Today I played my second Sharp Practice game (third for my gaming pals as I missed the one organized the last weekend). We used Scenario 3 “Defence in Depth" of the book, in the context of the Talavera Battle (July 1809), the French attack on Cerro Medellín.
French attack and British defend in this scenario. I played on the French side and chose the French Regulars as core force, adding an artillery piece, a Dragoon group and a Big Man level I as supports.
The terrain was basically featureless, with a hill (Cerro Medellin) dominating the British deployment area and small stream (minor obstacle) marking the limit of its defensive line. The British had a primary and a secondary deployment points located within the first 12 and 36 inches of its table edge.
The French also had two deployment points to be located in the two halves of their table side and with 6 inches of the edge.
The French had to capture the British primary deployment point or force their withdrawal from the battlefield to win.
With the British lights troops now under pressure from the Voltigeurs, the French cavalry moved towards the stream in the flanking attempt. In the meantime a first British line formation emerged on the Medellin hilltop, which was subject to the fire of the French artillery battery.
The British artillery also deployed and made a very effective counterbattery, killing in the first fire half of the crew and rendering almost ineffective the piece due to accumulation of shock. In the following turn, the battery was wiped out, the battery commander being the only survivor.
In the following phase of the battle, the British skirmishes suffered important casualties and shock and were finally caught by the Dragoons after crossing the stream, breaking and routing out the table.
A second British line infantry formation now emerged and fire at short range to the Voltigeurs, forcing them to withdraw. In the meantime, the French cavalry did not have time to reform, and the British infantry formation did not lose time to wheel left and discharged a second volley on the cavalry, who also broke and withdraw towards the French tactical edge.
At this stage, the French Force Moral (starting at a low 9 level) had fallen to 2. With only two infantry units in good shape, the French commander decided to pull out and concede the control of the battlefield to the British troops.
The game was played in just over two hours despite frequent breaks to discuss aspects of the rules and to consult the book. From my point of view, one of the best aspects of Sharp Practice is the new command system and the optionality provided to the players by the combination of command cards.
Lessons learned from the game today:
(1) Concentrate infantry in one point, do not scatter your troops along the line, that’s totally ineffective in terms of firing and charging in fisticuffs.
(2) Do not leave artillery units isolated; plug them among your formations to avoid receiving concentrated fire from enemy artillery or infantry.
(3) Cavalry charges are great, but make sure that (a) the unit is galloping and (b) they are supported on the flanks (specially of close to an enemy deployment point).
(4) Use skirmishes to screen your line infantry better than acting alone; they are terribly vulnerable to line.
And a final comment. The rules allow group units to form up in different formation types; attack columns are considered the more flexible formation to quickly approach the enemy and charge. However, in the rules there seems to be no advantage in terms of movement (only when moving through roads) and only disadvantages when being fired. The incentive is only to deploy in line.
I have posted this question in the yahoo Group to check if I’m missing something.
In any case, a very enjoyable game and still in discovery phase of the rules. There are some subtle details that you tend to oversee in a first reading, and only discover after playing a couple of times. Patience required!