I wasn't too happy last year when one small game took twice to set than it did to play so out of curiosity I timed both. From the time I flipped open Scenarios for Wargames to choose something until the table was set and armies deployed took me 20 minutes. Since there is less fiddling and fewer choices made when cleaning up, I think 10 minutes will suffice for that. Mind you it is one of the simplest terrain layouts in the book.
The game itself took 90 minutes to play 12 turns to a decisive finish. The scenario (Dominant Hill) is a simple meeting engagement with 7 units a side so is right down there amongst the simplest, shortest games. I would consider an hour to be the minimum satisfying length so this passes on all these measurable bits.
The forces of Oberhilse and Faraway meet in the shadow of Long Hill during one of the largely unrecorded border campaigns. For convenience I wrapped the road columns along the table edge so please imagine the troops marching along the edge to be off table.
The scenario is very straight forward, there is a critical road junction between a road passing through a series of small towns and a road leading over a difficult hill. Both armies are tasked with controlling the road junction and the road over the hill. They are given a list from which to pick 7 units which they must arrange in order of march. I decided to only pick units on the new basing where possible which speeded up army selection tremendously. Brigadier Zinn was given command of the Oberhilse force which consisted of a Brigade of 2 squadrons of Dragoons, a battery of field guns and a brigade of 4 infantry regiments including the Blue Guard. Brigadier Topper commanded the Queen's forces, a squadron of the Princess Charlotte Dragoons, a battery of field guns, a Brigade of 2 detachments of the Victoria Rifles and a Brigade of 3 regiments of infantry. The Blue army had 22 stands giving them an army morale of 8. The Red army had 20 stands giving them an army morale of 7.
The Queen's men moved first for the opening moves allowing the Rifles to occupy the mansion at the junction and the hill. They then surrendered the initiative for the rest of the game. Brigadier Zinn, realizing that he had a force that was 1/3rd cavalry and without light infantry to capture a town and difficult hill, deployed his guns and cavalry in the open and occupied the nearest village while he considered his options.
Zinn's initial plan was to threaten an infantry assault up the middle while the cavalry and artillery swept away the Queen's artillery and cavalry and threatened the flank and rear of her army. This went somewhat awry when some lucky rifle and artillery fire silenced the battery as it deployed. The gunners, obviously badly shaken were headed home when Zinn caught up with them at the board's edge and by his +1 alone rallied 1 gun keeping them on the table. While he was chasing the guns, he left the 1st Infantry to launch an attack. It promptly took 3 hits and fell back before something worse happened. Things weren't going well.
Across the table, the Queen's troops were feeling pretty smug until Brigadier Wavey decided that there was no sense sitting under artillery fire any longer and advanced. The PC Dragoons spurred forward to meet them, with an added bonus of being uphill. They must have been celebrating their recent promotion to Elite a little too vigorously last night though and they were chased off table by the Blue Dragoons who didn't even break stride. At the same time the Lafayette County Rifles pushed forward along the hill with the bayonet and contrary to expectations, routed the Rifles who had stood to meet them. All of a sudden Red's Army morale was down to 3 and their guns were next in line for the Blue Dragoons.
The Queen's artillery stands firm.
The 2nd Squadron of Blue Dragoons wheeled and charged the Red guns which had limbered up and headed for a safer spot. These had just time to unlimber while the Buffs fired into the cavalry as they rode past. There was no time for the guns to fire until the dragoons were upon them but blast of a point blank canister was enough to send the Dragoons to the right about. (ie they scored a hit in melee and the Dragoons didn't). For now the situation was stabilized.
In the center there was nothing for it, the day would have to be decided by the infantry going toe to toe. The Blue Guards came forward and were hit by a devastating volley of musket fire supplemented by rifle fire from the Mansion. The remaining 3 stands reeled back while the 1st Infantry came forward again. After another furious exchange of volleys, the Green Tigers were starting to waver so Brigadier Stoneforte pulled them back behind the Uniake Fusiliers.
The Lafayette boys held the road over the hill, the infantry fight in the center was in the balance, the artillery was back on line, it seemed like the time to push the issue. The cavalry once again charged the guns and were sent reeling, shaken. The Blue Guards somewhat rallied, stormed forward against the mansion at the crossroads. Both sides fought furiously and at the end of the day the Rifles were eliminated, though their Colonel escaped capture, but the guards had been shaken again. Leaving 1 company to hold the Mansion, they fell back. Across the road, the Uniake Fusiliers pressed forward with the bayonet routing the 1st Infantry while the Tigers wheeled to face the Lafeyettes and in a furious firefight, drove them off the hill, following to make sure they didn't rally.
If Red could just flip the initiative they could finish this but once again Blue won the toss. He rolled to rally the Guards, and also the 1st Infantry, Lafayette Volunteers and the Blue Dragoons. These last three were all shaken and perched at the table edge. All 7 stands failed their rally roll and retreated off table. The 2nd infantry, knowing that the enemy had been hard hit, threw caution to the wind and charged with the bayonet, hoping to rout the Uniakes and draw the battle. They charged hard and rocked the Fusiliers back but these held firm and shot them down.
Brigadier Zinn was forced to recall the Blue Guards, artillery and remaining Dragoons and fall back to report his failure to seize the road junction.
On turn 10 the Army Morale's were at Faraway 2, Oberhilse 6. Two turns later the count was Faraway 1, Oberhilse 0 (-3 actually!). A game full of swings of fortune largely due to choices.
At the end of Turn 12, 1/2 the Oberhilse army retreated off table leaving the Queen's troops bloodied and dazed but victorious.
So much for the battle, how did the rules fare?
The main reason I had started fiddling with the rules last year was that I wanted to use single figures and made the error of trying to adapt HofT instead of focusing on MacDuff which was designed for singles. This desire for singles had nothing to do with HofT, just something that I needed to get out of my system one way or another. So it comes as no surprise to me that taking the core rules back to what had been working with 3-4 stand units should work again. Having just looked back through some archive versions, the biggest changes are that the control check has been simplified with less chance of units stalling though they still do it often enough, and that the rule for dealing with "1/2 strength" units now seems to work like intended/envisaged.
Looking back, I have to say that the greatest progress in the rules has come from letting go of two fears, fear of not showing historical detail and fear of results being too chunky,or drastic and unpredictable.
So did I change anything? Well, of course! I hadn't considered that my houses only hold 1 stand and these are by definition detachments and therefore treated as units. This in turn meant that any stray hit on any house would cause its garrison to be shaken and evacuate. So on turn 3, I added a rider that infantry in square or garrison and artillery in forts aren't forced to retreat when shaken. They'll stand and die in place if their general asks it. This in turn means that I'll have to retract the new rule on taking a panic test if infantry in square are defeated by cavalry as it won't work.I'll go back to just fighting another round. The various other changes make it less likely that a couple of lucky rolls will break the square so this should mean that it is difficult but possible.
I guess a solo play through of the convention game is now needed but I want to paint some more figures first so it'll be back to the ACW for the next HofT test but testing a Rough Wooing convention scenario may come first.
The NEW, IMPROVED? 6th Edition is now available from the link at left. The QRS is in the shop for repairs but will be back soon.