Wednesday, 22 June 2016

One Hour Wargames by Neil Thomas

I recently bought Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargames as a bit of retail therapy during a rather hectic period on the home and work front. I had originally considered getting these rules when they first came out, but decided against it for one reason or another. However a recent discussion on the Pendraken forum led me to reassess my position. So after reading some reviews and AAR on various Blogs, I decided to give them a go. After all they are not going to break the bank as with P&P they come in at around £10 or less from Amazon. Small change compared to many rulesets these days.

I won't go into too much detail about the rules, but Neil Thomas sets his stall out rather well in my opinion, clearly explaining his design philosophy in terms of the rules as well as the scenarios. This is worth bearing in mind as you read the book. They are advertised as 'practical tabletop battles for those with limited time and space' and I certainly fit into that category and in a sense that's what attracted me to them.

Having perused the rules over a few days I decided it was time to give them a run out. So last night I randomly selected a scenario and the Red and Blue forces, all of which took less than 5 minutes! Well I think that was the fastest scenario and OOB generation that I've ever come across. Details can be found below:

Scenario 12: An Unfortunate Oversight 
The Red forces have been tasked with controlling a strategic bridge but have not realised that there is a ford further downstream on their left flank. The Blue forces are aware of this and are ready to exploit this oversight.

Red Forces
3 x Infantry
2 x Warband
1 x Cavalry

Blue Forces
4 x Infantry
1 x Warband
1 x Skirmish

I chose to use the Dark Ages rules as I had the figures and could compare the rules with both Dux Bellorum and Lion Rampant, both favourite rulesets of mine. So with the table set it was time to see if the game would finish in less than an hour...

The table layout, with the Red forces on the left deployed around the bridge and town.
The Red forces with their left flank covered by cavalry.
The Blue forces ready to stream across the ford.
Blue quickly advanced and Red moved to meet them.
Combat was quickly joined as the Blue vanguard charged forward and the Red cavalry attacked the Blue right flank.
Red troops occupy the vital hill and watch the battle unfold.
The battle rages on as more units join the fray.
Hits quickly mount up.
Blue gains the upper hand...
... as two Red units are destroyed.
However Red soon gets revenge.
Both sides rush units to support the massed melee.
The Blue units are close to breaking...
Suddenly the tables have turned and Blue is under a lot of pressure.
Blue is outnumbered almost 2-1.
Red units turn the flank...
... and Blue realises the game is up and quits the field.

Well the game only took 30 minutes, so the rules certainly lived up to their name. So what did I think of the rules and game? As always a few thoughts:

Post Game Thoughts
  • The game is certainly very quick to set up in terms of scenario selection and units required, which is a big bonus.
  • I really like the random die roll to select the forces you have at your disposal. This makes things interesting for the player as you may not have the troops you would want to fulfil your mission. Ditto your opponent. 
  • The rules are incredibly easy to pick up and so are perfect as intoductory rules for new players to wargames. 
  • The game only lasted around 30 minutes, so in an evening you could get in around 3 games and make a mini-campaign if required. Nothing fancy but nice if you want to.
  • I was not being subtle in my movement and tactics as I wanted to just give the rules a run  out. I think this contributed to the game being over so quickly. If I had sat the Red forces on the hill, then the game would have lasted longer and become very attritional.
  • At times it felt like I was playing Dux Bellorum, but without the command & control element. Maybe I should play a different period so that I'm not comparing them with other rulesets?
  • Shieldwall units in a town or on a hill would be very hard to shift. Again this reminds me off Dux Bellorum...
  • I'm not how sure I will like these rules for more solo games as they have no element of command & control. If I add it in then I might as well play Dux Bellorum, or at least that's my initial feeling.
  • There are no break points for the units, so you could play on until mutually assured destruction almost takes place. In reality I think it becomes clear rather quickly when one side is beaten, as happened in this game.

So not a bad first game I must admit and a ruleset that I will have another go at over the next day or two. I really want to give the Pike & Shotte rules a go as they seem quite interesting but only time will tell. What I do like are the scenarios and the way the forces are generated for each game. As others have mentioned they plan to use these for other games with other rulesets and I will certainly be one of those. 

Am I glad I bought the rules? Yes I am. Will they become one of my staple rulesets? I doubt it  but you never know. As my good friend Keith Flint said, they help clarify what it is you like and want in a ruleset. In fact I have also ordered Neil Thomas' 'Wargaming 19th Century Europe' on the strength of these rules  to see if these can fit in between Black Powder and Bloody Big Battles for those times when I want a smaller game in a relatively short amount of time. They should arrive in the next week or so so I'm looking forward to seeing how they play.


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Custoza 1866 - A Bloody Big Battles AAR

Well a dose of man-flu prevented our planned game of a week ago, but a return to health meant that we were able to get in our planned Custozza game. Now this is a large battle so to try and fit it in with the time we have for our evening games, Dave 'bathtubbed' the units, the details of which can be seen below:

Italian Army: Lots of them, enthusiastic but badly led and not well trained or experienced – oh well!

1st Corps (Durando)
1st Div [4] Raw ML, Passive
1st Div RA [0.5] Passive
2nd Div [4] Raw ML NOT Passive
3rd Div [4] Trnd ML, Passive
5th Div [4] Raw ML, Passive
Corps Troops Bersag [2] Trnd ML, S, Passive
Corps Troops Cav [1], Raw,  Passive
Corps Troops RA [0.5] Passive
Anywhere with his Corps
SW of Oliosi at the start
SW of Oliosi at the start
Monzambo Bridge once 1st or 5th Div lose a base
Vallegio at the start
Olisio/Sta Lucia at the start
Vallegio T2
Vallegio T2
Vallegio T2
3rd Corps (Della Rocca)
7th Div [4] Raw ML, Passive
8th Div [4] Raw ML, Passive
16th Div [4] Raw ML, Passive
9th Div [4] Raw ML, Passive
Corps Troops Cav [1] Raw, F, Passive
Corps Troops RA [0.5] Passive
Villafranca, T2
Villafranca, T2
Villafranca, T2
Villafranca, T2
Villafranca, T2
Table edge S Villafranca
Villafranca, T2
2nd Corps (No commander)
19th Div [4] Raw ML, Passive
10th Div [4] Raw ML, Passive
Corps Troops RA [0.5] Passive

S Edge, T6
S Edge, T7
S Edge, T7

Austrian Army: A better organised and motivated army than those in Bohemia

Cav Res [1] Vet, A
E Edge at the start
IX Korps (Hartung)
Bock/Kirschberg [4] S,T, A
Kirschberg [4] S,T, A
Korps Art RA [0.5]
In woods N of Staffalo
In woods N of Staffalo
In woods N of Staffalo
In woods N of Staffalo
VII Korps (Maroicic)
Scudier [4] S,T, A
Toply/Welsersheimb [4] S,T, A
Korps Art RA [0.5]
NW of Staffalo
NW of Staffalo
NW of Sommacampagna, T3
NW of Sommacampagna, T3
V Korps (Rodich)
Bauer/Moring [4] S,T, A
Piret [4] S,T, A
Korps Cav [1] A
Korps Art RA [0.5]
6” N Edge Oliosi
6” N Edge Oliosi
6” N Edge Centre, T1
6” N Edge Centre, T1
6” N Edge Centre, T1
Reserve (Virtsolog)
Benko/Weimar [4] S, T, A
Res Art RA [0.5]
Within 6” of N Edge
Within 6” of N Edge
Within 6” of N Edge

The deployment and terrain was pretty much as per that laid out in the Bloody Big European Battles scenario book. So after Dave had deployed his Italians and I the Austrians, it was time to get down to action.

The initial deployment positions.
The Austrians in the woods by Staffalo, ready to suprise the Italians.
Both sides start to move in response to each other.
The Austrian V Korps and Reserves move towards Oliosi.
The Austrian IX Korps struggle to move out of the woods towards Custozza.
The Italian main force arrives, somewhat unaware of the Austrian threat on their right flank.
The Italians present a tempting target.
Battle erupts in and around Oliosi.
The Italians respond to the threat to their flank as the Austrians push forward.
Austrian Stosstaktik in action.
The fight continues to develop at Oliosi.
An Italian unit caught in march column pay the price.
The Austrians struggle to push past Staffalo.
By Oliosi the Austrians stosstaktik assault goes in, supported by cavalry on the flank...
... which sees the destruction of the Italian unit...
... and the Austrians exploit to threaten the Italian rear.
The Italians seize Custozza as the Austrians move into Santa Lucia.
The Austrians appear to be gaining the upper hand at Oliosi.
Battle lines are drawn around Custozza and Santa Lucia.
With the Italians in a strong position at Custozza, the Austrians ponder their options.
The Austrians start to move to the right to try and re-inforce Santa Lucia.
The Austrians posied to take complete control of Santa Lucia with a nominal threat to their flank from a lone Italian unit.
Italian re-inforcements arrive on the ridge above Oliosi but there gun line has limited range due to the nature of the terrain.
The Italians are under pressure in and around Oliosi but support is at hand. As the firefight develops, both sides start going low on ammo.
Stalemate starts to develop at Custozza and Santa Lucia.
The Austrians have a strong position but are not confident in attacking the Italians in Custozza.
The battle continues unabated at Oliosi.
Not much change except that the fight continues at Oliosi.
A series of assaults go in, but both sides bounce off each other, failing to deliver a telling blow.
The battles have taken their toll, leaving both sides exhausted.

So after over 3 hours of gaming, we called it a draw, as time was against us and the conflict at Oliosi was evenly posied.

Post Game Thoughts
Well that was an interesting game and one that felt somewhat different to the previous battles. Why? Well a few thoughts as always:

  • The terrain made quite a difference as the Steep Hills, Woods and Streams really slowed movement down. To overcome this Dave had a unit move in march column, but this got caught before it could deploy and was detroyed by Austrian fire. Having seen this I chose to move my units in Line, which slowed them down but I did not want to risk them getting caught out like the Italians. With hindsight I could have moved the VII Korps in March Column to get them onto the table more quickly as they really added nothing to the battle, except look nice as they manouevered.
  • The Italians put up a good fight, despite being both Fragile and Passive. However this did hamper them when it came to the Close Assault phase. In contrast the Austrian stosstaktik did work as the added In Depth bonus really helped them out.
  • It was nice to play this phase of the war as both sides are relatively evenly matched and the battle was closely fought throughout. Having the Austrians as 'top dogs' felt funny, but the Italians are by no means an easy push over.
  • We thought the 'bathtubbing' worked well and allowed us to play out a large battle in an evening.
  • At the start I had too many troops to a unit, but luckily spotted it quite early on. To compensate for any added advantage that I may have gained, I removed Suppressed markers off the Italians that had received fire from said units. We also forgot to count the Austrians as Tactically Inept for a few Turns. So hopefully the lesson has been learnt to concentrate from the very start!
In the little time that we had post game to have a chat, we decided to re-fight part of Custozza next time we meet up, specifically the battle between the Austrian V Korps and Reserves and the Italian I Corps. This we found to be the most interesting part of the battle and so will basically split the table in half and use the OOBs as per the Bloody Big European Battles book.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Trautenau 1866 - A Bloody Big Battles AAR

Well another week and another Austro-Prussian War frontier battle as planned. Yet it was almost a 'Groundhog Day' feeling as once again real work and life meant that it was all a bit rushed in the run up to the game and the forces were virtually indentical; a Corps facing off against another Corps. So as per last week, we used the scenario that Dave wrote for Volley & Bayonet as a guideline for our game

The scenario was quite simple in that the Austrians had to block the Prussian advance along the road at Trautenau, whilst the Prussians had to prevent this, mainly by holding the heights that over looked Trautenau along with trying to render the Austrian Corps hors de combat. Simples. So with the table set it was time to get on with the game...

Two Austrian Corps have deployed, ready to advance towards the heights above Trautenau and the Prussian Brigades in column of march.
The Austrians move off quickly and occupy the heights, but are unable to deploy their artillery.
The Prussians respond quickly to the threat and immediately attack the Austrians.
The Austrian Corps artillery takes the brunt of the attack, whilst the Austrian left wing goes low on ammo, but is only able to Suppress a Prussian Brigade.
The rest of the Prussian Corps arrives along the road, forcing the Austrian right flank to shake out into line to try to bring as much fire to bear as they can on the Prussian left wing...
... but a shocking die roll leaves the Austrian commander almost speechless, but the Prussian commander extremely happy as can be seen from his hand gesture.
The battle rages across the crest of the hill...
... with the Austrian left wing now Spent and Suppressed and Prussian cavalry in their rear.
Things carry on in the Prussians favour...
... as the Austrian right wing also goes to Spent and Suppressed.
With the Austrians collecting as many markers as they can (in fact they are maxed out!) the Prussians add insult to injury with a telling die roll...
... which sees the loss of the Austrian left wing. There is little consolation to be had in the fact that the Prussians have also gone Low on Ammo.
The Austrian position doesn't look great to be honest.
The Austrian left wing ready to be rolled up like a worn out carpet.
The Prussians duly roll up said carpet leaving the remnants of the Austrian right wing isolated and almost surrounded.
The Prussian forces, close to complete victory are, however, extremely spread out and vulnerable to a counter-attack.
The roll call of lost Austrian units...
Maybe victory can be snatched from the jaws of defeat as the rest of the Austrian Brigade arrives, deployed and ready for battle. The Prussians quickly redress their lines but are still spread out.
The Prussian commander does not look unduly concerned.
The battle takes on a completely different, almost SYW feel, as both sides decide to have a go at linear warfare. Maybe it's time to get out 'Honours of War'...
Is this concern on the face of the Prussian commander, or merely practice for a gurning competition?
Both sides make for the town of Hohenbruck, whilst the Austrian artillery on the right flank starts to get fire ascendency over their Prussian rivals.
Wimpffen's Bde manages to enter Hohenbruck ahead of the Prussians, but only just.
As the battle develops, the Prussians once again get the better of the firefights...
... with them being pushed back and Wimpffen's Brigade in danger of becoming isolated. Yet another Austrian Brigade collects as many markers as it can.
The beginning of the end as the Austrians are under severe pressure and losing units hour by hour...
... and with no chance of pushing the Prussinas back, concede the game.

Despite the Austrians getting hammered, they had managed to delay the Prussian advance by a day, yet at a fearful cost.

Post Game Thoughts
Well what a game that was! So full of action, manouevre and it almost felt like two games in one, as the arrival of the rest of the Austrian Corps completely changed the feel of the game. So as always, in no particular order, some points with regards to the game:

  • For this scenario we decided to have two Austrian Brigades on the table at the start, rather than one as happened in reality. We felt that one would simply have been overwhelmed early on and would not have given an interesting game. This is certainly a scenario that would bear replaying several times just to see what would have happened with slightly different set ups etc. Something to certainly think about for the future.
  • Due to being in a rush again, we forgot to make the Prussian Corps Passive as per the Bloody Big European Battles scenario guidelines. Ditto the Prussian cavalry being Agressive. This may have slowed the Prussians down, but I don't think would have changed the outcome.
  • The Double 1's rolled by the Austrians early on in the game, when in a great position, really hurt them and we both felt they were never able to recover from this. Add in the Prussians Double 6's a Turn later and it became an almost Herculean task to win the game.
  • We actually managed to have a bit of a cavalry engagement in the second half of the game. All they did was bounce off each other. Their main use, as the Prussians were able to show, is in attacking isolated artillery units, supporting assaults and generally causing problems in the rear.
  • For this game we dropped the Austrians having Skirmishers and changed them to being Agressive, to try and replicate their Stosstaktik. This was something that Chris Pringle commented upon in our last game and on the Pendraken forum. It certainly changed the feel of the Austrians from a game point of view. Without the Skirmishers off-setting their Tactically Inept status, they automatically had one column shift to the right. This made them more vulnerable in the firefight but encouraged them to get into the assualt, which felt historically right. I think this needs thinking about to make sure that it gives a good game balance. Again Chris has made some suggestions on the Pendraken forum and I await with interest his comments on this game.
  • Despite getting my butt kicked, I really, really enjoyed this game. For a game with so few units, played on a 4'x4' table, it had so much action and plenty of challenges throughout the game. The game lasted nearly 3 hours and yet it flew by as we were so engrossed in things. Also as this is part of a campaign, we are able to think about how the outcome will affect the next games and the overall course of the campaign to date. Much more fun than a simple line up and bash 'em game and it gives us plenty to talk about.
  • I think the Austro-Prussian War is more enjoyable to wargame than the Franco-Prussian War. The Prussians haven't learnt how best to use their artillery yet and the Krupp guns are few and far between. The battles have plenty of interest and of course there is the Italian theatre to give a completely different challenge. I can see this becoming a favourite period to game and research.
  • Once again I cannot stress too much how much fun these rules are to play. 95% of the time we are just using the QRS and referring to the book to clarify certain points.  They give a cracking game and you really feel that you are learning something about the battles as you play. What's not to like?

Next week we will return to the Baltic Crusades and Lion Rampant as once again work etc means that we will not have time to sort out the next game in this campaign. We may stay on the frontier but are more likely to look at one of the battles from the Italian theatre, which should be fun. So until next time...