K. and I had another game of Sharp Practice! This time, I wanted to try out an idea for a pre-deployment phase. Initially, it was intended to be used for a larger (4-player) game, but as it worked very well, we might keep using it for smaller games.
It worked like this: The table was larger than usual. Each player got two deployment points and had to secretly note beforehand which units would be deployed at which point. Then, he or she had to write orders for each DP, stating how they would move on the table. The DPs could enter the table at one of the roads and would move simultaneously. If they were within a certain distance, they would “lock in” (similar to the Patrol Markers in Chain of Command).
Playing the Austrians, I decided to try to get local superiority by deploying all of my units except for the Jäger at my primary DP, which would move through the fields on my left flank, where there was space enough to deploy. My Jäger would try to establish a position at the orchard to the right and outflank and harass the French.
I quickly deployed my main force on the left flank, where it turned out that they faced a line of three French groups.
The French had deployed behind the crest of the hill but swiftly advanced and took my guys under fire. They took quite a punishing until they got their act together and started to return the favours while the skirmishers moved forward to outflank the French line.
Meanwhile, the Jäger had deployed on my right flank. A short exchange of fire with French skirmishers ensued. However, I realised that K. had all of her other units at the DP facing the Jäger, so I tried to withdraw them in direction of my main force.
K. meanwhile hurried her reinforcements over to her right flank, where my numbers slowly started to count – especially, after I got in a crashing volley! I knew that, if I could put up enough pressure before her reinforcements arrived, I had a real chance of overwhelming her in that section.
Unfortunately, my skirmishers had advanced too far – Austrian skirmishers can only be controlled by the main leader (or, of course, with command cards). K. ordered one group of her line to take the skirmishers under fire. As her reinforcements were approaching at the double, I decided to pull the skirmishers back.
Meanwhile, in the narrow back alleys of Kummersdorf, my Jäger managed to get themselves cornered by two groups of French skirmishers. They were charged in the back and had to surrender (we use a rule from the old Sharp Practice that a group surrenders if the attackers have four times as many dice in fisticuffs). The ignomy!
After another crashing volley, K.’s main line collapsed and fell back behind the ridge, with one group routing. Finally a breakthrough for the Austrians!
However, my main line was also quite battered, K.’s reinforcements had arrived and her skirmishers started to move towards my flank.
I knew I needed to force a decision. I rushed my small line forward to charge the remaining French line, but being good Austrians, they moved too slow and did not make contact. Then K.’s skirmishers arrived and shot into their flank.
And then the pas de charge was beat and her small line rushed forward, completely overwhelming my guys and reducing my Force Morale to 2!
A French victory! Vive l’Empereur!
I know that it sounds trite, but again I have to say: one of the best games I’ve played for quite some time. The pre-deployment phase worked great and made it exciting right from the beginning. It was hard-fought and at the start it looked like I could overwhelm the French on my left flank, but after my Jäger let themselves be captured, K. was free to harrass my flanks. Her counter-charge was a fitting and very cinematic climax to a great game!
I want to experiment some more with the pre-deployment phase, as it allows for some interesting tactical decisions and bluffs and also makes the game even more dynamic. I’ll keep you informed on how this turns out!