So lately I've also had a bit of paralysis by analysis, some frustration by the sheer size of the lead mountain, the veritable pile of projects started but in various stages of abandonment. This started me peering in and around the stack of unfinished business and giving serious consideration to selling off some stuff, both miniatures and rules. As I started building a pile of unused rulebooks, I came across my copy of Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargames (OHW). I threw it on the pile, took another look, then picked it back up and began thumbing through it.
After reading some reviews and then some battle reports online, I'd picked up OHW probably six months ago now. I was very interested in the concept of playing fast, ferocious battles on a small-ish table that was quick to set up and take down. If you're reading this you're probably aware I'm a big fan of campaigns; I can't even remember the last time I played a 'stand alone' game. The problem with campaigns is they're a lot of work administratively (I love filling out tables of organization with various characters and following their exploits, but it takes a lot of time to make and then keep up), and a campaign, by definition, has quite a few battles, which each take a long time to set up, play, take down, write up, post to the internet, and conduct the admin records. So I was very happy to have the rules and I very much looked forward to playing some games with OHW, fantasizing about Napoleonics, the American Revolution, and the American Civil War, in particular.
But I don't know what happened. The rule book got set aside and I kept chugging away with other games. But picking up the book from the 'rules to sell' pile, I gave it another look, then began pouring through various batreps on the internet, particularly Steven Whitesell's "Sound Officer's Call" blog, and this motivated me to give the rules another look and to actually get them on the table. Now, I'm a constant tinkerer, for better or worse never playing a set of rules as written. And these were no different: I like them, but I wanted a bit more randomization in the activation process, and I wanted a bit more period flavor for Napoleonics. So I sketched some changes out (the changes are at the bottom of this post), set out the forces and the table, grabbed the boy, and we got down to the business of liberating Europe from Bonaparte/fighting to keep the Revolution alive.
And so General Dadie and General Nickolls led their troops onto the field of battle. The setting is somewhere in Europe, with me commanding the French and the boy commanding the British-led Allies in a fictional campaign in maybe 1813 or so. I say 1813 or so because I want to be able to bring some Bavarians, Saxons, Italians, and Poles onto the field of battle, and he can bring some Dutch, Prussians, Austrians, and Russians, if we see fit. Our first game was purely French vs British; maybe it will stay that way, maybe not. That's the beauty of fictional campaigns ;)
Also, I use some high profile units in the game, such as the French "Old Guard," but it's simply for fun and identification of the units, they have no special power in the rules, they are simply treated as any other infantry brigade.
In any case, the forces are as follows, from left to right, top to bottom:
French commander, General Dadie, the Old Guard (infantry), the 1st Ligne (infantry), the 2nd Ligne (infantry), the 1st Legere (skirmishers), the Young Guard (skirmishers), and a (grand) battery of Horse Artillery (again, forgive the abstraction, but I wanted to differentiate Foot and Horse artillery).
British commander, General Nickolls, the British Foot Guards (infantry), the 1st Brigade of Foot (infantry), the Highlander Brigade, the Rifle Brigade (95th and 60th brigaded together?) (skirmishers), the Union Brigade (Scots Greys and Blues) (cavalry), and a Dragoon Brigade (cavalry).
*Yes, I know I'm using regimental-style names for most of the brigades, but please cut me some slack, I don't feel like using names of commanders I haven't written up yet.
I put the type of unit in parentheses as OHW break down units into four distinct categories: infantry, skirmishers, artillery, and cavalry, and I wanted you to know how each unit was designated (i.e., my designating the Young Guard as skirmishers rather than infantry). Force composition is pretty cool and simple in OHW, you just consult a chart, roll a single D6, and it tells you how many of each unit type you get for the upcoming battle. Additionally, there is a battery of 30 different scenarios in the book, which you can also simply roll up with a D6 to decide which you're going to use. As this was our first go round we went with the very straight forward scenario one, which is a simple 'line up and go whack the other guy' type of fight.
Regarding plan of attack, I can't speak for the boy, but overall he's more aggressive in games, and when I added that to the fact he had two cavalry brigades to my one, and I had two relatively weak Light Brigades in my arsenal to his one, and I had an artillery unit in lieu of another infantry brigade, I figured I was better off going on the defensive. So I parked my Horse Arty on the hill (at far left), put the Old Guard next to them as a quasi-reserve, flanked it with my two brigades of Ligne infantry, then put the two Light Brigades on my flanks. The boy general just sort of clumped all his stuff together at top right; again, he's pretty aggressive, so I imagine it sort of like the start line of a race, where he just wants to sprint over and kick my ass ;)
Let's get it on! We put the cards in the deck, shuffle, and pull the first, and with that the battle is joined!
This ends Turn 1.
General Nickolls had previously attached himself to the British Rifles, in the hope of rallying them to help keep them in the fight (he never got to because French cards kept coming out); because he was with the Rifles when they were eliminated he was now in peril. The British troops looked on in great anticipation, but when the smoke cleared the great General Nickolls still stood atop his white horse (he passed his roll to see if the General would go down with the Rifles).
Nevertheless, score one for General Dadie ;)
This was a hairy sequence as the turn ended with the French commander moving, and then each one of us wondering who would be able to activate first: if the French activated first their artillery was going to blast the Union Brigade to kingdom come, and if the British activated first the Union Brigade was going to charge the Legere and put them out of the fight. Fate favored the boy...
If you're not keeping track, things are not looking good for the French... The right flank is completely gone, with the Old Guard, 1st Legere, and 2nd Ligne all eliminated. While I stand a good chance of eliminating the Dragoons with my artillery (now that they are in canister range), it is still doubtful I can hold the hill with only the arty, Young Guard (skirmishers) and 1st Ligne, against hits three infantry units (Brigade of Foot, Highlanders, and Foot Guards).
So both the Highlanders (bottom right) and Brigade of Foot concentrate their fire on the 1st Ligne, and the volleys rip huge holes in the French line (pushing them to 12 hits total, right on the edge).
I'm still in it; if I can just get my General to rally off a bunch of hits I'm good. The British General rallies 4 hits off the Highlanders (center right) as the turn ends. Come on French activation...
Wow, what a @#$% fight!!! Yes, the rules are simple, but they were quick (that was our very first game and took about an hour and a half, with me having to looks stuff up and explain it to a six year-old) and super tense. We really had a great time and look forward to playing it again; as a matter of fact, the table is set, ready to go, and we'll look to head upstairs either today or tomorrow to have another go.
As promised, here is what I did to change the rules:
-OHW is an "IGO-UGO, move-shoot-melee' game. I changed this: for activation, using a deck of playing cards, red for Brits and blue for French. Each player gets one card per unit (including General), seven per side in this case. At the start of each turn put the cards together and shuffle them; pull a card and that player gets to choose one unit to act, with each unit acting once per turn. Units may move, shoot, or charge (mostly), with Generals being able to attach (can move and attach) or rally (a separate action, so the General has to move and attach in one turn, then he can rally the next turn.
-If you can't tell, I added Generals. Generals can move 12", and they can attach (base contact) to infantry units only, and by doing this they can rally off hits (we used D6 in this game, but I think that's too much, we're probably going to bo with D3 in the future) and add +2 in close combat. If they are attached to a unit that is eliminated they roll a D6 and are eliminated on a 1 or 2. If they survive they can make a free 12" move to try to get to the cover of other friendly troops.
-Line infantry can charge, and when they make contact the two units are locked in combat until one is destroyed. Line units get D6 x2 casualties in melee, but they can't charge cavalry. Skirmishers still can't charge, but they do get to fight back in their turn at D6 -2.
-I split arty into Foot and Horse, with Horse being able to move and fire in a turn (the only unit that can). For force composition, when you get arty, roll a D6: 1-4 is Foot, 5-6 is Horse. I also added canister at short range, which is 12" and gets D6 x2 casualties.
-I split cavalry into Light and Heavy, with Light being D6 +2 against infantry and Heavy D6 +4. Vs cavalry is -2 and no change, respectively. For force composition, I actually have Lt Cav, Dragoons, and Hvy Cav, with Dragoons being treated as Hvy Cav. So for force composition I rolled a D6 with 1-2 being Light, 3-4 being Dragoons, and 5-6 being Heavy.
-We used the optional 'form square' rule, though I didn't actually exercise it as he'd gotten his infantry close enough to charge me if I did. Good 'combined arms tactics' by the boy...
-We also used two stands for each unit (but the commander), using column to show they moved and line for firing/charging. It has no impact on the game, purely aesthetic.
I hope you guys like this batrep as much as we enjoyed playing it.