Return Journey – Solo Sharp Practice

With the cards and figures done, and the terrain still on the table, there was no excuse but to try a first solo game of Sharp Practice at the weekend. I devised a relatively simple scenario based on a Medetian reconnaissance force making its way back to its own lines after its mission, and a force of Fleurians attempting to cut them off before they could do so.

The Medetians (2 groups of infantry and 1 of rifles) were led by Captain Gattinara, assisted by a Sergeant. Waiting for them back at the bridge they were making for was Lieutenant Apricale with a further group of infantry and a light gun, with orders not to cross the river but to provide covering fire for the recce force.

The Fleurians were under Captain Corbieres of the Chasseurs who was accompanied by a scratch force made up of 2 groups of light infantry, 2 of line infantry, and 1 of hussars. He was assisted by a Lieutenant and a Sergeant.

The Medetians would start in the top left corner of the table, as seen in the (unfortunately slightly blurred) pic below, the Fleurians on blinds in the bottom left along the river bank, and the bridge defence force was tucked into the trees on the Medetian side of the river, with a sentry on lookout duty in the watermill’s attic.

Lt Apricale’s force covering the river crossing:


First on the scene – the Medetian riflemen approach the rear of the farm and dash through to take up a position to cover the flank of the rest of the column (first enemy blinds in the distance making for the mill and the bridge beyond):


First to deploy off their blind are the Fleurian line troops, their paint still fresh(!):

The Medetian sentry has done his bit and races back to warn Lt Apricale that the enemy are coming down the road towards him, with the recce group nowhere in sight. Alone, and chased by enemy Chasseurs, the sentry managed a fear-inspired roll of double 6 for his movement! He slows down and tries to look nonchalant as he makes his report:

A long way off still, the main recce group starts hot-footing it towards the river, Captain Gattinara urging them on:

Fleurian Chasseurs are already at the mill though..

The rifles take the first shot of the day, earning their pay by putting a good amount of shock on the nearest enemy as they try to sneak close through the trees:

Back at the bridge, Apricale sees the enemy for himself and calls out to ready his men, ordering the gun crew to traverse left a little:


Things are about to hot up!

Part 2 to follow, mainly to keep the number of pictures to a manageable number per post.

The Raid on St Evian – The Action

On came the raiding force, by boat from the south west and with wagons from the east. The militia sentry at the bridge stumbled sleepily from his guard hut, gave a cry of alarm and was promptly cut down as the Medetians raced over the bridge.

The landing by boat to the west of the town went reasonably smoothly, with only a couple of landlubbers falling into the water. From there, the Medetians went to work raiding the town for liquid loot and dealing decisively with the piecemeal town defences.

There was some tough fighting in places, especially once the Fleurian garrison officers got embroiled, but Captain Corleone’s men were generally able to retain the initiative. Simon kept his eye on the victory conditions and made sure he always held some men out of the fighting to secure the barrels of Marc as they were discovered, and load them on the wagons (and eventually the boats too).

Some of the main highlights, events and fun bits:

  • The look on Simon’s face when the previously unseen militia cannon muzzle rumbled up over the fort’s parapet to aim at his wagon train on the bridge (one Ox and one unfortunate soldier were all it hit during the game but the morale effect was far greater!).
  • The early morning huntsman who happened to be in the woods when the Medetians came ashore, and who promptly shot one of them dead before leading the others a merry dance through the woods.
  • The fort garrison’s ‘Keystone Cops’ impression as they attempted to embark in their boat and row swiftly to the town to aid in its defence. Officers fell in the water at both the start and end points of the journey which took about 6 turns in all (repeated movement rolls of 1″ made it the slowest crossing in the recorded history of St Evian).


  • Determined (but generally ineffective) defenders behind almost every door in town, seeking to protect their own share of the collectively produced booze.
  • The hapless Medetian soldier who kicked in the church doors only to take a musket ball to the chest as the enraged monks put up a spirited defence. Unfortunately for them the next man through the door was Lieutenant Zanetti who carved his way through them, and the priest, in just 2 turns of expert swordsmanship.
  • The Medetian company marksman who single-handedly held off a late garrison sortie which threatened to cut the road and re-capture the wagons. In a game where shooting isn’t usually all that effective he managed to kill 3 enemies with 3 shots and survive a round of combat with a superior opponent. Both of us were pleased to see him make a heroic exit with the last wagon, to be able to return to fight another day.
  • The final desperate melee involving key leaders from both sides, as Captain Corleone led a rear-guard action back down the main street towards the boats. The presence of the Medetian standard bearer probably saved the day when he granted a single die re-roll to the Captain. It came up a 6 and allowed him to win a fight that had looked likely to spell his doom.

When the dust and smoke had cleared, the Medetians had managed to make off with 28 points worth of the Marc de St Evian. With 25 points required for a win, Simon had succeed in his mission – and still had half his men left. A good result! It had been close though, one smashed wagon wheel would have been enough, but the dozy militia gunners missed too many shots at the departing wagons to stop one of them.


The game was a lot of fun, and as before the rules (GW’s Legends of the High Seas/Lord of the Rings) provided lots of cinematic moments and enough flavour to enjoy this swashbuckling period. Thanks go to Simon for his excellent company and the positive spirit with which he threw himself into the game.

The Raid on St Evian – Derring Do in the era of the Three Musketeers

Simon came over for a game this weekend, and we decided to return to the 17th century skirmish setting we first played about a year ago (the picture above on the blog banner is from that game). Once again the Medetians and the Fleurians went at it hammer and tongs in a very entertaining and eventful clash that saw Simon successfully complete his mission, although it was a close run thing at the end.

Rather than a blow by blow account, I just intend to draw together some pictures and a description of some of the highlights, but I will first set the scene on what the game was about..

From the Medetian player briefing that Simon received:

The Setting
While the
main war is being waged to the south, you, Captain Corleone of the Medetian
army, have been sent north with your company to cause havoc on the Fleurian
side of the border. One of your agents (spies) has reported that the town of St
Evian, known for its delicious and expensive brandy (Marc de St Evian), is
readying a valuable shipment for sending south to the capital. Capturing this
lucrative export commodity before the Royal flotilla arrives to collect it is
just the sort of thing you were sent to do, considering the loss of revenue and
prestige it will inflict on King Francis. You might even make a bit of profit
on the side yourself..
St Evian lies
to the north west of your present camp and you are advised that the small fishing
village of Bardot, two miles upstream to the south, has boats that can be
appropriated for your mission (to add surprise and to aid your withdrawal if
necessary). Also, ensuring that you have eyes on the river and cannot therefore
be surprised from upstream is crucial. St Evian itself is relatively remote and
served by a single road. The lightly wooded Petit Dern allows for a stealthy
approach away from the road and is open enough for your wagons to pass through.
Area Map




Capture at
least 25 barrels worth of Marc de St Evian, by having them in your control or
carried off the table at the end of the game. Large casks count as 4 barrels
worth, medium as 2 and small as 1.

Simon selected his force for the mission, comprising a decent total of 32 figures, and received some sketchy reconnaissance information about the geography of St Evian and the make-up of its defences. He divided his men between the road and river approaches and was then introduced to the table (which was, as always, a pleasant, tranquil scene before the carnage started):


As you can see, it was an opportunity to use the water base boards, river banks and jetties, etc. The table size was 6’x4′. I’d prepared a scattered and disparate Fleurian defence, made up of a small garrison of regulars in the fort, a militia company that had to assemble on the alarm being raised, various locals and travelling gentlemen who were determined to see off the vile invader (and defend their valuable booze), and lastly some clergy with a zero tolerance approach to people trying to nick their share of the liquor. I ran things as a ‘game master’ to provide Simon with a few surprises and to continue the narrative from the briefing.

All the action in the next post..

Refighting the War of the Spanish Succession

This week I’ve been playing through a full session of the boardgame ‘No Peace Without Spain!’ by Compass Games – the War of the Spanish Succession in its entirety. This is a game I’ve had for a little while and been keen to play, but have lacked the time to really give it a go. It’s designed as a 2-player game but like many, solo play is possible and still a lot of fun.

I’m not going to do a full review, as there are already a number of these online, but my overall opinion is that it’s an excellent game that does a very good job of capturing the high level strategy of the war. I gives players the challenge of choosing how to use the limited resources available and makes the campaigns, battles and even the sieges exciting and fun to play through.

Overview pic (click to enlarge as always):

It’s also nicely presented, with good quality components (although it’s a shame the map isn’t hard-backed) and goes into just the right amount of detail for the types of operations you undertake at this strategic level. There are historically appropriate events that occur (such as Savoy changing sides, French financial collapse, etc), often causing disruption to your plans for the year. The rules are rated as moderately complex, and once I’d played a few turns they were fairly easy to remember (although I’m sure I didn’t get everything right initially!). Mechanisms were certainly nice and straight forward, giving believable results every time.

It’s a war that’s always been of interest to me, and this game provides the opportunity to appreciate how it was fought, and why things happened (or didn’t). Very enjoyable too.

Below – The cockpit of war (in 1711) with Marlborough sitting on a fortified line one move away from Paris, and the French sitting opposite him behind their own line (there’s an excellent rule for the better generals to attempt to by-pass defensive lines, and come to grips with the enemy behind). Antwerp is surrounded, with most of the Spanish Netherlands overrun by the Alliance.

Over several sessions I got to grips with the rules and played through until an Alliance major victory result was secured in 1712. The English had withdrawn from the war at the end of the previous year, taking the Duke and his redcoats with them, but it hadn’t been enough to allow the Bourbons to recover from their earlier losses. There had been a few ‘Famous Victories’ (well, once Marlborough stopped losing the early battles!), lots of sieges and some bold manoeuvres by land and sea. Spain and Italy were still largely held by the Bourbons, but the Alliance had done better where it mattered in northern and central Europe.

It’s certainly a game I look forward to playing again in the future.

A Weekend in Framlingham

This weekend saw a get together of a group of wargamers from up and down the length of England (unfortunately our Scottish contingent couldn’t make it). We congregated on Friday evening in the Suffolk town of Framlingham, where our local host Tim had made the arrangement for us to have an excellent couple of days of gaming, socialising and recovering from hangovers.

It was a fair old way to go, especially for those coming from the North East, but everyone agreed it was more than worth it. Great company and top-notch games throughout, and lots of laughter and banter to go with it.

We used the very nice function room at The Crown, a lovely hotel/inn where some of us were staying, which gave us plenty of room and facilities to spread out in. Despite this pic, the lighting was a bit dim when the sun wasn’t shining (ie. most of Saturday) so I didn’t get many decent photos on my phone.

Several people had offered to put on games (there were several rounds of voting(!) over a year ago), providing the figures, rules and scenery for others to play. These included Peeler’s Leipzig DBN taster (for Simon, who seemed to enjoy it immensely), Essex Boy and GaryP’s 20mm Marlburian game (which Andy and I joined), and the main event – Tim’s awesome ACW collection in a full-on 2 day clash which started on Saturday and which we all joined on Sunday.

The WSS game was great fun, and it was a pleasure to play with Iain and Gary’s superb collections. The rules used were Rank and File from Crusader, and they gave a quick realistic game with simple, easy to learn, mechanisms. We played at least 12 full turns which says a lot for how easy the rules are to pick up. Everyone agreed that it looked and fought out as they imagined a Malburian battle would, and we had some very exciting moments as both sides had triumphs and reverses.

As allied commander I had the dubious benefit of Iain’s dice rolling assistance (he was also the scenario designer and umpire) but fortunately the English, Dutch and Danes fought tenaciously among the hedgerows and successfully held the right and centre against the French infantry. It didn’t go so well on the left, however, where the cavalry fought it out in the open fields. Here the enemy gradually got the better of the allied squadrons, helped by an infantry brigade which came up and held the farm in the middle of the melee. Their volleys emptied a good few saddles and by the end (which was deemed to be dusk) our flank had collapsed.

We all surveyed the battlefield and agreed it to be a strategic success for the French, as the allies would eventually have to retreat down the only road they remained in control of, but a tactical draw, as 2/3 of the table remained in allied hands as night fell. A really enjoyable game all-round, with friendly and generous opponents in Andy and Gary, and lots of thanks to Iain for the effort he put into planning and running the game.

Then it was off to the bar for a well-earned beverage or two and the usual debate about basing, followed by an excellent curry in a nearby restaurant and more beers in Tim’s local.

On Sunday we all re-assembled (some more slowly than others..) for the now-expanded ACW game. Tim, Phil, Dave and Tim W had fought the opening moves of this encounter battle (Coinville I think) on day 1 and developed the battlelines that the rest of us joined for day 2. I was on the Union side (which I think I’ve been on every time I’ve played this period, but which is fine by me) and I was involved in trying to defend the centre and right against an outflanking Reb attack, while waiting for our reserve division to arrive.

There was lots of artillery fire initially, and then the infantry got to grips and casualties mounted. The whole time JEB Stuart was dashing round our right flank and things were a bit nervous as we waited for the outcome of the Union CinC’s rolls to see where the reserve would appear. Naturally Iain’s dice ensured it would be at the other end of the table, and that sounded the death knell for the North! Unfortunately I had to leave before the final turns were played, but it was a delight to see these armies on the table again and to be involved in such a great looking game.

Some of my division, all gorgeous figures from Tim Hall’s collection:

All in all, everything went even better than expected and we’re looking forward to the next opportunity to get together again for another one. Big thanks go to Tim for all the planning/arranging, and to everyone for their excellent company!

A Couple of Punic Battles – part 2

The first game ended in a Roman minor victory, with them scoring 15 victory points (14 being required for a win) against the Carthaginians, with the latter scoring 10 in return.

With the terrain and figures already to hand it would have been rude not to play another game so I made a few minor changes to the table (ie. clearing a bit more central space) and re-deployed. This time I upped the armies by half again for a 150 point game involving a total of just over 500 figures. The Romans had now recruited a force of Spanish and the Carthaginians had bought in more Gauls and Numidians.

On the assumption that the Carthaginians were coming back for more, and the Romans were happy to oblige (and confident from the first battle), I decided that both sides were ‘up for it’ and there was no defender as such. I didn’t take many pictures this time, but did capture the deployment and some of the early moves.



The lines getting closer:

First clashes:

This time the Romans were faced by a first line of seething Gauls who charged in hard as they always do. The elephants were in the Carthaginian second line, as were the best of their infantry. It worked; despite the Romans using their unique ‘Legion’ rule which allowed them to swap tired units in combat with fresh reserves, and cutting up most of the Gauls, the attrition was too heavy and their right and right-centre crumbled. Both sides were forced to commit generals to the melee, and several were lost.

What’s Latin for ‘not this lot again!’?




When the dust cleared the Carthaginians had got their revenge. Both Roman flanks were crushed and although they still had a reasonably viable second line still able to fight, the enemy had achieved a decent victory: 23-15 (first to score 21 being the winner in this bigger battle). I think the Romans would have been able to fall back on their camp, and march away during the night or the following day – the enemy were too hard hit themselves to prevent it.

It was very enjoyable to return to this period, collection and rules. I hope not to leave it so long next time.

A quick note on figures;

The Romans are made up of Essex and Old Glory infantry, Essex cavalry and a right old mix for skirmishers, including some 10th Legion and (now defunct) Strategia e Tattica.

The Carthaginians are even more of a mix – most are Corvus Belli, but there are some Lancashire, Essex and Old Glory in there too.

They all go together well as far as I’m concerned, which makes picking what to buy a matter of preference rather than being restricted by size, etc.

A Couple of Punic Battles – part 1

In the end I played two solo Rome vs Carthage games on Friday evening, finishing off on Saturday morning.

The first was a 100 point game (100 points per army as per the rules I was using). I played it as a standard attack-defence game, having previously rolled to determine that the Carthaginians would be the attacker. The game set up gave the Romans a handy hill in their deploy area, and provided for a couple of woods towards the flanks. There would be plenty of open space in the middle for the infantry to come to grips, and just enough open ground to either flank for the Carthaginian cavalry advantage to be a factor.

The Roman commanders have a quick pre-battle pep rally:

The deployment and battlefield:


The Roman infantry (2 lines rather than 3, but I think most rules and wargames have some compromise here):

The Carthaginians:

The Elephant brigade:

Spanish and African infantry:


True to their mission, the Carthaginian army advanced, pushing cavalry ahead on the flanks and skirmishers into the woods to fight their Roman counterparts. The Romans used more velites in an attempt to delay the crunch of elephant on hastati, but couldn’t hold them up for long and soon the battle was in full flow as the front ranks crashed into each other. Gauls and Spanish charged the Roman wall and heavy cavalry closed in on the weaker Roman left.






The fighting was tough everywhere, and the Roman cavalry in particular fought back tenaciously despite the odds.


The elephants, having swept aside the velites (who did at least cause some casualties and disruption) got stuck into a unit of principes, pushing them back in disorder.

A freak result for some of the Spanish against heavier Roman infantry!

The battle lines surged back and fore and each side had their share of triumphs and disasters. After 8 game turns though, the Romans had dealt with the nellies and held on despite their vulnerable flanks, winning a close victory (15-10) and forcing the enemy to retire from the field. There would need to be a re-match, but in the meantime it was definitely beer o’clock..


Game Decision for Friday

Although I hadn’t intended to run a public referendum on what game to play on Friday evening, there’s been a landslide vote in favour of the Punic Wars in 15mm. Or rather Count Belisarius said he’d like to see it, so lacking a better reason to do something else, how can I refuse?

Rome vs Carthage then, with the usual assortment of allies for the latter to keep the Romans on their toes. I’ll set up a standard sized game of 100 points per side, using my house rules (By Force of Arms, written by my friend Jase, and which have seen plenty of action over the years).

I’ve already selected the armies, and a dice roll has determined that the Carthaginians are the ‘attacker’, meaning that for strategic reasons they need to get their skates on and win decisively before they run out of time. Good job they’ve got a cavalry advantage and, of course, some nellies to throw at the enemy!

More soon..


A Very Eventful Skirmish – part 2

So, up went the first pair of rockets…. and down they came… about halfway to the target! The rules for them certainly made things interesting and unpredictable, and we soon agreed that the safest place on the table to be was the target they’d been originally aimed at. Simon had some nice explosion pieces containing flickering lights which really looked the business.


As my units struggled forward over the rough terrain, I was beginning to feel that I was at least as likely to hit my own troops as the enemy. It was a good premonition, as the very next rocket mischievously decided to turn hard right and plough into one of my rifle groups (which had just failed by 1″ to charge the voltigeurs). Lovely. I’d been aiming at the village again, so as you can see from the next pic, this was a significant miss! One dead and a few shock (disruption) points. It could’ve been worse I suppose..


Still, the rifles rallied and after 1 more shot I ordered the crazy Major Brock to desist for a while, and let the enemy take a turn shooting at us. That last rocket came down short of the target like all the rest, but at least evened the score by killing a voltigeur! We were beginning to close in on the village and the fire from the rifles and the light infantry’s muskets was causing Simon a growing problem in casualties and shock points. His earlier sortie, which had caused me some concern, was recalled or forced back, and his voltigeurs somehow made it back to their own lines by routing faster than my men could catch them. With 26 shock points on a unit with only 5 men left, they weren’t going to play any further part in the action, and about time too.


Getting back to the mission, the church was still a long way away and there remained a lot of French infantry between me and it. Despite the deadly fire my units were now pouring into the defenders, time was running out and with a flurry of unhelpful (to me) cards and turn ends, the French cavalry finally turned up. As I’d feared, my rifles were too spread out and were vulnerable to being ridden down, even on the rough hills. As fate would have it, the turn ended suddenly again (those damned cards!) which freed up the newly-arrived cavalry to launch an immediate charge.

The first group of riflemen fought well, but were killed or sent packing, and over the next couple of turns the horsemen slaughtered another group, killing the rifles officer and the Irish priest who’d led them by hidden paths to the village. Although my speed-bump rifles did finally manage to stop the cavalry, and cause enough casualties and shock to dent their effectiveness, the game was up. We reviewed the table and agreed that despite the losses and disruption among the French, a successful assault by the remaining British would have had little hope of success. In retrospect I should probably have tried to focus on moving faster and ignoring the temptation to stop and shoot. That said, there’d have been a lot more enemies left to face an assault if I hadn’t wittled them down as I did, so the outcome would still have been in doubt.

The final positions, with the rifles major and the priest lying dead on the hillside as the cavalry pull back to re-group, and the remaining attackers still too far away to achieve their objective:

All in all this was a very enjoyable game with lots of fun and surprises, and a believable outcome at the end. Simon was an excellent host, and played his position well, holding on for the cavalry to thunder to the rescue. The rockets were amusing and completely hopeless at the same time, but added extra flavour to the game. The rules are very good, but are vague in places and we were understandably rusty a year on from game 1. We certainly speeded up once we got going, despite grappling with cavalry, artillery and rockets for the first time. The card-generated turn sequence, with all its uncertainty and swings of luck, makes for great entertainment and a real challenge. Roll on the next game!