Last weekend, we had our first game of Sharp Practice 2. Eagerly awaited, the new version of my favourite set of rules had arrived as a bundle containing the printed book and a set of cards. Even though I’ve followed the blog posts and youtube videos, I was still surprised by the amount of changes.
To get used to the new stuff, we set up a small encounter battle between some Confederate and Union infantry. I tried to keep the forces balanced (points are another new thing), but didn’t ponder too much on this.
K. got the Union troops with five groups of infantry, one of skirmishers and two deployment points, while I took the Confederates with four groups of infantry, one of skirmishers and one deployment point.
I deployed most of my infantry on the field, while my skirmishers cockily pressed forward in direction of the hill. K. had her skirmishers in the woods, one line of three groups behind the hill and two other groups behind the tollhouse.
I messed up deployment, as I inadvertently blocked the way of my line with the spare group. Additionally, during the first turns I had two movement random events with my main Leader, each one causing him to be ‘accidentally’ barged down by his men – it seems that he was not a popular guy at all! The result, however, was that I couldn’t really manoeuvre.
On her right flank, K. meanwhile advanced her groups from behind the tollhouse and swiftly formed a line. My line now came under fire from those guys as well as from the skirmishers in the woods.
My skirmishers on my right flank saw the blue line advancing over the hill and skedaddled behind the fence. The Union fire caused lots of kills and shock on my spare infantry group, which was still standing around in the field. As things were going pretty pear-shaped on my left flank, I decided to withdraw my skirmishers and move them over.
This was probably my biggest mistake and K. later said that she was very happy about it, as she could now safely advance and wheel her line on the hill to fully hit my guys standing in the field.
And this was exactly what happened: Taking fire from three sides, my line dissolved rapidly and my Force Morale started to plummet.
When it was at 4 while K.’s was still at 11, I conceded defeat. A great victory for the Union!
Now what do we think about the new Sharp Practice? K. said that she felt it was really different from the old version, especially the Command Card mechanism. This gives you a lot of options and it will take us some time to remember them all, not to speak of using them well. Incidentally, I had the impression that there are more things to remember, as there are more subtleties. Most of them I really like: For example, ‘Uncontrolled Fire’ is something that really adds to the historical soundness of the rules. Some on the other hand feel a bit too detailed, like the Cavalry Pulling Up test. However, we have used the old Sharp Practice as a tool kit and we will do the same with the new one, so we might just leave out stuff if we feel it detracts from our game.
Having said that, Sharp Practice 2 is a brilliant game and a great improvement on the old one. K.’s pincer manoeuvre would have been really difficult to pull off in the old version, as when having two separate commands you always ran the risk that one of them wouldn’t activate at all for several turns. With the possibility of using Command Cards after the turn ends, it now is possible to make coordinated manoeuvres. Also, formations are much more encouraged in the new game and they are easier to control. The support options also sound great fun and are very inspiring for painting and conversion projects. Next time, we’ll use some of those in a proper scenario.
Sharp Practice definitely holds its place as my favourite set of rules and we are both looking forward to playing more of it!