Friday, January 19, 2018

The battle of Parramatta Road 1816

More of my knowledge about 19th century warfare comes from watching movie matinees than I would care to admit.

Typically, in these movies, a company/platoon/troop wanders off into the wilderness, threatened as much by the conflict between the handsome commanders (and a femme fatale), as by the dogged, skillful and honourable tribesmen fighting for freedom.

Now there are some skirmish rules I like, Sharpe Practice and The Men Who Would Be Kings to name two. In my head though, the 'groups, in these rules act like companies.

In the movies, the impossibly handsome commander growls: "Corporal o'Brian, take two men and sout that gully". Every time the two men get tomahawked, while Corporal o'Brian staggers back to the main body, to be ministered to by the "love interest". Perhaps the impossibly handsome commander should have sent five men and Sergeant Smith.

In my search for a set of rules that fits this niche I bought "Smooth and Rifled" and played the big version. To be honest my opponents found controlling several units overwhelming, and rules in English are a bit hard to understand.

Still, there were things I really liked:
  1. A man could act as an individual, or as part of a group using the same mechanisms.
  2. Fire can be by crashing volleys, or by a popping individual fire
  3. The army lists make different forces act quite differently.
The author of Smooth and Rifled, Lorenzo Sartori said that  he wanted to do a second edition and could I help. Therefore I decided to play the medium version of the game again.

My friend, who you might know as "Happy Wander" latest obsession interest is the Australian Frontier Wars. Now, in Australia we envy overseas wargamers who get to play games that happened a few miles away. So I find the opportunity to game the local tribes fight against colonisation very interesting.

So we decided to try Smooth and Rifled (with quite a few rules amendments).

The game is set at Cleland's Farm on a bend of Parramatta Road  which runs westwards from Sydney in 1816. A section of the Rum Corps has been detailed to keep the road clear of some combative elements of the Eora tribe.

The main body  comes marching up the road preceded by Private Jonno Smith who sees trouble behind every ghost gum.

Meanwhile Sergeant Parr select four of the less inebriated privates to scout the bush to the south of the road. 

The thick bush means that Parr's detachment losses contact with the column.

While the main body swings on down the road.

Private Smith thinks he sees something, nah, its just a kan-ga-roo

 Wrong! Angry warriors rise silently out of the thick bush.

One warrior dashes forward and throws a spear into poor Private Smith

The commotion in the bush stops the regular troops in their tracks

While a cloud of spears from between the gum trees knocks two off their feet.

Overcoming their shock, the regulars deploy into line, poke their heads into the bushes and open fire. Skippy looks on disapprovingly.

A frantic exchange of musket balls and spears develops

But the tribesmen melt back into the bush like ghosts.

 To the South Sergeant Parr thinks he spots a Wombat

Instead spears fly out of nowhere.

A frantic hand to hand struggle in the bush starts

But all of Parr's men are soon captured.

The yells from the bush to the front and rear is more than the Rum Corp can stand. They break and don't stop running till they get back to Sydney.

Which was just as well as there were nine more warriors in farmer Cleland's back garden

Monday, January 15, 2018

Sharp Practice in a confined space

My first few games of Sharp Practice left me impressed by the range of rules that covered so much of large skirmish warfare. However me and my gaming friends were also frustrated by the time it took to play a game. We are time poor wargamers.

After much hypothesising we decided to see what a game on a half sized table would feel like.

This 50 point encounter game is set in the Indian Mutiny (First War of Independence) and is on my new 3 x 4 foot table. The Mutineers/Freedom fighters are deploying from Raja's elephant and the top of the picture. The British column is deploying out the wagon on the bottom left.

The mutineers have already deployed a few groups, so is a British minor character urging the British column forward.

As more Indian surge down the road, I realise that if the Indian's had brought on cavalry they could have overrun my deployment point already.

Luckily a small unit of miffed Indigo Planters arrive to protect the wagon, and their profits.

As yet more mutineers surge down the road, the British commander; Charles Wutherington Inbred Smyth arrives with a column of the 9th regiment of foot.

Instead of pushing up the road to confront the Mutineers, Wutherington Inbred Smyth sends the column to the west of the building in the hope that the Indigo planters can hold the road. This will put them in an excellent flanking position.

As the mutineers  attack  down the road is they are delayed as one company complains of thirst (random event). In sorting this out, the mutineer commanders failed to spot a naval gun positioned next to the building.  (it hadn't deployed yet) Imagine their horror as their ranks are swept by grapeshot.

The naval gunners have their own problem as sparks from the gun set fire to the building next to them (another random event).

The dogged indigo planters keep up a steady fire to keep India, British.

 The 9th regiment step-out around the house, deploy toface some sepoy rabble who get in their way. There are enough command cards in the next line to do a "thin red line" on them. It was over so quickly there wasn't time to take a photograph.

The exultant 9th then step-out and cross the field, leaving a company to observe some sepoy rabble lurking on the flank.

The 9th regiment sweeps around to take the mutineer formation in the flank. A combination of grapeshot to the front (shock doubled), and crashing volleys to the flank (shock doubled and doubled again) is more than any troops could be expected to stand. Their commander order them to retire. Victory to the British, long live the queen!

Perhaps to our surprise, Sharp Practice works better on a small table than on a large one, and we will be playing it this way from now on.