Foragers’ Lament – A SP2 Game

I played my second game of Sharp Practice with the new 1809 forces against K. She took command of the Austrians, who were intent on disturbing some French Légères improving their supply situation.

The French had a forager wagon in the center of the village. Each time the Tiffin Card was drawn, one D6 would be rolled. On a total sum of 30, the wagon could start moving towards the French Primary Deployment Point. The wagon also served as the French Secondary Deployment Point. If the Austrians captured the wagon, they would win the game. If the French brought it off the table, victory would be theirs.

The table.

The Austrians deployed in force, with the skirmishers and Jäger advancing through the woods while the massed line infantry slowly marched forward in the road.

Commanding the French, I deployed skirmishers in the gardens and a small column marched out to meet the enemy. The village did not offer much space to deploy a line and I knew I had to play for time, so I decided on an aggressive defense.

At the same time, I deployed my largest formation from my Primary Deployment point. My plan was to bring them around the village on my left flank and outflank the attacking Austrians.

My gallant small advance guard formed line in front of the village and tried to slow down the mass of whitecoats.

Confronted by this mass, my first line of skirmishers fell back. This was perhaps not the best decision, as you can see a column of Austrians advancing in the distance on my far right flank. They were very slow and I had another group of skirmishers behind a fence in front of them, so I was not too worried.

Although the main Austrian line took severe punishment, my advance guard came under a withering fire from not only the regulars, but also some very nimble Jäger hiding in the bush. Gradually, they lost nerve and fell back.

Just at the right time, my flanking force arrived and smartly formed line. I quickly withdrew the groups of the shattered advance guard into the courtyard of the first farm building.

However, the Austrian column on my right flank suddenly rushed forward. I decided to hold my ground with my skirmishers – they were loaded, behind a fence and Light Infantry. Alas, this arrogance was to be punished! The Austrian bayonets made short work of my skirmishers, knocking out their leader and routing the rest. In just an instant, my right flank had broken down completely!

Fortunately, my foragers finally had finished their work and loaded the wagon with all kind of goods, Off they drove, when the driver casually turned his head to his left… Zut alors!

The Austrians rushed forward and caught the wagon in the nick of time!

The game was over! A win for the Austrians and their gallant commander K.

This was an excellent game, dramatic, fun and very close. We both really like that napoleonic SP provides a different experience than the ACW version, although rules-wise, the differences are subtle. But the generally shorter weapon ranges, the different terrain and the colourful uniforms all contribute to making this feel quite different. Also, after playing a series of games remotely, it was great to play once again face-to-face.

Hopefully, there is more to come. In any case, I’m very motivated to paint more figures. I’ve almost finished French Ligne, after which I will paint Austrian Grenzers, who should provide a very different experience from the sluggish Austrian regulars.

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…

Virtual Lard III

Like for many others, the pandemic has been a bit of a struggle. Due to preconditions, I’m very cautious and really try not to get this virus. While I usually don’t mind staying at home and this XKCD comic rings true for me, I do miss my friends and our gaming get togethers. While it was warm, we could at least meet in the garden, but this is no longer possible. So I started to look for other options. I already have a virtual RPG group using Discord, which was started before the pandemic because I wanted to play with friends living far away. I also run a play-by-email Kriegsspiel which is great fun and possibly one of my best gaming experiences ever (more on this some other time).

Listening to the TooFatLardies Oddcast, I heard them talking about Virtual Lard, an event where Lardy games are played over the internet. I wanted to try this out and got my chance to participate in a game of Sharp Practice at Virtual Lard III. The game, entitled “Bridge over the Tormes”, was set during the Napoleonic Wars in the Spanish Pensinula and was run by Bob Connor. Bob had a lovely table and three cameras, two static and one moveable. I played together with Wil from the US against Francis from Edinburgh and the Lord of Lard himself, Richard Clarke. We commanded the French Forces and were tasked to take a bridge which, as we were told, was only lightly defended by some Spanish militia. Of course the nasty British turned up, who’d have thought?

The game started with Wil and me struggling to get our men forward. Some interesting mishaps tormented my Voltigeurs, among them my main Leader being knocked out by a musket ball early on and some riled up bees attacking my line troops. All the while, the Allied forces peppered us and for a time, it seemed as if we would be unable to get a hold on the situation, let alone secure the bridge. However, I managed to work my skirmishers around the Allied right flank and Wil finally got his Grenadiers going, delivering a devastating charge right into the British line. This turned the game and in the end, Wil snatched victory from the jaws of my clumsiness.

The game was a large one (at least compared to the games I ususally play), but it moved along at a brisk pace. We did play for four hours, although it didn’t feel that long. I guess that Bob must have been quite exhausted, as he had to run around the table, move the figures and keep the game going. But it worked exceedingly well. Bob drew the chits out of the bag and anounced which Leader was activated, we gave our commands and rolled our own dice. Dice rolling is a good way to keep the players involved and give them at least a bit of the haptic experience of tabletop gaming. Of course it’s not the same as standing around the table, but it still feels like a miniature wargame and not a computer game. Banter is a bit more difficult on Zoom, but we still laughed a lot.

All in all, it was a great experience I very much want to repeat. I’ve ordered a webcam two weeks ago, so I think about setting up a game for my friends and, after I have some practice, maybe even one for Virtual Lard – Richard Clarke told me that they want to continue with this format, as it is more than just a substitute for face-to-face gaming. And I agree that gaming with people from all over the world adds another quality. I’m still looking forward to seeing my friends at the table, but virtual gaming is also a fun and rewarding experience.