On the occasion of my birthday, I invited Sigur, Virago and Stephan to a big game of Sharp Practice. I’ve always wanted to play a game with four players and more units than usual and this was a perfect opportunity to try this.
Our forces’ objective was to confiscate a whiskey distillery. Both had a wagon to transport the destillery as well as an assortment of infantry and one unit of cavalry. Sigur and Virago played the Confederates, while Stephan and I took the Union. I split the commands, Virago and Stephan playing the C-in-Cs and each getting three Leaders (apart from Sigur, who had four). I took the opportunity to field my 5th New York Zouaves, a colourful troop I just finished painting.
Deployment started a bit slow for the Confederates. They were still crossing the bridge while the Union cavalry was rushing forward and Col. Bendix (Stephan) moving his men into line and into the field.
As my cavalry was rather wimpy in close combat, I had them dismount and advance on foot. When Sigur’s cavalry approached, my dismounted troopers opened the ball by firing a ragged volley. Lo and behold! A lucky bullet hit the Rebel leader and threw him out of the saddle.
Meanwhile, Stephan’s line was opening fire, which was immediately answered by a hail of bullets from Virago’s line and skirmishers behind the fence.
Casualties on the Union line started to mount and it did look grim for a while. However, this firefight sucked in a huge chunk of the Confederate forces, which was actually working to our advantage. Slowly, we worked the dismounted cavalry and Zouave skirmishers forward on our left flank, trying to outflank the Rebels. They managed to drive back the cavalry but had not enough firepower to finish the job on their own.
As so often in Sharp Practice, it would be a question of time: Could the hard-pressed Union line hold until the Zouave arrived and put pressure on the Confederate right flank?
Capt. Kilpatrick from the 5th N.Y. had some difficulties getting his unruly men over the bridge. However, when they finally made it, they rushed forward to seize the distillery and take up position to ease the pressure off their comrades to their right.
Col. Bendix had started to slowly move his men backward so as to get them out of the firing arc of the Rebel line. After some difficulties, he succeeded, while the Confederates, dazzled by the smoke and noise, continued firing uncontrolled.
Kilpatrick had meanwhile not only brought his men into position, he also had managed to convince the moonshiner to hand the distillery over to the Union. The fellow even joined the Zouave ranks, no doubt beguiled by their colourful uniforms.
And now came the luck of the Irish: Four command cards made it possible to activate Kilpatrick twice, pouring two withering volleys into the Confederates standing to the Zouaves’ front. They never stood a chance – one group was obliterated and routed, while the other held on but was in a very bad shape.
This was the climax of the game and it secured the Union victory. With one stroke, the Confederate flank was gone.
Some Rebels, however, could not accept defeat. In what was the game’s most heroic moment, the Confederate cavalry leader, after being woken by the regimental physician and finding himself alone, drew his sabre and single-handedly charged the dismounted Union troopers. He managed to win melee, driving the wimpy troopers away.
This however could not really change the overall situation and the Confederate C-in-C conceded defeat.
A victory of the Union, who no doubt celebrated their triumph by tasting the hard-earned liquor!
Sharp Practice delivered another dramatic game. When Stephan’s hard-pressed line almost started to waver, we both feared for the worst. However, the timely arrival of the Zouaves saved the day for the Union.
It was a novel and fun experience to play Sharp Practice with four people. All in all, we had thirteen leaders and twenty units, with a total of about 160 figures on the table. This is a lot for someone who is accustomed to small skirmish games! Interestingly, changes in the card deck dynamics were perceptible – there were less random events and it was harder to collect command cards.
I’m very grateful to my friends for joining me in this game – thanks guys, this was a great birthday present! And once again thanks to Sigur for letting me use his photos.