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!

Two Sodom Nights, Part I: Damp Squibs

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 . . .

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Between A Stream and a Boggy Place

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.

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Quelles Grand Moustaches Les Granadiers Ont

The men stumble through the dark forest, urged on by the increasingly worried Lechat and Laroux.

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Water, Water, All Around

As dawn draws nearer, the French look for good crossing spots.

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The Brimstone Stream and Sodom Rising Beyond

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.

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Lechat Fords The Stream

With the white-coated regulars still crashing through the woods, the Milice Canadienne scout ahead.

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Traverser Ici

Will the French luck hold?

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The 42nd Arrive

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.

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A Maginficent Seven?

Suddenly, Lechat feels rather exposed.

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How Many?

Fortunately for Lechat, Murray’s men are not immediately concerned with his small band.

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Allez!

Meanwhile de Givency urges his men forward through the woods.

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Milice Canadienne

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.

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The Situation

Captain Cutlass, Murray’s chief Mohawk scout exchanges fire with Lechat’s milice.

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Captain Cutlass And His Braves

Lechat loses a man and decides to fall back.

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A Poor Exchange Rate

Laroux gets his boys across the Brimstone and finally de Givenchy has his men on the banks.

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Preparing To Cross

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.

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Tirez!

The first of the Regulars cross the Brimstone.

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En Avant!

Murray leads his men over the boundary Fence. His line now covers the route the French must take to safety.

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Highland Line

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.’

De Givenchy will find a better time and place.

Firing Brimstone

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 . . .

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Sergent Bacon Leads the Way

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.

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The 42nd March On

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.

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The Highland View
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Trading Shots With Trade Muskets

The Mohawk and Huron trade shots. Cutlass’ men quickly lose heart and withdraw at some speed to the rear.

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The French Fusiliers Form Line

Meanwhile, de Givenchy forms a line looking towards the Widow Goodbody’s house. Murray moves up adjacent to the Widow Fokker’s cabin.

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The Fight Begins

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.

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Murray Opens Fire
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The Huron Kill More Highlanders

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.

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Les Grenadiers Arrivent!

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.

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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.

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Outnumbered!

Mill and Cutlass, who has rallied his shaken men and returned to the fight, fire, inflicting casualties on the Huron.

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Mill Volleys
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Hurra!

Cardin’s grenadiers finally get into their stride and the pace of their volleys picks up.

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Cardin’s View

The Huron fall back to regroup and recover.

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Run Away!

While Murray advances into the smoke, Cutlass leads his braves forward once more and Mill gets ready to move up in support.

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Huron Continue to Snipe
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Mill’s View
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Rester En Ligne!

De Givenchy’s men are struggling to hold in the face of mounting casualties and shock.

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Merde!

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.

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De Givenchy’s Line Crumbles

Murray consolidates his own thinning line and fires a final, crunching volley that sees the French fusiliers off.

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The Final Volley
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Time For A Sharp-Dressed Exit

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.

Pour Six Sous Par Jour

NEC PLURIBUS IMPAR

From the 2nd battalion of Languedoc Infanterie.

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.

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Capitaine de Givenchy

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.

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Cardin et Lacroix, Deux Bons Hommes des France

Sergent Bacon is a salty old veteran who has several times been cured of various unpleasant social diseases.

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Bacon, Un Homme Moins Bon de France

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.

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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.