Saturday 31 January 2015


John had worked up a Jutland scenario using a naval variant of Neil Thomas's one hour wargames rules. The original concept came from the ANW Yahoo group which had some variant WW2 naval rules. The main difference is that units/ships get to both move and shoot, and in this version different types of ships have different numbers of hits. The actual battle is scaled down at a ratio of around 1:9, but it was an interesting run through. I took the RN and John the High Seas Fleet.

The Battlecruiser action, Beatty gets the upper hand on the Germans and RN destroyers carry out a daring attack right through the German line.

The RN battleships steam on.

Admiral Scheer steams on.

Oh dear, there seems to be something wrong with our Battlecruisers today.

However the rest of the German battlecruiser group soon heads for the bottom.

Battleships start to exchange fire, not much fun being at the front!

One of German battleship groups pours fire into the RN battle line.

Oh dear, things aren't looking too good for the RN.

However they get some revenge. Scratch one German battleship.

And another.

And another.

And finally the last one, even though the British are looking a bit tatty, they still rule the waves!
This was good fun and a perfectly reasonable naval game, certainly no worse than some/many sets I've played, and we got through it at a fair old pace. My main observation was that it was far too rewarding to 'gang up' on one target (that was how the RN blew away the entire German battle line in four turns), which was contrary to contemporary practice where the aim was to engage as much of the enemy line as possible to improve spotting and reduce return fire.

My suggestion was that the second and subsequent shots against the same target in one turn should be halved in effect, so you can still gang up if you wish, but firepower is maximised by spreading fire out. We'll try it out again with that modification.

It did also occur to me that this might work well for pre-dreadnoughts, and I was inspired to revisit and rework the excellent De Bellis Navalis along Neil Thomas lines. That will however be the subject of a future post...

Saturday 24 January 2015

Austro-French Wars

I finally got around to putting on a game using Neil Thomas's Nineteenth Century wargames rules last year. I opted for a Franco-Austrian game so it doesn't suffer from the overwhelming firepower of breechloading rifles and is an interesting exercise in the balance of shock vs rifled muskets. Plus I like the Austrian and French uniforms.

Tim and Mark took the Austrians, Kayte and John the French. The scenario is the standard 'pitched battle' from the book, both sides get eight units (semi randomly determined) and in this scenario, the winner is the one who controls two of the three objectives, the two towns and the big hill.

Infantry only have two formations, firing line (two ranks) which is immobile and 'column' (or perhaps more correctly for this era, 'waves') which allows them to move and also fire at considerably reduced effect. In 1859 most troops were in open order and armed with rifled muskets, although the rules do cater for earlier close order troops of e.g. the Carlist Wars as well as those throughly modern chaps with their needleguns and Chassepots. Cavalry do still have some use, but are a strictly one time use weapon unless you are very, very cautious with them. Remind me of the last cautious cavalry commander you met though... one special rule for this campaign is that the typically broken and dense Italian terrain gives all units cover benefits, whether they are actually in cover or not. That makes charging a more viable tactic, a lesson the Austrians took away from 1859 and applied disastrously against the Dreyse armed Prussians in 1866.

The diminutive battlefield, 80cm x 80cm. French side.

The French lined up, cavalry, Chasseurs, Zoaves, four line regiments and three artillery batteries.

The Austrians, six infantry, two guns, cavalry and Croatian grenzers.

Austrian columns march up the left hand road.

A huge clump of French march down the railway line.

Austrians fan out at the crossroads.

French grand battery on the hill.

French flank and assault the town.

Johns appalling dice throws see the French repulsed by a few Croatian jagers.

Marks Austrians deploy. 

The town finally falls.

French flankers advance through the forest. The Austrian cavalry takes some hits.

The Austrians deploy to meet the French attack.

Gallant French columns storm the gun positions taking huge casualties.

The French try again.

Typical French dice rolling.

Typical Austrian rolling.

French and Austrain cavalry engage as the remaining Austrian guns flee.

Over on the left, the Austrians press on.

The fighting in the woods is 'confused'.

Austrians approach the river crossing, on regiment deploys into line to fire while the other presses on in column.

The  surviving Austrians counterattack on the hill.

Once more, typical Austrian (white) and French (red) dice rolling.

Leaving the Austrians looking good on the hill.

The Austrians also clear out the woods.

And push on to the town.

However the French drive them off leaving them in possession of two objectives at the end of the game.
This was a ton of fun and all the players seemed to enjoy themselves. Like all ruler based rules it suffered a bit from silliness around measuring, wheeling and flank attacks, but that apart produced reasonable results quickly and simply.

It struck me that given the fairly standard move and range bands, it would translate very easily into squares or hexes. So watch this space!

Monday 19 January 2015

Neil Thomas One Hour Ancients

Hello everyone and Happy New Year!

Apologies for the prolonged absence, real life just seemed too hectic to keep up with blogging. I've actually got a lot of articles in stock, it is just a question of summoning the energy to actually type the words to go with the pictures. Anyway, here's another go for 2015.

We've recently been pretty excited by the various wargames rules produced by Neil Thomas, nice easy games very suitable for a club night and not too hard on the brain cells. His most recent publication is 'One Hour Wargames' which does what it says on the tin, very quick wargames rules covering everything from Ancients to WW2 and 30 canned scenarios to go with them.

Our first try out was with the Ancients set, although I couldn't resist fiddling slightly with the troop types so the Romans get 'Auxilia' instead of Warband as a secondary type. This matchup is Romans vs Carthaginians, and the scenario is a contested river crossing with two fords. Victory goes to the side who captures both crossings.

Mighty Romans, four units of Legionaries, one cavalry and one Auxilia.
Carthaginians, three heavy infantry, one warband and two light infantry.

Roman cavary dash across the first ford in a heroic delaying action.

Everyone else lines up menacingly opposite the other ford.

Romans race to rescue the cavalry, who are having the worst of it 

But too late, the cavalry die leaving a sad pile of casualty markers behind. Units are destroyed when they take 15 hits.

Carthos push across the ford to the south.

And the Romans get stuck in at the other end.

Losses mount

And in the north

But the Romans are finally victorious in the south

While the bloodbath in the north continues

The Romans from the south move to aid their comrades

Arriving just in time

And finally a hard won victory.
This was really good fun. The rules were so simple you could focus on the tactical complications of the scenario. The cumulative damage model led to some nail biting engagements, and the small number of units meant commanders were forced to make real choices about commitment of forces in different sectors. The only real criticism were that the rules are so short for each period, that much is left unexplained (particularly wrt flank/rear attacks) and I ended up drawing guidance from his fuller rule sets as to the possible intention. We've also played the Napoleonic version and I adapted the WW1 set to use for the Spanish Civil War (which sadly I didn't take any photos of).