The Battle of Dos Santos
A Battle Report
by Justin Tonna
Captain Richard Hunt led his light company through the winding Portuguese hills as the hot July sun baked his back. His green jacketed rifle troops sweated in the hot sun. He paused, taking a swig from the warm water in his canteen as he waited for Lieutenant Parker-Bowles, a jumped up aristocrat, to catch up with the regiment’s light troops.
The lieutenant’s face was a red as a tomato as he puffed towards Hunt.
“I say, is it much further to the village?”
Hunt simply shrugged, his patience with the coffee house fop had evaporated in the heat. He then turned away and continued walking. Having just escaped encirclement by the French on the banks of the River Côa, he had no wish to be marching behind enemy lines. But the colonel had sent him to carry off some Portuguese woman who, according to rumours in the officers’ mess, had been keeping Marshall Ney’s bed warm.
Apparently, she had important information that would be useful to the army. Hunt couldn’t think what she might know beyond the length of the Marshall’s baton, but he marched on. An order was an order, no matter how stupid it seemed.
Capitaine Hussarde looked down from the hills towards the red roofs of the village of Dos Santos. It looked peaceful enough, but his dragoon scouts had reported an English column approaching. He would be damned if the rosbifs plundered the town before him.
His stomach growled at the thought of fresh meat, wine, and perhaps a couple of the village wives for dessert. He smiled and quickened his pace, urging his men to hurry. There were partisans in the hills and his men were nervous. Still the thought of wine, women and food spurred them on. Soon their boots echoed on the road as they marched towards Dos Santos.
The village of Dos Santos and its surroundings
Justin (the umpire) and Rob (the French player) survey the battlefield and clarify some rules
Things began quietly enough, with both forces advancing from their respective table edges. Both Andrzej and Rob kept their troops on the road to gain additional movement benefits, although Andrzej sent his light infantry towards some fields to take up cover behind the hedges.
Neither player knew where Miss Torres (the lady they had both been sent to find) was hiding, so they would have to search the houses individually. However, as Miss Torres was a British spy, any British unit would automatically search a house successfully, while the French units had to use actions to do so. However, the French could also find loot that was worth extra victory points.
In addition, French looting could stir up the locals and result in some partisans showing up who would then fight on the British side.
Both players realised it was a race to search the
houses and pushed their troops forward as fast as they could get them to
move (Troops do not move a standard amount in Sharp Practice 2.
Instead, they dice for how far they move. This reflects that the
ground is not a running track and contains many folds, dips, holes and
stumbling blocks, so you can never be sure how quickly your troops will
The French and British move towards the village
The British enter the field, while the Rifles run down the road.
The French lead with their fast dragoons, while a detachment of skirmishers breaks off to approach the town from the flank.
Sharp Practice 2 has a card-based activation system. Each leader has a card and when it is drawn that leader can activate units under his control. If a Tiffin card is drawn, then the turn ends, the deck is shuffled and you begin again.
This means you are never sure which units are going to activate each turn, thus generating friction for the commanders. There are other ways units can get activated, such as by using special command cards that are also in the deck. All of this makes for unpredictable turns.
Initially, the British had a good run of cards and their riflemen quickly took up positions behind a wall at the edge of the village.
The British riflemen reach the village and form a firing line, as the French regulars stomp along the road in a column.
While the French regulars march down the road, the dragoons rush for the village houses. No doubt they have scented loot (or is it Miss Torres’ perfume that has caught their Gallic nostrils?)
Undeterred by the presence of the British riflemen in the village, Rob pushes his French regulars forward down the road. His voltigeurs have almost completed their flanking manoeuvre, while Andrzej’s British light troops continue to flounder about in the fields.
The French flanking force arrives at the village, while the riflemen can be seen entering houses.
The dragoons continue their gallop towards the houses, and the air comes alive with the whizzing of musket balls as the British riflemen pour volleys into the advancing French troops.
JUSTIN: OK. It’s confession time. I made a huge miscalculation in the firing factors (this was the first game of Sharp Practice 2 for all of us) and the riflemen’s shooting should have been far deadlier than it was. My apologies to Andrzej who kept rolling dice and looking shocked at the poor musketry of his troops. It wasn’t them, it was the poor maths of the umpire that was the problem.
The dragoons reach the village houses. You can also see the shock markers on the French troops. Shock reflects morale damage to a unit as a result of being under fire, being disorganised, or witnessing some terrible event.
While the British focused on shooting, the French began searching the houses. The village was quickly being searched and while there was still no sign of the elusive Miss Torres, the places she could be hiding were rapidly diminishing. The French also collected some valuable loot.
The dragoons have dismounted and entered the house. The white dice show the search progress. In the top of the picture the single white die shows the voltigeurs are also searching for Miss Torres.
Even with the umpire’s misjudgement of firing factors, the weight of the British fire began to tell on the French and a unit of regulars started to waver. Those regulars beat a quick retreat as Rob pulled them back from the fight to spare them routing.
Then, just as Lieutenant Parker-Bowles finally got his act together and marched his light troops out of the safety of the fields, the French suddenly cut and run.
The French turn tail. Have they found more than mere loot?
A woman’s scream cuts across the village and Captain Hunt sees Miss Torres slung across a dragoon’s saddle. The British instantly give chase, offering harassing fire from their long range rifles as the dragoons gallop for the table edge.
A fresh French unit is brought up to screen the dragoons and block the British giving chase.
The British counter attack is thwarted and the dragoons flee the table with their prize.
The British light troops fire a few rounds at the French in frustration.
Capitaine Hussarde paced nervously outside Marshall Ney’s tent where he had been summoned just twenty minutes previously.
“Come in” bellowed a voice from inside. Ney was angry. Fresh sweat broke out on Hussarde’s forehead, and it wasn’t caused by the heat.
“Ah, there you are Hussarde. Come in. Don’t stand about. Do you want wine? Answer, man, quickly.”
Hussarde shook his head. His throat was dry as a bone, but he didn’t trust his trembling fingers to hold a glass.
“That English bitch you brought back has told us many interesting things, Hussarde. Was she talkative on the ride back to camp?”
Ney stood close enough that Hussarde could smell his stale breath. His eyes bored in to the captain.
“English? I thought she was Portuguese.”
“Many of us did. But she is a spy. Her grandfather was a London trader. Now answer the question. Did she talk?”
“Only to beg to be let loose and to offer me wealth if I did so, Marshall…” Hussarde’s voice trailed off under Ney’s stare.
Suddenly the Marshall’s face broke out in a grin.
“Excellent. Excellent. You have done us a great service Hussarde, and saved us much embarrassment. You have also shown yourself to be a man who can be trusted.Tell me, how would you like to be a major?”
The Dos Santos scenario can be found here.