Over the past few months we have been busy playtesting the forthcoming campaign handbook for Sharp Practice. It’s been great fun and has generated some exciting games and thrilling narratives. However, our latest campaign threw up a game so unusual that we decided to roll it out as a club night game to see just what would happen when we got it onto the tabletop.
Set in North Carolina in 1778, a British column under Major Sir Gerrard Mandering has been tasked with collecting sworn declarations of loyalty from the subjects of His Britannic Majesty, in the hope of ending the rebellion in the South once and for all. In the past week the column has reached Trumpboro, where it joined a small loyalist garrison. To the surprise of the local Loyalists the force there came under attack, with a force of rebels under Colonel Nathaniel Crouchback attacking the town itself.
Meeting the Crown forces at their strongest, the rebels were repelled and fell back into the faming communities to the West. Sir Gerrard, thinking his opponent whipped, immediately hurled his force in pursuit where, amid the more terrain more suited to the rebels, they in turn were defeated and fell back into Trumpboro to lick their wounds.
Yet Sir Gerrard was not a slacker. Sending out cavalry patrols he identified that his enemy had left the farmland and made haste to pursue them. Little did he know that Colonel Crouchback had side-stepped him and, as soon as the British had left the town they marched in, expelling the small Loyalist garrison.
Hearing the firing, Sir Gerrard turned his column around and struck out for the town amid torrential rain. Despite the best efforts of his men, their powder was ruined; Sir Gerrard was, however, unperturbed. He would attack with the bayonet and tomahawk, relying on British steel to clear the rebels from the town. Little did he know that the rebels had an ammunition cart with them and would have some capability to fire due to that dry powder.
The game began on the outskirts of Trumpboro. The photo below is taken from the Crown edge.
The Crown force was made up of five Groups of Light Infantry, three in tight formation under Sir Gerrard and two in skirmish order under Lieutenant Beauchamp D’Arcy and Sergeant Groat. Supporting them were a group of Queens Rangers under Sergeant Roger Strangers, and a mounted Group of Loyalist Horse under Lieutenant Fenmore Clamper. At first they threw forward Lieutenant D’Arcy and Sergeant Grot to feel out the enemy defences.
The rebels were something of a mixed bag. Four Groups of North Carolina State Line under Colonel Crouchback and Lieutenant Ezekiel Pickens had recently been joined by three Groups of Continental Line under Lieutenant Bartholomew Plantain. With them were some ragged looking but effective frontiersmen from over the mountains under Carter Wheeler and another Group of militia skirmishers under Percival Hooper. What they also had was a force of engineers who had provided the force with a section of barricades to defend and, as mentioned, an ammunition cart with some dry powder. This would be sufficient to allow each group to fire once in the game.
With the Crown forces advancing up the road, Colonel Crouchback deployed two Groups of State Line to meet them. The rain had turned the ground into a quagmire, and they squelched forward, struggling to get to the fence in the boggy ground.
Unperturbed by such a ragged display from the rebels, the British forces pushed on, heading towards the church where the mountain men and the militia skirmishers were milling about.
Behind them, Sir Gerrard was advancing with his main body on good order and the Loyalist cavalry in reserve.
The skirmishers under Lieutenant D’Arcy swarmed forwards towards the church…
..rushing past the building to engage the mountain men who were leaving by the rear door. In a fierce fight the mountain men were killed to a man, but the British also lost six men, with Lieutenant D’Arcy falling wounded.
Yet the British were not to be halted. Sergeant Groat led his men into the church and drove out the Militia skirmishers before they could fire a shot. Thus far the fight had been one-sided, with the rebels’ Force Morale falling by three points from 11 to 8. Now the Light infantry emerged from the church, intend on finishing off the militia skirmishers and, if lucky, engaging Colonel Crouchback who they spied in the main street,
But now the State Line unleashed a controlled volley into the teeth of the Light Infantrymen, throwing down four men including Sergeant Groat. The remaining three men broke and ran.
Incensed by this affront to His Majesty’s authority, Sir Gerrard charged forward with his men, hitting the Continentals behind the fence. In another violent struggle Sir Gerrard was seen to be toppled from his horse, apparently dead. With both of their officers killed (in fact Lieutenant D’Arcy was at that moment coming round from a blow to the head in the church) the British withdrew.
It had certainly been an interesting fight and the final charge has been a complete toss up with equal dice for both sides. As it was the British lost and they withdrew, dragging the body of their Major with them. At the end of the game the British had lost 11 men and two Leaders, the Rebels 10 men and one Leader, Carter Wheeler.
Retiring into the farmland to the West, the Doctor who accompanied the force was able to get to work. It turned out that Sir Gerrard was merely concussed and now sports a large bandage around his skull. Sergeant Groat is more serious and is now with the other wounded on the wagons. As it was, having a Doctor present saw three men return to duty immediately, three men being confirmed as dead and five men are still under the Doctor’s care. More worryingly, the British force lost some of its supplies as it retreated and that sees them short of what they need to complete their mission, especially with the Rebels in a dominant position in Trumpboro.
As for the Rebels, they owned the battlefield, so casualty retrieval is a simpler matter. However, they don’t have a Doctor with them, so the fate of the wounded is less certain. As it as, three men are dead and just two are still recovering, the rest reporting for duty.
What happens next? Well, we shall see how resourceful our players are as the campaign continues. As for the Campaign Handbook, well that should be ready before Christmas.
It was, of course, in the aftermath of the Baskerville affair that Holmes and I were approached by the colonial government in the Cape Colony. It was no surprise that his notoriety had reached the southern hemisphere, however to be approached directly by the government there was somewhat unusual when it was widely considered that