Sharp Practice by Too Fat Lardies is the second Napoleonic Skirmish rules set I have been raving about. You have probably figured out by now that I really like Song of Drums and Shakos and may be wondering why in the heck I'm messing around with Sharp Practice. Well, it is because they are two different animals, and they are both excellent rules for two different styles of games. I think everyone should own both sets.
Sharp Practice (SP) uses card decks to activate officers and NCOs referred to as 'Big Men", as well as a myriad of other special capabilities and random events to always keep you guessing. SP is a game that takes a lot of control away from the player and makes him respond to constantly evolving conditions during the battle. Good tactics are rewarded, bad tactics only compound the arse whooping you will get!
Like Sharp, I have only three rules that I expect from a rules set to pass my test!
1. SIMPLE. Must be fairly simple to learn and minimal book keeping if any. If a new player cannot grasp the basic idea and funtion in a Convention game in three turns the game is simply no good. Key word here is "game". I've been gaming for a long time and some historical guys just can't seem to get the fact that they are playing games with toy soldiers. "Realism" is a myth and games that claim to simulate only make for lousy games you cannot ever hope to finish. A reasonable amount of historically reasonable results can be achieved with good simple rules much easier than complex nightmares.
2. PLAYABLE. Gotta be able to finish a bloody game! If the game cannot be played in a couple of hours or less it will become a paperweight. I don't mind getting a little crazy and playing bigger, longer games, but the quick play option has to be there. You will never get new converts if you cannot finish games.
3. FLAVOR. While keeping to simple, fast play mechanics, the game should give you a good "feel" for the period and not allow the player to have God like capabilities. I like surprises, and it makes for much funner games. In Napoleonics for example, I like to see troop characteristics and I also like to see my little soldiers having some sort of sense of self preservation. It is also important that rules can be slightly modified to taste without breaking the system.
I have read the rules several times and only played four games of SP so far but I can already tell you that it abides by my rules. SP is in my toy chest for the long haul so we are taking our time to learn the rules completely, and are play testing it exhaustively. Finally we will make our tweaks and house rules. The main thing I need to completely test out is our basing system which uses multiple figures on a base while they are in close formation. This will allow us to take SP from company level to battalion level. I'm convinced it can handle it with a little thought.
Here are some photos with descriptions from one of our learning games. This is not really a batrep or a review, but just an illustration of what your games might look like if you choose to try out this excellent rules set. We've only dipped the pinky but are already having a very good time with SP.