The idea of the book is as follows: provide a set of simple rules for a number of popular wargaming periods, along with 30 generic scenarios.
Yesterday, we decided to try out the WW2 rules. I decided on scenario #5 (Bridgehead), using my 15mm North-African WW2 troops. The British would try to establish a bridgehead, with the Italians attacking, trying to prevent it.
I made a small change the rules, replacing the measurements in inches to hexes (3" = 1 hex). Since the rules only have ranged fire and movement (no close combat), the conversion didn't introduce strange anomalies (see here for a more thorough discussion on how to convert inches to hexes).
The table looked as follows:
We played the game twice, my regular wargaming opponent Bart and me switching sides.
So, what are our conclusions?
- The game plays fast, we needed even less than an hour to conclude both games. So, the rules do what it says on the cover :-)
- The game is somewhat dull, and didn't offer many challenges for the players. Perhaps this was due to the scenario, in which all troops were focusing on a single area on the table (the bridgehead), but it also was due to all firing ranges (12") being identical for all troop types. This means that you move your units within firing range, and then both sides keep on blasting each other until all units are gone. So, we ended up with all troops being in fire range of each other, and kept on firing till one side was eliminated. There was simply no incentive to move away (why should we?), or move closer (why should we?), or try repositioning (troops have 360 degree fire arc, no facing), ... so it was just a shootout.
Typically, much of the decision-making in a wargame involves troops firing at different ranges with different effects, such that you have to decide whether to move closer or not, when to fire, etc. Cover can help inthis decision-making, but then you need a terrain that has cover at a density higher than the firing ranges (12"). None of the scenarios suggest this.
- Perhaps the other periods work out better, but the WW2 rules were ... too simple. As Bart put it "It's like playing with Green Army Men using dice". No sophistication at all.
If you have a game in which all troops basically behave identical, decision -making should be triggered by other means, e.g. activation mechanics. If you have a limited number of units you can activate each turn, that forces you to think about what units should activate first. But that is also absent from One-Hour Wargames. Or sometimes the fun in a wargame can lie in the developing story. Even if the rules are simple, good story elements can drive the game forward by providing mechanics that inspire the imagination of the players (random events, morale effects, ...)
To be honest, we could have chosen a better scenario. In hindsight, we should have realized that a scenario in which all the action focuses on a single point is not the best to pick.
One-Hour Wargames seems to me like a set of rules best used by kids. Young children have fun throwing dice and see who can roll highest, and these rules evoke that type of game. But as an adult gamer who has been wargaming for over 30 years, the rules felt too simple. And although I am a fan of simple and elegant rules, I was reminded of "Things should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."