One Hour Wargames

My order from On Military Matters came in the other day which contained my copy of One Hour Wargames by Neil Thomas. The book aims to provide a simple and engaging wargame solution for those who are pressed for time, money, space or a combination of the three. Like all of his books, the author’s suggests in this book that wargaming need not be complicated in order to be accurate or fun.

The Book

The book starts out with an introductory chapter which the author puts forward the goals of the book. The next 9 chapters outline a time period in military history and provides a very simple set of wargame rules to in which to game that time period. He sets some arbitrary limitations on the rules in that there will be only 4 unit types and not more than 6 units on each side. The rules are to be played on a 3X3 wargame battlefield.

The game turn is played in the following sequence.

  1. Move where the player is allowed to move any or all of his units. Units move forward in a straight line but the player may make up to a 45 degree turn at the beginning and/or at the end of the unit’s move.
  2. Shoot: Any units in range of an eligible target (to the front and 45 degrees to the left or right of the shooter) may shoot.
  3. Melee: Any units in contact with an enemy may melee. Note that only the attacker fights in the player’s turn.

For shooting or melee, the attacker will roll a die and the result is the number of hits scored. A unit that takes 15 or more hits is eliminated. The result can be modified by armor or terrain. Usually this will reduce the result by half round up. It is unclear if armor and terrain modifiers “stack” but I would think not. Units that are contacted in the flank or rear take double damage.

The periods covered are Ancient, Dark Ages, Medieval, Pike and Shot, Horse and Musket (Napoleonic) , Rifle and Saber (European 19th Century) ACW, Machine Age (1900-1939) and WW2/Modern. Each chapter gives an introduction to the time period and a synopsis of the units of the game. The rules are tweaked to support the period being played. For instance, in the Ancient and Medieval periods, hand to hand combat is the deciding factor. Once you reach the Horse and Musket era, infantry may no longer charge into hand to hand combat. Only mounted can. As the time line progresses, cavalry becomes even weaker and firepower reigns supreme. In the ACW rules, there is no hand to hand combat. It’s all shooting, even for cavalry. This is deliberate to show that there were very few instances of pitched hand to hand fights in these eras.

There are 30 scenarios. This is where the book shines. These scenarios are based around the 3 foot table top but could be used for any game system with little modification. The scenarios outline the opposing forces (3, 4 or 6 units per side) and the objectives. Sometimes it will be a pitched battle. Others will be such engagements as river crossings or seizing a vital objective. Stuff like that. There are also special rules for elite troops. There is a short chapter at the end of the book on solo wargaming. It includes ideas for chance cards.


At it’s core, the rules are quite simple. Perhaps a little too simple. 4 unit types is very limiting. You could argue that bodies of troops might perform the same in game terms but but each bod may represent a different amount of troops. For instance, in the Ancient period, a body of Roman heavy infantry might represent 2400 men while Macedonian pike phalangites might represent 3000 or more men and Celtic warbands might represent 4000 men and so forth. There are no rules for elephants or chariots in the classical era.

This game is clearly an introductory game and would be ideal to get a younger child perhaps 6 years old to start gaming. The rules are quite straight forward and leave little for interpretation. You move. You shoot. You melee. What’s not to love?

One Hour Wargames $20

Some Ideas to Illustrate the flexibility of the system

From the periods from ancient through pike and shot, the Author has defined a variety of troop types that with some minor modifications could provide a little more interest to the game.

The heavy infantry generally rolls a die and adds 2 to the combat die. Cavalry and archers add nothing. Armor cuts the results in half. Crossbows and Longbows add 2 to the shooting die while skirmishers deduct 2.

So, here it is:

Legionares +2 Melee, Armored, 1/2 damage when attacking mounted, 6” Move

Hoplites Armored, No armor from flank attacks, 6” Move

Phalangites +2 Melee, Armored, No armor from flank attacks, 6” move

Warbands +2 Melee, 1/2 damage when attacking mounted, 9” move

Peltasts 1/2 damage when attacking mounted, 1 die Missile with ammo depletion on a 3 or less, 9” move

Skirmishers -2 missile, -2 melee, 9” move

Archers -2 die melee

Light cavalry -2 Missile 12” move

Cavalry 10” move

Catafract Armored, 10” move

Not sure how to do elephants or chariots.

8 Responses to One Hour Wargames

  1. John Parus says:

    Good write-up!

    I prefer more substance than this, but then again a lot of times a simple game actually played to completion is far better as one where you only have enough time to get part way through, and no ability to leave the game set up and return later. I think that many wargamers are like me in that they are “rules junkies” and pick up new rule sets if they are at all of interest even if we already have rules covering that period. Whether that new rule set is “just what we wanted” or it is just one more source to cull for ideas to be adopted elsewhere, we’ll still pick it up.

  2. Thanks for the review. My first thought on reading the book was “great scenarios! I just have to write some rules for 4-6 units to go with them.” I have ideas, but I think I really need to play with the rules in the book first before using something I create instead. I really do like the mechanisms of the rules, just not fond of counting to 15 for each unit, even if there are only a few of them.

  3. Running Man says:

    Shaun, I play One Hour Wargames in 15mm, on 2’x2′ boards with units 8cm wide. That is 2 DBx units side by side. It works great. Also you can change the number of hits you need to track. All you need to note is on average, units should do about 3-4 hits per round (average of d6), and then on average a unit lasts 4-5 rounds of combat.

    So consider rolling 1d3, and converting + or – 2 into + or – 1. Halving remai s as is. Then let units take 6 hits, say. Less to track, same overall result.

  4. I was thinking of using my DBx bases on a 1’x1′ for the rules. But, Running Man, after reading your post, I think I could put four bases together (2×2) and play on a 2’x2′ table. I can have each base represent 4 hits and just remove a base when 4 hits are taken, and use markers for bases with partial hits. Last base only takes 3 hits to go. Much easier to track and I only need to mark one base with up to 3 markers. I may try this over the Christmas break.

  5. Running Man says:

    Shaun, that’s as far as I can tell what the author was angling for. His earlier AMW uses just such a basing scheme, but in that system, units take 16 hits – each 4 hits removes a base. In that vein, I think your approach is “spot on”, and will get the best use out of existing DBx armies!

    In my case, I don’t follow DBx basing. I use 4cm x 2.5cm stands for foott, and cram 6-7 HI and 3 or 4 LI on a stand. So I guess my basing works out similar to using 4 DBx stands.

    By the way, as you are focused on 2’x2′ gaming, I’d suggest you consider mounting your foot troops “double deep”. Looks great on the small board!

  6. As it came into my mind to use 4 bases, it clicked was well that it is the same as AMW!

    For the last 2-3 years, I have had the outline of a ruleset for ancients on a 2’x2′ board that using sinlge bases except for heavy infantry that is double based. Loosely based on the Irregular miniature ancient rules. I was trying to design something without markers, but gave up. But I think I have a new plan…one day I may even get around to writing it down.

    I agree that double based infantry looks great. i am thinking of using it in future for my rules, even though you don’t need to; it, as you say, just looks better!

  7. Ricky Walker says:

    My wargaming friend bought a copy of these rules a couple of weeks ago, and we have played 6 games in 2 sessions so far. The more we play, the more we like them. It seems the simplicity of the rules is deceptive, the “tweaking” of factors for each unit type in the different eras really does make a difference. My impression is that the apparent simplicty makes tactical decisions a more important part of the game, which I really like. The scenarios really make this book a success, as having differnt goals, and not always balanced armies makes for a more interesting game.

  8. acarhj says:

    I completely agree with what you said Ricky. I did an experiment a month ago to see how simple of a game I could make that would give believable results. The game I made, while not to everyone’s taste, worked quite well. It’s in the “old school” section of my blog page if you are interested.

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