Hot on the heels of the first simple wargaming post, I bring you this AAR of 2 x quick little Seven Years War dust-ups using the "Horse & Musket" rules from Mr Neil Thomas' "One Hour Wargames." I rolled for the force composition and for the scenario (1D3 + 1D10) and the scenario rolled up was #20 "Fighting Retreat" which I have never played before.
This is why I initially disliked them - because they were devoid of much detail. It wasn't until lately that I started to see that as a strength. As my friend Alex likes to point out, there is also alot missing from the OHW rules. They are however, rock solid rules in that you can build upon them and add the amount of detail that suits your taste. Most of the world knows about these rules by now, so I intend on commenting on what was missing and to a greater extent, what I would personally add if modifying them. This is all about figuring out what we like, and so an investigation into the One Hour Wargame rules as the MOST simple, will really help me identify what it is I want/need in a simple rules set.Fighting Retreat!THe Austrians have raided deep into Prussian occupied territory (Silesia, perhaps?). They are returning home with a Prussian force under Von Schwerin hot on their heels. The Austrian force consists of a Light Cavalry Squadron the "St Joseph Dragoons," 2 Infantry Battalions of the Der Kaiser Regiment, and a Battery of field guns (4 x units).
Austrians have crossed the river completely on turn 2 - the hill is the objectiveThe Prussians have 4 Infantry Battalions, 1 Battery of Guns, and a Battalion of Light Troops, ostensibly for scouting and maintaining contact with the Austrian rear guard. The Austrians must reach and hold the ridgeline across the river by the end of turn 15. The Prussians must capture the ridge. As the action starts, Von Schwerin spies the Austrians at their most vulnerable - the midst of a river crossing during their retrograde. He has them right where he wants them. (The Austrians must clear all units of the River by the end of turn 2 or or those units are destroyed automatically). Von Schwerin orders the attack to commence. The Plans? The Austrians will mount an active defense and force the Prussians to deploy and fight well before the ridgeline. The Cavalry will be especially useful in that regard, and the Austrian commander fully intends on using them to launch spoiling attacks against the Prussians. Time is only against the Prussians as the Austrian commander has a clear line of march directly to the ridge.
Opposed crossing! Austrian artillery fires on the Prussian light battalion
Trying to scatter the Prussian lights with the DragoonsThe Prussians throw everything they have across the river to deploy north of it, including the skirmish battalion, who move a gratifying 9 inches. The Austrians immediately charge the skirmishers to drive them off, but quick thinking and solid training sees the lights hunkering down, dispersed and so the Cavalry damage is mitigated. Prussian artillery deploys and an artillery duel opens immediately as both sides fire upon one another. On the Prussian right, the main infantry column fans out and marches at the quick to reach the ridge.
Meanwhile the main Prussian infantry column deploys to assault the ridgeThe Austrian Dragoons launch charge after powerful charge (causing D6+2 hits) in an effort to spoil the Prussian plans. The Prussian battery and skirmishers continue their fire and an infantry battalion deploys to also see off the threat. The Austrian plan is working on their right but what about the left? The tough Prussian infantry is now in musket range and begins to fire on the Austrian battalion facing them. This seems like a simple math equation now, but the Austrians have some tricks up their sleeve.
Photo of the battle developing. A main assault is preparing to go in against the hill on the Prussian right, while Austrian cavalry and artillery wreak havoc on the Prussian lights on the left!
In one of the most glorious actions I've ever seen in a wargame, the St Joseph Dragoon commander notes an opportunity and takes matters into his own, impetuous hands! The dragoons charge across the battlefield into the flank of an exposed Prussian Infantry Battalion that has a mere 6 hits on it. D6+2 hits, doubled due to a flank attack, and the dice roll of "5" (5+2 = 7 doubled to 14) sees the annihilation of a Prussian infantry battalion!
16 hits and the light battalion is history
The game just got much more interesting and the Austrians on the ridgeline cheer as the men in the blue coats run off. They are only facing 2 battalions on their left now. Still though, there is a formidable Prussian force coming towards the ridge, with 2 x infantry battalions from the main column, and 1 x infantry battalion from the left column. A murderous firefight erupts along the line, but numbers were telling and the Austrians finally were driven off on turn 14, with a single turn remaining for them.
Charging into glory, the Austrian Dragoons annihilate a Prussian infantry battalion with a powerful flank attack!
|endgame on turn 15 as a Prussian Battalion occupies the hill. Prussian victory!|
I played this a second time with the Austrians attempting a different plan. Rather than a stand-up rearguard fight, the Austrians charged directly for the hill in to occupy it and offer a 4 x unit resistance. This plan saw the total destruction of the Austrians in 12 turns, rather than 14, and so an aggressive defense certainly paid off in the first game. Had luck prevailed and Prussian rolling been bad, the Austrians could have pulled off a win! Such is war. What Was Missing? There is a trade off with simple rules - situations develop during the game that are not covered in the explanation of how to play. That happened numerous times during my two games and it illustrates a great point about simple rules. What you give up in the rules themselves can manifest itself on the table. This isn't a huge deal for me playing solo, but using these rules for, say, a huge MEGAGAME you would want your explanations to be tight. A few situations developed that were not covered that I will discuss here: Firing into melee. This is usually a given in most rules but it's worth mentioning here that I allowed it because I was playing the RAW and it wasn't forbidden. At least I dont think it was forbidden. You could interpret the "limited engagement" rule as also pertaining to shooting, but I did not. Used in concert with the long range of the artillery and the charging power of the cavalry makes this a VERY potent combined arms feature and it saw the utter destruction of the Prussian skirmishers without having many hits on them, hence why I'm mentioning that it should be arranged prior to the game. With movement and charging coming before shooting, you could Sidestep Movement. There were no rules covering a unit moving by its flank but maintaining its facing to the front. Since the OHW rules are really loose and generous with movement, I simply allowed movement by the flank since you can pivot before and after movement. Bridge Crossing. I used 4 inch wide infantry battalions but in some cases they stopped directly OVER the bridge maintaining their frontage. I just kept them on the bridge as-is but it looked goofy with the flanks of the battalion hanging out in the water. Marshland Line of Sight. Many marshes are not flat, open affairs. They have dead trees, live trees, high grass, etc. There is a prominent marsh in Scenario #20 along the river bank. If the marsh blocks line of sight, it forces the artillery to cross the river. Artillery has a 4 foot range so it ranges the entire table. If the marsh blocks LOS, you have to deploy your guns closer to the ridge. I played as it blocking, since it was a significant enough terrain feature to be placed in these terrain-minimalist scenarios. Victory Conditions. The scenario's victory condition is pretty obvious that you have to be the sole occupant of the hill by the end of turn 15. My question is - if you knock out the final Austrian unit on the hill during your shooting on turn 15, and you're the last unit on the table, you can't move and so you're stuck NOT on the hill when turn 15 ends. Did you win? The Questions! The moment you've all been waiting for - the Simplicity Questions! How Long did the game take to play? One hour and 17 minutes for 2 x games. What was the scenario? Scenario #20 fighting retreat. What happened? I addressed this in the battle report above but there were some extraordinary events, mostly centered around the glorious charges of the St Joseph's Dragoons, who annihilated a seemingly strong Prussian Line Battalion that left its flank exposed causing 14 hits! Probably a fitting end for that unit that carelessly let itself be flanked in melee. The endgame for Game #2 also saw a beautifully orchestrated Prussian volley consisting of 2 infantry battalions and the artillery which destroyed an Austrian Battalion. Who Won? Why? The Prussians won both games and I feel that was because the Austrians start with only 4 units. I would love to see the defender win this one and I'd like to play it again. If you are careless in managing your resources, you can lose as the attacker, but you have the 2 x extra units so you can afford to take some losses. Did You Enjoy the Game? Yes they were both fun and perfect for some "lunchbreak" gaming. I enjoyed trying to solve the problems of the scenario. Still though, there was something missing in terms of detail that I would have liked to have seen. I attribute this to 25 years of wargaming and certain expectations that arise from my gaming. These rules are, admittedly, a minimalist set of rules which deliver exactly what they promise. I'll cover those below. Advanced Questions HOw many consultations occurred with the rules? Literally 1. I double checked the melee rules for doubled hits against flanks! Details and Chrome that's Missing (In my humble opinion) Shooting I've never been a fan of the single die roll attrition point shooting. I feel like it's "blah." I much prefer Kaptain Kobold et al's multiple dice method with "To Hit" scores as this feels much more familiar like a "proper" wargame :) There has been extensive research done on this topic by many wargamers already. Initiative & Turn Sequence The problem raised above about shooting into melee could be easily solved with tweaking the initiative and the turn sequence. Allowing any unit to carry out 1 single "Action" (move, charge, shoot) allows you to sequence these things to occur whenever you would like, making it more historical by allowing an attacker to "soften up" a target with artillery before going in with the cold steel. Regarding initiative, the turn sequence is very predictable (as intended by Mr Thomas). Alex and I developed a cool feature whereby you have to win the initiative roll by 2 to "keep" or "win" the initiative. It adds a nice little element of tension and some uncertainty to the game. Melee A defining characteristic of 18th Century Warfare and possibly 17th Century Warfare was that of "shock troops" like Grenadiers. These elite troopers were not daunted by the enemy (Nec Asperra Terrent!) and their sole job was to go in with the bayonet. I understand Mr Thomas' intent on forbidding the charge but in the case of Grenadiers and other elite troopers, I feel like it is a necessary component of this era. I'd allow shock troops to charge into melee. Orders I personally like a bit of restriction in my games and feel like an orders process would be better whereby commanders allocate orders based on a die roll to their units. Rolling well gives you more battlefield opportunities to move units, and rolling poorly reflects command friction that often plagued even the best of units on the battlefield. Formations? THis is a tough one. Alex has successfully made the case that OHW is an extremely tactical-level game where units could even be thought to represent companies as a result of range of the weapons. I personally like Battalions and higher (Brigade or 18th Century Regiment for Grand Tactical) and so the question about formations is an interesting one. In the interest of making the rules simple are you losing a crucial element of detail? Mr Thomas allows squares for napoleonic games but there is no other mention. As a gamer, I like making the consideration that I should have my battalions in column to move as that would look more appropriate but is it really important? I haven't figured that out yet. For grand tactical games where I'm a Corps Commander it's certainly not a consideration, but if I'm the brigade commander holding the woods at Quatre Bras, my reinforcements should be moving up in column. Rallying Rallying off hits is another important consideration that's not in the rules. Understandably so because it would add another line to a purposely minimalist set of rules and one could easily make the argument that the timeframe of the battle is so limited that rallying is simply not going to happen. But rallying off a small number of hits (1 or 2 max) would really add to the narrative of a unit holding on amidst unbelievable odds. Alex and I tested this concept with EAGLES CHEAPER THAN BRAIN CELLS and one of my French Brigades holding a town held out against an entire Austrian Corps by being forced back almost to the point of annihilation, rallying, then returning to the fight. This is the stuff of legends and battle reports, and it helps with the storyline of the battle. I think it's a crucial aspect to forming that narrative, which is one of my most important aspects to my gaming - the narrative and storyline of the battle.
So that's it for my battle #2. Already working on the third battle! Also happy to report that I tallied up and analyzed ALL of the comments on the last 2 x posts and am going to prepare some feedback for everyone regarding what i've come up with and reflect everyone's comments and thoughts. This has been a very fun and gratifying project. Mr Neil Thomas' "Simplicity in Practice" is next on the list! Stay tuned!