I’ve been pretty industrious painting-wise during the last weeks. After finishing the Confederate cavalry, I’ve decided that I also want a force of white Union troops. I got figures in marching pose for a change and have now finished three groups of those. I’ve got a couple more coming up, this time in shooting and loading poses so they can also be used as skirmishers.
The last issue of Wargames, Soldiers & Strategycontains a fun looking mini campaign for Sharp Practice featuring the Louisiana Tigers, the most famous (and one of the few) Southern Zouave regiments. I wanted to paint Zouaves for a while and this seemed as good an excuse as any. Fortunately, the scenario specifies only one group of skirmishers as the Tiger Rifles, the company that wore the characteristic uniform with striped trousers. I was a bit apprehensive about doing the stripes, but I think they worked out ok.
And now for something completely different: rats! My recent game of Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes gave me the spontaneous idea to make a small fantasy warband. I like rats and I’ve always wanted to have Skaven, so I got a couple of figures very cheaply second-hand. Virago has promised me to give me some more.
This is actually my first attempt at 28mm Games Workshop figures. I’m not totally convinced, as they contain too many frills and furbelows for my taste. Still, second-hand GW figures are arguably the cheapest option of getting 28mm fantasy figures and they will work fine enough. I hope that I can wangle some plainer rats off Virago.
Finally, I’m making more sabot bases for the 15mm ACW figures. They are made of magnetic foil on thin sheets of brass – looks ok, is very handy for moving groups in formation and allows easy removal of casualties.
There are a couple of small changes in the new version and one big innovation, namely reactions. If you fail one activation roll, your opponent may now react by trying to activate one of his or her figures for one action. If you fail two rolls, the opponent may either make two reactions or take over and start a new turn. I was curious how that would play out – I feared that it might drag out the game a bit or might make it a bit convoluted, distracting from the simple elegance of the rules.
We played on a 6’x4′ table using Sigur’s game mat, which he got from DeepCut Studios. He also brought along his splendidly painted buildings, most of them from Ziterdes, and his stunning figures. The whole set up look extremely nice!
I took the human faction, led by noble Count Daunenfein on his fine steed. His brave companions were Smirre, another mounted guy with a bald pate and a humongous hammer, as well as a slightly crazed inventor with an arquebus. They also had some lackeys, two guys with greatswords and three with spears. The sinister Dark Elves confronting them were led by a Sorceress. Their party consisted of a witch, an assassin, a harpy, two elves with crossbows and three Raiders with hand weapons.
We played with the secret mission generator and each of us drew a paper slip with an objective. My aim was to get at least half of my people across the table.
While Sigur concentrated his guys in the middle, I had a more extended line, with Smirre on my left flank, my leader and the harquebusier in the middle and some foot soldiers on the right.
The sorceress charged into the town square and threw over a table to get cover. My harquebusier also ran forward, ducking from cover to cover to get into a position to shoot. As my right flank lackeys were showing little interest in confronting a horde of shrieking Dark Elves, my leader rode over and made them get a move on.
I realised that a mounted leader is a very useful thing to have, what with him giving a +1 on activations within long range!
The harquebusier finally stepped out and shot. He was as surprised as anyone when one of the crossbow Elves fell down dead. Excited, he fumbled to reload while I rushed forward a lackey to cover him. In vain – before he could get off another shot, he was cut down by the ghastly Witch Elf and an Elf waving a flag. A melee started to develop in the town square, with two of my lackeys pitted against the assassin, the witch and a Raider.
Meanwhile, the Sorceress had hidden behind a stone wall. A wild charge by one of my spearmen was thwarted by the harpy, who faithfully defended her mistress.
Now Smirre decided to even the odds and attack the Sorceress from behind. However, the wily wizard did see him in time and sent a sleeping spell. Smirre promptly started to snore!
This was bad and thwarted my carefully laid out plans. I had moved two of my lackeys around the house to my right and brought them into position to slip around Sigur’s flank.
Having drawn most of Sigur’s guys into a melee in the town square, I wanted to rush my two mounted men over to the other side of the table. And now one of them was sleeping!
The only way to wake someone up is to move into contact. As Smirre was quite isolated on my left, I had to move my leader over. Grudgingly, he trotted in Smirre’s direction, hacking at the harpy on the way.
However, another shock was to follow: Suddenly, the assassin grabbed a chest lying around in the town square and started to head back. Count Daunenfein didn’t know what was in there, but he was going to make damned certain the dirty Elves didn’t get their grubby fingers on it!
The cards were now on the table: I knew Sigur’s objective and he had guessed mine. The whole battle started to move to the Northern table edge. The Elves had two stragglers, which rushed over to stop my sneaky flank lackeys.
While my guys in the town square tried to stop the assassin carrying away the chest, the Count had managed to wake up Smirre. Both heroes spurred their horses and rode around the melee to help out the lackeys trying to cross the table.
Their charge shocked the Elf rearguard. One Raider was cut down, but then the Sorceress rushed forward and tried to send Smirre back to the land of dreams. This time the bleary-eyed warrior resisted – no one makes better coffee than Count Daunenfein! Angrily, the Sorceress resorted to throwing a fireball, which knocked Daunenfein from his horse. Fortunately, he fell lightly, so he could remount. Meanwhile, Smirre cut down the second Raider. But now a new danger lurked: The assassin had managed to break free from the melee and was getting close to the table edge. Recklessly, the remounted Count charged him.
The assassin, however, quickly sidestepped and tripped the horse, causing Daunenfein to fall down again. Smelling coffee, from the sky above the harpy shot down and gave the poor Count a good kick. The noble heroe was out cold. When his lackeys saw this scene, horror struck them and they ran away. Even brave Smirre took to his heels! One single lackey stood with grim resolution, prepared to sell his life dearly. The game, however, was over…
Victory for Sigur and his Dark Elves!
What a fantastic game! It was dramatic and exciting, with some unexpected twists and really dynamic action which moved from the town square to the table edge. The reaction mechanics is great, it doesn’t slow down the game too much and makes the other player constantly involved.
The only thing that surprised me was the length of the game: We played for more than three hours, which is much longer than what I am used to with Flashing Steel (and longer than the Sharp Practice game on the other table!). The reason for this might have been that we had larger forces – with FS, we normally play with six figures per side and this time, we had eight respectively nine per player. But the main reason, I think, was the size of the table: SOBH is geared towards a 3’x3′ table and using a larger table means a lot more maneuvering. Don’t get me wrong, there was not a minute I was bored during this game and I really liked how the action moved from one part of the table to another. However, for a quick game, it may be better to use a smaller table or at least to designate an area of the large table as the playing field.
This game reminded me again of how great a system SOBH is! I really hope we’ll have another game soon.
Sigur has also written a great AAR, which gives a bit more background information on the warring heroes and which can be found at Skirmish Wargaming. He also kindly let me use some of his photos.
It’s rather hot and painting is going slow. But I’ve got a nice working space, even though it’s not a permanent set up – I put everything away after each session.
I’m still working on ACW stuff. I’ve prepared a group of Confederate infantry, a mixture of leftovers from Peter Pig and Essex.
I’m almost finished with the Confederate cavalry. On the second tray, you can see the last batch of horses undercoated and waiting to be painted. The figures to the right are two survivors from Zombicide. I rather enjoy the game and fancied having a go at the figures. They are plastic and I’m not entirely happy with the style, but they paint up easier than I would have thought. Maybe I’ll continue and do all of them. I can’t, however, see myself painting the 65 zombies included in the game!
The two dogs are from Peter Pig and are for a scenario. I also made some other things for scenarios for Sharp Practice. First, a jetty:
Second, a Hale rocket launcher. This is one of the more peculiar weapons of the American Civil War. It was used by the Union on several occasions, although it was considered to by quite inaccurate. “[T]he missiles from the rocket-stands on our right, while they did no damage, served to frighten the enemy’s artillery horses,” writes an officer of the 54th Massachusetts. It had some advantages, such as its portability and that it could be mounted on flat boats, as it had no recoil.
Anyway, it was used in an action I want to game and Sharp Practice contains rules for rockets, so here’s my quick attempt to make one:
I’ve never really been interested in big battle games. Most of the images I’ve seen of such games show masses of figures arrayed in a thin line from one table edge to the other. Shoving bases forward and seeing who rolls higher is not how I like to spend my evening.
Fortunately my mates Sigur and Virago are always ready to dismantle my silly prejudices and show me the abundance of interesting games out there. Last week, it was time to reconsider my thoughts on big battles, as they had prepared a game of Longstreet. The units in Longstreet represent regiments, so battles are admittedly not that big, which is perfectly fine for me. From my reading, I can relate to regimental actions and having recently finished Earl Hess’ fantastic book on small-scale infantry tactics , I was curious to see how the rules would handle the manouvres and formations used by Civil War commanders.
At the core of Longstreet is a card-driven mechanic. It’s more akin to Commands & Colors than to Sharp Practice, though. The cards don’t drive the turn sequence, which is IGO-UGO, but are hand cards which enable you to not only initiate phases, such as shooting and moving, but also to augment or make specific actions.
We played what I gathered was a rather small action. Each of us got four regiments of five bases plus one battery of two artillery bases. I played the Union, using Virago’s figures, while Sigur fielded his own Confederates.
The terrain featured several hills in the middle and a small town on my left flank. Sigur positioned his artillery on one of the hills, making me deploy cautiously. He also formed two columns to march into the town. I positioned the units on my right flank behind a stone wall. My battery was on my left, where it had a reasonably clear field of fire, covered by another regiment on my far left.
The game started with Sigur moving his troops forward while I stayed put. One reason was that I was hesitant to move into the field of fire of his battery. The other reason was that the troops on my right got tangled up because the road was in a deplorable condition – Sigur had played a card which allowed him to place a piece of heavy going in front of my units, and we reasoned that the road had been swept away by heavy rain. In any case, it took a while until I sorted out my guys and finally had them in a jump-off position on the other side of the stone wall.
Sigur, meanwhile, had decided to move his battery to the center. He also seems to have abandoned the plan to take the town, because his columns suddenly turned about-face. In a rare show of tactical acumen, I recognised this as my chance. Playing the ‘Quickstep’ card, which allowed me to move swiftly, I advanced my whole right flank as far as possible. My leading regiment positioned itself so it could hit Sigur’s guys in the flank, its supporting regiment moved towards the Confederate center to cover the advance while the third regiment marched through the town in column so as to hit the Rebels from behind.
I also had the regiment on my far left advance so as to pin the Confederates positioned there.
To my surprise, the whole scheme worked very well. Caught unawares, the outflanked Rebels had to endure my volleys. It didn’t help that I played a card on one of their units forbidding it from moving for one turn! Confederate casualties started to mount. My counter-battery fire had managed to knock out the enemy artillery, so me regiment in the center could manoeuvre freely. When it made short thrift of its enemy counterpart, Rebel morale broke. Hurrah for the Union!
What a fun game! I was very pleasantly surprised by Longstreet. The rules are simple, quick to learn and very intuitive. The game flowed along smoothly and didn’t take too long. I like the cards, as they introduce a bit of friction and shape possibilities – I wouldn’t have been able to make that flank move if I hadn’t had the ‘Quickstep’ card. However, what I liked most was that manoeuvres really counted and that it was possible to manoeuvre in a way that felt historically plausible. The most important thing for regiments and their commanders in the ACW was articulation, the ability to make a wide array of manouvres and formations and to be able to decide when to perform which. Although the formations are abstracted in the game (which is a good thing in my opinion), it still feels as if you have lots of options and as if your decision makes a difference.
In fact, I was so much taken by Longstreet that I’m now pondering over enlarging my 15mm ACW collection so as to be able to play it at home…