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A review of Sharp Practice

By J Pattison

Sharp Practice is a set of Napoleonic skirmish rules produced by TooFatLardies. The rules have been designed to be able to play skirmish games movie style. The whole concept revolves around big men, heroes like Richard Sharpe or any important officer taking a lead role. Big men are central to everything you do during the game and how you use your big men will decide the outcome of the game. Big men amongst other things are needed to move units, charge and rally disrupted troops. In fact big men are so important losing one could prove to be a disaster (imagine Richard Sharpe being killed half way through a mission).

The game mechanism is quite simple but novel and refreshingly different to most systems currently available. A game doesn’t need an umpire but will play more smoothly with someone running things and making decisions that keep the game flowing.

Each game or scenario will contain a different amount of big men and units. You can have as many or few as you like depending on the size of game you want to play. There aren’t any recommended numbers so it’s important for a game master to design a scenario and decide what each side gets. An average sized game of 2 players a side might contain 4 big men and 5 infantry groups each side. Big men are single figures either on foot or mounted. Infantry or cavalry groups can be between 5 and 10 figures each. There isn’t a figure scale, but you could class each group as a company and game with half or full battalions deployed as companies, Ideal for recreating an episode of Sharpe with his small group of men.

Each turn the big men make their move, randomly decided by mixing together both sides set of cards with their names on. This adds to the fun of not knowing if your big man will get his turn when it’s most crucial. Each big man has his own status, the bigger the status the more influence he will have not only on the units around him but on the game as a whole. The status will range from a factor of 1 up to 4. Each factor allows the big man to perform a task, so any big men with a status of 4 may perform 4 tasks. These tasks can include activating a unit within his command radius or 4 units if he has the status. This can be crucial to doing well. The big men can also use their status points to remove shock (disorder) from units or challenge enemy officers to duels. How the big men use their status points must be considered carefully especially if their status is only a 1 or 2. You will find early on in the game that you don’t have enough status points to go round. It’s at this point the game comes in to its own. Do you activate and move a unit or remove shock and steady a unit? Perhaps your big man can’t do either and has to fight a duel. Command and control is what this game is about and does it very well.

When a big man takes his turn and activates a unit, that unit can now take its turn. The unit gets dice depending on how good it is. Most units get 2 dice, but poor troops might only get 1 dice and good units might get 3 dice. This will be decided by the game master when working out the scenario. The unit then decides how to use the dice. 1 dice is used to fire, 1 to reload. You can use up to 2 dice for movement, rolling the dice to find out how far you move. This is a good and easy way to use different quality troops. Elite troops might be able to move, fire and reload, while poor troops might have to move instead of firing.

The firing mechanism is also easy to use. Getting 1 D6 for each figure plus a few bonus dice, if a big man is attached to the unit firing, his status is added in dice. The unit fired upon will receive either kills or shock points. Shock points slowly reduce the units ability to perform until it stops and is forced to pull back. Shock can be removed by big men trying to rally the unit.

The rules go a lot further allowing different formations, melees, volley fire, artillery, terrain cover and random events. You can even go as far as role playing the big men if you wanted to, giving them extra factors like swordsmen or duellist. There are also random events generated by certain dice rolls during the game. You might find a big man bottling out of melee quickly followed by the unit he’s with or charging forward going for glory, totally out of the owning player’s control.

There is however a negative point to the rules, if you look at it in a negative way. The rules are not written for competitions and several parts can be interpreted different ways. I strongly suggest you allow the umpire to keep the game flowing and just accept his judgement and interpretation of the rules. It could also be a good thing as different scenarios might benefit from slightly different interpretations on how things are done. The rules are flexible in this way, but the core rule mechanisms are sound and the flexibility of the rules should be embraced and made the most of by creating entertaining and diverse scenarios.

The game mechanism lends itself to creating a multitude of scenarios for a variety of games; perhaps even a role playing campaign, only your imagination will hold you back. The game will last from a couple of hours if you use 2 or 3 units a side, or you could have 8 units a side and play all day. The rules could be used for any of the black powder periods. you could even have Indians commanded by their chiefs or pirates fighting over treasure. The rules are great fun to play, just don’t take them too seriously and as your big men are cut down in their prime and your elite unit runs off just keep reminding yourself it’s only a game.

A Sharpe Practise Scenario

Whack the cock

Scenario by J.Pattison

 Names and units are fictional and have been made up for the purpose of this scenario.

This scenario will be fought between the British and French in the peninsular war. The action takes place around a newly arrived British battalion, their Cock o the walk colonel (albeit suffering from nerves, sun stroke and the affliction of being a Bourbon) and their mission to clear a hill ready for the positioning of a British gun battery.

British Orders

TO: Colonel Rupert Delebair,

Take your battalion and prepare that hill for my artillery. You mission should be straight forward but I stress the importance of my artillery being on that hill by lunchtime. I have promised Lord Wellesley the French will be having a hot time of it this afternoon. Having French ancestors I hope won’t be troublesome, there’s a good chap.

General Hill

Daddy Hill

French Orders

To: Captain Rene Romantic,

Monsieur, Our fate is in your hands. Our spies have informed us that the English Generalissimo Delebair is planning to take your hill away. The man has French heritage but fights for those scoundrels damn those Bourbons.   I digress, you must stop him!!! The man is a bafoon and a traitor. You are not only to stop the English dogs from taking your hill but to CAPTURE Delbair.

Colonel Maurice D’good

Maurice D’good

Game Briefings

British

You must take the top of the enemy hill to enable the deployment of British artillery. Your commander ‘Colonel Rupert Delebair’ and the battalion he commands are newly arrived from England.  Delebair although having a status of 4 IPs is suffering a case of pre battle nerves. He’s not seen action for many years and is losing his bottle. In fact the last time was serving as a subaltern for his father in French service. He then moved to England and charmed high society eventually being allowed to purchase several commissions using his Bourbon inheritance.

Today is not a good day for him. When using his Big Man initiative he must roll a D6, half the number(round down counting 1 as 0) and deduct the score from his IPs. He must do this EVERY time his card comes up.

Luckily for the battalion there has been attached a jolly good chap. He’s been in Spain a year already and will have a rating of 3 IPs. Should Colonel Rupert Delebair  ‘lose his head’ The jolly good chap will take command. He will then be allowed to roll 1Xd6 when using his IPs*. If he rolls a 5 or 6 then he will get a +1 on his IPs that turn. This only applies if Delebair is "hors de combat".

The battalion also has a fine fellah and 2 young bucks. Brought up with the battalion in England, they are as wet behind the ears as the enlisted men.

Big Men                                     IPs                     Influence radius

Colonel Rupert Delebair         4(-D6 ½ )                      18’’

Captain John NoBull               3(+D6*)                         14”

Lieutenant Pete Small                 2                                 10”

Lieutenant Joseph Bells              2                                 10”

Ensign Timothy Wefts                1                                  6”

1st Battalion North Derbyshire, 4 units of 10 men, average rating (muskets)

1 company 60th rifles (attached)       1 unit of 10 men, good rating (rifles)

2 6pnd Foot guns, good rating with 4 crew each.

The artillery can’t deploy until it’s reached the top of the hill.

Victory conditions

Excellent: Capture the hill, deploy the artillery and drive of the French.

Bad: Anything else, Except Colonel Rupert Delebair can retrieve his honour with a steady hand and a well aimed shot.

 

French

You must defend the hill and stop the British from getting a foot hold on it. Captain Rene Romantic is a veteran and has seen a lot of action in Spain. He’s bold, brave and Loves France. He also dislikes bourbons, especially the one attacking his hill. You must above all make sure the British Colonel, Rupert Delebair is taken prisoner so Madam Guillotine can sing his praise. Extra praise and rewards will be forthcoming should he be able to capture the British colours.

You have the option when shooting at the colonel to only wound him. Kills become wounds. Captain Rene Romantic will also receive one get out of jail card. This can be used just once to bring him back alive after a kill shot or used twice to remove wounds from him.

 

Big Men                                     IPs                     Influence radius

Captain Rene Romantic           4                                 18”

Lieutenant Basil Bear               3                                 14”

Sergeant George O' tool            3                                 14”

Sergeant Petro Head               2                                  10” 

1st Battalion 26th  infantry. 3 units of 10 men. Rating 2 x average 1 x good (muskets)

1 company grenadiers 1 unit of 10 men rating good (muskets)

 

Victory conditions

Excellent: Throw the British back down the hill. Capture the British Colonel.

Good: Throw the British back down the hill.

Bad: Let the British take the hill.

Very bad: Let the British Colonel get away.

 

Notes for the Umpire

All units of both sides use 2 dice for their actions. The river has no effect on movement but re- loading isn’t allowed if any part of the unit is in it. All the terrain north of the river is classed as light cover. The only exception is the objective hill which is open on the top of it. The French deploy first using hidden markers, 4 real and 4 fake plus blinds for the big men and must be at least 18” away from the river. The British then deploy as they like south of the river. Big men must be attached to a unit to remove shock and enable a unit to charge. No big man can activate a unit that has another big man attached AND is a higher status. If a big man loses his bottle, all figures within his command radius retreat 2 xD6 as does the big man. The only exception is if a group has an attached big man of a higher status then the big man retreating, the group then isn't affected. If Delebair is offered a duel and he refuses, his IPs drops to 3. The only real concern for both sides is what happens to the Bourbon Delebair. Both sides want him out of the way.

Terrain

The game can be played on a 6’ x 4’ table using 28mm figures. The set up isn’t too important but you should use the following guide. Fighting short edge to short edge along the length of the table.

The British start the game crossing a shallow river. There should be enough room in front of the river for the British to deploy. The main table space should be made up of low wooded hills. One hill then needs to be higher than the rest and clear of trees, big enough to be able to place a couple of artillery pieces. You can place a winding road to represent a path up the hillside to the objective. The artillery must follow this path or get stuck.

You can place a few small buildings. These will allow cover for 5 figures but only 1 figure can fire out from each side if there are windows and doors. You can also place some low walls. These won’t give any extra cover points but will allow your men to lie down behind them taking full cover (good for waiting for big men to come to the rescue).  All the terrain north of the river is classed as light cover.