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.

Finding Phemie

What Became of Euphemia Flower?

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 . . .

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The Stage, Set.

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.

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Captive Phemie Dragging Her Heels

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.

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A Perfect Spot For An Ambush

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.

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Murray Gets His Men Ready

Lieutenant Mill brings up the rest of the highlanders in close column, but too slowly for the brisk Murray’s liking.

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Tahaddy’s Group (left by the cabin) Before Murray’s Volley

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.

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The Volley

The two surviving Huron scuttle for shelter behind the loft cabin.

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Tahaddy’s Group After Murray’s Volley . . .

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.

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Fisticuffs Commence!

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.

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Quintin Kennedy Shows Hector Babel the Braid Side of His Hand

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.

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Still Sniping From the Woods

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.

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Deep in the Woods

Only Davey Mill can save Phemie now . . .

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Within Musket Shot

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.

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Mill Gives the Order to Fire

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.

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Blazing Away to Good Effect

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.

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Sorry, Chief, I’m Off!

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.

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Murray’s Line Wavers

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.

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Come On Then!

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 Bear Folk

‘It is easier to get lost in the cornfield than in the forest’

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.

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Catchawatchecka and Babel

Adyughkannorwn is the next most important of the warriors. A man of many accomplishments, he has not a few feathers to his cap.

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Adyughkannorwn Showing His Best Profile

The three other most prominent warriors are Anastase, Tacharian and Tahaddy.

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Anastase, Tacharian and Tahaddy. Three of the Bravest Braves

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.

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Two Groups of Wendat
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Two More Groups of Wendat
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Even More Wendat Ready To Get Things All Fired Up

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.

The figures are by from Conquest MiniaturesGalloping Major Wargames and Redoubt Enterprises.