Friday, 5 August 2016

Sharp Practice

Some of our group have recently been looking at Sharp Practice, and yesterday we payed what was, for some, their second game and, for me, my first.

The game was a straight head-to-head kill the other side kind of affair. I had a force of ropey French conscripts, bolstered by some reasonable voltigeurs. Caesar had some troops that claimed to be British, but actually looked like Prussians - Pritish or Brussian, perhaps?

Both sides deploy as they are activated near entry points, shown as the red markers in this picture. We both went for the open side of the table. The very open side. Initially Caesar's Brussians managed to get a couple of groups of line infantry and some skirmishers in position, whilst I managed some line infantry under the most junior of commanders.

However the rest of my commanders soon began to turn up, and it put together an impressive-looking, if brittle, firing line. Caesar attempted an advance, but his skirmishers outstripped the rest of his troops, and ended up closer to the French than they possibly should have done.

The French piled on the musketry, and the unsupported Brussian skirmishers were badly chopped up.

Overwhelmed by my success I moved some voltigeurs off to my right, and put them out of command.

Caesar looking thoughtful. On the right can be seen the main body of his infantry, in a tasty-looking column formation.

I deployed my skirmishers, and they opened fire on Caesar's column across some low hedges. Once my voltigeurs got back in command they fired too. I kept these troops firing as fast and as often as I could, stopping Caesar's troops in that part of the field in their tracks.

They were taking lots of hits and, more importantly, lots of shock.

My centre was also suffering badly, though. Caesar was also firing briskly, and the Brussians were better at it. In addition the troops I had there were not of the best quality. Casualties started to mount and questions were asked about whether running away was a good plan.

I kept up my fire on Caesar's main group, wounding his overall commander, Lord Jeff Blucher of Cheam.

My centre decided that running away was a great plan.

However I had other troops working around to my left, aiming to ensconce themselves in and around the church there. They took Caesar's centre under fire.

However it was on the other side of the field where the action was being won, with the French voltigeurs pouring fire into the Brussians there. With Lord Jeff Bucher wounded, there was little that could be done to rally them, and they started to fall back. Brussian morale began to collapse.

The Brussians fled, and the action was over.

The game seemed to involve a lot of shooting and not a lot of movement, although the fact that we were mostly fighting over a flat open field probably didn't help. We suspect that it's one of those games where the rues are mostly straightforward, but where mastering how you actually achieve your aims and manage the card draws (for it uses a deck of cards to run initiative) takes a bit of effort. It could have certainly done with more terrain to block, or at least interrupt lines of fire, but without it slowing movement too much. Still, it was an entertaining evening, and thanks are due to Gary for the figures and umpiring, and Caesar for being a gallant, if nationally confused, foe.


  1. Thanks to Gary for putting on another game of Sharp Practice. Congratulations to Alan for a hard fought victory by his dastardly French over my honourable British. Thanks also to Dave for his card shark skills and our newest member, Daniel, for marshalling my shock markers, which were frequent and numerous. Great to meet you and we hope you hang around for some games in the future.

    The game had plenty of tense moments and an excellent command activation system but, like we’ve found with Chain of Command, firepower is king as the troops struggle to get anywhere through the terrain. And we made a deliberate effort to restrict terrain this game. Perhaps this bias is realistic at this scale of warfare but it tends to make for a very shooty game. My biggest mistake was trying to manoeuvre to closer range at the cost of being shot up. About half way through I decided to just start shooting at long range and it was paying off, just not quickly enough to catch up with Alan.

    It’s early days yet to abandon a rules system, as there were inklings of sweeping flanking moves by Alan ordering his men to run, then rally off accrued shock, possibly a valid way to get troops into position with more experience. But the general consensus was, scale or rules aside, we had more fun with games where manoeuvre, not firepower, held sway.

    1. It's certainly a system worth pursuing, as there really doesn't seem to be much in the way of other games covering this particular scale of action for the horse and musket era

  2. It looks like you had a fun game! If I might be so bold as to make some suggestions (being a huge fan of Sharp Practice): SP really is a skirmish game and comes into its own with scenarios and lots of terrain - if you have objectives to achieve, you have to think if you really want to blast away or rather move and try to get stuff done. I've played quite a lot of SP now and in my experience, the better the scenario, the better the game.

  3. Yes, we need more practice (no pun intended!) and with varied scenarios I'm sure that we can get a lot out of this game. The purely infantry meeting engagement across a desert-like plateau has obvious limitations, though suited our purposes as a training scenario. SP's popularity, particularly the 2nd edition, seems to be snow-balling exponentially, and unlike several commercially big games that come to mind, it's actually enjoyable and stimulating to play, with its refreshing command mechanics. The added bonus is the low entry-level figure requirement, so those obscure theatres that are difficult to warrant major investment in time and money can be explored. Bring on South American Wars of Liberation!

  4. I'm hoping to get some Sharp Practice later on this year.

    At my rate of painting and collecting I will playing FIW French forces against AWI American forces. Funny that.

  5. When you say low entry figure requirement, how low is 'low'?

    1. For this game a stand of four 15mm figures represented one SP 'figure'. So we had about eight units a side and about 70-80 'figures' a side in actual game terms. That's a larger number of figures than, say, HOTT or Saga, but not too bad (unless, like me, you hate painting :) )

  6. I'm somewhat confused by this report. As I understand it, SP is intended to be used as a "large skirmish" game yet you appear to be using it for what amounts to a small battle! You also seem to be using very big units. I thought SP was designed for units of 6 - 12 figures.

    1. I should have said that we used a stand of four 15mm figures as a single 'figure' in SP terms. And a figure in SP can represent between one and six men apparently. So our units had either six or eight figures.

  7. We used Gary's lovely 15mm Napoleonic figures, French and "Brussians" (or British masquerading as Prussians). These were the painted figures we had at hand for our first couple of games of Sharp Practice, and I think they looked great, particularly when Gary had sufficient to boost the numbers 4 fold. So you'll see that each of our "groups" (units) had 24-32 figures. Most people playing Sharp Practice play with groups of 6-8 figures in 28mm. Therefore, you need around 50 figures for a starting force, not the several hundred that we were playing with for visual effect.

  8. Hi Alan, just found this blog on an internet trawl looking for Sharp Practice 2 scenario ideas. I had no idea you were playing these rules (or indeed Black Powder), its something I've been getting into this year. (BP we've been doing for ages). I was very interested in your approach with a 15mm stand representing a single 28mm figure. I've been painting up, refurbishing ebay purchases of 25/28 Napoleonics for months and now this single revelation will tempt me into using my 15mm AWI stands in the same way. This means I can get some more games in while I'm working on the 28mm stuff. Also been looking at your Flikr picures - very nice - I do recognise a few of the views. Only worrying element when looking at your profile is the reference to "tranny tendencies" !!?? Drop us a line on the Staines Wargamers group to let us know how you are getting on with Sharp Practice, that would be of some interest. Hope you and the family are in good shape.
    My very best Regards to you all.
    Paul C
    Staines Wargamers.


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