One-Hour Skirmish Wargames: Fast-Play Dice-less Rules for Small Actions from Napoleonics to Sci-Fi (OHSW [not an affiliate link]) is a new book from Pen and Sword in the vein of Neil Thomas' One-Hour Wargames (OHW), sort of. Basically it follows the mantra of stripping away the minutiae of detail that, in the author's opinion, doesn't lend to the decisiveness of the action. Keep it simple, keep it moving, make it fun.
Let me start by addressing three things that leapt out at me with OHW and compare them to OHSW.
- The rules for OHW were very simple. Basically it came down to rolling a D6 number of hits when combat occurred and when the number of hits on a unit totaled 15, the unit was removed from the table.
- The scenarios were the main attraction. Many were similar to Tabletop Battles and other classic scenario books, but they were clean and precise on what they wanted you to do.
- The number of units was small and force composition was randomized.
- Although the rules are still simple, they are nowhere near as lacking in detail as OHW. These rules you might really want to play. (OHW rules never attracted me at all.)
- There are no generic skirmish scenarios. There is one specific scenario designed for each period presented (Napoleonics, Colonial, Post-WW I (Interwar), WW II, Cold War, and Pulp Action). There are no variations to those scenarios.
- There are no army lists, force composition tables, or any of that. The force composition for each scenario is specific, with no variation. There is a points system, and the points allocated for each side in each scenario. It is expected for you to use this if you wish to modify your forces.
Dice-lessLet's address this elephant in the room. The first review thread I saw on The Miniatures Page immediately jumped on that part of the title and many members condemned it, simply because they believed these sorts of games need dice.
Just because there are no dice doesn't mean there is no element of chance or a randomizer. OHSW uses cards for its chance element, the idea being that the probability of success is built into the cards; you just need to know the card combinations used to indicate success for each action.
Basically, cards are used for everything random.
- Who goes first in a phase.
- When a turn ends.
- How many action points each player has to spend in a phase.
- Combat resolution.
- Casualty resolution.
I am always worried, when reviewing rules, that I am providing enough information for you to make an informed decision on whether the rules are 'for you' or not, without giving away all of the good stuff from the rules. Authors work hard to write their rules, so I don't want to be a party to giving it all away. If you feel like I don't explain clearly enough the rules concepts below, let me know in the comments section.
InitiativeWho goes first? Both sides flip a card, high card is the first player. The turn sequence is:
- Determine initiative.
- First Player gets action points, spends them, and resolves all actions.
- Second Player gets action points, spends them, and resolves all actions.
- Assuming the turn did not end, start over at step 1.
Ending a TurnStep 4 indicates that ending the turn is variable; there can be one or more Action Phases per turn. In fact, it is possible that players may have an uneven number of opportunities to act.
The turn immediately ends when either player has to draw a card and a Joker turns up. Given that there are two decks and each has two Jokers, and cards are being drawn for all sorts of action resolution, ending the turn can happen at any time. Immediate ending also means that the current action is not completed, say if you were resolving a combat.
Action PointsThere are two basic actions: moving and firing. Each figure can act only once per Action Phase and it must finish all of its intended actions before moving on to the next figure. You can spend action points on as many figures as you have action points, but know that moving and firing are separate actions, each costing points.
Each figure must complete all Move actions, if it is going to move, before taking a Fire action. As the author indicates, this is so cowardly players do not try and Fire and then move out of line of sight.
A figure can move up to three times, but the third Move action costs more action points than the second, which costs more than the first. So moving three figures costs fewer action points than moving one figure three times. This encourages using more figures in a single Action Phase than trying to create a super-move with one or two figures.
Test Game – Napoleonic Scenario "Capture the Cannon"
In close combat, if your opponent is Downed, it automatically loses. The result of close combat is that the loser is automatically killed, so this meant that all the soldier needed to do was contact the figure at the end of movement. (Close combat is not a separate action, but done at the end of a Move action in which the moving figure ends in contact with an enemy figure.) Because it took two Move actions to reach the first cavalryman, a third Move action was too expensive for the soldier to bayonet the second cavalryman. (Remember, it costs an increasing number of AP to make a second and third move with a figure.)
The French get a good card and also get 12 AP. A Chasseur charges forward at the Portuguese soldier, not only to protect the downed Chasseur, but to take revenge on the brother-in-arms lost. He cuts the soldier down with ease.
Actually, it was a somewhat dicey move. The Portuguese soldier was a close combat brawler so he gets an extra card in both attack and defense. A cavalryman also gets an extra card over an infantryman, in addition to the extra card gained for attacking. So the cavalryman had three cards while the infantryman had two.
Spinning his horse, the Chasseur does a second Move action and cuts down another rifleman (who, for the sharp-eyed, looks suspiciously like a French Voltigeur). Although the French have the AP to spare, that ends that figure's move.
With the remaining AP, two French infantry take cover behind the rise and return fire at the British in the woods. Four other infantry march down the road towards the cannon.
Lots of risky moves by the French. Can they get the initiative for the next Action Phase?
Unfortunately for the French, no. The British retain the initiative.
The British draw 13 AP. The Sergeant of the Rifles shoots down the charging Chasseur, Meanwhile, after some maneuvering with the line infantry, they lay down fire into the French line marching up the road. The take two more soldiers down before a Joker is drawn, immediately ending the turn.
This is a good example of the asymmetric game play in that the British had three Action Phases while the French only had two. Further, the French only had 15 AP to spend while the British had 35 AP (although they did not get to spend the last 7 AP because the Joker came up).
Morale is checked for each side. Note that downed figures are not casualties; we have not determined if they are casualties or to be brought back. So when we check morale, they do not go against the casualty count.
The morale check is fairly simple. Draw a card, add the side's Motivation to the value. (Motivation is indicated in the scenario, or determined by the amount spent in a points-based force.) This number must exceed the number of casualties taken. Again, because the cards are valued from 1 to 13, unless you get a really low draw, it is easy to beat it, especially as leaders allow you to draw more than one card for the check. Both sides pass.
After the morale check you determine the fate for the downed figures. Red is Dead and Black is Back, so at the end of the turn one French soldier is dead, for a total of three figures lost, against two lost for the British.