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 be 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.