The Viking Legal Team in Action

The Viking Legal Team in Action
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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Neil Thomas "One - Hour Wargames" Thoughts: clarifications and small additions

Some clarifications on the Neil Thomas "One - Hour Wargames" rules, derived from play or the design notes,  followed by some thoughts and optional rules I've tried or will try out.

These are clarifications and confirmations of the RAW, based upon what is/isn't written and actual playing. Anything in italics is what I feel is a logical interpretation based upon gaming conventions and common sense.

Basing and Spacing.  The rules ask for Units to be 4-6" frontage.  As, figure size and number is left to the player(s) there is no prescribed depth.  My Units are all of two 60mm wide bases [WRG/DBx style].  In light of this and that interpenetration is only allowed by / thru Skirmishers, I permit my Units to move thru any space 60mm wide in a column of two bases, counting the change into "column of two bases" as a facing change.

Line of Sight [there are no LOS rules].  Measured from Unit's front center point.  It is blocked by any intervening Units, hills, woods, buildings, etc. that are scaled to figure height or higher.  Units may see into and out of woods, but not through two sides of a wood.

Units must have line of sight to shoot or charge enemy Units at the time of the shooting or charge.

Cover and LoS.  For a Unit to get the cover bonus from enemy shooting they must be entirely within the woods or town.  For them to get the Shieldwall bonus from shooting they must be fired upon their front or flank facing, not the rear.

Shooting.  May shoot into HtH.   Must have line of sight to a full facing [front, flank or rear] of the targeted Unit.

"Contact".  Contact is made by moving along the shortest line from the Charging Unit to the center of the Target Unit's side that is not already in a contact, maximizing the length / amount of the contact with all available movement.  It may be made to any Target Unit's facing that can be legally reached per the charge movement rules.  If no enemy Unit is in frontal contact  at the end of the enemy movement phase, the target Unit may [but does not have to] face a contacting enemy Unit(s).  This IS "free movement".  I'd restrict it to full 90 or 180 degree facing changes lest it become too 'gamey'.

"Closing the Door".  Also, once a Charging Unit makes the full legal contact described above, it stops moving.  The charging Unit does not conform to full edge/edge contact.  There is no "closing the door" with free additional movement as in so many other rules.   I assume the men are filling any gaps with fighters.

Inflicting Hits.  There is no dividing of the Hits a Unit inflicts upon multiple Units that may be attacking it [one enemy Unit may attack each facing; front, both flanks and rear].  Therefore, Units only fight melee combats to their front facing, and may only use their melee dice attacking a single enemy Unit engaging their front facing.  

Suggested Options from p.17, large final paragraph.  As NT has a focus on Dark Age Britain, he mentions some options for Continental Europe:  
  • Shock Cavalry.  They add +2 to HtH Hit rolls.  Could also be used as Alexander's Companians, et al.
  • Rabble Infantry.  Warband that only get d6 on HtH Hit rolls.
Implied Options from the Ancient Rules of preceding chapter:
  • Classical Infantry.  Take half Hits if armoured, get +2 on HtH Hit rolls.
  • Classical Bowmen.  Shoot and HtH with unmodified d6.  Could also be concentrated Gothic, Lombard or Viking archers.
  • Skirmishers w' Bows v. Javelins.  If your skirmishers are bow or sling armed, they fight RAW.  If you wish to differentiate Javelin armed give them a 9" range but then they melee d6-1 representing the use of a shield, improving their performance against other skirmishers.

Some ideas and small changes that add some play variety without significantly changing the RAW.

Variable Move Rates.  There is a predictable "gameyness" to always having the same amount of movement each turn.  I suggest and have used the following several times now.  

A Unit is declared and it's movement intent is stated, e.g. moving to a point, charging, etc.  It then rolls the below dice total and fulfills the intent it as fully as possible:
  • Infantry roll 2d6-1 [average 6" move],
  • Skirmishers and Warband roll 2d6+2 [average 9" move]
  • Cavalry roll 3d6+2 [average 12" move].
This worked well and occasionally broke up the IGO-UGO turn sequence by a Unit taking less or more turns to achieve something.  Or the opportunity disappeared!

Elite / Stubborn troops = 18 Casualties before routing.
Levy /Nervous troops etc = 12 Casualties then routing.

Skirmishing Horse Archers & Light Javelin Cavalry.  These shoot as skirmishers above, 12" for bows and slings and 9" for javelins but archers should melee at 1d6-2 and javelins at 1d6-1.  They still cannot move and shoot, however, note below.

Unshielded and Unprepared.  Note that there is no moving and shooting in the game!  The movement of shooters to throw the javelin or close for an effective bow shot is abstracted by lengthening their range.  To compensate for this somewhat, allow double casualties if the shooting is against the rear facing of a Target Unit.

Armored Javelin Cavalry can be given the above shooting ability but fight HtH with the full d6 value.  

They were probably used in Dark Age Britain, and would have been household followers with expensive luxuries like full shields, helmets or even some leather and metal armor. They would also represent trained Roman heavy cavalry types, Persians, etc. As the horses are unarmoured, they get no defensive bonus, the armor of the rider is assumed to make the rider more willing to fight effectively in HtH.

Shooting limits.  The Pike and Shot rules limit all shooting with an additional d6 rolled during shooting, and if it is a 1-2 they are "out of ammo" for the game.  

This seems a reasonable limit to put upon anyone who has to carry something as large as a javelin, which were also 'expensive' and heavy.  I don't think it necessary for true horse archers like Huns, Alans, etc, which also makes them more dangerous.  

One could use it and say that they have to leave the board for more arrows, etc. or go to a supply point for a full turn, etc.  In the short span of time and small scale of these scenarios, it seems unnecessary to have re-supply, however.

Throwing Weapons.  Many Dark Age fighters used a throwing weapon they hurled as a precursor to melee.  These were darts, francisca throwing axes, pilum, heavy javelins, etc.  This can be easily simulated by letting them throw ONCE a game in their first melee with a bonus d3 HtH dice.

Force Morale.  The 1HW rules provide for forces of 3, 4 or 6 Units per side, with 6 considered the "standard".  This conveniently comes to rolling a d6 each time a friendly Unit is destroyed, attempting to roll higher than the number of friendly Units destroyed to keeping fighting - if you roll equal or less your force routs and the game ends.  

In a campaign game, you may want to allow the opposing side to get one last free attack in as they rout.  

Note that this will also shorten the game length!  If you don't want to shorten it as much, roll TWO d6 and if EITHER rolls higher than the number of Units lost, your force keeps fighting.  For particularly desperate or stubborn forces, perhaps even 3d6 could be rolled and if ANY pass you keep fighting.  Easy to play around with!

For campaigns or more "period flavor", I am considering fun ways to gain a bonus point or two on the die roll, like winning a pre-game challenge, praying to God [or 'the gods'], fatigue from force marching to an objective, etc.

Personalities.  Leaders, Heroes, Banners and Priests.  For every three Units in a force, a player may have a suitable personality figure, such as a Barbarian Hero, trained Leader like a Centurion, Legate, etc, either of which may choose to be accompanied by a Banner that costs as one of the allowed Personalities, or a Christian Priest.  

All function only as a bonus to a Unit, but may switch Units at the end of all movement to another Unit within 6".  While attached, they suffer the same fate as a Unit, including routing from casualties.  
  • A Leader gives a 2" bonus to movement and +1 Hit in HtH.
  • A Hero gives a 1" bonus to movement and +2 Hits in HtH. If accompanied by a Banner [counting as one of the allowed Personalities] Leaders and Heroes may rally d2 Casualties off a Unit if the Unit neither moves, shoots nor fights HtH for a turn.
  • Christian Priest may be fielded, who has no move or HtH bonuses, but rallies d3 Casualties off [an improved Banner] since he has a suitable holy relic, standard, great exhortations, etc.
Initiative - roll off at start, or decide per scenario giving Initiative to red or blue, whoever seems to be the attacker. The Initiative Side goes first each turn.  Roll off at start of each turn with +3 for Initiative Side.  If the Initiative side loses the roll, Initiative changes to the other side and they go first.  Note this allows the side seizing initiative to go twice in a row as the turn order changes, which could be a critical moment in a game.
Additional variable.  Subtract '1' from the dice roll for each Unit that has routed.

Hope these provide some useful insights and some variety to the game.  I'm also considering some bigger options, but definitely want to playtest them first.  

Note that it is _always_ tricky to tweak rules unless you are a real master game designer.  Tweaking a simple set of rules like these is MORE difficult as they've already been very carefully balanced by the designer, Neil Thomas.  So "go forth with fear and trembling" you rule tweakers!


  1. These are very interesting, and I'll have to give some of them a try. I'm a big fan of variable movement, and I like the initiative idea too.

    The personalities rules to seem nicely suited to a game with so few units on the table as well.

  2. Thanks. I'll be trying some of these in the near future. Holidays and job been keeping me on the go, but I've a batrep partially done. Also have some figures to finish painting, sealing and mounting.

    I think the Dark Age rules scale very nicely to the period. I think the Classical rules feel a little too small for a big famous battle. For them I'd use 15mm and shorter movement and shooting distances.

  3. Thanks for your suggestions. Very interesting. Surly will try them.
    Any options for elephants and chariots (light, heavy and scythed)?
    Perhaps giving them D6+D3 (Scythed 2D6) and if armoured half losses?
    If elephants flee, the nearest unit receives D6 damage, using an arrow die.
    Scythed chariots are automatically destroyed after first attack.
    What do you think?


  4. Hello Lex,
    My personal opinion is that Chariots should be "downgraded" one level in DBA terms, each. I believe that Light Chariots were the same as Light Cavalry - missile platforms that were also ready to close if you began to run away. Heavy Chariots were like Ancient Cavalry such as Persian - they were more aggressive and more willing to melee with you if the chance arose. I don't feel they were Cav and Knights in DBA terms.

    So I'd use the shooting options for horse archers or Javelin cavalry that I suggest above. I am very interested in doing some chariot armies for biblical times, or the Trojan War, uncertain where to head with it. Obviously either will require the use of some sort of character action which I initiative above also.

    Scythed Chariots seem to me more like a "big battle" trick, not of much use in a small battle like these. They'd be more like a shooting artillery piece, that can be dodged or not. Elephants very similar but not "one and done".

    Neil Thomas should be asked - perhaps he has some mechanisms for them, but I do have his Ancient and Medieval rules, yet they aren't in there I believe.

  5. I'll echo previous commentators: some excellent ideas. Cheers, Aaron

  6. EDIT: I added a comment on basing and spacing [how units fit through gaps] above. None in the rules.

    Overall, I'm attempting to stay within the RAW as much as possible, but where I add / change, I try to do it within the same spirit of simplicity that permeates the rules. If I add a bunch of the usual things it'd become Kings of War and I may as well use that, anyway!

    1. " If I add a bunch of the usual things it'd become Kings of War and I may as well use that, anyway!"

      I've had this issue as well. I abandoned the NT rules early on because I thought that the scenarios would suit further development of my chessboard-based rules. These are derived from Battle Cry and Memoir '44, but as I developed them into ACW and Great Northern War versions I realised that I was, to some extent, writing Command and Colours :)

      Anyway, I love what you've done to the NT rules - lots of interesting tweaks and ideas, especially the random movement. I think that's one of the things that is really missing from his sets; a sense of true unpredictability.

    2. And if I go to using playing cards for movement, then I have "The Sword and the Flame"! Tweaking a combat factor is no big deal, but tweaking a game mechanic - especially in a pretty simple game - is HUGE. I really think that NT should've explained how contact works in his design, as it wouldn't have taken up much space but been a lot of help. I'm going to log the changes and clarifications that work as I use the rules, and further clarify some that still need it!

  7. Regarding "Contact": I thought facing a sole flank/rear attacker would be done in the defenders movement phase?

  8. The rules don't say when it happens, so the player has to decide for themselves. Without a definite statement, it seems to me that it happens at the end of the enemy movement phase. Then, if only engaged to flank or rear, the Unit turns to face. In his "Ancient and Medieval Rules" he allows the turn to face on the second round of combat - but specifies it. So in essence you get one freebie in the A&MR, but the simpler interpretation seems to me to be turn at the end of the enemy movement phase.

    Another small clarification that he could've written in, IMHO.


Thanks for your comment! t will be posted after it's moderated.