Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sharp Practice: first game

Vidal and I were able to play our first Sharp Practice game last night with our growing Carlist Wars collections. We've been furiously painting for the last few months (well, furious for us) and decided it was about time to get the figures on the table. Unfortunately, our stock of Spanish-style terrain is severely limited but this will be corrected shortly. I picked up several Spanish buildings from Brigade Games at Historicon. I plan to chronicle the building and basing of these buildings here....eventually! Anyway, back to the game.

This was a first attempt with Sharp Practice so we weren't too concerned with context for the scenario. In a nutshell, a local parish priest in Carlist territory had learned that a government force was on its way and he decided to remove any valuables from the church before their arrival. To protect his mule train, the priest called upon the local Carlist commander, Mayor Juan Armas da Montanna and his able subordinate Capitan Enrico "Grande Pistole" Silva, for protection. In basic terms, there is a small parish church away from which a mule train is scurrying (maybe not the best descriptor) under the protection of a small Carlist force. A larger Cristino force, commanded by Teniente Coronel Alfredo Salazar del Pene Grande, is moving on the village with the intention of capturing the booty.

Before we began, we rolled for the different Big Men qualities. In Sharp Practice, the events of the battle and its narrative are driven primarily by these Big Men (variously referred to as heroes and villains). From Sharp practice, by Richard Clarke of Too Fat Lardies:

"The central premise of the rules is that success on the battlefield is generally down to the leadership of a small band of men, of all ranks and social stations, who drive other less dynamic souls forward to achieve their goals. It is these Big Men and their actions that stand tall in the pages of military history...."

Big Men have a variety of characteristics that are rolled for in various ways. Many of these characteristics have little impact on a straightforward tabletop battle unless the context is defined beforehand. For instance, if a simple attack-defend scenario is what's on offer, a Big Man's propensity for avarice or his personality trait of "ladies man" probably won't come into play. But if there were a small band of intrepid British riflemen detailed to rescue a Spanish Contessa from a remote hacienda while holding off a marauding band of Frenchman from looting the local church, a Big Man's propensity for entertaining women at the most inopportune times may come into play. A junior NCO's avaricious nature may cause him to pocket a few valuables from the church before the French arrive while his commanding officer is wooing the noble lady. This may, of course, anger the locals and bring the wrath of the local guerilleros down upon them all.

We decided to record the characteristics of our big men and carry them forward into other games, ala Dungeons & Dragons. We haven't yet decided how this will affect future games but this approach will, at the very least, provide extra context for our games (thanks Vidal, for that most excellent idea!). I can now follow my artillery sargento primero, who projects the appearance of a good-looking and strapping "cock o' the walk" (SP term...really). While his outward appearance and actions cause his men to love him dearly, he also has a less attractive side. Underneath that accomplished mask lies the heart of a greedy thief who will stop at nothing, including a lady's virtue, to enrich himself. And he has one particular aspect to his character and life that is unknown to anyone, and which he guards strenuously, especially from his commanding officer: he is the younger son of a prince of the realm!

You can see a Big Man Characteristics Sheet below (this one for my most senior officer at the moment):

As for the game, the Carlist infantry was able to hold back the superior numbers of the Cristinos and allow the mule train to escape the area with the church's valuables. Notable incidents saw a Cristino Big Man badly wounded while leading a unit of Marine Infantry into the village. After taking some serious casualties, the Marines were forced to move back to relative safety leaving the teniente primo (first lieutenant) behind! While it may seem odd that the marines did not even try to drag their leader back with them, the fact that he is sickly little twit, universally detested for his high-born manners, explains their lack of desire to put themselves at risk to save him. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), the teniente survived and is now resting comfortably in a local abbey, nursing his wound. The marines, however, may not be happy to learn that he will soon rejoin the regiment!

In the churchyard, a band of Carlist skirmishers was holding off the fire of two Cristino guns posted on a nearby hill and the attention of a unit of Provincial Guard Grenadiers. Their stalling action allowed the wagons of valuables to safely leave the churchyard but eventually the Guard commander grew tired of their intransigence and ordered a charge on the walled enclosure. Overwhelming numbers and the presence of a Big Man with the Guards drove the Carlist skirmishers back from the church with serious casualties. Lesson learned? Have a Big Man in the Fisticuffs, if possible! These guys can make a tremendous difference to events, just as Richard Clarke notes above.

Some photos below of the action.

An overview of our obviously inadequate Spanish terrain. This will improve soon with the addition of appropriate buildings etc. I'm usually not a big fan of having charts and rules on the table during a game but since this was a first run-through of the rules, I don't think either of us minded.

Cristino infantry column with a screen of skirmishers moves towards the village.

Cristino marine infantry in column.

The Grenaderos de la Guardia Real Provincial moving forward with foot artillery struggling to keep up with their gun.

Carlist infantry defending the churchyard.

The game was quite fun and the rules easy to pick up. We'll definitely be doing this again! Maybe my Teniente Coronel can find a woman to marry who will satisfy the ambitions of his stern and officious father, the General!

1 comment:

  1. Great report, love your terrain even if it's not "Spanish" themed :)