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Sunday, 14 January 2018

Another Sharp Practice II game - Defence in Depth across the River Piessting

Preparations for another game are underway. With Schiettekatte losing heavily last time, he's been forced to set up a hasty defence of a bridge over the River Piessting, just outside Gross Lardsdorf.

This is based on scenario 3 of the main Sharp Practice II rulebook by Too Fat Lardies (page 73). There is a great report of this scenario on their blog which is designed to introduce the game. 

The French objective is to drive the Austrians from the bridge area and capture the "primary deployment point" at the back of the Austrian board edge. We've agreed that the Austrian-Hungarian force will win a major victory if they destroy the French force morale or manage to hold both the forward and rear deployment points to the end of the game. They can win a minor victory if they hold on to the primary (rear) deployment point. It isn't necessarily a balanced scenario but it makes for an interesting game. The Austrian cannon and Grenzers are not yet painted (perhaps they are lost in Gross Lardsdorf), so old Schiettekatte will have to make do with a similar set-up to last time.

The Force lists:

French: 70 points
3x8 Line Infantry = 12 points
Major Volte-Face (level III) = 9
Sergeant L'Excraimont (level I) = 3

2x Line Infantry = 8
Captain Cliche (level II) = 6

2x Voltiguer Skirmishers = 14
Captain Blase (level II) = 6
Sergeant Paul-Tron (level I) = 3

Light Artillery = 6
Sergeant Flatulento (level I) = 3


Austrian: 70 points
3x8 Line Infantry = 12 points
Colonel Schiettekatte (level IV) = 12
Korporal Fahrt (level I) = 3

2x8 Grenadiers = 16
Hauptmann Hamsarni (level III) = 9

1x6 Jaegers = 11
Lieutenant Schweitensaur (level II) = 6

1x 4" Barrier = 1 point



Saturday, 6 January 2018

Austrians and Hungarians c1809

Having overcome snow-blindness and stuck grimly to the task of painting different shades of white which, to the naked eye, are nigh undetectable (but at least I know the cross belts are different to the uniforms - hmmm), the Hapsburg Austrians and Hungarians are done for now. All the figures are from the Perry range - plastic Fusiliers and the rest are metal.

I used the Sharpulator to create the Austrians for 1809, basically to suit some background info I was reading on the historical events. I'm sure someone has already put together something like this, but I also wanted to try out different types of units in Sharp Practice (the French are all Conscripts and Volunteers so far). Whilst it might not be fully balanced, I'm not really looking for that. I did make a change after the test games - reducing the Fusiliers to the same standard and cost as the French. "Paying" extra for the "regular" status didn't really seem right or work well in practice.

As an homage to Too Fat Lardies (https://toofatlardies.co.uk/) who invented the great game Sharp Practice, the characters' names are somewhat silly and are not intended to be offensive ... they just appeal to my daft sense of humour.

First up Oberst (Colonel) Schiettekatte (Level III) and his merry band of 24 Austrian Fusiliers. I eventually settled on rating the Fusiliers as "conscripts and volunteers". They're stubborn - probably controversially - have first fire and only 1 controlled volley. It seems about right. I don't want them running off too quickly or being significantly stronger than the French infantry. Schiettekatte went through a phase of doing no wrong. He really was the dog's business, or the cat's whiskers given his name. But his most recent foray (to clear French out of a ruined church and strategic bridge) confirmed that it is not such a good idea to march blindly into volley range of the French infantry and cannon, even if they look weaker on paper. Schiettekatte is ably supported by Korporal Fahrt (Level I) a silent yet deadly chap who rallies off a bit of shock in his characteristically breezy manner.

Austrian Fusiliers - Perry plastics

Colonel Schiettekatte and Korporal Fahrt. 
They are trying to look confident about which way to go.

I couldn't resist some Perry Hungarian Grenadiers to add a touch of colour and panache to the force. This choice was inspired by the stories of Hungarian troops holding out against the Grande Armee on several occasions. The French seemed to have really rated them (and the Grenzers) judging by the number of false claims of captured Hungarian Grenadiers that appear in reports home. So here they are, led by the flashing blade that is Hauptmann (Captain) Hamsarni (Level II). This unit isn't fond of their Austrian masters but they clearly hate the French invaders a little bit more (the Grenadiers seem to have a tendency to surge forward and save the day with an unexpected charge on the random events table). I've rated them regulars as most Grenadiers seem to be that grade in Sharp Practice. They have the other bells and whistles, including unlimited controlled volleys which can make a real difference later in the game. I'm tempted to give them a Sergeant to keep them in the fight a little longer as they do attract a considerable amount of attention from the enemy.

Perry Miniatures - Hungarian Grenadiers


Drummer and Sapper

The dashing figure of Hauptmann Hamsarni, pointing doggedly to his preferred picnic spot

Finally, the rifle-armed Jaeger skirmishers whose hats are joyfully ridiculous and surely impractical on every level. These were a real joy to paint but getting the shade of blue-grey right was a bit of a struggle. For Sharp Practice, one of the Jaegers is marksman because they need to do damage given their steep points cost and their small numbers. They are led by the somewhat unpredictable Oberleutnant Schweitensauer (Level II) whose leadership approach isn't exactly to everyone's taste. He tends to pour on fire once he finds some cover.

Jaegers with rifles. And hats.

Oberleutnant Schweitensauer, seen here in traditional pose, 
looking for his troops (they are hiding under the bridge)

There's also a spare plastic officer, Major Schoppen Von Aldi. Just in case ...



The rough "core" force as it stands:

Unit
Points
German Fusiliers x3 (24)
Leader Level III (Colonel Schiettekatte) #1
Leader Level I (Korporal Fahrt) #4
12
9
3
Hungarian Grenadiers x2 (16)
Leader Level II – (Hauptmann Hamsarni) #2
16
6
Jaeger Skirmishers x1 (6)
Leader Level II (Oberleutnant Schweitensauer) #3
Sharpshooter
11
6
Support
Musician
Sharpshooter

1
1



65

There are some Grenz(er) infantry waiting in the wings to bolster the skirmish element, as well as a sizable block of militia in gloriously floppy hats. There is a 6lb cannon and crew to round off what I hope will be a suitably varied force which will make for some interesting "large skirmish" games.

Thursday, 4 January 2018


A spat over Gross Lardsdorf

28mm Napoleonic using Sharp Practice II. Time to give the rules a spin. Just an engagement encounter to get the basics sorted. The loose narrative: a French force led by Major Volte-Face is scouting the land around "Gross Lardsdorf", somewhere in Upper Austria. Colonel Schiettekatte has been rudely plucked from a Viennese whirl and tasked with chasing the invaders back to Paris.

Austrians:

Unit
Points
German Fusiliers x3 (24)
Leader Level III (Colonel Schiettekatte) #1
Leader Level I (Sergeant Fahrt) #4
15
9
3
Hungarian Grenadiers x2 (16)
Leader Level II – (Captain Hamsarni) #2
Leader Level I – (Corporal Pikkle)   #5
16
6
3
Jaeger Skirmishers x1 (6)
Leader Level II (Lieutenant Schweitensauer) #3
11
6

69


French:

Unit
Points
Line Fusiliers x3 (24)
Leader Level III [Major Volte-Face]
Leader Level I [Sergeant L’Excraimont]
12
9
3
Light Infantry Chasseur in Line x2 (16)
Leader Level II [Captain Cliché)
12
6
Voltigeur Skirmishers x2 (12)
Leader Level II [Captain Blasé]
14
6
Artillery
Leader Level I [Sergeant Flatulento]
6
3
Total
71

The battlefield featured some walls and fences, just to see their impact, and a fair amount of open ground in the middle. A ruined house and church, and a few new trees were added for flavour and there was an impenetrable forest on one board edge.


Turn 1
Deployment was speedy. Remarkably, every leader's chip came out of the bag except for Captain Cliche (French leader 2) before Tiffin. The good Austrian Colonel's eyes nearly popped out of his head as he found himself holding 4 flags - a bonus move for all his deployed troops! Smattering his soldiers with a liberal dusting of biscuit crumbs, Colonel Schiettekatte stole a march and bellowed for his army to advance up to the centre of the board. Captain Hamsarni, commanding the Hungarian Grenadiers ("anchoring" the Austrian left flank in the pictures above) noted with alarm that his bravely moustachiod and be-hatted troops were left in the open and facing a cannon loaded with canister. Exhausted after the forced march and his blood-sugar levels at a low ebb, Schiettekatte stood at the fence for the next couple of turns and did nothing (his chip failed to emerge).

Lesson 1: don't advance in a long line with your best troops out in the open with no real target ahead of them except a freshly loaded cannon.

Lesson 1a: the cannon should have deployed touching the deployment point, not 6" away. This might have made a difference to the game, but hey, it made for a good narrative.
      



Turn 2
Captain Blase moved his 12 skirmishers up to the fence beside the ruined house to pepper the Austrian Fusiliers and screen Volte-Face's 24 Fusiliers. Captain Cliche's unit arrived (late as usual, with a sausage sneakily stolen from a peasant's larder) and skirted the house to come around on the Austrian right flank. Fumes wafted from Flatulento's cannon as it roared in anger, surprisingly missing the right group of Grenadiers but killing one and causing 6 points of shock (rallied down to 5 in the picture below) on the left hand group which was already close to withdrawing. Would Hamsarni's Grenadiers cut the mustard? In a blind panic, they returned fire at the cannon (in retrospect a waste of time) but it was all smoke and noise. This was followed by a bit of sniping from Schweitensauer's jaegers who remained glued to the fence for the rest of the game. Tiffin.

Lesson 2: don't rush to deploy - with the Austrians in place and up the board, the initiative swayed to the French.

Lesson 3: think twice about shooting at cannons - it takes a heck of a lot of shock and kills to reduce their efficiency.

Lesson 4: don't forget the light infantry's free move. The jaegers should have tried to flank the French - a devastating first fire in the flank of the skirmishers or fusiliers may have been better than picking off a few French skirmishers at this stage.




Turn 3

Says it all. End of the Chapter and a lull in the battle. Everyone reloads but it's too early in the game for much else to happen at Tiffin. Schiettekatte lost focus, distracted by a tasty sachertorte he discovered in Korporal Fahrt's knapsack. Volte-Face, meanwhile, suddenly realised that he could have commanded Blase's Skirmishers to get out of the way of his Fusiliers. Instead, we ended up with the all-too-familiar Parisian traffic jam. He jumped up and down on his sword and hat in frustration. Zut alors!

Lesson 5: the commanding officer can use activations to order other units and leaders around him. Must make a note of that somewhere ...

Turn 4

Hamsarni, tired of standing in an open field and being shot at by everyone, grabbed two flags and shouted "Sharp Practice" in perfect Hungarian. The Grenadiers duly levelled their muskets at the main French force in and around the ruined farmhouse. They can present and fire, so they did more damage than was expected, particularly to the skirmishers. Volte-Face's chit appeared next. In hindsight, Schiettekatte should have interrupted but that's life. And the Grenadiers took a pounding. Hamsarni was hit. He made a lucky swift recovery but the Austrian force morale took a blow and the Grenadiers were again close to snapping. But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Hamsarni was having none of this nonsense (this may have happened next turn - ed). He nabbed the remaining two flags and the familiar Hungarian battlecry of "Sharp Practice" rang out again. The pressure was piling up on the French centre, with Fusiliers dropping despite being in hard cover and Skirmish screen close to popping. 

 

Lesson 6: remember that the first kill on skirmishers is ignored in hard cover (I assume that this is genuine hard cover, rather than their ability to turn soft cover into hard cover). Very handy. Side note: it seems walls are soft/light cover and I can see why for this particular game system).

More volleys were exchanged in the centre but they did not come to much. The turn ended with a sneaky move from Captain Cliche who grabbed two (not the one in the photo below) French flags and with a cheesy yell of "Vive L'Empereur" declared a Pas de Charge which moved his Chasseurs in Line up around the ruined house and into the firing line. He squeezed in beside the fence to have a good natter with Volte-Face before the next turn.


Turn 5
Two French flags and Tiffin. Cliche's unit fired (1st Fire) causing a good amount of shock on the Austrian Fusiliers. Schiettekatte was saved from a wound by a particularly stodgy spinach dumpling. Then, the move of the match. Blase's skirmishers were activated and crabbed their way across to the left with an unfeasible roll. They blocked the cannon, but the fresh Fusiliers were able to move forward into the firefight in the centre. Of course, Flatulento's chip (the cannon) came out next, so the Italian was forced to swear loudly, hurl his sword to the ground and stamp on his crew's hats in frustration. Having blown off, Flatulento set about reducing some shock and then spent the rest of the game weeping softly as his chip did not come up again.

Lesson 7: Technically, this was three flags in a row over two turns. Should that be a roll on the event chart? It seems so. But with the luck firmly with the French, I imagine it would have just reinforced their dominance!


Turn 6
All hell breaks loose. In the centre, the French Fusiliers poured a volley into the Austrian Fusiliers who finally withdrew, with Korporal Fahrt desperately trying to pump them up for another round. Meanwhile, the Voltiguers were caught in the open by an aimed volley from the remaining Hungarian Grenadiers. This decimated one group and they were forced to hop over a handy wall in disarray.


Cliche's Chasseurs in Line deliver another galling volley into the Austrian Fusiliers, causing another withdrawal. Farht is heard to comment that the Austrian dice rolls stank and he'd be right. Schiettekatte was doggedly looking the other way but his own group was close to withdrawing. A bonus activation sees more fire directed at the Austrians who withdraw again and are close to breaking.





Schiettekatte was openly praying for a Christmas miracle, but Cliche had other ideas. Once again grabbing 2 flags, he used the Pas de Charge to steamroller Schweitensauer's jaegers who were annihilated (meeting a charge without bayonets, unloaded and outnumbered = bad things happen). Cliche adopted an heroic pose over the badly wounded body of Schweitensauer, which was rubbing salt into the wounds, and really rather uncalled for.

Lesson 8: light infantry skirmishers can and should evade a charge. But fisticuffs was fun ...




At this point, Schiettekatte caught wind of Fahrt's suggestion that it was time for supper back in Vienna and with uncharacteristic speed made for the table edge. With the Austrian commander out to tea, the Fusiliers in tatters and the jaegers obliterated, the game was called at that point. The French morale stood at 7, the Austrians down at 1. A resounding victory to the French!






Reflections:

Schiettekatte (between mouthfuls of sauerkraut): I was magnificent, but I need new dice and a different person pulling chips out of the bag. End of report. Oh, I suppose the jaegers might have worked better on the right flank, supporting the brave Grenadiers and forcing the French to make more choices. But did I expect them to hunker under a fence all game? No. Schweitensauer will pay for that. And Hamsarni's Grenadiers really should not have walked into an open space and stood there, blazing away and twirling their moustaches. I would move them more and fire less if I had this over again. No need to rush up the middle, either. I blame that Fahrt. Now, where's the nearest cafe?

Volte-Face: (preening himself) this affair was as easy as eating breakfast. Ha, good one. Must put that in dispatches. The skirmish screen worked really well, harassing the Austrian centre and protecting the Fusiliers. They pinned old Schiettekatte in place, allowing Cliche to live up to his name by arriving late and pas de charging his way around the board, before delivering an awesome volley and charge. The cannon proved a useful distraction and mauled the Grenadiers. Definitely one to try again.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Napoleonic French - 1809 (or thereabouts)

Napoleonic French - 1809 (or thereabouts)

The basic French list is pretty much ready for the table now. Of course, on the daily commute the mind wanders and before you know it these little pieces of metal and plastic have names and backstories. These are all fantastic Perry Miniatures, except the cannon and crew which are 1980s Connoisseur Miniatures. In the style of Too Fat Lardies (who created the excellent Sharp Practice game system), the names are are meant to be a bit daft ...

Major Volte-Face (LIII) is leading this force, although in what particular direction remains to be seen. In the few games that he has featured, he's certainly lived up to his name. His troops regularly move backwards in an up-beat and determined manner. Apart from failing to rally his troops, old Volte-Face has stepped in dog-dirt, been shot by a cannon, failed to bring countless volleys under control and then accidentally stood in front of his men and was shot in the back. He's leading a formation of 3 groups of  8 Line Fusiliers and is aided by Sergeant L' Excraimont (LI) who often ends up cursing under his breath and doing more than just rallying shock. I painted up a drummer just in case I need to share out Volte-Face's legendary skills by expanding his command range. The drummer / musician is a very handy extra in Sharp Practice and can really help when it comes to giving orders, rallying shock, etc later in the game.

Major Volte-Face inspects a wall. 
Sergeant L'Excraimont helpfully identifies its location.

Line Fusiliers - a suitably scruffy bunch

God bless the greatcoat. Easy to paint ...

Next up is the indescribable Captain Cliche (LII) who was promoted from the ranks after leading a group of Light Infantry to honourable death and glory in my very first game of Sharp Practice. He now commands a formation of 2x8 Light Infantry / Chasseurs in Line and he has certainly lived up to his name so far - languid in attack, stoic in defence, flamboyant in the dice rolls and he possesses a keen eye for the ladies at just the wrong moment.

Captain Cliche himself, having a "power of greyskull" moment on a bridge.
He was shot soonafter.

French light infantry Chasseurs - attempting to avoid all elements of proper uniform
Cliche has led them to a well. He later fell in it.

The brave Chasseurs march on, whilst Cliche dries himself off in the background

The final formation is a group of 12 skirmishers/voltigeurs led by the nonchalant Captain Blase (LII) who has seen it all before. These chaps are great in the game - although at key moments I tend to forget those rules about the first hit on skirmishers and the cover-level being increased. I can't quite make up my mind whether it's better to keep them fresh for later in the game or use them to soak up fire and distract the enemy from the start.


This is Captain Blase (looking suspiciously like a metal Sergeant with an out-of-focus shako)

The Voltigeurs. Proving they can jump fences.

Voltigeurs. Barrels. The latter tend to be better at shooting.
Behind them, emerging from a window he broke, is the "spare" Captain With No Name

It turns out that no list is ever complete. So I hope to add some Perry Grenadiers in Bicorns painted as Italians just because ... They will be accompanied by one of the first models I ever owned: this cannon and crew from Connoisseur Miniatures. Technically they are led by Sergeant Flatulento (LI), who also has a long-running feud with dog-mess and it is rumoured that his singing career is about to hit new heights. He has stolen an officer's uniform, but the French don't really seem to care.


Some Italian allies - and they've found a cannon.

Old Flatulento blows hard as he strides across a bridge. 
He has blackened his hat for no good reason.

The Connoisseur Miniatures were bought from a games day in Sheffield in the late 1980s but I never painted them until now (ahh, the irony, the lead mountain started at the very beginning of it all) because things like Space Hulk appeared. I remember that there was a friendly man running a WW2 demonstration game in 2mm. My first ever wargame. Predictably, things went badly for my squad who were seeking a German sniper in a haystack. I will never forget the look on his face when my father suggested that we shoot all of our injured soldiers in order to get off the board and complete the mission in time for lunch! If that man is out there, thank you and sorry for breaking your carefully planned game.

If anyone's counting then the full French force looks something like this ...

Unit
Points
Line Fusiliers x3 (24)
Leader Level III [Major Volte-Face]
Leader Level I [Sergeant L' Excraimont]
12
9
3
Light Infantry Chasseur in Line x2 (16)
Leader Level II [Captain Cliché)
8
6
Voltigeur Skirmishers x2 (12)
Leader Level II [Captain Blasé]
14
6
Artillery
Leader Level I [Sergeant Flatulento]
6
3


Total
66