I’ve seen some talk about One-Hour Wargames by Neil Thomas recently and while I am not really into looking additional simplified rulesets, the book comes with universal scenarios so I decided to have a look.
Game systems presented are, as the title indicates, very simple, and attempt to capture the essence of a battles. Someone could argue that the systems are overly simple, but that may be the strength of them – however, I still maintain that even in the smaller scales, heart of a good system is the chain of command. Most systems revolve around relatively irrelevant modeling of how casualties are induced to the enemy, or how units move. In my opinion, good game system would answer the questions of how does each element in the army know at any time what lies ahead, and what orders to obey at any given time and for CinC, when to release reserves and where to employ them. Since I have not yet attempted my own take on the subject, I’ve had to compromise since actual umpired, land based kriegspiel is somewhat out of question, but not entirely so.
Book it divided in two parts, game systems that are divided by era, but in my opinion, differences between game systems are not sufficient, especially because in very simplified form, casualties are inflicted essentially by same principles, but command structures and communication methods changed dramatically. Distinct feature is that very limited surface is needed for the games. Essentially, One-Hour Wargames is yet another, albeit very simple ruleset to model combat outcomes, but no matter, the more interesting things lie ahead.
Other part of One-Hour Wargames is 30 universally adaptable scenarios. Not that one would not be able to set up interesting hypothetical, or somewhat historical scenarios with relative ease, but to build them in a way they are interesting, and more importantly asymmetric. For one thing I agree fully with the author, game that has symmetrical starting positions is doomed to be uninteresting, and very far from real world relevance. I also agree that the game system that is used to resolve the actual fight is secondary to the scenario layout and overall situation.
No sane commander would take a risk of a fight that can without predictability swing from one or other and this brings a point that relates to to DSLB and more so for Impetus (not to mention about every other game system). Both game systems sort of assume that both sides would start from equal terms as far as manpower is concerned (for example the commonly used point system in Impetus). This balance that never truly existed in reality is an easy trap that can lead to building yet larger and larger optimized formations colliding with each other and altogether ignoring the truly interesting aspects of battle – the ground and situation. In this, One-Hour Wargames brings fresh air in, and in every scenario the amount of units on the table is limited, and relatively arbitrary to make sure that optimization does not take over. As said, you fight with what you have, not what you would like to have.
So, back to the book. While it is perhaps not the most enlightening purchase because of the included game systems, the book has it’s uses. Scenarios are thought over quite nicely, it is more of them being thought to be universal than that they are thought at all – in essence the presented situations are the very kind everyone that has played wargames or read history have acquitted with. So, if you have scenario design handicap, this book is worthy purchase.
Rules could provide ground that could be used for movements and battle resolutions, if command game is to be evolved, where battle resolution and movement is in a way irrelevant. In any case, I am certain that I will test out some of the scenario layouts with DSLB sometime in relatively near future.