I finally found a few minutes to start off my Sharp Practice AAR where the British attempt to gain a foothold at Fisher Bay, while the French try to keep them on the beaches. It has been a great deal of fun setting up this campaign. I’ve come to learn a lot about Napoleonic wargaming. I’ve learned about their drill, and about the tactics that were used. I’m not too fussed about how many buttons they had on their jacket, or whether the facings were blue, green or had polka dots – it’s a bit beyond the scope of the information I am looking for.
Learning about the structure of “platoons” and “companies” and seeing how World War Two terms evolved (a wargaming era I am far more familiar with) has been fascinating. And of course, new demands on my graphical design abilities as I get through this campaign has led me to learn new things about my software. Even Roll20 has taught me some new tricks now I found myself needing to add a play deck and bonus card deck.
On with the battle
Before I wax lyrical on the joys of solo wargaming, let’s get on with the game. The British have just landed their boats on the sand and are jumping out, ready to put some fire and steel in to the French. Sharp Practice has a card-based activation system, so let’s start turning cards and playing. When a Big Man’s card comes up he can activate groups, rally shock and make things happen. It represents the fact that troops need a bit of prodding to get moving on the battlefield.
How does it work? You’ll see as we go.
To remind you of the troops fighting they are:
The 155th Light Company
- Captain James Casey (Cock o’ the Walk, Strapping Fellow, No looker, Detested by the men, Son of a major, Fair swordsman, Novice rider, Honourable) BOLD
- Sergeant Thomas Collins (Fine Fellah, Strapping fellow, No looker, Popular cove)
- Lieutenant Smith (Young buck, Average Stamp, Fair of face, Popular cove, Son of a captain, Fair swordsman, Occasional rider, Honourable, Linguist) LEVEL HEADED
- Lieutenant Cavendish (Young buck, Giant of a man, Pretty boy, Popular cove, To the manor born, Fair swordsman, Occasional rider, Honourable) BOLD
- 40 regular light infantry troops
1st Company, Experimental Rifle Corps, attached to 155th Foot
- Captain Matthew Heart (Fine fellah, Giant of a man, Pretty Boy, Never done anyone any harm, Urchin from the orphanage, Slasher with sword, Occasional horseman, Honourable, Lecherous with the ladies, Linguist) LEVEL HEADED
- Lieutenant Jacob Harrycoombe (Fine Fellah, Strapping Fellow, No looker, Popular cove, Captain’s son, Fair swordsman, Occasional horseman, Sanctimonious, Jealous) CAUTIOUS
- Lieutenant Miles Fairweather (Young Buck, Sickly cove, Fair of face, Popular cove, Minor royalty, Fair swordsman, Novice rider, Honourable, Avarice, Charismatic) LEVEL HEADED
- Sergeant Nicholas Franklin (Jolly good chap, Strapping fellow, No looker, Detested by the men)
- 40 good riflemen
5th Company, 155th Foot (reinforcements arriving on 12 turns of the “Row Boys! Row!” card)
- Captain Octavius Carver (Fine fellah, Average stamp, Fair of Face, Popular cove, Nabob, Fair swordsman, Occasional rider, Honourable, Charismatic) LEVEL HEADED
- Lieutenant Ambrose Fairfax (Young buck, Strapping fellow, Handsome devil, Universally loved, Nabob, Fair swordsman, Occasional rider, Honourable, Charismatic) BOLD
- Lieutenant Philip Small (Jolly good chap, Strapping fellow, Freak of nature, Popular cove, Major’s son, Fair swordsman, Occasional rider, Honourable) LEVEL HEADED
- Sergeant Michael Hogsworth (Fine fellah, Giant of a man, Fair of face, Detested by the men)
- Sergeant Hugh Stout (Young buck, Sickly cove, Plain, Done no harm)
- 60 regular line infantry
Your objective is simple: force the French to retreat from the field and claim the village as British. Captian James Casey is the senior captain in the force and will make decisions based on his tactical character.
158e Regiment d’Infanterie de Ligne, 3e Battalion, 2e Companie
- Capitaine Alexander Arnette (Jolly good chap, Strapping fellow, Plain, Disliked, To the Manor Born, Fair swordsman, Accomplished rider, Cad, Lecherous, Avarice, Countryman) LEVEL HEADED
- Lieutenant Lucien Bellard (Fine fellah, Giant of a man, No looker, Detested, New money, Fair swordsman, Occasional rider, Avarice, Lion Hearted) BOLD
- Sergent Charles Montpelier (Fine fellah, Strapping fellow, Face like a pig’s backside, Popular cove)
- Sergent Pierre Delloge (Young buck, Strapping fellow, No looker, Disliked)
- 48 good infantry of the line
1er Legion de Hatittle, 1er Companie
- Lieutenant Louis Delvaux (Fine fellow, Average stamp, Fair of Face, Universally loved, Son of a colonel, Slasher, Occasional rider, Honourable) LEVEL HEADED
- Sergent Alfonse Thome (Young buck, Average stamp, Freak of nature, Popular cove)
- 20 Hatittle natives. They are poor troops, fight as light infantry and are armed with muskets, machetes (big choppas), and aggressive
13e Regiment d’Hussards
- Lieutenant Jerome de Loups (Jolly good chap, Strapping fellow, Fair of face, Universally loved, Nabob, Fair swordsman, Accomplished rider, Chivalrous, Charismatic) LEVEL HEADED
- 4 good Hussars on average mounts
- Caporal Luc Lyons (Young buck, Average stamp, Plain, Done no one any harm)
- 1 12lb cannon with 8 crew
Arriving on 5 Turns of the “Return to the Village” card:
- Marechal des Logis Francois de Beauchamp (Fine fellow, Giant of a man, No looker, Popular cove, Lion hearted)
- 12 good Hussars on average mounts (2 of which will rejoin Lieutenant Jerome de Loups)
Arriving on 10 Turns of the “Return to the Village” card:
- Sergent Patrice Demonde (Young buck, Average stamp, Handsome devil, Disliked)
- 10 Hatittle natives (poor troops, fight as light infantry and are armed with muskets, machetes (big choppas), and aggressive)
- 2 good Hussars on average mounts (both of which will rejoin Lieutenant Jerome de Loups)
The British start with 2 bonus cards in hand. I choose Thin Red Line and Stand Fast. The British are allowed to choose the two they start with. The French, to keep it interesting, would normally have 2 cards in hand. What I will do, however, is roll a D6 each turn for the French. On a 1, they get no bonus cards that turn, on a 2-5 they draw 2 and choose one to play. On a 6 they draw 3 and choose one to play. That ensures I keep a little bit of the “fog of war” during the wargame. I also position the French artillery in the redoubt on the hill as they fired at the incoming British.
I deploy the French blinds, numbering them 1-7. There are no dummy blinds as the French Captain ordered the cannon to open fire. In order to give myslef some form of surprise as I play, I determine that blinds 1-4 will be regular French infantry. While 5-6 will be the Hatittle light infantry. Blind 7 is the cavalry. When I reveal an infantry blind I will roll a dice. 1-3 means a single group. 4-6 will be two groups. That will keep me guessing. Obviously, once the number of groups is reached, the rest become dummy blinds.
As regards the order of the British boats, I set them up from left to right. The boat on the far left is the one that reached the beach first, and they move to the right in order of arrival, with the last boat being at the far right.
The buildings are all wooden and the French cannon cannot target enemies within 12″ because of the slope elevation from its emplacement.
Sergeant Collins is the first card out, and he activates his group of 10 light infantry to exit the boat. It takes the British group both action dice to exit the boat. Having used on initiative to activate the group and get them out of the boat, Sergeant Collins uses his remaining two command initiatives (he’s a Level 3 Big Man) to spot French Blind 5. He needs a score of 7 or over on 2 dice (basic 8, +1 target stationary, -1 spotter is a Big Man, -1 for an extra dice used for spotting). He rolls a 6 and the blind stays a blind.
Lieutenant Fairweather is next. He is a Level 1 Big Man so keeps busy getting his rifless out of the boat and on to the beach.
Next out is a British Grasp The Nettle 1. It stays out until it is used, or a Tiffin card comes out. And it is followed by Grasp the Nettle IV,
Lieutenant Bellard’s card falls next. But his force is still on blinds and he has no intention of moving out of cover. Next comes a Grasp the Nettle II, followed by the French Blinds card. Again, there really isn’t much for the French to do, so they hold. They want reinforcements – time is on their side.
Then comes the Tiffin Card to end the turn.
So far the British are getting out the boats, but we need to get up the beach.
Captain Heart is the first man delat, and he gets his riflemen out of the boat. The Sharp Practice card comes out, but we have no troops to shoot or load. Lieutenant Harrycoombe is next out of the deck, but he can’t get his riflemen in to skirmish order as the beach is getting crowded. So he opts for getting them in to line instead.
Caporal Lyons is next and his sights the mass of British infantry on the beach. He takes aim at Sergeant Collins’ massed troops and scores only 2 hits with 12 dice. He then fails to inflict even a single point of shock! His ability to miss a barn door continues.
A “Return to the Village” makes French reinforcements a step closer, while Lieutenant Smith deploys his line infantry from the boat. A Grasp the Nettle III comes next, followed by Sergeant Franklin, who uses the Grasp the Nettle III. He spends one command initiative to get his men out of the boat, and another 3 to spot the obscured French Blind 5. He does spot them, and they are 10 Hatittle natives under Lieutenant Louis Delvaux.
Captain Casey deploys his men next. The British are all getting out on to the beach now. A “Row boys! Row!” brings more British infantry closer. Grasp the Nettle I and IV both come out next. Then the French Blinds card emerges. French Blinds 1, 2 and 3 all move down, providing support for Lieutenant Delvaux and getting ready to delay the British.
Sergeant Collins is next and he marches his men 4″ up the beach, using both movement dice. Lieutenant Delvaux is next and he has his men turn 90°, march and then turn back to face the British. His troops have used two movement dice, but they are ready to fire on Lieutenant Cavendish when he deploys.
Finally, the Tiffin card brings Turn 2 to a close.
Sargent Collins is the first to activate and he marches his men 8″ up the map. He’ll have to hold back now or risk being alone. He also tries to spot French Blind 6, but fails.
Grasp the Nettle III and Graspez le Saucisson I are out next. Then comes Lieutenant Smith who reacts to the threat of the French on the flank by shifting his group to the east. They use 2 movement dice and so are unable to fire.
The French Blinds card is next and the French Blinds all take advantage of their 3d6 movement to work their way further down the west flank in the hope of wrapping around the British line. French Blind 6 repositions itself in the wood, ready to deploy.
Lieutenant Delvaux is next, and he orders his Hatittle men to open fire. The troops begin with 10 men firing – so 10 dice. They reduce 2 (one per 5 men) for being poor quality troops. However, it is their first volley, so they gain 2 extra dice. And they add two more for Lt Delvaux – so 12 dice total. They require a 6 to hit and score 1 shock. Delvaux’s men use their second action dice to reload their muskets.
Lieutenant Fairweather is up next. He orders his riflemen forward and they advance rapidly in open order.
Caporal Lyons is next and he targets Sergeant Collins’ group with his cannon. Rolling 12 dice he manages to inflict a single point of shock on the unit.
Lieutenant Harrycoombe is next. He gets his infantry moving and tried to spot French Blind 6, but fails. Captain Casey moves his men forward, using his remaining command initiatives to successfully spot French Blind 1. The Blind turns out to be Captain Arnette and Sergent Deloge in line formation.
Captain Heart and his rifles are next. They decide to give Arnette’s newly spotted formation a whiff of Baker Rifles and open fire. There are 10 men firing, so they start with 10 dice. They gain 2 more for being good troops, and 2 more for firing on Captain Heart’s orders. They also have an extra 2 dice as it is their first volley. So 16 dice hitting on a 4-6. While they score 12 hits, they result in 6 shock and no kills. The shock is split between the groups in Arnette’s formation, 3 points each. Finally the group uses 1 other action dice to reload. However, they will complete the reloading next turn, so I mark them with smoke to remember.
The next card is the Tiffin card and the turn ends.
Before we move on to the next turn, let’s stop for a moment and take a look at how the action is unfolding. Sharp Practice is a new game for me and I’m still getting used to the mechanics . Currently, the French are making a rapid assault down the right flank, hoping to catch the British on the wrong foot and break them. They seem to be succeeding in that, although the British rifles are taking a toll. As the British commander, I would want to swing Captain Casey and Sargent Collins around to take on Captain Arnette’s formation. If that is broken, the backbone of the French force will have been beaten.
The game is playing well and I am enjoying the card activation. They give very varied turn lengths, and the bonus deck (which I am not really using as I get used to the game) has huge opportunities for scenario design. It also took me a bit of fiddling to get familiar with Roll20’s card deck system – but once I did it was awesome.
Lieutenant Smith is the first card out of the deck. Rather than the remove the point of shock on the unit (the good Mr Smith is only a young buck with 1 command initiative), he orders the men to fire and reload. It is their first volley and they are firing on the orders of Lieutenant Smith , so they roll 13 dice. They cause a single point of shock.
A Grasp the Nettle 1 is out next, followed by a Grasp the Nettle III. The a Return to the Village card brings French reinforcements closer.
Sergeant Franklin activates next and the good sergeant sees Lieutenant Smith struggling and marches his men down the beach to lend support. I really wish Lieutenant Cavendish would get out of the boat!
Lieutenant Fairweather marches his rifles closer to that French Blind in the trees. I think he won’t move further now, but rather spot it and shoot it.
A Row Boys! Row! card brings the men of 5th company closer in.
The French Blinds emerges. French Blind 6 turns into Sergent Thome and his Hatittle natives. They deploy in skirmish order and fire on Lieutenant Fairweather. As the troops are deploying from a blind, they still add Sergent Thom’s leadership to their firing dice, and it is their first volley. They cause 5 hits (as firing in skirmish order they have a better chance of hitting) and those result in 3 shock. The French Blind on the west flank sneaks around the ?British line and is deployed when it moves within 9″ of the British troops. It resolves as the gallant and bold Lieutenant Bellard who is about to give Lieutenant Smith a sharp lesson in the art of Napoleonic warfare. French Blind 4 moves towards the guns to offer protection.
Sergent Delloge is next, but as he is in formation with Capitaine Arnette his only job is to remove shock. So he removes a single point off his men. Graspez le Saucisson II comes out next, followed by the lately arrived Lieutenant Cavendish. He gets his men out of the boat – and not a moment too soon! Hopefully he can prevent the flank attack from succeeding.
Grasp the Nettle IV is next. And the Tiffin card ends the turn.
Well the British have been spared artillery fire for a turn, but they are gathering shock quickly and their inexperienced officers is going to hamper them. Can they push back the French? Can they clear the beach for reinforcements?
Join us in Part 2 of this Sharp Practice AAR which we’ll post up in the next few days.