Project Showcase: Sharp Practice Peninsular War British
Bryan’s painted force
Welcome to a showcase of a recently completed project of mine, an Anglo-Spanish force for the game Sharp Practice. This Napoleonic skirmish force will grow in the future but for now it represents a solid painted collection that gives me more than enough to play a standard sized battle. Let’s head off to the dusty plains and scorched mountains of the Iberian Peninsula in the early 1800’s to take a look at this little force standing up to the might of Napoleon …
This force is unashamedly a homage to one of my favourite literary heroes, Richard Sharpe of the 95th Rifles, and his adventures in the famous series of books by Bernard Cornwell. The books are full of dashing characters and hard fighting units, so I wanted to paint as many as I could get in one force. I knew I simply must have Captain Sharpe himself and his faithful Sergeant Harper. I also wanted to include Sharpe’s wife Teresa, the Spanish partisan leader ‘La Aguja’ (The needle).
The game rules for Sharp Practice revolve around your characters, so it was the perfect rules set for a force like this. Each Leader takes charge of a group, or several groups of men and forms them into a formation during the game.
My force represents a Light Company of a British regiment with some attached Spanish Guerilla fighters as local scouts, out to harass the French on all sorts of daring tasks. Although my collection is based in history, it’s composition is completely fiction, although not beyond the realm of possibility. A Light Company consisted of the regiments best shots and men who could act with more initiative than most as their job was to deploy as screen for the rest of the unit and skirmish with the enemy, disrupting them before the battle lines were joined in murderous volley fire. Normally the men were all from the same redcoat unit, however mine feature a mixture of men also in green jackets.
The green jackets are actually men of a specialist regiment, the 95th Rifles. Created specifically for skirmishing and armed with the latest technology of the time, the Baker Rifle. These troops were deadly accurate with the rifled barrels of their weapons, at a time when most troops were using smooth bore muskets. The reason they are in the mix is because that takes place in the novels I am using as inspiration. Sharpe and his Riflemen are separated from their unit in a chaotic retreat and are then attached to a redcoat Battalion, the fictional South Essex.
The third distinct group apart from the Redcoats and Riflemen are the Spanish Partisans. These are local men and women who have taken up arms against the invading French. Experts at ambushes and skirmish tactics, they fit right in with their British allies. They also gave me the excuse to include Teresa in the force to leade her band of guerilla fighters.
I have wanted to collect a force like this for many years, since the 90’s in fact, but the models for the novel's characters didn’t exist until now. The sculptor Paul Hicks has done a cracking job capturing the look of the heroes and villains of series in 28mm miniatures for Brigade Games. You can listen to Dan chat with Paul on the podcast here.
I picked up Sharpe, Harper and the Chosen Men (Sharpe’s hardened veterans) as well as Teresa from Brigade Game’s Napoleonic collection as well as many of my Spanish partisan fighters. These are full of characters of their own, including fighting Priests and Monks!
For the Redcoats I used Perry Miniatures ‘Flank Company Skirmishers 1808-14’ from their Napoleonic British range of metal miniatures. These are another range of beautiful sculpts which also provided me with some more Riflemen, mixing well with the Brigade Games minis. I also grabbed some extra Spanish partisans for increased pose variety from Perry Miniatures ‘Carlist Wars’ range, using their civilian fighters packs.
Painting them all
This project offered some great variety in uniforms and colours to paint. Napoleonics may be a more time consuming period to paint due to the intricate uniforms, but it does look amazing with all the bright colors once done.
For painting, I broke the project up into the three distinct groups of green jacketed Riflemen, the Redcoats and then finally the partisans in civilian dress. Each posed their own challenges, but the variety kept me from ever feeling burnt out.
I began by painting up the heart of the force, Sharpe and his green jackets. These were all primed in black, something I almost never do, as most of their equipment is black and a very dark green. These were tricky to make stand out on the gaming table with such a drab colour pallette with little contrast, so I did exaggerate the green highlights a bit. It was fun to use the television show they made of the novels in the 90’s starring Sean Bean (in which he doesn’t die!) as colour reference for the characters.
Next was the iconic Redcoats, these were the most fun to paint as their uniforms are so bright. I actually have written a step by step painting guide for them right here, so check that out for a full rundown on how to achieve this look. In my effort to include as many characters from the books into my force as possible I even have a villian in the ranks, Sharpes nemesis, Sergeant Hakeswill leading these Redcoats. I guess Sharpe has to watch his back! This is another miniature by Paul Hicks from the Brigade range.
Last up was the distinctly less uniform Spanish partisans. These did intimidate me somewhat as the potential for these to be extremely time consuming was high, as each should be dressed individually, precluding me from batch painting.
In the end I worked out a system where I could paint all 19 of them at once, by working colour by colour. Each colour was applied to a random piece of clothing on each model, trousers here, a hat there, so I could still batch paint, just not in a uniform way. I made sure to have a high number of hues to give them a mixed look but not too many differing colours. For example I had three different browns, two reds, a yellow, a green and a grey blue. The end result was that they look like a group, but are not wearing a uniform of any kind. To finish them off I took the time to work in some free hand patterns on some of the larger pieces of clothing to add to that civilian look.
I have been playing Sharp Practice by Too Fat Lardies for over a year now and I love it. The game gives you just enough control over your forces to not be frustrating but can be very random. It feels like you are playing out an adventure from a film or novel. Having said that there is also surprising amount of Napoleonic period tactics and formations in the battles. You can listen to an interview with the games designer Richard Clarke on the Paint Ramble here with Dan.
Sharpe’s Light Company is an all skirmish force, with no ranked up formations like most armies in this setting. It has a lot of advantages with maneuverability, springing ambushes and units can get out of trouble fast if needed. The Riflemen are deadly accurate, the Redcoats less so but can fire more often with their quicker to reload muskets and the Spanish, although flakey, offer some very handy infiltration tactics that benefit the rest of the force.
The disadvantages for the army is it does not have much staying power and can’t deploy the devastating firepower that a large ranked up formation can with it’s musket volleys.
In the game my force list is deployed in three groups as as follows:
Level 3 Leader: Captain Sharpe
Level 1 Leader: Sergeant Hakeswill
2 groups of Redcoat Light Company Skirmishers (6 men each)
Level 2 Leader: Sergeant Harper
2 groups of Riflemen Skirmishers (6 man each)
Level 2 Leader: Capitano Teresa
3 groups of Spanish Guerilla Skirmishers (6 men each)
Well that’s one army project wrapped up (for now!), I am working on a matching opposing force for Sharpe and his men, the dastardly French invaders. Napoleons men are a very different force to this, so it’s going to be a great asymmetric match up indeed. I’ll showcase the French in an upcoming article soon.
Thanks for checking this out, and if you have any questions just ask below in the comments.