Thursday, February 2, 2017

2016 Year in Review - Sharp Practice

This is the final 'year in review' article I'm writing, mostly because its already February! I got a little ambitious and had a ton of things prepped, but really focused in on the ones that were the big stories of 2016 instead.

Sharp Practice is tops on my list. Bolt Action is 1b, Sharp Practice is 1a. I haven't been this excited about a game in a long time, probably since I first started Bolt Action. I haven't really done much with TooFatLardies stuff before, but the black powder period is definitely my favorite to research and game, so putting out an accessible ruleset for this period is huge for me!

There are plenty of reviews on the web for this ruleset so I'll just provide a few reasons why I like it. First - it can be used for a variety of different engagements. The first set of army lists they provide is for the French and Indian War (which we're using at AdeptiCon) and the last is the Indian Mutiny, although chronologically and technologically the American Civil War is probably the final war you can fight using these rules. The front cover does say 1700-1865.

You need relatively few models to make this ruleset work, when compared to something like Black Powder, Fire and Fury, or Pickett's Charge. Most of the lists require around 40-60 models. Again - I'd always eyed Black Powder, and I have the rulebooks, but I just couldn't imagine myself painting 200 models per side to get started. With SP, I can start small and then eventually build up to a BP level force.

I really like how the rules encourage the players using a narrative in their games. You're not just showing up on a field and firing at each other until one side loses. You should have a mission - something to do, like capturing some gold, escorting civilians, etc. 

The rules are built so that officers are the central theme. They are the leaders of men and the battle really revolves around how they can move their troops and fight. They also have certain attributes, like charisma or wealth, and this allows them to interact with other people on the board and accomplish their missions. Its really themey and I love it.

Officers order their men to do things, and you can use command chips or cards to increase how well they do it, or add bonuses to the actions of the troops. You can also activate units with them during or after the turn is over. This strategic use of 'resources' is huge and adds a whole new layer onto the game.

Movement is fairly easy. Different drill formations act differently and allow the groups to form lines, squares, etc. The distance moved itself is rolled randomly, which put me off at first, but doesn't really bother me so much now. I must admit having the drill formations in the game really impressed me, showing how accurate the game is to history.

Firing is also relatively easy - depending on if the weapons used are either close, effective, or long range, you add certain modifiers, and then each man firing gets a shot. We've found this to go pretty quickly once everyone has played a turn or two.

Once you've hit, you spread the hits amongst affected groups, then roll to kill or apply shock. You'll notice that kills aren't that easy to come by, but shock happens, and that is huge. Shock can involuntarily force units back as they take too many hits. It also reduces the effectiveness of firing or meleeing units.

The turn sequence itself is very interesting - instead of IGOUGO everything gets a turn, there is a random turn end in the form of the Tiffin card. This means sometimes your troops will do something, sometimes they won't, just like in a real war. You can still affect their movement if at the end of the turn you have a command chip and they haven't activated.

One of my favorite things that I realized in our last game is that the overall force morale chart in the game really forces you to make good decisions and not throw away your army. As you lose men, you'll lose force morale. If you get to zero you lose immediately. This means if a group becomes depleted it only makes sense to send them to the rear so they don't get wiped out. Real strategy working in a wargame - imagine that!

You can see here part of the chart that is used to determine if morale takes a hit during the game. When groups start being punished beyond their capacity they start falling back and your overall morale starts falling.

Overall Sharp Practice is exciting, new, and perfectly scratches the black powder period itch!


So whats on tap for 2017? AdeptiCon is right around the corner, so I'm painting up forces for:
  • The Bolt Action GT
  • Sharp Practice French and Indian War
  • Dark Age
I'm actually not playing in a DA 'bring your force' event, but I'm gonna paint some stuff anyway to see if I can get a pick-up game or two. 

I'm going to get rid of most of my old PP and GW paints and focus on using Vallejo and Coat D'Arms. I really like these paints, even though they're not in dropper bottles. They cover well and they have a ton of different triads. I really want to focus on doing a lot of layered highlighting this year.

I'm really hoping to make it to Historicon in Fredericksburg, VA. I've heard a ton of good things about it and there is a lot to see around that area like Civil War battlefields and colonial stuff.

Last, I'm going to try to play more games this year. Some of the things I really want to try that are new would be Dark Age, Frostgrave, and Spectre Ops. I am really looking forward to Fighting Season from TFL whenever that comes out.

Thanks for reading - I will put up a recap of our FlintCon event next week!

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