Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Murdoch's Niagara - The Conclusion: "Winging it back to Buffalo"

In all honesty this has been one of the most enjoyable games that I have ever played, and that's not just because at the end of it the  uppity colonials were sent packing back over the Niagara (well started on their way anyhoo!). I think the combination of the rules themselves and the ability to create characters (even though we didn't use any of the additional character attributes) creates a real narrative and provides thought provoking and interesting decision points throughout the game. Most of all, however, Sharp Practice 2 is just  "jolly good fun".

Interestingly enough, because the characters on the Canadian / British side were from a Canadian detective series that I am particularly fond of, transported back in time from an almost "steampunk" Victorian setting to the early 19th century, I think I was subconsciously reluctant to expose them unnecessary danger! I already have an idea for something along the lines of "Carry On Murdoch!" for a campaign setting using the new "Dawns and Departures" supplement.

Before we get on to the true and accurate account of how His Majesty's forces gained a truly outstanding victory over the forces of, well let's call it EVIL for the want of a better word, a confession about the mistakes we made:
  1. Deployment: when a unit deploys onto the table it still has 2 actions, but it can't move. We mistakenly allowed them to move resulting in what we thought at the time was an unfeasibly large move: We thought it odd - we misread the rules - kudos to SP2
  2. Firing at skirmishers: when my line opened fire at the US rifles in soft cover and virtually annihilated them, I thought it a bit odd. I couldn't see any penalties for firing at skirmishers. Between sessions 2 and 3 of the game I discovered that skirmishers always count as one level of cover better, so they should have been classed as a hard cover target. I think that with the closeness of the volley and the dice rolls achieved it wouldn't have made an awful lot of difference but - we thought it odd - we misread the rules - kudos to SP2.
There were a couple of other things that happened that we thought odd, but guess what: we misread the rules - kudos to SP2.

I think the only complaint I have with SP2 is that it really could do with a good QRS sheet. Fortunately there are a couple of "unofficial" ones available on the intawebz.

So what happened?

At the far end of the table ineffective skirmishing continued between the ?th's light company detachment and the U.S. militia skirmishers. Captain Castle of the militia decided this was too communist an activity so he charged out of the wood to be met with loaded weapons and very sharp bayonets. You could almost hear a red-coated corporal shout "they don't like it up 'em" as what remained of the militia (1 man) fled Buffalo-wards without the deceased Captain Castle. (Don't worry Nathan Fillion fans, he'll probably make a miraculous recovery before the next episode!)

As the grey coated american infantry struggled to deploy over the rail fence, the ?th foot approached the riflemen near the junction and let loose such a volley as utterly destroyed what was left of the unit after the previous skirmish with the Voltigeurs Canadiens. Only Captain Monk survived and fled Buffalo-wards, no doubt soon to appear before a congressional committee investigating unamerican activities.

Eventually the two infantry lines met and a very interesting firefight developed. It all came down to using controlled fire as quickly as possible or "three rounds a bloody minute" as a certain literary character often says. This means that you have to make decisions as to how to use any command cards that come up. Do you use them to activate a unit before its officer is drawn, or do you wait for the officer to come up and add his value plus the command cards to any fire dice? Do you use an action to "present" and get a bonus, or do you just try to fire more quickly but less effectively than the enemy. I think this was a more difficult decision for Dave than it was for me when the lines met. The Americans had already lost two command cards from the pack by that time due to killed / wounded officers and broken units.

Eventually redcoat fire sent the greycoats backwards as shock began to accumulate. This was made worse for the Americans when the artillery opened fire and the skirmishers got onto their flank where any shock caused was doubled. You can see the effect of the musketry duel by the 1/2 empty sabots, but more importantly the high shock values on the U.S infantry.

We both agreed that you really got the sense of a firefight going on: load, present, fire, keep your nerve, resist firing faster, ignore the casualties, close up the ranks,  load, present, fire.............................

Eventually the American morale dropped to zero and the game was over. Here are some photos taken afterwards.

The american line has taken a huge amount of shock from the line in front, skirmishers to its flank and artillery which is out of the picture beside the redcoat line. The sole survivor from the militia can be seen to the rear of the skirmishers and to his right, by the rail fence at the other side of the road, an injured Captain Monk is heading to the rear.

The right of the american line: skirmishers, voltigeurs canadiens, a gone to ground militia man and the injured Captain Monk.

 The  effect of the firefight on the american line: horrendous casualties and unrallyable shock.

The  militia artillery and the steadfast line: horrendous casualties but little shock due to the unflappable Captain Murdoch and the doughty Colonel Brackenreid steadying the men.

Our next game is going to be Revolutionary French versus Austrians, 

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

"Murdoch's Niagara" or "Sharp Practice on the Six Mile Creek"

Recently I've been reluctant to do any blog posts because I'd rather spend the time painting, but tonight Dave and I started a game of Sharp Practice that's been such rip roaring jolly good fun that I thought that I needed to record it. No real narrative, just some slightly out of focus pics.

It's 1814 and Major Rockford of the nth American Infantry is leading a rag tag bunch of rebel ingrates on a  mission with various loosely defined random objectives in keeping with United States policy into His Majesty's loyal province of Upper Canada. He is  assisted in the command of his three infantry groups by Sergeant Columbo, whilst a small group of Regular Riflemen is led by Captain Monk and another group of frontier militia skirmishers is commanded by Captain Castle.

In command of a hastily put together force hoping to keep this particular small patch of the "True North" strong and free  is Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Brackenreid, assisted by the brilliant young Captain William Murdoch. He also has three groups of infantry from the ?th foot, together with a detachment from the regiment's light company led by Sergeant Henry Higgins and some very lost Voltigeurs Canadiens commanded by Sergeant George Crabtree. Brackenreid also has a light artillery piece crewed by militia gunners.

Where we left it tonight: 

The ungrateful colonist infantry has deployed in column and headed to take up position by the fence near the centre of the picture. Cousin Jonathon also made good use of his mobile deployment point to deploy his militia skirmishers and riflemen forwards to the wood at the top of the picture and the rail fence at the road junction. The militia have already caused some discomfort to Brackenreid's infantry with the proud Yorkshireman almost coming to grief as musket balls whizzed past his head causing casualties in the ranks. Fortunately Captain Murdoch's unflappable demeanour steadied the men as the Colonel's attentions had to turn elsewhere when Sergeant Crabtree was wounded by the American Rifles, reducing his command ability to zero!

The light company and the militia trade shots from the cover of some small woods. 

Voltigeurs Canadiens and American Rifles exchange quite effective shots near the road junction. The incapacitated Sergeant Crabtree points in a random direction through the musket smoke as he  tries to maintain an air of authority whilst his head aches worse than after a night out at Murphy's pub.

Brackenreid leads from the front whilst the gallant Captain Murdoch steadies the troops. The Militia Artillery moves up in support.

Ungrateful colonials rely on bizarrely painted haversacks to help keep in order as they deploy from the road.

To be continued..........................................