Saturday, January 16, 2016

One-hour Wargames - Book/Game Review

I'm not sure where I first heard about the book One-hour Wargames by Neil Thomas , but after hearing about it, I decided I wanted to get a copy.

What drew my interest to the book was the 30 scenarios the author provides.  I'm always on the look out for different scenarios to use in the different games I play and I couldn't pass up on this collection.  The scenarios are written for the rules provided, but can easily be adjusted to fit most other games.

The Scenarios

The scenarios include the normal pitched battle and encounter options, but also include things like control the river, static defense, fighting retreats, and last stand scenarios.  The armies are not always equal in size with the standard army sizes being either 6, 4, or 3 units.  The army make up is also randomized, so even if you replay a scenario, you may end up with different army combinations so that multiple plays of the same scenario can feel very different.

Each scenario gives a brief description of the situation, the details on army sizes, deployment rules, reinforcements (if any), special rules, victory conditions, and a basic map of the battlefield.  In addition to this, each scenario has a brief section on the inspiration for the scenario and suggestions for further reading.  These can offer some insight into actual battles that the scenario was based on.

The Rules

The book offers rules for nine different periods from ancients through WWII.  Each set of rules uses four unit types that you would have seen as the core of the periods in question.  Some units are left out (such as chariots) and the author makes comment on why he makes some of those decisions.  Each rule set uses the same basic mechanics with minor tweaks, primarily to unit types.

The rules are very simple but that fits with the author's goal of a miniatures game that you can play in one hour without having to invest lots of time, money, and space into the hobby.

The simple nature of these rules and limited models and terrain allow even experienced gamers the chance to dabble in a period that they might not have tried before.

In addition, the author offers a chapter on solo gaming and how these rules can be used to play games when you are the only person available.

Many of the blogs that I have read regarding this book involve tweaks and modifications to these rules. Personally, I think it is great how so many people have taken the rules and added to them to fit with their ideas and miniatures.

Playing the Game
I join those other bloggers with my own tweaks.  I decided to use the rules for a sci-fi variant.  I gathered some of my Epic 40K models and put together some rules.

I would stick with the 4 unit options the author uses and decided on infantry, jump troops, walkers, and tanks.  I had thought about trying to make army specific rules for the different Epic armies that I have but decided to stick with the author's idea that there just isn't much difference in the skill and effect of different forces (I know the author was basing this idea on historical armies, but I wanted to keep the rules simple, so stuck with it).  

Infantry would have a -2 vs tanks and a move of 6".
Jump troops would also be -2 vs tanks but move 9".
Walkers are +2 vs infantry and jump troops and move 6".
Tanks were +2 vs other tanks and walkers and had a 12" move.

With these basic unit characteristics set out it was time to go to war.

I decided to play scenario 27 disordered defense.  I choose this scenario in large part because I don't have much terrain on hand as much of it is still packed from my move and this scenario only required a couple of roads.  The Eldar would be the red force with 6 units and the Marines would be the blue force with 4 units.  I rolled on the random units tables and came up with the following:

3 Infantry, 1 Walker, and 2 Tank2

2 Infantry, 1 Walker, and 1 Tank

I also rolled randomly to see which units would start on the table for the Eldar.  Lucky for them they started with one of their tanks.

I decided to scale the game down and played on a 1 foot square.  I used a single stand of infantry/walker/tank for each unit.  I adjusted the movement accordingly (until I forgot) so infantry and walkers would move 2", jump troops 3", and tanks 4".  Everyone's shooting range was 4".

I realized when I was reviewing the pictures after the battle that I moved everyone 4" at a go.  I will do my best to remember the correct movement ranges the next time I play and I don't think it really had much impact on this battle.

Deployment:  The Eldar put their tank on the crossroad as it's movement provided it with greater flexibility.  The Marines split up their forces to engage the two forward units (probably a bad choice).

Turn 1
The Marine infantry moved forward to attack the Eldar infantry.  The Eldar's tank moved forward and the other units opened fire.

Turn 2 and 3
Stand and fire by everyone.  The Eldar Walker and infantry are killed and the Marine's tank is knocked out.

Turn 4
One of the Marine infantry units moves so that it can fire on the Eldar tank. (Oops, I apparently got it in my head that movement for everyone was 4".  I don't think it affected the game's outcome, but I will try to move correctly in my next game.)  The Eldar tank decided to stand its ground and blasted away at the Marine walker.
Turn 5
The Marine walker fell from the fire from the Eldar tank.  The Eldar tank is shrugging off lots of shots.

Turn 6
More standing and shooting.

Turn 7
The Eldar tank finally takes enough damage to be knocked out.  
Turn 8
The Marine infantry move up to the crossroad (again at the incorrect speed).  The Eldar reinforcements come onto the table and prepare to retake the crossroad.

Turn 9
The remaining Marines open up on the Eldar with little hope of winning the engagement, but not willing to pull back.

Turn 10
The Marines take heavy damage from the barrage of fire and fail to offer much damage in return.

Turn 11
The final Marine units are destroyed, but they are able to take out an enemy infantry unit in their last stand.

Battle Summary

As previously stated, the rules are pretty basic, but I still had a good time with this game.  The Eldar had better dice throughout the battle and started with their tank on the table so were able to deal out +2 damage with each roll early on.  The reinforcements came on and mopped up the remaining 2 Marine units.

For a quick playing game, I can't complain about this.  The base rules don't allow for moving and shooting, but since this is a sci-fi variant, I might consider adding that in.  It will give greater flexibility to the units, but there may be some unintended consequences to that change as well.  A few more games are probably in order before I go down that road.

Overall Thoughts

I am very happy that I decided to pick up this book.  I got it off eBay for much less than the suggested retail price of $19.99 and I think it would be a good get even at that price.  The rules are simple, but offer a quick easy game to play with limited time and space.  The different periods represented offer something of interest for nearly anyone and I am already thinking about getting some models so I can try a period that I have not played in before.

The scenarios are also a great addition to any gamer's library and can be modified to fit other rule sets.  They offer basic details of the battle that can be added to if desired or played out as presented.


  1. Thanks for showing us how the more modern rulesets work. My own games and most of those I've seen around the net have all been pre-gunpowder.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed the write up. I plan to play more games soon and will share the results of those games here as well.

  3. Just wanted to let you know that your review sold me on the book.

    1. I'm glad to hear it. There is a lot of good stuff in there. Enjoy!