This scenario was inspired by one written by Charles Grant and called ‘Reconnaissance in force, or “You can’t have your cake and eat it”’. It was published in Battlegames issue 14, which is available as a pdf via Wargames Vault.
In our game, both side’s objective was to occupy and hold the enclosed area with the barn. Each side got almost identical forces, three groups of infantry and one of cavalry, which entered from the Eastern table edge. The hills counted as heavy terrain and blocked line of sight, as did the woods.
While our infantry columns marched forward, the confederate cavalry galloped towards the barn as fast as possible. Jumping over the fences, they thundered into the yard.
Seeing this, the Union lieutenant spurred his horse and led his troopers in a charge towards his Rebel counterparts. A fierce melee ensued which saw the Unionists triumph, even though their cavalry had a lower Morale rating. This was to be the first of a stroke of bad luck for the Rebels.
The Rebels were thrown back and the Union cavalry retreated behind to barn – I wanted to keep them out of Confederate musketry and in reserve.
Meanwhile, the two columns of infantry clashed at the crossroads. A couple of volleys crashed, smoke obstructed visibility (this was a very fitting random event) and confusion reigned.
However, we both managed to extricate our men swiftly. K. pulled hers back and moved towards the snake rail fence, so she could get behind and claim cover. The well-trained Union men smartly formed a line – just in time, as the Rebel cavalry was getting ready to charge them. Seeing the row of bristling bayonets, they changed their minds and wheeled back.
The shooting now started in earnest and K. had her second stroke of bad luck: Her senior Big Man was hit and killed by a bullet. As her cavalry lieutenant had already been injured in the melee and was unable to use any ‘Grasp the Nettle’ cards, K. was down to a maximum of four initiatives per turn, compared to her original eight!
This also meant that the small group she placed in the woods was out of command range and didn’t pose a big threat for me, so I could move my line forward. My flank company was taking up position on the hill to my left and covering my advance by pouring fire into K.’s troops.
Still, K. managed to get her guys over the fence into the yard. Her second in command pushed and pulled his men into extended order formation. At the same time, her cavalry charged mine, which was still taking a break behind the barn – I was too slow to get them moving and missed the opportunity to drive out her infantry.
The Rebel horse took another beating (they really were in bad form that day) and retreated. However, when the Union troopers charged the Confederate infantry, they decided that they had had enough and retreated while the Rebels stood their ground.
For reasons of time we decided to end the game at that point. The Rebels were in a rather tight spot – I had a line and another group shooting at her, and my line was moving forward with the form intention to end the fight with cold steel. My cavalry was thrown back but still in better shape than K.’s and the small Rebel group in the woods was a nuisance but nothing more. Still, considering the loss of her senior Big Man, K. put up a tremendous fight, and you never know with Sharp Practice – things could as well have gone pear-shaped for me if we had played on…
This was another great game, which provided several tactical challenges for us: First, it was the first game in which both of us used cavalry. Cavalry is fun as it is able to zoom around, but it is also quite fickle in its performance. Second, the unique terrain and deployment meant that we really had to work out how to proceed when the columns crashed. I think we both made the best of it: K. moving into cover behind the fences and me forming a line to build up a formal attack. It feels like we both start to get the hang of it and manage to move with the flow of the game!