Top chums Paul and Colin have got me in to Sharp Practice in a big way, so Paul and I started with a straightforward encounter between his French and my Anglo-Portuguese. It was a jolly good fun game and an ideal re-introduction to the rules for me. Interestingly, just one moment from this first small-ish game led to the scenario for the game I'm blogging about below... right at the close of that first game the young Light Company Lieutenant Archie Carruthers was knocked out during a French attack and his men forced to retreat. We decided that he'd been captured. After some discussion (and possibly a few beers) Paul and I agreed that the next game would be a rescue mission. You see, Archie's uncle is none other than Colonel The Honourable Sir Horace Barkinge-Madd, a senior member of Sir Arthur Wellesley's staff.
The Battle of Capela do Campo das EstrelasThe French, led by the newly promoted Captain Pierre d'Escargot, have removed young Carruthers to a nearby Chapel whilst they decide what to do with him. His wounds have been treated and he has been fed, but French Intelligence led by the shadowy Major Côdu want to 'talk' to him, so he remains under guard.
The Anglo-Portuguese Force
Captain Richard Blunte (III)
Sergeant Patrick Cockburn (I)
Two groups of 95th Rifles
Lieutenant Hugh Jercock (II)
Two groups of British Light Infantry in Line
The above two formations are the Light Company of the entirely fictitious Royal Somerset Regiment.
Capitão Jorge Vincente (II)
Sargento Macedo (I)
Three groups of Caçadores in Line
Açougueiro - "The Butcher" (I)
One group of Portuguese Partisans
Lieutenant The Hon. Humphrey Gore (I)
One group Light Dragoons
The French Force
Capitaine Pierre d'Escargot (III)
Three groups of Line Infantry
Lieutenant Victor Feu (II)
Two groups of Line Infantry
Lieutenant Rennie Lescun (II)
Two groups of Grenadiers
Lieutenant Francois Rapido (II)
Sergent Hector Soixante-Neuf (I)
Three groups of skirmishing Voltigeurs
Sergent Paul Galop (I)
One group Dragoons
Sergent Louis Souple (I)
Plus one group of infantry tasked with guarding Carruthers in the church
The intrepid exploring officer Major Bruce Colborne and his contacts amongst the Portuguese partisans have located the missing Lieutenant, so Captain Richard Blunte has been tasked with leading a rescue mission.
The Light Company of 1st Btn The Royal Somerset Regiment (a mix of Rifles & Redcoats), Vincente's Caçadores, Açougueiro and his partisans, along with a detachment of the 16th Light Dragoons were marching to the rescue. However, a Bonapartist spy (the rogue, Grasiento Bastardo) has informed the French and they are making ready!
The French quickly deployed both line troops and numerous skirmishers to hamper the rescue. This forced Lt Hugh Jercock to bring his redcoats on to protect the primary deployment point. This was quickly followed by a stunning series of cards for the French that meant Rapido's Voltigeurs were able to inflict a tremendous amount of shock on Jercock's light bobs.
|Lt Jercock holds the hill as Voltigeurs advance through the wood|
This in turn led to Capitão Vincente bringing on some of his men to shore up the right flank and give the redcoats some time to rally off the shock. This really shifted the balance of the game with four groups of allied line troops struggling to hold off three groups of French skirmishers.
|Vincente arrives to relieve Jercock's men|
Across the table, Major Colborne and the Partisans expertly guided Blunte, Cockburn and the Rifles to the church. The green-jackets wasted no time and a furious battle quickly ensued.
|The first attack goes in!|
To my astonishment the first attack by the rifles was thrown back in disarray - have those Frenchers not seen Sharpe on the telly? With French cavalry and artillery now being brought up it was clear that the Rifles needed help, so Capitão Vincente directed Sargento Macedo to lead a detachment of Caçadores to assist the rifles as they prepared to storm the church again.
|Right lads, let's try again!|
As the battle at the church raged on, the Partisans and the rest of the Light Company tried to stem the French advance as d'Escargot's men sought to close the door on any Allied escape route, whilst the cavalry waited for Blunte to extract Carruthers.
The fight at the Church continued with the valiant defenders retreating to the roof and barricading the stairs. Covering fire from Blunte's men on the ground outside the church helped to keep the French busy but alas a stray rifle shot grazed Carruthers' shoulder - poor fellow!
|Carruthers is wounded!|
The Caçadores proved their "fighting cocks" reputation and the few battered French defenders, duty done, finally surrendered. Hearing the call that Carruthers was freed, Gore's dragoons moved up to collect him. In doing so they drew the attention of the rapidly advancing French line and suffered terrible losses from d'Escargot and Feu's coordinated musketry.
|Cavalry were waiting just out of shot by the wood|
With the light failing and the French drawing in on all sides it was every man for himself! The allies slipped away but in the whirling confusion the Dragoons mislaid Carruthers. He was last seen by Blunte galloping for the higher hills.
What a superb game that proved to be! Some tense and dramatic moments along with some real comedy too. Paul was, as ever, a splendid opponent and was kind enough to point out a few subtleties of the rules as we went along. I certainly felt that I played much better in this game now that I'm getting a firmer grip on the rules.
Our next game will see both sides searching a remote mountain settlement for the errant Lieutenant. I set the table up but we didn't really have enough time to play so we agreed to postpone rather than try to rush things. Here's the tiny village of Vila Nova de Capelo.
Each force will enter from one of the short table sides. Carruthers will be hiding in one of the buildings. Each building will have 3 cards (4 for the church) and Carruthers will be represented by the joker. The cards are shuffled then dealt out to the buildings. To search a building, one or more groups must enter the building but cannot shoot as they are busy searching. If the British are searching then they may look at all the cards for the building - Archie will hear English voices and reveal himself. The French must search for him; each group searching may draw one card, if it's not the joker then discard it. The group may remain in the building to search again next time they are activated. If found by the French then Archie will automatically be captured, place him next to the leader of the group. The winner is the first to escape with Carruthers by moving back to their primary deployment point.