On Wednesday night Alex umpired a 28mm Napoleonic skirmish - set in the Spanish Peninsula, with Craig assisting - using his own scenario, delightful collection of figures, and Sharp Practice rules.
In a game transporting me back to my teenage years in the 1990s - watching Sean Bean in Sharpe's Rifles and reading Wargames Illustrated magazines with black covers - Theo, Chris and Tim were the French, tasked with escorting a wagon train of loot off the table.
Doug and Mal were the British, who were meant to recce the area and intercept a French spy, as well as support the Spanish.
Rob and Brian were the Spanish, who also had a spy, and were supposed to stop the French getting off the table and recapture the loot.
The rules, written by Too Fat Lardies, are chit-driven, meaning that units may activate when drawn from a bag; this certainly keeps things uncertain. The British infantry were the first to appear, soon followed by the French.
The game was set in the tongue-in-cheek province of Del Monte. A cast of characters with silly names - 'Chinless Twit', 'Major Visage du Vache' - kept the action lighthearted as Alex directed the players through their first experience with the rules.
To the right of the town, the 95th Rifles directed by Richard Sharpe and other lights engaged the French infantry and skirmishers.
The Spanish guerrillas (Brian) included a Catherine Zeta Jones-esque (but evidently not Cambrian) female spy dubbed The Needle, and made their appearance on the left of the table, eventually followed by Rob's sluggish Spanish regulars.
More British entered the fray, including Sgt. Harper, and Highland light infantry.
The French brought on several more units to the town, as well as their wagons. Their light infantry secured the flanks there, and engaged their encroaching foes with rising desperation as the game wore on...
The game devolved into a general firefight over the village, the British line infantry steadily eroding the French regulars with more effective volleys.
However, random events were also part of the fabric of the game. At one point, Rob's character 'El Guappo' was barged down by his own men... which would never happen in real life. Ever.
Meanwhile, Brian's guerrillas moved up to the town, which caught fire... (not due to the guerrillas, but allegedly a careless French Pioneer's pipe, as he sharpened his axe).
The French were becoming increasingly isolated, and lost their line infantry commander to British fire, as the latter moved towards the town to finish them off.
On turn seven, the French infantry was finally breaking, having just taken seven hits.
In a climactic duel to end the game, the hideously dressed, but nicely painted, afrancesado Spanish spy working with the French was defeated by Tim Titters, the British commander. (Bravo, wot wot!)
The French had failed to move their wagons throughout the game and suffered the vast majority of casualties - so lost. Which was abundantly fair, given their lack of Polish Vistula Lancers...
All in all a well umpired, fun game, with lovely figures/terrain, and plenty of characterful roleplaying elements. As with any first go, there was an inevitable learning curve, but the rules seemed to be fairly straightforward. While the number of units and players was probably higher than is usual for these rules, the number and proportion of chits used per faction could easily be tweaked. Alex did well to keep the game moving forward given the time constraint, and kept everyone involved: we were not too disruptive on this occasion!
Thanks to Alex and Craig for hosting, and I hope we see more Peninsular action at the club soon!