Wednesday, 22 June 2016

One Hour Wargames by Neil Thomas

I recently bought Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargames as a bit of retail therapy during a rather hectic period on the home and work front. I had originally considered getting these rules when they first came out, but decided against it for one reason or another. However a recent discussion on the Pendraken forum led me to reassess my position. So after reading some reviews and AAR on various Blogs, I decided to give them a go. After all they are not going to break the bank as with P&P they come in at around £10 or less from Amazon. Small change compared to many rulesets these days.

I won't go into too much detail about the rules, but Neil Thomas sets his stall out rather well in my opinion, clearly explaining his design philosophy in terms of the rules as well as the scenarios. This is worth bearing in mind as you read the book. They are advertised as 'practical tabletop battles for those with limited time and space' and I certainly fit into that category and in a sense that's what attracted me to them.

Having perused the rules over a few days I decided it was time to give them a run out. So last night I randomly selected a scenario and the Red and Blue forces, all of which took less than 5 minutes! Well I think that was the fastest scenario and OOB generation that I've ever come across. Details can be found below:

Scenario 12: An Unfortunate Oversight 
The Red forces have been tasked with controlling a strategic bridge but have not realised that there is a ford further downstream on their left flank. The Blue forces are aware of this and are ready to exploit this oversight.

Red Forces
3 x Infantry
2 x Warband
1 x Cavalry

Blue Forces
4 x Infantry
1 x Warband
1 x Skirmish

I chose to use the Dark Ages rules as I had the figures and could compare the rules with both Dux Bellorum and Lion Rampant, both favourite rulesets of mine. So with the table set it was time to see if the game would finish in less than an hour...

The table layout, with the Red forces on the left deployed around the bridge and town.
The Red forces with their left flank covered by cavalry.
The Blue forces ready to stream across the ford.
Blue quickly advanced and Red moved to meet them.
Combat was quickly joined as the Blue vanguard charged forward and the Red cavalry attacked the Blue right flank.
Red troops occupy the vital hill and watch the battle unfold.
The battle rages on as more units join the fray.
Hits quickly mount up.
Blue gains the upper hand...
... as two Red units are destroyed.
However Red soon gets revenge.
Both sides rush units to support the massed melee.
The Blue units are close to breaking...
Suddenly the tables have turned and Blue is under a lot of pressure.
Blue is outnumbered almost 2-1.
Red units turn the flank...
... and Blue realises the game is up and quits the field.

Well the game only took 30 minutes, so the rules certainly lived up to their name. So what did I think of the rules and game? As always a few thoughts:

Post Game Thoughts
  • The game is certainly very quick to set up in terms of scenario selection and units required, which is a big bonus.
  • I really like the random die roll to select the forces you have at your disposal. This makes things interesting for the player as you may not have the troops you would want to fulfil your mission. Ditto your opponent. 
  • The rules are incredibly easy to pick up and so are perfect as intoductory rules for new players to wargames. 
  • The game only lasted around 30 minutes, so in an evening you could get in around 3 games and make a mini-campaign if required. Nothing fancy but nice if you want to.
  • I was not being subtle in my movement and tactics as I wanted to just give the rules a run  out. I think this contributed to the game being over so quickly. If I had sat the Red forces on the hill, then the game would have lasted longer and become very attritional.
  • At times it felt like I was playing Dux Bellorum, but without the command & control element. Maybe I should play a different period so that I'm not comparing them with other rulesets?
  • Shieldwall units in a town or on a hill would be very hard to shift. Again this reminds me off Dux Bellorum...
  • I'm not how sure I will like these rules for more solo games as they have no element of command & control. If I add it in then I might as well play Dux Bellorum, or at least that's my initial feeling.
  • There are no break points for the units, so you could play on until mutually assured destruction almost takes place. In reality I think it becomes clear rather quickly when one side is beaten, as happened in this game.

So not a bad first game I must admit and a ruleset that I will have another go at over the next day or two. I really want to give the Pike & Shotte rules a go as they seem quite interesting but only time will tell. What I do like are the scenarios and the way the forces are generated for each game. As others have mentioned they plan to use these for other games with other rulesets and I will certainly be one of those. 

Am I glad I bought the rules? Yes I am. Will they become one of my staple rulesets? I doubt it  but you never know. As my good friend Keith Flint said, they help clarify what it is you like and want in a ruleset. In fact I have also ordered Neil Thomas' 'Wargaming 19th Century Europe' on the strength of these rules  to see if these can fit in between Black Powder and Bloody Big Battles for those times when I want a smaller game in a relatively short amount of time. They should arrive in the next week or so so I'm looking forward to seeing how they play.



  1. For my ACW games, I added simple command and control and importantly (to me) I had units take a morale check (against current casualties), if fail, fall back and take 2 extra hits.

    This helped with the problem of 'elites' holding a good position such as a woods and non-elites just burning themselves out in assaulting these tough cookies.

    It is an intruiging set in terms of what can be stripped away, though for the most part I feel they have gone too far, another page added to each set would probably be a 'job done' for me. Still, a clever and thought provoking book

    1. I think you're right Norm in that they are a little 'too simple' for most peoples tastes. Add in C&C and Morale and then I believe you will have a better game. Not perfect but good to be able to play a mix of periods easily with the same core mechanics.

  2. In Neil's Nineteenth Century Wargames book, he has a short optional C&C rule where you roll 1D6 and that's how many units you can move (you normally have 10 units per side).

    Over at The Stonghold ( ) he's done a lot of OHW stuff with variants.

    1. I like the simplicity of the 1D6 C&C mechanism and something worth trying with oHW rules. Thanks for the heads up on the Blog, which I will check out:)

  3. I've read a lot about these rules recently and i bought his book. Can't say they really took me by storm. maybe i should have another look.

    1. I think they are fine for those quick games where you simply do not have the time to set up a 'normal' game. A few tweaks here and there in terms of some C&C and Morale and then I think you wold have a half decent set to play with.

      I'm currently reading 'War Games through the Ages Vol 2' by Featherstone and there are quite a few ideas in there that I feel will work well with these rules. Hopefully over the next day or two I might be able to cobble something together to see if they work or not...

  4. Interesting post Steve. The book has been gathering dust steadily on my shelves since I bought it - not my cup of tea at all. But thanks for the nicely set up and photographed example game.

    Looking forward to the 15th!