Star of Bravery – A Sharp Practice Campaign

Some time ago, I came across the board game Legion of Honor. From the reviews I read, this seems to be basically a story-telling game that follows the career of French napoleonic officers. I never played the game (though I’d be interested in doing), but it gave me an idea for a Sharp Practice campaign game.

Star of Bravery (SoB) follows the path of two French officers, one of a regiment of the line and one of a light infantry regiment, through the 1809 campaign against Austria. Two players – Sigur and me – generate a character each. I’ve made a new officers background table for French officers, but the attributes and traits are the same as in the SP2 rule book. Each game turn consists of each player playing a scenario, with the other one as the opponent (or other people, if we find volunteers). After each scenario, a player draws an event card. I’ve devised a number of events, which allow different reactions to be taken. According to the player’s decision, a dice is rolled and the outcome is checked. Players can also duel against each other. After the event phase, a new scenario is played.

The aim of the players is to accumulate honour, which can be gained by heroic actions during a scenario or through events. Each player will play 5 individual scenarios. After those, the final scenario will put both players against a third person in a climactic battle. At the most, we will be playing 11 games, although characters may have to skip scenarios due to wounds, so it will probably be less.

Capt. Charles Benés

Sigur started by rolling up his character and then plunged headlong into the first scenario.

Capitaine Charles Benés is the son of a lawyer who became an officer during the revolution. In secret, he still leans towards republicanism and finds Napoleon’s imperial demeanour distasteful. However, he knows that the French army is the only bulwark against the tyranny of Europe’s many kings, so he will serve dutifully. He is honourable and although of average build, he is a good-looking and charming chap. At the moment, he is commanding a company in the 2e regiment d’infanterie de ligne.

The first scenario took place at the beginning of April, when the Austrian opened the attack and caught the French somewhat wrong-footed. As Capt. Benés’ objective was to stop the Austrian onslaught, we played the Defense in Depth scenario from the rule book.

Benés deployed both his skirmishers in the woods and took the Austrian advance guard, a group of Jäger, under fire, who could not stand the concentrated fire for long. The Austrian commander Oberst Jaromir von Eynhuf deployed his main force and withdrew the shaken Jäger behind the bulk of the regulars. He also sent his skirmishers forward on the far right flank, using the building as cover.

Meanwhile, Capt. Benés had deployed his line infantry in a huge and very impressive line. In true gallic spirit, instead of waiting for the Austrians to come, he steadily led his men forward.

Von Eynhuf was somewhat rattled by this. As he had to use the troops on his left flank to guard against the pesky French Voltigeurs, who ran circles around him, he faced the French line with only three groups. The fight started in earnest with a close-range volley from the French, which caused a shocking number of casualties in the Austrian line. However, the Austrian skirmishers meanwhile had slipped behind the house and fired at the Frenchmen’s back. Unfortunately, this did not impress them much.

The skirmishers suddenly realised that he did have an objective, namely the French main deployment point! The started running towards it and there was little the French could do… Or was there? With a shout of “Vivle la France!”, Capt. Benés charged ahead of his men into the Austrian line, intent on capturing the kaiserlick’s flag. While the melee was raging, von Eynhuf threw himself in front of the flag and drew his sword. “From ze dead kold handz!” he cried as the duel commenced. Unfortunately, the Austrian Oberst got the better of the dashing Frenchman and managed to take out Benés. Realising that his small group was the only Austrians left of his line, von Eynhuf post-haste joined his men in the general rout, clutching his precious flag. The charge had reduced the Austrian Force Morale to 0 just before the Austrian skirmishers could take the Deployment Point!

Capt. Benés had done many heroic deeds: He led his men into fisticuffs and won, he took a wound and he won the engagement! This brought him a lot of honour. Surprisingly, it also brought him membership in the Légion d’Honneur! Maybe he was better connected then he let on… However, when his grievous wounds were checked, it turned out they were not that grievous. In fact, it was merely a scratch. His comrades shook their heads at those theatrics, which cost him some honour.

After the engagement, Capt. Benés marched his men through Bavaria, as Napoléon was arriving and a counter-strike at the Austrians was planned by the higher echelons of command. On the way, he met a surgeon who was trying to organise transporation for some wounded. Honourable chap that he is, Benés offered some of his men to help. This will mean that one group will arrive late to the next engagement. However, Benés has now found a friend in Hypolite Pincecourt, a very competent physician.

Will Benés simulate even more wounds now he has the service of a physician? What will his old rival, Capt. Camille Cruchon of the 24e regiment d’infanterie légère, say to Benés’ getting into the Légion d’Honneur after just one fight? Stay tuned for another episode of Star of Bravery!

Encounter at Kummersdorf – A Sharp Practice AAR

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).

The set-up. The French enter from the North, the Austrians from the South.

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!

State of the 1809 Project

Two days ago, I finished painting two Sharp Practice forces for my 1809 project. This means I’ve painted 120 figures in six weeks, which is very fast for me. Ok, the figures are no works of art, but I wanted to get them on the table to play a game on my birthday. Well, I managed to finish them three weeks earlier!

Fortunately, Sigur had time for a remote game and joined me on Discord for a straight-forward encounter scenario. I had set up a table to try out my new fields and decided to use it for the game, dicing for the positions of the Deployment Points as indicated in the SP rulebook.

This is where we ended up:

The French DP was pretty much in the middle of the table, while the Austrian one was near the road and the bulding on the other side. The French force was light infantry, while the Austrians fielded a Hungarian regiment with one group of Wiener Freiwillige Jäger.

The game went well, at least for Sigur, who played the French. He at first out-skirmished me, very early driving off my Jäger with a couple of volleys by his skirmishers and keeping my right flank occupied with his second group of skirmishers. I merrily chased them through the woods, which tied down a large part of my force. He meanwhile had formed a large line which moved forward quicker than I thought, taking my main force on my left flank under fire.

The long French line.

I knew I could not stand this for long, and when my main leader was killed by a musket ball, I conceded. My force morale was at 3, while Sigur’s was still at 9.

It was a fun game, even if I’ve been thorougly out-generaled. Sigur managed to achieve a local superiority by tying down my right flank with his pesky skirmishers and made the most of it.

The situation at the end.

Unfortunately, my mobile camera, which provided the overview of the table, produced a pretty crappy video feed – maybe it was the light, or some other problem? So I’ve no images of the game itself. I have to work on that problem – when I saw how crappy the video feed was I had a really bad conscience about making Sigur play under such circumstances. So a big thanks to him for indulging me and giving me an opportunity to play with my new figures!

1809 – A New Project

For the last four years, my historical gaming, painting and research almost exclusivley focused on the America Civil War. However, already last year I noticed a certain fatigue, which was amplified by unpleasant developments in the US, culminating in the attempted coup. How nice would it be, I thought, to do a historical project which has no immediate connections to current politics?

My mates Sigur and Virago, as well as some other local wargamers, had some time ago started a Sharp Practice project set in 1809 and concentrating on the uprisings in the Tyrol. Because it’s in 28mm and it seemed to stagnate anyway, I was very reluctant to join in. However, the period seems to have been stuck in the back of my mind, as a couple of weeks ago, I suddenly decided to do some more research. And what I found immediately fascinated me! Rather spontaneously, I decided that this would be my next project.

As always, I will use Sharp Practice and collect both sides in 15mm. I’ve ordered a bunch of figures from AB Figures via their distributor in the UK, eureka.uk. As I ordered them in January, I had to wait a long time for the parcel to arrive and then had to pay import taxes. Welcome to the world of Brexit! Another bunch of figures came from Campaign Game Miniatures, which is located in Spain, so no fees there. Additionally, small stuff for Deployment Points came from Stonewall Figures.

While I waited for the figures to arrive, I build a house and some small scatter terrain. I have a big terrain collection, but much of it is modeled for the ACW and the Central European landscape of the 1800s was very different from the North American one. I find it important to have scenery which makes clear that, as the saying goes, we are not in Kansas anymore, so I plan to make more stuff in the near future. The 3D printer came in very handy, I printed a lot of fences and other small stuff.

My initial forces will be based on the skirmishes around Vienna. For the time being, I will leave out the Tyrol and concentrate on my immediate neighborhood. After we had to cancel our trip to Gettysburg last year, I kind of like the idea of going to a battle field by subway! On the Austrian side, I’ve started painting up figures for Infanterieregiment 39 (Duka), which defended the Lobau island against French troops from Molitor’s division. Painting napoleonic figures is actually a lot of fun after years of painting ACW!

IR 39 (Duka)
French Voltigeurs.

I’ve also built two Deployment Points, as this is always fun.

The Austrian Deployment Point features a Hussar from the Stipsicz Hussars and a sceptical looking woman. Incidentally, the fences, the rustic toilet in the background and the table with benches came out of the 3D printer (the food was modeled on with green stuff).

The French Deployment Point features a straggler enthusiastically greeting a Vivandière. The wayside cross was also 3d printed.

Last but not least, I’ve also bought a couple of books and I’ve started on the first volume of John Gill’s 1809 trilogy, which promises to be an excellent read and a great ressource. As the ability to do research is one of the key prerequisites to get hooked on a project for me, I was very happy to discover that many sources are available online, either via google books, archive.org or Gallica, the French National Library’s excellent digital repository.

I’m really enjoying myself with this new project and I’m already looking forward to having a first game. Maybe when I’m finished painting, it will even be possible to play again with my mates…