As many readers of this blog and the whole Lard fan community knows, Sharp Practice 2 was released on St George´s day. I received the pdf copy of the rules at 7.30AM sharp (sigh) on Saturday and my hardcopy, cards and tokens will hit home hopefully some day next week.
It was too tempting to lose this Sunday without at least giving a try to the rules; despite having just skipped the book on Saturday (… while busy preparing a major dinner at home to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary), my club’s pals were of the same opinion and this morning we exchanged the first shot in a small skirmish encounter game.
I played the French side with four line infantry groups, two skirmish group and one Dragoons cavalry group vs the a British army with a similar lay-out. I’m not looking to describe the battle in detail as it was a game frequently interrupted to clarify aspects of the rules and in search of the right tables in the tablet to fire and to move.
The most remarkable action was the charge of the French cavalry downhill against a group of KGL hussars that dare to get to close to the French. In the melee the Germans were massacred, losing 6 out of the 8 troopers and the group commander being seriously wounded.
I'm sold to Sharp Practice, whatever doubts I may have before, no longer.
First, I never played SP 1 because mentally I was only prepared to play Napoleonics moving masses of models in battalions and this was basically a skirmish game. On the other hand, I truly feared the return to cards after the quantum leap achieved with Chain of Command (no cards and activation with dice, making it hugely dynamic).
But Richard Clarke has made a wonderful job again and the command rules have been totally renovated. An important aspect is the more versatile use of the “command initiatives” cards in this respect.
In the classical games (Mud & Blood) units get activated by the leader (Big Man) of the unit card. In many instances (specially with large games) you suffered the syndrome of the unit never activated because you could have long strikes of turns without your activation cards emerging from the deck.
This problem is overcome now by allowing the player to use two command initiatives to activate leaders or units previously not activated and even to interrupt the opposing player turn to make an action. Using 3 or 4 command initiatives also allow other options like ambushes or even units previously activated taking a second action within the same turn if an opportunity emerges or to react if seriously endangered.
I found this as one of the most remarkable improvements in the rules as it provides the players the same wide level of optionality that I enjoy when playing Chain of Command. This is good because it makes every game completely different, not a repetition till dying of boredom.
In this first test we made a lot of mistakes (as I discovered this afternoon reading again the book during my siesta time after lunch) but the rules showed to be very agile and a small game can be easily completed in a couple of hours.
In addition there are a lot of small details in the army lists (national characteristics) and the different parts of the rules (movement, firing, etc) that provide singular elements of differentiation to the units and advantages to your opponents.
For example, a British firing volley at short distance is lethal, but also at long distance when a light unit is involved: the exchange of fire is totally unbalanced and as a French player you only have two options: deploying a line of skirmishes to absorb part of the effect or admit that you are in inferior position and pull out from the first line.
I leave it here. Very good vibrations and feeling as excited as when I first tested and played Chain of Command. I feel Sharp Practice is going to be a hit.