Williamsburg Muster

Kellogg’s Pirate! Sharp Practice in Williamsburg

Last weekend brought the opportunity to play another Sharp Practice game at one of my local conventions, Williamsburg Muster.

Williamsburg Muster is a small but growing local convention which in concert with Guns of August provides the Pennisula with some much needed Wargaming activity.   These conventions are both run annually by the Hampton Roads Wargamers.



Kellogg’s Pirate was lifted rather liberally from Too Fat Lardies excellent product THE COMPLEAT FONDLER.  This is a scenario where the hero finds himself aided (or perhaps hindered) by the Royal Navy while attempting to rescue Portuguese civilians taken into slavery by Barbary Pirates.  In an attempt to weaken the Anglo-Portugeuse Alliance, the wily French have provided these pirates with British Redcoats, an obvious attempt to confuse the poor people of Portugal!

Changes I made from the scenario as written?  The scenario called for 80 redcoated figures to use as pirates.  Lacking that number, my pirates were represented by a mixture of Darkest Africa Baluchi, Spanish Irlanda, and smattering of French Dragoons as well as the redcoats.  The location was also changed.  The site is supposed to be a North African port, due to a lack of proper buildings I decided to place it on a small, unnamed Portuguese Island, allowing me to build the town from my Mediterranean buildings.  Lastly, I changed all the names.  too Fat Lardies leans towards humorous but often off colour names which I feared might offend some of the more puritan Americans I am like to find at a convention.  Oh, my rifles are also 60th American rather than the 95th.  That fact that I am an American is partly the reason for this last change but it isn’t the only one.  I find the 95th  overdone thanks to the success of Bernard Cornwell and the 60th is so odd.  They serve in the British Army, they are called the Royal Americans but they are made up mostly of Germans!

The 60th moves forward

The 60th moves forward

The pirates were played by Mark and his son Armand, until the younger one was distracted by his new Imperial Assault game.  The British were Malcolm and Alfred.  As it fell out all of the players are friends of mine and Mark and Al have played some of my other Sharp Practice games.

The fight began with the rifles landed on the beach right on the flank of a group of pirates on patrol.  Shots were fired and the alarm was raised!  Sargent Hoffman, one of the British Bigmen, was seriously wounded by the first Pirate volley!


The riflemen spent most of the fight in firing upon the house of Pirate leader, the notorious Qadar A’sad.  The house was defended by the pirate and his bodyguard and remained so throughout the fight.


Finding no luck on their frontal assault of the Pirates home, the rifles began to move to the flank.


Not satisfied simply firing from the firing steps of their fort, the pirates began to send sorties out after the surrounded riflemen.  This made a great deal of sense as the small fort was quickly becoming chaotic and overfull as the hung over pirates continued to wake up and flood the courtyard.  While nothing very dramatic was happening the rifles were gathering shock quickly.

Lt Porter Arrives!

Lt Porter Arrives!

On the third blank card Lt Porter arrived with a landing party of sailors.  By this time the riflemen were pulling back.  One group and lost its bottle and ran back into one of the warehouses by the beach.  The pirates had also, by poorly designed firing ports apparently, managed to set fire to their fort.  Upon the arrival of the sailors, the pirates forced the burning wall down.


the pirates took advantage of the collapsed wall to charge forth into the sailors.  Though out numbered the sailors fought well and pushed the pirates back, their victory would be short lived however….


Soon pirates began to flow out of the fort, completely overwhelming  the sailors on the flank.  Lt Porter himself was seriously wounded and no doubt fell prisoner to these diabolical pirates!



Sensing their opportunity had passed the riflemen raced back to the boats to return to the ship.  They would have to row themselves as in the end very few of the sailors survived!  No slaves would be rescued this day…..

All in all the game was enjoyable and everyone had a good time, well except perhaps the Portuguese civilians.

Until next time, cheers,




Categories: Convention, Napoleonic Wars, Sharp Practice, Too Fat Lardies, Wargaming, Williamsburg Muster | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

The Last Visit to Tanganyka…A Pulp Alley Experiment


The Hedwig von Wissmann

Last August I was disappointed with how the game went, and in fact often have been.  The rules I was using just didn’t seem to work with these tiny vessels.  they were also really meant for the period just prior to my conflict.

recently I have also been enjoying Pulp Alley as a bit of a diversion from my more serious wargaming.  Perhaps it might be a better fit?  So I decided to bring out the Mimi and Fifi one more time….


the Hedwig and the Kingani

Pulp Alley isn’t really built for this sort of thing.     Rather than being a game of military simulation, it is really meant more for recreating the derring do of intrepid adventures that filled the pulp pages in the thirties.  the game is amazingly flexible however so I thought it just might work.  To do this I relied upon the original rulebook of course, but also the Pulp Vehicle book and the new Pulp Leagues which gives some advice I using the rules in alternate Pulp periods and settings.

I decided to make each boat’s crew an individual league which are basically the teams or gangs that each player controls in a game.  I used four boats, two for each the German and British navies.


Toutou Closes with the enemy

Guns are all pretty abstract in Pulp Alley.  This is true of the small arms usually used in the games as well as the larger pieces that arm vessels.  With no real guideline on how to apply the rules for light, medium or heavy guns, I decided instead to look at the ship’s Weapons  and figure out how to represent them differences between them.  I was basically only dealing with four different guns.  The Kingani had the largest, a six pounder mounted on her fore deck.  The Hedwig was armed with a 3 pounder on her bow and a 37 mm Auto cannon on the fantail.  The Mimi and the Toutou both on the other hand were armed with 3 pounders on the front and vickers machine guns on the stern.

Due to how these weapons work in Pulp Alley I didn’t need to make a real differentiation between the Automatic weapons and the others.  What I did was to call the machine guns light, the 37mm autocannon and the 3pdrs medium and the 6 pdr heavy.  I alos made the 3pdrs on the British ships advanced which reduces the number of crew needed to man them.  I did this mostly to keep the crews at the number they operated with.  In a somewhat reverse fashion I gave the Hedwig simple crew characters.  these are low lever characters which come with a gun with no cost.  This allowed my to increase the number of men available on that larger ship.


The Hedwig 3pdr crew looses a man

Due to a lack of fore thought I had no perilous area. This could have been easily resolved by designating shoal or reef areas, or possibly locations where other navigational hazards by be found (sunken vessels for instance). The problem was by the time I thouigh of this it was too late to make any way to mark these areas.   I did designate all of the water as an Extreme Peril for any sailors who might find themselves overboard.  I also decided to create a perilous area anywhere a vessel might sink, representing the sunken hulk .  I did already have markers for this wreckage but it didn’t matter as no ship was ever sunk.

I also decided to just forget about Plot Points.  These are the goals and objectives of the normal Pulp Alley game.  They represent the goals or clues for the adventures to find to drive the course of their adventure.  This really being just a historic combat game I gave them a miss.  This was to have dire effects on the game!


A German Sailor is knocked Back right of the Kingani!

I left the ships unarmored except for the Kingani.  These were not fighting vessels but rather simple boats converted for their wartime use.  The only exception was the Kingani.  The gun of the Kingani was armored which in fact caused it to be taken in the historical battle.  A round lodged into its gun shield and then exploded killing most of its crew and its Captain.  I gave the Kingani one point of armor and a Glacis which added its armor by 1 to the front.

Oddly enough in the game an incredibly lucky British shot did take out the gun and most of the Kingani’s crew!


Kingani runs out of steam trying to ram the Toutou which by this point was dead in the water

The game turned out to be a British victory, which was partially because of a mistake with the fortune cards.  The British were incredibly lucky with there cards.  They kept getting very useful and powerful cards.  The Germans on the other hand found their cards mostly useless.  Some of that was because in this scenario they simply did not apply.  Many of theirs relied upon plot point challenges and we weren’t using plot points!  Or perilous areas which didn’t really exist.  We did notice that early on, And  I instructed the players that any card the received that seemed unplayable in this version of the game.  On was replaced but I think the offer was forgotten after that.  If I was to play this again I would either pull those cards from the deck, or preferably include at least the perilous areas.  I don’t however intend to play this scenario again.  I might however rename the vessels and use them in a game more fitting to these rules.  Maybe a raid with items hidden in the bigger boat…..

Until next time…Cheers….

Categories: africa, Convention, Pulp, pulp alley, Uncategorized, Wargaming, Williamsburg Legati, Williamsburg Muster, world war I | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Guns of August


August 20-23 marked the return of local wargaming convention, Guns of August.  This local show is one of two put on by ODMS here in Williamsburg every year.  Usually there are about 200 people in Attendence and soon the venue will be changing to allow for continued growth.

I was slated to run a Sharp Practice game on Friday night, but had to cancel due to difficulties getting home from New Hampshire on a work related trip.  While that game didn’t happen I did take the time to run a add on Chain of Command game Saturday afternoon.

The game was a Fall of France game, set in May of 1940.  Having nothing special prepared, I simply rolled for a scenario following the procedures suggested in the rules.  One challenge was that I was missing my 1940 army lists which were not properly put away after Historicon.  Because of this annoyance I was forced to organize my troops as per memory and I had no idea what the proper support costs were.  I ran the game a s a probe, and decided to give the Germans the use of a Panzer II and the french a 25mm Antitank gun to counter it with,

My players were two old friends of mine, Alfred and Malcolm.  Alfred decided to play Germans and so Malcolm took command of the French.

The French suffered a bit from their patrol phase.  One challenge to Chain of Command is the learning curve attached to the patrol phase.  This phase represents the pre-battle reconnaissance of the forces involved but it is a game unto itself.  it is also pretty much exclusively a Too Fat Lardies concept and therefore unfamiliar to most players.  Very often it will take a players few games to understand the importance of the phase and how to use it tactically.  this does give an advantage to the player more familiar with the ruleset.  I think at conventions I need to get more proactive in helping new players through this bit.  the French therefore found themselves with most of their jump off markers trapped rater close together and far back, behind a stone wall to the rear of the table.  one was forward in the central farmhouse.

The French did take the very strong defensive position in that central farmhouse.  A German squad aggressively approached it to just out of Close combat range.  Their Junior Leader ordered two potato mashers lobbed into the house, but they missed the window and skitted of harmlessly.

Germans advance on the Farmhouse

Germans advance on the Farmhouse

Well almost harmlessly.  Oddly enough this aggression seemed to frighten the Poilus inside and the immediately were ordered to retreat and fall back to the cover of the stone wall that ran parallel the length of the southern table edge.  this action proved disastrous, as it meant crossing an open area in cross fire to get to that cover. The Frenchmen took serious casualties and their eventually broke and fled, causing serious loss to the French Force Morale, not to mention represent a third of their force already gone.


Frenchmen in position behind stone wall

After this point the French settled into a static defense of the rear wall and the game turned into a long drawn out exchange of small fire.  Never the best course of action in a Chain of Command game and certainly not one when opposing a larger force also in defensive positions.


More of the same

Either from confusion or unlucky  command dice rolls, the French command was slow to deploy his brigaded Rifle Grenades which can be devastatingly useful.  The Germans never deployed their Panzer II, and because of that the French also waited to deploy their AT gun, which may have proven helpful against the infantry onslaught as well.


German squad takes cover in destroyed farm house opposite the French held wall

Eventually attrition did it’s bit.  The French position slowly collapsed due to casualties, shock, and dwindling Force Morale.  Just in the nick of time for me OI might add, as I was scheduled to run the Battle for Lake Tanganyika directly thereafter!


The French Line


 This was the second time I ran this battle, but this was the reason it was created.  My club, The Williamsburg Legati, are commemorating the 100 year anniversary of World War One by sponsoring themed games at both Williamsburg Muster and Guns of August over the next few years.  Some of these are the major actions and other, like this one, or more unusual situations.

This battle was actually made up of a few encounters fought between December of 1915 and February of 1916 on the world’s second largest and second deepest freshwater lake in the world.  involving elements of the British Royal Navy,  Belgian Congo’s Force Publique, and Imperial Germany’s Kaiserlich Marine.

Basically, the Germans held complete naval superiority of the lake this with small ship and a couple of boats.  The British decided to challenge this by transporting two 30 foot motor boats through the Congo.  A crazy and arduous adventure on its own.  Command for this mission was given to an eccentric British Naval administrator Geoffrey Spicer Simpson.

For the game I combined what were in reality two separate actions, to allow the Germans the use of both their boats instead of letting the British attack them piecemeal as happened in reality.  The game was played in 28mm with most of the vessels built by myself with the exception of the British vessels the Mimi and the Toutou.  These are Old Glory castings.  the rules used were TVAGs Boilers and Breechloaders.  A little bit of adjustment had to be made for the two British ships (which are both petrol boats not covered by the period or rules).  The vessels are also over armed by the rules,, but I followed the history.  That might have been an error.  Having run this twice I am pretty sure that the points are not equal, giving far to strong an advantage to the British/ Belgian coalition.  If I ever do this again I will need to make some changes.


The Congolese ex torpedo boat Netta, with Mimi and Toutou in the background

Boilers and Breechloaders is a card driven activation system.  this proved disastrous for the Germans.  Over and over again they were losing initiative to the Brits.  Besides that factor, the Kingani’s captain had horrible dice luck.  he was successfully avoiding any critical damage but is shots kept missing their target, and his 6 pounder was the largest of the German guns.  Furthermore an incredibly lucky British first shot left hedwig’s main gun crew disabled!


The German Squadron, Kingani and Hedwigg Von Wissman

Damage was being done to the British boats.  One more hit on either would have seen them destroyed, but the Germans lost the ability to strike.  Kingani was taking on water, her speed reduced and constant machine gun fire eventually left the Hedwig bereft of her crew.

I like to report that all players had a good time, but not on this occasion.  At least one of the Germans was displeased.  I do think this game has some balancing issues, which I had warned when I begun, but it really was more luck that hurt the Germans than anything else.  I may run this on one more occasion, or maybe not.  The theme for Williamsburg Muster is Naval and the second battle did happen in February 1916 (Muster is in February).  if I do, I will either use different rules, modified rules or leave the Belgian ships out.

Categories: africa, Boilers and breechloaders, Chain of Command, Convention, Sharp Practice, The Virtual armchair general, Too Fat Lardies, Wargaming, Williamsburg Legati, Williamsburg Muster, world war I, World War II, world war one, wwii world war two normandy buildings mdf | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day Two of the Williamsburg Muster!

Just got home from a fun filled day of wargaming at Williamsburg’s premier Wargaming Convention.

Today I hosted two games both using Too Fat Lardies rules.  The first was “The Fall of France”, a Chain of Command game set in the early days of the German Blitzkrieg in 1940 and the second a Sharp Practice game set in the Peninsula War.


The first game was played by Charles, Kai, Grey and again Gunnar who had joined me the night before with the Spanish Civil War game.

Not Sure Why Grey is Hiding...

Not sure why Grey is hiding…

This first battle was an Attack and Defend scenario set in Belgium in the early days of the Battle For France.  Gunnar and Grey played the French and rolled a very respectable 11 for Force Morale.  Gunnar apparently can not roll low Force Morale scores!  The would be supported by a 25mm AT gun and a Hotchkiss H39 tank.  Both players had experience with the rules.  The Germans on the other hand were commanded by Charles and Kai.  Charles, the older of the two had some experience some time ago his nephew Kai had none.  This was going to have an effect on the game.  The Germans began the battle with a Force Morale of 9 and two vehicles, a Panzer 222 and a Panzer III.  The Patrol phase began with the Germans gaining two preliminary moves.

The view of battlefield from the German perspective.

The view of battlefield from the German perspective.

The Patrol Phase who one of the places where the advantage of previous experience showed.  The French outplayed their German opponents who found their markers locked down on the wrong side of the available cover and one of their markers ended up being  negated by being behind all the others when the phase ended.  The Germans would now  need to cross into the open in order to close with their enemy.

The French began and deployed one of their three sections into the walled field next to the stone barn.  they also deployed their Rifle Grenadier team into the bombed out farmhouse along the road to Sedan. Section 2 secured the walled orchard just in front of the ruined farm house.

Rifle Grenadiers in the Farmhouse with the 2nd Squad taking positions in the walled orchard.

Rifle Grenadiers in the Farmhouse with the 2nd Squad taking positions in the walled orchard.

When the Germans began to deploy to the right if that road, with one Squad behind the Farm shed directly in from of them and two in the woods.  They also deployed their granatewerfer team into the woods and tried in vain to silence the French grenades.

German Gruppe 3 trapped being a farm shed.

German Gruppe 3 trapped being a farm shed.

This began a static firefight which the Germans, receiving fire from two separate directions, were  suffering from the most.  The  German 2nd squad was lost in those woods. The 3rd found itself trapped behind the central farm shed with their MG 34 team destroyed.  The overall morale of the platoon was beginning to drop.   Finally the platoon’s Feldwebel took command and ordered the 1st squad and shortly thereafter the 4th to double time across the open ground to the large field on their right.  this finally removed them from the dangerous crossfire.

1st squad racing for cover

1st squad racing for cover

4th Squad gets a little help from the "hand of God"

4th Squad gets a little help from the “hand of God”

To keep the French from maneuvering to respond to these recent developments, the German Leutnant finally commits his armoured support.  The Armoured car take a position along side the beleaguered 3rd Squad in the centre of the line while the Panzer III drives calmly right down the central road.

The Pnzr 222 come to the aid of 3rd Squad

The Pnzr 222 come to the aid of 3rd Squad

The French respond by deploying their own tank forward and the Hotchkiss hits and immobilizing the German armoured car, not quite the result  they were hoping for as its guns were still quite operational.

Hotchkiss engaging the German Armour

Hotchkiss engaging the German Armour

On the right however, matters seem to be finally improving for the Germans.  The two squads there approach towards the central farmhouse and one, with a hail of hand grenades assaults the Frenchmen holding the walled orchard.

Moving into position for their assault

Moving into position for their assault

The Germans were in a rather good position, but their assault would prove premature.  more damage should have been done to the defenders before ordering a close assault and the German grenades proved less effective than they would have preferred.  While the French were defeated and driven back the German squad was no more.  Finally, with two squads gone and one other greatly reduced and its initiative lost, the Germans conceded defeat.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the game and it was impressive to see the German chances improved as the players became better acquainted with what they needed to do. I think if we had played immediately following that first game that the results might have proven quite different.


Just before the final assault

Kellogg’s Allies

Next, almost directly on the heels of the Fall of France battle, came time for the Sharp Practice game.  This scenario was adapted from the Fondler’s Allies scenario in Too Fat Lardies campaign book “The Compleat Fondler”, with some alterations made in force size and composition. My Devon Kellogg is a Lt and Quartermaster for the 60th Rifles rather than the overdone 95th rifles(unlike both Fondler and Sharp).

The Actual Bridge at Alacantara

The Actual Bridge at Alacantara

The bridge was also altered following the inspiration of a similar encounter represented in the film version presented in Sharp’s Eagle.  The Bridge discribed as Ponte Alcantra in the Compleat Fondler is clearly the Roman Bridge at Alacantara and therefore larger and taller than I was able to put together in the short time I was working with.  The bridge in Sharp’s Eagle is low, long and wooden and I could build it quickly around scenery I already had.  My bridge was built board by board from craft lumber.

The scenario calls for the 60th Rifles as well as a company of the Spanish Regiment of Irlanda to hold of a squadron of French Dragoons as the English engineers  plant explosives and destroy the bridge.  The scenario includes contingency rules in case the French take the bridge before the engineers have completed their work.  The allied forces all began on the French side of the river.  There is almost no cover, only the remains of a Moorish fort on the Allied side of the bridge.

Mark Schneider

Mark Schneider

My players were Mark and Zoe on the French side.  This is fitting because Mark is the world’s premier Napoleon interpreter.  Peter commanded the Spanish and Mike the Rifles.  Most of the players had no Sharp Practice experience, though Peter has played once before (with me last August).

The Spanish deployed with most of 3 of their 5 groups in a line defending the bridge.  The remaining two were in column on the bridge with their commanding big man Major O’Higgins (The Spanish Irlanda are Irish expats.).  The 60th rifles deployed in skirmish order before them.

The French entered on blinds which at the ranges we played without cover was probably unnecessary but it was fun nonetheless.  More so because I had kept the existence of a French  light artillery piece hidden from the allies.

Allied Positions

Allied Positions

The French deployed the cannon on the highest hill available to them, giving it a clear field a fire on the whole battlefield.  In the end however the gun did little damage.  Half of the Dragoons were dismounted and made their way towards the Allied forces just below the road.  The longer ranges of the Baker rifles caused a great deal of damage to them and one group was forced off the field.


French Artillery on the Hill

The mounted Dragoons suffered a different issue.  By an accident in the placing of the blinds, the tow groups of mounted dragoons ended up on opposite flanks.  This was not their commander’s intention, but all agreed to leave it as is.  Apparently an order went astray or was misunderstood.

This meant that these two groups could not make a formation and left one right on the road to the bridge, the other on the extreme right of the French line.

The Dragoons on the road suffered quite a bit of fire from the rifles before it charged down upon them.  The rifles were caught by surprise and one group was cut down leaving only a single riflemen to run off in terror.  Worse than that, our Hero Devon Kellogg was grievously wounded and would play no further part in this fight.  The Irishmen however, resisted the charge.  They were poor troops but their superior numbers held out and the horseman were bounced back.

The Dragoons on the right surge forward

The Dragoons on the right surge forward

A very similar situation occurred upon the other flank. Here France’s big man Sergeant Martin charged forward on to another group of riflemen who again suffered badly.  Seeing the danger earlier, Major O’Higgins had brought his reserve off the bridge and raced over to form a line behind the rifles.  This action saved the day.  The defeated rifles ran but again the superior numbers of the formed Irlanda stopped the dragoons saving the Spanish flank.  the fight this time was not decided for three rounds and that wing of the Dragoons had lost to many men to continue.

Spanish Irlanda on the Bridge

Spanish Irlanda on the Bridgeto continue their attack and they left the field.  Marschal Chirac was to find his plans to flank the Anglais frustrated

The game ended as an Allied victory and all the participants were pleased.

I consider all three games a success though perhaps the other two a little more than this last one.  By this time I was tired and I haven’t played Sharp Practice as much as I have played Chain of Command.  I think that showed.  I need to play more of this rule set

Rifles firing on Dragoons

Rifles firing on Dragoons

O'Higgins deploying his reinforcements

O’Higgins deploying his reinforcements

One final note, I had the unexpected pleasure to meet Joseph Legan author of Platoon Forward and fellow blogger http://platoonforward.blogspot.com/  Looks like we might  get together for some games as he lives in the area.  Such a small world.



Categories: Chain of Command, Convention, Napoleonic Wars, Sharp Practice, Too Fat Lardies, Wargaming, Williamsburg Muster, World War II | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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