I love Sharp Practice a ton – it’s definitely my favorite ruleset of anything I’ve ever played, and I love evangelizing it. I love that I can play small sided games set in my favorite periods instead of painting up a million multi-based dudes. I signed up to run a game of SP set in the Civil War at a local convention coming up here in Michigan and then AdeptiCon at the end of March. There are plenty of scenarios out there on the web and in publications, but I wanted to write my own – using my own characters and setting. So how do I go about it?
The first thing I wanted to identify were the themes I wanted to present. The ACW spanned a huge swathe of the lower 48, with all different types of soldiers and equipment involved. I always look to make mine a little different, and I usually tend to use imagined regiments and characters – not because I’m lazy (I am) but because it gives some larger room to tell a story.
My buddy printed up a full-size STL steamboat for me and I finally painted it. It looks sweet, a real table sidepiece – something to put out as a scenario for your game. I’ve been obsessed lately with smaller actions on the coasts and rivers, so this piece works great. Visiting my parents last summer I took the time to visit Fort Fisher again, re-igniting my interest in that area. I decided that I’d write a campaign set in that area (“Blood on the Cape Fear”) with imagined units and characters, and that the steamer would take part in it.
Steamers were obviously used for a lot of things back then – from gunboats, to troop transports, to freight. For this particular scenario – one of the scenarios for the campaign, not necessarily the first – one side will be escorting an operative to the steamer which will then launch and take them to safety. I feel like the steamer will be something that attracts players to the game, but doesn’t limit players if they want to play it as part of the campaign at home – they can always just put a dock out and say that’s where the operative has to get to. You can see the size of the steamer compared to an MDF ironclad from Sarissa – it’s huge.
There are other things I can do with the steamer going forward – it can be part of the campaign, where it moves from battlefield to battlefield. I have navy sailors painted up that can man it, and I have artillery I can put on it.
I have painted both Union and Confederate marines – the Union minis from Crusader, and the Confederate ones from Sash and Saber. While the Confederate troops are actually sailors, they have rifles because they were equipped as such to fight late in the war at Sailor’s Creek. Most of the research, hobby, and gaming I’ve done throughout my life has been focused on the bigger battles with regular infantry, artillery, and cavalry. It’ll be neat to write up some scenarios where sailors and marines will go out on patrol to take an informant into custody, or burn some tracks, or setup some telegraph wire.
The Cape Fear
I’m setting this scenario and campaign in the Cape Fear river region. These sailors and marines will be rowing, steaming, and marching around all over the rivers and highways of the area.
North Carolina, as a state, was an interesting place during the war. Unionists were very present before the war, which is why NC was one of the last states to leave the Union. I am still doing the research about Unionists in the Cape Fear area, but I want to include them. Whether it’s a home guard that will fight both sides, civilian characters who are combative with the Confederates, or militia joining the Federals at a key battle, I think it’s a cool thing to research and explore, as well as model. There will be missions where Confederates need to protect sailors putting up riverine defenses and perhaps interact with blockade runners.
This will also offer some new terrain to model. It won’t be rolling fields and fences – it’ll likely be sandy beach landings, piney woods, plantations to burn, and riverine operations. There will still be chances to use a cool trope that I’ve used in the past, like railroads and perhaps a fight in a small town.
African American Troops
One of the topics that I genuinely haven’t researched much is how African American troops fought in the Civil War. I’ve of course seen Glory, and read some accounts of some of the bigger battles, but it’s crazy to me that many regiments were raised in the South from southern freed former enslaved people, and then fought right there.
I’m going to be reading up on the smaller actions that African American troops took place in during the war. It’s an incredibly inspiring thing to read about – people fighting for their own freedom and the freedom of other enslaved people, knowing that they could be shot on sight if captured. I don’t plan on any special rules or anything like that – I’ve seen some other games try to do that and it just doesn’t feel right in my opinion. I’ll do my best to write an interesting and respectful story for the unit and what they’re doing.
Garrison Life in Coastal Forts
Reading first hand accounts for the garrison life is extremely interesting. While the accounts like Sam Watkins’ Company Aytch show a lot of camp life and battle experiences, the coastal fort life is mostly boring, sandy, and filled with camp diseases. I am planning to include these themes in the scenarios somehow – perhaps a patrol is going out to forage and find vegetables and meat, or perhaps they’re escorting a doctor from Wilmington back to the fort to help out.
Late War Desperation
I’ve planned to set the campaign in November of 1864. Fort Fisher was first assaulted around Christmas in 1864 and successfully taken in mid-January 1865. The troops that will be taking part are not the early war, extremely motivated volunteers who are out to win the war in one battle. These are troops who have been through everything, possibly seen multiple battles, and are suffering from malnutrition and camp diseases.
The Confederates will be engaging in missions to do anything to try to hold Fort Fisher – bringing in new technology, finding and capturing deserters, and escorting supplies to the Fort. Union troops are ready for the war to end – they will be cutting supply lines, sending out patrols to probe defenses, and finding spies and informants that help the blockade runners and local troops.
I would like to figure out some good rules for Sentries in a night mission, one where perhaps one side has to sabotage the other or take a camp etc. I haven’t been able to find sentries rules for SP, though I haven’t looked at everything yet. I feel like GH Historicals can figure out some cool ones. I’d want it to follow the regular conventions of SP, but give you the feel of sentries that you might be familiar with in games like Necromunda.
Guerrilla cavalry units, known as Partisan Rangers in the ACW, were present in most theaters – so I’d really like to use a unit here. Perhaps they show up for the Confederate side for one battle and then take off. They might even have the enemy’s uniforms on (this was surprisingly done quite often) so they can get through picket lines. They would definitely be Dragoons, not impact cavalry.
I always create leaders for my games since TooFatLardies rules are always focused on the leaders and their characteristics. Again, I usually imagine my characters instead of using historical ones. I generally don’t use jokey names like you might see in some TFL settings.
Captain Milo Webster, 33rd Michigan
I like to use Michigan units just because I live in Michigan, and I like the idea of writing a fake unit history for troops from my area. Milo is the son of a logging baron in Genesee County, Michigan. He volunteered to fight early in 1862 and has risen from a Lieutenant to Captain due to casualties in the Atlanta campaign. He was wounded at Chickamauga in the arm but recovered in time to rejoin and fight in the Atlanta campaign. He leads Company E of the 33rd Michigan, encamped at New Bern. Company E has been sent out as a vanguard in front of a force that will probe Wilmington and the Cape Fear region.
In game terms, the 33rd will be equipped with rifled muskets, will always be able to form and controlled volley, and will be Stubborn. They have seen the elephant in Atlanta and are ready for the war to end – when shot at, they ignore the first point of Shock that is allocated to them, but when they withdraw they withdraw an extra 1″.
Captain Jefferson Hughes, 7th Junior Reserve Battalion
Jeff Hughes is part of a family that has been in the Cape Fear region for years, using the piney woods to produce pine and tar that can be used for naval purposes. He learned the trade and successfully ran the business for four years before the war started. He now leads Company B of the 7th Junior Reserve Battalion, an understrength regiment recruited from the region mostly made up of 15-18 year old boys. The 7th has been serving garrison duty in Fort Fisher for months and disease and malnourishment has taken its toll.
The 7th are mostly un-tested troops who are not super reliable in combat. They do have Rebel Yell and Hearth and Home (so they move better in this area) but will Withdraw the first time they take a Shock in a game on a 4+ dice roll.
Hobbying for This Project
I have pretty much all the infantry I need for this game plus more, including the USCT, Confederate sailors, USMC, cavalry, etc. I have the steamer and even an ironclad ready to go. The things I’m looking at painting are perhaps some Union cavalry – the ones I have now are Wilder’s Lightning Brigade, so they’re mounted infantry. I would also like to paint some mounted infantry for my Confederate force because they were more common at the end of the war.
I am just finishing these casualty markers. They’re very old sculpts so don’t look too close – but they work, and they’ll only be on the board if a guy dies. There are some Sash and Saber and Perry mixed in that look great but mostly I just wanted to get them done. I’m also painting some discarded equipment – this is stuff that will take the game to the next level beyond what I’ve been doing for years, and I’m really excited to have it!
Thanks for reading – check back later for my Road to AdeptiCon!