Tuesday, 11 October 2016

One Hour Wargames - First Review Game

So, we have decided to give One Hour Wargames a go. First decision - what period out of all those on offer shall we play? Well, I decided to take Mr Thomas at his word and go for the cheap and easy set up. I had some 20mm plastic ancient figures that are ideal for young hands so I decided to go with them - Rome V Carthage. The boy took the Romans – on the grounds of ‘what’s Carthage?’ was his first question when I asked him want side he wanted to be. He listened when I answered as well, so definite learning about history going on – can't be bad. For terrain I went with a bare wooden board and some scatter terrain as I was feeling the ‘quick and easy’ love and on we cracked.

Each army is made up of six units, in this game heavy foot, cav and skirmishers. The fourth troop type allowed by the rules were archers, which we would not be using as that would not be very Punic Wars. Following the recommended sizes for bases I represented each unit as two bases wide of 60mm bases. I also made the heavy foot two bases deep to give them a bit more of a hefty look. The table width and depth is 3 foot - the playing area being marked by a faint line on the board to the left of the wood - roughly where the ruler is placed. This makes the table not much wider than the six units that make up an army - limiting flanking shenanigans. This had been further limited by the terrains on the flank - which I had put down to add a bit of interest but kept to the side so it would not dominate. To stop the game armies being mirror images I had given Carthage one less heavy foot and an extra cav instead. The only rules for deployment is that one army deploys first - the other second. 

Carthage deployed with skirmishers facing the wood, heavy foot in the centre and both cav on the right.The commander of Rome had put down a solid centre of heavy foot with a unit of Triari in reserve, velites facing the woods and mounted covering the other flank, slightly held  back. I had given the boy a few 'you may want to consider' bits of advice but this was his own plan and very solid it seemed too. 

First moves - both sides push forward in the centre with Carthage keen to get to grips with their cav on the right hoping for a decision before the infantry fight is completed. The Carthagian slingers look to harass the legions before the main clash. 

The Roman cav charges into the Gauls whilst the legions continue to advance. The velites take the wood.

Even though it may have been to the advantage of the Romans to delay the mounted clash, in the rules you only cause casualties in your turn, so charging in gives you the first swing so must usually be considered to be a good idea.

On this basis the Carthaginian foot look to get stuck in. Due to the lines being at a slight angle, only the Spanish are in charge range with the Gauls and Libyans closing up.

In response the Romans get well stuck in - fighting is now general along the line.

Apart from the skirmishers who are shooting at each other. As the velites are in cover they only take half hits however - which leads me to the decision that my slingers will soon draw daggers and charge in.

With their first charge advantage the Romans mounted rout the Gauls. Units stay on the table with no ill effects until they reach 15 hits - when they are removed. This is not so bad for Carthage however as the Roman cav is badly worn and facing fresh enemy reserves.

And the Spanish charge in! As long as we can win one of the fights in the centre to draw the attention of the Triarii we should be able to collapse the Romans from the flank - all very Hannibal.

A few turns later - the exact same picture. Heavy foot fights do take several turns to resolve. As all units were committed - apart from the Triarii, who were waiting for something to happen there were no decisions take take here, we just took turns rolling dice. Which was however somewhat exciting, looking to see who would get the breakthrough.

And here we have it, the mounted Spanish hack down the Roman cav and start dreaming of Roman flanks!

Not for long however, as the Triarii do exactly what reserves are for and cover the gap. Still, no worries, win the first fight in the middle and the day would soon be mine.

Lose two units in the same turn however and it seems the only thing that would be mine is the pointy end of a Roman sword.

The Spanish, not wanting to throw themselves onto the spears of a fresh unit of Triarii pull back.

With the Romans advancing against them and also putting pressure on the flank of the gallic foot.

There are no rules for what constituted a flank charge but I ruled that it would need to start behind the target units flank. This is a standard ancients rules idea and seemed reasonable to me. So the legion just moved into a position to deliver the coup de grace.

Which was not needed as the Gauls went down without the help of a flank charge.

With the writing on the wall the Spanish Cav thought they would try to take down the battered legion before it was game over.

Could the brave Spaniards do it?

 I very much doubt it......

With things not looking to happy for the slingers who had been having a merry old punch up on the other flank with the velites. This would not last much longer.....

A overwhelming victory for the Legions of Rome!

The end of the game saw me explaining that I was at a disadvantage in the battle as I need to rely on maneuver and what with the flanks being closed down by terrain my cav were at a disadvantage. And anyway I was very unlucky with the dice in the central foot combats. In reply my boy pointed out that the game was decided by his far higher standard of generalship and luck had nothing to do with it. So a traditional and proper end to a wargame in fact.

How does the game measure up to my criteria? Well the boy loved it, a thrilling game where he got to beat daddy - whats not to love? It was not the most mentally taxing of games to play but it did require some thought - enough to make it interesting. Finding out if there is enough thought needed to make it interesting on an ongoing basis is one of the reasons why I am going to play a few games before giving a final verdict. There was a part of the game where there was no thought required - everyone was fighting. This did not last long enough to get tedious - a few turns. As each turn consisted of a player throwing a few dice we got through them very quickly. It was also not just a luck contest - more a deciding the outcome of previous laid plans and decisions. 

Did it feel like an ancients / Punic war battle rather than 'generic dice rolling contest'? I would have to say, within the constraints of only having 6 units a side, very much a yes. Looking to overwhelm a mounted flank, the legions of Rome battering down their opponents, skirmishers messing about to not very much effect, this all seems to give a clear and plausible plot to the battle - as I hope comes through in the write up of the battle above. For the question did I enjoy playing the game? A most certain yes. Very quick to set up and less than an hour to play, a very pleasant time was had by me playing a game with my first born. 

Any downsides to One Hour Wargames Ancient Rules? Well, there are two possible problems I can see. The first is that there will be a mounting up of holes in the rules that I will have to patch. 'Well make up your own rules as needed then you lazy sod' I hear you cry. Which of course I will do. The thing is though, if I am paying your actual money for a set of rules I kind of think that they should be more or less complete. Or am I just being harsh here?

The last caveat I have in my mind at the moment is that playing the games might become very samey and formulaic and therefore boring. Although the fact that there are so many scenarios will hopefully mitigate this. The next game will be a battle to control a river crossing.......


  1. My son and I played a Dark Age battle. We had much the same result as you...as in Daddy was soundly defeated by his son. We found the rules as written can be a little predictable, especially after the units have been meleeing for a few rounds. He thought there was not enough moving once we got stuck in. I thought it actually gave a good representation of Dark Age warfare. We've moved on to other games but frequently use the scenarios.

  2. All the rules are there. Any patching people tend to do is to scratch their own itch. Most of what I have read on other blogs are things like wanting more than four unit types, wanting to differentiate morale and training quality, etc. That is all fine, but it is not patching a "hole"; Neil intentionally abstracts much of what are put into other rules sets away.

    Looks like you had fun, which is the main thing. Adding rules to suit your level of complexity and detail carrying on in a fine tradition of many who came before you. Thanks for the write-up!

  3. Thanks. I pretty much agree with Dale, there is nothing wrong with the rules as such. They set out to do something very different, that is to push the boundary as far as one can to strip back and still be left with a viable game. So if we want more, we need to add or go to another set of rules, there are plenty out there, but this thing is doing something different - otherwise it would be like all those other rules.

    I have to admire his ruthless prosecution of his goal, though my own view is that the rules in general are a bit too lean and I have addeded a few things back in to get them to an 'easy 1 hour set' that better meets my needs. But in their current form they make the ideal introduction for a youngster to thrash dad.

    The theme of your blog is very interesting and. I thing will be enjoyed by a lot of people. You could really do with adding a 'follow me" me button (not the circles thing) so that a regular audience can enjoy your posts.

  4. Thank you for the comments. Is interesting looking at the rules to see if are missing anything. I am not looking for added complexity with variable morale and such - as for me the point of these rules is the simplicity. Thinking about what I thought was missing in this game - the lack of rules on what a flank charge is. To be fair there are rules on how to charge and if you hit the flank it is a flank charge. So no hole here - just follow the rules. Thing is it is more me thinking this is wrong - as you do not have to start from behind the flank to make a flank charge - and as they are so brutal I felt that this was wrong. So claiming this as a hole is wrong, it is something that I just disagree with so added a rule.

    I really want to avoid adding rules - as the point of this exercise is to review the rules as is rather than change them to fit my prejudices. But having said that I will probably keep my new rule on hitting flanks because, well, I like it and can suite myself - this is the great thing about this hobby. And the boy is still young enough that he does not even realise that he can argue with my rulings...... Not looking forward to when that changes.

    Either way, as I say I do not think you can pass judgement on any set of rules until you have played a few games with them - even 'simple' rules are usually more complex in play than you first realise. So am going to reserve my judgement until I have played a few more games and any impressions I give now are definitely subject to possible revision. Other peoples perceptions as I go along are most useful and to be welcomed.

    Thanks for the advice about the follower button - have added it (did not even take me to long to figure out how to do it........)

  5. There seems to be a pattern of first games with 1HW with children results in defeat for the dad. Happened to me as well. You have reminded me that I really need to play these rules again with my daughter!