Sharp Practice 2 – Second Game – ACW in 15mm
Charles came over recently for his baptism of fire in Sharp Practice 2, while it was my second game. As I had left the table set up from my recent solo effort, we opted for another ACW game in 15mm. Charles chose to lead the Confederate forces, while I headed up the boys in blue. The force list remained the same as well, which can be found here:
The Rebs began by deploying on their far right near their primary deployment point with a mix of skirmishers and regular troops. As they were deploying first, they were able to extend the range of their deployment options being that a wooded area blocked line of sight from the Union deployment point and several CSA Leaders were drawn early in the turn.
The Union deployment point was in the center section of the table, and the majority of the Yanks made it on table within the first couple of turns and began forming up for the engagement to come. With the Confederates out of sight beyond the trees, the line of blue troops began to slowly make its way through the wooded area on their left, while the rest spread out in the fields to their right. The stone wall, located at roughly center of the table, would anchor the right, while the trees should afford some cover on the left. All looked good for the Bluebellies…
On the Rebel right, the lead group of skirmishers took refuge along the farm fence and traded blows with the Yankee skirmishers that had deployed in the woods to meet them. As the skirmishers traded mostly ineffective shots, the overall battle heated up in the middle.
By mid-engagement the Yankee units formed a hook-like line anchored firmly on the left by the skirmishers who were now accompanied in the woods by the largest of the Union formations, with the right extending along the stone wall. All the infantry nicely formed into line formations, with skirmishers on the flanks. The Confederate skirmishers were taking heavy casualties and their leader caught a well aimed skirmisher ball.
While the Union position appeared firm, the appearance was quite deceiving. Captain Charles had deployed his largest CSA formation, 24 troops led by the able “Leader I” (I really need to name these guys…), in the middle on the high ground, and his second infantry formation consisting of 16 troops just to their right. This gave them an excellent firing position on the Yanks as they moved across the fields toward the stone wall. They heaped great amounts of pain on the advancing bluecoats with scant harm taken in return. The mounting shock on the Union center and right would play heavily in the endgame.
Charles had to depart before the conclusion, but I soloed on as I wanted to see the outcome. As I had not tried out the “fisticuffs” rules yet, the South decided to close and finish their Northern brothers in melee. With the battle being set in 1863, the Confederates had an advantage in troop quality (likely one of reasons the “cost” of CSA is higher vs. USA units on the support tables), and I wanted to see if it would make that big of a difference. Both Confederate infantry formations (still almost at their original strength of 40) closed on the center Union formations. The largest Rebel formation hit the Yankee line (now partially positioned along the stone wall) and a massive melee occurred, with roughly 20-30 troops on each side. Despite attacking across the wall, the superior troop quality of the Confederate troops was enough to even the odds. Casualties were roughly equal on each side, BUT the Yankee groups had suffered substantial shock from previous fire and the casualties resulted in broken formations and broken groups. As the Yank infantry fell back, their cannon finally made it into position and fired one punishing shot. It was, however, too late. By that time, the Confederates were reforming and firing hotly into the faltering Yankee infantry causing the Union morale to plummet. The South was victorious.
For this scenario, I used the same forces and board layout as in my initial solo effort, with the only changeup being the sides from which the forces entered. It played very differently than the first run through, much of which is owed to the system’s ability to create plausible and entertaining narrative. Decisions from the commanders were not always obvious and the friction created by the activation system added plenty of game “drama.” SP2 moved up a notch in my book and Charles seemed to enjoy it as well – always a bonus. We’ll have another game soon and introduce our friend Colin to the system.
Command Cards – actually wood tiles for me – really add a lot to the game play with their myriad optional uses. (Maybe a bit overwhelming the first few games, but hey.) These also lend a lot to the historical period feel of each force and a judicious commander can use command cards to their distinct advantage in the right situation. “Rebel Yell,” for example, is specific to the ACW Confederate force lists and then only to specific units. The player must astutely decide when to make use of their command cards, else they may lose them with a draw of the “tiffin,” and thus turn end. Flavor and friction – all good for a game.
I am also liking the game in 15mm. I haven’t played in 28mm, but I tend to think that while 28mm may be somewhat “prettier,” the table may be too cramped for my tastes. (And, well, I have enough 15mm troops to field a nice force on both sides of the line.) The appearance of the table, the ability of formations to maneuver, and to form up on each other works well at 15mm on a 4’ x 6’ table. So very glad to have this one in my gaming repertoire.