Thursday, 31 August 2017

A Final (?) game of Sharp Practice

Steve, General Ballroom and I convened for a game at the Ilko Gaming Hut last week.
Usually the preceding 48 hours of the three of us playing are riven with emails passing back and forth as we attempt to agree on a game to play.
However on this occasion it was easy.
General B asked the question and Stephen replied Sharp Practice.
The two of us immediately called his bluff and agreed. So Sharp Practice it would be.
I took the British, Steve the French and the good General read the rules so we'd know what we were doing.

We ended up playing the Sweep mission from the rulebook and set up the deployment points on a very splendid looking table.

 Voltigeurs arrive

 Others seize the hill

The farmhouse is searched!

There were then three or four rounds of cards being drawn during which the French fully deployed and began searching for Creamy Beatrix before a single British unit arrived.

"Ou sont les anglais?"

However when it did it was with devastating effect as the British senior officer and his large unit arrived on the flank of some incautiously advancing Frenchmen and enfiladed them to extinction.

 "Have some of that Jonny Frenchie"

 Thin red line

And from the other side

In the centre French infantry arrived and began to fire on the British flank but in return recieved fire from the British Light troops.

At last the British deploy

 Forward mes braves!

Give fire!

An attempt at a charge by the French was likewise met with strong fire from the British which bought them to a halt.

The advance is halted

With an unharmed unit of infantry advancing on one of the remaining objectives and much of his army shocked or dead the French ceded the field to the redcoats.

 Redcoats close on the objective

The French prepare to withdraw

Unfortunately, whilst the company was convivial, the soldiers splendid and the table terrific the rules were rotten really not enjoyed by everyone.
There's a "fussiness" about them that sits ill with the members of the Sherwood Hucknall and Ilkeston Team. Fussiness is perhaps unfair (though some of the lists of modifiers would seem to confirm it) possibly fairer to say there's a level of detail that requires more effort than we see rewarded. For some gamers this level of detail may be exactly what they want (and clearly judging by the popularity of the rules that's quite a large number of gamers) but for us they're the wrong side of the equation.
We also had some quibbles about the scale - it's a skirmish and yet the unit movement restrictions seem more akin to much larger conflicts. On the other hand your ability to move said units is affected by your leader standing in some poo. Is it a role-playing game or a mass battle game? For us it felt an uncomfortable mix of the two.
The rules are also just a bit hard to get your head around. At least for us simpletons. I've now tried four Lardy rules sets and it's quite telling that the ones I've most enjoyed and have played best have been the ones where someone really knew the rules and could explain them. The two where I've tried to teach myself from the rulebook (Dux Brit and SP) have been a bit of a slog.

It's a shame - I *want* to like the rules better than I do and it feels like there's a good game in there somewhere but at the moment I'm not feeling it (and certain other S.H.I.T.ers are even less enthused) so I think, sadly, we'll be looking elsewhere for our Napoleonic jollies.


  1. Nice looking game....Interesting thoughts....on the rules I am coming the conclusion that for me the rules must be as invisible as they can be, the games I enjoy are all the ones where I have gamed enough not to look in a book to check. They need to give a feel for the period and provide some reasonable balance and chance but mustn't be so complex as to create a barrier from the game as soon as they are they encourage competitive play and then the game is over for me. We all enjoy our army winning but not by using the rules !😀

    1. Yes, the invisibility (or otherwise) of the rules was an issue for Steve in particular. This may be what I mean by fussiness above.
      I think we felt that we'd have to commit quite a lot of energy and time to getting ourselves to that level of comfort with SP and that it was unlikely to happen before we got bored and started playing something else. This possibly says more about us than it does about the rules!
      TBF I don't think SP will ever encourage the kind of competitive play you describe, it's very much a narrative type game aimed at storytelling - which is what I seek and why I'm sad about not getting the sort of game I was hoping it would give.

  2. Interesting post. We have for sometimebeen mulling over skirmish rulesets for Napoloeonics and have considered both Sharp Practice and Chosen Men. Neither seem to grab me at the moment.

    I keep coming back to Muskets and Tomahawks and with a few tweaks this set might deliver the type of skirmish game you are looking for

    1. Funnily enough the three of us have just started painting up FIW forces for M&T.
      Looking forward to see how it plays.
      TBH, for Nap Skirmish I think Song of Drums and Shakos is hard to beat. But that's a proper skirmish game (ten or so models per side) I think it'd be rather lost in your cavernous shed :)