Viewer's Choice Celebration MiniCampaign

It has now been over 20 years since I launched "With MacDuff On the Web" and nearly 10 years since I launched my 2 blogs: Gathering of Hosts and Battle game of the Month.

To celebrate the years and the friends and the million hits I've decided to run a 3 game mini-campaign in late October. By popular vot e it will be set in the mid 18th Century.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Alexander the Quick

This post is a continuation of my review and exploration of  the rules and scenarios in Neil Thomas's  book One Hour Wargames.

Having confirmed my suspicion that I had done something wrong during the first set of games I decided to do an extra game of the 2nd test scenario. I was going to use the medieval rules again but decided instead to use ancients which are very close ruleswise. Scanning my remaining handful of ancient figures I decided that I could fudge a Macedonian vs Persia game. The Persians ended up defending with 1 cavalry, 1 archer and  2 infantry (Greek Hoplites) against a Macedonian army with 3 infantry, 1 skirmisher and 2 cavalry.

With the Granicus in mind I was tempted to defend the river bank with cavalry but resisted. I think it would have worked though.

After a prolonged fight at the ford the Macedonians advanced. Since the skirmishers were the only unit on either side that could enter the woods, they were sent that way. The rest of the army attacked piecemeal since time was short. The lead phalanx was taken out by a flank attack. Corner contact vs flank, not sure if that was proper or not but it worked.

In danger of being flanked by the skirmishers, the hoplites then fell back to the hill. The question of how the pivot is supposed to work came up again. If the ends of the pivoting unit had to wheel through the full 180 degree arc, they could not have done it without violating movement rules and the Greeks could not have retired. I decided to allow units to about face without worrying about the arc since the arc wasn't mentioned and with it a player's already limited options become even more limited.

Anyway, to keep this as short as the game itself, the last phalanx attacked uphill while the skirmishers flanked them, not that that helped much. Finally, at the end of turn 15 there were still units whaling away at each other on the hill which means neither side met the conditions for a victory.

Anyway, the rules were perfectly acceptable for classical ancients and the game took almost 1/2 hour to play all 15 turns. There was a certain amount tension watching the dice fall but with no decisions to make once locked in melee, it wasn't exactly mentally stimulating so OK but not my thing. Three stars for the Ancient rules.

During the game I noticed that I was having 2 major personal issues with playing the rules. The first was trying to break the habit formed over 4 decades of having both sides roll dice in melee. Habits are hard to break!

The second was minor and is a result of a very personal condition which Wikipedia tells me affects between 3% and 6% of the population; Dyscalculia. Actually until I did some googling this morning I didn't realize that it was a recognized condition with a name so this is self diagnosis but most, nearly all actually, of the symptons fit to some degree and they apply to my sister as well (actually she is much worse than I am) but not to my brother. In essence some things that involve calculation, whether spacial, time or numeric, don't come instinctively so they take a little longer. This affects things like instantly judging left vs right, doing basic arithmatic, reading analog clocks quickly, judging distances, relating names and faces (we use spatial patterns to recognize faces) etc. and with holding them in my mind rather than redoing them every time. Words and logic, no problem, numbers and spatial relations, like the impossible, take a little longer.  The condition, is the main reason why I'm pretty useless at sports, don't like driving in heavy traffic, especially at speed in unfamiliar surroundings and prefer rules where I don't need to do arithmatic or refer to charts.

Let me bring this back to the game and illustrate the issue with an example. Skirmishers subtract 2 from their die, hoplites add 2, the score is halved against hoplites and halved again against an uphill enemy. I have friends who could have instantly worked out that for skirmishers a 1 or 2 was a miss and anything else was 1 hit while for the hoplites attacking 1 or 2 was one hit while anything else was 2 hits. It took me several turns of calculating (d+2)/4= (etc depending on the unit and situation)  each roll before it sunk in. So, more work, less fun, for me but not for 94-97% of gamers.

Anyway I also realized that for Greeks, Romans and Carthaginians since  skirmishers with javelins have the same effective range as bows, they can just substitute peltasts, italian allies etc for archers using the same shooting and melee factors as archers. That resolves the army list problem.
Up next.

Last but not least, I was planning to try another scenario and the WWII rules but I feel that I have a good idea of how the rules and scenarios play and feel that they deliver what  they  promise but can't see me choosing to use them since they deliver a different sort of quick game than the sort I prefer. So instead of playing another "as written" scenario, I am going to try expanding one of the new scenarios to a 4x5 table and dress the table up a bit. If that works the book will add a dozen or so new scenarios to my bag of tricks.


  1. Dear Ross,
    Everytime I get a bit discouraged with how my hobby is going, I take a few minutes to read your latest blog posting and get re-energized. The fact is that you seem to be able to do all the things we associate with miniature gaming in a way that always seems to be rational, thoughtful and doable.
    This latest scenario using ancients is an example. Rather than worrying that you did not have every one of Alexander's units and the entire Persian army, you got on with it using the figures at hand and rules which you had written. I could imagine you playing this scenario with medievals figures, Imperial Romans or even Starship Trooper figures!
    Once again thank you for sharing your thinking and the thoughtful and colorful results of that exercise.
    All the best,

    1. Thanks Jerry, they weren't actually my rules this time it was a continuation of the review on Neil Thomas's book and I should fix that for those starting with this post. But if you got good vibes or any ideas etc then I'm doing my "job" so thanks.

  2. First time I played One Hour Wargames, I played with Scenario One with Ancients and was not impressed, it seemed very dull. Next I played a couple of WW2 scenarios and they seemed a little better, but not good.

    Then I tried Horse and Musket I found the rules much, much better. So much so I played a seven game mini campaign with them and enjoyed it very much.

    1. Paul, glad to hear it, the Machine Age are very similar apart from the cavalry charges. I can see how they would work for you for a mini campaign.

  3. Ross, for movement, pivoting, and about facing, I think you have it!

    A unit may pivot on its center point at the beginning or end of movement, OR BOTH! Therefore, pivot the unit 180 degrees facing the rear, march away, and then pivot 180 degrees back facing its original direction. Easy!

    1. Yes, the issue that gave me pause was that if they physically did a spin as opposed to turning the unit around then while they were spinning, 1 end would have clipped an enemy unit when at the 90 degree mark. The more I think about it they should probably have been ruled pinned in place not because they would have actually moved there as opposed to countermarching files but because the danger was too close psychologically. A sort of Zone of Control effect. Not sure.

  4. The pivot is an interesting point and difficult to say exactly what Neil Thomas intended. His intro to the ancients states that the pivot on the centre in simply a way to avoid the complexities of the wheeling manoeuvre i.e. just face it in whatever direction you want and the term pivot was jut a way of avoiding the process of wheeling.

    However, his interpenetration rules are quite strict, Skirmishers only in the Ancient and dark Ages and then no penetration in Medieval - are we to assume from that, that a pivot takes into account interpenetration (i.e. the clipping of units) - so that in effect the proximity of the enemy matters and could stop a pivot dead in it's tracks at the point of contact brought on by the pivot ---- though then how would one turn face in readiness to say run away (not that anything does as in this game attacking and inflicting casualties is the key to progress).

    I am tending to feel that proximity to another unit (even friendly does matter) and that contact would count as inter-penetration, ending the turn at that point. I can't finding reference to a rule that would allow a unit to fall back (i.e. back off) to then free itself to pivot.

    EDIT - the comments on this blog mention the problem. One chap allows pivot contact with friendlies but not the enemy - link

    1. Norm, I agree with everything you've written. I do note that there are 2 exceptions to the pivot rule, one is the turn to face when flanked, the you doesn't pivot on the center or it would break contact, the other is in the horse and musket/rifle and saber where cavalry charge into contact then straight fall back 6". Well, something to worry about if I use the rules again.