Weapons & Warriors Pirate Battle Game is or was a game in the ‘Crossbows & Catapults’ genre where you shoot missiles and knock things over. Lacking any originality your author noted that several gamers had converted the bits to 28mm gaming. There are 4 ships, cannon, a watchtower and several palm trees in the box so it was worth a punt. Dressing the Lines shows the watchtower and larger (albeit still pretty small) ship splendidly presented amongst a mass of quality models. The NDC Wargames blog illustrates the larger ship modeled with a single mast as a sloop. Considering the small size of the model this seems the way to go to best justify her size. A Reaper forum post shows the basic ship models. Unfortunately the images are hosted on Photobucket and consequently watermarked and hard to see.
Although long out of print used sets still turn up. This set cost £18 with a few parts missing (but all the bits a gamer needs) from eBay. The same set can also be found branded as ‘Peter Pan Blackbeard’s Treasure’ so it made sense to search for both titles. This price is in line with recent eBay sold items. Postage is the big hit. Hoping to get 2 working ships out of it the cost works out about half that of the smaller ‘Gears of War’ and ‘Blood and Plunder’ ships. The ‘Blood and Plunder’ ships are a better price than it appears as they come supplied with cannon.
Here are the most useful bits having had parts to support the game pieces cut away and the holes filled in. A 28mm Redoubt figure illustrates the scale.
For some idea of game size comparison the small Blood and Plunder ‘Bark’ vessel is; 24cm by 9cm. The Games of War ‘Sea Dog’ is 23cm by 8cm. These plastic models are 20cm by 9cm. The ships are now ‘rigged up’ with the same figure for scale. They probably would not make it once round the boating lake with those sails but hopefully they convey the right idea. Consider that the commercial ships come with rigging bits but no sails building up one of those would not have been less of a ‘Heath-Robinson’ affair.
Amongst the other bits. The little boats will fill up with 3 or 4 28mm figures. The watchtower is a lot less useless than expected. The 4 wooden stockade corners are too small to make a fort but can stand in as gun redoubt.
The cannon have a gap between the gun and carriage. This can be filled or the sides cut off and put back close to the barrel with the rough bits filled in. This plan does work but is possibly too much trouble for the return. Especially with the risk of losing bits on the floor as they fly off when cut away. The chests are on the fancy side but not entirely useless.
The rest of the parts are not obviously adaptable. The figures are just about 28mm but there are only 2 poses. The yellow pirate is best. The palm trees are too small for 28mm but could work for 15mm. 4 huge canon (used to shoot balls at the ships) might find a place in a steampunk setting.
Here are the pirates painted up with some simple conversions, the bases still need to be done.
Having got the new Muskets and Tomahawks on the table time was finally found to have a go at Sharp Practice 2. This had been sat on the shelf for a while. Muskets and Tomahawks are the sort of rules that once skimmed invite getting some figures out and giving it a go. Sharp Practice involves rather more commitment and having played a couple of test games still requires a little more thought than just throwing the toys down and having at it. It is not that the rules are complex but the mechanisms are out of the ordinary even in comparison to Chain of Command. Some rules are present but not so easy to track down, a good case for having the searchable PDF on standby.
Despite owning enough models to do French and Indian War or Napoleonics; ACW was chosen as both armies are similar so there would be less to digest. Lists for all 3 are in the Sharp Practice book and in time will all appear in the new Muskets and Tomahawks supplements. The ACW figures are based for Fire and Fury and were last trotted out about 4 years ago for a Regimental Fire and Fury game. A first Sharp Practice run through was with 1 figure per man and using 1 game cm as 1″ in the rules. Regular infantry are in units of 8, the Fire and Fury basing is in 3s so the infantry ran as 9s, the effect on the game being minimal. Tracking losses and shock was fiddly so the next run through was of a stand (3 models) as 1 game figure and a scaling of 2cm as 1″ in the rules book. This allowed casualty removal and the 120 cm mat scaling up as 60″ square.
Using the stands a basic infantry unit became 24 figures. These units work best in formations so a formation of 2 units became 48 and 3 became 72 a feasible company strength and making more sense of the Sharp Practice formation rules than clumps of 16 or 24 men. It would be just as easy to get 24 men as 8 in house and still only count shots out through the openings. Fitting all the models in place without tipping them into a heap would be the only way to do it with Fire and Fury bases. The Fire and Fury basing did have 1 side effect as the bases are not square so when a unit turns to face its frontage changes.
The first thought when running a skirmish game is to put down as much terrain as possible. This did not work out well due to the formation and movement rules. As in Chain of Command a unit rolls a number of dice and moves that far. That will generally be 2D6. If a unit is in broken terrain it will lose 1 from every dice score, crossing a low obstacle will cause the lower die score to be ignored. So moving out of light woods across the boundary fence will drop the movement range from 2 to 12 to 0 to 5. In Chain of Command the units are blobs and can squeeze through gaps then expand again. In Sharp Practice the units can do that but will need to sort themselves out to optimise combat. The best shooting formation is a line, with 3 groups that is 12 stands wide and 2 deep. Shifting that through a gate 1 base at a time is not going to work out. Columns are more maneuverable but being deep will take longer to cross an obstacle. Some thought needs to go into how much terrain is required and any effects for a specific game. For example if a column crosses a fence it might be best to spend an action to tear down the fence so after the first stands pass it provides no cover or impediment to the troops behind. Sharp Practice has no fixed game length so any movement restrictions will not stop the game but the more time it takes player ‘A’ to get into action the more time player ‘B’ has to set up the defense thus turning the basic encounter battle into a defend in place. The game does try to reduce the approach time with deployment points. Unlike in Chain of Command the majority of these do not move before the first units deploy so there could be a lot of moving up time. The order that units will deploy depends on how the cards are drawn. Units can be held back off-table but unlike Chain of Command a player cannot guarantee that the first units to come out will be the scouts. Skirmishing units are much easier to control than big formations so there is some incentive to get them out in front but at a cost of holding back the big formations and a loss of game time.
Activation is card based; each officer has a card plus there are 4 colour cards per side and an end of turn tiffin card. Playing cards will do the trick with court cards for officers, pip cards for the colours and the joker as tiffin. Counters might work better as a counter can be put against a unit when it is activated. It is easy to trackback the court cards used but sometimes the colour cards will be used for activations. When tiffin is drawn the pack is shuffled so there is a chance that a unit will only rarely activate. The pack does attempt to mitigate this with the colour cards. 2 cards can be used to activate a unit without the bonus of its officer or 3 for any un-activated officer. If tiffin is drawn with unspent colour cards these can be used to activate units that have not already been activated that turn; 1 card per unit. The colour cards are, however, in demand to pay for various bonuses that officers can give to their men so could well have been spent before tiffin. Another way to get units moving without cards is having higher ranking officers activate other units within their command range. This could get up to 4 formations moving, although without the officer bonuses. It does depend on the units being in the right place and the high ranking command cards coming out before the lower. A unit can only activate once per turn unless 4 colour cards are spent for a bonus ‘free’ activation.
Here the CSA are attacking an isolated hamlet. All the land to the edge of the board is light wood, the trees are for effect so will move about during the game to accommodate the troop models. There are 2 big cornfields and several smaller fenced-in fields. The downed fence in the Northwest does not impede movement. The USA have 2 deployment points on the centre road and West edge. The CSA have 3 deployment points to the East. The CSA need to capture the rearmost USA deployment point to win although driving either sides’ morale to 0 will also do the job. The force point totals are 84 and 83. The CSA bought an exploring officer, hence the additional deployment point. The USA have a wagon and priest who give a bonus for ammo and shock removal respectively. The 2 forces are similar, there are 8 fewer CSA stands as their units are marginally more expensive (8 versus 6 a unit).
On the first card draw the USA get 1 skirmisher down on the board. It deploys well forward to thwart any possible CSA flank attack. After 4 tiffin cards the CSA get their 2 big commands down and decide to call the skirmishes’ bluff. Already it seems that the Northern half of the game mat will see little action.
All the units are on table. The USA deployed 3 units at their forward deployment point but needing to stay close enough to that point and far enough from the CSA they ended up as more of a clump than a column. Shots from 2 enfilading CSA skirmish units has piled shock onto them. The USA formation has had to split into groups to face the skirmish threat but still lining up for a potentially devastating volley at the flank of the advancing CSA main force. The other USA formation has sensibly deployed well back by the point they are supposed to defend. The casualty markers are shock, 1 point for a man, 5 for a canon. Shock piles up slowly unless a unit is shot from the flank when shot results are doubled. It is hard to get rid off, burning one of an officer’s limited commands. If a level 1 officer (more probably a corporal) removes 1 point of shock he is done for his activation.
The USA troops in the village are in a pile of shock. One group has been driven back, another is behind a house that is now on fire. The main CSA line is taking fire and their supporting formation is lagging to the rear. The USA skirmishers are getting out of dodge or at least out of the cone of lead coming from the opposing main lines. At this point the chapter ended and the burning building collapsed.
The main lines are blazing away and the CSA is coming off worst, the CSA second line is coming into action but it will soak up some of the lead coming towards their colleagues in front. In the village incessant skirmisher fire has forced one USA group to break and run.
The CSA front finally breaks under heavy USA fire. In the village another house catches fire and the USA troops decide to vacate it. The CSA 2nd line attempts to rush the village and break the USA morale before the USA units there sort themselves out.
The CSA take the village with USA units running off in all directions. One 7 stand group has amassed an impressive 15 points of shock. The USA is now down to a morale of 2 but has moved up on the flank of the CSA force in the village.
The USA roll insanely badly for moving up in the village, the fence did not help. The CSA sort themselves out although their entire left is a mess.
Weight of firepower pushes the CSA out of the village. The USA even manage to reduce much of the shock on what is left of their force. They steadily advance flanking the CSA in the village and chasing the other retiring CSA troops. The CSA can do little more than rally. A chapter end event drives one of their groups off table and the CSA morale falls to 0. The USA morale was down to 1 but the CSA had run out of momentum to drive it down over the last few turns.
Mistakes were made on both sides. For the CSA it was bad luck having their outflanking deployment point largely closed down by USA skirmishers. Moving a formation from one side of the table to another could have taken the USA in the flank but that sort of re-jigging is hard slow work in Sharp Practice. The USA troops in the village were a mess from the start as there was not the space for the nice straight lines that you want. Thankfully they sorted it out before the CSA could capitalise on the situation.