Review: One Hour Wargames

As readers of this blog will know, I love scenario books. When I read that the latest book by Neil Thomas contains thirty scenarios, I decided to buy it alone on those grounds.

One Hour Wargames has a subheading that immediately made me like it: Practical Tabletop Battles for Those with Limited Time and Space. Glossy wargames magazines sometimes seem to suggest that you can only play a proper wargame if you array hundreds of beautifully painted 28mm figures on a custom-made 12×8 foot table with diorama-style terrain. For many people, this is unachievable or even undesirable – such a game would not only take lots of money, space and time to prepare, but also a huge amount of time to play.

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Neil Thomas explicitly wants to show that wargaming can be a low-threshold hobby. The first sentence of the book is: “A practical wargame is one that everyone can play.” He goes on to show how figures and terrain can be procured on a budget, discussing plastic figures and suggesting easy ways of scratch building hills, rivers and roads. However, at the heart of his book are the rules: Very simple and abstracted wargames rules for nine different periods, from ancients to World War II.

Now I didn’t buy the book for the rules but, after having a look at them, was quite impressed by how the author managed to condense what he takes to be the characteristical features of each period into simple gaming mechanics. You might not agree with every assumption – for example, that close combat plays no decisive role from the American Civil War onwards and is therefore banned goes against the philosophy of, say, TooFatLardies rules (which seem to be based on Paddy Griffith’s thesis as expressed in his book Forward into Battle, which in itself is quite contested). However, the fact that the book got me to think about those things shows how stimulating an avowed minimalistic approach can be.

I’ve not yet tried the rules themselves but would really like to. They are on the ‘big battle’ side of things and would probably be very apt to introducing children into the hobby, so I might give them a go next time our nephew is visiting.

What really interested me were the scenarios and I have to say that they are splendid. Some of them are simplified versions of scenarios that can be found in the Grant volumes, while others are modelled after historical battles. Thomas always states his sources and even provides a small bibliography. Here, again, the minimalistic approach pays off: Without drowning the reader in detailed OOBs and discussions of commanders’ abilities, Thomas manages to introduce a historical battle and pique ones interest for more information. The scenarios look very playable and are certainly inspiring. Most look like they can easily be adapted to different periods and rulesets.

The book closes with chapters on campaigns and solo gaming as well as a useful bibliography of historical works for each of the featured periods.

For those who like scenario based games, I would highly recommend the book for the scenarios alone. It would also make a great introductory volume for a young and aspiring wargamer – actually, it would be the perfect companion to Henry Hyde’s Wargaming Compendium!

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