Unbridled Savagery Part Two

This follows on from Unbridled Savagery Part One.

After a small, and unwanted, post-midnight adventure involving key safes, I managed to get into my lodgings and sleep. Next morning I got up, had an unexpected and rather unwelcome cold shower, wandered into town, ate a decent breakfast and then headed into the sunshine towards B.I.G. I had another small and unwanted adventure, this time smart-phone inspired, on the way, which prolonged the walk by about half an hour. But it was a nice morning and I ended up at the venue in good enough order. On a side note, Bristol is peculiarly American-feeling with lots of social venues like the Bocabar bar (and indeed B.I.G) having taken over units in industrial sites. So this wasn’t as surreal as it might otherwise have been:

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Not Surreal At All

The first game of the day was A Walk in the Woods. The British had to escort Mynheer Sterngange to safety, which would mean crossing the length of the table. This was a tall enough order but as they had been badly mauled the day before, the table was set to be very unfavourable for them, though I think that it was not immediately obvious to the players that this was so.

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The Right Of The Table.

The left hand side of the table (from the British perspective) was unattractive – woods, swamp and a tributary stream to cross from their Deployment Point. The right hand side of the stream, by contrast, offered easier deployment and rapid passage towards the farm.

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French Scouts

Ian, commanding the French, played a very cagey game, refusing to deploy anything but a single unit of Milice for many turns, much to the frustration of his co-player, Dee, who was eager to get stuck in. It was fascinating to me that Ian, playing only his third game, had grasped so quickly the sense in making the enemy commit before himself committing. Of course the danger was he might delay too long, but he remained quietly confident behind his beard.

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The British Advance

Lieutenant Mill seemed to have got lost in the woods but Murray pressed on with his half of the highlanders and led by the rangers. Captain Cutlass and his Mohawks chose to move across to the other flank, but were first delayed by an unexpectedly deep river, and shortly afterwards, and ironically, by becoming parched by thirst.

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Opening Shots
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Mill Arrives
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Save Us!

The rangers’ shooting temporarily chased the Milice from the hill above the cabin, from which two women emerged, begging piteously to be saved from the lecherous and garlic-reeking French. Sergeant Warner was not immediately inclined to offer succour, but after some discussion, more piteous begging and some shots from the returning Milice, he sent them back to Murray so he could decide what must be done.

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The Milice Return Fire
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The Highlanders Press On

The highlanders deploy into line and the Huron appear from the woods to fire into Mill’s men.

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Ambuscade!

Rob and Ben, commanding the British in their first ever games had done pretty well to this point, coming up with probably the best plan available. Now, however, they became painfully aware of how the terrain was going to constrict their options – there simply was not enough room for the highland lines to maintain formation and advance.

Veteran Lardy, Matt Slade of Glenbrook Games, who offers a top-quality painting service (and whose wife, Debs, runs Saddle-Goose Designs, making the world’s best chip/dice bags) had turned up shortly before this. I’d met him at the WorLard Gaming Day earlier this year, and availed myself of his services, getting some rather nice Peninsula riflemen painted by him. He was able to offer some sage advice regarding wheeling of lines.

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Mill Wheels

Mill wheeled to engage the Huron, the rangers drove the Milice from the hill and occupied it, and Murray attempted an advance, but his line foundered trying to cross the fence into the pumpkin field and got seriously bogged down. More Milice arrived to reinforce the French left, but the British were still looking to be doing fairly well.

 

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Captain Cutlass, Somewhat Thirsty, Runs To Engage
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Overbold Rangers
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Murray Struggles Through The Pumpkins
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The Compagnies Franches Volley

A devastatingly effective volley from Clouzeau’s Compagnies Franches de la Marine scythes down a swathe of Mill’s highlanders.

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Mohawk Hunt Huron In The Woods
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On The Brink

With enemies all around, the highlanders hold grimly on until a shot from Capitaine Terieur, who has wiped out the rangers with superior numbers, brings down Mynheer Sterngange. This shot ends the game, rendering a somewhat unlikely British victory impossible.

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Sterngange Killed

Ian’s tactic of delaying his deployment until the highlanders were in the worst position, constrained between river and farm, paid off in spades.

The final game of the weekend was Full Frontal, a straightforward meeting engagement, although again down the length of the table, played between Rob (French) and Alex.

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The British Deploy
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Milice And Huron Forge Up The Flank
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Enter The Compagnie Franches
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Piper M’Intyre Is Shot!
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French and Huron In Action
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Fighting Across The River
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Close Range Volley
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Highland Charge!

Unfortunately this game ran a bit short of time, but it was enjoyable nonetheless as Murray’s highlanders, enraged by Milice sharpshooters picking off not only their piper but the highly regarded Sergeant Watson, launched a classic highland charge with a sharp volley followed by a wild rush into the woods with broadswords swinging, against which the Milice could not stand.

I really enjoyed running these games. Some of my thoughts on the game were confirmed:

New players get the idea quickly and readily buy into the spirit of the game. However certain mechanics are hard to immediately grasp, especially the distinction between a leader activating and having a certain number of Command Initiatives and a unit activating (via CIs or otherwise) and having two Actions (plus possibly a bonus movement). Most players seem to take a full game at least to get the differences straight.

Three and a half hours seems to be a good timespan for an introductory game involving more than one new payer. Three hours is certainly possible but requires briskness and less chatting.

Everyone who plays the game really likes it.

Umpired games are enhanced by introducing special random events and encounters, allowing the players to interact with ‘NPCs’ as if in a role-playing game (at least to a degree).

The game probably begins to ‘break’ with more than 16 leaders in total and more than four command cards per side has some undesirable consequences. 10-14 leaders in total would seem to be ‘optimal’ in terms of promoting player involvement and enjoyment.

There is a huge appetite for this kind of game outside the usual club/event circuit. Open gaming venues are not just about fantasy and science fiction games.

As I said in part one, Bristol Independent Gaming is a fantastic venue and offers a great gaming experience. If you are in the Bristol area, it’s well worth a look, with Peninsular War Sharp Practice now set to be a staple for many of the regulars.

 

 

 

 

A Scalping Party

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.

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Sanctuary Gaming Centre

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 . . .

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Lieut. Kennedy, Captured

Clearly anyone prepared to make something like that had to be included.

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Inside Sanctuary And Underway

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.

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Old Man Rivers’ Farm – The Setting For Little Beaver Hunt

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.

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The Fort At Number Four – Sing Tow-Row-Row!

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.

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Burning Passion – Kennedy’s Mohawk Blood Brothers Attempt Rescue

The five games were:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The Fort at Number Four – The Regiment Languedoc assault the fort. Will relief come in time?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
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British and French Fight To A Bloody Standstill – Exposing Young Fanny

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.

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Bear Attack!

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.

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The Boy Fell From The Burning Cart

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.

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I had a great day and was really pleased things went as well as they did.

Thanks to:

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.

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The Grenadiers Secure a British Victory! Huzzah!

Raiding Big Bottom

Who will hold Big Bottom?

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 . . .

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The Scene, Set

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.

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Decoys

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.

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Not Taking the Bait

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.

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Kennedy Scouts the Woods

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.

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Lurking

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.

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Three Rounds a Minute

The Huron are getting across the river in some numbers.

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Keeping Their Powder Dry

Kennedy falls back in the face of superior numbers, exchanging fire but losing more men.

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Kennedy Under Pressure

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.

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Murray Reorganises

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.

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Murray’s Volleys Do Great Execution

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.

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Fighting to the Last

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.

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Shooting From the Woods
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More Shooting From the Woods

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.

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Murray Turns to Chase Off Ouaouackecinatouek

Meanwhile, Ouaouackecinatouek himself has led some of his followers round Murray’s other flank and is also inflicting casualties.

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How Is Your Father?

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.

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Lieutenant Mill’s Men Volley

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.

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Sergeant M’Andrews’ Men Volley

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.

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Murray’s Men Volley

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.

British force here. Huron force here.