Which it was a French and Indian War Extravaganza using the absolutely superb Sharp Practice 2 rules from TooFATLardies at the Sanctuary Gaming Centre in Sutton-in-Ashfield, a great venue with plenty of space and a really laid back, unobtrusive but very helpful owner. A day’s gaming is dirt cheap – even a Yorkshireman could not quibble with the price – and Richard will even open up early if you ask him.
Because this was the first Sharp Practice day of any size that I’d run, I decided to run it as an invitational event rather than throwing the doors open to all and sundry. This had the advantage that I knew everyone attending and they would be forgiving of any dreadful cock-ups, but the downside that only two of them had any substantial experience (i.e. more than three games . . .) of Sharp Practice, and three had never played it at all. However the enthusiasm of a certain Jim from Glasgow for the concept, and the fact he was prepared not only to bring a full force but also livestock, civilians, rabbits (I kid ye not), buildings and an amazing objective/Deployment Point, led me to extend an invite to him upon request. And I was very happy that I did because it provided another experienced player. And this . . .
Clearly anyone prepared to make something like that had to be included.
My original plan was for three games but my experience at the WorLard Gaming Day 2017 and the impromtu Sharp Practice day at Grange-over-Sands (covered by Lardy Rich in this post, which also covers the Durham day) convinced me that two games would allow a more enjoyable day with less pressure on time. I’m glad to say that this decision was more than vindicated. Three and a half hours per game allows a comfortable amount of time to either get a definite result, or so close to one that who’s got the upper hand is obvious, and allows some chat amongst the players.
With nine players, three of whom had never played a game and only three with any real experience of the system, I decided to have the first games as 3 vs 2 and 2 vs 2, then the second games as 2 vs 1. This seemed to work fine, and allowed me to place at least one experienced player in every game. Sharp Practice, being a game that really is narrative-driven, and (at least partly) a character-driven focus also – which very few other wargames do, whatever their pretensions – the social nature of such a game makes 2-3 players per side something that probably enhances the overall experience to an unusual degree. It also allowed me to give players on the same ‘team’ different objectives to accomplish, some of which would not necessarily be for the good of everyone on their side.
My initial player pack underwent fairly significant revision with respect to victory conditions for each player and who would command what. This was my master document from which I compiled a player sheet like this example for each player. That way everyone knew what missions they’d be playing, how to win, and what leaders and units they’d be commanding. Players could say what they liked about their victory conditions but weren’t allowed to let anyone else look at their sheet.
The five games were:
- Going Down in the Woods/Little Beaver Hunt – while the British hasten to defend an outlying farm, the Huron search for the missing son of their chief.
- Exposing Young Fanny/Grab Fanny – the French attempt to secure a British ammunition convoy, which also contains the lovely daughters of their commander, Colonel Flower.
- The Fort at Number Four – The Regiment Languedoc assault the fort. Will relief come in time?
- Big Bottom Girls/Raiding Big Bottom – The Virginia Regiment must defend Big Bottom, where the daughters of Colonel Flower have sought refuge, while a mixed force of Compagnie Franches de la Marine and Milice Canadienne look to burn the settlers out.
- Sweet Release/Burning Passion – Kennedy of the 44th has been kidnapped. A mixed force of men from the 44th Foot, Dank’s Rangers and Mohawk try to free him from the clutches of the Huron.
I’d an image of each table lurking in my head. I knew the key features and terrain that each needed to have. The fort, provided by Bob Emmerson of Mad Bob Miniatures, proved a little larger than I’d envisaged but fitted just about reasonably into the middle of the table.
The missions were modifications of the ones in the rules and sometimes, like in Game One, the two sides were playing different missions (which in that particular game allowed both to emerge with a Small Victory). In general they seemed to work pretty well, although I made a big mistake in Game Five in not allowing the 44th a Moveable Deployment Point, which left poor Jim very much up against it, and also in Game Four in not delaying British reinforcements for a turn at least.
I had some special random events and also events that had certain triggers – mainly inspired by Lary Rich’s mad potter monk. These included a bear attack, a wandering Huron (who might have grabbed Fanny had be not tripped over a branch), a boy who rescued his horses from a burning barn (but sadly he and his horses met a rather excruciating death impaled on bits of broken fence). I told players on the relevant tables to call me over when they drew a random event, or at Tiffin for the triggered events and then, depending on where the unit that triggered the event was, the special event might be triggered, or a normal random event rolled. Again, this seemed to work pretty well, with players I think unsure whether some thing were inflicted upon them by my malevolence (acting as Fate) or by pre-planned design. I at least found most of them rather amusing.
At Old Man Rivers’ farm, the Huron escaped with significant losses but with a captive and , importantly, having rescued Little Beaver. The British could not save the farm from burning, but at least dowsed the flames before it was utterly destroyed and rescued Old Man River and his fair daughter from the clutches of the Huron.
The French and 40th Foot battered each other in a bloody stalemate. The British failing to get the convoy through but the French failing to secure any of the ammunition (or accompanying females).
In the second games, the Virginia Regiment failed to prevent most of Big Bottom being razed, but inflicted some fairly heavy losses on the attacking Milice and Compagnie Franches. However Fanny and Phemie were saved, as were most of the settlers.
Lieutenant Kennedy, 44th Foot seems doomed to meet a fiery end after his comrades were foiled in their attempted rescue by their savage foe.
The Fort at Number Four did not fall to the French. Sing tow-row-row for the British Grenadiers!
Lots of pictures follow, in no special order, I’m afraid. The better ones are by Jim and Sam.
I had a great day and was really pleased things went as well as they did.
Bob for bringing the fort and driving all the way from Dorset! Dee for making the trip from Bristol and bringing his usual unbridled enthusiasm. James for bringing his grenadier force, which is very nicely done indeed. Jim for making the trip from Glasgow, for bringing terrain and models and, especially, for the Kennedy diorama. Rich for the nice custom markers and providing some much needed experience in the player-base. Richard, ditto on the experience and for basically running Grab Fanny for me whilst also playing. Roger for bringing Huron and affording me the opportunity of the bear attack. Sam for putting me up, providing more Huron and terrain. Stuart for terrain and a nice snow mat and the Regiment Languedoc. Lastly to Rich from the Sanctuary Gaming Centre for providing such a great venue for so little cost.