Friday, September 23, 2016

Sharp Practice - Learning the Rules with Solo Play

The Black Powder ACW supplement Glory, Hallelujah! has some amazing photographs, as all WLG stuff does.
The other night I didn't want to paint so I figured I'd try out Sharp Practice again, by myself. I want to learn the rules really well so I can show others how to play. I tried to make each side do their best option when their cards were drawn, so that I could have an idea of how the game would really play out with two players.

I decided to again play the first scenario, which is just a meeting engagement. I put down some terrain on my dining room table and setup the two deployment points nearish each other in roughly the same area on the board on opposite sides. I again apologize for the unpainted mess - I'm eager to learn more about the game and it takes a while to paint 50 dudes.

This is the Union force, composed of:

  • One Level 2 Leader
    • Three groups of regulars with rifled muskets, 8x men each
  • One Level 1 Leader
    • Two groups of regulars with rifled muskets, 8x men each
  • One Level 1 Leader
    • One group of skirmishers with rifled muskets, 6x men

This is the Confederate force, composed of:

  • One Level 3 Leader
    • Three groups of regulars with muskets, 8x men each
  • One Level 2 Leader
    • Two groups of regulars with rifled muskets, 8x men each
  • One Level 1 Leader
    • One group of skirmishers with rifled muskets, 6x men
The main difference between the two forces is that the Confederates have about half their troops only armed with muskets, as opposed to rifled muskets, so they're not as good at range. They do have buck & ball in the muskets so they're better at close range. They also have better leadership and Rebel Yell, so they can fire and charge in an activation. 

The objective was simple - force the enemy off the field. The first activation came from the smaller Union line infantry section, who came on the field from their deployment point and setup to fight in the middle.

I neglected to take a photo, but Union skirmishers then arrived on the field behind the stone house in the middle, out of line of sight. The Confederates brought on their smaller section of line infantry, and I believe I did it right - they deployed, then the unit (a formation of two groups) used their two actions to present and fire. Did I do this right?

They actually rolled really well, inflicting five shock split between both groups opposite and removing two casualties. You'll notice in the above photo the Union troops are now unloaded - they used four flags to take a second activation and return fire on the Confederates.

As you can see they used their four flags to Present, and then Fire. I believe I did this right - they can do two actions as a formation. They inflicted two casualties on one group and three shock on the other, even better than the southerners did!

Here you can see the firefight as the engagement started.

Next, the Union level two leader brought his troops onto the field. His DP was a bit closer to the middle, so his men were bottled up behind his currently engaged firing line. He would try to shuffle to their flank in coming turns to provide a better line of advance.

The Confederate skirmishers also deployed onto the field behind a fence near the stone house and opened fire on the Union troops in the middle, putting on more shock.

Here you can see the end of the turn. All the forces are on the field, which was crazy! I didn't pull a Tiffin until the very last card.

Pards enjoy a break for some hardtack and coffee.
The plan I had for the Confederate forces was to send them up the left flank hard, form into line from open column, then attack the Union right flank. 

To start the second turn, the currently engaged Union line fired off another volley into the Confederates, pulling another casualty and forcing one group up to seven shock!

This group was definitely in trouble - the leader would have to activate and pull off two shock, hopefully boosting that with flag cards.

After that, the Union skirmishers enveloped the Confederate flank, harassing and putting more shock onto the main group taking casualties. The Confederate unit in the middle was having a lot of trouble, taking fire from two sides now. The Confederate skirmishers, ignoring the Union skirmishers, moved up the middle to fire at the Union line, hoping to cause them to retreat through their own men. It didn't happen, but they did set the building on fire through a random event. 

You can see here that the Confederates on the left have moved up, hoping to enter a line formation in the next turn. The Union forces in the back have shuffled to their right. I am not sure if I did this right. I basically wanted the line to right face, move to their right, and front. I am not sure if I could give this order to a formation, or just groups, so I just had the officer give two orders - one to each group. They then moved 1D6 and fronted. I think I did this right, but any comments? Is there a way I could have kept the other group with them as a formation?

I had a few turns where the Tiffin ended the turn early. You can see here though, the Union Skirmishers fired on the main Confederate line and forced on group to retreat. I read in the FAQ last night that the other group could have retreated as well to maintain the formation, which I would have done. The Confederate skirmishers, tired of having their flanks harassed, returned the favor, using Sharp Practice to reload and then firing on the Union boys after moving back.

This point of the battle was pivotal - could the Confederates hold up through the blistering fire from the Union troops? If not, and they retired from the field, both Union formations would be able to turn and engage the Confederate flanking troops. They did hold and gave time for the level three leader to get his men in position...

I read and re-read the rules on how to move from open column into line. I love that they use the real drill tactics, but I'm not sure I was doing it right. The first group held fast, the second group snapped to their formation, and the third group diced for movement and failed to join them. 

The Union troops responded with a volley from their now-in-position groups on the lead flank companies, removing a man and causing a little shock, but not nearly enough.

The Confederates received four flags, so they were able to move their troops up with a second activation, which is why they are further forward in the photo above. I had mostly been using leader activations on both sides to rally shock off, then using flags to activate formations, which seemed a good way to do it.

The next turn moved pretty quickly - the Union troops put another volley into the flanking Confederates, but not enough. The Level 3 commander received two flag cards and used them to use the Confederate special ability, Rebel Yell. I believe I did this right - he activated, used two flag cards, then ordered the formation to fire and charge, using 3D6 of movement dice to move forward.

The musket fire from the Confederates was pretty nasty, especially being first fire, buck and ball at close range. Then the charge they put home ended that Union formation, making them flee the field. I felt that this point was probably a good stopping point as it was late and the Union forces would have a terrible time with the flanking formation.

The fisticuffs itself was really easy to do, thankfully. I was worried that perhaps it would be complicated but it wasn't at all. The union group in the middle up top had actually retreated an inch due to shock. I think if I knew about the FAQ the whole formation would have retreated so they would have counted as supporting the melee. 

All in all a great way to learn the rules - and I'm getting them pretty quick. I think I did most of the stuff correctly, let me know down bottom if you think I messed up or have advice. Thanks!