Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Action at Quatre Jambes

It's with some heaviness of heart that I come to write an account of last weekend's Waterloo Campaign game of Sharp Practice; not because the rules or scenario didn't work but because I, as one of the Allied commanders managed to get comprehensively beaten!

This was our biggest ever game of Sharp Practice and the first time Jamie has designed a scenario and seen it through to being played by a bunch of our friends.

For this game, our kitchen table was extended out to its full 8'x4' extent and decided by a river into two sectors.  To the west (nearest the camera in the shot below), Carl's Frenchies lined up against my Allied infantry (two groups of British and two of Nassauers) in what was expected to be a straight attack vs defence game.  This was sort of Quatre Bras in micro-cosm, hence the title of this post.  

Beyond the river was a small Belgian village where an improbable gathering of heroes were to search for the missing British agent Stephen Maturin.

Leading the search for the French was Brigadier Etienne Gerard (Andy Sangar).  Also for the French was Admiral Lord Hornblower (Jamie Crawley), blackmailed by French threats to execute the captive Lady Hornblower.

One the other side of the table Lt Col Richard Sharp (Gus Woodward) and Matthew Hervey (Ron Pierce) led the search for the British.

The cards were reasonably kind to the British in the earl stages if the game and I managed to form a line formation to defend the cross-roads.  I had only infantry but felt that I could form square if any enemy cavalry turned up.  Initially, though, I had only French Infantry opposing me.

Meanwhile, Sharpe, leading some riflemen, moved towards the village church.

Meanwhile, Brigadier Gerard led a patrol of his Hussards de Conflans towards the village, supported by some grenadiers.

At this point a French 'blind' that had been moving past the crossroads suddenly proved to be a unit of Dragoons!  No problem, I thought, I should have plenty of time to form square....

Unfortunately I didn't.  Although the British infantry were able to see off the the French assault (albeit with serious casualties), the Nassauer commander's card never came up again through the rest of the game.  A quick charge by the dragoons utterly annihilated the Germans and left the French firmly in control of the cross-roads.

Gerard, in typical Gerardian fashion, abandoned his mission of finding Maturin on seeing the opportunity to pursue the defeated allied troops. His hussars clattered over the bridge.

The left Sharpe free to find Maturin hiding in the church and make off with him to the safety of the Duchess of Richmond's ball.

This game confirmed my opinion of Sharp Practice.  It's a set of rules that gives a reasonably enjoyable game but the impact of the card driven mechanics with the Tiffin card ending the game turn unexpectedly can throw off the balance of a scenario however carefully the umpire may have planned it.

In retrospect it seemed a little unfair that charging cavalry get to move on the Tiffin card but infantry facing them can't even attempt to form square in response, perhaps for several turns if the cards have been cruel.

I suspect any game of Sharp Practice will bring up a number of situations where the rules are either silent or saying something that on the face of it seems inappropriate.  My view is that they really need an umpire to take an unbiassed view on such cases.

No comments: