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…