My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Gaming Hook's Farm with the Wife

I had initially planned to play the demonstration scenario "Hook's Farm", using Tin Soldiers in Action, with a gaming buddy from Texas (Justo), but we were not able to complete the armies and terrain so we could both play the two sides over Skype, so my wife suggested (!) that we play a game instead. Well, given that I had "Hook's Farm" set up, I suggested that we try that. How easy would it be to teach my wife Tin Soldiers in Action (TSIA)? More importantly, how would she like it?

My wife has played a few games with me over the years, but she is typically so engrossed with her garden that she would rather work out there than game, so the games have been few and far between. She started gaming when we met a couple – Marv and Betsy from New Mexico – and saw that not only did Betsy participate in gaming, she was an avid gamer. Betsy taught my wife DBA and, although she liked it, she did not stick with it. What she did like, and played a number of times, was the card game Dominion. She also played a few games of Abaddon with me and really enjoyed that. So none of the really hardcore stuff, but still some military oriented topics every so often.

Hook's Farm is a simple, introductory scenario converted from the scenario of the same name in H. G. Wells' book Little Wars, that you can download from the TSIA files section on Boardgame Geek. It uses a simple 8 square by 8 square grid board, which even if using the suggested 6" squares, only requires a 4' by 4' space. I was using 3" squares though, so this scenario fits nicely into the "small space gaming grid" category.

Map of Hook's Farm
The defender (Blue) sets up his forces in rows 1-3, with a single unit allowed in square D4, which is Hook's Farm, and the victory square. The attacker (Red) deploys her forces in row 8. Red rectangles are houses, green blobs are woods, and multiple squares outlined in brown are hills.

The forces are pretty basic with each player getting four infantry units, two artillery units, one light cavalry unit, and three commanders. The Blue defender must eliminate one of those units, of his choice, before the start of the game.

Here is my board all set up.

My version of Hook's Farm, viewed from the attacker's baseline
The board is the backside of a whiteboard. As it is metal, and magnetically receptive, it works well with magnetized bases (which mine are). I also magnetized the cardboard hills and the wooden block houses. (The hexes on the side are to indicate the grid number, which is used when playing remotely over Skype. They play no role in this game other than to demark the boundaries of the board.)

Hook's Farm takes place somewhere around the time of 1850. The infantry are armed with rifled muskets and the artillery with smoothbore muzzleloaders. I have been working on my 1866 Austrians and Prussians and I wanted them to take the field even though it was slightly out of period. Rather than altering the scenario, I used the figures to represent the Blue (Austrian) and Red (Prussian) sides.

The Blue/Austrian/Defending Forces

Commander-in-Chief and Austrian Cavalry Reserve

Although the unit has only four figures on the base, it actually has 12 tin soldiers on the roster. The cavalry unit depicts an Austrian Hussar unit.

Austrian 1st Division

This consisted of two infantry brigades, an artillery battery, and the Division Commander.

Austrian 2nd Division

This also consisted of two infantry brigades, an artillery battery, and the Division Commander. However, I decided to eliminate one of the infantry brigades as part of the scenario requirements.

As you can see in the picture, the infantry on the left is an older style, where the head is made from a round bead. The newer style, shown in the picture of the Austrian 1st Division, has the head made from a flathead, screwhole (furniture) plug, which looks much better as a shako in this scale.

The infantry on the right are modeled after the Austrian Jägers battalions, with the cock feathers in their top hats.

This artillery battery is incomplete. I have finished neither the gun or the limber.

The Red/Prussian/Attacking Forces

Commander-in-Chief and Prussian Cavalry Reserve

The cavalry unit depicts the Prussian 1st Hussar Regiment. The Commander-in-Chief is a Prussian Cuirassier Brigade Commander.

Prussian 1st Division

This consisted of two infantry brigades, an artillery battery, and the Division Commander. The gun of the artillery battery is completed, but the limber is not.

Prussian 2nd Division

This also consisted of two infantry brigades, an artillery battery, and the Division Commander.

As you can see in the picture, the infantry on the right after the Prussian Jägers battalions, with the shako rather than the pickelhaube.

This artillery battery is incomplete. I have finished neither the gun or the limber.

Let the Game Begin

My wily opponent tries to distract me
I did change the scenario a little, but not on purpose. I had the Red forces march on. The second change regarded line of sight to and from hills. I am fairly sure that I did it wrong, but I sort of wanted to do it that way as I felt I was handicapping myself in this game. (Turned out I was just penalizing both sides.) I am not going to go into the second change because I don't want to perpetuate it.


As I was having Red march on, here were the only deployed forces. Note that both artillery batteries are limbered at the start. Also, the yellow disorder markers are not out yet.

The Austrian defenders, deployed.

Turn One

The first turn saw the Prussians advance onto the board. No casualties were registered, but the Austrian artillery is deployed. (All pictures are of the end of the turn.)

Turn Two

This turn saw the Prussian 2nd Division concentrate fire on the Austrian 2nd Brigade (1st Division) and rout them out of the woods and off of the board. (Rita got some good hits and I absolutely failed my morale, then rolled the maximum on desertion.) The Prussians have opened their left flank.

Turn Three

The Prussians aggressively advance against Hook's Farm, but fail to inflict any damage on them. Fire is mostly concentrated on my left flank artillery and infantry. Rita is attempting to make a pincer movement against the farm! (Why, oh why, did I ever tell her about pincer movements!)

Turn Four

Man, that turn hurt! You can see that Rita has completely wiped out my artillery and infantry on my left flank. This forces me to pull back my cavalry reserve so it won't disintegrate under withering Prussian artillery fire.

What this picture does not show is the damage – or lack thereof – on Rita's forces. Her rightmost battery and the two infantry brigades in the center, in front of Hook's Farm, have no hits on any unit. The only saving grace is that the Austrian unit in Hook's Farm still has not taken any hits either.

Turn Five

At this point I just noticed that I have been using the Prussian CinC and Cavalry Reserve for the Austrians and vice versa! Either I am tired or I subconsciously wanted to play the Prussian Hussars, which I think are painted much better.
My pulling the cavalry back lured out Rita's cavalry. I make a quick charge and am fortunate in that the Prussians fail their Close Combat Test, while the Austrians succeed. Austrian cavalry in close formation charging disordered Prussian cavalry in open formation results in dead Prussian cavalry, which routs off of the board.

As I was playing the variable turn end (for no particular reason other than to force the attacker not to dawdle) there is a chance that the game ends at the end of turn 5 or turn 6, rather than turn 7. Rita's rolling of sixes had been hot so I ask her to roll for an early end, and it does! I tricked her into rolling another six and won the game!

The sun sets on Hook's Farm, with the Austrians still in possession of it (with a mere two tin soldiers). Rita gives me a sour look and says "What do you mean I lost? How could I have lost when I killed all of your soldiers?!?" But she laughs it off, even after I offer to continue playing. I know she would have taken the farm on the following turn. There was no way to stop that damn gun line.


First and foremost: how did Rita like the game? She admitted that she was initially bored with all of the explanation and the marching. But once the action started, not only was she hooked, she was getting it. By the end of the game I had her controlling the cards and indicating whose turn was next and she was even starting to calculate the odds. (Funny how she kept forgetting to halve the firepower of her rifles, but not mine though.)

Honestly, at no prompting from me, Rita concentrated her firepower on the center and kept it there, not getting distracted by all of the other elements on the board. Although she lost her cavalry at the end, it was really a minor moral victory for me. There was no way my cavalry was going to survive a canister blast to the face if I tried to charge her artillery. Unlike me, she resisted the urge to charge in with the bayonet and just simply blasted away all of my supports in preparation of that final charge into the farm. Only an early sunset stopped the inevitable.

The best reaction of all was when she said we needed to try that again tomorrow. Hopefully I can not screw up the rules regarding hills and line of sight and convince her that I am not simply changing the rules on her to get an advantage.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, the Prussian Cavalry Reserve are the prettiest on the board and that alone should give them a +1 on attack. It all looks a ton of fun, not surprised that Rita wants a rematch. Enjoyable New Year post, thanks.


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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 58 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ working for a software company for the last three years. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").