Friday, September 9, 2016

Sharp Practice 2 - The First Battle

Last weekend I got together with Matt over at Michigan Toy Soldier and he helped me learn the rules for Sharp Practice, version two of the rules by Too Fat Lardies. This ruleset has been immensely popular online and in the podcasts I listen to, so I've been very very eager to actually play.

I went over my thoughts on why I'm so excited in my previous post, so let me get to the actual minor battle report for this post. Please oblige me since my models aren't painted yet. I am working on getting them finished before we have our next game, so it has provided a lot of motivation to get them hammered out.

We used the early war lists for American Civil War, so Matt had the following:

You can see his were well painted and will be based soon. He was using the Perry Miniatures from the Battle in a Box, plus some officers etc from other lines.

Sorry again for my level of unpainted-ness. I had the same idea, three groups of eight, two groups of eight, and six skirmishers. I need to get a skirmisher tray to make my guys in a wider line. Most of mine are the plastic Confederates from Perry Miniatures. I can't wait for the dedicated plastic Federal infantry that they're working on, since they have sack coats and hats that give them a Western theater look.

Since the game, I've actually made a ton of steps on painting out this force - mostly have flesh, straps, boots etc to finish.

We decided to play the Encounter scenario. I rolled a one, which meant my deployment point would be near the table edge marked with the one arrow. Matt also rolled a one so he moved on from the opposite corner.

Here you can see my forces coming on from the deployment point. In Sharp Practice, you could consider moving on from the deployment point as somewhat of a fog of war. Your guys aren't necessarily not in the area before they deploy, its just that they're not being seen by the enemy yet.

I was able to move on my skirmish group and my formation of three groups of eight. I decided to make the three groups my main force. They formed up in a line with one group in reserve that could peel off and deal with other threats if necessary, or reinforce the line when I started losing men.

My level two leader was in charge of the main force, while my level one was in charge of the skirmishers. Because of the way the cards work, my second formation of two groups of eight didn't come on for the first few turns. While this might strike some as lame since you should get to play with all your soldiers, the reality of war is that sometimes your reserves get lost or take a roundabout route. It happens in Bolt Action, 40k, etc.

You can see here Matt brought on his Federal forces near the 'town'. He was able to put his three group formation and two group formation on the field early on, while his skirmishers stayed off the field for the time being. You can also see my morale counter from Eureka off to the side, which helps track the morale of both forces (it is a random roll at the beginning plus some modifiers, and we both hit 11 with our rolls).

You can see here the whole board, with our two forces maneuvering. We ruled that the field in the mid top would block LOS and I didn't even bother trying to go through it. This plus the houses would create a natural chokepoint where our two forces would meet in the middle of the table.

My idea was to setup my skirmishers in the front to take some potshots at the enemy force and inflict some shock before my main body arrived. Hopefully my second body of troops would arrive as well to either commit to the middle or flank around the field.

You can see here my skirmishers opened fire on the front body of Federals from a good distance with rifled muskets. I was able to inflict shock but didn't actually level a soldier until later in the battle.

I like how Sharp Practice treats skirmishers; they can always move at least once during their activation, and they always count as in one better cover than they are. They can't get certain bonuses to their fire since they're not in a formation, but I like how they reflect the drill manual and experiences I've read about - they probe the enemy lines, hoping to inflict some casualties, and maybe putting an officer out of service. You can see here we are using smoke (cotton balls) to show that our troops are unloaded and need to use an action the next turn to re-load.

Eventually my left wing did come on the board, and move up my left flank as rapidly as possible to engage a skirmish group that was heading around the field to flank me. I was able to use my command cards to get them to 'step out' and move further, which was pretty great. I imagine my troops taking the field, seeing the main commander ordering to take the flank, and double quicking there at right shoulder shift.

It was interesting learning the rules, because if you stack your troops up, like Matt had done, and I had done with my reserves, and the commander card comes out to have those troops activate, they basically can't do anything. This reminds me of what I've read from the war - troops have to wait and wait for lines or columns to move forward before they can do anything.

I *think* he might have been able to do something here with one group commander issuing an order to the other, but there are some issues with seniority there and how it works. We also checked and you can pass and defile around each other, but it breaks up formations - the building block you want to use to mass your fire and deliver amazing volleys.

You can see here I've moved up on my left and pushed forward with my skirmishers to deliver more fire onto their front lines. Matt had managed to order his troops behind the house to fire on my main line and put some shock on my troops, but not enough to really do much. I also put shock on my troops on the left by ordering them to run. They were able to get into position to fight off the skirmishers the next turn.

Here you can see my main body has moved up around the edge of the field and the reserves have been posted on the right flank of the main body to create a larger formation. Matt has committed his skirmishers to the fight on my left flank in hopes of holding off the body of troops while his own forces move up on his flank to fight them in the back. Up until this point we hadn't really lost any troops yet, only inflicted a bunch of shock upon mostly the Federal forces.

Matt's skirmishers moved up and fired at my left flank but were apparently half blind, missing every shot. The lieutenant commanded my force to return fire as a formation, inflicting a huge amount of shock and some casualties even though the skirmishers are counted in cover. (I rolled really well.) The skirmishers would never rebound from this massive volley.

I did manage a 'controlled volley' here, whereby you get a bonus to your fire as the officer orders the men to fire. Since it was also their 'first fire' with clean rifles and dry powder, they got another bonus. It was too much for the poor skirmish company.

After a protracted firefight in the middle of the board between my skirmishers and Matt's main body, he fired at my own main body and his men were so emboldened by their strong volley that they charged forward, rounding the house and breaking formation.

I had saved two 'flags' or command cards to hopefully present a volley later in the turn, but this situation gave me the best opportunity to inflict casualties on Matt's force. I 'interrupted' the turn and played my two flags, unleashing a massive volley from muskets with buck and ball at close range. His men lost about half their number and took a ton of shock... all the cheers turned into screams of the wounded.

My skirmishers also moved to the right, and though they have smoke near them, they didn't fire, they're just unloaded. You can see in the back Matt's skirmishers routing towards his main flank line. Unfortunately his troops were too late to the battle back there.

A closer up shot of the action. You can see the Present! token behind my guys. This meant they were actually all ready to fire, and the two flags I used helped them fire.

The battle was effectively over after that volley. I hadn't inflicted the morale loss I needed yet, but the shock stacked up on Matt's troops combined with the loss of his skirmishers and the potential loss of his deployment point (my skirmish troops on the right flank are moving toward that) meant that he would not recover, and it was getting late so we called the game. We are going to meet again soon to play, and hopefully all my troops will be painted by then.

Check back next week for some more information on the Confederates I'm painting right now and what units I'm planning to use. In the mean time, check out some videos I've been watching: