Wow! What can I say. The response we have had to the news that Sharp Practice v2 is now being prepared for the printer has been incredible. It’s great to see so many people keen to see the next edition of the rules and the number of people asking “what figures do I need so I am ready for the release” has been remarkable. I’ve been replying to each individually, but in the past 24 hours this has meant that I have achieved a big fat zero on the book layout front. So, in order to free up my time and hopefully answer some of your questions, I thought I’d put something on Lard Island News so that you can start making plans.
As with the first edition, Sharp Practice is all about heroic leadership and derring-do on the battlefield. The Leaders have lots of character and the rank and file are there just waiting for an inspirational leader to get the best from them. The rules will cover the century and a bit from the early 18th century through to the end of the American Civil War. The focus is largely on what would have been viewed as wars between gentlemen, so not so much on the colonial side, but rather Seven Years War, the American War of Independence, the Napoleonic Wars, the Carlist Wars, Garibaldi in Italy, the American Civil War; all will be covered in the rules with force rating and Army lists for those conflicts.
But let’s start at the very beginning; what would be a good starting force for Sharp Practice? By way of an example I’ll use the AWI British force I using for my playtest games. The Army list for the period states five Groups of Line Troops supported by one Group of Skirmish Troops. However, you’ll note there is some flexibility in that terminology. By Line troops we mean any troops which are one of the four categories of Line Troops. So that could be anything from Elite to Militia with Regulars, Conscripts & volunteers in between. It may be that you fancy a challenge and want to go with a force entirely made up of Militia with some rag-tag Irregular Skirmishers in support from the Skirmish Troops menu. In such a case you’d get an additional Group of Militia for your money’s worth, making a huge force of sixty militia, six skirmishers and four pretty low quality Leaders. However, let’s make the assumption that you’d prefer something a little higher on the quality side. In that case you could take five Groups of eight Regulars and a Group of Six Skirmishers or Light Infantry. I decided that I’d prefer a bit of variety with my force and went with three Groups of eight Guards, two Groups of eight Light Infantry and one Group of six Loyalist Ranger Skirmishers.
My Guards and Light Infantry are both Aggressive, with the Guards being Elite troops, both have characteristics which make them pretty sprightly and thrusting troops, keen to go in with the tomahawk and bayonet and, as a result of picking a force of this quality, I get a pretty good consignment of Leaders to keep them in line. The Loyalist Rangers are decent troops, rated as Skirmishers rather than full blow Light Infantry, but I like them and they are not as expensive as Light Infantry skirmishers. So, that’s my basic force put together and, frankly, it’s a pretty representative core force across most periods. For the ACW I have gone with five Groups of Regular Infantry and one Group of Skirmishers, for the Peninsula I have two forces for my British, one of which is five Line Groups and one Light Infantry Group, the other is three Groups of Light Infantry and two Skirmish Groups of Riflemen. I intentionally kept the latter relatively small as this will allow me to select an array of support options to enhance my force, depending on the mission in the scenario. In a nutshell, five Group of eight line and one Group of six Skirmish Troops is a very good starting place for most forces.
However, this is just a starting point. Part of the fun of Sharp Practice is the ability to put together a force which is an Army in miniature. The rules include a complete list of support options for each period and theatre which will allow you to do just this. Imagine a small column heading deep into enemy territory to destroy a bridge; you’ll probably need a group of engineers with their cart of supplies, maybe some light cavalry to scout ahead or maybe an exploring officer to guide you. If you are looking to batter down the gates of a Mutineer Stockade, then a 6 pounder gun will give you the punch you need and then some additional skirmishers to screen the gun crew from the Pandies on the walls. Or maybe an ammunition wagon so you can replenish supplies if your run short of powder or ball.
For my last AWI game I went with the following supports:
A mule train gave me limited supplies of both water and ammunition, the second Group of Kings Ranger Skirmishers some additional firepower and fast moving troops in the woods and forests of North American and a Sergeant stiffened the resilience of my Guards as they went in with the bayonet. On my painting table are Indian scouts for my next game. In essence, the support options are what adds some additional colour and fun to the game and makes your base force into something a bit special. Doctors, Musicians, Priests, Relics are all in there, or just plain old additional infantry, cavalry or guns if you need to pack a bigger punch. It’s a great opportunity to find some of the fun character figures that are out there and bring them into your force.
Talking of nice support options, three of the top support choice must be the carts which can accompany your force. We have teamed up with Warbases to make the three key support carts which are included in Sharp Practice; the water cart, the ammunition cart and the engineer cart. The former are ideal for those key moments when your men need resupply, the latter is an Aladin’s cave of kit designed to blow things up, blow things down, build repair, demolish and generally fix. How many missions behind enemy lines spring to the imagination. Anyway, Young Martin sent us the prototypes this week and I am very happy to say that they look the part.
As you can see, these models are a mix of MDF and resin and are designed specifically for Sharp Practice. Over the next week I plan to paint these up to show just how great they will look. Warbases do a nice range of horses to pull these too.
There we have it. If you fancy getting cracking on assembling your force, hopefully this will provide you with a place to start. Of course, adding additional and varied units will be part of the fun and we hope that they new unit rating system in the rules will allow you to enjoy the different way that units fight.
As evening shadows lengthen and the English summer comes to a bitter end, thoughts on Lard Island turn to the last wargames show of the year as we don our Sou-westers and head for the Belgian coast and the BEST show on the wargaming calandar, Crisis in Antwerp. Having been attending this show for many