EXCERPT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Saturday, October 17, 2015

OHW The Second Period

Having flipped through the scenarios and finding a few different ones that looked interesting, I chose Number 26. Since it was inspired by Bladensburg I was briefly tempted to use 1812 miniatures  but instead decided to go with the glossy 40mm troops. These armies were designed for small, quick  games ( 2 hour ones) and they are now on bases which fit nicely into the parameters of the game. I contemplated trying the Rifle & Saber rules but after rereading the scenario and the rules I decided to try the Machine Age rules including the entrenching option.

Seriously? You are going to play with your stupid little men again instead of cuddling with ME?
(sorry Minnow my girl, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do!
This scenario is a good one for solo play since the defender basically isn`t allowed to move any units for most or possibly all of the game. He just sits and shoots at whatever walks into range. Units are freed to move if an enemy comes within 6" but with a 12" range and no close range bonus or melee options, there is no reason to ever get that close so it only arises if the defender emerges from the wood on their flank. This would of course be different in an earlier period with melee but then they can`t entrench so it all evens out.  I also decided to use the chance cards since I often use them myself anyway.

The end of turn 2. The Allies have suffered from the pre game barrage but have taken a toll of the Germans as they marched on table.
Since the river is impassible apart from the bridge and there is no close assault, the only real option for the attacker was to form  an arc and pour in as much fire as possible into the first defender who just had to take it because of the 6"scenario rule. Eventually the French unit was taken out and the Germans poured over the bridge and into the woods while trading fire with the defenders. In order to make room for units to pivot and move to the flank the lead units had to breach the 6" rules allowing the enemy to move but entrenched with an enemy to the front there was no reason to do so and indeed they won the following firefight. (Lucky for them that the attackers had no artillery!)

The attackers had the numbers though and managed to work forward through the woods while feeding more units into the meat grinder in front of the trenches.  To be honest, the game was almost decided by the chance cards, the poor attackers pulled a never ending stream of bad cards and backed that up with unlucky dice causing heavy casualties, poor rallies and in one memorable moment, freezing two units that were trying to slip past the defending MG to get into the woods. The defenders on the other hand were not bothered by cards stopping movement, rallied well and got double shots when it was really useful. The decks are the same though and eventually the attackers got a few which helped them.

It was certainly a better game than the first two and lasted about 1/2 hour and about 12 turns. If you included time to choose a scenario and armies, set the table, play the game and then clear it all away, then it would live up to the One Hour Wargame moniker.

These things are subject to a fair amount of personal preference and interpretation but it seems to me that adding a tactical option beyond getting into extreme range then shooting until one side goes away would  help make the games more interesting. There may not have been a lot of bayonet charges in the age of firearms but battles were hardly ever, if ever, decided by long range fire, especially when one side was entrenched. It always required a close attack and any first hand account of the time is full of  close quarter fighting. It may be more about the mix of deadly close range fire and psychology than bayonets  but it needs to be represented to give a good period feel and in my opinion would make then games more mentally stimulating as one tries to decide which tactics to choose and work how how to survive the enemy fire to get to decisive range. It doesn't have to be complicated it could be as simple as  a 3" shooting bonus or just allowing infantry charges as per earlier horse and musket cavalry rules including the fall back if you don't wipe the enemy out. That way it would be a risky move indeed until the enemy was worn down.

Still the rules were OK. 2 stars out of 5.

*** I just reread the medieval rules for the nth time and discovered I'd made an error jotting them down to reference during the game and was rolling too many dice in melee. I'll play another game but I am confident that the correct rules would have resolved my complaint about the speed of the game and would also have rated 2*.

As the clock ran down the German  dice improved. They ended up with 4 units left. Cavalry (off screen by the road) and a badly wounded unit hiding in the woods. 

Since I want to test the scenarios separately from the rules I again reset and played with my usual rules for the same period, also very simple but based on Morschauser and the "roll multiple dice to hit" approach rather than the Scruby "read the score off the dice"  approach which was adopted by Featherstone and including an assault option.  I could have played with the same 2 stand units but the game would not have had any depth so I counted each stand as a unit as usual and fielded the same number of stands as the previous game.

Turn 3 and the Germans have only now cleared the way and have lost 2 units doing so due to the ferocity and tenaciousness of the  Zouaves (or the dice, take your pick)  
It soon became obvious that the entrenchments were providing better cover this time around and that units were more vulnerable. Turning the Zouaves out of their trenches by shooting was liable to eat up the whole game. One unit had suffered from the pre-game barrage so a company was sent storming across the bridge and finished them off but took heavy casualties doing so. On the next turn the remaining defender was flanked and also assaulted in front by a fresh unit. Against all the odds it managed to wipe out the already damaged flanking unit and badly damaged the other attacker as it was itself destroyed. The game proceeded with the Germans again pouring over the bridge and into the woods while some units advanced to screen the first line of trenches, losing heavily in the process. I began to fear for the attack!

With 25% losse and 30% of the remaining attackers in danger of destruction things looked bleak. 
This game had several twists and turns though and one of the flanking units freed the reserve unit as well as the front line. The defenders survived a flank attack by and pulled back the  front line while sending the reserve to threaten the attacker's flanks in turn. Both sides were only a few hits from hitting their 50% army morale. Ironically it was another failed flank attack that turned the tide. (Technical rules comment: the flanked units were rolling 4 dice looking for 1's to hit, the attackers 4 dice looking for either 3's or 4's or less depending on circumstances, the defenders aren't expected to regularly win or tie! That's dice for you!)  The chance cards, my own version with more "no event" options and only 1 per turn not one per player per turn, were less intrusive though they did play a role for both good and bad.

It was closer than it looks and I was tempted to let the defenders fight to the death but resisted.
OK that's the second period done. Lets have a look at the score so far while we wait for the Third period to start.

Regardless of rules the games took about the same time and provided a close game. That seems to take the rules out of the equation as being merely a matter of taste.

What about the scenario? Well, it gave a good short game as intended. Just the thing for running a mini campaign in a full evening or a best 2 out of 3  in a short evening. The fact that I'm not usually (ok ever )  looking for that doesn't detract from their ability to perform as planned. Since some of the scenarios are cut down versions of full scenarios it will be interesting to see if I can enlarge this scenario or some of the others to provide a good longer game.

But first, the Third Period and a new scenario.

and for Canadian readers, who haven't been disenfranchised for living abroad, if you haven't already voted in advance polls, DON'T FORGET TO VOTE ON MONDAY!!!!  


  1. Awww, hello kitty! How pretty. This Canadian will vote tomorrow.

    1. Yep, she's pretty but just not ready for wargames. (sorry folks a liitle in country humour)

  2. Great write up sir. I played the OHW rules quite recently. I like them although they are not a "staple" or "go-to" set of rules for me. I think what I like is that they do the thinking for me so I am free to maneuver my troops on the table and concentrate purely on fighting.
    My AWI game was exactly 12 turns, and under an hour. I did feel that there were many opportunities for modifications, especially with unit capabilities (where I feel these rules shine the most is their ability to be slightly manipulated with "special" characteristics).
    Reading your write up on the Machine Age game, I think I'd like to try that period next.

    1. Thanks Steven. There are good reasons for the number of different styles of wargames and not just for different people.

  3. What is it with cats and wargaming tables !?

    1. They are a bit like books, computers etc they come between her and me and would be banished if she had her proper due.

  4. Regarding some of your comments in the first part about being wound up by Thomas's dismissal of "conventional" wargames. I don't think his comments were aimed at you, or wargamers like you. Having read your blog for several years now, I think it's fair to say that you're already a veteran of the sort of gaming that Thomas is trying to promote, somewhat "Old School" but still highly innovative, focussing on practicality and playability. I think his disparaging comments are a reaction towards gamers who are stuck firmly in the wargaming mainstream, who see the hobby revolve entirely around glossy hardback rulebooks and huge armies on 8x4 sculpted landscapes. Anyone like us who has played games like Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame is already a whole ways down the trail that Thomas is trying to blaze.

    Looking forward to reading the third part of your review.

    1. Thanks doc, I recognized who the target was (generically but could probably guess a few examples) but the tone was one that I seem to see more often in society of lack of respect for others and a tendency to cast all arguments as black & white contrast where the out come is seen as win/lose rather than illuminatio, a debating technique I think but most seen perhaps in politicians and those selling something. I can't help but think that a Morschauser, Featherstone, Grant etc would have found a way to promote the benefits of what they were presenting without demonizing the opposite view. Anyway it hit an existing cultural sore spot and is far from the first current wargame writer to do so.

      The trail he is cutting is actually well blazed over the decades, I well remember my initial reaction to DBA for example, a game on a 4x4 table that lasts less than an hour? That's just not right but it didn't take long to find the benefits without losing my appreciation of other approaches. I'm all for variety, free choice but especially, respect for those with different opinions (even when they're "wrong" - it ain't always easy !!)

  5. Interesting stuff Ross. I like NT's work, but I already have a multi-period quick play ruleset, but I think you can strip out too much. Would I be right in saying that you're veering towards "nice, but not for me" with the OHW?

    1. I wasn't actually looking for rules for me so more leaning towards "I don't mind recommending them as either a starter or for someone looking for something like this" as well as towards "I might be able to adapt some of the scenarios for my own use".

      I think the rules would be easy to make more to my taste with very minimal tinkering, if I were looking and didn't prefer the dice to hit method as easier on my brain.

  6. Nice reports and commentaries on these games/rules. And Minnow is certainly pretty.
    I have the Neil Thomas book, but have yet to really delve into it. I do agree that there are many different valid approaches to gaming and if one is promoting a certain approach it need not involve casting aspersions on other approaches. Variety is the spice of life, and hobbies like wargaming and miniatures. I always say, if you're having fun isn't that the main thing, and we can each define for ourselves what is fun for us/ For me, small games are currently my preference, for a number of reasons. But that's my personal interest and circmstances and taste at this point.