Having finally finished painting the Native Americans, we decided to have a game of Sharp Practice to try them out. K. played the Union defenders, with four groups from 2ndRegiment, Indian Home Guard (irregular skirmishers) and two groups of 1stKansas Colored Infantry (regular line infantry). I played the Confederates and got 4 groups of Cherokees (irregular skirmishers), one group of cavalry and one small mountain howitzer.
To make it more interesting, there were two objectives and I randomly drew one of them. K. wouldn’t know which I had. Turned out I had to steal the horses!
I also had a moveable secondary deployment point, which I cunningly positioned in the woods to the left, near the house where the second objective was located. For the first couple of turns, I had very bad cards and was unable to deploy my troops. K. meanwhile put most of her skirmishers to cover the house and keep my moveable DP in check. Fortunately, that was what I wanted. As my cards were so bad, I didn’t move my secondary DP but deployed the skirmishers as soon as I could.
At first, I thought I could maybe get this done with swiftly and moved them toward the paddock. However, K. immediately reacted and moved her skirmishers to cover the approaches. She had quite an impressive defensive line so for the next turns, I manoeuvred around, probing her line and trying to find a weak spot. However, she countered each time by shuffling her nimble skirmishers around. At least the effect was to totally confuse her about my objective.
Finally, I decided to go for the flank and moved most of my skirmishers to the far left. When they went out of the woods, the ball finally opened and bullets started to fly.
Meanwhile, I had deployed my cavalry from my main DP and had them canter on the right towards K.’s regulars, which covered the paddock. I also had kept back one group of skirmishers, which was positioned in the middle, ready to dart forward and grab the horses.
Unfortunately, my flanking groups got themselves into trouble by moving a bit too much forward. K., playing her Indians aggressively, immediately charged them into the flank, with the result that they were driven back. She also brought a lot of muskets to bear unto my braves. I knew I wouldn’t stand this too long, so I wanted to get the job done while this firefight occupied the bulk of her troops.
The threat of my cavalry made K. a bit panicky and she dissolved her line to avoid being hit in the flank. For unknown reasons she also had one group retreat into the field behind the paddock (she later said that this was her one big mistake). Surprisingly, my cavalry made a successful charge and drove the Union infantry back.
At the same time, my reserve skirmishers ran into the paddock and started to capture the horses.
K. was hard pressed now. Fortunately, the infantry which had retreated into the field decided to take matters into their own hands. A random event caused them to charge forward and hit my troopers in the flank! Surprised by such impudence, the cavalry broke and was for all purposes out of the game. This gave K. the space to press the horse-thieves, which she did relentlessly. After weakening them by musketry, she charged and broke them. With my Force Morale down to 2 and any chance at getting the horses gone, I conceded defeat.
Another fun and very close game of Sharp Practice! The Indians worked well, I might modify the characteristics a bit but generally, they are fun to play – fast and nimble, but as soon as they take casualties, they don’t last long. I couldn’t really use my moveable DP and I certainly didn’t develop the potential of the mountain howitzer – after dragging it unto the hill, it was parked there for most of the game and, due to the difficult terrain, could only get one or two shots off. Perhaps I should have taken more risks with what is essentially a highly mobile piece of artillery. My cavalry performed well and exploited K.’s single error; however, she was quick to recover and, as I had no reserve, could attack and break the horse thieves with impunity.
As always with Sharp Practice, there were some great stories developing. Of special notice was Union Sgt. Big Beaver, who was the driving force on K.’s right flank and, although most of his men became casualties, survived the affair with a wound. Undoubtedly, he will show it off to his grand-children long after the war, as the centrepiece of a long and dramatic story about how, one day in 1863, he single-handedly fought off a Confederate raiding party intent on stealing a herd of horses.