Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Grasp the Nettle (or the Sausage)

Sharp Practice is a subject close to my heart. Although I am not playing it at the moment, I recently voted for it as my favourite TFL game on their facebook page.  If you aren't interested  in it or any of its variants, including Mud & Blood, stop reading now.

The basic turn mechanic involves a card for each big man and a tiffin card (there are also Grasp the Nettle cards which we'll come to in a moment). When a big man's card comes up he is activated and when the tiffin card is turned up, the turn ends. So, in any turn, there is a 50% chance that any big man  will be activated. Although troops which have not been activated can still do certain things (basically fire but not move), that is a high degree of chaos. Certainly it is compared to IABSM where troops can often be activated either by a big man or by a platoon card which means there is generally a 66% chance they can act before the tea break card (which corresponds to tiffin) comes up.
Seize the Moment -
ACW speak for Grasp the Nettle

There are also Grasp the Nettle (GTN) cards in SP which allow you to increase the initiative of your big men. Personally, to reduce the chaos a bit, I have taken to using these instead to allow you to activate one group of troops (not big man) of your choice. This does help quite a lot allowing you to get the troops moving you really need to move. When playing this I only allow one GTN card per side.

Just a few days ago I came across another alternative use of GTN, which I think is really interesting. Here when a GTN card comes up it can be used to activate a big man of your choice of a status equal to or higher than the GTN card. So a status 1 GTN can activate any level of big man, but a status 3 GTN can be used only by a status 3 or 4 big man. I would probably limit it to two GTN cards per side.

Let's looks at what that does to the odds of a big man acting in a turn. Assume your force has say 6 groups of troops and three big men: one status 3 (Lt St-James) and two status 2's (Sgts Paisley and Dagenham).

If St-James is greedy and will take any GTN card, then there are three cards he can use (his own plus two GTNs). That means there is a 75% chance of him acting before tiffin. However, because there is no GTN for the sergeants they only have a 50% chance of acting. If on the other hand St-James is a gentleman and leaves the lower level GTN card to his sergeants, he has only 2 cards he can use and a 66% chance of acting. Then the first sergeant (Paisley) has two cards (so 66%) but Dagenham has only one card (50%) so we can average that out to 58%.

I think it is really interesting the way this introduces more chance to 'master the chaos' and in particular means that the higher level, more important, big men like St-James have a greater chance to influence the game. I will be very interested to give this a try. Thank you Simon.

... And the Sausage? The French Grasp the Nettle card is called ... Graspez le Saucisson.  Anyone know the German or Russian for Grasp the Nettle?

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