Sunday, 11 August 2019

Hold the Bridge and Mind the Muskets - Sharp Practice II

In case you regularly follow posts about games here on the DWG Blog and you hadn't spotted it, we're running our second 'Clotted Lard' gathering at next month's September club meeting, where we will be hosting all things Lardie in the wargaming world, 'Devon-Style', which will mean a cream tea sometime in the afternoon as well as lots of great games and fun, with all proceeds from the show going to 'Combat Stress'.

As part of our club contribution, games wise, Bob brought along his Napoleonic Sharp Practice collection to host a Peninsular War style action as a warm up game for next month in which I will have the pleasure of taking part.

Too Fat Lardies - Sharp Practice II

Having spent the best part of three weeks last month touring key Peninsular War battle sites about which I am currently running a series of posts on JJ's Wargames- Peninsular War Tour 2019 , I was more than happy to 'scratch the Napoleonic itch'; and Sharp Practice is a set of rules that I really want to get better acquainted with particularly after watching Rich and Nick engaging in a very amusing play-through of an AWI scenario on Lard TV, see link below.

Lard TV - Playing AWI with Sharp Practice II

I have long fostered the idea of building a new AWI collection at the 28mm Sharp Practice level of game which seems very suitable for a lot of the action that occurred in the war, not to mention the variable quality of units that really enliven these smaller battles; so I have just started that little project, more anon.

Anyway, back to our game yesterday, which saw a British Light Company tasked with holding a small fortified house full of captured French muskets close to a small river and road bridge.

Our scenario was set just after the battle of Salamanca which saw the French in full retreat looking to make good their escape and likely to be heading in the direction of our position.

The village above the river was occupied by three groups of Light Companies operating in line, supported by some rifles and skirmish light companies, whilst my command able to deploy from the small barn seen on the extreme right of picture consisted of four skirmish groups of riflemen and two of light infantry. The large house in the centre held the French muskets.

Unknown to the British commander was that a French force was on the way from the opposite direction to the battle with orders to secure the bridge to enable the Army of Portugal to make good its escape, thus the small Light Company was likely to end up as the meat within the sandwich!

On the plus side was the fact that our bold light bobs could expect support at some predetermined time from our Spanish allies, sent to help secure the position.

Looking at the table from the Salamanca side, from which we might expect to see some Spanish allies at some point

So an interesting set up with the French interested in grabbing and controlling access to the bridge and the British primarily directed to secure the French arms stash and the Spanish doing something else!

An interesting start to the game commenced with about five 'Tiffin' chits coming out the bag with hardly anybody deployed on the table, as the British were keen to just observe before opting to place troops on it.

Then one half of the table opposite the village seem to fill quite quickly with lots of French infantry supported by French dragoons and hussars, with the bulk of the French cavalry heading down the road and towards the bridge with a small detachment of dragoons riding up to the small barn to presumably ransack it of any supplies.

French troops press up to the river and come under fire from two directions

Before they could dismount a Rifle sergeant organised two groups of riflemen to line the windows and pour in some well directed surprise fire emptying a few saddles and wounding the dragoon sergeant at their head.

Suddenly we had a battle underway as more British riflemen and light company skirmishers ran forward from the village to line the river bank and pepper a unit of French grenadiers heading for one of the fords.

British skirmish light companies and riflemen contest the opposite bank

The noise of French bugles and drums could be heard across their front as the infantry and cavalry rapidly deployed to face the two threats, with a column of French dragoons charging the wall around the small barn to clear it of British riflemen who had come out in force to wipe out the small patrol off dragoons who had rashly inspected their billet.

The 'grasshoppers' evaded the charge and ran back to the cover of the building amid the olive groves as more rifle shots rang out followed up by British Light infantry issuing forth to take the column in the flank to drive them back to the opposite side of the wall.

French dragoons charge the wall lined with riflemen who evade back to their supports in the barn

The French cavalry are looking a little thin on the ground with dragoons dismounted in the lower left trying to take on the light troops opposite them

The small British light infantry force lining the river was only adding to French problems, with units turning to face the barn on their side of the river taking flank shots from the other side, with the cavalry taking the brunt of the hits and soon finding its Force Morale entering the red zone as units fell back, officers and NCO's were wounded and the occasional dispersal off table.

Trying desperately to pull the cavalry back whilst moving the infantry forward created a target rich environment, to use more modern parlance, and the French infantry fought hard to return the firing with some success against the light companies in front of the village who were eventually forced to fall back among the buildings to get some cover to rally off the shock against their casualties.

The light troops in front of the village created a cross-fire with those in the barn that started to up the shock levels for the French

Eventually the French cavalry broke and left their infantry to take up the struggle alone, but now coming under a lot of fire from the barn as, with no cavalry threatening the area, the riflemen and light infantry were emboldened to move up to the wall and pour on the hurt.

This move forced the French infantry closest to the barn to turn and face the threat, engaging in a rather unequal firefight as the greater accuracy of the rifles started to take a toll of the French infantry out in the open, whilst the British lights were able to take full advantage of their skirmish abilities amid the cover offered by the olives and stone wall

The light troops take up the firefight with the French infantry opposite the barn, with more riflemen moving to take up position on the wall

Meanwhile events were unfolding across the river as in the place of the light companies in skirmish order on the river bank stepped forward a line of light companies who presented and started to volley fire in to the massed French ranks, as voltigeurs attempted to find away over to the opposite bank.

To add still further to French woes, the Spanish turned up, no doubt aided by all those 'Tiffin' chits earlier in the battle that helped move the clock a little quicker.

The Spanish arrived just as the battle looked won

The French high-water mark, with the skirmish light companies driven into the village and voltiguers forcing their way across, top right

By this stage of our game it was obvious that the French were getting nowhere fast and that the likelihood of them getting control of the bridge, that alone holding it for any amount of time, looked remote, and with the pub beckoning we called it a game.

The French look set to force a crossing just before three groups of light company infantry deployed from the buildings to whack the centre column with fourteen hits and then the Spanish arrived.

Thanks to Ken, John and Nathan for a fun afternoon in the Peninsula and to Bob for wheeling out the collection which I think you will agree looks very nice indeed.

I am looking forward to playing again next month.


  1. This is making the scale and theatre very tempting indeed.

  2. I concur, somewhere between full scale Napoleonic battles and Skirmish.

    Nice work guys,