Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Sharp Practice - The Battle of Paloma Blanca

Last night, the sleepy Spanish fishing town of Paloma Blanca was disturbed by the rampaging military forces of three warring nations, a chest of Spanish gold, a sultry Marquesa, and a Captain of Artillery who clearly needed a new telescope.

Of course, such tomfoolery could only be part of the Easter weekend wargame at Lard Island, using the TooFatLardies Sharp Practice Napoleonic rules written by Lard Generalissimo Richard Clarke and umpired by that other bombard of sack, Nick Skinner.

A longer report of the game will soon be available at the TooFatLardies blog, which covers up for the fact I had to miss the end owing to a long phone call. I have also (ahem) slightly changed the names of the characters in the game ... this is a family blog, don’t ya know!

With that in mind, let me transport you back to the coast of Spain, in 1811, and the small, sleepy fishing town of Paloma Blanca, with its delightful harbour in which the French sloop, Vengeur, is anchored.

The locals of Paloma Blanca are proud of their heritage, the fine statue of Don Juan de Paloma Blanca commemorating his tiny part in the victory over the Turks at Lepanto. Rumour has it a townsman is employed each day to prevent a seagull landing on his noble statue...

The town’s docks are busy, with crates of produce arriving from the Indies and Americas....

..... doubtless containing gaudy silks, gifts and other fripperies which the more.... errr.... “fashionable” gentlemen of the town can bestow upon their favourite Ladies of the Night...

But Palomba Blanca is far from a bed of languid iniquity. As well as the Vengeur, a shore battery guards the narrows, manned by the hearty soldiers of Spain...

....and led by the inspired Spanish and allied French commanders. What’s that? Did I hear a barely stifled laugh? Ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce your Allied commanders for the night (Elton, Panda and Mr T.)....

....and their British adversaries (Big Rich out of camera, Harpers, Daz, Big Al and Nick umpiring)...

So, the scene is set! The sun is high in the Spanish skies as the British riflemen, led by Captain Richard Fondleur, scout the edge of the town, accompanied by a force of jolly jack tars armed with a ferocious array of boarding mallets, billhooks and knives.

An alarum is raised by the Spanish Captain in the Tower, Fanciso de Rivera, and the lumbering behemoth of a 24 pounder cannon is trundled to face the attackers to landward.

As the Spanish defenders in the Tower make ready, the British riflemen skirmish with the enemy in the town outskirts, focusing their attack on a fortified hacienda.

The turn of the cards by Umpire Nick casts the net of fortune wide, with an ample selection of bonus cards for any Big Man to claim. A Marine landing party “grasp the nettle” with vigour, pressing into the centre of Palomba Blanca.

Meanwhile, quietly, secretively the French Consul, Colonel Daguerre makes his way, concealed from sight on “blinds”, to the docks with his chest of Spanish gold – destined not for the gilded halls of Madrid but for the salons of Revolutionary Paris.

Oblivious to Colonel Daguerre’s dark plans, the Spanish defenders of the town doggedly try and hold on, but are eventually routed from the hacienda...

.... and soon challenged by the jolly jack tars hacking down the main door of the Tower.

Desperately, the Spanish artillery commander, Don Hector Christo, orders his guns to fire across the bay on the British devils attacking the Tower, regardless of inflicting casualties on his own men. C’est magnifique, mais......well, sadly, you know the rest.

The Tower remains surrounded despite the withering artillery fire from across the bay...

...but help seems at hand with Sergeants Fraternité and Liberté and a platoon of French soldiers arriving in the market square...

....surely deliverance is near? Perhaps not that near, as with a collective groan from the British and Spanish players, Colonel Daguerre turns his loaded wagons along the dockside and commences loading the Vengeur, oblivious to the perils of his Spanish allies.

The Colonel must have a plan – he cannot simply be ignoring his allies in their of need, can he? Ah, mes braves .... war, well, it’s tricky. Nowhere near as simple as it seems. You know, there is this thing called strategy. It’ can I put it...complicated. Sometimes, it might seem that you're running out on your friends, but really, they just don’t know the whole picture...

As I mentioned, I sadly needed to leave at this point. Happily, the rest of the tale of treachery, bravery, wayward artillery and the lovely Marquesa Uma Paloma Blanca will shortly be published on the Lard Island Blog here.


  1. A beautiful and inspiring game. You are lucky to have played even some of it. I'd love to know a bit more about how the Lards set up that table and I'm guessing they just throw a lot of sand and rocks around?


  2. What a set up, great game, great scenery and great figures, very nice and sorry you didn't get to finish it to the end.

  3. Great stuff. Just my cup of tea. Keep up the good work!

  4. I do like the cliff hanger nature of your report. I look forward to getting Richard's views.

  5. Nice table and AAR. Who makes the jack tar holding an axe?

  6. Is that Rich's famous square tower, so cleverly painted so that it appears round to the eye?

    Looked like a fun game, and nice looking table.

    Quite the run of cards there for the Marines.

  7. Really enjoyed the report. Beautiful setting all around and I just picked up some ideas on how to create a harbour. Thanks. Now off to the rest of the tale.

  8. I was rather hoping to hear more about the sultry Marquesa!

  9. Many thanks for all the comments. They are all very much appreciated !

    To answer the various points:

    @Furt - the terrain is very simple. Off-cuts of my old hall carpet and spare books under a couple of cloths, a separate (rather fancier) blue cloth for the sea, and yes, a sprinkling of sand and small stones all around. Simple, cheap but versatile. Takes about 15 minutes to set up when you get the hang of it.

    @Anonymous - no idea regarding the axe-bearing jack tars. The figures of the sailors belong to Nick. I shall ask him and post the answer here tomorrow.

    @Galvanized Yankee - yes, it is Rich's famous inverted-flower-pot-cum-Martello-Tower!

    @MiniMike, Jon and Angry Lurker - the rest of the tale is now on the Lard Island Blog, complete with the accurate character names ..... Oh Lordy!

    @Mad Padre - Oh, she was certainly around somewhere in that game !!

  10. Fantastic looking table and figures!!

    My son has been badgering me to have a go at Sharp Practice and after reading this I don't see why not!

  11. Hello Sidney, what a fine blog you have here. Shame the Spaniards let you down so terribly on the night!

    By the way, Sgt Egalite was killed. There's a message for you there I think.

    Anyway, the axe wielding matelot is, if I recall correctly, from Steve Barber. He makes some lovely figures for landing parties and his Royal Marine Sgt is one of my all time favourites.

  12. @Kingsley Park - you should give Sharp Practice a go. It really is good fun! Your son is clearly wise beyond his years ! :)

    @Clarence - Huge thanks Clarence for identifying the axe wielding matelot. The identification had quite stumped me - the sailors are Nick's figures! I am sadly used to being let down by Napoleonic Spanish infantry! Good job they made up in entertainment value what they lacked in martial success!

  13. Great-looking battlefield - lots of flavour pieces!
    I really like the way you've done the beach, simple but very effective

  14. WoW! That's a superb battlefield! Great looking terrain and figures. Very inspirational stuff!


  15. Very nice battlefield !! Yes , you are lucky to have played this game !!!


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