Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Sharp Practice Leader Markers

The first time I played Sharp Practice I struggled to remember which leader corresponded to which card/chip.  It didn't help that Leader 1 tended to be my best leader, but he had initiative level 3, there was something counter intuitive about chit one activating Leader 1 but the leader having initiative 3.  I could see how it could confuse other newbies.


Nothing reinforced that thought more than when I was watching one of the excellent Beasts of War videos where Rich Clarke was playing Sharp Practice against Justin and they constantly referred to their force rosters to remember which leader was which as the various chips were drawn.  This convinced me that I needed to find an easy way to know which leader was which with just a glance at the table.

When I saw the individual sabot bases from Supreme Littleness Designs, I immediately thought there's my answer.  Here was a simple way to identify my leaders and know their initiative level.  As I posted earlier the base is a simple sabot with a backing piece of grey board.




The next thing was to work out how best to identify the individual leaders.  It would make sense to have the markers relate to the chips I planned to use.  I had painted the MDF chips supplied by Too Fat Lardies with the rules and so I photographed them.



I then printed these out on my very average printer at home in a much smaller size, one suitable to fit on the bases.


The quality of the print on my home printer wasn't great, so I knew I'd need to find a bitter quality laser printer to produce a higher resolution image. Next I wanted the bases to be a little less obtrusive, so I took my Dremel with a sanding bit and sanded down the edges, as I have done with my larger sabot bases.



Next, I wanted to also include the initiative level of the leader, so I textured the surface with sand and added small stones, with one stone representing each initiative level.  This first one was a bit of a 'proof of concept' and although I wasn't happy with the way the chip number had printed out it was heading in the right direction.



Once I had printed the chip numbers on a better quality printer, I then made up enough for all the possible variations I could envisage for the AWI games I intended to play.



These were then painted and flocked, the same as I would do for any other base.



While this seems like a lot of bases to make up, the other option is to make up leaders with a varying number of rocks attached to their bases.  One way or another I need to make up a lot of variations and I think this way I have more versatility for my leaders and at the end of the day the bases are quicker and easier to make up than individual leaders.

So here's how they look with a figure in place.  I think they are visually unobtrusive and I'm happy with the way the numbers match the chips we will draw during play.  They now complement their units better with all on a sabot base.





Happy with the result, the bases for the red chips are following closely behind.


Saturday, 7 July 2018

Perry 28mm AWI Continentals

Finished off three groups of Perry 28mm Continentals for my core force for Sharp Practice. I like these poses more than the Perry British figures, there's a certain natural dynamism about them that works well. I've painted these in a standard blue jacket with red facings and I've just added a few figures with different coloured breeches to mix it up a bit, but otherwise these are a fairly well dressed group and not one of your 'ragged' regiments.






So next up will be some light infantry skirmishers and two groups of State line troops. I'm inclined to go with a brown jacket and red facing for those to add some variation but haven't made a final decision yet. I have time, they have just been based and need to be primed yet, so I'll give it more thought. I also have a few more leaders, a drummer and a standard bearer for the Continentals.


Talking of leaders I came across these nice MDF bases from Supreme Littleness Designs which I think will make great bases for my leaders and allow me to know which leader corresponds to which command chit.  There is a 2mm MDF base with a sabot cut in it and then a piece of grey board to stick underneath, which means the base is not too thick but works as a sabot.



I haven't quite worked out how I'll mark the base, I'm thinking I will make miniature images of the command chits and stick them on and then flock the base around them. I shall experiment to see what works.



Meantime I've made a bunch of them.



My Perry metal Riflemen are also finished and I'm really happy with these, a wonderful set of figures, well sculpted and cast and full of character.







So we are getting very close to enough units to start playing Sharp Practice and my British light infantry will soon have some opponents.



Saturday, 30 June 2018

AWI Rebels for Sharp Practice

The first three groups of Continentals have now been painted and are awaiting varnishing and flocking.  These are the Perry plastics and after a bit of fiddling to get the marching poses right I'm very happy with the way these have come out.


I'm finishing off the Perry metal rifleman, which are beautiful looking miniatures that burst into life with a bit of paint.


Last but not least I'm putting together some groups of state line infantry and some light infantry in hunting shirts.  I think I'm finally beginning to see the day in the not too distant future when I will have these on the table and in action.


Monday, 25 June 2018

Force on Force AAR: Mutay I Afghanistan scenario

This was our second attempt playing the Ambush Alley Force on Force modern skirmish rules (you can read our initial impressions here.). Since then we managed to find this document on BoardgameGeek.  It has stripped the rule book back to the bare gaming mechanics and is very useful. I also put together a summary of all features unique to irregulars, and the Taliban in particular.

As always, after making a first attempt at playing a set of rules you come back to the rules with so much greater insight once you've actually pushed a few miniatures around on a table.  Such was the case with Force on Force and so armed with the abbreviated rules and a second read through the official rules we felt much better equipped to make another attempt. To keep it straightforward we decided to play a re-run of the initial scenario Mutay I scenario from the Enduring Freedom supplement.

Straight out of the helicopters and into a hot LZ
A British platoon has been helicoptered in to what turns out to be a very hot LZ.  Their mission is to make it to a compound where there is a person of interest and, once there, to link up with another platoon.  To do this they need to secure the LZ, then fight their way to the compound, taking any casualties with them and trying not to lose any men KIA along the way.  It's a tough situation and they literally have to hit the ground fighting.

The objective compound is at Hot Spot 4

The British will have to divide their effort if they are to secure the LZ and then regroup to make their way to the compound. Time is tight, they only have eight turns and there is some distance to cover.



Turn 1
The British have the initiative and begin the first turn by focussing their attention on neutralising Hot Spot 3 and eliminating the Taliban lurking in the crop field on their left flank.


One team takes up an overwatch position while the other advances into the field.  Line of sight is poor in the dense crops and units have to be within 4" to see each other.  However there are Taliban on the roofs of surrounding buildings and so caution is required.



The Taliban on the roof at Hot Spot 5 react the moment the fire team enter the field.


The fire team sees them, reacts quickly and fires first, hitting two of the Taliban, one of whom is their leader. The Taliban return fire, but with two less men their fire is ineffective. As a note, the Taliban started play Hidden, which would allow them to attempt an ambush, but as the range is beyond twice their optimum range that was not going to be possible.



The British team continue their move and come into line of sight of the Taliban team lurking there, but they are leaderless and unable to decide what to do, so fail to ambush the oncoming British who have now spotted them and open fire.


Two Taliban are hit and their return fire is ineffective.



In the centre British teams on overwatch are able to keep on eye on a third team that makes a rapid move towards some cover in a crop field.



The Taliban at Hot Spot 1, also without the direction of a leader, are unable to react and so can't spring an ambush. The British fire team tries to spot them when it closes into optimum range, but can't locate them amongst the crops.




With that the initiative passes to the Taliban, who finally spring an ambush from Hot Spot 1 and the British take their first casualty.  A British team returns fire hitting two Taliban, who pass their morale check, but then face the wrath of the GPMG team, who have been waiting in overwatch and pour down very effective fire, hitting the entire Taliban group.



The Taliban sniper takes aim at the GPMG crew, but fails to hit. The machine gun crew spot the location of the sniper and fire back hitting both the sniper and his spotter.



That brings the turn to an end. We are getting a good feel for the way the game plays now and it's moving at a good pace. One lesson is clear, the British regulars can dish out some very effective fire.

Turn 2
We check the status of the casualties. The one British trooper turns out to have a serious wound and will now need to be supported across the table.

The Taliban's less sophisticated field treatment means that for each casualty we roll 1D6, on a 6 the man was only stunned and returns to action.  Any other result means they have either died or been whisked away by their comrades, the British will never know.  In the field at Hot Spot 1 only the RPK man returns to his feet, while on the roof at Hot Spot 5 the leader is lost but the AK47 man dusts himself down and gets up again. Both the sniper and his spotter will not be seen again.  All up that's eight Taliban fighters who have disappeared from the firefight.

The lone gunner staggers to his feet

However there are more local Taliban lurking in the surrounding area and two armed with AK47s arrive as reinforcements to join the lone RPK gunner at Hot Spot 1, so it's not quite over yet in that field.

A couple of friends arrive to keep him company
The British begin the turn by focussing on Hot Spot 1 and the team closest fires before making a tactical move forward.  The Taliban can't react fast enough and all three are cut down in a quick burst of fire.  The two Taliban who arrived as reinforcements had no idea quite how 'hot' that hot spot had become.


With those Taliban fighters down the British JTAC and signaller make their way around the right flank.


On the British left one team advances and fires. The Taliban take one casualty and their return fire is ineffectual.


The second British team advance in the crop field to join the firefight. The Taliban on the roof of the nearby building try to react but the Overwatch fire from the GPMG is extremely effective and hits three of them.  The moving fire team pause to fire and also react faster than the Taliban on the roof and they hit all the remaining fighters.  They then complete their move and fire at the Taliban in the field and hit another two. That's some fine fire and manoeuvre from the fire team. However when the Taliban survivors' return fire one of the British team is hit.







During the Taliban initiative the fighters at Hot Spot 4 take advantage of their ability to use out of contact movement to work their way forward unseen behind the building at Hot Spot 2.  With a significant number of men down more fighters are needed on the front line.

Turn 3
The turn starts badly for the British when the man just hit in the crop fields is KIA.  That's a blow in more ways than one as the British victory conditions will reward them if they can complete the mission without losing a man.

Most of the Taliban leave the field either as wounded or killed.  One fighter in the crop field on the left gets to his feet as does a solitary man on the building roof.



However the men are joined by another sniper who emerges on the rooftop at Hot Spot 4.



With no more Taliban at Hot Spot 1 the British fire team advances onto the hot spot trying to close it down.  Meanwhile on the left there's a determined effort to drive the Taliban from the field and close down Hot Spot 3.


The team that have just seen one of their members killed open fire seeking retribution but things go badly, they fail to hit any of the fighters and the return fire from the Taliban inflicts another casualty.  With that the other team seek a decision at close quarters and charge through the crops.  The sight is unnerving for the Taliban, who turn tail and flee.


With Hot Spot 1 and Hot Spot 3 now occupied, the British start to close on Hot Spot 5 on their extreme left.  A fire team work their way carefully through a patch of crops to keep out of sight of a group of Taliban across the drainage ditch.



The group of fighters that had moved out of contact from Hot Spot 4 now use the Taliban initiative to climb on the top of the building at Hot Spot 2 and engage the fire team across from the drainage ditch.


The British are the quickest to react and their fire hits two men, one of which is the group's leader.  The Taliban leaders are particularly prone to taking casualties today.  The Taliban pass their morale check but suffer some shrinkage as one man decides he needs to be somewhere else (anywhere else, in fact).  The remaining men fire and the British team has a member hit.


The other group at Hot Spot 2 take advantage of their local knowledge to move swiftly and unseen to Hot Spot 5 and emerge on the roof.  They surprise the British who don't react fast enough and the fire team has another man hit.



The morale of the two effective men holds firm and they return fire, hitting one of the Taliban RPG gunners.  The Taliban pass their morale check, but another man decides he also needs to be somewhere else and slips quietly away.


The British have pushed hard this turn but several men have taken hits as a result.  That said they have dished out a disproportionate level of punishment on the Taliban.

Turn 4
All the Taliban casualties result in men leaving the table, taking the number of Taliban out of action so far to 22. The British casualties include one man with a light wound but two are seriously wounded and their teams will need to shepherd them to safety.




The Taliban receive more reinforcements as more men come to the sound of gunfire and a group of seven men including a leader and a RPG arrive at Hot Spot 2.

More men come to the sound of gunfire



The Taliban are now able to bring some fire to bear, however that comes at a cost of exposing themselves to some heavy return fire, something they are about to discover.

The British team holding Hot Spot 3 fire up to the rooftop at Hot Spot 5, the Taliban react very quickly, catching the GPMG team and another fire team who are both on overwatch off their guard and so get off the first shots. That's one of the few times so far the Taliban have been able to react faster than the British regulars.


Despite this, the Taliban fire turns out to be ineffective and the British team return fire, hitting three of them.  The teams on Overwatch also fire back. The GPMG hits three more men and the fire team takes out another two.  That results in the whole Taliban group as casualties.  Note to self, irregulars standing head to head with regulars in a firefight is not a great idea.

No Taliban left standing on the rooftop

The two most advanced British fire teams target their fire at the fighters on the other rooftop, this one at Hot Spot 2.  Despite the fact the Taliban react faster than the British their fire is ineffective.


The same cannot be said for the British fire which is accurate and deadly, hitting every one of the Taliban fighters.



That's a quick lesson in the power of well armed regulars and especially when multiple teams can coordinate their firepower.  The remaining Taliban behind the wall use the Taliban initiative phase to decide it's time to fall back towards the compound and reconsider how best to stall the British advance.

Back to the relative safety of the compound

A thinned out Taliban front line

With the end of the turn Hot Spots 1 and 3 are now neutralised and removed.  The British are close to securing the LZ.

Turn 5
The Taliban lose another eight men as their casualties melt away, bringing their losses so far to thirty fighters.  A solitary man at Hot Spot 2 struggles to his feet and can see another two doing the same on the other rooftop at Hot Spot 5.  Back at the compound a leader turns up accompanied by a RPG gunner, "where are the others?" he asks.

Despite carrying some wounds the British fire team fires across the drainage ditch and moves forwards.  The solitary Taliban fighter on the building roof is unable to react quickly and falls to the British fire.




Across on the other rooftop the other two Taliban survivors are hit again by one of the British fire teams. British pressure and firepower is beginning to really downgrade the Taliban force, the price of the Taliban trying to engage in a prolonged firefight when the odds were stacked against them.


The JTAC is now in a good position to see the compound at Hot Spot 4 and with that in mind he calls for an air strike for next turn.

The JTAC can spot them across the rooftops

With few Taliban now in sight the British begin to push fire teams forward.


When the Taliban have the initiative they use it as an opportunity to try to hit the JTAC and his signaller.  They react quickest and return fire with their weapons but the Taliban fire hits the signaller.  The GPMG which has been on overwatch has a line of sight to the compound and a burst of fire sees another Taliban leader take a hit.



Turn 6
All four of the Taliban casualties including the recently hit leader leave the firefight.  That's 34 Taliban who've been hit and slipped away (literally and figuratively). On the other hand the JTAC's signaller had only been stunned and he's back on his feet.

With fewer Hot Spots available the Taliban are fortunate to have a group of reinforcements arrive at Hot Spot 4, but someone must have heard the Apache helicopters because they opt to stay in the cover of the house.



The JTAC has successfully called in an Apache for a strafing run and the light anti aircraft defences of the Taliban have no effect.  The Taliban on the roof of the compound take another three casualties and although the survivors' morale holds another man makes his excuses and leaves.

The British fire teams all push forward, but it becomes apparent that time has simply slipped away from them.  With only two more turns remaining we decide it won't be possible for the British to achieve their victory conditions and so call it a day.




This was a much better experience than our first attempt as we've become a lot more familiar with the rules.  The Taliban require some thought to play well and my tactics of trying to amass firepower only led to large casualties.  I think much more needs to be made of their special abilities to move hidden and to ambush.  Hit and run, versus a toe-to-toe firefight would be a better way to play them and would certainly feel more historical.

The action and reaction system is very dynamic but does take some getting used to, however I feel we seemed to have made some sense of it and used it correctly.

I like the idea of asymmetric combat but I think to work really well it would benefit from a campaign system of some sort.  I'd expect the regulars to get the upper hand in most straightforward confrontations and so the Taliban or other irregulars need to use a different playbook - low level hit and run, inflicting casualties and playing the long game and that would work best across a series of linked games.