Getting Ready for Sharp Practice

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:    A2
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.
DSCN9187 DSCN9188
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.


21 thoughts on “Getting Ready for Sharp Practice”

  1. I’m curious (and somewhat disappointed) by the remark “not so much on the colonial side” as that was precisely what I had intended to use them for! Can you expand on that a bit more? Is it because the nature of colonial conflict was more “geurilla” type conflict than “gentlmanly” battles?

    1. Okay, well, the rules do cover a number of different types of irregular and native troops, so you CAN do colonial conflicts. It is simply that with finite space the Army lists we are providing are limited to non-colonial conflicts (with the exception of the Indian Mutiny which will be included). There is absolutely no reason why you can’t devise your own lists and use the rules as written. Indeed, I would like to see a colonial supplement covering the Kaffir Wars, the New Zealand Wars, Zulus, Boers, Matabele Wars, the Sudan and more, I just don’t have the space to include all the lists in the rules. Even the AWI alone is currently taking up five pages with all of the troops types and support lists options as we are trying to make the lists as comprehensive as possible. I’d prefer to keep my powder dry on Colonial and treat that as a separate supplement so that we can then cover it properly, as it deserves.

  2. I am a bit sad that the German wars of unification and last but not least 1870/71 – Franco-Prussian War to you – seem to have been ignored.
    Quite a few bitter fights in there…

    1. Ludger, indeed, nobody knows that better than me as 1866 is my wargaming first love. The line has been drawn at 1865 because the war of 1866 and the Dreyse Needle Gun saw a huge change in the tactics used. No longer is it sufficient to look to line and column, one needs to incorporate the Prussian Schwarm, whereby entire forces could be committed to mass skirmish lines. This, effectively sees the Wars of German Unification as the first wars using modern tactics. I know ACW buffs will argue that their war was at the forefront and there is certainly a large area of change over, but still the lines seen in most engagements in the ACW would not appear totally foreign to the Duke of Wellington, whereas the Prussian tactics of 1866 would appear as something completely revolutionary.
      I do not believe that you can have a one size fits all set of rules which covers such fundamental changes; for 1866 onwards one needs specific rules which cover those periods accurately and effectively.
      As it stands, the breech loading weapon is covered in the rules, but this is to allow the ACW force, cavalry in particular, to be represented with their carbines. Were we to then take this forward to include the Dreyse and Chassepot we would have to start adding a whole raft of “special” rules to cover the next phase of tactical development. I think that would make the rules confusing and overly long. The best way to cover these later wars would be to have a supplement which then covers the new era of tactics properly.

  3. Another suitable war/s and period could either be the British Invasion of Buenos Aires (1806), and further to that the various South American Wars of Liberation. Perfect for Skirmishes between Patriots and Spanish in Chile, Peru and further north in Venezuela. I was thinking of all the small port raids carried on by Thomas Cochrane for the Chilean navy, especially the capture of Valdivia (1820). Not sure if any of these will make the army lists, but could be a good supplement

  4. I have now moved on from planning to getting the lead mountain ready. I’ve just ordered enough figures from Peter Pig to give me enough units for two basic sets of forces for the ACW, plus some cavalry/dragoons.
    Bases and movement trays will be next.
    Once I get the rules, I’ll shop again for artillery, carts etc to round it all out, and maybe some extra figures for a few shoddy militia or irregular additions.

  5. Very much looking forward to these. For once I am ahead of the curve when it comes to providing armies. Looks like my AWI are going to get partitioned yet again into SP 2 and BP Units.
    But any news on the composition of Donkey Walloper units?

  6. @BigRich — Ah, I see. It’s just a clever Lardy scheme to generate more beer money! I heartily approve! Seriously, though, thanks for the quick response. My fears are allayed and I shall resume my breathless anticipation of publication. 🙂

  7. To be honest the first thing I thought about was the German Unification War and the Franco Prussian War, especially since (at last!) several manufacturers seem to have discovered this period. No worries, I will just wait for the supplements.
    In the meantime I’ll just paint up a few small forces for The Indian Mutiny (again the impulse was the already fantastic range by Iron Duke) and for the Great Northern War. (those Warfare Miniatures are just too good not to buy) Lots of small actions in both these wars, so imminently suitable.
    And probably SP2 will finally draw me into Napoleonics. Seeing the Disuq table at Tactica, coupled with a conversation with Alan and Michael, was just too much and I stopped resisting. 🙂
    For Lardy and St. George!

  8. For the Peinsula War, looking for ideas there are of course the Rich Sharp novels but the main storyline features action from a squd size group of men. Great for a starting point.
    The books by Adrian Goldsworthy give a larger scope, containing the expected plot/mission but as there are several characters from a group of Officers who trained together to the Peer himself, spies from both sides and of course Spanish Guerrillas. IMHO more depth than the sharp books.

  9. Pingback: Sharp Practice 2 is coming! | The Raft

  10. Right, I’ve never really been drawn to AWI and I already have enough unpainted Napoleonic’s (not to mention ww2) -but it’s like I can’t help myself. Another period looms on the horizon. There are obviously plenty of 28mm manufacturers out there for AWI but I’m quite taken with your figures. Would you mind sharing where they are from? Looking forward to the St. Georges Day release.

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