Sunday 12 June 2016

Sharp Practice: A Belated Xmas Gift

Today we playtested the third scenario of the Corunna campaign for Sharp Practice. That we expect to publish in the incoming Summer Special 2016 In this case, it was inspired on the events of January 6th 1809 (Epiphany Day) when, having lagged the main army column, the paymaster's cart bullocks died and the army's silver was in danger of falling in French hands. General Paget had to retrace back all the way to where the carts were stranded and ordered the money chests to be thrown over the nearby cliff.
The game is played across the longest edge of the table. The table is actually a straight road with several terrain features offering light cover to the units, the number of items randomly calculated and placed. The British stranded cart at a certain distance of its tactical edge based on a die throw; and its deployment point at 12” from the cart. The French enter through their tactical edge, the deployment point located on the road.
The British must empty the cart and throw the money over the cliff. This is accomplished as a task with 16 points (see chapter 10 of the Sharp Practice book) undertaken by a brigade of men under the command  of a level I leader. They can start moving the money from the cart after the 3rd Tiffin card is out.

We played the scenario twice today, you'll see why in a minute. In the first game, the cart was placed almost in the middle of the road and the British deployment point within the French half of the table. The French could deploy a Voltigeur skirmish line initially; bu the British brought its main line infantry line force (four groups) immediately after, that half wiped out the French with the first fire (controlled, etc) and then with four command cards was ordered to charge.

The scenario table
The result was the Voltigeurs scattered through the table (probably crying “sauve qui peut”) and the British at 12” of the French deployment point and thus denying its use. After 15 minutes of play: 1-nil to the British :-)
A short group discussion followed and it was decided that the cart must have to be deployed closer to the British edge; that's what playtesting is for, isn't it? The scenario was played again.
The first moves were a déjà vu of the previous game, with the French Voltigeurs coming first and the main British infantry line force immediately after. The distance of deployment made a difference however and the British fire was less lethal.

Opening moves: Voltigeurs facing the main British line
 The French now deployed the main infantry force (4 infantry groups) in column of attack and were screened by the Voltigeurs. The new combined French formation steadily advanced towards the main British line defending the money cart until reaching charge distance... and charged they did, only to fail to contact the British by 2 inches! (I did not ahve enough command cards to use the Pas the Charge option)
En avant! ... under a shower of lead!!
Tiffin card came out and a new turn started. The fate of the French and the British now hinged on how the cards were to come out. The Goddess of Fortune was on the French side and the first card was the Force commander, who ordered to renew charging.

The thin red... dice
With a difference of four in the dice results, the Fisticuff ended with the total rout of the British forces. The cart now was at short distance and the French eyes were gleaming with the colour of the silver... but alas! It was not going to be... the next card saw the British commander of the group in charge of throwing the money chests away completing the task, and when the French arrived to the cart they only found a few copper coins in the snow, lost by the British in the haste to destroy the treasure. Victory snapped from the French hand in the last minute.
British routed... buit the money was not there
It was a fun game and the outcome unclear until the very last moment, as you have read. Incidentally, there was also a French Dragoon unit in play, but totally useless in this terrain and vulnerable to the fire of the British skirmishers looming in the flank where they attempted to attack the cart.

There may be Dragoons... but what for?
 After half a dozen games always on the French side, I’m finding that the British units are somewhat supercharged in these lists, the number of groups exceeding always the French (the French have more commanders and compensate the difference in points) and with a murderous firing capacity (crashing volley, controlled fire, Sharp practice option), that the French cannot emulate (uncontrolled fire, lacking crashing volley or controlled fire options).
Approaching the British line to charge is also a hard task because of the British firing power. As you have to invest your initiatives in advancing and not firing, the French end up with their troops severely mauled by the British fire when finally reaching charge distance while the British usually have had almost no casualties or shocks.
Similarly, I learned that cavalry is highly vulnerable, and you should leave it out of the table until some opportunity emerges or the infantry is being softed (which is difficult as I have just explained). Even against the skirmish it doesn’t represent a great level of threat because its firing capacity at long distance and fire power.
I need to give an additional thought to my battlefield tactics.

Another view of the French charge


  1. Very nice game table and figures, and a very interesting AAR. Your campaing sounds really well! You have a serious problem with those uber-Englishmen...

  2. Nice looking game,as usual with your group.

    I've read but don't game Napoleonics. The period tactics were influential for decades after.

    Is it possible in SP2 to use "mixed order", skirmishers screening 2 columns with another group in line between the columns?

    Perhaps a gun could be useful too, at least to attract the Brits attention.

    Your campaign sounds interesting.

  3. I agree that a gun might be useful, at least some horse artillery.