In the year of 1805 all eyes were fixed on events in Europe, as Great Britain, once again, stood firm against the malevolent, dictatorial power across the channel. However, far away on the Caribbean island of Mewsique events were taking place which, if unchallenged, could rock the very foundations of the British Empire: a slave revolt.
Sir Quentin Fontaine, the island’s Governor, and his charming wife, Lady Frances, were seized and the rebels, under their leader and self-proclaimed ‘General’, Amin Dimood, were undecided as to their fate. “Colonel’ Ramjamrambulli was keen to negotiate using the Governor as a pawn in some Machiavellian scheme which emphasised the rights of man and the natural law of Locke and Hobbes, whereas the rebel religious leader, the enigmatic Mr Reg, wanted to eat them.
Of course, the British government had no choice in the matter; such rebellions must be crushed rapidly and with a fist of iron to ensure that trade, and consequently Britain’s ability to make war, was not interfered with. A ship would be sent from Jamaica where the West Indies Squadron was currently at anchor.
“Pull hard there my beauties”. Sergeant Flaccid stood on the prow of the ship’s boat as the blue-coated sailors strained on the oars. Ahead the island of Mewsique loomed large as the boat headed towards the surf which marked the small beach. To his left Flaccid could see Bosun Seymore Organs almost abreast, an 18 pounder gun slung below his boat to provide much needed firepower once ashore. It would be a hard fight, but the Tars and the Marines expected nothing else. The Sergeant tested the keenness of his cutlass blade with his thumb once again.
From the residence General Amin Dimood could see the little boats approaching. He had known that the British would come, but he had hoped for time to negotiate. It seemed that the lives of Sir Quentin and Lady Frances were of little import to the enemy; their approach was brash and their intentions clear.
“Eat them now, my General” Mr Reg spoke quietly but there was a passion in his voice “I have the sauce ready!”
“No, Mr Reg, we shall use our prisoners to lure the British into a trap. Elrond!” the General shouted to a man wielding a blunderbuss, “tie them to the door posts. Then tell the men to get inside the house. We shall provide a warm welcome for our visitors.”
Across the small channel Colonel Ramjamrambulli watched the scene with increasing concern. The British were coming and the fool of a General was abusing the prisoners in the most base manner. What would Kant make of that? Could this experience be structured by the necessary features of our minds? Ramjamrambulli couldn’t be sure. But what he did know was that if Sir Quentin and Lady Frances were found trussed up like chickens the wrath of the red-coats would be terrible. If he could rescue them, surely the British would recognise him as a fellow gentleman and all this terrible mess could be cleared up in a sensible, philosophical manner? He ran down the slope towards the raft, signalling two of his men to join him.
“Steady there lads. Up a degree…” Mr Accrington was the gunner on HMS Incontinent and it was natural that his boat was armed with a suitable Carronade. The sight of a well-dressed slave setting sail on a small raft was an invitation to action for a man such as Accrington and he set about managing his gun with his usual innate professionalism
BOOOOOOOOOM! The carronade’s shot came as a complete surprise to Colonel Ramjamrambulli and his companions, the small vessel’s sail being shredded and her timbers began to part. The occupants, unwilling to face another such discharge, hurled themselves into the fast-flowing current of the channel. All three stuck out for the shore, but only Ramjamrambulli made it to dry land. As he emerged from the water he could see the small raft had beached on the opposite shore; his only hope of crossing the channel was now gone. He cursed. What would Hegel say? This situation was far from absolutely ideal!
“Right you chaps, form up here.” Major Fowlup strode forward and marked a spot in the sandy soil with his heel “where’s bloody Flaccid?” The Marine officer looked around and sure enough there was no sign of the burly Sergeant.
“He landed over there sir”, a Marine pointed past the headland “I reckon he could be lost”.
“Lost in Mewsique?”
“Either that or caught in a trap, sir”
“Good Lord, I do hope not.” Get the bugler to sound the recall, see if we can’t get Flaccid and his men on the right damn beach!
Mr Reg crept forwards through the mangroves, his men behind him. ‘The Sisters of Liberty’ as they called themselves, were armed with whatever they could lay their hands on; pikes, fowling pieces, even some wooden cudgels, but to Mr Reg these were his family and he knew they would follow him unto death.
A shanty rang out as Bosun Organs shouted encouragement, his men straining on ropes. Gradually the 18 pounder was pulled from under the boat and onto the shore. In the mangroves Mr Reg knew his time had come. Leaping forwards he let lose a blood curdling scream and the Sisters of Liberty ran forwards.
“Get that bloody gun swabbed out”. One of the gunners immediately ran forwards with s sheep-skin fleece, swabbing out the barrel to remove the sea water. Another rammed a charge home while a third came up the beach with a misshapen bag that could only be canister. But on ran Mr Reg; he would kill the gunners before they could load. Nothing could stop him!
“Present….FIRE!” A volley rang out from the line of Marines, smoke from their black powder billowing out. As Major Fowlup peered through the smoke he expected to see piles of corpses, scythed down by the volley. But no. Barely a man of the Sisters of Liberty had been touched and Mr Reg was capering before them pointing at the gun.
“Kill them!” Mr Reg ran forwards but turning he could see his men standing bewildered ( Game Note: a remarkable movement roll of 4 was reduced to 2 by Shock). He shouted again.
“Come on you useless buggers, Charge!” (Game note: Another movement roll as this was the start of a new turn. The rebels need to move a total of 3” to make contact. They roll 2D6 and get a double 1. A total of 2 sees the Sisters stand motionless).
BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! The 18 pounder leapt back as dozens of iron balls cut their way into the Sisters of Liberty.
“Reload” Bosun Organs encouraged his men as the threat of Mr Reg and his Sisters was all too apparent and, despite the round of canister, still looking menacing.
“I say, you sailor chaps” Major Fowlup called across to a group of sailors who had come ashore from the boats “would you mind awfully clearing those fellows out of the way?” Fowlup pointed to Mr Reg and his men. Obligingly, the sailors cheered and charged home, cutlasses flashing as they carved their way through the ranks of the rebels.
It was over in moments. Mr Reg fought bravely but fell under a matelot’s blow, his men running back into the mangroves. In the Residence General Amin Dimood slipped out of the back door, discarding his finery and seeking safety in anonymity. The revolt was over, Britannia had again triumphed.
Well, that was a smashing, fun game of Sharp Practice. We were, in fact, play-testing some of the nautical rules from the forthcoming supplement Jolly Jack Tars which will cover all aspects of water-based fun with the rules. If nothing else, the game showed why I feel that, for Sharp Practice at least, a card driven turn sequence is ideal Now, I know that some people will rail against this and say they simply do not like cards in games. However, consider two critical situations in our game. Firstly Colonel Ramjamrambulli attempting to cross the channel on his raft; secondly, Mr Reg attempting to close with the gunners before they could load. With an IGO-UGO game and with a set 6” movement rate, it would have been perfectly obvious whether Mr Reg was going to get to the gun before it could be loaded or not. Equally, Colonel Ramjamrambulli would have known if he was going to get across the channel before Mr Accrington could fire. In our game both situations were a tense, and critical, race. Had Ramjamrambulli crossed the channel then the Governor and his wife might have been cut lose, changing the nature of the game entirely. Had the the gunners been cut down, the Marines (with one group missing) could well have been overwhelmed. As it was the British gunners managed to fire before contact and the sailors then charged in to save the day (and, indeed, win it). Colonel Ramjamrambulli was side-lined, cut off from the action.
Now, some gamers may say that isn’t “fair;’ that the way the game plays out is influenced in a random manner by the cards. Well, frankly we should ask ourselves why should a game like this be fair? Sharp Practice is all about the narrative with the players, in essence, trapped in an adventure film with the story line developing around them. Yes, you can influence how the story goes and who gets the girl in the end, but you are never in complete control. That is the fun of Sharp Practice.
Anyway. we had great fun and we all enjoyed watching a hilarious story line emerge from the game.