‘ the generallity of those who are to be Enlisted, are of those loose, Idle Persons that are quite destitute of House, and Home, and I may truely say many of them of Cloaths’
– George Washington describes his regiment.
The Virginia Regiment was one of several British regiments raised in the colonies.
This company is led, in the absence of the sadly anaemic Captain Bland, by Lieutenant Launderville, rumoured to be the bastard offspring of the late Justice of Westmorland County Court. Like his better-known, higher ranking and legitimate half-brother, he has a scarcely justifiable reputation for integrity and has invested heavily in the Ohio Company.
Launderville has two officers beneath him, the rather intemperate Lieutenant Nutter and, at the very bottom of regimental seniority, young Ensign Bumgardner. Nutter and Bumgardner are from the lower reaches of polite Virginian society, but are gentlemen nonetheless.
The company has four sergeants. Fear is well known to all the soldiers in the regiment and his old red coat proves his long service in the ranks. Forcam is foul-mouthed but much liked. The Irishman, O’Rear delights in proclaiming he is the man who put the gin in Virginia. Sergeant Toombs is a grave fellow.
Drummer Akin can beat the Retreat as well as any man in the army, as Colonel Washington delights in recounting.
While about half the men have smart new blue jackets and white-laced hats, some of the rest are still clad in their worn out old red coats and a substantial number have scarcely an item of military dress to mark them out as soldiers. While things are not quite as bad as in 1754, when Washington wrote ‘they are now Naked, and cannot get credit even for Hatts’, overall they have an unprepossessing appearance. Desertions and sickness have reduced the ranks well below their theoretical number.
In Sharp Practice terms the force comprises 73 points:
Leader Status II (Lieutenant Launderville)
Leader Status II (Lieutenant Nutter)
Leader Status II (Ensign Bumgardner)
Leader Status I (Sergeant Fear)
Leader Status I (Sergeant Forcam)
Leader Status I (Sergeant O’Rear)
Leader Status I (Sergeant Toombs)
A Musician (Drummer Akin)
Six Groups of 8 Provincial Regiment of Foot Line
Three Groups of 6 Provincial Regiment of Foot Skirmishers
The second edition of Sharp Practice gets the whole ‘revised edition’ thing right. I don’t want to dwell on the deficiencies of the first edition, which in fairness contained a lot of extremely good ideas, so I’ll just say that the second edition gives much more streamlined and more enjoyable play. The things that needed to be changed and improved have been, and there has been no tinkering for its own sake; some real thought has gone into the transformation process. I intend to be critical in this review so I will emphasise that this is the best set of musket-era skirmish wargames rules ever published and gives hugely enjoyable games.
The bite-sized version of this review is:
‘If you like wargaming in the musket era, buy these rules now.’
Stone Me! An Index!
The book is available in both A4 softback and pdf (which is just bloody sense in this day and age) with a nice large typeface (important in the printed version, there is little worse than settling down in bed with a rule book only to find one’s aged eyes cannot read a small font on coloured paper), decent diagrams where they are required, and lots of nice pictures of miniatures, which obviously aren’t necessary but do add a lot to the aesthetics. And yes, mirabile dictu, there is an index.
There’s just over 60 pages of rules, which given the font size makes them pretty concise, plus ten pages to cover the six included scenarios, and around three dozen pages with basic army lists for the French and Indian Wars, the Peninsular War, the American War of Ingratitude, the Indian Mutiny and the American Civil War. These lists cover the periods that are of most interest to most wargamers of the musket era. As you’d expect from the TooFATLardies, free pdfs are becoming available to flesh out the Napoleonic era and to explore other conflicts. There’s also a free tool that lets you design your own unit entries, either because you want to tweak a rulebook list entry, some of which are in want of a wee tweak to be honest, or to create a completely fresh unit either for a new period or to fill a gap.
The sheer volume of free game support already available is impressive. Just as impressive are the paid for supplements, which are only available in pdf (frankly just bloody sensible in this day and age), but are dirt cheap. The supplements that were produced for the first edition are still useful, they will just need a little work (very little work, really) to get them to fit with the new rules.
The game’s ground scale has 1” representing about four yards, giving muskets a long range of a hundred yards, and an ‘effective’ range of fifty yards, which is about right. That works for 28mm and 15mm miniatures. Freaks who like using models too small to see without the aid of powerful electron microscopes (10mm and smaller) will use centimetres in place of inches with no problems beyond actually locating their troops in the first place. You’ll want a 6’ by 4’ table as a minimum size if using 28mm or 15mm troops. I often use 6’ by 5’ with the extra space allowing a little more room for manoeuvre with 28mm figures. There are some differences between playing with 15mm and 28mm figures because the unit base sizes are smaller for the former, making the play-area relatively larger, which isn’t necessarily a problem per se, but is something to be aware of as it’s easier to create and manoeuvre bigger formations in 15mm than in 28mm.
Play requires, in addition to the chips mentioned earlier, buckets of six-sided dice – about three dozen per player should be enough although you can get by with about a dozen between you if Yorkshire tendencies limit the amount you are willing to spend on plastic cubes. You also need markers for ‘shock’ and to note certain things units are doing or suffering from like firing controlled volleys or being thirsty. A very important final thing is cotton wool to represent units which have fired and are unloaded. Cotton wool adds a lot to the aesthetic. You can buy plastic tokens and mdf chips (or get cards, if you must) from the Sharp Practice section of the TooFATLardies online shop, or you can get rather nice mdf markers from Charlie Foxtrot Models. I like to use custom-made Shock markers from Historique, who will put any image you care to give him on his nifty little dial-markers. Obviously, if you’re of the Yorkshire persuasion, you’ll likely be making your own markers, etc.
Realistically, the number of models required per side will be around 50-60, though actual numbers will vary. You could, for instance, run a pure Napoleonic British Rifles force of less than 30 men but need over 80 Frenchmen to face them. But about 120 models in total will be enough to get two forces on the table unless you’re fielding absolutely masses of militia or rabble. You do need to make sure you have enough officer and NCO figures but 7 of these per side is easily enough.
So if using 28mm figures and starting absolutely from scratch (but excluding terrain costs), you’ll spend £40 on rules and tokens (get this bundle), about £75 on figures (if using metals) and maybe a few more quid on cotton wool, etc. Say £125. If you go full-Yorkshire then you could get away with just the pdf rules and a couple of boxes of plastic figures, which you’ll likely get cheap from Ebay. Local sheep would provide free wool in place of cotton. Less than £50 would likely see you right. All joking apart, the rules and necessary impedimenta are very good value and the forces required small enough that most wargamers will be able to field a decent force as fast as their painting speed allows for less cash than required by many similar games.
I base 28mm figures on one pence pieces (naturally taking great care to disfigure the queen’s head). It’s cheap and most penny pieces are magnetic, which helps with storage. I use sabot bases from Supreme Littleness Designs.
Leadership and Character
The focus of the game is on two things: command and control (which you expect from the TooFATLardies) and ‘characters’. The former is central to the actual gameplay, the latter is what lifts the game beyond merely ‘very good indeed’.
Command and control is driven by a chip draw (or a card draw if you like, but drawing tokens from a bag is much more exciting than turning cards from a deck. And Saddle-Goose Designs will do you a lovely bag to draw your chips from for a pittance. You could, I suppose, draw cards from such a bag, but cards are for sharps and chips for Sharp Practice in my view.
Every leader gets a token, each side gets four (usually) ‘command’ tokens and there’s an ‘end of turn’ (tiffin) token too. Lots of games now use this kind of mechanic and for the good reason that it’s great at producing uncertainty. The leader chips let you activate leaders, who can then activate units, the command chips let you trigger unit abilities, enhance leadership or activate units. The Sharp Practice implementation of this chip-draw system is probably the best random activation mechanic there’s been, combining the uncertainty necessary to generate tension and good gameplay challenges, and avoiding the bad kind of frustration that a less well conceived random system can sometimes create.
The crux of the game is trying to master the use of command chips – how and when to use them to best advantage. Although one will tend to get better with practise, there will always be times when the random draw undoes your plans. This is not a game for those who wish absolute control, it’s a game for those who want to cope with ‘friction’, or ‘fog of war’ or whatever you want to call it. Although the game styles itself as a ‘heroic representation’, it pays more than lip service to practical issues of 18th and 19th century command.
Your leaders are the other driving force in the game and they, and the occasional other character who may be encountered, give the game its . . . well . . . character. Seven pages of the rules are devoted to characters, which is fair amount when you consider melee gets five pages, morale three, shooting gets ten, and movement eight. Now what’s interesting to me is that the actual ‘character generation system’ is pretty trite and frankly a bit crap and over-random. It’s the sort of thing you’d have found in a rather poor 1980s roleplaying game or tucked somewhere at the back of a Tony Bath ancients wargaming hardback. The idea is great, it’s presented well and is designed to get some humour into the game in a fitting way. But the supplied format doesn’t work for me at all. So I ignore it and let my officers and NCOs form their characters through the way the games unfold. What’s great though is that the mechanics of the game actually seem to somehow promote that developing of character so the player will tend to begin to make decisions for his commanders ‘in character’, which is what this section of the rules is really all about. Sharp Practice 2 is partly a roleplaying game in disguise, and one which succeeds because of its wargaming mechanics rather than its roleplaying ones. There are some good ideas in this section and lots of inspiration but almost anyone with much roleplaying experience will want to change how this section works. As I say, despite the manifest shortcomings of the ‘character generation system’, the game is lifted very much by the way leaders are presumed to have their own personalities and desires.
Gentlemen, the Regiment!
The basic unit in the game is the Group. There are three sorts of infantry Groups: Line Troops, Skirmish Troops and Mass Troops and each is further divided by Quality. Overall force morale benefits or is penalised if you have a preponderance of better or worse troops. Units get a ‘roster’ of characteristics and abilities that define how they may operate and how command cards might be used to enhance their capabilities.
You can see from the photograph below that a unit roster will tell you its type, size, points cost, armament and abilities. The numbers for Crashing Volley, Step Out and Drill tell you how many command chips must be played to trigger that ability. Characteristics, like Sharp Practice, sometimes need command cards to trigger them but are often automatic.
Line Troops come as Elite, Regulars, Conscripts & Volunteers and Militia. They are in groups of 8 figures, except for no really solid-seeming reason Militia who come in 10s. Personally I field Militia in groups of 8 too as 10s can make them feel rather too resilient. Some die-hard Lardy fans think 10s for Militia are absolutely fine, I think they are wrong. Decide for yourself. Line Troops are designed to stand in line and fire or to get together in columns and charge.
Skirmish Troops come in 6s. There are three types: Light Infantry, Skirmishers and Irregular Skirmishers. One unfortunate consequence of having Skirmishers as a category of Skirmish Troops is that new players sometimes get confused by the two terms. The Lardies, in fairness, are scrupulous in their use of each term throughout the rules, but it is worth being aware that the potential for confusion exists. Skirmish Troops snipe and harass the enemy, tend to move quickly and are generally useful.
Mass Troops come in 12s. Again, there are three types: Clan, Tribe and Wallahs. These represent rather undisciplined or uncivilised types eager to get to close quarters. An unfortunate consequence of their size is that quite often they’re rather better at shooting than you might expect. It’s worth keeping an eye on their effectiveness and perhaps giving them a rule like Mixed Weapons that halves the numbers of models who may fire.
The odd quirk apart this system works really well and rewards the player for using troops in a historical way – exactly what you want from a historical game.
Some Groups can form Formations. Formations are more resilient and more dangerous to one’s opponent than individual Groups. They provide a certain ease of control but that comes at the expense of manoeuvrability. It’s a nice trade-off.
Cavalry come in 8s and there are several different types including Scouting Cavalry, Impact Cavalry and Dragoons (these last can dismount as Skirmish Troops). Cavalry have restrictions on their movement depending on their speed. New players seem to find cavalry not as effective as they might expect. Some of this is just down to misuse or not having enough but it is slightly unsettling how often Skirmish Troops charged by cavalry can hold their own. This isn’t the end of the world (especially for me as I don’t bother with cavalry in the French and Indian War) but it is an area that might be worth revisiting at some point.
Artillery is the last sort of unit covered by the rules. Like cavalry, their rules generally seem to work fairly well but it jars to me how effective roundshot seems against Skirmish Troops. Again, not a huge issue but something I would like to see reconsidered going forwards (however, again, I don’t really use guns more than once in a blue moon in my French and Indian War games).
Getting to grips with the differences between how Groups and Formations work is important. While the rules are clear, they’re also necessarily quite intricate and it’s well worth putting models down on the table to really help visualise how hits from a formation firing might be distributed amongst enemy Groups and so forth.
In addition to the above Groups, your force can choose Supports, which include things like musicians, marksmen, pioneers, fortifications, supply carts and so on. Some of these are generally useful, others are mission-specific and so you’ll only take them when they’ll be useful in the scenario you’re playing.
Advance, Fire and Charge!
Deployment is done from Deployment Points. Seldom do your Units begin on the table, they tend to deploy with a leader within a specified distance of your Deployment Point(s). Slow troops don’t get to deploy very far on, fast troops can deploy a hell of a way up the table. It’s a great system to avoid the tedious use of ‘blinds’ and yet still allow units to spring surprises on the enemy by emerging from an unexpected quarter. It’s clever, and knowing where and when (especially when) best to deploy will require cleverness. The other great thing with Deployment Points is they can provide an extra aesthetic to the game.
Movement is random. Lots of people hate this concept but it works very well. You are allowed to pre-measure any distance (which is just bloody sense) so having random moving reintroduces the uncertainty that pre-measuring removed. There are various ways to enhance the movement of units (usually by use of command cards) and although almost everyone seems to initially think that a basic d6 move is rubbish, it’s quite surprising how quickly troops can end up moving across the table with proper leadership and control.
Firing is fairly straightforward and involves the standard ‘roll to hit’, ‘roll to damage’ mechanic. Successful damage may either see a man removed as a casualty or Shock being accumulated by the Unit. A quirk is that cover reduces not the chance to hit but the chance to damage. This seems strange but it’s sensible when you remember that a hit is just a ball somewhere in the near vicinity of the target. The system works well and is easy to remember after a couple of games. The hardest things to get to grips with is really the differences between how Formations and Groups may fire and how hits are allocated when they may be split between several Groups. Again, a few games will see this becoming second nature.
Fisticuffs (melee) is pretty lethal, on the whole. It’s worth being aware that in general having an advantage sees you inflict more casualties on your enemy, not receiving fewer yourself. It is unwise to charge a target that has not first been discomfited by fire, which is very historic. However a consequence is that you will probably take more casualties as part of a successful assault than you might have expected without experience of the system. It is another area of the rules that might be worth a mild tweak at some point. Perhaps.
The Horror! The Horror!
Shock is part of the morale system and tends to accumulate quite quickly when you’re fired upon and reduces your movement, firepower and melee proficiency. Great mechanic that works really well and knowing when and how to manage Shock is something that you’ll want to pick up fairly quickly. Shock and casualties degrade the performance of your Units. When Shock starts creeping up towards equaling the total men remaining in a Group, you’re in trouble. When it exceeds the number you’re in very bad trouble and Bad Things will Happen
Bad Things Happen is the other part of the morale system. Groups that recoil or rout or are eliminated, leaders who rout or are killed or wounded may well cost you one or more points from your overall force morale (usually beginning around 10 points or so). Once your force morale falls to 4 and below, your force is in bad shape and you begin to lose Command chips from your supply, which will hamper you a lot. Force morale falling to zero is the signal for close of play, humiliation and disgrace. Simple and works well.
What Are We Doing Here?
The six scenarios that come in the rules are well thought out, straightforward to get your head round and fun to play. It’s easy to make minor adjustments to provide a bit of variety and once you know the thinking behind them, easy enough to create your own. The Missions (where you have to do something specific) are more interesting than the Battles (where you just need to beat the enemy) but the three Battles do give solid games.
Because of the character-driven nature of the game, campaigns are going to give an even more satisfying experience than stand-alone games (which can nonetheless be magnificent entertainment). The Lardies have already produced Dawns and Departures, a supplement to aid campaign play, which I will review shortly (‘it’s worth it, buy it’ is the short version . . .)
End It Now!
Sharp Practice 2 is a game that’s going to be a wee bit harder to pick up and play than a lot of the other games that use a similar number of figures. I don’t agree that they are necessarily ‘intuitive’ as the introduction to the rules claims. However it’s mechanics are such that after a few games, most will become ‘automatic’. Initially the various interactions of Groups and Formations seems confusing, but once understood they are quick and easy. This seems generally true throughout the rules – after you’ve looked something up during play a few times you never need to again. There are few areas that are so ambiguous that they cannot be resolved by using common sense as applied to the rest of the rules and the period in question. This is refreshingly different from many other rules, which can have ambiguities that are much harder to reconcile sensibly.
I really like the fact that courtesy and making sure that your opponent’s experience of the game is a pleasant one is emphasised.
After two rather sordid nights spent in the damp forests and swamps of Sodom Vale, Capitaine de Givenchy is determined to escape the Devil’s Kitchen. Having been forced to retire on the morning of his first day, he has decided to seek battle on ground best suited to his regular troops by Sodom village. Though the way is certain to be blocked by the skirted devils of the 42nd Foot, de Givenchy and his men are spoiling for a fight.
The Milice Canadienne forge well ahead on the right flank, to be supported by Cardin’s grenadiers whilst de Givenchy and the balance of his force advance through the woods past the Widow Fuchs’ cabin towards the open ground in front of the Widow Cocklinck’s house.
Murray has sent his Mohawk allies to contest the advance of the Milice.
Meanwhile, de Givenchy urges his fusiliers onward through the trees.
The Widow Cocklinck’s Cabin is garrisoned by the veteran of Flanders, Lieutenant Mill, Sergeant M’Andrews and sixteen doughty highlanders.
There is a fold of ground by the Cabin in which Murray has had the balance of his force lie down. De Givenchy advances to the boundary fence and fires at the house, with surprising success. Nearly half a dozen of Mill’s small garrison are killed or wounded. As one, Murray’s men rise from the grass and fire a crashing volley which sends de Givenchy’s line into much disarray. The return fire from the French is almost completely ineffectual.
De Givenchy orders his men to fall back into the forest to regroup. Meanwhile, Mohawk and Milice have been fighting it out, with the natives getting by far the best of the exchange. Four Milice from Laroux’s small band have been shot for no loss, and Cutlass has embarked on a skilful fighting withdrawal, seeking to lead the remaining French out into the open.
De Givenchy falls back, pausing from time to time to fire on the advancing highlanders.
Mill leads his men from the cabin and fires on Lechat and Laroux’s men. Cardin’s grenadiers advance behind the Milice, their moustaches bristling.
Cutlass’ braves shoot down another couple of the Milice but lose two of their number to the return fire. Enraged, Cutlass launches a blood-curdling charge while Laroux and Lechat are reorganising, hurling their tomahawks and whooping on the way in. The fight is bloody and one-sided.
Two more Mohawk are slain but the French are scalped to a man.
The Mohawk are now too few to hope to hold up Cardin’s grenadiers.
But de Givenchy’s line is beginning to crumple in the face of relentless fire. Their losses are mounting.
Murray presses on across the Widow Cocklinck’s fields with little loss.
Cardin pushes on towards the Treacle Stream – a tributary of the Brimstone. Mill gets his men into line.
Cutlass and his remaining braves are about to swim the Treacle, hoping to get out of range of the advancing grenadiers.
Mill hopes some long range volleys might irritate Cardin enough to turn and face him. Cardin shrugs off the flanking fire with disdain, forges across the Treacle Stream and his men’s volley kills the last of Cutlass’ companions. The brave Mohawk can do nothing but hurl insults, and the odd rock, as the grenadiers make good their escape.
For De Givenchy though, things are looking bleak. Now faced by more than twice his number of remaining muskets and with his men’s morale teetering on the brink, he orders an honourable surrender, ‘Pour éviter l’effusion inutile de sang.’
Another defeat for the French. But at least Cardin’s grenadiers managed to escape the trap. De Givenchy must hope for suitable exchange. Perhaps the Huron might be persuaded to give up Lieutenant Quintin Kennedy, if that gentleman has not already been burned alive.
The Sodom Vale was, as the reader will doubtless recall, rather coarsely described by General Braddock as ‘the arse end of Saindoux’. In fact it is a pretty enough bottom to have attracted a number of bolder settlers to the region, that lies within the wider tract of land known as The Devil’s Kitchen. Following his reverse at the hands of the 42nd Foot, Capitaine de Givenchy of the Régiment de Languedoc attempts to force his way to safety through Sodom Rising, a piece of land noted for fast-flowing streams, rather salty marshes and, naturally, many trees. De Givenchy has been reinforced by men of the Milice du Trois Rivieres, having been abandoned by his fickle and possibly treacherous native allies. It is these natural born sons of New France who he trusts to guide him out of danger. Will de Givenchy force a passage, or will his fancy French tactics unravel again? Read on . . .
Monsieurs Daniel Leroux and Felix Lechat lead the small group of Milice Canadienne who are guiding de Givenchy. They have, however, badly misjudged just how slow the regular troops are across rough-country and de Givenchy’s column has become badly scrunched up on their approach to more open ground across the Brimstone Stream.
The men stumble through the dark forest, urged on by the increasingly worried Lechat and Laroux.
As dawn draws nearer, the French look for good crossing spots.
The Widow Bumgardener’s cabin is the sole building on Sodom Rising. As her sons have joined the Virginia Regiment, she has wisely decamped to the relative safety of Canaan, where she hopes to find an able-bodied protector.
With the white-coated regulars still crashing through the woods, the Milice Canadienne scout ahead.
Will the French luck hold?
Captain Murray brings forward his men with amazing speed, the highlanders proving as nimble through the trees as across their native heather. Dawn breaks just as Murray reaches the borders of the woods looking out onto the Widow Bumgardener’s land.
Suddenly, Lechat feels rather exposed.
Fortunately for Lechat, Murray’s men are not immediately concerned with his small band.
Meanwhile de Givency urges his men forward through the woods.
Laroux has identified the best crossing point for de Givenchy’s men. The Widow Bumgardener’s cabin will shelter men from the enemy while they regroup after fording the stream.
Captain Cutlass, Murray’s chief Mohawk scout exchanges fire with Lechat’s milice.
Lechat loses a man and decides to fall back.
Laroux gets his boys across the Brimstone and finally de Givenchy has his men on the banks.
Lechat gets back behind the Widow Bumgardener’s fence, which provides at least the illusion of protection, without further loss. The whoops of the Mohawk ring in French ears.
The first of the Regulars cross the Brimstone.
Murray leads his men over the boundary Fence. His line now covers the route the French must take to safety.
Faced with running a gauntlet of fire, and with little prospect of being able to form a decent firing line himself without his men being severely mauled in the process, de Givenchy orders his men to retire. An almost bloodless battle with very little powder expended. But as Maurice de Saxe was fond of telling the young de Givenchy, ‘La discrétion est parfois la meilleure partie de la valeur.’
A series of unfortunate encounters with Captain Murray’s 42nd Highlanders has resulted in the overall commander of French Forces in Saindoux, Lt. Colonel Grenouille committing his own men of the Regiment Languedoc to the fighting. The splendidly dressed Capitaine Hubert Taffin de Givenchy has orders to fire Brimstone, a small settlement that lies near the rather pungent marsh known locally as Skunk Bottom. Will the true professionals of La Belle France show that they are not merely the best dressed soldiers in Saindoux but the most formidable? Or will Murray prove them to be as ridiculous as their grenadiers’ moustaches? Read on . . .
De Givenchy sent his Huron ahead into the forest, hoping they would threaten the flank of any British advance. The Fusiliers had begun to straggle a bit in the thickly wooded approaches to Brimstone and it was Sergent Bacon’s advance guard who first arrived.
Captain Cutlass, Murray’s Mohawk ally, has brought word of de Givenchy’s approach and Murray has hastened to Brimstone with the men he has immediately available, leaving his able subordinate, Davey Mill, to muster the rest and follow as quickly as he may. Doubtless the sound of the pipes and drum filled the hearts of the Widow Goodbody and her neighbours with hope.
Murray shakes his men into line. Cutlass and his rather rank-smelling comrades emerge from Skunk’s Bottom, where they had been lurking, and form to protect his right. De Givenchy arrives with the rest of his fusiliers and begins to organise them. The Huron move up towards Murray through the woods.
The Mohawk and Huron trade shots. Cutlass’ men quickly lose heart and withdraw at some speed to the rear.
Meanwhile, de Givenchy forms a line looking towards the Widow Goodbody’s house. Murray moves up adjacent to the Widow Fokker’s cabin.
The Huron shoot into Murray’s line from the woods, dropping one man. Murray fires his first volley into De Givenchy’s line but the powder proves of poor quality. Vast clouds of smoke and no real impact is the result.
Cardin’s grenadiers, who have been delayed by the need to wax their moustaches, arrive. Their volley produces as much smoke as Murray’s and is as ineffective.
De Givenchy focuses on his orders to search and burn the settler’s cabins, counting on the highlanders’ poor powder and the range to keep his line safe.
Showing his fine contempt for both French and Huron, Murray holds his ground. De Givenchy sends Enseigne Lacroix with some fusiliers to ransack the Widow Goodbody’s house. Murray is struck and winded by a spent ball but the chaplian is quick to assist him back onto his feet.
Mill and Cutlass, who has rallied his shaken men and returned to the fight, fire, inflicting casualties on the Huron.
Cardin’s grenadiers finally get into their stride and the pace of their volleys picks up.
The Huron fall back to regroup and recover.
While Murray advances into the smoke, Cutlass leads his braves forward once more and Mill gets ready to move up in support.
De Givenchy’s men are struggling to hold in the face of mounting casualties and shock.
In his enthusiasm to get his grenadiers firing to a peak of efficiency, Cardin strays too close to one of his men’s bayonets, to the detriment of both his natty breeches and posterior.
Murray advances his line out of the smoke. A couple of brisk close-range volleys break De Givenchy’s line.
Murray consolidates his own thinning line and fires a final, crunching volley that sees the French fusiliers off.
Once again the Highlanders triumph. However Lacroix did ransack and set light to the Widow Goodbody’s house, and the Widow Fokker’s house mysteriously caught fire towards the end of the action, curiously just after Cutlass’ Mohawks passed by. The Huron lost half their warriors, having tarried too long in the face of volleys from Mill’s detachment.
The French View:
The Huron war parties led by Quatoghees and Pemedeniek did well initially but proved unreliable. They used the position in the woods to heap fire on the hated Mohawk scouts and then later the advancing British; however this proved their undoing as several rounds of accurate return fire from the Scots reinforcements took its toll sending the lurking war parties into retreat. The Huron were the biggest losers of the battle, thoroughly bloodied with little to show for their losses.
Under the hand of Lieutenant Cardin the wily old hands in the Grenadiers had a better time of it on the field and almost ran out of powder firing volleys into the British troops. Although at times accurate and dangerous it had little overall effect on the outcome of the battle. In his effort to exhort his Grenadiers, the Lieutenant was badly injured as confused by the huge banks of powder smoke he was caught by a friendly ball and was lucky not to be killed outright.
Led by Capitaine de Givenchy and ably supported by Enseigne Lacroix and Sergent Bacon the men of the 2nd battalion advanced well initially, with good supporting fire from the Grenadiers and Huron in the woods hindering the advance of the British on their flank as the heavy clouds of smoke obscured much of the battle field. Lacroix and his men were delighted to advance into the relative safety of the settlers cabin to search it as per orders,.
Meanwhile with the Huron in retreat and supported by the regrouped Mohawk, the British continued to give accurate fire and the reduced numbers of the French soon fell prey to the combined musketry and were forced to retreat quickly from the field in some disarray.
Overall the French regulars gave as good as they got and showed they are very much a match for the Highlanders and will be dangerous opponents. The real winners of the day had to be the Mohawk. With no casualties taken, the enemy Huron badly hurt, and a score of French and British troops dead, it was suspicious that no sooner had the Mohawk been amply resupplied by the Commissariat that they happened to be nearest a settlers cabin when it mysteriously ‘caught fire’ and burnt to the ground . . . a happy hunting ground indeed for the Keepers of the Eastern Door.
This demi-compagnie is led by Capitaine Hubert Taffin de Givenchy, flower of the nobility of France and the very picture of a fashionable yet professional fighting soldier.
Lieutenant Pierre Cardin and Enseigne Christian Lacroix assist Capitaine de Givenchy. Cardin, a grenadier officer, has grown old in the service and is hoping for as long and bloody a war as possible so that he might one day reach the rank of captaine, which has become giddy height of his ambition. Lacroix wields a spontoon, an implement to which French officers of the time were very much attached.
Sergent Bacon is a salty old veteran who has several times been cured of various unpleasant social diseases.
The rank and file serve for a pittance, but look very smart in their white and blue coats. To de Givenchy’s disgust a few of the more slovenly soldiers have taken to wearing their forage caps instead of cocked hats – a ridiculous trend, and quite as silly to de Givenchy’s mind as the notion that grenadiers should wear mitres or bearskins rather than just a decent moustache.
De Givenchy has with him some native allies led by the unspeakable Quatoghees and Pemedeniek. How far these savages may be trusted is debatable, and as for their attire, ‘Mon cher, il n’y a pas des mots.’
In Sharp Practice terms the force comprises 56 points:
Leader Status III (Capitaine de Givenchy)
Leader Status II (Enseigne Lacroix)
Leader Status I (Sergent Bacon)
Three Groups of 8 Regiment of Foot Fusiliers
Leader Status II (Lieutenant Cardin)
Two Groups of 8 Regiment of Foot Grenadiers
with another 20 points to flesh it out provided by some Huron allies:
Leader Status I (Quatoghees)
Leader Status I (Pemedeniek)
Two Groups of 6 Huron War Party
The French fusilier figures are by from AW Miniatures and were a very kind Christmas present supplied ready-painted (painting by Andrew from AW Miniatures. The Huron are Conquest Miniatures. There’s a fairly considerable size difference between the two (AW are quite large like Redoubt and Galloping Major), Conquest are noticeably smaller if seen side by side, but they’re fine in separate groups.
After a long time and a lot of effort, the dogged Captain Murray of the 42nd (Highland) Foot has nearly succeeded in bringing Fanny Flower, and her sister, Phemie, to Climax, a hard to reach settlement on the southern borders of the Saindoux Valley. Little Beaver Creek must be forded, after the forest on its approaches has been negotiated, and Climax will be reached! But while the 42nd have been spending the past days fighting with the Huron in the woods, Lieutenant Clouzeau of the Compagnie Franches de la Marine de Vindail has stolen a march and come to Climax first. The unexpected intrusion of the dastardly Frenchman’s has already given the Widow Gotobed an untimely awakening; will the over-eager French shoot too soon, or will Murray’s Highlanders be taken unawares? Read on . . .
An old campaigner, Murray has a nose for a Frenchman, and who could mistake the garlic reek coming from the Widow Gotobed’s farm? Suspicious, he moves up with the greater part of his men on the east bank of Little Beaver Creek, approaching the fork of the river. Lieutenant Mill, the redoubtable veteran of Flanders has a smaller detachment on the other bank, with Fanny and Phemie in tow, much to his annoyance and Phemie’s evident delight. Fanny casts longing looks across the creek at Murray, who cuts a fine figure marching proudly at the head of his men.
News of the capture of the dashing Lieutenant Quintin Kennedy (recounted here) has reached that officer’s blood-brothers amongst the Mohawk (look, this isn’t far-fetched romantic nonsense, Kennedy really had lived amongst the Mohawk), and a small party of those warriors under a savage known to the British as Captain Cutlass protects Murray’s right flank.
Save for the steady tramp of highland feet over the leafy forest floor, all is deathly hush. Murray sees the river and the boundary of the Widow Gotobed’s farm beyond. Seeing no Frenchmen, he pushes on fast, ordering both pips and drum to play a rousing tune composed by Captain Reid himself (seriously, Reid was an internationally renowned flautist and composer, look him up if you don’t believe me).
But as the highlanders come clear of the trees, the villain Clouzeau springs his trap! He has hidden his men along the line of the Widow Gotobed’s fence. With typically knavish Gallic cunning, they have lain down and covered themselves with freshly cut grass. Clouzeau leaps up, uttering the immortal words ‘Levez-vous et ayez-les, mes enfants! C’est maintenant votre temps!’
His men rise as one, present and volley at close range – the highlanders a mere stone’s throw across the river. However the cut grass must have made many of the men sneeze as the volley, although startling in its unexpectedness, is less effective than Clouzeau might have hoped. Only three highlanders fall. Clouzeau must trust in his men’s musket-handling and hope Enseigne Maudit and his Huron allies play their parts.
Davey Mill, trying to ignore the squeals of admiration and dismay coming from Phemie and Fanny respectively, brings his men steadily forward to a position where the can see Clouzeau’s firing line through the trees. Meanwhile the Huron are stealing through the woods towards Captain Cutlass’ Mohawks. The Huron have twice the numbers of their blood-enemies and are behind Murray’s flank. Will Cutlass be able to cut it?
Clouzeau’s line reload and present while, unperturbed, Sergeant M’Andrews dresses the ranks, waiting for Murray to give the order to present and fire, which that officer does after coolly assessing the Frenchmen’s speed of reloading, pausing deliberately to tell Piper M’Intyre to play a tune to make the French hop.
The skirl of the pipes and Murray’s droll humour stiffens the resolve of the highlanders and they bring up their muskets bravely. The volley rings out, the pipes sounding above even that fierce roar! Six Frenchmen fall and Clozeau curses savagely.
Lieutenant Maudit’s small group of Troupes de la Marine emerge from the swamp where they have been hiding and fire on Captain Cutlass’ Mohawks, killing one warrior.
The Huron begin to close in, firing without accuracy but unnerving their Iroquois foe.
Maudit’s men kill another Mohawk and Cutlass gives ground, not liking the odds one bit.
On the other flank, Mill starts his men volleying into Clouzeau’s line, killing two more men. Clouzeau’s reply sees two more of Murray’s men stricken but the highlanders aren’t showing much sign of being cowed by the fire. The Scots have twice as many muskets firing as Clouzeau’s line can now muster and Clouzeau can be heard exhorting, ‘Trois coups d’une minute, pour l’amour de la baise!’.
Murray’s crisp, ‘Reload. Present.’ may focus French minds.
All now hinges on whether Maudit and the Huron can move fast enough to take Murray in the rear because another volley from Murray’s boys has Clouzeau’s line on the verge of faltering. The French Lieutenant’s foul-mouthed exhortations spur his men to remember they are no longer the sweepings of Parisian gutters but proud sons of New France and they manage another, almost despairing volley.
Just as Clouzeau’s line finally begins to give ground in the face of the determined volleys of the highlanders, Maudit begins to fire into the line’s flank and rear. The Scots hold firm, for the moment.
Yet another volley from Murray, who steadfastly ignores the threat to his flank and rear, forces Clouzeau to give more ground; the French Lieutenant’s men are nearly down to half their original strength and on the verge of breaking. Clouzeau takes a ball in the shoulder but somehow manages to conceal the wound from his men.
Now though, the tide may be turning. Murray has distained the threat from Maudit and the Huron, but the steady firing into their rear from some of the Huron is demoralising the Scots, who give ground in confusion as Clouzeau somehow holds his men together as they retreat inch by dogged inch across the Widow Gotobed’s fields.
The Widow Gotobed, distracted by the fight she has been watching from her front porch, has burnt her buns, and worse, set her chimney on fire!
Davey Mill saves the day with a well-timed crashing volley that sends half of Clouzeau’s line running and demoralises the rest. Maudit and the Huron fade into the forest and the Highlanders tend their many wounded.
‘A damnably close rubber, but Mill came up trumps.’ – James Murray, Capt. 42nd Foot.
The British have not been slow to recognise the manifest desirability of Big Bottom’s broad expanse. The fertile valley needs only its forest to be cleared to be ready for ploughing and the sowing of seed. Several pioneers have built their cabins near the fork of Old Bush Creek and the small area of marsh known as Soggy Bottom.
Ouaouackecinatouek, a chief of the Bear Folk Huron, has been moved to avenge the capture of his cousins, Hawhendagerha and Catchawatchecka by the 42nd Highlanders, as described here and here. Ouaouackecinatouek intends to destroy the entire settlement and to kill or capture every man woman and child.
Captain Murray of the 42nd (Highland) Foot stands ready to defend the settlement. Having whipped the Huron twice before, he looks forward to delivering another sound thrashing at Big Bottom. Will Ouaouackecinatouek be thwarted, or will the unspeakable savage avenge his captured cousins? Read on . . .
The Huron approach from the west, small numbers swimming across the river near the fork, allowing themselves to be seen so as to draw their enemy forward while the bulk of the warriors are slipping through the forest further north.
Murray keeps his highlanders in the vicinity of Widow Rattlebag’s impressive two-storey cabin and sends Lieut. Kennedy and his 44th Foot skirmishers over the river to scout the woods.
Kennedy’s men are quick enough to stop most of the Huron getting across the river into a position where Lieut. Mill’s flank might be threatened.
Kennedy has only a few men and, if he presses on too far, might be in danger of a haircut rather closer than currently fashionable amongst British soldiers.
Lieut. Kennedy loses a man to musket shots and his men send two quick volleys at a small group of Huron, sending the warriors to ground, pinning them down.
The Huron are getting across the river in some numbers.
Kennedy falls back in the face of superior numbers, exchanging fire but losing more men.
Captain Murray has used the time Kennedy has bought him to reform into three platoons, Sergeant M’Andrews in charge of the third with Sergeant Watson to assist him.
Murray’s own command catches some Huron who are trying to get round his flank with some brisk volleys that drop several braves before they can seek cover.
Has time run out for Quintin Kennedy? The dashing lieutenant is outnumbered and caught with his back to the river. The Huron charge, wielding their tomahawks with relish.
Kennedy’s men, their ammunition gone, meet the hatchets with musket butt and bayonet but are overwhelmed. Kennedy himself pistols one warrior, tomahawks another and levels a third with the butt of his empty pistol. He is brought down at last by a blow to the head. The Huron, impressed, take the lieutenant captive to burn later.
After a slow start, Ouaouackecinatouek’s plan is beginning to work. The bulk of his warriors are now shooting at the highlanders from the woods, protected from a charge by the river. The highlanders must stand in the open and volley at shadows, which it must be admitted they do with reasonable effectiveness. Casualties are taken on both sides.
Meanwhile, Ouaouackecinatouek himself has led some of his followers round Murray’s other flank and is also inflicting casualties.
Private Robert M’Gregor (‘Rob Roy? Oh, aye, ah kent his faither.’) has taken it upon himself to guard the Widow Rattlebag in her house.
Despite their advantages of cover, the Huron are getting by far the worse of the fight. Some of them are falling back deeper into the woods, seeking shelter from the relentless volleys of the highlanders.
Captain Murray has been nicked on the arm by a musket ball, but it takes more than a flesh wound to worry the redoubtable Scot. A couple of Huron are shooting at his men from their flank but he has shaken his men back into line and his volleys hammer Ouaouackecinatouek.
Sergeant M’Andrews is hit! Watson takes over and keeps the men firing. Enraged at the loss of their popular sergeant, the volley is devastating, killing three Huron; the remaining warriors turn and flee for home.
His men vanishing from the field in increasing numbers, Ouaouackecinatouek decides to cut his losses and call it a day.
Victory to the British!
But the Huron have the consolation of a valuable captive.
When the much-feared Huron war-chief, Hawhendagerha made off with the two lovely daughters of Colonel Flower, 44th Foot (as described here), he reluctantly traded the elder daughter, Fanny, to his French ally, Capitaine Vindail of the Compagnies Franches de la Marine. Fanny’s rescue by the doughty highlanders of the 42nd Foot and the capture of the villain Hawhendagerha by Lieutenant Kennedy of the 44th Foot have been described elsewhere. But the Huron kept hold of Euphemia Flower (Phemie to her more intimate acquaintances) and plan to wed her to their leader, Aghstaghregck, known to the French and British as Le Grand Franc.
Supplanted in Fanny’s affections by the rather dour, but also rather compellingly competent Captain Murray of the 42nd (Highland) Foot, the dashing Quintin Kennedy hopes that it might be he who will save her younger sister from the unspeakable Aghstaghregck.
Will Quintin succeed? Or will, perhaps, Murray’s right-hand man, that rugged veteran of Flanders, Lieutenant Mill, free Phemie? Read on . . .
Catchawatchecka, brother of the mighty war-chief Hawhendagerha, is making haste to bring Aghstaghregck his bride. But the chance to indulge in a little arson, rape, robbery and murder, perhaps with some drunkenness, mutilation and torture thrown in if things go especially well, is hard for any red-blooded warrior to resist. And so rather than sensibly skirt the hamlet of Knockemstiff (look it’s a real Ohio place name, okay? I can’t be held responsible for colonial peculiarities of toponomy), he’s decided to give his lads the opportunity for some self-indulgent fun.
Unbeknownst to Catchawatchecka and his soon-to-be-merry men, the intrepid Quintin Kennedy, Lieutenant in the 44th Foot, has been trailing his band and, realising that they must pass Knockemstiff, has alerted Captain Murray and his 42nd Highlanders who aim to spoil Catchawatchecka’s party and free Phemie Flower into the bargain.
The Huron split into two groups. One under Adyughkannorwn moves into the wooded hill overlooking Knockemstiff. The other under Catchawatchecka, with Phemie in tow, heads for the largest building. Meanwhile the British burst onto the scene. Kennedy and his boys of the 44th are near dying of thirst, having been many hours on the trail, and so are more sluggardly than light bobs are wont. Murray shakes half his men into line and advances on the enemy, taking some stiff fire from the braves in the woods, who fall back deep into the cover of the trees after their initial salvo.
Lieutenant Mill brings up the rest of the highlanders in close column, but too slowly for the brisk Murray’s liking.
Irritated by the slowness of his subordinates and infuriated by the sniping from the woods, Murray brings his men into action with a devastating volley that kills five of Tahaddy’s six men and leaves Tahaddy himself wounded.
The two surviving Huron scuttle for shelter behind the loft cabin.
Lieutenant Mill realises that Catchawatchecka is slipping away through the woods, taking with him the fair Phemie. Seeing Kennedy’s men advancing to his right inspires Mill to get a move on and the highlanders begin to outstrip the dehydrated light infantrymen.
However Kennedy’s men are checked by fire from a group of Huron under the Canadian Lieutenant Babel. One redcoat falls. Babel’s dander is up and he leads his warriors forwards in a rush, hurling their tomahawks at Kennedy’s stout lads who stand firm.
The Huron get the worst of it and fall back to the woods. But Kennedy and Babel fight it out man to man. Kennedy has been enraged by the suggestive way Babel has stroked his moustache at him and offers to show Frenchman ‘the braid side of ma’ hand’. Babel gets the better of the initial exchanges until Kennedy throws caution to the wind and with a flurry of blows brings Babel crashing to the ground, whereupon the bloody Scot tomahawks him to cheers from his men.
The cheers are short-lived, however, as the warriors who had accompanied Hector fire some shots that send another of the 44th sprawling to bleed his life away on the ground and the rest scuttling backwards.
Meanwhile Murray’s line are still taking casualties from the Huron in the woods, and Catchawatchecka, now deep in the woods, is still trying to slip away from the action with Phemie.
Only Davey Mill can save Phemie now . . .
Catchawatchecka and his braves make a run for it, carrying Phemie like a sack of potatoes (or a sack o’ tatties, as Mill put it later in his report). Mill, as stated before, is a tough veteran of many a Flanders field and no stranger to making hard decisions. With nary a moment’s hesitation, he wheels his line and orders a volley. Seeing the muskets raised, Phemie faints.
Two braves fall and Catchawatchecka is hurt. Mill orders his men to fire at will and they blaze away, dropping three more braves and sending Catchawatchecka and his sole remaining companion swimming for their very lives across the river.
Mill orders his men to cease firing, and ever careful, to reload. Such has been their rate of fire though, most of the barrels are fouled.
Meanwhile, Murray has been trading shots with the skirmishing Huron. His careful volleys have inflicted some losses but a group has worked round his flank and Kennedy’s light bobs are still regathering themselves after their melee. Murray’s line is beginning to look a bit thin. Both Murray and the chaplain are hit! The line recoils and both sides’ morale is now very fragile.
Catchawatchecka, realising his reputation will be forever tarnished if he fails to bring Phemie to Le Grand Franc, swims back across the river to where she lies in a swound. Mill’s men are advancing implacably a mere stone’s throw away.
Mill’s men dash forwards. Catchawatchecka, one man alone against more than two dozen, stands tall and proudly issues a challenge to single combat. The practical Mill merely spits in contempt and the ensuing combat is very short and one-sided as brawny highlanders quickly subdue the Huron chief. Mill prods Phemie awake with the toe of his shoe and is rewarded with fluttering eyelashes and feminine gasps. The remaining Huron vanish into the woods.
A British victory! But a damned near run thing. Murray’s line was on the verge of collapse and Catchawatchecka very nearly escaped with Phemie. The pragmatic (ruthless?) Mill saved the day, although the tale of Kennedy’s fight with Babel is on everyone’s lips. Everyone’s except Phemie’s, that is. She has eyes only for the unromantic but phlegmatically formidable Davey Mill and talks of no-one else.
The Huron, as the French knew them, or the Wyandot, as the English called them, or the Wendat as they called themselves, had settled in the Ohio Valley by about 1700. The nation was a confederation of clans, of which the Bear People were regarded as the most senior.
This war party is led by Catchawatchecka who has numerous warriors vying for leading positions in the band, including the Canadian, Hercule Babel, who has become his right hand man. Babel is a talented linguist whose ability to get his tongue round the more delicate details of local customs delights of many of the tribe’s young maidens. Canadian officers often spent time living amongst the natives and frequently wore native garb, but Babel has kept his moustache, a conceit which tickles the fancy of many more of the tribe’s more impressionable womenfolk.
Adyughkannorwn is the next most important of the warriors. A man of many accomplishments, he has not a few feathers to his cap.
The three other most prominent warriors are Anastase, Tacharian and Tahaddy.
The rest of the band are all fiery and independent spirits who very much enjoy setting fire to settlers’ cabins and indulging in Canadian-supplied spirits when opportunity offers.
In Sharp Practice terms the force comprises 75 points:
Leader Status III (Catchawatchecka)
Leader Status II (Babel)
Leader Status II (Adyughkannorwn)
Leader Status I (Anastase)
Leader Status I (Tacharian)
Leader Status I (Tahaddy)
Six Groups of 6 Huron War Party
A Movable Deployment Point
A Dummy Movable Deployment Point
Note that for the Saindoux Campaign, Natives are fielded as Skirmishers, not as Tribes. This better reflects their style of warfare.