Get ready for another Sharp Practice skirmish battle report! This one is set in the American Civil War and saw a Union force attack a Confederate-held town.
A while ago Cpt.Shandy of The Raft fame had me over for another game of Sharp Practice. Sharp Practice is his main gaming system. Once more we were to have a game with his magnificent collection of 15mm miniatures and scenery.
The game is based on the Fighting Rearguard scenario from the Table Top Teaser series written by Charles S.Grant himself! You can find it in issue #12 of Battlegames magazine. For the purpose of the Sharp Practice rules we based it on the rule book’s Scenario 3 – Defense in Depth.
In fact Cpt.Shandy had played incarnations of this scenario twice already over the past years. Reports of these games are to be found here (set in the War of the Roses, Sharp Practice I rules), and here (set in the ACW, Sharp Practice II rules).
Both sides get a primary and a secondary deployment point each. The defender’s deployment points basically denote two lines of defence. The secondary deployment point being in an advance position and the defender’s primary deployment point further back being the attacker’s objective to take. The game is set in 1864, so it makes sense for the Confederates to be on the defensive.
I took the side of the valiant defenders, while Cpt.Shandy commandeered the ghastly attackers. His objective was to take my Primary Deployment Point, and I had to stop him from doing so by reducing his force morale and forcing him to withdraw.
Union Force (played by Cpt.Shandy)
Cpt.Thomas N.Thompson, supported by his trusty Sergeant, commands 3 groups of 6th US Colored Troops, Lt.Jackrum commands another two. They have a group of skirmishers covering their advance as well as a group of 5th NY Cavalry with shiny new breech loading carbines.
Force Morale: 10
Confederate Force (played by Sigur)
Lt.Col.Lamar is the commander of the defending force. He has 3 groups of infantry of the 19th Mississippi regiment with him, Capt.Perry leads another two groups of infantry from the same regiment. They have two groups of skirmishers acting as support.
Force Morale: 8
As usual with Sharp Practice both of us try to keep our troops off table for as long as possible, only deploying when necessary. Soon though Union skirmishers are sent forward to scout for Confederate positions at the outskirts of the town.
They are met with musket fire from the buildings, which reveal themselves as Lt.Col.Lamar’s command stand. Thus they’re filled to the brim with Confederate infantry. The surprise fire throws a few shock points on the Skirmishers. This for some reason cues two of the rebel groups (led by Lt.Col.Lamar) to overly eager storm out of one of the buildings and towards the stunned skirmishers!
This wasn’t my doing, but the result of a random event. In the end it turns out to be a blessing in disguise as more organized musket fire quickly reduces the blue-clad skirmishers to nothing but their leader. He even got wounded as well.
In the mean time, at the other flank, Union cavalry entered the table. They deployed dismounted, also acting as skirmishers. To keep enemy troops from crossing the river I deploy my first skirmishers unit to my left to keep an eye on the ford.
A more detailled break-down of what happens further in the first few phases of the game:
While my line troops are busy shooing off the skirmishers the blue coats deploy the cavalry at the other flank, moving quickly up to the centre of the board to support the skirmishers and keep my line busy. To counter this I deploy my second unit of skirmishers to deploy along the river and keep the cavalry from doing bad things to my line. Union line troops also show up on my left flank. They deploy in open column and seem dedicated to cross the river at the ford.
The rebel skirmishers unload at the cavalry, throwing a bunch of shock points on them, forcing them to wisely retreat behind the toll building at the centre to regroup. Things are looking good at this point and I start making up grand plans of encircling the advancing line troops and destroying them in one swift move. I have my line infantry form up in open column to cross the bridge. This will be a swift and decisive victory; I’m Alexander the Great. In fact I was more akin to Icarus and on top of that not aware what I’m actually doing.
Next thing that happens is that Cpt.Thompson’s group deploy (pretty much the main force of the Union attack) to my column’s flank and enfilade the living daylight out of it.
Loaded up with a ton of shock and a bunch of casualties my column turns on their heels and take off to the back as quickly as possible. With a bit of luck the retreat through the town even works quick enough before the enemy line troops deliver the coup de grace.
At the same time the other line infantry groups arrive at the ford. My valiant skirmishers are awaiting them. However, a stand-off with line infantry is not a good idea, no matter the level of cover.
My skirmishers swiftly retire as well.
Here’s an overview of this phase of the game:
Confederate troops retire after having gotten battered at both flanks. Time to set up a second line of defence, eh?
Union troops cautiously advance into enemy-held (well, technically) territory. This caution buys my main group of infantry some time to regroup and redeploy in line behind some fences. All Union troops are deployed on the table now, while I still have two groups of infantry in reserve to deploy when required. Which is now.
First I deploy them to counter the Union groups crossing the ford. This leads to a pretty silly situation – our forces, about the same strength, being set up in an exactly mirrored fashion. And the firepower advantage being slightly on the Union’s side. Time to gamble a bit. My opponent didn’t really have space to maneuver anywhere (and the proved less easily fordable than planned). My main group of infantry in the right at this point is somewhat stable again. I decide to move all the other line infantry over to them to set up a big old firing line of 5 groups and throw so much lead at the main Union group until they crumble away, at which point my line would be able to shimmy to the other side and keep the rest of the union force from going anywhere.
Time for a stand-off.
Finally my men get into the groove of things as they open fire at the US troops. From this time on they start taking casualties and shock a-plenty, and it takes a while until they manage to react in an orderly fashion. When they do, their controlled volleys do hurt indeed, but the rebel line answers in style. The union line keeps on taking the brunt, but the colored troops just won’t break.
At the other flank my battered skirmishers do their dearest to harass the advance of the rest of the Union line across the ford, but lack the impact. Apart from that, the cavalry with their breech-loading carbines are able to lay down a ton of fire themselves, and punish my first skirmishers unit badly once they step out of cover. They and their leader are broken and off the table. With bad results for my force morale.
My opponent’s force morale barely takes hits because these bloody-minded line won’t break under fire! They have three leaders with them to keep the line in shape and from running off.
With my skirmishers out of the game and the other skirmishers group not being able to do all too much, a large gap between the Union cavalry and the mission objective lies open now. I try to svivel around a part of the line to meet the cavalry advance with fire, but they refuse to stop shooting at the Union line at the other flank. The cavalry take the opportunity and charge towards the objective, effectively breaking through and leading to a Union victory.
Force Morale at the end:
Conclusion and Learnings
Sharp Practice is heaps of fun. Making plans is nice, but they rarely survive contact with simulated reality. It was a great game of ebbs and flows, with the game’s outcome in the end dangling by little things at a few points. Breech-loading carbines are nasty. I never quite got a chance to focus on the cavalry.
I keep on forgetting a bunch of things between playing games of Sharp Practice, especially as I played a few games of Longstreet, in between. However, it’s easy enough to slip back into those rules.
Last but not least, Cpt.Shandy’s collection is great. Tons of troops, a bunch of terrain to which he keeps adding, all very store- and transportable. Sure, it doesn’t quite have the “diorama” feel, but it makes up for that in charm and play-ability. Always a joy.
So yeah, thanks to Cpt.Shandy for the game, thanks to you for reading. Hope you enjoyed this little battle report.
If you’re interested in another view on the game, here’s my opponent’s battle report.