Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Sharp Practice II Africa

Well, here we go. Using SP2 lists for the sepoy rebellion I decided to play Darkest Africa.

I had only a vague idea of armies to use and struggled to make up some of the large numbers of troops needed for the irregular African and Arab slaver force. I decided on the following:

German Landing Party

Level 3 Leader + Level 1 Leader and Two groups of Regulars with Rifled Musket (Thin Red Line, Stubborn and Sharp Practice)

Level 2 Leader and Two Groups of Conscripts (Askari) with Rifled Musket (Stubborn)

Level 1 Leader and Native Skirmishers

Level 1 Leader and a Medium Cannon

Ammunition Cart

Arab Slavers of Tippu Tib

Level 3 + Level 1 Leaders and Three Groups of Slavers - Musket and Weedy Coves

Level 2 Leader and Two Groups of Militia (mix of Arabs and Natives) - Musket + Poor Shots + Weedy Coves

Level 1 Leader and Skirmishers (Arabs)

Level 1 Leader and Badmashers with Musket (Native Musketmen)

Level 1 Leader and Badmashers with Big Choppers (Natives with Spear and Shield)

Level 1 Leader and 1 Small Smoothbore Cannon

Witch Doctor + 1 Relic

The battefield ... I think I have terrain worked out if playing French Indian war but for ACW and Africa I am still making guesses for how much terrain to use. 

In the end I decided to go on what "looked" like Africa in my mind and just see how troops coped with this situation. It may have been a greater aid to the Arab Slavers as the longer range of the rifled musket was not very effective in the game. 

The scenario was one we had not tried - 'Rescue.' Lady Fanny is pictured above. She was guarded by an additional Level 1 Leader and 8 Arab Musketmen. After reading the scenario I decided that these troops should be additional to the forces chosen. I am still not sure whether this was the correct choice. The Arabs guarding Lady Fanny were completely ineffectual in any case (I didn't even get a photo of them as they were so quickly blown apart by German naval troops accurate fire - it was sadly to be their best shooting for the entire night.) Lady Fanny stood expectant on the roof for the rest of the evening as no real attempt was made to rescue her ... events moved too swiftly in other parts of the field. 

A long shot of the table. On the hill the Askari move into a firing position on the hill. This was lightly wooded and the cover was prized by both sides. In the first turn the Germans were able to place their whole army on the table. This photo actually shows the third turn. The Arab only had one deployment point (marked with an orange disk) and could only bring on one leader + troops per turn. At the beginning it felt like the Germans were going to deliver a thrashing to the Slavers. 

The main command of Tippu Tib came onto the table and stood up to some light fire from the Askari among the rocks on the hill. They were soon to give them a taste of their own medicine. 

The main German line blasting the last of the Arab guardsmen away around Lady Fanny. Their fire was so effective in the first round (6 dead and 1 shock) that the captive was in serious danger from the hail of murderous fire. Narrowly she escaped. 

It was about turn 3 when the Arab commanders realised that they could win by monstering the German forces guarding the way out and taking their primary deployment point. Troops moving to snipe at the German naval forces were diverted to shoot the already thinning line of Askari. Three units of Arab musketmen, the skirmishers and the smoothbore cannon were all tasked with this role. 

Smoke puffs mark the fire that gnawed at the palm trees and glanced off the rocks surrounding the Askari's position. The first fire and controlled fire bonuses lead to many casualties. (After the game we all reflected that these gave poor troops a real chance against the much more points costly opponents. It seemed a little too good for them in fact. A smaller elite force seemed quite hard to play.) Pictured is a large column of two units of 10 Arab militia who have just marched onto the table. The Arab deployment area was getting very congested. 

With speed the new arrivals formed a line to guard the flanks and rear of the main Arab attack from the now advancing German troops. Could these hold?

Meanwhile, Arab skirmishers and musketmen chase the retreating Askari over the hill. The Askari had gathered too much shock and their fight was done. Both units were around or below 50% and had 7 or 8 shock each. If the Arabs could catch them a massacre would ensure. 

The Germans how ignored Lady Fanny and tried to blast the Arabs and save their friends. Unfortunately they could not advance quickly enough. 

With blood curdling cries the Arabs ran up the slope but stumbled among the rocks and trees. Their movement dice roles were not sufficient to catch the Askari ... for now. 

The Germans loaded and fired using every card they could to bolster their shooting. 

By now it was an avalanche pouring toward the Askari and the primary German deployment point. Two groups of badmashers now stormed onward. 

The Arab militia on the flank were performing their role well. Shock was slowly building and they lost a man every now and then but the attrition was gradual enough to hold up the Germans best troops. Tippu Tib also had the Witch Doctor ready to remove 1d6 shock which would enable one group to hold the line that little bit longer. 

But that time never arrived as it was obvious to everyone the Arabs had smashed the Germans. The Askari had been caught and slaughtered sending moral tumbling down. The German main line was still held up leaving a cannon guarding the the primary deployment point against a wave of mostly untouched Arab units (4 at least.) This would leave two badmashers to attack the German native skirmishers who had languished on the flank throughout the game without a shot fired. (Although Arab moral was only ever 8 and was down to six for most of the game.) 

On reflection the game appeared very hard for the poor Germans. We discussed tactics long into the evening but all agreed that the nuances of the cards were still left to be unlocked by us. Being forced to split their forces certainly aided their demise (as they needed to rescue the captive and guard the primary deployment point to ensure escape.) Less terrain may also have helped. Giving the German naval troops repeating rifles (breech loaders) would also be a possibly good idea. 

Another point we also agreed on was that playing Sharps II often was good ... but swapping setting and period each week was probably not aiding us in learning to play at a deeper level. So far we have played Sharp's French Indian wars, American Civil War and Colonial Wars in Africa. All fun but it is possible that we are not working out how to really play any well. This was certainly shown this evening as the wave of poor troops crushed everything in its path and it seemed that, with first fire and controlled fire bonuses (even if only available once), they could do significant damage to the regular units that would be enough to disable them rendering them useless (and prone to attack.) 

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