Sunday, September 30, 2018


I got to play around a little yesterday with some concepts for a "grand tactical horse & musket" variant of Mr Neil Thomas' famous "One Hour Wargames."  The objectives for the project are pretty simple:

To produce a set of One Hour Wargame rules that evokes command decisions and problem-solving at the Corps Commander or higher level.

An infantry division and cavalry division struggle for control of the hill against 2 rival infantry divisions

In discussion with Alex, we both felt that the 1HW "engine" has much promise for Corps-sized battles and that refighting Corps sized actions are entirely possible.

So with that in mind, I set out to try and put to paper a rules-set that is Neil Thomas in its flavor, but rests in the grand tactical scope.  The following are some modifications that allow me to reach the objective above.

First, gone are the generous ranges from 1HW.  Musket armed units are now full sized Brigades or Regiments.  As such the ground scale is tweaked to offer the Corps Commander 3 options for his brigade in the offense (and those of you who play "Blucher" should feel right at home here)

"Skirmish Fire" which is the Brigade's long-range firepower from skirmishers and pickets, as well as its supporting batteries that you don't see on the table.  This is a 2 x basewidth range.  (half of the Brigade's strength points are used for firing).

"Volley Fire" which is the Brigade's subordinate battalions online and presenting maximum firepower against an enemy. This is a 1 x basewidth range.  Up close and personal. (all of the Brigade's strength points are used for firing)

"Assault" which is the Brigade maneuvering against an enemy unit.  The Brigade rolls all of its strength points against an enemy unit, who gets to fight back rolling all of theirs.  Assault combat units are touching.

All hits in combat, for now, are on the roll of "6" (not sold on this - more later).  Units add or subtract D6 for advantages or disadvantages. 

Second are the issuance of "orders" for units.  For my first game, the entire division had to receive the same order.  One of the following:  Move, Volley Fire, Skirmish Fire, Assault, March, and for Artillery Battalions - Artillery resupply.

Third is much more restrictive movement.  Infantry Brigades move 2" plus a D6 roll.  On "march" orders they may move 2 x D6 plus 2".  If there is ANY pivoting at all, it must occur at the beginning of movement.  Additionally, ANY pivoting at all incurs 1/2 movement penalty.  So if you rolled a "6" you can move 6 +2" for a total of 8" .  If you must pivot at all, you get to move 4".  All movement is in straight lines as it should be.

Fourth are Grand Tactical Orders of Battle for which I had a clever idea.  For Neil Thomas' random force generator, 1 "unit" equated to a division.  So if you force has 3 total infantry "units" that means you have 3 Divisions of infantry, broken into 3 brigades each for a total of 9 infantry brigades.  Pretty sweet idea, but it's hardly "one hour" long.  A 15 turn game where you have brigades that take 7 hits to die would take a few hours.  I went back to NT's force structure but may return to the Division concept if I can speed up the attrition.

Speaking of attrition, each Infantry Brigade has 7 total SPs.  Cavalry Brigades have 4 total SPs.  Artillery batteries have 2 total hits, but if they are contacted, are wiped out following a full blast of grapeshot.

I really like the idea of orders, too.  Each commander rolls a 1D6 at the start of his turn which tells you how many Divisions can receive orders.  I tweaked this for my second game and dispensed with the larger OOB and opted for Neil Thomas' OOB from his random force generator which gives a much quicker game.
Cavalry Brigade and 2 x Infantry Brigades assault the single Brigade atop the hill in my second game.
I'm working on going through a third iteration now where I'm using "To Hit" values for the units which makes the game go MUCH quicker.  Instead of hitting on "6" in all cases, units have a fixed "To Hit" against certain types of targets.  This feels much more like a 1 Hour Wargame!

The goal here is to produce a set of rules based on 1HW, that gives a Corps' Commander perspective and allows the reader to replicate large battles or significant portions of large battles.  I'll try and post the AAR of my first 2 games this week sometime.


  1. Like the concepts already here.
    Rather than roll the dice for orders - perhaps a variant where it takes a certain number of points to issue orders.
    Each commander then had a 'command vale' which is reduced as he spends points to issue orders. This would give a mechanism where weaker commanders would quickly run out of points as they tried to do things - though it might get very predictable - unless 'command points' were 6+d6 up to 12+d6 or similar.

    1. Darren,
      I think I'll post my "abstract" for a rules schematic later in the week time permitting. You will dig them I think. I like the idea of fixed command points plus a variable - this would be beneficial if it wasn't a fixed OOB (playing a Talavera or Eckmuhl game would demonstrate the value of your point). When playing with only 6 or 10 units I like the idea of using a D6 or D10 for orders with a wide swing. Imagine the tension this creates when you have 3 units left on turn 14 with "no fail" missions for each unit and you only roll a 2 for orders!

  2. I wonder whether at this level, Skirmish, volley and assault would work best if they were all rolled up into a single ‘contact’ combat, so there is just combat and this is taking care of melee, fire, skirmish value and formation. So the divisional / corps commander is just accepting that subordinates will simply be getting those things right.

    1. Much like your Eagles at Quatre Bras game, which I loved! So for this I wanted to show the attrition of units over time and make it not so much about the moment of contact as the game would be relegated to a bunch of contacts.
      You are right, though, and I'd like to try it out like that as well.

    2. For my own Napoleonics and ACW rules where each BMU represents about 1,000 men (for foot), I do exactly as Norm suggests. That is, only artillery has ranged fire. Everything else is rolled into a Close Combat Phase.

    3. Hi Jonathan,
      Thanks for commenting. While I agree with you and Norm (and basically everyone else with whom I have spoken about this topic!) I feel like representing ranged fire is in the spirit of OHW and also gives a more satisfying game. I feel as if I relegate combat to simply "in contact" engagements it will be more like a DBA-esque game rather than from the OHW family of rules.

      I do believe you and Norm have got it right, though, and I agree that a Corps Commander would NOT be directing Brigades where to shoot their attached artillery or where to send their inherent skirmishers.

      I admit there is something satisfying about dicing those outcomes, however.

  3. I'm experimenting myself with something similar, which has some similarities with a simplified version of Blucher. For Napoleonics, I'd make ranged fire only for skirmishers, because that's what most of the ranged fire was about. Volley fire was actually part of "close combat" and can be abstracted as such. A small modifier could help represent those with better skirmishing. So 1BW range for skirmish fire, contact for volley/close combat.