table, while the enemy attempts to destroy them. We chose 36pt forces and played the game length-ways on a 4’x3′ table.

Noble mercenaries hurry towards the threatened facility:

The mortars are not technically necessary as on-table pieces, but are there to look good and represent the indirect fire capability of my advanced spotter team (a unit of Dragon Rampant ‘Scouts’ with a ‘Wizardling’ upgrade that gives them the ability to bring down a bombardment or smoke).

Soon-to-be-gnawed Scouts on the roof:

Mercenary HQ and combat teams:

Despicable dogmen (counting as Bellicose Foot with Armour upgrade) advance, with destruction on their minds:

They even brought some nasty mechs (counting as Elite Foot with ranged fire upgrade in this instance):

My little tank (counting as Heavy Riders with ‘Chariot’ and ‘Venomous’ upgrades) did sterling work taking the fight to the enemy, but was eventually overcome by fire and close assaults:

 

The game played out very well and it was touch and go at the end as to who would come out on top. Two buildings were already burning when I had a final chance to snatch victory by destroying one more unit of attackers, but I just couldn’t manage it. Jase kept his force together very well, and kept them focused on the mission. I managed to lure one or two units of impetuous dogmen away with my jetbikes (‘light riders’) but couldn’t do enough damage overall to force a retreat.

 

 

So, despite a desperate defence, the facility went up in smoke in the end. I’ll have to plan a revenge attack for the next game! Great fun, and we thought it looked good at this scale and size of game, and played very well.

 

 

More Frostgrave Shenanigans

Early January saw the follow-on game over at Simon’s, and a very entertaining clash it was. We played the first scenario from ‘The Hunt for the Golem’ mini-campaign in the Folio book. Fortunately for us the very nasty Granite Golem didn’t actually make an appearance, but that didn’t mean there weren’t a good few casualties…

The table was another visual treat, and great fun to play on.

We’d learned a few things from game 1 in December, and certainly had a better knowledge of the rules this time around. We both focused our wizard and apprentice on attempting to cast spells, to obtain as much experience as possible. Early on we both cast Fog to block the best lines of sight for our respective sharpshooters. There were also successful, and creative, castings of Mind Control, Imp and Transpose which produced some good moments. We both made use of raised Zombies too, with my tame undead Alan (sorry Robbie!) making a useful comeback.

Some of the other highlights included Simon’s archer shooting his own man in the back of the head (he was involved in a fight with 2 of mine, so the odds were he’d hit an enemy…). There was also his Barbarian, my nemesis from game 1, taking on half my warband and doing pretty well, until the 4th wounding blow finally brought the big sod down. He survived the post-game roll though, so unfortunately he’ll be back. There were a few random encounters, which were survived in the main, and plenty of shooting, fighting and general creeping around looking for loot.

I took fewer casualties this time, although a couple will sit out the next game. We both gained 2 more levels, some cash, and a few bits of magic. There’s some levelling up and spending to do before the next game, which is hopefully going to happen soon. More then.

A Second Go at Frostgrave

At the weekend Goat Major invited me over for a game of Frostgrave, which we played once before and had a lot of fun with. As it had been a long time since the first game we decided to simply start again, both using pretty much the same warbands as before.

Mine is based around a Necromancer, who has suitably motley followers, including his (when successfully raised) pet Zombie, Alan. GM’s lot are an Arabian looking mob led by an Enchanter on a magic carpet.

The scenery was awesome as before, a complete setting with everything gelling together and making a very challenging landscape to fight over. Lots of obstacles, cover and height changes are important in this game, and allows you to clamber and hide to your heart’s content. Clearly there’s no frost involved here, but the game’s the same whatever the setting. We played the Silent Tower scenario, but I spent most of my time just trying roll above a 5 on the cursed d20.

We took a while to get back to understanding the rules properly, but after a few oversights we had a very entertaining game. Although I managed to get half the treasure off the board, I left 80% casualties behind. Fortunately I made all but one of the post-game survival rolls for them, so it wasn’t all bad. GM made it to the tower to get additional experience points, and if it hadn’t been for his apprentice getting gored to death by a randomly encountered Boar, he’d have won by an even bigger margin.

Despite a fair few casting failures we managed to deploy quite a few spells between us, which of course is what Frostgrave is all about. After the game we rolled up the results of our scavenging and now have a bit of money to spend, and some options to play with. Hopefully we’ll pick this up again in January for some more fun. Thanks GM for the excellent hospitality!

 

 

Sharp Practice – The Return of the Black Widow

A few days ago the post-Napoleonic imaginations forces came out of their boxes again for another game of Sharp Practice. The plot followed loosely on from a previous game (link) where one of Fleurie’s spies (a very attractive and devious lady operating under the codename of ‘The Black Widow’) was extricated from a tricky position (ooh er!) by a scratch force sent to look for her. Now word had reached Medetian military intelligence of an intended rendezvous, at which they might just catch the evil woman and put an end to her troublesome meddling.

My friend Jase duly took on command of the Medetian spy-hunting force, and I prepared a few Fleurians to defend the rendezvous location (a remote farm), plus a larger relief force to come on later.

The Medetians had been able to send some men on ahead to surround the farm and pin down the men there. Of the spy there was no sign.

The game provided a lot of good moments, with both of us bringing on reinforcements in formation, and there was often tension waiting for the next card to be turned up.

Some key moments…

The Medetian marines charged in (on the 2nd attempt) to clear off the pesky Voltigeurs, but somewhat surprisingly received a right drubbing.

The Fleurian commander, Captain Mauzac, confidently led his men onto the field in a large formation, with cavalry on the right and skirmishers on the left, he’d soon see off those annoying Bersaglieri in the wood. Instead of fleeing, Jase decided on a final volley from the Bersaglieri before they were overrun. The result: one hit, one dead officer!

The cavalry arriving a tad late for poor old Mauzac:

It offered Sergeant Luberon his moment of glory, which he duly grasped by stepping forward to lead the now leaderless line. He did well but was later usurped when a proper officer arrived.

The Medetian hordes advanced:

The main forces angled towards each other for a musketry duel.

The Black Widow decides it’s time to depart, and leaves her hiding place in the stables. She follows a retreating unit of Voltigeurs away from the Medetian attack.

The dashing Hussar, Lieutenant Gillette, was aiming for the flank of the Medetian line, but instead met a wall of Grenadiers who’d been hurried into place by the Medetian commander, his most crucial move of the day. It was bloody for both sides, but the Hussars were forced to withdraw, their injured officer following slowly behind.

The main firefight blazed for several turns and casualties (and shock) piled up on both sides. Eventually the Medetians’ morale dropped and the game was up. Their commander called off the attack and his troops withdrew.

Unseen by the enemy, the Black Widow had not run straight for the safety of the Fleurian table edge, but had made a dash for the lake, where she had a boat hidden. Escorted by the well-meaning, hopelessly lovelorn (but romantic no-hoper) Lieutenant Aramon, she had other plans to fulfil and was soon away from danger and heading off to who-knows-where…

We had a lot of fun with this, and the rules are providing consistently challenging, event-laden and exciting games. The beer was good too.

 

 

 

 

Honours of War – A LAW Forum Get-together

In early October a group of us from the forum were cordially invited to come for a game in Gary’s very impressive Wargames room. As they go, it must be one of the best around, and comfortably accommodated 9 players and a good-sized table. It was a good opportunity to catch up with the guys, who came from far and wide as always, and meet one of Gary’s very friendly local club members, Ian, who joined us.

We would be using the Honours of War rules and most of us had brought a contingent of our own historical or imagi-nations troops. Gary had prepared the table, scenario, some of the forces, and all of the catering for the day – what a decent bloke! It was an attack/defend game, with a central bridge as the key, and 2 built up areas on the flanks also counting as objectives.

My Medetians took the right flank for the defenders, with reinforcements to come on later, and faced Iain and Simon who arrived en mass in the opening few turns.

The fighting was pretty intense, and the rules held up pretty well, considering we had a lot of troops on the table by the end. I didn’t quite manage to hold onto my village, with a last-ditch counter attack failing in the final turn. However, the bridge and farm were competently defended by Jeremy and Purps on my left, so overall we just about won.

All in all it was a lot of fun playing such a good-looking wargame with old mates and new acquaintances. There was good banter and everyone was on good form, which was great to see.

After the game we had a very nice dinner and a few beers in one of the local pubs, rounding off an excellent weekend. Hopefully we’ll be invited back next year!

 

 

St. Valentio Skewered by El Kebab!

I’ve been making steady progress with my plans for playing colonial imagi-nation games. These will be set in Medetia’s exotic 19th century colonies, using the Sharp Practice 2 rules.

Although I haven’t finished my jungle bases, or added any buildings yet, I felt that with lots of figures now painted a game could still be possible. So, I decided that the soon-t0-be rebellious sepoys and natives would start out with an away match – and become the fierce corsairs of the notorious El Kebab, terror of the southern sea. The sleepy, and lightly garrisoned, Medetian island outpost of St. Valentio was their target, with its trade goods and wealthy merchants. General vandalism would also be on the cards of course. My good mate Jase was up some corsairing, and duly loaded his vessels with a horde of ne’er do wells and set sail..

El Kebab’s small fleet, led by his own ship, the Scimitar, approached the main harbour out of the dawn shadows and made straight for the jetties. The alarm was sounded by the lookout in the fort, and the Medetians were roused from their slumbers. A party of sailors in the harbour were the first to see action, as the approaching corsairs let loose with grape from their guns.

The damage inflicted on the sailors was returned with interest by artillery and rifle fire from the shore, which swept away the Scimitar’s gun crew. El Kebab, may his name be forever showered with glory, may have cowered in the stern a bit when this happened.

Acting the part of El Kebab in full, Jase had decided to drive his two larger ships right into the harbour to offload their landing parties, while the (somewhat slower and more inconsistent) rowed boats followed behind.

With their mighty leader heroically directing things from aboard his ship, his trusty sub-commander, Munjit Dhal and ex-Sepoy Sergeant Badbhaji, led their men ashore to start the mayhem.

The Medetian garrison, though somewhat scattered and having to rally from various points of the compass, were reacting however. Their commander, Major Nebbiolo, wasn’t on top form – perhaps due to too much vino rosso the night before! His officers and NCOs were showing clearer heads though, and Sergeant Rigato of the Bersaglieri and Brevet-Lieutenant Lambrusco were taking the fight to the raiders. The main square was the scene of some running firefights and vicious melees, and casualties mounted on both sides as the advantage swung to and fro.

After seeing off one enemy group, young Lambrusco, hero of several previous games, somehow survived his own unit being wiped out by a second horde of corsairs. His bravery must surely see his promotion to Lieutenant now.

By now, despite Major Nebbiolo coming down from the fort to take charge, the raiders were getting stuck into the looting and burning. The church turned out to be more stiffly defended than was expected, but the frenzied clergy and their gamekeeper were sent packing with a howling charge.

Finally, El Kebab himself made his presence felt as he ushered ashore his most feared mob – the savage Big Choppers of Kamul ‘the Blade’.

Outside the harbour, the wily Imlik Bling and his sharpshooters kept a returning patrol of Bersaglieri at arm’s length as both sides traded shots from their boats.

Finally, enough was enough for the defenders who were forced to pull back to the fort and leave the corsairs free to ransack several houses, capture some residents for ransom, and retire at their leisure from a successful raid.

After this vicious assault, the Medetians would be keen to exact their revenge against El Kebab, and would be sure to leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of him and his band of cutthroats…

It was a great game, played in an excellent spirit, and it provided a lot of laughs throughout. The rules, as always, generated a lot of challenges for us, and delivered a believable and entertaining narrative. More soon hopefully!