Friday, 16 December 2016

One Hour Wargames - Back to the Bronze Age

So overall the One Hour Wargames thing seems to be working out. When we started though there were two rules that I decided to miss out. I did not use bowmen as a troop type ( because not very punic wars) but also cutting out a troop type just made things simpler. Also, the rules recommend dicing at random for the composition of your armies. Now, with only six units of a maximum of four types this is not overly complex - but for a start was easier to let the boy play the same army composition.

This also meant a change of armies, wars, indeed epochs.  I needed something that had bows, and well,  I just wanted to give some different toys a run out. So enter the armies of Sumer in all their beginning of history, early bronze age, Uruk World System, I'm the King of Kish, we've got war donkey chariots of death! do you like my Ziggurat? How come we are all speaking Akkadian now?  glory.

For those people interested in such things, the figures you will see in the pictures are nearly all 20mm plastic figures from HaT, although I do believe that some Caesar miniatures have sneaked in as some tribal allies / auxiliaries and a very fine looking job they make of it to.

So new toys and the new rules, on we crack with dicing for army composition. We went with a pitched battle as the scenario as we were introducing some new elements, so it is a good idea to make sure everything else is familiar so you have confidence that the child understands it - stops them getting overwhelmed.  The boy throws and gets four units of heavy foot, one of skirmishers and one of bows. A good solid force with some shooting.

And here they are deployed. In a tight knot in the middle of the deployment zone. This is not to bad of an idea as the movement rates as compared to table size are quite large and it is not to much of a problem to get troops where you want them to go.

For my throw I received an army of three heavy foot, two mounted and one skirmishers - the same as I had been having with the Carthaginians. I am not over convinced by the effectiveness of mounted troops in these rules but at least it had the bonus of familiarity.

My gentlemen deployed. I went for as wide as a deployment as possible with a mounted unit on each flank (fear the war donkeys!).

The two armies facing each other. I put a small lake down as the reason for the fight (when the cities of Sumer had a punch up it was often over the control of an irrigation source). I also included a rather lonely looking field to add a bit of tactical interest.

My army throws itself forward. on the left the chariots tuck in behind the foot, which may seem odd. There was not a large amount of room to go on a wide outflanking and if they pushed forward or stayed in line it is possible that the bad guys from the city down the road that was into red might be able to push a unit of heavy foot into them frontally - not good. So they tucked in to await developments. On the right my chariots do push forward looking for a flank or at least diverting enemy resources to a flank.

The boy comes forward and spreads out. A weak point in his line is the bows, that although they can now shoot for a turn or two will get right royally tonked when the fighting is close quarters - win here, delay the chariots getting into action and attack a  flank if so presented, all to the good.

The boys next move. Instead of spreading his line wide he narrows it, pulling the tribesmen into reserve. Usually I would say having a reserve is a good thing but this time I think it is allowing room to pressure his flank with my mounted. The bow are now definitely a target - this will be a painful lesson for the boy but a good one for him to learn.

Or not. The clash of the heavy foot comes. His bows were hanging back. When I move into a position to hit them he responds with a comment of me having 'no chance' of getting at them, pulls them back and puts the tribesmen in the gap. So, he had a plan to get a couple of rounds shooting in before moving his heavy troops in to do the actual fighting. He really has been thinking this through..... and I am guilty of underestimating my opponent. This is however mixed with fatherly pride. The seemingly disembodied hand in this pictures by the way should not be a cause for concern, I can confirm that after the sweat band it is in fact attached to a full child in the normal way.

One consequence of the boys bait and switch is that it has left a hanging flank, which I readily exploit.

Boom! Flank charge. It does mean that my chariots will in turn be hit in the flank but this should already have caused enough disruption to tip the balance of the fight in my favour. 

Meanwhile. on the other flank, the bad guys have shoved a unit of heavy foot down the side of the field and my chariots have steadily given ground. Not to upset by this at the moment though, as it has taken his foot unit out of the fight for several turns as they walk around the side of the board. 

They do keep pushing though....... And the two units of skirmishers have managed to find a suitable venue for their traditional face off, where they can get on with not causing very much damage to each other without being disturbed by the big boys. 

My left hand heavy foot unit has polished off their opponents - due to the earlier flank charge and can now look for another opponent to put the pain on. My chariots from the right flank have now pulled fully back and the boy has a unit of heavy foot loose in my rear. I have presented the boy with a decision though, continue to close against the chariots or interfere with the rear of the main battle line.

He chooses to continue to put pressure on my chariots.

This may be because he knows that my other chariots were going to down to his bows - leading to my now free heavy foot clattering into them. Also, that he was about to win the central heavy foot fight anyhow and did not need the help.

Here his bows have been taken down and his heavy foot have moved to attack them. I have also won the fight against his tribal heavy foot.

An odd looking battle line. His troops in the middle seem doomed. However, they have the next move and therefore the next charge.

Which he uses to take down my now battered unit if heavy foot. His other unit on heavy foot have also eaten my chariots and can start to think about other things.

The other thing being the flank of my sole remaining unit of heavy foot. They charged their opponents in the rear and are well on the way to defeating them.

Which they do - but can you guess what happens next?

Yup, they get hit in the flank and taken down in turn. His skirmishers have also won the even odds dice fest against mine - handing the boy his second victory of the campaign!

Comments on the game - and rules

First thing to say, is that although I may not have brought my A game and was not fully focused on winning, I was not particularly going easy on the boy - I did not let him win and he was making his own decisions, the win was fully deserved. This is a good point in favour of the rules when considering if they are suitable for children, as the boy has now figured out how they work and is able to think through tactics and ideas and apply them.

Another thing in favour of the rules is that they did give some interesting maneuver before the fighting started. Decisions had to be made options weighed, which is as it should be.

Any down side? Well, the closing out of the game was a bit well odd - as units won a fight they queued up to take a turn to deliver a devastating flank / rear attack before suffering one in turn. This seems to be a function of the victory conditions - all units must be killed for the army to break and the lack of morale rules. This means that all units are at full effect and operate with no penalties, no matter what strength they have lost, or how bad their position is until they receive that final hit - then they are gone. This binary situation leads to an thrilling end game - all thrills and spills. However, from my position of questioning 'is this a satisfying end to a game', well no not really.

Still, one more game to go in the campaign before the winner and loser is declared and a full and considered view of the rules is given. The boy has also committed to giving his own full written review at the end of the campaign as well - so you will hear of the rules give a good game for a child from the horses (foals?) mouth.
The most fitting way to leave this game and consider the next one I feel is to consider the boys thoughts and questions about it. Which went something like this

'So, no matter what happens I can't lose the campaign can I dad? If I win the next game I win the campaign?'


'And even if the next game is a draw I win. And even if you win you can't really win.'

'That's right'

'So, you can't beat me then?'

'Well no, but I thought we were playing these games to have  fun and spend time together?'

'Oh no dad, I'm playing to beat you'.......


  1. A nice variation with the addition of new troops. The fact that units stay at full strength until they melt away. does cause the problem you state and in addition, players start to look for the weak units, specifically so they can pick them off - which in the later part of the game can drive tactics.

    I have introduced a morale rule which is based upon casualties, so as casualties increase, morale tests are more likely to fail. For my money, the rules do need a few house rules to get them to where you want them and even so they can still remain a very friendly simple set.

  2. I do feel your mix of underestimation and pride. It is humbling when you think they have done a poor move but turns out to be one where they are playing the longer game than just the current move.

    Very interested to here from your son what he thought. That is such a good idea! I will have to remember to do this the next time I play a wargame with my children.

    And to the last bit: Yep the "it is not a competition, unless I am beating you - then it is a competition and I won" :-)