Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Messing around with OHW Napoleonic rules

The next English Civil War campaign game did not make it onto the tabletop this weekend. It was meant to, but I was happily messing around with some Napoleonic rule modifications the One Hour Wargame Horse and Musket rules. This included play testing the rules using the scenario Action at Blast-off Bridge from CHARGE!

A game using the scenario Action at Blast-off Bridge
Some of the variations to Neil Thomas's OHW rule set include:

  • D3 dice (1,1,2,2,3,3) are used to provide only three combat values: below average, average, or above average.
  • When in cover the number of hits a unit can take before elimination are increased, rather than reducing the effectiveness of shooting. Hopefully forcing a commander to commit units to holding a position or pullout early.
  • A reduction in movement for infantry units after losing one base, which is trying to inhibit the movement of exhausted units and hopefully encouraging the use of reserves.
  • Combat for cavalry charges is simultaneous with the defending unit being able to shoot or  counter charge if cavalry.
  • Dicing for random battle events to create “friction” during the game. Inspired by the solo gaming chapter of the OHW book.

A close up of the shiny Spencer Smiths


The game has the following units:

Infantry: Close formed with 2 bases
Skirmishers: Light infantry with 1 base
Cavalry: 2 bases
Artillery: 1 Base
Commander: 1 Base

Some units have 2 bases which are placed one behind each other when deployed.

Unit Resolve

A base is removed after taking 4 hits. If the unit is in cover, then remove after 6 hits.

Note - shooting is not effected by cover. Instead a unit’s resolve is increased. If a unit leaves cover the hits are applied immediately which may mean a unit is eliminated.

Optional rule - veteran units have a resolve of 5(7) hits and levy units 3(5) hits. The numbers in brackets are used when in cover.

Sequence of Play

Players take turns activate all or some of their units during their turn. During a turn a player follows the steps below:

  1. Battle events
  2. Movement
  3. Shooting
  4. Charges
  5. Eliminating units

Battle Events

Battle events are unexpected opportunities or challenges a commander faces during the game. Each turn roll a D6 and compare the result with the events below:

  1. Confusion - no units can move or charge. Units are only allowed to shoot or turn.
  2. Initiative - a unit within 12” of commander can make two actions (move twice, move and shoot, shoot twice, or move and charge)
  3. Ammunition Shortage - artillery cannot shoot
  4. Rally - Reduce hits by D3 hits for one base within 12” of commander
  5. Demoralisation - one infantry or cavalry unit which has lost a base must retire a full move this turn.
  6. Reserves - bring on a reserve unit. If no reserves left, then no event takes place.

Battle events last for the duration of a player’s turn.


Units may move up to the distances listed below during their turn.

Artillery and Infantry (1 base): 6”
Infantry (2 bases) and skirmishers: 9”
Cavalry and Commanders: 12”

Turning: Units may pivot on their central point at the start and/or end.

Woods - Only skirmishers can enter.
Towns - only Infantry & Skirmishers may end a move in a town.
Marsh/Lake - impassable.
Rivers - Can be only crossed via bridges & fords. It takes a full move to cross.
Streams - cannot be crossed by artillery. All other units take a full move to cross.
Difficult terrain - only Infantry & Skirmishers can enter.
Hills - all units can move onto hills.

Interpenetration: only Skirmishers can pass through other units and vice-versa.


Units that have moved cannot shoot, and cavalry cannot shoot. The procedure for shooting is as follows:

Check field of fire - units can only shoot at a single unit within 45 degree of their frontal facing side. Units in towns have a 360 degree field of fire.

Measure the range - infantry and skirmishers have a range of 6” and artillery 24”.

Assess hits - units roll a D3 dice when shooting with the following adjustments:

Infantry 0” to 6” roll a D3
Artillery (canister) 0” to 6” range roll a D3
Artillery 6” to 24” range roll D3-1
Skirmisher 0” to 6” roll a D3-1

Artillery cannot fire on other artillery units unless positioned on a hill.

All units deployed in towns always shoot D3-1.

Cavalry Charges

Only cavalry units may charge into combat with the following restrictions:

  • Can pivot up to 45 degrees before charging.
  • Can only attack a single unit.
  • Cannot charge infantry formed in a square or any form of cover.

Combat is simultaneous with the defending unit shooting providing they are allowed, or if cavalry counter charging forward 3”. Cavalry units roll D3 dice with the following adjustments:

  • Minus 1 from the score if the target is cavalry or is uphill.
  • Add 1 if the attacking cavalry unit has two bases.

If cavalry are attacking the flank or rear of a unit, or attacking a skirmish unit. Then the number of hits are doubled.

After the hits are applied. If the defending unit is not eliminated, then cavalry retire 6”.

Infantry Square

Infantry with 2 bases may form square. Cavalry cannot charge infantry in squares.


Artillery deployed within 1” of infantry cannot be charged by cavalry, but can be shot at.

Artillery units cannot shoot at other artillery units.


Reserve units are lined up in the order they will arrive. They are placed on the table top from the players base edge whenever a player rolls a 6 on battle event list.

As a “rule of thumb” between a third to half of a player’s force should be in reserve. When playing scenarios from OHW, I have added one artillery, infantry and cavalry unit as reserves to those already on the tabletop.

Having looked at the old photos in CHARGE! I now really want to increase the number of officers and ensigns in Napoleonic forces. Not for any wargaming reason, but just for the look.


  1. It has been a long time since I had OHW out on the table but I recall the Active player did all of the moving and shooting without any response from the Inactive player. Have you introduced a limited response for cavalry only? That is, a cavalry unit charged may counter charge and battle back in his opponent's half of the turn?

    1. I am playing with 7 to 10 units per side and the gap between turns is a few minutes, which I do not notice as I play solo. However, it could be argued the shooting step is not variable but is instead moral/unit resolve checks made by the defending player who would roll the dice.
      At the moment cavalry are the only unit that reacts when charged.

  2. Some inspiring material there. Increasing hits in cover and reducing flexibility/movement with exhausting units really adds to these rules.

    1. Thank you. Both variation seem to be working ok in the games played so far.

  3. All good, that is a nice sized game. I like Random Event Tables in games.

    I have no idea what the impact would be, but when I saw your D3 1,1,2,2,3,3, I did wonder whether 1,2,2,2,2,3 as a truer average dice (if indeed you want an average dice) would be more useful ..... though less dynamic and possibly frustratingly too predictable too often.

    1. I have been tempted to use average dice rather than a D6, but the plus or minus 2 in the original rules deterred me. However, which cover effects being moved into unit resolve I may give it a go.
      As a solo player the random events are working well.

  4. I REALLY like your idea of increasing the number of hits a unit in cover can take! It's such an elegant way of representing units 'going to ground' in cover and then being almost impossible to get them to move out - I know I would want to stay where I felt safe. I shall very likely steal this one!

    1. Increasing the unit resolve in cover has produced the desired results on the tabletop. By all means reuse.

  5. Another really interesting set of rules Peter. I like the Battle Events, great for solo games.

    1. Thanks. I have been trying to get the right balance with the events so they create friction without influencing the game too much.

  6. Wonderful set of rules ideas. I wonder if it could be tweaked to allow for French infantry to charge in column? Eg a melee benefit of +1, but then they suffer 1 more if shot at in the opponent''s next bound??

    1. Thank you. Having a rule for columns to charge has been in and out of these rules. One idea I presently have and need to test out is - if a defending unit is eliminated any attacking column immediately advances to occupy the vacant ground.

  7. Nice one Peter, I look forward to giving these a go!