The Rearguard – Reflections

As will hopefully come across from the after action report, this was a very enjoyable game! I played it solo, and as always the unpredictable way the game evolves under the card-driven rules provided plenty of surprises and challenging decisions to make.

I went about setting up the game in a slightly back-to-front way. I laid out a 6×3 foot table, basically wanting to keep the terrain reasonably simple with a single building, an orchard, and a walled road leading to a bridge in the corner. Some trees and a small area of wet ground rounded things off. I then let the set-up dictate the scenario, and decided that an attack on a rearguard, with some prizes to carry off (2 wagons and a cannon, of which the capture/retention any 2 would result in a victory for the relevant side) would make sense.

I decided the convoy would move each time the Blank card came up, at 2d6-2″ per turn. I didn’t know how the game would play out on this basis, but fortunately in the end it worked really well!

The Fleurian force was rated Good, and was made up as follows:

Captain (Big Man Level III)
Artillery Lieutenant (I)
Cavalry Lieutenant (I)
Chasseur Sergeant (II)

  • 2 groups of 10 Line infantry
  • 1 group of 10 Light infantry
  • 1 group of 5 Artillery crew with a light gun
  • 1 group of 8 Hussars (to arrive on the 3rd occurrence of the Fleurian Blank card)

The Medetians were also rated Good, and comprised:

Captain (III)
Infantry Ensign (I)
Cavalry Lieutenant (I)
Rifles Sergeant (II)

  • 3 groups of 10 Line infantry
  • 1 group of 12 Grenadiers
  • 1 group of 10 Rifles
  • 1 group of 8 Hussars (to arrive on the 3rd occurrence of the Medetian Blank card – as it happened, on the same turn the Fleurian cavalry arrived)

I played the game straight, taking all cards, events and dice rolls as they came, as I know from previous experience that with Sharp Practice there’s nothing to be gained from trying to massage the narrative – the game itself generates all the storyline you could want and somehow manages to do so better than you could write yourself!

The rifles really did catch the last wagon (which had helped by only moving a measly 3″ in its last go) on the very edge of the table and saw off 2 desperate Fleurian attacks to keep up the chase.

In all, half the Big Men were wounded, 2 seriously, but after 4 games of this occasional campaign series there’s yet to be a fatality. At least it means I don’t have to print any new character cards for now!

 

The Rearguard – Sharp Practice AAR (part 2)

.. continuing on

By this time the enemy horse was passing the bridge and making haste to come up in support of their infantry line on our left. However, our capture of the gun forced a re-think and suddenly the cavalry could be seen dashing back the way they had just come. I am unsure of their officer’s name but suspect he might be a relation of those blundering Le Pickleds we hear about from the Gateway Alliance..

 

Meanwhile the Grenadiers had entered the orchard as ordered and, at no loss to themselves, completely overthrown the Chasseurs. They also delivered a few inches of Medetian steel to the enemy sergeant but, clearly popular with his men, the remaining few managed to carry him with them in their rout.

Stout lads, our Grenadiers, although once this gallant action was concluded I had the devil’s own time getting them to do much more. Even young Lambrusco, who hurried over to take them under his command later on, struggled to get them to pick up the pace and they satisfied themselves with securing the gun we’d already taken and loosing off a couple of volleys at the distant enemy. They suffered no casualties this day, for which we must be grateful. I suppose veterans know how to look after themselves..

By now, though, I myself was in a race to win the high ground before the enemy cavalry arrived. I had hoped to be able to follow the wagons along the road but the need to halt this counter-attack was the most urgent priority.

We had managed to get off a volley which emptied a gratifying number of saddles, but we’d just managed to reload and present bayonets when the horsemen crashed into us. My unit fought well but were overwhelmed by the weight of the attack and we fell back across the road and over the wall beyond. As I tried to rally the men I was able to order the rifles, whom Sergeant Rigato had moved up to the road, to fire on the cavalry. Caught milling around in a confused state following the melee, this was enough to see them off and the momentarily tense situation was restored.

 

 

At the same moment Lieutenant Gillette took the fight to the enemy, bravely charging the infantry line (having to split his force either side of a tree that the enemy’s musketry had set alight). Sadly Gillette was gravely wounded in this charge and his men were unable to make much impression on the enemy despite a prolonged bout of fighting. Captain Mauzac was also lightly wounded but could be seen continuing to exhort his men to hold their ground, which they did.

Our hussars withdrew to sort themselves out, although Gillette was left where he’d fallen. As you know, he’s an unpleasant sort and harsh with his men, but I think perhaps more could have been done to recover him from under the enemy’s bayonets..

Of most pressing concern, however, was the sudden turn of speed which saw the supply wagons nearing the bridge. I ordered Sergeant Rigato to take his men at the double down the road and intercept the convoy before it passed over the river to safety. I felt it was probably too late but we had to try. Too many Medetian lives had been lost to give up now.

With fortune on their side, the riflemen dashed along the road in fine style under the enemy’s very noses.

This bold move forced Mauzac to break his formation and send some of his infantry back to intercept Rigato. The Fleurian infantry had held their flanking position well, though they had been whittled down somewhat by the hussar’s charge, the rifles’ early sniping, and the brave stand of Ensign Lambrusco’s men. The latter had been forced to withdraw earlier due to the casualties they’d suffered and under his own initiative the Ensign had come across to lead the Grenadiers, as recounted earlier.

The enemy came at the riflemen fiercely but our lads saw them off for no loss and set off again after the wagons which had, alarmingly, almost succeeded in crossing the bridge. From my distant position I could just make out our men as they closed on the final wagon.

Alas, though, at that very moment the enemy’s cavalry returned to make a last desperate attack.

For our brave rifles, caught between the wagons (and the enemy side of the river) and the charging horsemen, there was nothing for it but to fight like devils, and this they certainly did. Rigato himself wounded the enemy Lieutenant who eventually fled with his retreating men. Fortune smiled on us further as the drover of the final wagon must have been distracted by the nearby fighting and slowed its departure, allowing the victorious riflemen to capture the wagon.

The final drama, so I was later told, was the loss of Sergeant Rigato’s hat as a result of the violence of the fighting. Of no great import, you or I would think, but Rigato dived into the river to recover it. Fortunately for him he had already ordered the wagon turned round and his men were on their way back with it.

Captain Mauzac knew the game was up and limped off with his remaining men to explain himself to his superiors.

With our 2 prizes (alas the other wagon had eluded us) we formed up and began the return march. Despite our losses the men were in good spirits after their victory.

All the way back Sergeant Rigato regaled me with the story of his men’s exploits, though in truth I had seen them for myself and had already congratulated everyone involved. I did learn, however, that there is more to the Sergeant’s hat than meets the eye; he uses it to store his share of the prize money from our recent successful raid on the enemy’s paychest. At least that explained his sodden appearance!

We are now safely back in camp and await your next orders.

Your faithful servant,
Gattinara.

The Rearguard – Sharp Practice AAR (part 1)

To Colonel Montecristo at Advanced Guard Headquarters, from Captain Gattinara of 2nd Company, 1st Medetian Regiment of Infantry..

Sir, this is my report of the action that took place on Easter Sunday, when the force under my command intercepted the enemy rearguard close to the bridge at Vodi. As you know, the terrain here is difficult for formed troops to operate over, with wetlands, woods and those walls that the locals make with stone from the nearby gully.

As you anticipated, the tail of the Fleurian army could be caught if my advanced guard took the old goat trail across the hills. As ordered, we descended the western slopes to find the final wagons, and a rearguard of infantry and an artillery piece, on the final approaches to the bridge over the gully. Seeing them about to escape, we lost no time in moving to cut them off.

 

The retreating enemy had seen fit to leave a small force defending the bridge, which the rearguard commander was soon to bring under his command.

Despite our cavalry not yet being in sight, I ordered the advance, hoping to capture both supply wagons and the gun, or at least 2 out of the 3 to deliver a decisive bloody nose to the enemy. I myself commanded 20 men and 12 grenadiers from our regiment, while Sergeant Rigato led 10 riflemen and, on the left, young Ensign Lambrusco had a further 10 men. The marsh on the left slowed us a little, but on the right we were soon at the orchard, threatening the rear of the column.

 

The enemy commander, whom later I recognised to be the wily Captain Mauzac, saw this and had his Chasseurs move forward to deny us an easy route to the road on our right. Notwithstanding this my men eagerly went in to contest the orchard.

Unfortunately the enemy light troops had the better of the encounter among the trees and, inflicting heavy casualties on my men, drove them out.

Not wishing to have these Fleurians sniping at my flank for the rest of the action, I ordered the Grenadiers to clear them out, but in the meantime the enemy was recovering quickly from the shock of our arrival. I could see that Mauzac had ordered the bridge guard forward, while the wagons made what haste they could towards the bridge.

The enemy infantry united under their commander and formed up in line to block our way around the more open ground to our left.

Sergeant Rigato led his men into the trees to commence a lively fire on this tempting enemy target, although possibly their route through the marsh had dampened their powder as their shooting performance this day was sadly lacking.

As I made my way forward in the centre, I saw that in the distance a force of enemy cavalry had arrived and was making straight for the action.

I was thankful, therefore, for the arrival at the very same time of Lieutenant Gillette with our own hussars. They had taken a smoother, though longer, route down from the hills in order to preserve the horses, but now thundered up on my left in fine style. I ordered Gillette to support Ensign Lambrusco and remain in reserve until the right moment.

Soon after this I was able, with the aid of the men of my company, to break onto the road where, after a short fight, we were able to see off the enemy’s artillery crew at the point of the bayonet. Fortunately for us the convoy was moving quite slowly (at this point in the battle at least) and the Fleurians had been unable to extricate the gun from the road and deploy it onto the nearby high ground, where it would no doubt have done us great harm. I am pleased to inform you that the gun, a fine 6 pounder, was subsequently brought back to our camp and sits in triumphant splendour outside your tent even as you read this report.

So ends part 1, final installment to follow..

All Ashore!

For once I haven’t wasted any time getting these newly painted figures finished off, so here they are on their bases. They’re on singles for Sharp Practice, but the pics show how they will take the field in larger battles where elements/stands are required. The group bases are magnetic to hold them on.

 

 

Now, back to those Marines to go with them..

Bashi-Bazouks

More delights from the brush of James Roach – a group of Perry Miniatures Bashi Bazouks. Great figures painted superbly.

For me these guys will see service from the 17th to the 19th century, from skirmishes to big battles, and under several sets of rules. I believe it’s called ‘sweating your assets’!

I’m sure it won’t be long before I post some pics of them in action.

 

Mountain Gun

I decided to add something a bit different to my post-Napoleonic Fleurians – a mountain gun to accompany the light infantry on their raids and missions through rough terrain.

This is a Perry Miniatures set from their Carlist Wars range. There is also one more crewman with a telescope, who I’ll do later as a Big Man for Sharp Practice. I wouldn’t normally base a gun (and this one is only sitting on the base, not fixed to it) but it’s so small that it needed a bit of extra height once the crew were based. Even so, I still think it’ll be christened the ‘ankle biter’!

For Sharp Practice I’ll add a couple of light infantry to the crew to make it up to the normal 5 figure group. Clearly it won’t provide a lot of firepower but hopefully it will be an interesting piece to use in some scenarios.

 

 

Hello Sailor!

Quite a few sailors actually.

I’ve recently painted these Foundry Miniatures crewmen for the general manning of cannon and boats in my post-Napoleonic Sharp Practice games. I like the figures a lot, although they are definitely 25mm rather than 28-30mm so look a bit like children next to more modern offerings from other companies! That said, they won’t generally need to mix with others that much, so it doesn’t really matter. I added a piece of card under each figure to add a little height. Think of them as 19th century Tom Cruises or Rod Stewarts with platform heels! 😉

 

Now to the serious stuff – two dozen superb Mutineer Miniatures figures, tooled up for landing party operations, and painted very very nicely for me by James Roach (Olicanalad). These have just arrived here at Medetian Naval HQ and I started on the basing straight away so that they can join the fleet as soon as possible.

With my river/coastal terrain sections and a variety of boats, I see some fun games coming this year!

Quick Reference Sheet for Sharp Practice

During the games of Sharp Practice I played a few months ago I started to develop a QRS to aid play and reduce the amount of time I needed to spend hunting through the rules for things. Excellent though TFL rules are, the order of contents in some of their books can be a bit of a mystery!

I looked around and didn’t find much online. I liked what Arteis had produced and shared with the Yahoo group but decided I wanted something more condensed so that I could get everything on 2 sides of A4 paper (to be put back to back in a transparent sleeve and turned over as required).

In the end I went with MS Excel for ease of formatting and basically playing with text in boxes, and have got it pretty much as I want it now. It might not suit everyone (especially those who struggle with small text!) but I have decided to post links here and on the TFL forum in case it’s of use to anyone. I’ve used this QRS in a couple of games now and it works for me, speeding up play and stopping me getting lost in the rulebook.

Click Here for page 1

Click Here for page 2

Mustering some new gunners

I’ve recently managed to finish some artillery crews for my early 19th century forces. These chaps will be coming to Ayton in May, and will mainly see service after that in Sharp Practice games.

Firstly, Fleurian field artillery (Victrix British Napoleonic plastics). Guns to follow, with yellow carriages as per their 18th century predecessors.

 

Secondly, Fleurian colonial artillery (Foundry Crimean Turks). They’ll be getting guns with red carriages. The officer at the front will be based as a Big Man and I’ll come up with a name and some personality traits for him. Well, he’s got real character hasn’t he?

 

Next up, probably the Medetian marines to go with the 2 samples I painted a while back.

Gaming Weekend Day 2 – A Granprixian Skirmish

Once we had breakfasted and returned to the land of the living, we set off in convoy (herding Iain between 2 cars to ensure he found the place) for Simon’s house near Lincoln. We were greeted by very nicely pre-prepared terrain, including excellent new home-made rivers, on Simon’s extended 8’x6′ table.

A very interesting (and entertaining, as it turned out) scenario had been prepared for us. We were to play out some post-Ayton 2014 action, with Gateway (Iain) and Altfritzenberg (Andy) forces making for their transport ships along the Granprixian coast following their defeat at the big battle outside the capital Pescadrix. My Medetians were trying to cut them off, while a small number of Simon’s Prunklanders were already in place as a (sleepy) garrison on the island in the river that the fugitives needed to cross.

We all got to bring our own figures to use, and it was good to see the various imagi-nations contingents together again. The 4 of us had fought opposite each other in 2 battles at Ayton with the big version of these forces so it was an opportunity for a re-match, and there was plenty to enjoy!

The table before the mayhem ensued:

 

There were lots of surprises in the scenario, and as usual the Sharp Practice rules threw up plenty of entertainment. Although new to the rules, Andy and Iain got on with them very well. We played a lot of turns, had a lot of laughs and banter, and got a result before it was time to go home.

I won’t try to narrate the battle and all of its twists and turns, but I’ve captioned the pictures I managed to take. Hopefully they do the game justice, because it was great to play in as well as being a visual treat..

Deploying off a blind, Iain’s Gateway dragoons made it to the bridge quickly. They just missed catching the sentry but had time to dismount and push the unattended cannon into the river. This was to be their high point in the game, and after this most of their actions should have been accompanied by circus clown music!

Alerted by the sentry just in time, the Prunkland Grenzers dashed out of the main house on the island, to take up a defensive position in the adjacent garden:

Troops were arriving on both sides of the river, racing in parallel towards the bridges. The Medetian Jager led the way, buying time for the rocket battery to set up on a handy hilltop with a very good view of everything:

Andy’s Altfritzenbergers decided to get across the river early, which involved coming at the Medetians head-on. Some very accurate (ie. lucky) fire made this a real challenge, however:

Up ahead, the bulk of my Medetians had made fast progress and were able to take the dastardly natives and corsairs (who had infiltrated deep onto the table from the start) by surprise:

Andy’s natives charged over the bridge but were seen off by the tough Grenzers. Their officer was badly wounded in the melee but his popularity meant that he was rescued and helped to safety:

As always, the first rocket wasn’t a great shot, landing behind the battery(!). The safest place to be is generally the target zone, as everybody knows:

After a volley or two it’s always best to follow up with the bayonet, and these Medetians did just that, dealing decisively with the corsairs and seeing them routed off the table:

Iain’s Gateway mob stormed over the bridge, or at least they would have if in front of them his dragoons hadn’t decided to dismount, mount, not move, and dismount again in successive turns. Answers on a postcard if anyone has a clue as to what was going on:

Hey, the rockets were getting more accurate. I’d like to reassure people that no enemy were killed by a rocket during the making of this game (sadly, one Medetian was however), although they did cause a fair bit of panic a couple of times when they zigzagged through a unit!

Late on my elite grenadiers finally arrived by boat and soon attracted enemy fire from a variety of sources, as well as a pretty determined cavalry charge by Andy’s lancers. Tough as nails, the grenadiers saw them off though:

The latest attempt to chase off the Grenzers saw a repeat of the charge of the natives – Iain’s commander was laid low and his men routed. Unfortunately, this chap was less than popular with his men and they were careful to leave him behind when they fled! The Prunklanders reloaded and left him groaning on the other side of the fence, where they could keep an eye on him:

More surprises arrived; locals with an agenda of their own – but who would they side with?

The Gateway traffic jam finally clears the bridge, allowing my grenadiers to pick off sufficient of Iain’s artillery crew to send the remainder packing. At least Prunkland might get a replacement gun at the end of the game! This was the beginning of the end, and the survivors would have to find another route if they were to reach the safety of their ships.

After having a very torrid time (a rocket came awfully close!), Lt Lamm scampered out of harm’s way and rejoined his men just in time to be captured at the end of the battle. At least he wasn’t shot in the back as he legged it into the woods having crossed the river alone (actually he had company for most of the journey but when he reached the far bank and looked behind him, he realised that another close call from a rocket had been the final straw for some of the Savage Swans and he was suddenly Billy von No Mates with a nasty looking bunch of Medetians coming for him!)

A well-oiled machine by the end of the game. Oh yes.

What a great game. Thanks to Simon for all the prep and hosting, and Andy and Iain for providing such good fodder, er, I mean company.

Roll on the next gaming weekend!