Tuesday 26 October 2021

Historical Project 10

One more thing I like about One Hour Wargames is that, as a very casual enthusiast of History, I can put together a battle using the four units that Neil Thomas uses to define a particular era and get a feel for how things were different from Ancient to Dark Ages to Medieval and so on.

Please don't tell me that this ultra-simple game doesn't actually offer a robust simulation of the eras at hand. I'm talking in broad strokes here just as the game intends. 

So of course I dive back into tinkering away on Project 10. The game is designed to capture some of the big-battle feel of the Warhammer of my youth, but could it work for Napoleonics or the War of the Roses? Time to steal even more brazenly from One Hour Wargames and recreate its "Four Units per Era" in P10.

Self-Imposed Rules

  1. Four Units per Era, no more, no less
  2. No new Traits
  3. No new Rules for each era, we're just doing it with standard 2 Trait units
  4. The units for each Era are represented as per their place in that era, relative to the other three units
Okay let's do this after one big disclaimer. I've drawn on One Hour Wargames a lot for inspiration during Project 10, but this is significantly more direct, to the point that I feel obliged to direct you once again to the original book.

Era boundaries are always messy to define, so I've been deliberately vague. If you feel like you need to draw on two adjacent eras for a specific battle then who am I to stop you?

A: Infantry (Heavy, Armour) 
B: Archers (Long, Focus)
C: Skirmishers (Short, Loose)
D: Cavalry (Cavalry, Loose)

An era dominated by somewhat unwieldy blocks of infantry. Archers and Skirmishers serve to soften them up through direct fire or harassment tactics respectively. Cavalry lack the raw power of later eras, being almost entirely defined by their mobility here. 

Using the army compositions from OHW always sees at least 50% of your force composed of Unit A, which in most cases is your standard Infantry. Here I thought the Cavalry flank charges would be key, and while they were a factor in my test battle I found Archers and Skirmishers surprisingly useful in cracking the tough shell of the infantry. Remember that units lose their secondary Trait when they are Shaken (halfway to being Broken), making it much easier to finish off one of these blocks once they'd taken some damage. 

My Verdict: Enjoyed this era more than I expected, but I long to break the four-unit rule to bring in some chariots or elephants. Still not entirely sure about the implementation of Cavalry here, maybe I'd drop Loose from them. 

A: Infantry (Armour, Heavy)
B: Warband (Impact, Loose)
C: Skirmishers (Short, Loose)
D: Cavalry (Cavalry, Loose)

Based on the Dark Age section of OHW, but I think this era in particular feels like it has potential to bleed into its neighbours, especially with the presence of the Warband. 

I've read wargamers lamenting that early-medieval wargames can deteriorate into two shieldwalls just leaning into each other. OHW portrays the Infantry of this era as just as tough as their Ancient equivalent, but lesser in fighting power. Here we can use the two same traits but swap them to make for a more defensively focused unit. The other big change to this era is the Warband, which provides some actual punch and allows for some devastating flank charges. In my test game a Warband was key in breaking the enemy line, allowing the other units to be flanked and eventually broken down. 

My Verdict: This was still a bit of a drag out fight, especially for the side that was two-thirds infantry. Really walking the tightrope between representing the spirit of the era and making a fun game here. 

A: Knights (Cavalry, Impact)
B: Archers (Long, Brutal)
C: Men-at-Arms (Heavy, Armour)
D: Levies (Heavy)

The only era to have a non-Infantry unit in slot A, making up the majority of armies. That alone lends this era a frantic feel of shock warfare. I can't vouch to the authenticity of this, but it's a lot of fun on the table. As with every era, I think you'd want to get creative with your army compositions if you were playing more than a battle or two here.

Archers get Brutal to represent the arrival of armour-piercing longbows and crossbows. Men-at-Arms are something of a return to Ancient Infantry in terms of their on-board role, but it's interesting how different they feel when you only have a unit or two, as opposed to them making up the majority of your army. In the test game they mostly served to protect the Archers. Levies are the only one-Trait unit in this whole experiment, being a strictly worse version of Men-at-Arms just as ruled in OHW. It feels bad to have them in your army, and I guess that's the point? As much as this might just be a fact of any era, I don't especially like having them here. Perhaps I'd replace them with a unit from an earlier/later era depending on the battle at hand. Or maybe split Foot Knights off from Men-at-Arms into their own distinct unit (maybe Heavy, Focus). 

My Verdict: A fun change from the chunky units of previous eras, and definitely one I'd like to play around with more. 

A: Infantry (Heavy, Long)
B: Swordsmen (Impact, Loose)
C: Pistoleers (Cavalry, Short)
D: Cavalry (Cavalry, Impact)

OHW's "Pike and Shot" era begins the transition to range-focused units in the core infantry slot. Here they lose their ranged attack when shaken, a nod to the limited ammo rule from the book.

Lots of manoeuvrability in the other units, with Swordsmen essentially being a return of the Tribal Warband. Feels strange that the Pistoleers here are the only "horse archer" type unit in this whole experiment, but they're a welcome arrival. Under my self-imposed rules I haven't quite captured the anti-cavalry effect of the Infantry's pikes, but in my test game it still felt more useful to use Cavalry to hit the Swordsmen or chase down Pistoleers. 

My Verdict: I enjoyed the missile focus a lot more than I expected, though not 100% happy with the implementation of infantry. 

A: Infantry (Long, Heavy)
B: Skirmishers (Short, Loose)
C: Artillery (Artillery, Brutal)
D: Cavalry (Cavalry, Impact)

From the "Horse and Musket" section of OHW, which includes the Napoleonic era that seems to dominate historical wargames in a way that I hadn't quite appreciated. In the research I've done over the past few months, I think I get it now. Even within this single rules system it feels like a sweet spot where you have blocks of infantry and cavalry charges alongside on-board artillery and musket fire. 

Again we see a subtle change in Infantry, swapping the traits from the Renaissance to allow for a unit that will keep firing, but lose some of its effectiveness once shaken. From this point onwards, OHW prevents non-cavalry units from charging, but my rules forbid such bloat. We also get our first on-board artillery, though perhaps a little overpowered here if we're trying to follow the guidance in OHW. Could make an argument for treating them strictly as a one-trait unit in this era. 

My Verdict: I can see the appeal of this era, you've got all the ingredients you need for dramatic battles with lots of gunfire and decisive charges. The Skirmishers make sense as light infantry, but were the least interesting unit in the test battle. Perhaps I'd mix it up with some sort of Elite or Heavy Infantry instead (Maybe with Focus or even Armour to represent their improved morale). I should also confess that these test games were essentially pitched battles, so perhaps not the best situation for Light Infantry to shine. 

A: Infantry (Long, Brutal)
B: Elites (Short, Focus)
C: Artillery (Artillery, Heavy)
D: Cavalry (Short, Cavalry)

Finally I lump OHW's Rifle & Sabre, American Civil War, and Machine Age into one era. I feel like the system struggles slightly with these later eras. I did draft a version of the WW2 era too, but decided to draw the line here instead. 

Rifles allow infantry to be a little less static. Elites represent smaller units that aren't quite skirmishers, but are a little more manoeuvrable and reliable. Cavalry are less effective in their shock role, but now have firearms of their own, even having a sort of dismount-mechanic when Shaken. The test game felt a lot like the Revolution era, but with even more focus on shooting. Felt a little like trench warfare at times, for better or worse. 

My Verdict: After the test I'm glad to draw the line here. I understand that every era has its fans, but on a purely gameplay perspective this doesn't do enough to stand out from the previous era. Perhaps I tried to fit too much into one era, but my gut tells me that this system is just better suited to the earlier periods. 

As you might expect, this "rank and flank" system struggles as warfare starts to move toward looser infantry formations and increased focus on ranged combat. If I had to pick a favourite I'm surprised to say that I'd be choosing between Renaissance and Revolution, though if I allowed myself the luxury of a few extra unit types I'd like to revisit Ancient and Feudal. 

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me a little of the video game Totally Accurate Battle Simulator (in a good way). Intentionally prioritising simplicity over historical minutia and giving each era/faction (Ancient, Tribal, Medieval, Renaissance, etc) a limited number of units each (though TABS has seven instead of four).