Sunday, 26 July 2015

Hexing 1 Hour Wargames ACW

One Hour Wargames by Neil Thomas offers simplified rules for wargaming in nine different periods. They are very stable and it is therefore relatively easy to bolt on house rules.

This post offers a 2 page ammendment sheet that primarily allows the game to be played on hexes, but which also takes the opportunity to introduce some Command and Control, Morale and Line of Sight rules.

These have been kept simple to stay within the design ethos of Mr. Thomas.

Please press the 'read more' tab for the rest of this post
There seems to be an underlying principle in Neil Thomas' rules that 'less is more' and so  I have kept tweaks to just a very light touch. They are not complicated, but have been written out fully to save any ambiguity. There is a link at the foot of this post in the Resource section that makes the document available as a download (thank you Dropbox).

I originally did this just to get the game onto hexes, but took the opportunity to add a couple of rules at the same time. Everything in the rules still stands, so this is still principally a game of attacking the enemy to inflict 15 hits to ensure its removal from play, but the additions will add some nuances along the way.

I have previously blogged a full AAR on the system as written, using Scenario 25 (infiltration) and ACW rules. There is a link to that post in the Resource section.

This post will look at exactly the same scenario, with the same forces, but using my 'hex' document, just to see how that changes things. The previous post describes the scenario, objectives and basic system in some detail, so this post will just crack on with the conversion and AAR.

Neil uses a 3' x 3' table and conveniently his units move and fire in increments of six inches. His units also occupy a frontage of up to six inches, so initially it seems sensible to do a hex conversion to six inches equals one hex and that will give us a hex grid of 6 x 6 (effectively, using 4" Kallistra hexes, reducing the real gaming space from 36" x 36" to 26" wide x 22" deep).

It does not seem awfully big, but in his game a unit can travel from one board edge to the other in six turns and so it must be the same on our hex grid if the scenarios are to still work as intended. Another option would be to make 1 hex equal 3 inches. In effect this would double all of the fire ranges and movement rates in my conversion (and double command radius) and means that infantry and cavalry units would each have to straddle across two hexes, but it would visually give a bigger battlefield and also allow that pesky movement rate of nine inches for the Zouves to be represented. That would look good with bigger scales.

However, I am guessing that most people buying his book and reading this blog are gaming space conscious and so I will be sticking with the smaller 6 x 6 grid for this post. The only compromise we need to make to his rules are that the Zouaves will have the same basic movement as ordinary infantry (i.e. 6" not 9"), but we will help them later in the morale rules, so it should all balance out.

To make the terrain in scenario 25 match our 6 x 6 grid, the hill will be two hexes long and 1 hex wide, while the woods will be 4 hexes in a 2 x 2 shape.

The last time I played this scenario with the full rules, no account was taken of the hill or the woods with regards to units firing through them - i.e. there are no line of sight rules in his system. I have added some simple rules so there is now formally some dead ground and places where units can escape being fired upon at range and this includes not being able to fire through friendly troops.

Also as units acrue hits, even though they may be only a couple of hits away from being removed from play, their performance was never effected and there is therefore an encouragement to just throw them at the enemy before they are lost. I was not particularly happy with that 'careless' approach to unit management, so some simple morale rules have been introduced, which also gave an opportunity to reflect the elite status that Mr. Thomas has given to Zouaves. 

Hexes also allow us to simply reflect facing and flank / rear attacks.

Finally some limited Command and Control rules have been added. They will not have a big effect on play, but here and there at the critcal moment, they may bring a nice touch of command frustration into the game.

Anyway, the reader can see all of this in the download ......... on with the action!


Schematic map as given in the book

Most of the maps in the book can give a sparse look when set out on the table. I have added some more terrain bits here and there, such as fencing and scrub, it will not have any effect on play, being totally ignored, but visually it will just help to break things up.

Turn 1.
The Confederates start with one unit in play occupying the lower hill hex. The Union enter play from the bottom left (shown by the blue arrow). In previous games I have masked the hill, but today will attack it with overwhelming numbers, just to deal with it once and for all early in the game.

conversion 6 inches to the hex

The above graphic translates into the below board. A few fences and bushes have been added just for aesthetics. The Confederate regiment is on the hill facing south.

Opening positions

The Union enter on the southern baseline 12" (two of our hexes) from the bottom left corner. The Confederates turn within the hex to face them. Because we can't exceed hex occupation (1 unit per hex) only the first two Union units can enter play on turn 1 rather than all four as required by the scenario. Units cannot fire in the turn if they have moved.

The Union turn, ready to assault the hill

Turn 2.
One Union regiment moves up, the other stays stationary and fires. The hex left empty by the moving unit allows the third Union unit to enter the board. Both sides inflict hits on each other - also under my new command and control rules, both sides test for leader loss when they are involved in attacks. in this instance, both sides lose their leaders to fire and they are replaced with new leaders with a reduced command radius.

Only one Union Regiment can fire, the other manoeuvres to get into firing position

Turn 3
Now both Union units can fire. They obviously outnumber the defender 2:1. Both sides take further hits but the Confederates have now taken 13 hits altogether. They take a morale check and fail. They must fall back one hex and suffer a further two casualties (a penalty for having to retreat), which takes their casualty tally up to 15 and so they are simply removed from play. The surviving leader is moved to the nearest friendly unit without a leader. Fortunately two Confederate Zouave units have just arrived on the northern board edge, so he is placed with one of them.

Two regiments firing at one unit gives a very clear advantage

Turn 4
Both sides advance deeper into the board. One of the regiments of Confederate Zouaves makes towards the woods for cover. Mr. Thomas uses Zouaves generically as elite units. They get +2 in fire and in my add on rules, get a +2 on their morale checks.

Zouaves make it to the woods, note their leader has a hit marker

Turn 5
The Union take the hill and the Confederate Zouaves get into the woods.

Union Zouaves press on while others are in an intense firefight

Turn 6
An interesting turn. Both sides get into firefights. The two Confederate units being Zouaves have a fire advantage. The ones in the woods will be tough to deal with because  hits against them are halved for cover, allowing them to inflict a lot of damage before they are threatened with removal from play - but here the new morale rules help smooth things out, as these units may be forced to retreat if they fail a morale check.

The Confederate leader takes a second hit and so is replaced by a leader with a command radius of zero. At the southern edge (on the road) two Confederate regiments arrive as reinforcements and an artillery battery will follow in the next turn. That Union regiment guarding the hill is going to be vulnerable.

Hoorah - timely reinforcements arrive!

Turn 7
The Confederate Zouave unit in the open (by the woods) takes too many casualties and is removed from play. Their reinforcements come off the road and form up below the hill.

Confederates prepare to assault

Turn 8
At the woods, the Zouaves only just pass their morale test thanks to their +2 bonus for being elite, but the leader is hit again, reducing his command radius to below zero and thus removing him permanently from the game. This means from now on, while the unit is beyond the command and control radius of another leader, it will have to take command and control tests when they want to move and will suffer a penalty on morale checks.

At the hill, the Union take a terrible pounding and fail their morale. They retreat back off the hill, but at least for now this protects them from further fire.

The Union fall back off the hill

Turn 9
At the woods, the combined Union fires take the Zouave casualties to 11. They fail their morale test and fall back deeper into the woods, picking up an additional 2 casualties. The Union now need to race for the exit on the northern end of the road with two units if they are to win this scenario. The Confederates on the road anticipate this and they move off to intercept the Union.

Confederates start to move northwards to protect the road exit

Turn 10
Instead ...... (yes, I was surprised and I am playing solo!), in a bold move, the Union swing across to get onto the hill and fall on the Confederate flank. Artillery cannot fire through friendlies, so they are somewhat neutralised at the moment. The Confederate regiments could turn to better meet the threat, but turning would mean no firing this turn. They decide to stay in place and concentrate their fire on the Union Zouaves in the top hill hex. They inflict 7 hits, but the Union Zouaves pass their morale test .... just!

The first flank attack of the game goes in.

Turn 11
The previously badly mauled Union unit with 12 hits, returns to the fray and score 6 hits into the flank of the Confederates below them, taking their casualties up to 10. They fail their morale (penalty for being attacked in the flank) and get an extra 2 casualties. The Union Zouaves just fire on the other unit, they really need to move instead, but they would get decimated if they did not deal with this threat in front of them now, hopefully they can force a retreat result if the Confederates fail their morale test.

The Confederate Zouaves in the wood want to move to get nearer the exit road to defend it, but being out of command they need to test for movement - they fail and must stay where they are.

This gap in the Confederate line will allow their artillery to fire on the Union

Turn 12
Both Union regiments on the hill have 12 casualties each and they are unlikely to reach the exit point in time or intact. The point becomes moot as the Union Zouaves are removed from play in the next round of fire.

A lone Union regiment makes for the exit road (top centre).

Turn 13
The victory conditions require two Union regiments to exit the board, so they cannot win now, however play continues just to see what happens. The Union get into their exit hex, but take fire from two Confederate regiments and artillery. Failing their morale check they fall back down the road and take two additional casualties.

Two confederate regiments and the artillery can hit the Union unit

Turn 14
Already at 12 casualties, the Confederate fire cause enough hits to take the Union well beyond their 15 casualty limit and they are removed from play and the game ends.

This is the third time I have played the scenario and each time the struggle has been too great for the Union. I imagine with different forces drawn at the outset, that could change, especially if the Confederate got less Zouaves and the Union more or the Union got some fast moving cavalry.

I thought the extra rules for morale, line of sight and command and control worked rather well, without breaking Neil's design.

Command and control was felt when the Zouaves in the woods could not move as the player wanted.

Line of sight gave protection to the Union when they fell back from the hill and to the Confederate Zouaves when they fell back deeper into the woods. Wargamers might naturally play with Line of Sight considerations anyway, the addition just formalises the principle and gives a mechanic that works with the hexes.

Morale played a fairly big role in the game, but essentially was only really punishing when a unit was already on its last legs. I like the way it worked to cause the otherwise powerful Zouaves in the woods to fall back and likewise the Confederate regiment hit in the flank  by the Union on the hill, fell back in a way that felt appropriate to the threat.

Design wise, I felt it important that units who fail their morale should not only fall back, but also take extra casualties, as falling back on its own might otherwise be rewarding to a defender, as it simply opens up the space between themselves and the attacker, forcing the attacker to move up and give up their fire to do so, while having to receive fire themselves in the turn that they move.

The hexes worked well to give a compact playing area and also easily determining movement, facing, flanks, terrain occupation and unit placement. 

Hexed ACW document -


  1. Excellent report. I have thought about hex conversion as well, but to 8x8 and then decided to just reduce my 2'x2' ancient rules to be able to play with 1/2 the units on a 1'x1' table, so never got further with 1HW. I owe my duaghter a second game with 1HW and have not a great urge to tinker with 1HW but the LOS seems like a given!

  2. Great stuff and very well thought out Norm! I sort of cringed when Neil called elite troops "Zouaves." While some of these units during the ACW fought well, by no means were all of them "elite." I would have preferred the term "Crack" troops for sticking with the period.

    Nice report and modifications!

  3. Thanks all. Shaun, the Line of Sight comment being 'a given' is interesting, as I think those of us who have gamed subconsciously will bring things into play, which helps the authors own brevity and so in some regards his 3 pages of rules probably equate with 5 pages or so, as we house rule without realising. On the other hand, as an intro to a newbie (and that's how I started, a solo player with a Don Featherstone book), how would they ever know to put line of sight in there? ... or would they do it subconsciously, it is interesting.

    Yes, I think the term Zouaves was a little unfortunate as it undermines the rules for the ACW enthusiast in the same way that the lack of chariots might do for the ancient player. Strictly speaking, the scenarios deliver too many Zouaves and cavalry into the game, but it seems to work from the 'teaser' Perspective.

    When I was tinkering, I thought about adding even more rules, but stopped myself , as to get caught up in that would simply miss the point of what Mr. Thomas wanted to do. I think it best simply to shift to another set of rules rather than go down that road.

  4. Great battle report and interesting tweaks to the rules.

  5. Thanks. Just a few days ago, I ordered a printed version of the rules. I have had it on my Kindle since publication, but I reckon over time, these will be sought after and I am coming to the conclusion that I prefer rule books in my hands and not on an e-reader.

  6. The file for your modifications to the rules isn't working anymore. Any chance you could send it to me or put it back up?

  7. Ryan, I have corrected the link. No idea why the file went from the DropBox and I had to do some hunting to get a copy to re-upload, so thanks for highlighting. Please comment back if you use and like the material. Cheers Norm.

    1. Thanks! I am trying to modify the Horse and Musket rules for a hex grid. You saved me a considerable amount of work.
      I'm also considering changing how combat works so that each unit doesn't need to be trailed by so many dice. I'm thinking about using the sum of 2D6 with modifiers for terrain and unit types. Units would have two morale states, ordered and disordered. Disordered units would have a negative modifier applied to everything they do.
      If Defender is ordered and attacker rolls
      <6 then no effect
      7-9 then defender becomes disordered
      10+ then defender becomes disordered & retreats one tile
      If defender is disordered and the attacker rolls
      < 6 then defender regains order
      7-9 then defender must retreat one tile
      10+ then defender is eliminated

      I think this will reduce some clutter on the board, shorten game time, and still provide some uncertainty.

    2. Hi Ryan, glad the file helped and that sounds a good approach. At least with just the states of order / disorder, you can show disorder without markers just by skewing the bases a bit.

  8. I just took a look at the hex-grid modification to OHW rules and they really look interesting. I just started a home-grown ACW solo campaign using OHW rules on a non-gridded map. I like the hex grid occasionally. Can't wait to try these rules.

    Just an observation re OHW rules. I use a roster book/page to record hits to each unit, and it is not too cumbersome considering the overall number of units involved in the game. I've tried dice, pieces of paper with numbers, anything I could think of to keep track of hits on the board. To me they were distracting. To each his own I guess.

  9. I agree that a roster for a game that only has 10 - 12 units in total is fine. Here I used 10mm dice and feel they are too distracting for the figure size.

  10. Thanks. I had already started an ACW campaign (battles using OHW rules), and interjected the morale rules you added. They do spice up the game nicely. I had thought something like that was needed (really, with 14 hits already, and you can score six hits on an enemy unit? I didn't think so). Fortunately your rules work out perfectly and I don't have to think up something. Now I'll try out the command & control rules. In the past, with only a couple of exceptions, I've found these kinds of rules to be cumbersome and a distraction. But some kind of C & C is needed. I'll give your rules a go. Thanks for the ideas.


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