Friday, 8 July 2016

One-Hour Wargames ... some test games

The book One-Hour Wargames by Neil Thomas has been available for a little while now, but I never tried out one of the rulesets contained therein.

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?
  1. 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 :-)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
One can of course argue that all wargames involve moving to each other, then start shooting. In a sense, that is true. But at least, rules should be designed in such a way that you have options for how to do that, and those options can/should be triggered by various troop statistics. Some troop types have larger firing ranges; some move slower; some have more hits; etc. That sort of variety does not only provide atmosphere, but also triggers decision-making.

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."


  1. I had a similar feeling playing the Ancients version. I wanted to like the rules but they were a bit 'Emperor's new clothes' for me. As you say, good for rolling dice with the young 'uns though.

  2. Hi fair comments about rules.
    i am a 30 year wargamer and play more and more complex rule to the point i was holding a sheet of tables for most of the game, so went back to simple rules and as you say they are simple but i found them fun to play.
    the WW2 section is hard one to cover as just the tanks are vastly different,you can't have a Tiger against a Sherman on the same odds.
    i quick fix i tried was better tank +2, equal 0, worse tank -2 again keeping it simple.
    for the other periods i like the feel and flow of the games ,like when i was 13 playing my first game on a pool table with the yellow army v the red army using connect 4 counters
    also played 2v2 we just doubled the width of the battlefield so playing on a 6x3 table each side rolling for there units as per rules.
    Amos chasewargames club UK