Thursday, September 3, 2015

Review: Thomas' One-Hour Wargames Rules

Before launching into a comparison of three rules using the ECW Battle of Southam as a baseline (see ECW Battle of Southam for background and set up), a brief review of one of the rulesets used in this exercise, One-Hour Wargames (OHW) by Neil Thomas might be helpful.

To begin, OHW is subtitled, "Practical Tabletop Battles for Those With Limited Time and Space" and, therefore, likely intended for quick play games on small playing surfaces.  The title alone suggests high playability and quick resolution at the sacrifice of simulation or realism.  OHW places emphasis on "game."  Will that be the case?  

OHW provides rules for nine periods of warfare ranging from ancients to WWII.  Each period shares a common two to three pages of core rules.  The rules are extremely brief and simple.  Battles may be fought on small tables with only a half-dozen units per side.   Each period has four troop types, and the rules for all these periods share an IGO/UGO turn structure: move, shoot, hand-to-hand combat, and eliminate destroyed units.  Each turn is comprised of two player turns in a game typically lasting 15 turns.  Suggested force size is 4-6 units with each unit being able to absorb 15 hits before elimination. Offensive capability does not degrade with hits so an attacking unit fights at full strength until destroyed.  To score hits against an opponent, an attacking unit throws one D6.  The pips on the die determine the number of hits inflicted although this total may be modified.  Simple.  

Unusual in this turn sequence is the active player performs all actions without interruption from his opponent.  That is, the active player moves, shoots, and resolves hand-to-hand combat without any threat of retaliation from his opponent.  Even in hand-to-hand combat, only the active player scores hits.  There are no morale or leadership rules.  Right.  Leaders play no role and are not necessary for the game.  Units are not differentiated on either quality or quantity.  All units of the same troop type are exactly the same.  For a game geared towards completion in an hour or less, not every traditional rules concept can be included.  Thomas has distilled these mechanisms down to bare minimums with rules and outcomes easy to remember.  After one trip through the turn sequence, the game can be played with little need to reference the rules.

While all periods share a common set of of mechanisms, each period is differentiated by a change or two to the basic game engine to reflect nuances between periods.  As an example, for the Pike and Shot rules, the possibility of running out of ammunition is introduced.  Infantry and Reiters run a 1/3 chance of running out of ammo each time they fire.  As an added twist, these same infantry and Reiter units may only close to hand-to-hand combat once they are out of ammo.  In the pike and shot rules, artillery is excluded as a unit type.  Thomas' explanation for this exclusion makes sense.

With a capability to withstand 15 hits before elimination, a unit in OHW can, on average, endure about four attacks before being destroyed.  Quick combat resolution and if a unit is either flanked or hit in the rear, hits are doubled.  Even though combat resolution can result in a unit being destroyed in a few actions, combat results seem attritional with both sides able to dish out and absorb punishment equally.  The only method for overcoming this attritional combat is to tactically maneuver your units to hit a single enemy with multiple units. 

OHW also contains a lengthy section of thirty scenarios.  Most of these scenarios can be found spread among the classics of wargaming.  Nearly one third of the scenarios originate from Grant's Scenarios for Wargamers while Grant gets the nod in a number of other scenarios as well.  Among Grant's other works sited include Ancient Wargames, Wargaming in History, and Wargaming Companion.  Scenarios are drawn from other authors' works too.  These include Featherstone (Wargaming Pike & Shot, Wargamer's Newsletter, Wargaming: Ancient and Medieval), Wesencraft (With Pike and Shot), Asquith (Scenarios War of 1812), TAHGC's Panzer Leader and Panzer Blitz, and Weigle's 1866

Finally, there are chapters on solo wargaming and background reading.  I found the Background Reading chapter very interesting containing references to a veritable Who's Who in wargaming.

OHW provides a basic framework upon which other chrome could added.  In fact, many such variants can easily be found.  For examples of variants, see AMWGroups on Yahoo Groups.  One strength of these very simple rules is the ability to adapt the rules to address ones' own tastes and preferences.  One weakness of producing such a terse and simple set of rules is that not all eventualities are covered.  Omissions are present and interpretations could be many.  For the Southam replay, the ECW variant available on the aforementioned AMWGroups will be enforced. 

So, how does the game play?  We will find out when the Battle of Southam gets the Thomas OHW treatment.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

African Spearmen for the Reconquista

After a very long hiatus from the 28mm Reconquista project, a one stand, 12 figure Impetvs element moves out from the painting desk.  The three blister packs had been laying around my work area for several months so instead of binning them into their proper storage container, I painted them.  Good solution, I think!  

Figures are Artizan and this makes the second unit of these figures to be fielded for the project.  Very fine sculpting with virtually no flash.
Having not seen the Reconquista project on either gaming table nor painting desk since last winter, I should make a point of getting this project back into regular rotation.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Lectures To Paint By

Having a long, yet infrequent commute, I need something to help pass the time on those long, early morning/late afternoon five hour drives to and from Seattle.  Since discovering The Teaching Company's Great Courses lectures thanks to my gaming friend Scott, the commute has been much more interesting and time passes more quickly.

At present, I have churned through six courses, the latest being The Peloponnesian War by Dr. Kenneth Harl of Tulane University.  In 36 half-hour lectures and primarily relying on Thucydides, Harl takes the listener from the causes of the war through its conclusion including a summarization of lessons to be learned from the war.
Harl weaves an entertaining and fascinating story of the conflict with his own insights and personal interpretations intermixed with the traditional viewpoints.  Harl studied under Donald Kagan and frequently Kagan and his works are mentioned within the lectures.  As I listened, I thought it might be worthwhile to check Kagan's narrative against Harl's.

Kagan's The Peloponnesian War was purchased at a Friends of Multinomah Library (Portland, OR) book sale a few years ago for a few dollars.  Like a number of books in my library, it sits unread.  Off the shelf comes Kagan as my thoughts turn towards tackling this massive work.
These audio lectures are not only useful for long commutes.  I have found these lectures to be the perfect accompaniment to solitary painting sessions in the game room.  As a side benefit, listening to these historical works provides painting motivation and contemplations on existing or possible new projects.  So far, no Peloponnesian project has made it onto my project list yet.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

ECW Battle of Southam, 1642

The ECW collection has not seen action in a very long time.  How long?  I cannot recall but at least two years, I suppose.  One of my 2015 goals (see 2015 Project Plans) was to get this collection onto the gaming table for an outing or two.

Following Jeff's ECW replay of Battle of Southam (see Jeff's Battle of Southam) provided the motivation to both deploy the troops for battle and give this scenario a try.  Jeff's replay was based upon the scenario by Wyre Forest Wargames Club using their rules, Warr Without an Enemie (see Battle of Southam scenario).  The Warr Without an Enemie scenario, in turn, is drawn from Robert Giglio's English Civil War Gaming Scenarios Vol 3 (2005). 
Battle of Southam Initial Deployments
Southam is an early war battle in which two mixed forces clash opposite the village of Itchington.  With their backs against the Itchin River, the Royalists must hold the field or be dashed against the banks of the river.  As the OB illustrates, the Royalists under Compton outnumber Brooke's Roundheads by about 2-to-1 in cavalry yet are outnumbered in both artillery and foot.  Interesting tactical problem! 
Parliamentarian forces
Parliamentarian Army OOB:
Army Commander: Lord Brooke: Average

  • Colonel John Hampden's Foot
  • Lord Brooke's Foot
  • Colonel Denzil Holles' Foot

  • Left Wing Cavalry: Fiennes Horse (Trotters)
  • Right Wing Cavalry: Goodwin's Horse (Trotters)
Two artillery stands

Royalist forces
Royalist Army OOB:
Army Commander:Earl of Northampton: Good

  • Earl of Northampton's Foot
  • Sir William Saville's Dragoons (Dismounted) 
  • Wilmot's and Carnarvon's Horse (Galloper)
  • Legge's and Clarke's Horse (Galloper)
  • Compton's and Northampton's Horse (Galloper)
  • Saville's and Middleton's Horse (Galloper)
One artillery stand

Resolution of the game itself with be carried out on a portion of the gaming table.  With the size of the forces given, only one-third of the table is required (4' x 6').  Southam is a straight up fight with the objective to defeat the opposition although if the Royalists can hold the field at game's end,  they win.

My plan is to fight out this battle using three different rules systems; two of which are untested by myself.  The two new rules to undergo some scrutiny are Thomas' One-Hour Wargames and Dadi & Piombo's draft of Basic Baroque for Impetvs.  Most of my ECW gaming has been carried out using a variation of Howard Whitehouse's Ironsides.  Ironsides always produce a fun and tense game.  This will be an interesting exercise in a comparison between the three sets.  As a bonus, I can knock off a few items from my 2015 planning objectives.

Having each of the belligerents arriving upon the field with differences in force composition, Southam provides a test of asymmetrical warfare under each ruleset.  What should the strategies and tactics be for each?  My initial thoughts are that the Royalists must employ their superiority in cavalry to destroy Brooke before he can bring his infantry and artillery advantage to bear.  Of course, the Parliamentarian forces under Brook will want to do the opposite!  That is, get his infantry into the fight to force the Royalists off map before his force succumbs to the Royalist cavalry advantage.

How would YOU handle the asymmetry in this clash? 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Crimean Era Russian Infantry in 25mm

In and effort to one day field a usable force in Kevin's NWF campaigning, off the painting desk is the first of hopefully a handful of Russian contingents.
Most formed or regular infantry are fielded in battalions of 24 figures for the campaign.  That is what I have done as well.  Figures are Wargames Foundry from the Crimean War range and these are simply stunning sculpts.  Molding is crisp with good facial details.  For me, painting 24 x 25mm figures is a large bite to chew but having figures in greatcoat helped greatly.  Russian greatcoats take the Minwax stain well too.
Russian regiments will be fielded in 3 x 24 figure battalions.  I will need to verify in what strength Russian cavalry should be fielded before I dive into a few Russian cossacks.  This will be a fun, little, diversionary side project.  After writing that last sentence, the meanings of "little," "diversionary," and "side" in reference to a project have me a bit befuddled.
Expect to see the occasional Russian pop off the painting desk along with a few supporting native elements.   

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Summer Cycling in Spokane

Summer on the Palouse and in Spokane is perfect for cycling.  That is, unless the region is surrounded by forest fires as is the situation this August.  Still, even with hazy and smoky conditions, afternoon rides are pleasantly warm and the air remains breathable under exertion.  With temperatures moderating slightly into the mid 80s F, mileage has increased modestly in August.  From averaging about 150 miles weekly, miles put into the legs now exceed 200 per week and consumes about two hours daily.

Having a house on the extreme south of the city, my preferred direction is to head south out onto the Palouse and then loop back into town with a finishing climb up the South Hill (see Cycling on the Palouse) for a typical post-work ride.  Lately, the afternoon ride has been extended by about six miles to include an expanded loop onto the north side of the Spokane River before climbing up the South Hill via an alternative route.

Spokane is bifurcated by the Spokane River and a number of architecturally interesting bridges criss-cross the river.  At the time of its construction in 1911, the Monroe Street Bridge (see photos below) was the largest concrete arch bridge in the USA.  In the separating gorge are found a series of waterfalls interrupted by hydroelectric dams.

A few sights of Spokane's near north side from Tuesday's 30 mile ride:
High Bridge
Meenach Bridge from "Doomsday" Hill
Spokane River from "Doomsday" Hill
Spokane River from Centennial Trail
Spokane River from Centennial Trail
Downtown Spokane approaching from west
Monroe Street Bridge
Monroe Street Dam and Falls
Architecture of Monroe Street Bridge
Upper Falls
Upper Falls
Monroe Street Dam
 as seen from under Monroe Street Bridge
As the route profile illustrates, this is not flat country.
Route profile

Sunday, August 23, 2015

French Allies in the 18mm Napoleonic Project

Having retroactively given the Austrians the Minwax treatment, the white-coated French allies seemed a logical next target.  Those white coats would include the Italians and Westphalians.  As I finished the Westphalians and Italians, I thought why not complete the task by treating all of the French allies?  Why not?

Following is photo Pass-In-Review of showing the French allied formations on parade after their Minwax wash.  The allies thus far mobilized in the project are Westphalians, Italians, Bavarians, Poles, Hessians, Badeners, and Wurttembergers.  There may be a few other special units in the collection but did not surface during this exercise.  I am certain a few Swiss regiments have been mustered.  They must be lurking among the French. Maybe they will turn up later?
French Allies
View from the left
View from the right
Bavarian contingent
Westphalian and Italian contingents
Polish, Hesse-Darmstadt, Baden, and Wurttemberg contingents
While many of the Italians recently saw service on the long running Raab battle, the others have not seen active service since long ago campaigning in a series of 1809 battles.
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