Queen Victoria’s Little Wars, Sharp Practice, 28mm
For the past few years, my pal Dougie and I had figures on loan to each other. I had his WW2 Italian fleet, while he had my Indian mutiny figures. I got my “pandies” back during the Christmas holidays, and returned his ships. This proved an expensive move, as I needed opposition for both forces. I landed up buying my own Italian ships (I haven’t built and painted them yet though), and I’m in the middle of raising a few units of British troops, to fight my mutineers. Fortunately another pal – Chris – has British already, and so we decided to play a game using Sharp Practice, the large-scale skirmish set of rules from the Too Fat Lardies. This game was very much a learning one – we wanted to try out the rules – and re-engage with this “lost” period.The game involved a British column coming up a road, and running into a town defended by the mutineers. Naturally the British were outnumbered, with six “groups” of mutineer foot (each 10 strong), two groups of mutineer cavalry (each eight strong), two mutineer guns, and three groups of badmash scum (each twelve strong). The British had two groups of highlanders, two of line infantry (all eight strong), plus two groups of cavalry and two of Ghurkha riflemen (each six strong). In addition, another group of Ghurkhas was holed up in a building in the town, defending a group of European civilians, led by the formidable Lady Charlotte. The British mission – apart from killing “pandies” – was to rescue the civvies.As this was a fairly big skirmish game we roped in a few other players – Bart, Campbell and Peter. With Chris that gave us two a side, while I acted as the umpire. Sharp practice is all about “Big Men ” (or women in the case of Lady C.). When their card is turned up that leader can activate a “group” (what the rules call a unit of 6-12 figures), combined them into larger “formations”, rally shock” from groups, move, or inspire groups or formations to charge the enemy.It all worked pretty well, with the British coming under artillery fire from the start, but pressing on down the road, while the Ghurkas and the cavalry advanced on their flanks. While the mutineer has an edge in artillery – the British didn’t have any – the British had an edge in small-arms, as we’d armed them all with Enfield rifles, which had twice the range of the smoothbore muskets used by the mutineers. The game didn’t get very far though. For various reasons it developed slowly, as the British advance was hindered by taking “shock” from artillery fire, and from bad movement dice. Still, the Ghurkas got into range, and began killing a few “pandies” at long range. Then Bart, commanding the mutineer cavalry – charged forward, and a cavalry battle ensued. In the first clash the mutineers were repulsed by a sole group of British lancers, but in the next bout both sides held their won, and a swirling cavalry battle ensued. Both sides took casualties, and although the mutineer horse were driven back, the British were so laden with “shock” markers that it would take time for their “Big Men” to resume their advance. That’s where we left the game, as Chris had to pack up early – he had a long drive home.We enjoyed the game though, and the rules worked a treat. We vowed to play another Indian Mutiny game again next week, and in the meantime I was inspired enough to paint up some of my newly-arrived British figures from Iron Duke miniatures. Sharp Practice is getting re-issued by the too Fat Lardies, and some of the guys in the Edinburgh club have been playtesting them. It a way this is a problem, as we like the rules “as is”. They work, and work well. Sure, they could be slicked up a little, and the designers might find a way to improve the way troops of different morale grades interact – very important for Mutiny games – but right now these rules do the job, and do it well.