Thursday, July 31, 2014
So, what happened?
The Société belge de commerce africaine's gendarmerie had their collective heads handed to them on a plate. Little went right for them, which is a perfect example of the friction of war generated by the excellent Sharp Practice rules. Out of 24 square feet of available playing area, as the game evolved I used a quarter of that all up one end of the table!
The gendarmerie's deployment onto the field of battle was tardy to begin with. Their Big Man cards emerged from the deck infrequently, whilst the natives were served much better by the cards, deploying and moving in plenty of time. In the rules, the Tiffin card allows units to alter formation, spot for enemies and even fire if they haven't done any of the above that turn. By these terms the gendarmerie could deploy and did so. Although they could fire, no targets offered until the native forces were already dangerously close.
I have a number of Breechloader cards in the deck to reflect the modern increase in firepower compared to that of the Napoleonic era for which the rules were originally written. When drawn the card allows a unit so equipped to fire upon the nearest target. This should have favoured the gendarmerie since they're armed with Albini breechloading rifles - but the cards failed to appear. Added to that the gendarmerie's dice scores were atrocious in all but one combat: Sergeant De Vos' section inflicted almost a third of the G'Wunda warriors' final casualties in their last round of combat before routing.
As far as the G'Wunda warriors are concerned, I rated the two main warband leaders and their men as Aggressive, ready and willing to take the fight to the enemy. Dice rolls showed they lacked the patience to follow the original plan to wait in ambush whilst the musketeers stung the gendarmerie into pursuing them into the trap. Instead they advanced.
It must be said melee in Sharp Practice is nasty, especially when native forces (Wallahs is the term used in the rules) get into hand-to-hand combat. As noted the tribal warriors were already rated as Aggressive, giving +2d6 per Group for an extra four dice in all. In the rules a Big Man can induce Fervour to a unit, exhorting it to fight in melee with well above average ability. This translates as a unit gaining extra d6 in melee per point spent on Fervour. The tribal Big Men played their accumulated Grasp the Serpent cards well to gain a point of Fervour for each warband, which made their attack on the hapless gendarmerie even more brutal.
Oddly enough there were no Big Man casualties on either side.
So in campaign terms what happens now? The gendarmerie routed and the Société's foray into G'Wundaland has come to a dead stop. They may be back - equally their sudden depletion in manpower means the Société's territory has become vulnerable to raids by Arab slavers. It leaves the way clear for the British to try their luck in G'Wundaland once more - but now the native musketeers have acquired fine Albini breech-loading rifles. Interesting times lie ahead...