Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On the painting block - Zanzibari

The Zanzibari figures arrived last week, and they're now washed and stuck to the painting rods. I was going to paint them as Wangwana, the Swahili ex-slaves who fought for the Zanzibari sheiks, but they don't look quite right. Instead they'll be painted to represent the typical musketeer-about-town, ruffians from the kasbah serving the Sheik or whoever pays enough gold.

The lady in the background will also finally get a coat of paint. An 18th century pirate lass type, I'm afraid she's languished on that block for months now while I've been busy with other projects.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Loitering within tents

The Colonel and Commander Hardleigh-Worthit chat as the cooks prepare the evening meal.
I thought it high time my intrepid miniatures had somewhere to live while in the field, so I made some basic ridge tents. For the sake of consistency, I created a template of thin card and used it to mark out the shape of splayed-open tents on more card - in this case, cereal box card. Folding them into the classic ridge design, I glued them in place on a card base cut to slightly larger size than the footprint. Thin string runs from side to side across the apex at each end and the middle to give the impression of guy ropes. The officer's/HQ tent got a set of side walls for the necessary extra height. 

A nice thick coat of cream-colored acrylic went onto the form, with white acrylic brushed through the spaces between the guys whilst this was still wet to give the impression of depth. In all I made four basic tents and one officer's/HQ tent, enough to represent a military or expeditionary camp without taking up a lot of space on the tabletop. I might add a flagpole made from thin piano wire from which to fly the flag in a semi-permanent encampment.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Manning the barricade

Corporal Gedge and Privates Hare and Buckley demonstrate their new hard cover.

I had a little spare time today, so I made a quick and easy barricade using Hirst Arts chests, rifle boxes, sacks and a barrel. It gives the infantry something to take cover behind, and maybe get the chance to use the Men of Harlech card. From figure eye-level the sacks do look a little stiff, but this isn't noticeable from the usual gamer's six-hundred-foot tall giant's eye view. When I make others, I'll squish a little spackle under them then wipe the excess away with a damp brush.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Thanks to the good offices of Colonel Hud and his name generator, Baker Platoon has received replacements for the casualties suffered in their encounter with the Ukrazi tribe.

1st Section:
L. Cpl. White, George
Pvt. Hayes, Christopher
Pvt. Lewis, Jack
Pvt. O’Neill, Tobias

2nd Section
Pvt. Buckley, Edward
Pvt. Stanton, Charles

One of these days - time and funds permitting - I'll add the missing third section to the platoon. I'm toying with the idea of getting a pack of Old Glory British Zulu War figures, since these will be most compatible with my existing ones. I'm also tempted by their Dervish figures, since they look to be not too far removed in appearance from their Zanzibari brethren.

I am expecting ten Zanzibari rifle/musket armed figures bought from eBob to arrive through the mail soon. These might field as Wangwana, freed slaves who fought for their former overlords. 
As a side note, a former wargames manufacturer of my acquaintance made casualty figures cast from resin. His reasoning was there is no reason to use expensive white metal for such things. I might take the idea a step farther. By sculpting master figures of the fallen in Miliput/Sculpey, I could then create a silicon mold and cast casualties from Hydrostone plaster. I've sung the praises of this stuff before, as it gives really clear, crisp details, paints up well, and is very durable. Mounting the casualties on small bases would enhance the durability. Any thoughts? 
Edit: The links now take you to Colonel Hud's main page and the name generator.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Some thoughts on Sharp Practice rules

Here are a few thoughts on the recent Sharp Practice game I played.

Before the game, I determined the natives would outnumber the British platoon by two-to-one, through the simple expedient of recycling casualties. They also had the services of Sunny N’Sher’s mercenary tribal musketeers.

Chief Bubbalazi has an influence of 3, Sub-chief N’Kwana an initiative of 4. Two other nameless leaders with a rating of 1 each commanded one band of ten warriors. Sunny N’Sher also has a rating of 1.

In some regions of Africa, tribal chiefs controlled their warriors from the rear, giving directions and never being expected to engage in combat themselves. In some areas the matter of combat between tribes even extended to having a traditional place of battle. The two sides would meet on the war ground, and fight according to their chieftains’ directions. Whoever lost would withdraw unmolested, the matter settled.

I elected to have Chief Bubbalazi remain in the village. Following the personality factors attached to Big Men in the rules, it turns out he was considerably jealous of N’Kwana, who I rolled-up as Ambitious. N’Kwana was a go-getter type – so Bubbalazi let him go-get killed!

Through luck of the dice, the Barsetshires were handicapped by having a ‘Fine Fellah’ as Big Man 1, and a ‘Young Buck’ as Big Man 2. With initiatives of 2 and 1 respectively, the British groups were slow to get moving in the first half of the game. I like this feature. No more sporty units zipping all over the tabletop at their player's whim. Now the doubts, uncertainties and sheer fog of war creep in.

The rules have provision for another Big Man to step up to the mark if one should be incapacitated. Oddly enough, the cards fell right for them once Sgt. Harrington took over from the wounded Lt. Pike. Corporal Gedge successfully moved up to take Harrington’s role.

I couldn’t find mention of what happens when a group is victorious after a bout of Fisticuffs – does it follow-up automatically, or not? In the end I fudged it, saying a victorious group will do so once only, to reflect increased exhaustion. The melee concerned was complicated by the retreating (British) group falling back on and interpenetrating the reserve section, which the victorious native group promptly ran into.

For the melee itself, I gave the natives the one extra dice per three men fighting (as per ‘Wallahs’ under the rules) to reflect the native’s close combat prowess. Coupled with N’Kwana’s 4 initiative rating, it made the tribal group that struck the British a lethal force to deal with.

Too lethal? Well, the British do have three Breechloader cards allowing the group or formation so armed to fire when it’s drawn. (I added these cards on advice from a Lead Adventurers' Forum member - I think them a good idea). Given the chance, a British group will mow down anything in front of it. If it can’t fire before the natives get into close combat, the situation becomes much more fluid. I think it preserves game balance. There’s always scope, too, for judicious use of line-of-sight blockers on the tabletop to further restrict the Colonial Power’s killing zone. It would also force the Power’s player to use effective tactics.

In the game, the British force got a lucky run of cards. Grasp the Nettle certainly helps, along with At the Double! Once he took over, Harrington was able to direct fire against the victorious native group that had done so much damage. Through lack of activating cards this group stalled after the second melee. After a good ‘sloshing with Martinis,’ they were effectively destroyed, losing Big Man N’Kwana (‘Dulce et decorum est...’), with the few survivors routing.

The Bonus charts for firing/melee didn’t see any use during the game, because not once did more ones than two appear in the dice rolls. Another game or two should see them used.

Shock points are a big feature of the game. As they accumulate, so the group or formation affected becomes less effective. I made markers by means of the PhotoSuite program to indicate Shock. The program has a standard octagon shape, which I sized to my wants then added numbers 1-8 on each face, printing ten or so off on card stock. Pointing the relevant face at the unit shows how much Shock it has accumulated. I might give the markers a wash of brown ink to subdue the whiteness, since it looks intrusive in the photos.

The Blinds saw some use. I deployed four on the tabletop, one of which represented a group (the mercenary musketeers) and a sentry. See the first photo of the tabletop for locations. I diced to see who hid under which Blind. In the event the mercenaries lurked in the brush outside the village palisade, and the sentry was located in the easternmost clump of brush near the river, overlooking the British start line. He activated at once, getting a good run of Sentry cards and movement dice rolls, swiftly making it into the village to report. The other two Blinds I played as dummies, removing them once action was joined.
* * *
After the dust had cleared, the Barsetshires were left with ten ‘dead.’ Since this platoon is engaged in a campaign, I followed the SP rules suggestion of dicing to refine the figures to see who lived to fight another day. The British were in possession of the field, and had a medic available, which I factored in to the result.

I rolled 1d6 for each of the ten. A score of 1-3 meant the casualty was truly dead, 4+ badly wounded. The result came to four dead and seven badly wounded, including Lt. Pike. To refine the figure further, I rolled another d6 for the badly wounded. A score of 1-3 meant permanent discharge due to wounds, 4+ eventual recovery and return to the ranks.

Assistant Surgeon Barrington and his colleagues did a fine job for the men, as only Privates Walters and O’Shea had to be discharged as unfit for further service. Luckily, Lt. Frederick Pike recovered from his wounds, although he now limps on his left leg.

On the whole Sharp Practice rules play well, and I’ll certainly continue to use them. Now to figure out how to represent Gatling guns…

Friday, May 13, 2011

First blood in Ukraziland - Sharp Practice game

The sun rose on Afric's burning shore, and shone upon the men of Baker platoon. Responding to orders from officer and NCOs they climbed the Ukrazi river bank and lined up. Sergeant Albert Harrington eyed the ranks and nodded satisfaction. The men were calm and ready for action. Harrington waited for Lt. Pike to give the order to move off - and waited some more. He scanned the area then glanced at the lieutenant. Pike also surveyed the area, but seemed in a daze, rubbing his chin and looking thoughtful.
     'Orders, sir?' Harrington prompted. Pike glanced at him. 'Hmm? Not yet, Sergeant. Let me think.'
     What on earth is there to think about? Harrington wondered. We're here to do a job, not contemplate infinity.

'There, sir!' Corporal Gedge called from the end of Pike's section. He pointed to the area of scrub and bushes on the right flank. 'Someone running, over there!'
     'It could be a scout, sir,' Harrington said to Lt. Pike. 'We'd better assume the natives will know we're coming.'

Pike sighed. 'Very well, Sergeant. Move your section forward ten paces and halt. I'll leap-frog my platoon past yours. That way we'll be covered if anything else comes out of the undergrowth.'
     'Yessir,' Harrington saluted, barked his orders and his section moved forward.
     Harrington kept the section's pace steady, and halted them on the line. Lt. Pike called out the command to advance, and his section moved up and through the line of Harrington's men. Nothing emerged from the scrub. Harrington sighed inwardly. I didn't expect anything, either. He watched the lieutenant ordering his section into an open box formation. There's caution, and then there's paranoia. Why bother with cumbersome maneuvers? This is Africa, man, not bloody Waterloo!

Meanwhile, in the village, Chief Bubbalazi sat by the storage hut. He weighed up the stash of trade goods confiscated from the idiotic white trader who'd ventured into his lands. Ahuru, his number one wife, worked at the oven nearby, preparing the next meal. From time to time he noticed her casting glances at a crate which he knew contained several bolts of trade cloth. Bubbalazi could guess what her next request would be.
     He was contemplating a mental image of Ahuru dressed head to foot in fine red calico, when a warrior ran in through the gate. The man saluted. 'Red warriors on the river bank, lord!' he shouted in obvious excitement.
     'What?' Bubbalazi roared and sprang out of his seat. That red-clad warriors of the Great White Queen lived farther up the coast was common knowledge, but they'd never ventured into Ukraziland before now. 'What do they here?' Even as he uttered the words, he knew just what the white men were after. He cast a glance at the hut where the trader lay prisoner. 'We'll see about this!' he snapped. 'N'Kwana-a-a!'
     His sub-chieftain emerged from his hut, spear in hand to answer Bubbalazi's summons. 'Lord?' he said, looking from Bubbalazi to the sentry and back.
     Bubbalazi pointed his ceremonial baton at the sub-chief then swept it in an arc to point south. 'We have red warriors on our lands, N'Kwana, down by the river. See them off!'

N'Kwana's teeth flashed in a fierce grin. He turned and saw his warband already assembling behind him. A quick head count showed him ten warriors present, with others emerging from field and hut at the summons. 'Follow me!' he shouted, waved his spear and ran for the gate.
     Bubbalazi watched him go with hooded eyes. Glory hound! Jackal! he thought. Let the gods grant you do us some good, but not at my expense!

Lt. Pike led his men forward to the line of the watercourse, all the while casting wary glances at the vegetation to either side. To his relief the gully was devoid of water, the stony bed long dried under the burning sun of the dry season. 'Halt!' he called, raising his hand. The village was clearly visible now across the gully. Shouts and cries sounded from that direction. I hope I haven't taken too long to get here, he thought. Less haste and more speed, as the good Reverend used to say, but there's a time and place for everything.
     He looked back to see if Sergeant Harrington was moving up. The gentleman ranker seemed capable and level-headed. Pike felt sure he'd be reliable in a pinch.

'Sir!' someone shouted. Pike glanced up, saw a private pointing north, followed the direction of his gaze - and saw a perfect mass of tribal warriors boiling out through the village gate. 

And so it proved. With horrifying swiftness the warriors surged across the gully as if it wasn't there and slammed into Pike's formation. In seconds the British line was engulfed in a hacking, stabbing melee, with no quarter asked nor given. A warrior sprang at Pike, teeth bared, spear raised to thrust. Pike emptied his revolver into him and saw the man fall. 
     Something slammed into his ribs and he felt a hot, scouring pain shoot through him. Stunned, Pike stumbled, and saw a warrior standing over him, bloodied spear raised. From the plumage on his head the man had to be the leader of the warband. With a snarl the warrior thrust again. Pike turned, avoided the fatal thrust, but screamed in pain as the spear point raked along his thigh. He felt a blow to the head and the lights went out.   

Battered, decimated, confused, the British soldiers fell back to the second line, fighting all the way. Flushed with success the warriors followed-up, and the whole mass crashed into the second line.
     Harrington saw them coming, but couldn't fire through fear of hitting his own troops. Instead he found himself fighting for his life in the middle of a ferocious melee.     

A new threat appeared on the British left flank. Unseen by the red soldiers, the mercenary Sunny N'Sher had threaded his command through the thick tangle of undergrowth and into a prime enfilade position. He steadied his musketeers as he watched the fierce hand to hand combat, and awaited the right moment to fire.    

Men fell right and left, but Harrington fought on, his rifle growing increasingly heavy in his hands as he jabbed and thrust with the bayonet. Pike's section had become thoroughly entangled with his own by now. A brief glance showed all those who could reach the second line had done so. 'Fall back to the bank!' Harrington roared over the shouts and screams of battle. 'Fall back to the bank!'

His command was heard and obeyed. Fighting off the tribesmen the men ran back and began to form line. Right back where we bloody well started! Harrington thought, backing away at a smart clip, his face to the foe. God, who'd be a soldier?
    The men looked nervous, fingering their Martin-Henry rifles and watching the enemy. The warriors seemed to have decided celebration was in order. They capered in exuberant fashion on the site of their successful skirmish. Harrington watched their leader trying to get his men under control. Good luck with that, old boy, he thought. I rather fancy my chaps are more amenable to discipline. Lt. Pike had vanished. No time to waste

'Form line!' Harrington bellowed, pushing men into position when they proved slow to act. 'Form line, if you want to see Barchester again!'
     The men obeyed, forming a rough line facing the enemy. 'Five rounds rapid!' Harrington called. 'Present! Fire!'
     Rifles barked, smoke jetted from muzzles, and the solid British infantry proved once again how they dealt with all who faced them in battle. Harrington nodded with fierce satisfaction as the capering party of warriors fell almost as one. The leader spun and dropped, the bright feathers in his hat turning blood red.
     Gunfire erupted from the left. Harrington looked that way and swore when he saw a band of tribal musketeers had appeared at the edge of the scrub.

The immediate threat to the front had vanished. 'Steady lads!' Harrington called, even as Private Lipton gasped and fell to a shot from the brush. 'Platoon, left wheel!' The men marched forward obediently, pivoting to face the enemy. 'Halt! Let's give 'em what for, lads. Volley fire, present, fire!'
     The rifles crashed again. Covered as they were by vegetation the enemy musketeers suffered only lightly, but Harrington suspected their numbers to be few. 'Independent fire!' he called.

The men blazed away. Within minutes the return fire slackened then died away. Harrington caught a glimpse of dark bodies slipping away into the scrub. 'That's the ticket, men! Cease fire.'

With the latest threat negated, he took stock of the situation. Off in the direction of the gully he could see another warband moving up toward the scrub on the right, with the obvious intention of flanking his line. 'We'll see about that,' he muttered under his breath. 'Corporal Gedge! Take six men and line 'em up, facing that scrub.'

Gedge nodded and barked commands. Harrington lined his own men to face the direction of the enemy musketeers. I think they've buggered off, but it pays to be sure, he thought.

Assistant Surgeon Barrington walked up from the river bank, puffing his pipe and looking as calm as if he were on a Sunday morning stroll. He nodded in response to Harrington's salute, and bent to inspect the fallen Private Lipton. 'He'll live, Sergeant,' he called after a few moments. 'I'll take care of him.'
     'Thank you, sir,' Harrington replied.

A volley suddenly crashed out over to the right. Harrington looked across to see the enemy warband had emerged from the scrub - right under the noses of Corporal Gedge's party. Three rounds rapid dealt with that threat. Within minutes the warriors had melted back into the brush, never to return.

Harrington surveyed the scene. The situation looked far more promising. His men were steady now, and, with Lt. Pike missing, his to command. He thought about the mission, and felt it still within their grasp to complete successfully.
     With Gedge's party watching the right flank and his own the left, Harrington ordered the advance. With steady tread the platoon moved off in the direction of the gully. They'd barely covered a few yards before the eerie throb of talking drums filled the air. The troops glanced at each other. Harrington narrowed his eyes. 'Steady as she goes, lads. Keep your eyes peeled, there. What the - ?'
     Feet scuffled as bhisti-wallah Manit Ram and Tobias the bearer ran for the river, their thin wails of fright merging in strange harmony. Harrington rolled his eyes and kept walking. All the blood and violence they've seen today, and those two take fright at the sound of a drum?
     Before long the advance reached the line of Lt. Pike's desperate stand. Harrington looked around the scene. Private Rodman was obviously dead, his unseeing eyes fixed on the blue sky above. His belly had been slashed open, entrails spilled into a fly-covered blue heap. Farther along Lt. Pike lay in a crumpled heap, his eyes closed. Harrington trotted over and checked for a pulse. He felt the faint throb beneath his fingertips, and inspected the lieutenant's wounds. He'd suffered a bad stab to his side below the ribs, a blow to the head and a gashed leg, but at least he was alive.
     Surgeon Barrington had already come up to the fighting line and came at Harrington's call. He knelt to inspect Pike and nodded. 'Another one who'll live to fight another day,' he pronounced with satisfaction.
     Harrington smiled. One less thing to worry about. 'Then if you'll see to him, sir, I'll conclude today's business.'
     He could see no sign of further surprises lurking nearby, and took his first good look at the village. The palisade surrounding it offered an effective barrier to wild beasts, but little in the way of military defense. Tribesmen moved there beyond a rough barrier formed from mimosa bushes. They seemed disinclined to come out to play.
     'Corporal Gedge, form up on me,' he called. Gedge and his men trotted into position. 'Form line,' Harrington ordered, indicating a position beneath the lip of the gully. 'Rose, Moss, stand by me here,' he added, pointing to the top of the bank. 'Everyone load if you haven't already done so.'
     Fresh ammunition went from pouch to breach. 'The target is those fellows at the village gate,' Harrington said, indicating. 'Volley fire by command. Present...' Rifle butts moved to shoulders. 'Fire!'
     The gully filled with smoke as the volley crashed out. From his elevated position on the bank, Harrington could see chips of white wood appear on the palisade logs as bullets struck home.

Before long the men found their range and poured fire into the village. Harrington alternated between gauging the effectiveness of the fire and watching the surrounding terrain for enemy activity. The increasing heat haze made it difficult to see, but he felt in his gut the tribesmen no longer posed a threat outside their village. The talking drum had long since stopped. Whoever the summons had been addressed to had failed to respond.
     Something pink fluttered over the line of brush in the village gateway. Harrington squinted. Is that a parasol? He watched it move violently back and forth then remembered certain tribal leaders favored the parasol as a kind of personal standard. Another volley crashed out, and he saw the parasol jerk as if hit. He could hear the cries of wounded men over there. Now he could make out the cries of women and children. 'Cease fire,' he ordered. 'Stand easy.' His ears rang in the sudden silence, but he could still hear the cries. The parasol appeared again, waggled this time with greater force. 'I think they want to talk.'
     'Can you trust 'em, sarge?' Corporal Gedge wondered.
     'I think we can, George,' Harrington replied. He sucked his teeth for a moment then nodded. 'Let's see. Form line, and follow me.'
     He walked through the single rank of the platoon, trying not to think of the men who'd fallen this day, and crossed the stony floor of the gully. Figures moved in the village and the mimosa barrier was pushed aside far enough for a small procession to emerge. Harrington saw a portly individual dressed in the garb of a tribal chieftain, accompanied by a curious-looking individual carrying the parasol and wearing what appeared to be a Greek chiton. A white man in pith helmet and khaki jacket walked behind them, escorted by a bare-breasted female warrior toting a musket.
     Harrington climbed the low north bank of the gully, and came to parade rest, not taking his eyes off the group coming to meet him. The parasol man stopped a few paces off, produced a low stool and placed it for the chieftain to sit on, which he did with a grateful wheeze. He glared at Harrington, who stared coolly back. The woman warrior used her musket to stop the white man in his tracks. Harrington guessed he had to be Willoughby Pond. Pond stared at him with undisguised anxiety. Beyond a profusion of sweat and scuffed clothing, he looked none the worse for wear from his captivity.
     Someone in the village began to kick up a deuce of a row, wailing like a sackful of banshees. Harrington ignored it, keeping his attention focused on the chieftain. 'You wish to parlay, sir,' he said.

Chiton-wearer translated this to the chieftain, who didn't soften his glare. He growled something in reply, and chiton-wearer turned to Harrington. 'Great Chieftain Bubbalazi says you have come to his land with war in your hearts.' The man's voice sounded cultured, his English accent flawless, and Harrington wondered if he'd attended a British public school. It'll be a rum go if he was at Rugby with me, he thought. Although, with that dress, he could be an Old Harrovian...
     He raised his chin. 'We come seeking our compatriot, this gentleman here. We were attacked by your warriors without warning, without a chance to speak. The White Queen will be very angry. Give us our friend and we'll depart in peace.'
     This was translated. The chieftain glowered then gestured to the woman warrior. She jabbed Pond with her musket, and he tottered forward. 'Oh, my dear chap!' he cried, all but falling on Harrington.
     'Go to the rear, sir,' Harrington snapped, not feeling well-disposed toward a man who'd caused so much death. 'We'll take our leave here, momentarily.'
     'My goods, sir,' Pond murmured, pawing at Harrington's sleeve. 'What about all my trade goods?'
     Harrington gave him a look of pure disgust. 'Men died because of your goods, sir,' he snapped. 'Be thankful you're here with your hide intact. Now go to the rear!'
     Pond sloped off like a beaten cur. The chieftain spoke again, and Harrington looked to the interpreter. 'Great Chieftain Bubbalazi says he does not wish conflict between our peoples. He desires you to tell the White Queen to keep her followers in her lands, as he'll keep his in ours.'
     'That seems fair enough,' Harrington said, although privately he doubted the Powers That Be would keep from interfering in Ukraziland. 'Please tell him we do not seek to reclaim the trader's goods. Let them be some measure of compensation for his losses today.'
     The chieftain nodded approval when this was passed on. Harrington came to attention and saluted. 'Thank you, sir. We'll collect our dead and wounded, and depart.'
* * *
Much later, Harrington leaned on the taffrail of the Altair, smoking a well-earned cigarette as he watched the sun go down over the Ukrazi Delta, and thought on the events of the day.
     Lt. Pike lay below, as comfortable as he could be made with his wounds. Privates Walters, Lipton and Harrison, Burke, Dyer and O'Shea lay severely wounded too, and it remained to be seen how they would fare. Privates Hayward, Walker, Granger and Rodman would soon lie in a corner of a foreign field that would be forever England. As for Willoughby Pond, his profuse expressions of gratitude were being met with polite - and less than polite - rebuff from the men. In consequence he'd retired to a cabin to sulk.
     The last sliver of sun dipped below the horizon and the equatorial dusk came down with its customary rapidity. Harrington heard voices raised in song from somewhere forward, as the men gathered on deck and unwound from the horrors of the day. He pitched the cigarette over the side, watching the red spark trail downward to disappear in the white foaming wake. Enough dwelling on what's done, Albert, old son, he thought. Tomorrow's another day in Her Majesty's service. For tonight, I reckon I've earned my rest.
     Turning his back on Africa, he went forward to join his men.
* * *

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sharp Practice Game - Prelude 2

Another, non-gaming project is taking longer to complete than expected, but I'm on course to play the Sharp Practice game tomorrow. In the meantime, on this stormy coffee-fueled morning, I should add another few thoughts about the rules. 

Under the system, infantry can be Line or Light, with different tactics pertaining to both. This is fine for the more rigid maneuvers of the Napoleonic era, but by Colonial times tactics had evolved somewhat. I decided to rate all British infantry as Light to reflect the greater flexibility.

Firearms are rated on the firing range table as Musket, Baker Rifle, and Minié Rifle (running from shortest to longest range). I see little point in interfering with these. All things being equal, they serve quite well for the ancient smoothbore and rifled muskets used by natives, and the modern Martini-Henry et al used by British troops. In any case, there'll be plenty in the way of vegetation and so on to act as line-of-sight blocks, so no British force can sit at one end of the table and pick-off poorly armed natives at the other.

The native tribes will use a mix of Native American and Wallah rules. They get the extra pip per dice for movement through their home terrain. Bonus cards include Shadow ('Vamose') under the rules, meaning a native group that is out of the line of sight from an opponent may revert to Blind. Bad Medicine remains the same, i.e a native group that has lost the most dead can be forced to withdraw. I've added Good Medicine which gives a native group a Big Man bonus move. Tzeee! is a Zulu war cry. When this card is played the native group loses 1d6 Shock points. Talking Drums causes all native guides and bearers working for the British to take fright and run away. They can only be stopped by a Big Man.

Since SP doesn't have stats for spear combat, for Fisticuffs, natives rate as Wallahs with Big Choppers (stop sniggering at the back there!), gaining an additional dice per three men fighting.     

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sharp Practice Game - Prelude

“Lieutenant Pike reporting, sir.” Fred announced, entering Colonel Trollope’s office. He removed his pith helmet and came to attention in front of the Colonel’s desk.
     Trollope looked him over. “Ah, Pike. Stand easy. Take a pew, in fact, since this may require a little time.”
     “Thank you, sir.” Fred sat in the visitor’s chair, placed his helmet squarely on his lap, and tried to radiate an air of competence and keenness. The Colonel shuffled some papers on his desk, and Fred took the moment to review his record of late. He’d committed no cardinal military sins. His platoon functioned well on maneuvers and made a good show on parade. All in all, there was little prospect of a roasting from the Colonel – but it paid to be wary where the army was concerned.
     Trollope put the papers aside, clasped his hands and leaned forward slightly in his chair. Fixing Fred with a firm gaze he asked “Have you heard the phrase ‘trade follows the flag,’ young man?”
     “Yes, sir.”
     “Good. It’s wrong, y’ know. More often than not, it’s the other way about. Some merchant-adventurer goes where he’s neither wanted nor welcome, and contrives to stir up the natives and whatever passes for local authority. The next thing you know, they’ve laid him by the heels and he bleats for protection from Her Majesty’s Government. HMG feel they have no recourse but to send a gunboat, or an expedition to recover the silly blighter. Before you know it, another few thousand square miles of territory have been added to the Empire, and we’re the poor beggars who have to police it!”
     Somewhat red in the face, Trollope paused and stroked his bushy moustache. Fred sat quietly, wondering where the diatribe would lead to. Eventually Trollope calmed down enough to continue.
     “One such incident occurred recently. A chap by the name of Willoughby Pond has ventured up the coast in an attempt to trade with the Ukrazi tribal confederation. Something or other he did upset the local chieftain, and the natives bagged him. He contrived to get word out, and the Governor has decided Pond needs to be rescued.” Trollope stabbed a forefinger at Fred. “You’re the chap who’s going to do it...”

The small steamer HM Hired Vessel Altair had brought them to the mouth of the Ukrazi River as close to the objective as possible. The ship’s boats conveyed them the rest of the way through the shallows of the delta to a loop in the river near the target.
     Fred stood on the north bank, as his platoon assembled on level ground nearby. Assistant Surgeon Barrington had come along for the experience. He puffed his pipe and watched the troops with an outward appearance of nonchalance, merely nodding when Fred met his gaze. Further off the bhisti-wallah, Manit Ram, stood with Tobias, a local native hired on as a bearer for the expedition. Manit looked calm, Tobias less so. Fred resolved to keep them both out of harm’s way if he could.
     He turned and surveyed the surrounding terrain. Most of it appeared to be level plains country, dotted with stands of elephant grass, brush and small trees. According to the report, Pond was being kept prisoner in a native village about a mile away. Fred could just see the thatched rooftops in the distance. A watercourse ran between him and the objective. It was the dry season, but there might still be water present. Dry or not, it’s going to slow us up, I think.
     The hour was early, barely a few minutes past dawn, and the air felt relatively cool. Time enough to reach the village, recover Pond and return to the river before the day acquired its usual hellish heat. It’s not too much work for a platoon shrunken through sickness to do. He sighed inwardly, all while maintaining an outward appearance of calm. It’s also a long way from the Jervis Street workhouse to here...
     Sergeant Harrington walked up and saluted. “Baker Platoon fallen in, all present and correct, sir!”
     Fred returned the salute. “Very good. Let’s be about it, then, sergeant.”
     Harrington turned and bellowed the command. “Baker platoon advance!”
     As the men moved off, Fred kept pace. Here’s to another glorious episode in the history of the Barsetshire Regiment…he thought.

Baker Platoon, Able Coy. 2nd Battalion Barsetshire Regiment, Lt. Frederick Pike commanding.

1st Section. Sgt. Albert Harrington.
Pvt. Rose, Henry
Pvt. Walters, John
Pvt. Granger, George
Pvt. Lipton, Thomas
Pvt. Harrison, William
Pvt. Bell, John
Pvt. Walker, Alfred
Pvt. Moss, Frederick
Pvt. Hayward, Henry

2nd Section.
Cpl. George Gedge.
Pvt. Warren, Phillip
Pvt. Rodman, Frank
Pvt. Burke, William
Pvt. Hare, Geoffrey
Pvt. Monk, Lionel
Pvt. Higgins, Daniel
Pvt. Dyer, Arnold
Pvt. Desmond, Charles
Pvt. O’Shea, Patrick

All troops are rated Good. Lt. Pike will attach himself to 2nd Section.

There’s little in the way of finesse on this mission. The objective is to reach the native village, locate and recover Willoughby Pond, and return to the Altair’s boats waiting just off table.
* * *
I'm rather sad to see Major-General Tremorden-Reddering's wargames site seems to have vanished. A truly inspirational source of ideas and fun, it hadn't been updated for quite some time. It seems the owner no longer games. Sadly missed.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sharp Practice Game

I plan to play out the first game of my Sharp Practice Colonial adaptation sometime next week. It'll be a solo run-through featuring a British raid into potentially hostile territory. The map is shown above. More soon.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sharp Practice thoughts - Characters

Lt. Frederick Pike, of The Royal Barchester Regt. at the ready
One of the things I like about the Sharp Practice rules is the element of role-playing involved. Each Big Man has a number of dice-generated characteristics which lead to him developing a personality. This in turn leads to the gamer investing a deal of interest in him, which I think leads to more realistic handling of units under the Big Man's command.

I don't have the Terrible Sharp Sword supplement to Sharp Practice - yet - but the blurb promises the means to develop a unit from the ground up.  

Terrible Sharp Sword includes a complete campaign system, allowing you to recruit your force, appoint officers and NCOs, equip and train them then take to the field. A range of scenarios and tabletop maps allows you to fight your war, to develop your men's skills and your leaders' abilities, to take your force from being greenhorns through to veterans and beyond.

All good stuff.

My initial games will be between a weak platoon of British infantry supported by a mountain gun, with a small RAMC contingent, against a tribe of natives, mostly spear-armed, supported by a small mercenary force armed with outdated firearms.

To lead them, here's the first cast of Big Men I generated.

British. The Royal Barchester Regt. 

Lt. Frederick Pike. A fine fellah, he's an average stamp in terms of health. Unfortunately in terms of looks he has a face like a dog's arse with a hat on. Pike has never done anyone any harm, and comes from the humblest of beginnings - the workhouse. In spite of this disadvantage, he's an accomplished swordsman and shot, and an occasional horseman. A man of letters, he has a talent with figure-work and coding.

Sgt. Albert Harrington. A young buck, strapping fellow and a pleasant lookin' chap. A popular cove with an honorable disposition, he's a gentleman ranker from serious money, who has risen in the ranks through sheer ability. An accomplished swordsman, shot, and occasional horseman.

Natives. The Ukrazi Tribe & Allies.

Chief Bubbalazi. A jolly good chap in terms of influence, he's a sickly cove, with plain looks, and is universally detested. A nouveau-riche type, lion-hearted, and a good hand with a spear, honorable - up to a point - envious of success in others. 

Sub-Chief N'Kwana. A cock o' the walk, average stamp, and a handsome, lecherous devil with an eye for the ladies. To the manor born, he has serious wealth. A fair spearman, he's also a cad and a lush. He has his eye on Bubbalazi's throne - and Bubbalazi suspects as much.

Sonny N'Sher. Mercenary. A young buck and strapping fellow, N'Sher has a face like a warthog. In spite of this, he's universally loved and his men will do anything for him. To the manor born, his family is in serious decline, so N'Sher lives in abject poverty. His life experiences haven't embittered him however. He's chivalrous, and an accomplished shot. A countryman, his expertise in reading sign is much admired.
So, a good cast of Big Men, with interesting characteristics, all randomly generated through dice rolls. On balance, the native leaders have a greater level of command influence than the British platoon's. How this will serve them against modern weaponry remains to be seen. I aim to play out an encounter between the two forces in the next week or so.  

home page uniques