Tuesday, 25 April 2017

ONE HOUR WARGAMES - a review and mini AAR

When I was a kid living in Norfolk back in the 70`s, I discovered my first ever books on wargaming. Actually, they were among the first ever books to be written on the subject of wargaming - full stop! Great titles by great gentlemen. Sadly, mostly all of these authors have now passed on to the great game table in the sky.. a poignant reminder perhaps, that so much that we take for granted now is in fact a mere transitory moment in time: but their books remain... and are as passionately insightful and wonderful as they were the day they originally hit the shelves (the good old days when real book shops smelt of old wood, paper, and just the slightest hint of pipe tobacco). Aaaah the good old days when every self respecting gamer`s book shelf contained at least a few titles by the likes of Charles Grant, Donald Featherstone, Bruce Quarrie, Terrance Wise, Tony Bath, Gavin Lyall, and Stuart Asquith.

Times changed.... things moved on, and the old days were all but forgotten by most. Same as a distant memory of things long past: faded and barely retained. Nowadays, gamers are too busy carrying on the modern trend of all too readily disposable games and rulebooks. Buy a game, play it twice, put it on a shelf, and forget about it ever more. So, so sad.

But occasionally, just very occasionally.. a book comes along which makes us sit up and take note. It really is a rare thing nowadays, which is why when it happens (and it comes to my attention) I make a big point of ensuring I spread the word about it to all my gaming peers, so they too have a chance not to miss out on such a wonderful and precious treat.

The book I discovered quite by chance, is by a wargame author called Neil Thomas. He is an avid and passionate gamer, and a writer with an unusual sideways take on the hobby: an oblique thinking man with a keen mind and an unusually astute perspective on things. The book in question is one of his newest titles, called “One-Hour Wargames.”  And promotes 176 pages of pure unadulterated heaven:“practical battles for those with limited time and space.”  he calls it. And quite frankly the book is a masterpiece; not only of rules-man-ship, but also of the lucidly eloquent written tongue.

The author straight away dismisses the myth that to play a game right, the gamer has to be playing with painted miniature of a modern Warlord Games or Games Workshop standard. He then goes on to inform the reader that complicated and `realistic simulation` doesn’t always equate to fun to play games on the table top.. but that true immersion into the hobby comes from imagination and suspension of disbelief, and a willingness to let reality drift away, go with the flow; much the same way we do when we engross ourselves in a really good film or TV show.
What is now (rather patronisingly) called “wargame table standard” painted miniatures. To me these are merely the epitome of perfect toys for grown-ups.. ideal for indulging in games of the imagination... i.e. Wargames.
There are so many reasons I think One Hour Wargames is a `soon to become` classic read. Firstly it contains multiple sets of simple (yet complete) rules, covering warfare from Ancient times, through to Medieval, Pike and Shot, Horse and Musket, right up to World War One and Modern. I like the way that Neil Thomas deftly manages to cover just about every genre of game within a few simple catchment eras of rules. Ancients will do for pretty much anything from the amazingly diverse Biblical Wars of mythology, or the Greek Peloponnesian Wars of history, or Spartan`s classic Thermopylae. Or how about the tight formations of the elite Romans, outnumbered ten to one by the Ancient Britains and their chariot wielding hordes. Pike and Shot can cover everything from the continental battles of Henry the VIII`s right through to the Monmouth Rebellion. And Horse and Musket will suffice for Jacobites all the way through to the Victorian Charge of the Light Brigade and the Zulu Wars.. perhaps even the Boar War. Modern can be anything from The Great War right through to Vietnam, and hey, why stop there... a few tweaks and you have yourself a perfect little futuristic game of science fiction or science fantasy – aka `John Carter from Mars` mode.
I suspect One Hour Wargames will mean something different to each reader. For me, One Hour Wargames suits my sensibilities by giving me perfect scope to indulge in one of my all time favourite table top immersions, World War Two.
... and below, a more in depth review from an amazingly intelligent wargamer (just check out the book tiles behind him on all his You Tube videos:
The following game was played using One Hour Wargames. It took me ten minutes to set up and 25 minutes to play. Perfect for a nice easy solo distraction, when the urge to enjoy a quick game takes a hold.
Sergeant Oddball (Kelly`s Heroes) sits half in and half out of the topmost turret hatch of his Firefly Sherman tank. He lifts his arm and gives a typical 7th cavalry yell to halt: “heeey-up!” The loud vehicle comes to a sudden halt, its engine noise echoing off the tall buildings all around.
Ordered to scout out the outskirts of the town, Oddball reluctantly does as he`s told. Infantry support is not far behind and coming up fast at the trot: but still, the sergeant is not happy about using his crew and his tank as bait, while the rest  of the regular infantry take their pretty time getting their asses into gear.
“Hey Oddball, What`s up?” Private Moriarty enquires, shouting up from the co seat.
Oddball sniffs the air. “Something`s not right.” He calls back down into the tank. “Stay here a minute will ya, I wanna take a closer look.”
Oddball may appear to be just a harmless nut job to many who only know him casually. But he is a seasoned tank veteran, and can usually smell a pooh deal... before he steps right in it.
Clambering out of the turret hatch, he climbs deftly along the extended barrel of the `fake` 90mm gun (really a 76mm mock up, designed to look bigger than it is, to fool the Germans) and drops to the tarmac, at street level, in front of the huge metal beast.
Movie Quote: Oddball “To a New Yorker like you, a hero is some type of weird sandwich, not some nut who takes on three Tigers!”
Amazingly, One Hour Wargames not only allows me to play a big scale wargame with multiple units per side in a full on onslaught (fought on anything from a 2` by 2` or 3` by 3` or even a large 6` by 4` table).. but the rules also work really well too, in tiny/small scale skirmishes with just a handful of men and maybe a vehicle or two as an optional extra to include if you feel like it.
Basically, everything works by giving a unit 15 points of damage.  This can be a single hero, a single vehicle/tank, or an entire unit (no single casualties, just mark hits using a casualty token).
To this you add a D6 and any plus or minus points (+ -) to arrive at a total. This becomes direct damage which is then applied to the unit. Units in cover cut casualties down by half, and there is no book keeping at all involved in the game. When the unit takes 15 points of damage, it is destroyed and removed for the game. Dead easy huh? You can pretty much carry the rules in your head, they`re literally that easy to remember. This is the crux of the entire game and means you can learn to play in less time than it take to sit and drink a cup of tea... I know this, because that`s how long it took me to pick it all up first time I got ready to play: and was literally ready to play my first game, minutes later. With over a dozen World War Two games under my belt already, and half a dozen English Civil War (Pike and Shot) games as well. I really CAN say at this stage, wow, One Hour Wargames is for me, and could so very easily become an overall `go to` set of wargame and skirmish rules I would be proud to use in any situation.. private home games or club.
The potential application for using the rules to play things like = Captain America, Agent Carter and the Screaming Eagles American Airborne Elite versus Hydra and Red Skull, has not been missed by me either. The whole premise is quite revolutionary in its sheer simplistic adaptability.
Suddenly, sections of American Rangers are pouring past the tank and entering the outskirts of the town. Oddball just stands and tilts his head to one side.
Then a shot rings out. A trooper goes down, hitting the dirt with trained ease (he made his saving roll). “I`m all right,” he calls out to his comrades, already diving for cover left and right. “Bullet hit my canteen.”
For a few moments there are relieved whoops and cheers, calls of:“you always were a lucky Schmuck, Peters.”  But the excitement quickly dies down, as eyes desperately search the roof tops for the German sniper.
A squad on the left think they spot movement from the top of the Hotel on their left, and quickly move to enter the building and engage.

Their rigorous training counts, and in moments they are in the building and dashing up the wide staircase... just as the lone German is moving position to a safer spot. In surprise, he runs almost headlong into the corporal leading the assault.
It`s down to a reaction test. Who will be quickest to respond.
A Thompson rat-ta-tats, spitting fire as a burst of bullets spews across the landing: and the German goes down. “Clear!” Corporal Apone calls to the rest of his squad.
Another door, leading to the roof, is directly ahead. The Squad gathers around it and on Apone`s silent count 4....3....2....1.... they burst through! Catching a small Germen section completely by surprise: just as they are preparing to discharge a shell right slap on top of the Sherman tank.. mere metres below.

There is a brief fire fight, and at the end of it, the small three man Germen Panzerfaust team and spotter, lay still on the ground.
With the building now secure, the Americans (with their lone Tank support) continue to push cautiously up the road... slowly moving deeper into the little French town.
Rumour has it that the legendary Captain America is in the sector, along with his special team. Perhaps they may be the first to take the town and get to meet this iconic hero of the war.
This book does it all. I like simple, I like playable. I would compare One Hour Wargames to Ganesha Games "Mutants & Death Ray Guns" in this regard... only (believe it or not) a hell of a lot simpler - even! Whereas M&DRG spells it out for you exactly what it is.. i.e. a post apocalyptic or futuristic hero and/or superhero type game engine, with lots of options for expansion: One Hour Wargames may not be so obvious, and certainly doesn’t spell it out. It sells itself as a wargame book, but the astute gamer will quickly quiz this simplistic premise and realise with sheer delight, its applications go wayyyy beyond this, and can easily be adapted to any genre.. probably without even needing to changing a single rule.
A good old game involving paper miniature Pikemen and Musketeers, in an English Civil War romp across the imagined war torn lands of yester-year. No painting required, no suffering for our art... just setting up on a table, then losing yourself for an hour or two in a nice solo adventure of the mind.
This book is currently on sale direct from for £12.08 but I see, can also be found (from independent sellers) from as little as £5:88).

Article By Steve


  1. That sounds like a very interesting book mate, I like the simple, can play it in a lunch time style of game, no tokens, no tables and charts just slap some minis down and crack on. Great article and nice battle report.

    1. That's EXACTLY it Andy, you got it! Its a little gem of a book. Just take the WWII game I played, as I was playing it I was astutely aware it would have worked equally as well had it been Cursed Earth Judges clearing out a block, with the antagonists being block residents and gangers: or the Avengers led by Steve R, going up against Hydra soldiers. Same with the other genres covered in the book too. The Horse & Musket rules for example, would work well for "Pride Prejudice and Zombies" and... well you get the picture, lol. I actually cant recommend this book enough.

  2. me LIKE this. I`ve seen One Hour Wargames lying about but never got a chance to browse it (the house copy keeps vanishing before I get a chance, and now I know why, YOU keep using it hehe).

    I like the book cover, that's what drew me to it actually. Its simple and enticing, and reminds me of something I might see on the bookshelf of your precious old school titles section. For me I think because its unfussy, and reminds me that you DONT need to know all that detail stuff about uniforms to enjoy a game like this, and it kinda brings Hollywood to the game board and shouts "Play me!"

    I wanted that AAR/batrp to go on longer, I wanted to know what happens next, where was Kelly, Big Joe, Babra ("do me a favour would ya, Joe, don`t call me Barbara."), Sgt Crapgame, and the rest? I LOVE that movie and really wanted to see more of the characters appear in this game. Please, please tell me you will bring them all back to do more WWII adventures with them in.. hey Kelly`s Heroes meet Steve Rogers - mmmm now THAT would be a treat?

    1. Well, I love World War Two games, I have loads of Warlord Games WWII Bolt Action, I have Cap` AND his Screaming Eagles, I have all the Kelly`s Heroes personality set of miniatures, even have Hydra troops and Red Skull >>chuckles<< I`d say the chances are pretty big I shall do something along those lines in the near future Tar` hun :))

  3. Very nice article. Made me want to play a game of One Hour Wargames, which is always a good sign when an AA does that. Only one complaint, I wanted more. And I want to see Steve Rogers in it too LOL.

    I see Amazon uk has copies of this book from £5:88. not bad at all, wow.

    1. you know what Hils, I`ve been really enjoying playing quick solo half hour to an hour games using this book. So simple and clean and easy. No messing. Bang a boom and - done! And really easy to set up too, and requires so little space.

  4. Really interesting article, Steve. I usually take these sort of posts with a pinch of salt - the "these are the best rules...EVER!" kind - as they tend to then veer into a desciption that just confirms that reviewer loves the kind of horrendously complicated rules that cause me to through rulebooks across the room. Consider me sold. However, in order to not influence my own mass combat rules, I may not purchase a copy until AFTER I've finished writing them.

  5. {{ I usually take these sort of posts with a pinch of salt - }}

    And you know what I`d say there jez. You`d be right to be wary. Most reviews literally bore the pants off me nowadays... UNLESS I am specifically looking for something, in which case I`ll go looking for reviews on the subject I want to know about. But where reviews on rules are concerned, naaa, normally they bore my silly; I suspect that's because I simply don't go for the latest `flavour of the month` every few months, and am quite happy sticking with a rule set I like for years and years. Like Dungeons and Dragons & Tunnels and Trolls for all my rpg sessions: been using these since about 1974 and 1976 respectively. D&D for my campaigns (longest of which has been running for 23 years now, and still going) and T&T for simple one off adventure sessions and mini campaigns. Normally if I go hunting for reviews, its to get insight about terrain or miniatures, often making sure of scale before I make a purchase.

    Strangely, this year I have found three sets of rules I consider worthy of deeper study. Frostgrave, Mutants and Death Ray Guns, and One Hour Wargames. Interest in three sets of rules in as many months, for me is unprecedented and normally unheard of. Guess people are finally producing some decent rules with longevity and lasting appeal, for a change LOL.

    But you are dead right Jez. Finish your rules first. Mind you, its a vicious circle. Finish yours and you wont WANT to play anyone else's rules. Or read these first and end up not finishing your own. No easy win - win there is there mate.

  6. Interesting that you have stumbled on Neil Thomas. In my normal line of daily day to day madness I have to like and ``rave`` about the most horrendously long and deeply involved systems for conducting games at the table ( that`s fun too of course). But do you know what, when I go home to my nice quiet games study {well, quiet that is until I put on Beethoven`s 1812 Overture, or softly playing War Sounds of Bridge Too Far}, and when I sit down to the sand table to play a move or two of my looooong immersive solitaire games, often left in situ for weeks on end; guess what Steve mate? Do I use the rules I would normally be involved with – nope! Guess what again? I use One Hour Wargames, and have been {privately, when alone and playing by my own-some} doing so for the past few years. Bet you never knew that mate. So yeah, no complaints there.

    I think the book is totally sound.

  7. "Simple is as simple does" Said Sam.

    Simpler the better for me. Once I get to the table, I just want to fight my in-game enemy.. not the rules themselves.

  8. I'll have to re-read my copy of "One Hour Wargames", Steve, as you clearly saw it as offering more than my initial peruse suggested. A terrific write-up and one which smacks of enthusiasm for both the rules and the genre. Wonderful layout too!!

    Every now and then I still turn to my own rule system (M.I.S.S.) for a spot of quick dice-rolling and throw some figures on the table. But these days, I actually tend to prefer other people's sets, so I can focus on the gaming world (and my imagination), rather than worrying about whether a certain value or rule suits the circumstances.

    I'm not sure who directed your attention to "Mutants And Death Ray Guns", but I have especially fallen 'head over heels' with that particular rule-set in recent weeks... and judging by the amount of comments the BatReps have enjoyed, so have others :-) That won't however, stop me from trying out other rule-sets (e.g. "Exterminate!"), but has made me realise that I'd really like to settle down and just stick with four or five rule-books from now on (e.g. "Song Of Blade & Heroes", "Bolt Action", "Age Of Sigmar", "Blitzkreig Commander III and "7TV"), and really get to know their mechanics.

  9. I think the thing I see about One Hour Wargames comes from my slightly sideways mind lol. I see Neil Thomas saying a unit takes 15 hits and I see a unit as being potentially anything you want it to be. It can be a unit of men... as many or as few as you wish it to be. In my last batrep I has American units/squads of 5 men (could equally have been 10 or 15, wouldn’t have mattered), and I had a German anti tank weapon team of 3 men, and a sniper unit of 1 man. Nothing special about these numbers, it was just what I chose for the aesthetics of the game. The numbers really don’t count: it is the 15 hits a unit can take, which does.

    A 15 hit unit could be a platoon of 10, 15, 20 men, or a squad/section of 4 or 5 men: or a bazooka team of 2 men, or a single Tank, or even a single leader or hero. Equally it could be a superhero like Captain America or Red Mask. What YOU chose your unit(s) to be doesn’t matter, only the plus and minuses that apply to it in combat when combined with the D6 roll for any applied damage (which of course comes directly off the default 15 hits a unit can take in a game). By staying slightly abstract and stylised on what a unit is or can do, means you can design your units to be whatever your mind imagines. So for example if you decide to have a single man unit (1 man) representing Steve Rogers/Captain America, versus a German Tiger Tank, both would still be a 15 point unit. The Tank would receive any relevant plus/minuses as usual when shooting as normal for a Tank (no close combat in WWII remember): and our superhero would receive any plus/minuses of a standard infantryman. Apply your D6 as normal, then apply any cover bonuses... and away you go. Pretty evenly matched actually, one superhero versus a tank. Just imagine all Caps` shield throwing and mighty leaps in your head as you play... the actual game mechanics doesn’t need to bog down with all that, and yet you can still imagine all the imagery within your mind`s eye. Do you see? And if you think the game needs more rules to make it unique or your purposes, a few homemade rules here and there (in your head or on the single side on a sheet of paper) is all you need do to make the game truly yours.

    So following this to its logical conclusion, you can turn One Hour Wargames into any game you want it to be, to suit your personal tastes and gaming needs.

    I also like other people`s rules quite often. Like you, not because I can’t make my own, but sometimes its jut nice isn’t it, not to have to worry about all that stuff, and just sit back and enjoy something someone else has struggled and put in all the backache creating. I`m a musician in real life and I play many gigs. But it doesn’t mean I always carry my guitar with me. Sometimes it’s nice just to go for a few drinks, and enjoy someone else`s musical skill for the night.

    {{I'm not sure who directed your attention to "Mutants And Death Ray Guns"}}

    I got into Ganesha Games when I was looking for my perfect `go to` set of rules for my French Indian Wars. I was originally looking for set of small-ish semi skirmish/full scale wargame rules, and stumbled on Song of Drums and Tomahawk quite by chance. I heard they were only really for small scale actions (half a 6 to 10 figures per side at most) but soon discovered (originally, by trying out the rules first hand from the PDF I downloaded) they worked just fine with up to 30 or even 40 per side. From, these rules it was a natural evolution that I wanted to start to try out more of that companies rules. The fact they all run off a similar framework is a massive bonus... bit like G.U.R.P.S does for rpg.

  10. I agree. The reason I write my own rules is not because i think they're 'better' than commercially published rules, but for two reasons. Firstly, as my gaming budget is not huge, I have to be selective about which rules I buy. It's all very well dropping X pounds on the next 'big thing', but if the rules are only PART of the game and you have to buy bespoke miniatures just to get the specific rules for using that type of figure, you can end up spending huge amounts of money to have a 'decent' game. Secondly, it's an intelectual enterprise. Take 'Final Frontier' - I fancied playong a Star Trek-inspired game and whilst I looked at various free rules systems, they didn't have the 'feel' of what I thought the game should have. Having not played a space combat game, I just went with what 'felt' right and the rules now do what I wanted.
    My mass combat game 'Feast of Crows' came about because WOTC can't really handle large scale combat and has been designed not only to handle this, but also to be generic enough that you can play Ancient to Modern, Fantasy to Sci-fi and anything else you can think of.
    Does this mean I will never buy another set of rules or play anything other than something I've written? Of course not. Sometimes you just want to pick up and play a game without having to worry about whether your own rules have covered every possible permutation and eventuality, so having everything already done for you is convenient. Plus as games designers do come up with different and clever ideas, you can always nick the good bits for your own rules.

    1. nicely said Jez. Great comments there mate.

  11. {{{It's all very well dropping X pounds on the next 'big thing', but if the rules are only PART of the game and you have to buy bespoke miniatures just to get the specific rules for using that type of figure, you can end up spending huge amounts of money to have a 'decent' game.}}}

    This is so true Jez, and right now, for me, this was never more accurate. As happens with all gamers to varying degrees, something caught my eye a while ago, then caught my heart (and then began the yearning), and pretty quickly after, started to pull on my purse with seductive promises of what joys lay ahead, it I would only but buy this, this and this, oh and don’t forget you will need THIS as well, etc etc!!! I`m talking about Knight Games Batman Miniatures. The miniatures themselves are so incredible.. but o they should be at between £10 and £20 per (each) miniatures. Then of course they each come with a beautifully rendered stat card and tokens, which you can’t use because – yep, you need the rule book, and so it goes on. The Suicide Squad Starter Game costs 60, 70 even 80 pounds + (depending where you look for it) and contains j--u--s—t enough goodies to get you interested, but of course, no Batman, no Catwoman, none of those much needed iconic minis you are simply going to have to buy to get the full experience. And suddenly before you know it, you`ve dropped £400 into a game you may perhaps only play a dozen times or so. But oh boy is the addictive appeal strong. Its taking all my strength to resist this one. Made more crazy and ludicrous by the fact that I can in fact easily make up my own perfectly usable Suicide Squad already simply by using existing minis I own from my rebased Heroclix collection; and I even have my preferred game system rules too hand when even I need them, and of course I have all the Gotham terrain I could ever need at my finger tips, so WHY would I allow myself to be tempted by yet another game promising to be exactly the same thing as I already have? Mad isn’t it, when you look at it in the stark light of day. Yes oh yessss I want it: regardless of all this. I just can`t help it. Call it Gamers` Rash, lol. The itch nags at our passion and at our addiction, until we can’t help it, we just have to scratch.

    So yes Jez, what you say makes perfect sense to me. And again, what you say about using rules you make yourself is spot on too. Yes it’s great to be able to play with things we make ourselves, it’s also satisfying, but it also saves us a lot of money, we can then divert to other things.. even if that means lore money to spend of nice terrain of new miniatures for the table because let`s face it, rules aren’t normally cheap nowadays). Feast of Crows may well be able to handle all you need the rules to do, and for those smaller battles inside the ship corridors, you can simply turn to Way of the Crow to conduct those “you`re a bit short for a Stormtrooper?” moments.

    BUT there is a `however` here. Sometimes it IS nice just to crack open a nice set of well written professional rules, and simply immerse in the splendour of the thing and allow yourself to be carried along, safe in the knowledge that all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.. and PLAY to your heart`s content, free from the agony of doubt lol. Frostgrave is one such set of rules (and its expansions) I love to just use as is, straight out of the pages.. without any tinkering to make it better.

    {{{ Plus as games designers do come up with different and clever ideas, you can always nick the good bits for your own rules.}}}

    Oooh there is always that, isn’t there **grins**

  12. {{{It's all very well dropping X pounds on the next 'big thing', but if the rules are only PART of the game and you have to buy bespoke miniatures just to get the specific rules for using that type of figure, you can end up spending huge amounts of money to have a 'decent' game.}}}

    Hold onto that thought. Its a true one and very important for all gamers to remind themselves - and often I think.

    "Memento Mori" or as Roman Emperor's used to have to be reminded: "remember thou art mortal" applied here I think means: don't get carried away and loose all sense or propriety and reason. I think this can become readily apparent just how uncomfortable this is when those who have lots of spare money, flaunt their endless purchasing sprees in front of those who simply cannot and never will be able to do the same (if they even wanted to). I think its a bit like that Christmas quote of `remember those less fortunate than yourselves` applied to our hobby could be simply put as: "don`t gloat, especially as there`s always those it will hurt."

    Nice comments Jez. Spot on in my book.

  13. Great write-up! I just bought these rules and look forward to giving them a spin.

    The One-Hour Wargame rules for WWII specify figured mounted on 4-6" bases, but I see that you use infantry on individual basing (which is something I would like to try).What rules did you modify or house-rule to make this work? Maybe treat a squad of figures as a unit, and they all have to stay in 4" of each other?

  14. Hi Stan. I can answer that for you. Actually he uses individually based units (makes photography look nicer and has a more aesthetically pleasing look and feel when playing) and all you do is make sure you remember who is with which unit. Easy with something like WWII and the relatively small numbers involved in scenario set up. Other than that, it was played right out the book with no real house-ruling.

  15. Awesome! Thanks for the feedback :)