Well, after lots of game report, lots of reading, research, frantic figure painting and darned good fun, Terrible Sharp Sword is now available. It wasn’t long after the publication of Sharp Practice that we began to get people asking about an American Civil War version, indeed Chris Stoesen produced a number of scenarios in the 2009 Summer Special that really got me started with my ACW collection and since then it’s been non-stop painting to add to that.
So, what can you expect from Terrible Sharp Sword. Two things, I hope. Firstly the game is fun; we all spend a lot of time working hard in these tough old times, so naturally it’s important that what spare time we get for gaming in an enjoyable experience. Secondly, I hope that you’ll find a system that allows you to get an appreciation and understanding of warfare in the American Civil War, and some of the tactical problems that were faced historically. Whilst the system is firmly anchored to the base of Sharp Practice the game does differ in some substantial ways in order to attempt to create the feel of the war between the States, and I thought it would be a good idea to outline some of these here.
The first big difference is the way that troops are rated. Terrible Sharp Sword rates troops according to their training, which is essentially looking at their competence with the drill book, at musketry which dictates how well they shoot, at experience, which is based on how many actions a unit has been involved in and therefore how acclimatised to battle they are, and finally at belief, do they believe that they can win. All four combine to allow us to tailor make our forces rather than use the “one size fits all” headings of Elite, Veteran and so on that give a somewhat homogenised result. So, for example, a force of Greenhorns in 1861 may well be well drilled as they are based on a pre-war militia unit, be acceptably good shots, and despite their lack of experience and they can have a very high level of belief.
In addition we have introduced a shift in ranges. With Sharp Practice I wanted to create that “up close” feel of Napoleonic lines fighting it, blazing away with muskets at short range, attempting to better that much heralded three shots a minute. With the American Civil War the emphasis needed, I felt, to be somewhat different. The ranges are longer, indeed compared to the Napoleonic Line infantryman in Sharp Practice who is restricted to 18”, his Civil War equivalent armed with the Enfield Rifle can start shooting at 48”, a much greater range. However life isn’t that simple. The benefit attached to the initial volley has been increased to the point where the gamer is presented with decisions to make. Does he open fire at maximum range and attempt to slow down his opponent through attrition or does he reserve his fire until the enemy is much closer and then rely on the Shock of that first powerful volley to halt his advance. This is especially the case when the player is holding a Crashing Volley bonus card which can really knock holes in an enemy who has got up close.
Weaponry is much expanded, with the whole range of kit available, from the flintlock musket to the repeating carbine and rifle, and this in itself makes for some interesting tactical challenges. The modern breech and magazine loading weapons are truly awesome in the firepower they can deliver, as one would expect, however at close range even the old smoothbore weapons still pack a punch when loaded with buck and ball, so a unit that is unfortunate enough to be so equipped can still win battles if it can get in close.
Cavalry get some changes, allowing for a preference for firepower rather than the sabre on the Confederate side, and we have also made some changes to the random events table and the Bonus Deck to make them more fitted to North America. That said, what we have been careful to do is make sure that the changes are evolutionary rather than revolutionary. A player of Sharp Practice will find that they should be able to pick up Terrible Sharp Sword and run with it pretty much immediately. Most importantly we have provided a handy Quick Reference Sheet which should take care of 99% of the usual game situations.
In addition to the rules, one of the most exciting bits about Terrible Sharp Sword is the campaign system that forms a large part of this supplement. This has been designed to allow you and your friends to create your own company of infantry, recruiting and arming your men, appointing your officers, training your force and then taking to the field and fighting out a succession of battles. The system provides six different types of actions and a dozen tabletop layout maps to allow you to get your figures on the table and get gaming. As you fight your battles your force will gain in experience and (you hope!) develop new skills. You can take your greenhorns through to become veterans and beyond; increase the capabilities of your officers and NCOs, improve your drill and musketry, all helping to make your company into a tough fighting force.
Terrible Sharp Sword is designed for large scale skirmish games with between 30 and 120 figures a side. It is available now in PDF format from the TooFatLardies web site for just £8.
Our sojourn into the Dark Ages has proved to be enlightening in many ways. I know my local history better than I did before and the joys of archeology have opened up some new vistas upon history, but above all else I have realised one thing, early warfare is bloody messy! One of the joys