Monday, 25 July 2016

Dark Age One Hour Wargames AAR

A few weeks ago I bought Neil Thomas' book One Hour Wargames.
Primarily because it contains 30 scenarios and for the eight or so quid (it's gone up a bit) I spent on the book I was hoping to get some inspiration for some games.
I was also, I think, just wanting to spend some money on myself.
I didn't really buy the book with expectation of playing any games using the rules.

However a prolonged gaming drought and a warm summer evening combined and I decided to give the rules a try The book contains some solo play tips and I had six units each of 10mm Saxons and Romans sat near the paint table so all was set.

First job was to set up. And here was my first departure from the rules. One Hour Wargames is designed for a 3ft square table with units occupying a 4-6 inch frontage and movement measured in inches.
As I was using 10mm models on 4cm bases I decided to switch cm for inches (and even cut myself two wee measuring sticks from a BBQ skewer). However a 36cm square table would have been tiny. So I opted for 2ft square instead.
The rules advocate basic terrain and layout (we're all too busy, apparently - I may return to this in a later post) and I remained true to this, using a plain felt cloth, a simple old Citadel hill and marking the road with some strips of masking tape. Not terribly aesthetically pleasing, but functional.

 The table in all it's visually stimulating glory

The scenarios call for six units per side. You are supposed to dice for the various troop types. However all I had were six units of Saxons and VI units of Romans. Looking at the descriptions of troop types in the rules Warband fits my idea of early Saxon Warriors and Infantry (with their shieldwall rule) my idea of Late Roman infantry. So that's what I used, six of each.
I set up the Saxons and then diced for the position of the Romans. Ironically they exactly mirrored my set-up, so three units faced one another on the Saxon left, heading for the hill, 2 units each started on the road, ready to march for the crossroads and a unit each "floated" in the centre.

 Romans prepare to occupy the hill

Whilst two more units prepare to march up the nice, straight Roman road

Where similar numbers of Saxons await them

The solo rules make use of chance cards, one is played for each side per turn. 1/3 have no effect (though as I had no archers that turned into nearly half) and the other add minor benefits (such as gain some wounds back) or inconveniences (some units can't move, for instance).
The game began with one of the Saxon units taking five hits before anything else happened. On the other side, part of the Roman war machine failed to leave the start line.

A couple of turns into the game and the Saxon centre has had an extra move via the chance cards and raced ahead,
So far the Romans have occupied the hill and the Saxons the crossroads, which are the two objectives for the game. Hold them both and you win.

The Saxon warriors push out onto the flank.

And the Romans turn to meet them.

At around this point I began to realise I'd not thought things through. Although the Warband troops get a combat advantage it's more than negated by the shieldwall of the Romans. So although you might think it should be the Saxons racing headlong forwards its actually best for the Romans to push ahead and restrict Saxon options. The Saxons have to get flank and rear attacks to make inroads

Outmaneuvered, at this point the lone Saxon unit charges home.

Combat is a simple dice roll, only the active player gets to make attacks. Warband get an attack bonus, shieldwall reduces hits. It's a bit Rock/Paper/Scissors

In the Roman turn hits start to come back on the Saxon unit whilst the second Roman unit cuts off the support.

On the other flank the Saxons take advantage of a chance card to double move a unit into the side of the Romans. Unfortunately they roll low and the chance goes begging.
At this point I asked myself if Infantry should get Shieldwall when attacked from the side/rear. Logically I thought no, but given the simple nature of the rules and the Rock/Paper/Scissors nature of the match-ups I wasn't sure. Flank attacks double the hits, so losing shieldwall as well would be a double whammy.
In the end I diced for it - Shieldwall stayed.

On the other side the lone unit of Romans  found itself in combat with two units.
Again the rules weren't explicit about whether a unit facing two enemies gets to do damage to both units. I decided not and directed all attacks at the flanking unit as they were the bigger threat. Maybe I should have just split the attack results between both units.

The result of the flank attack was quite devastating and the Romans were destroyed.

Meanwhile the other Roman units, realising that their defensive strength meant they should attack had left the hill and piled into the Saxons.

Over by the crossroads the previously flanked unit turned to face their opponents and the fight ground on.

The flanked Saxons managed to destroy their opponents to the front, but the hits were beginning to mount.
Units can take 15 hits before they are destroyed. This meant a lot of aesthetically displeasing dice on the table, but I'm not sure how else to record them without resort to mass book-keeping

Victorious Saxons now began to mob the Roman spearmen by the hill and got in a rear charge against another unit.

Another Roman unit was wiped out but in return a second Saxon unit was eliminated.

And a sudden swing from the unit by the crossroads ran down a third unit of Saxons.

At this point a chance card meant the Roman unit on the crossroads was able to move twice, throw themselves on the flank of the embattled Saxon unit and wipe them out. Leaving two units of Romans in possession of the crossroads.

The remaining roman spears by the hill retreated onto the hill and prepared to meet the Saxon charge.
They only had three wound left but with hill and shieldwall advantages they'd be difficult to finish off.
In the end I decided to send just one unit of Saxons to kill them off whilst the other made a desperate dash for the crossroads.

A unit of Roman spears marched out to meet the charging Saxon mob.

Eventually the warband managed to cut down the Romans and claim the hill.

However their brethren were unable to reach the crossroads as night fell and the game ended in a draw.

So what did I think?

Well it lasted about an hour, as advertised, and will get faster - by the end I didn't need to check anything, except the chance card results.
It was quite a balanced game, with the result unclear until the final turn or two.
It was nice to get the 10mm toys out again, and now I want to paint some more.
I think only having one troop type each made it a bit one dimensional, it's already a very basic and simple game, so only using a portion of the troops available didn't help.
It was a harmless diversion for an hour or so.
I might have a few more games if I paint some other models up.
There's no C&C or morale so everyone always does what's asked and fights to the death - which is pleasingly old school in the sense that's how I remember my first games of Warhammer.
I can't imagine ever playing it with my usual wargames opponents - we're never so time poor we've only got an hour and in two hours you can play a game of Warhammer or SAGA or Lion Rampant.
So it's likely to be only solo games, or quick games against one of the offspring and TBH if I'm playing this period solo unless I've only got an hour or so I'll dig out Dux Bellorum - which gives a more nuanced (though longer) game.
All that said, I didn't buy it for the rules and I'm glad I've tried them out.


  1. Good to see something different on the table😀Wargaming has so many options and variations and we often get trapped into what we know.

  2. I think I looked at this in the past with the same raison d'etre - more scenarios. The gaming sounds far too simple to engage even my old dessicated brain. Are the scenarios what you hoped for?

    1. They're OK.
      Some are pretty basic, quite a few are lifts from Grant/Asquith and Fetherstone books some are versions of historical fights.
      Overall I'm happy with what I paid for the scenarios alone.

  3. How hard can a roster be? It's only six units a side.

    1. Well you might think that...
      But the restricted troop types can play against it.
      So my six units of Roman infantry were half armoured and half unarmoured. In other rulesets they'd be different unit types. In this they're just all just Infantry.
      Likewise the Saxons in Dux Bellorum would have been two or three different types, but in OHR they're all just Warband. I suppose I could have designated the Saxon nobles as Infantry but what that makes them in these rules doesn't fit *my* idea of an early Saxon warband.
      But the rules are supposed to be simple, so criticising them for laacking complexity would seem churlish. :)
      Next time I'll let the Saxons have some skirmishers and see if I can't get some some Roman Cavalry painted. (hark at me thinking about next time...)

  4. I have a couple of NT's books and only played solo - the 19th Century one in particular is interesting as it covers a period not often given much of a spotlight. Same thoughts really, an interesting diversion, but wonder if they are perhaps a little too abstract for anything other than solo games? (where you can fill in the blanks and use them as a 'guide') ? Nice report Tom :-)

    1. Thanks Mog,
      I think they do "what they say on the tin" - they provide a simple way of playing a simple game (with a bit more complexity than first apparent) in about an Hour.
      I'm just not sure who needs these rules, but that may be the subject for another post later this week.