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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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!

A Few More Colonials

I wanted to finish off the rest of the figures I’d prepared before and since Ayton, and here they are. These will be seeing some action (hopefully soon) in my 1830s Medetian colonial setting, using the Sharp Practice rules.

First, some RSMs kindly donated from Andy’s cavernous spares box. Two will naturally be Big Men (ie. leaders) for Sharp Practice.

 

The last of the Gripping Beast Arabs:

Artillery crew converted from Gripping Beast Arabs:

 

Finally, an officer for my Fleurian artillery (Victrix plastic):

 

Junk!

Granted, not an original post name.

At the AMG weekend a few people brought along things to sell/dispose of and I picked this up from Paul for a few quid. It’ll fit in nicely with my non-specific colonial setting, either as an operational vessel for the locals or just as a nice piece of scenery. I gave it a dust, added the masts, and repainted the black bits. And that’s it, ready to go. 🙂

 

More Colonial Irregulars

I’m planning to get as much use as I can out of the Gripping Beast plastic Arabs I painted for Ayton, which means using them for colonial games too. Yes, there are a few too many bows in evidence, but I’m not really bothered. That said, I’m adding some musket-armed figures to bring them a bit more up to date!

These are from First Corps’ SYW in India range. They’re a bit shiny despite 2 coasts of varnish but hey. I’ve used the same colour scheme as the medieval types and they should fit together OK.
I’ve painted, but yet to base, a further 6 plastic guys with spears, which takes me to 44 figures. I think I need another half pack from First Corps to get me to 48 (and increase the musket count), which will make a healthy total of 4 Sharp Practice groups of Wallahs.
Additionally there are 4 plastic figures I’ve done as artillery crew, which I just need to base too.
When done, I’ll get the whole lot together, with the leaders and cavalry, for a photo shoot. Then I just need to finish some scenery and we’re off to the conquer some jungle-clad islands in the name of Medetia!  🙂

The Dreaded Re-basing

We all hate it, but most of us have to (well, choose to!) do it from time to time. This one was worth the effort as I wanted my irregular sepoys to be on single rather than multi- bases so that they work better for Sharp Practice. They can still go onto sabots for games where they need to form up in a battalion.

They’re RSM figures, a mix of their Ottoman figures with some minor conversions in the form of weapons added to hands. They’ve seen service in several games, as a battalion made up of 6 bases of 5. With a couple of spares kindly donated by Count Belisarius I will be able to make 4 groups of 8 or 3 of 10 (militia) for Sharp Practice.

Then: the ‘soak the mdf base in water’ method:

Now: on 20mm washers:

Much happier!

Some Arab Artillery Crew

With the Gripping Beast Arab infantry painted for the Ayton weekend I decided to use a few of the remaining figures for something else.

Plastic figures are fairly easy to convert (the drilling is easier for a start!) so I have produced 4 artillery crew for my planned foray into 19th century imagi-nations colonial gaming. I’ve equipped them with items from Minden/Crann Tara artillery packs, plus a powder keg and some cannon balls.

They’ll be painted to match the rest, nice and simple in black with white turbans.

The final 6 figures have been assembled as more bow/spear guys, which I’ll paint at the same time.

Sharp Practice 2 – The Raid – Part 2

In December my friend and I played the first of a 2-part scenario – see the write-up here

A week or so ago we played the remaining part, which saw the Medetian rearguard holding the bridge that the village raiding force would need to use in order to return to the ship. The bridge defence force had been determined by Jase at the start of the first game and contained a bit of a mix of army and naval types.

Jase deployed with a perimeter of 2 groups of line infantry on one side of the river, and a group of Bersaglieri plus the gun (in a central position, on a rise giving a good view in most directions) on the other. He kept a reserve of 2 groups of sailors – at the pub, naturally. He had supporting assets in the form of a Holy Man and a handy additional Level 1 leader.

As dawn broke my Fleurian patrols converged on the bridge. I would be rolling for their arrival points, and had decided to split my force into a cavalry command (2 groups) and an infantry one (1 group of Grenadiers, 2 of Line infantry and 1 of skirmishers). As it happened these 2 commands came on from opposite sides of the table, but due to some freakish card drawing (early Tiffin cards after 3 re-shuffles) no-one actually appeared until the 4th turn. I should have ruled that the sailors would by now be too pissed to fight, but it didn’t occur to me at the time!

My cavalry came on at a canter and presented the defenders with quite a shock. I should probably have held back and kept the horsemen as a threat but, being a typical wargamer, I decided to seize the moment and move to charge the infantry guarding the bridge. Unfortunately one group was seen off completely by a volley from their intended target, aided by accurate rifle fire from the Bersaglieri hidden in the trees on the other side of the river. Scratch one flank then (although I did get the other group to charge late in the game, to their doom!)

On the other side of the table, my pretty 2-group formation was hammered on its approach by canister from the gun, despite my other groups trying to pin down the artillerymen with musketry. By the time I got the line close enough to do some damage it was being hit from all angles, as the nearest sailors joined in the fun from the pub garden. I did see off the gun crew in the end, but losses and shock meant the game was up for the Fleurians and they skulked away, leaving the Medetian raiders free to return via the bridge and make a successful withdrawal back to their ship – and home for tea and medals. Well done Jase, 2 out of 2!

 

 

This was another good fun game of Sharp Practice, and we are becoming more confident we’re playing the rules properly (at least most of the time). Hopefully we’ll return to the fray in a few weeks.

Warbases MDF Gun

Since painting the Warbases engineer cart I thought I’d move on to the the artillery piece kit next. The carriage is all MDF and the gun is metal. It represents a French piece of the Gribeauval system. I’m not expert on artillery models, but it does the job just fine for me. I’ve already painted the limber that comes with this kit, and overall I think it’s excellent value for an outlay of a few quid (£4.50).

I’ll use it as a generic piece for either side in my imagi-nations games, most likely in a colonial setting. If I need any more, I’ll be back to Warbases for sure.