Red moves swiftly to seize Hook's Farm.
For those readers who may have missed the lead up posts, this game was played using a set of rules by Bob Cordery inspired by Joe Morschauser and mostly Britain's figures, nearly 1/2 of which are vintage originals from the 1920's. The game uses dice not spring-loaded canon and is played on a grid which in this case has been marked with a series of crosses on the field of battle.The game deals with "units" not individual soldiers but it is simple and generic and seemed like a good fit for a Red vs Blue game based on Hook's Farm. The terrain and forces were translated from the original to fit the rules as was the original deployment. From there on General's Me and Myself were on their own to fight out the battle as they saw fit. Instead of a dry rendering of die scores and rules interpretations I shall turn to an impartial observer for a narrative of the event and add some commentary afterward. Alas H.G Well's wasn't available so the narrative of Second Hook's Farm may not be quite as stirring as the original. Clicking on the pictures will bring up larger versions.
" What a stirring sight it was! From the basket of my hot air balloon, I could see the 2 armies laid out below.me like toy soldiers.
To my left was the Red army, evidently deployed to strike every where at once. On his left by the church was a field gun supported by 2 companies of the Guards and a troop of cavalry, on his right a Heavy gun, 3 troops of cavalry and 3 of Highlanders as well as the general himself. Blue, having scouted Red's position, deployed his 4.7" heavy gun, manned by Blue Jackets from the fleet, supported by 4 troops of cavalry and more sailors. On his right was a field gun, ready to move forward along with 3 companies of infantry, militia, riflemen. and more sailors. A flank guard of Ghurka's and the General himself held the left.
Shells screamed through the air and high explosive burst with a dreadful roar, all the brutality of modern war seemed unleashed as the crack of the Guards rifles added to the noise. Suddenly, a bugle rang out above the din, like knights of old, Red's cavalry charged forward heedless of the odds, seeking to drive Blue back down the hill. Undaunted Blue's horsemen spurred their horses forward, eager to meet the foe.
Alas, what a bloody business is war. In minutes these fine bodies of horsemen were a shambles, those horsemen not struck down were scattered to the winds.
It is a wise general who holds a reserve and Blue's cavalry now dominated the center. They cantered forward to forestall any attempt by Red to move forward into the Farm. Behind them the Blue Jackets worked calmly but with speed and purpose as shells rained down, calculating carefully, the PO aimed his gun over the intervening woods and brought his shells crashing down on Red's Horse Artillery, silencing their fire.
Red seemed to stagger under this blow but the steady Guardsmen, long service veterans all, poured their rifle fire into the woods driving out the militia. Inspired by this, Red again seized the initiative and determined to switch his attack to the flanks while shifting forces to hold the center. The Officer's Troop trotting forward on the left supported by the Guards while shells from his remaining gun rained down on Blue's field gun. Blue, caught off guard and out of position, starting recalling infantry that he had started to shift to the center and recalled cavalry to deal with the threat to his right. The result was a terrible jumble of order, counter order and disorder as units got in each other's way. Suddenly the pipes struck up and with a loud cry, the Highlanders charged forward, over running the farm and woods.
Luckily for Blue, his gunners were solid. The 4.7" gun shifted its aim and silenced the Red heavy while the field gun, which appeared to be firing at the Guardsmen who had occupied the woods to their right front, overshot and scattered Red's cavalry as it pulled back into cover. General Myself rode forward with his staff to protect the 4.7" gun but courage is no protection against rifles and he was shot down instantly. As the stretcher bearers came forward to clear the field, a temporary calm seemed to settle over the field as both sides gathered their remaining strength for one last struggle.
Spying the top of a proudly waving flag sticking up from behind Hooks' farm hill, the 4.7" fired again and the flag disappeared and Red's General with it. Cheered by this Blue's counter attack at last went in. Seeking revenge for the slaughter of their gunners, infantry surged forward from 2 sides while cavalry rode up and around, striking Red from the rear. But these were veterans of many a stricken field and not easily daunted. Calmly the rear rank turned and shot down the cavalry while sending the Jack Tars and riflemen tumbling back down the hill.
After this, with both armies leaderless, the battle settled into a long range firefight as the weary soldiers held their positions. But the 4.7" gun was still well manned and pounding the enemy infantry. Eventually with the 4.7 being manhandled around to train on the woods and a company of blue jackets advancing on the now empty farm, the last company of Red's Guards conceded the field "
I was expecting this to be a brief little skirmish, an excuse to get some favoured toys out on the table more than anything. It turned out to be an exciting little game taking nearly 3 hours to play with twists and turns of fate and despite the basic rules and a-historical setting, it proved in the end to be a test of generalship and tactics (in the general sense as opposed to the reproduction of specific historical small unit tactics) more than an exercise in die rolling, despite some lucky/unlucky rolls here and there
Isolated attacks were usually a waste of troops, the maneuver rules made it hard to bring up poorly placed reserves and made countermarching troops highly unproductive. Combined with the adjacent square close combat zone, it made it hard to by pass strong points.
The command rules may not mirror how orders are given but are effective. The loss of Blue's General who rashly rode forward because he had no troops available to protect his gun, robbed them of a chance for a decisive win. At that point they out numbered Red nearly 2:1 but had trouble activating their remaining forces while Red was able to get full use of his troops until a lucky shot took out his command. Not that he had enough left to launch an effective attack.
The repulse of the attack on the guards is a good example. The attackers needed a 1,2 or 3 to win when attacking into the wood and rolled a 4 which was unlucky but it was a 50/50 shot. Whether the guards hit back or not, the attack was repulsed if it failed. It seemed fairly safe . since 2 supporting units reduced the Guards from hitting on 4 or less to 2 or less but that's still a 1 in 3 chance. As it turns out the attack failed and took a hit but considering that these were rifle armed troops holding a wooded hill, it's not that surprising. Since that wooded knoll wasn't part of the objective, it might have been better for Blue to fall back sending the cavalry around to the Farm and forcing Red to abandon his cover to attack Blue's infantry in their cover or else give up the game.
Admittedly, by the time the game ended on turn 13, the battle field was looking pretty sparse with small groups of infantry hiding in woods sniping at their opposing numbers but if one considers the destroyed units as being "combat ineffective" and pulled out of the line as opposed to being lying dead like the toy soldiers in a couple of the pictures, this seems a not unreasonable end to a day, though a Pyhrric victory if not a drawn battle.
If there had been some sort of campaign setting to encourage one of the general's to save his troops or if the battle had swung decisively one way or the other then the game might have ended sooner. As it was, it was partly exhaustion that led me to abandon the idea of trying to counter attack with the last remaining company of Guards at 1:3 odds.
A most enjoyable afternoon.