Saturday, January 13, 2018

Sharp Practice 2 - The Russo-Japanese War - Thoughts and adaptions.

First game of the year and a chance to try something new.
Like many wargamers I have a bookshelf full of rules each time a new edition comes it ends up being brought and added to the shelf. To the point where at times you forget which rules sits within each version, this year I resolved to try and cull the rules used and concentrate on a small number which over the years have provided the best experience. Sharp Practice 2 is one such set but could they be tweaked to include the war of 1904 -1905?

Historically I have used mud and blood from the TFL which gave a great game but was very much large skirmish where SP2 feels that little but larger, so I amend the formations slightly and dropped the number of bigmen, I picked a scenario from Chris Stoesen excellent Suppliment Empire to Revolution for WW1 Russia and matched the number of figures per side to hopefully give the right balance.

The scenario saw a small Japanese force attempting to rush a lightly defended bridge in the opening days of the war.

The Russians were allowed half their force on the eastern side of the river and a makeshift barricade to help defend the bridge from the Japanese attackers.

The Japanese with the aid of some Chinese irregulars managed to push forwards using a secondary jump off point and seize the farmstead very early on.

The Japanese came on enmasse, the first challange that we faced was use of bolt action rifles, with no reload action the rate of fire could be massive and the ranges make open ground pretty difficult to cross. By this period smokeless rounds meant battlefield visability was better so no hiding in the smoke for our 28mm warriors. We talked about introducing a tactical action where troops go to ground to provide an additional level of cover when being fired at.

The Russians learn't early on what a couple of rounds of sustained fire could do from a formation even to a skirmish unit at distance, so took to keeping behind the slope and log barricade. The good use of a crashing volley by the nearest Russian section gave the Japanese formation a bloody nose. We decided that the crashing volley when played only impacted the first action of firing.

With the Russian defenders being slowly weakened by shock and casualties even behind heavy cover the Japanese advanced, flanking the Russians left flank.

Not exactly the greatest surprise but the bulk of the Russian mainforce are revealed pouring fire into the Japanese as they crest the rise.

The Japanese are ravaged by the mass ranks of Russians and are soon falling back with their force morale droping as the formation broken and stumbled backwards.

The Russian mainforce sets off over the Bridge thinking the game was in the bag, however out of shot the Japanese release a volley, firing into a marching column added enough shock to reduced the column to a crawl. A valiant draw was agreed.

Pretty pleased with the first run out, I need to amend a number of the units and add some extra figures here and there but all in all really pleased how SP2 translated to the later period.

Post game thoughts

After the initial shock of the rate of fire even a single section can generate in a turn. The game soon calmed down with commanders thinking that little bit harder when to commit units to action, we agreed that the two rates of fire should remain to correctly reflect the effect on the day. 

We agreed to add in the additional actions of troops taking one action to go to ground which in the open increased their cover level by one and in certain types of cover makes them impossible to hit e.g. solid walls. However after much discussion we also agreed that it takes a further action to stand up to balance the benefit of cover vs fire power.

The MG on the Japanese side had some effect we increased the range beyond that of the rifle to allow them to be used as a support weapon and only at effective range gave it the equivalent of cannister where it doubled the shock on any unit, however to weaken it's effect it only fired on one action and a second action is required to reload.
I will probably bring across the more 1's than 6's rule to represent the jamming effect, perhaps using a flag to roll for unjamming?
In an attempt to represent the effect of sustained fire one idea is to use the ruling within Chain of Command but perhaps being triggered by the use of two command cards during a turn?

Thinking about the troops of the period and referencing the remarks of Lieut.-General Sir Ian Hamilton on the subject of operations along the Yalu River.
Another marked contrast between the two armies was in their musketry. The Russians mainly used volleys, even in the confused struggle at Ha-ma-tang ; the Japanese, individual fire. l have satisfied myself that, whereas the artillery practice of the Russians was good as long as it lasted, the musketry was inaccurate to an extent not entirely explicable by the fact that they were attempting to fire volleys in face of combined shrapnel and individual rifle fire.
With this in mind I have looked to class the bulk of the Russian forces as poor quality this would increase them numerically to 10 figure sections, but by making them poor shots balance the rate of fire, given the commentary above perhaps making the cost of crashing volley as little as one flag?

Given that only a few Russian units carried the M1891 Mosin-Nagant Rifle, with a number still armed with the Berdan II rifle which, is a single-shot bolt-action, this would require an action to reload which further reduces the Russian capabilities on the battlefield.

It's not all bad news for the Russians I awarded them the characteristic of Stubbon and perhaps even aggressive in hand to hand, whilst the Japanese of recieve the Thin Red Line to encourage them to be more assertive in action.

I would welcome anyone elses thoughts on what additional tweaks should be made to reflect the advances in firepower or to better reflect the 1900's using Sharp Practice.

Off now to work out what extra figures are needed.... shame :-)


  1. Nice to read your thoughts on tweaking SPII Stu. Are 'The Men Who Would Be Kings' rules adaptable to this period? I think some members on the Pendraken forum have tweaked them for later periods. Anyway I look forward to some more AARs covering this period.

    1. I have used them on a couple of occasions Steve, but what would I do with all my old shock markers :-)
      I am using MWWBK for my 15mm Boxers and the Starship Troopers stuff where the games are that bit bigger, I will take a look on the forum and see what ideas are being bounced around.

  2. Hi Stu
    make the Berdan II Rifles breach loaders shorter range than the bolt action magazine fed rifles. also woild you say in hand to hand if you are down lose 50% of final dice total?

    1. Thanks Dane, I will take a look at the tech spec to see if there is a difference in ranges, I will take a look at the HtH stuff.
      Currently looking at Mud and Blood for Wire, Grenades and anything else which might be seen on the RJW battlefield.

  3. What an intriguing idea...good luck with your rules tweaking.

  4. I would say that for the Russians, they should be forced to use controlled volleys, like the Prussians during the early Napoleonic lists. That should cover their volley fire doctrine pretty well.

    1. Thanks Gunnar that's a great point, I could increased the score required to come off uncontrolled which would tie in to the Russian doctrine. Just need to balance the points now to give the Russians plenty of bodies.

  5. Wonderful battle - great scenario, terrain and troops! RJW is a favorite period of mine too.