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One-hour Wargames» Forums » Sessions

Subject: 3 Sessions and (sort of) review rss

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Lorenzo Nannetti
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I recently got One-Hour Wargames after reading several reviews both here and elsewhere and reading some session reports. I felt it could fill my need to re-build some sort of enthusiasm for miniature wargaming, which was somehow reduced by the few time available for gaming and collecting minis for larger games.
And I wanted something to play both Horse and Musket (7 Years War and possibly Napoleonic) and later XIX Century Wargaming (from Italian Wars of Independence to APW and FPW). I was aware I wouldn't get very period-specific rules or an accurate simulation, but I wasn't going to ask for that exactly because such a thing would bring me again to time-consuming rules.

It was ok for me to have some quick rules that would give me some vague but definite period-specific feel and allow me to complete at least 1 from start to finish game (2 would be even better) in an evening or short afternoon.
I'm a strong supporter of rules that give realistic results even if dynamics are simplified or abstracted, as long as the abstraction/simplification is justified.

Neil Thomas does a good job in justifying his choices, and they sound reasonable.

I tried them with the Sabre and Rifles rules (XIX century rules), trying 3 scenarios. I played Sardinians/Piedmontese (Red) vs Austrians (Blue), and considered each infantry unit as a brigade (to have some sort of "scale", which isn't however well represented in the rules). It doesn't really work with skirmishers, which actually never fought in independent brigades (Italian divisions had Bersaglieri Bns attached), but I could abstract it as a formation of skirmish troops likely smaller than a brigade but still able to exercise significant effect.
For cavalry 1 unit equal to 1-2 regiments would be fairly good.
I chose the 1st scenario and randomized the other 2 to get various situations. I also randomized the armies' composition with the tables inside the book.

1st scenario: Pitched Battle (n.2)
I wanted to start with a simple, straightforward battle. However, I choose scenario 2 and not 1 because I preferred to have some objectives instead of just going against the other side.

Piedmontese army was artillery-heavy, with cavalry and infantry, with one battery on the hill and rest on the nearby plain. Cavalry was on the other side, infantry in the middle in two lines.
Austrian infantry were concentrated near the crossroads, artillery in front of the hill with Jagers (skirmishers) nearby. They had no cavalry.

The Piedmontese attacked over the front, with artillery supporting the advance. Austrians formed positions to hold, with only the Jagers moving towards the enemy. This proved wrong as the unsupported unit was soon targeted by artillery and one Piedmontese brigade.
As the Jagers routed, rest of the Piedmontese charged towards the Austrians that, staying on the defensive, were able to inflict serious damage. Piedmontese cavalry pinned one Austrian brigade on the side, but were overall not able to do much more than that, unable to flank the enemy positions and not willing to face enemy firepower head-on.
Fighting was fierce, but overall the Piedmontese suffered the worst of it. This was also due to the fact the artillery on the plain was soon obstructed by the advancing troops - a reminder that putting all artillery on the hill would have been a better choice.
The brigade on the second line had tried an encircling move and therefore when the front brigades broke, there were no reserves.
The Austrians suffered losses too, but their second line allowed them to exploit successes and were then able to make a full advance and take the hill, routing the cavalry and the artillery.

This battle showed me some basic (and very realistic) things that the rules system correctly highlights: attacking in open terrain against a static enemy will cost you brutal casualties. You definitely need reserves (also when defending), because 1st line brigades will soon suffer and without reserves even winning troops won't be able to sustain the offensive for long. Firefights are bloody.
Cavalry could be very useful if it can flank the enemy but if they can't, like here, they can only force enemy troops to keep an eye on them - or risk an even bloodier charge.
Overall, quite realistic, despite the obvious simplification in mechanics.

2nd scenario (randomized): Twin Objectives (n.21)
Piedmontese troops were defending, with one infantry brigade on the lightly wooded hill, two brigades inside the town and one Bersaglieri (skirmishers) brigade in the nearby woods. The two positions are utterly isolated from each other but they force the attacker to either split from the start and attack with few strength both targets or lose time concentrating first on one and then on the other.
Unfortunately for the Austrians, they got the worst possible army composition for this battle: no artillery, 2 cavalry,1 Jaeger and 3 infantry brigades.
With cavalry unable to enter the lightly wooded hill, the woods or the town, that makes 1/3 of the Austrian force with little use... those Piedmontese surely took the best positions when they noted that that Austrian force was approaching...
Austrians moved two brigades (1 Jaeger, 1 infantry) against the hill and moved the rest towards the town. With 15 turns only (probably reinforcements were approaching...) they couldn't lose time.
But dividing forces also meant less strength against the forces on the hill. The Piedmontese brigade there fought bravely and even if it was ultimately routed, it made the advancing Austrians suffer from it.
As the Austrians moved towards the second objective, they saw the Piedmontese had no intention of getting out of cover. still, Austrians smartly maneuvered attacking only part of the defenders at a time, and this allowed them to concentrate fire. The Bersaglieri therefore had to leave the cover of the woods in order to threaten the flanks of the Austrians attacking he town, but that allowed the Austrian cavalry to finally use them as targets.
The Austrian infantry suffered big losses but eventually were able to drive the Piedmontese defenders from the town just shortly before the deadline.

Lessons from the scenario: cavalry, generally underpowered in this era (and rightly so) are even less useful if terrain is unfavorable. Also, towns and fortifications are correctly hard to crack unless a well-organized, sustained attack is carried out. Still, defenders may find it useful to harass the approaching attackers before they can coordinate, to avoid being defeated in detail.

3rd scenario (randomized): Disordered Defense (n.27)
Somehow the 3 scenarios fit quite a good narrative (very 1848-like)... after the previous wins, the bloodied but victorious Austrians now see the opportunity to strike the final blow to the Piedmontese by attacking their now overstretched forces.
The reduced-in-number but well-led and highly-motivated Austrians (3 infantry brigades, 1 artillery battery) therefore attacked the stretched Piedmontese near a vital road crossing. Three infantry brigades were in the area, but trying to cover all the area they were mostly isolated from each other.
The Austrian force focused on the first brigade, quickly dispatching it, the other two brigades sent for help (under scenario rules, reinforcements would get to the battlefield on turn 8) and advanced, but again not really coordinating as the Austrian artillery hammered them from distance and the infantry was on them before they could link.
Austrians were therefore able to gang up on the individual Piedmontese brigades and destroyed them. One Austrian brigade was hurt, but still able to fight.
As the Austrians got to the crossroads and took a defending position, Piedmontese reinforcements arrived, with two infantry, 1 cavalry and 1 Bersaglieri units. They staged a concentrated attack on one of the Austrian flanks, and the damaged brigade soon broke, but the disciplined Austrian fire and the artillery also continued to prove too much (some key die rolls favored the Austrians). The Piedmontese cavalry finally proved effective, with a flank attack that bloodied (but didn't rout) another Austrian formation already exchanging fire to the front, but couldn't reverse the overall situation. Both sides suffered losses, but with their infantry defeated, the Piedmontese cavalry couldn't dislodge the remaining Austrian forces, which finally claimed victory by retaining control of the crossroads.

The Piedmontese army was defeated and would have to retreat to regroup, likely asking for a truce.

Lessons from the scenario: ganging up on enemy units is the best and only way to avoid suffering a bloody exchange that usually leaves everyone battered. Therefore isolated units can easily become prey of a determined enemy attack. Cavalry in open space able to maneuver becomes dangerous if the enemy is aready engaged, which is exactly its role and again mirrors reality well.

Overall considerations: I liked the feel, the realistic results (despite the obvious over-simplification of mechanics, some ideas on small improvements came to my mind as I played) and the different scenarios (very well written and quite immersive) which made things really fun.
It's a game I will continue to play and I'll try other periods to see if they hold up as well.
This isn't a ruleset for everyone, however. If you have the time, models and space to play a more complex ruleset, then you'll find more reward for your time. But if you need a quick, fun system that gives a fairly good (not exceptional) period feel with realistic results, then this one becomes a good choice. Especially if you have little space, time and few models.
Some house rules can make it even better, but I wouldn't make it too complex or you would lose its advantages.

Last consideration: time. I played 3 games in about 2 hours. The "One-Hour wargame" therefore can last even less than this from start to finish and you not always get to the full 15 turns. You could easily make 2 games (even with a few more units per side, the system could work well with 7 and likely 8 or maybe even with 10, even if in the latter case you'd need a larger playing field) in a single evening with ease.
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