A long time ago, we played this scenario with the old version of Sharp Practice and our Wars of the Roses adaptations. This time, we followed the guidelines for scenario three – ‘Defence in Depth’ – from the new Sharp Practice rulebook.
The Union, commanded by me, was to be the attacker, while K. took the Confederate defenders. Her secondary deployment point was in the village of Midsomerville to the South of the table, her primary – which was my objective – she positioned in the middle of the Western table edge.
We both had two support points, me choosing a physic and a musician, K. a physic and barricades, which she put on the village main street.
I started by deploying my skirmishers in the field and my dismounted cavalry on the road. Both advanced rapidly. My troopers made it into the woods at the river and started shooting at K.’s guys, while my skirmishers got caught in the fire of K.’s skirmishers, which she had swiftly deployed behind the barricades.
The Union lads got pretty roughed up and fell back stunned. However, the Sergeant commanding K.’s skirmishers was hit and wounded, losing one Status. This made commanding those troops rather difficult for K., so I decided to exploit that weak point.
I meanwhile had deployed two groups of regulars on the road in column of march and had them rush along towards the bridge and the village, hoping to overrun the barricades. K. had also deployed her regulars, all of them taking position behind the rail fence and waiting for the Union to come.
Fortunately, my column was fast enough to cross the bridge without taking too much damage by the rebels’ musketry. When they charged the barricades, however, K.’s skirmishers managed to evade. They took up position behind the fence and K. detached a group from her line, which got into position to also shoot at my groups in the village. Those were now in a tight spot, being shot at by skirmishers and regulars and unable to form line and make their numbers count because of the terrain.
Meanwhile, on the right flank, my dismounted cavalry came under fire from K.’s other skirmishers and a line of regulars and broke. What a shame! I had put much hope in their breech loading carbines, but the group proved to be quite brittle. My main column was still milling about the road and advanced at a snail’s pace. When they reached the woods, they met the panicky troopers on their way back. So much for combining efforts!
As I didn’t want to expose the column to the fire of K.’s line, I decided to dissolve it and have the groups cross the river on their own. This was probably a mistake, as the first group to cross took the brunt of K.’s shooting and was obliged to withdraw, while the rest slowly waded through the ford.
Things were starting to deteriorate fast for the Union. My Force Morale dropped like the Pound after Brexit, and although I managed to rally my skirmishers, they were shot to pieces by K.’s line (they were actually wiped out, which had never before happened in our games!).
When one of my groups in the village broke and on their rout passed through the other group, panicking them in turn, my Force Morale dropped to 2 and I conceded defeat.
This was a very dramatic and exciting game. Due to the difficult terrain, it was also a tactically challenging game, and we all know that the phrases ‘tactically challenging’ and ‘I won’ are seldom to be found in the same sentence. In hindsight, I can see the mistakes I have made. My plan was to quickly advance with my skirmishers and cavalry so as to force K. to deploy and commit her troops. Then I would choose the weaker spot and concentrate my attack there. At first, it looked like it would work, and when the leader of her skirmishers was wounded, I thought I had my weak spot. However, K. actually managed to bring the medic up to the guy and have him healed, while I got stuck on the village main street. I had missed the opportunity to finish off K.’s skirmishers when they evaded, so I had to face fire from two groups. And maybe I should have risked keeping my column intact when crossing the ford – they may have withstood the rebel’s fire better.
K., on the other hand, showed her usual steady performance and managed her troops with great skill. Especially her skirmishers cut a dashing figure, always being in the spot where they annoyed me the most. Her decision to form a massed line of defence just in front of her primary deployment point proved to be sound, especially as she could keep my column contained in the village – those might have posed a severe threat to her flank.
Sharp Practice continues to deliver excellent games. We are getting more confident with the rules, discovering nuances and trying out tactics. I’m already looking forward to our next game!