Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Sunday, 5 December 2021

A Simple Neil Thomas Horse & Musket Game

Inspired by the recent battles on the Wargaming Addict blog, and having a little time and space in hand, I decided to have a go at the first scenario from Neil Thomas' classic One Hour Wargames (OHW) book.


It really is a masterwork of scenarios stripped down to their barest.  The first scenario, a straight-up pitched battle, is loosely based on the Battle of Ceresole but has much wider applications.  Although the rules in OHW are pretty good, I much prefer his Simplicity in Practice (SiP) rules, published back in Battlegames 23.


Having recently painted up some basic WSS armies, I set this scenario as part of a French-backed Jacobite rebellion 'somewhere in Ireland'.

The OHW book has a force generator, which resulted in the following:

British Army: 
3 Infantry units,  1 Light Infantry unit, 2 Cavalry units.
French Army:
3 Infantry units, 1 Artillery unit, 2 Light Infantry units.

However, 'light infantry' units don't really suit these armies for the WSS, so I made these Dragoons instead.  Dragoons are catered for in SiP, but I made one slight change - Dragoons could operate as light infantry instead, but took a turn to convert between roles.  The advantage of that is that light infantry are the only troop type in the rules that can move and fire (or fire and move). 

The actual orders of battle therefore were:

British Army: 
3 Infantry units,  1 Dragoon unit, 2 Cavalry units.
French Army:
3 Infantry units, 1 Artillery unit, 2 Dragoon units.

The Set-Up:

A very straightforward battlefield, with both armies' positions being based on a hill facing each other across a flat terrain.

The British set-up: Horse (left) on the Right Flank, Foot in the Centre, the Dragoons (top-right) on the Left.

The French have their Foot and Artillery on the hill, with some Dragoons supporting.  The French Right (top-left) is composed of infantry, whilst the remaining Dragoons (right) are on the Left.

A closer view of the French troops on the hill.

The Battle:

The British Dragoons approach the French Right, but the disciplined musketry of the French starts bringing down some of the riders.

A wider view of the early stages of the battle: the British, lacking any artillery, have been forced to attack, with the Horse (left) and Dragoons (right) pressing forward to try and press the French flanks before the infantry assault.

The British Horse drive back the French Dragoons with heavy losses (right); the remaining French Dragoons (top-centre) have dismounted on the edge of the hill to prevent the French central position from being turned.

A wider view: note that the British Dragoons have pulled back (top-left) in the face of French infantry fire.  The British Foot (centre) is coming to grips with the French centre, facing the unenviable task of attacking support guns uphill.

And sure enough, as the sound of French musketry rings out across the battlefield, the British infantry and cavalry all start taking significant casualties.

'French' infantry (actually an Irish/English Catholic regiment) face off with their artillery against the British Foot in a musketry duel

However, the dismounted French Dragoons on the Left (right) have been charged again and put to the sword!

Their fellow dragoons on the hill are causing serious losses to the supporting British Horse (bottom-left), however, driving off an attempted charge in some style.

British musketry starts to tell on the hill's defenders (right); however, the withdrawal of the British Dragoons has emboldened the Franco-Jacobite commander to advance his right-hand infantry regiment to threaten the British Right (top)

The French musketry proves the more effective however and the British losses mount across the line

The remaining French Dragoons very boldly move forward to see of the British Horse with the accuracy of their musketry!

Sensing the moment had come, the Franco-Jacobite commander orders a bayonet charge in the centre!

The suffering redcoats are killed, captured or driven off in the devastating attack!

There is now a large gap between the remnants of the British Right (bottom-right) and its reserves and Left (top left-centre)

However, the British are far from finished yet, and another successful cavalry charge has thrown back the remaining French Dragoons (centre)

The battle has become very disjointed, with the British in entirely different corners of the battlefield; in the centre a Scottish bayonet charge surprisingly failed (centre) and things are now looking grim for the British...

The British cavalry charge the disordered French Dragoons...and see them off in short order.

However, the French infantry charge the disordered Scots who run for the rear!

The remaining British Dragoons try to stop the French advance with dismounted musketry, but it is a very long shot...

Risking all, the British cavalry attempt to sweep the French from the hill; unfortunately they have already suffered quite severe losses and the odds are not that favourable...

However, they capture or dismount half the guns, the survivors falling back off the hill (right)

A wider shot

French musketry continues to prove superior to that of its British opponents...

And the few remaining British Horse prepare for another, and very desperate charge.

Charge they do...

But the Franco-Jacobite infantry (Royal-Ecossais) holds firm and drives the Britsh Horse off!

The British Army has been entirely dispersed and victory is in the hands of the Franco-Jacobites!

Game Notes: A very enjoyable game, it was great to get some toys on the table again, and in this case, some new toys too.  The scenario delivered and so did the rules - mainly.  I really like the structure and simplicity of the rules, I like the firing and movement rules - but I forgot how much I think that the calibration of the melee system, as opposed to the system itself, is very, very wonky.  But that aside, it did work well. Anyway, after I have looked up my amendments from last time I played with these rules, I am really looking forward to getting onto the next scenario!  Some changes at home have left me more hopeful that doing this kind of small game should be possible quite regularly.

Figures are from the Baccus 6mm WSS range.


  1. Good run out of the troops. Do the rules still use the ‘15 casualties’ element of OHW? It is a shame that we are not seeing more new stuff from the pen of Neil Thomas.

    1. Thanks Norm. No, these use a 4 strength points mechanic, rather more like that in his other books, but using an extra die roll. So rather than "lose one of four bases for every four hits received", it is "for every 1-4 hits received, make a weighted die roll to see if you lose a strength point". I think it is the best of his systems, and works better for my 1 unit = 1 base armies.

      And agreed - I always look forward to a Neil Thomas book or article.

  2. The melee system in SiP is indeed a bit wonky but easy enough to fix. I think they are a fine set of rules, but if using the OHW scenario generator I'd probably increase the unit count by 50%

  3. Great to see that my humble efforts have inspired you get get some games in with these scenarios. They are perfect for quick set up games and I agree that using more units tends to give a better game. 8 - 12 units works well for me with the rules I used and most games are over in under two hours, probably less if I didn't stop to take notes and photos. Looking forward to more of the same from you:)

    1. One of the best things about the blogosphere is reading a post and thinking, ooh, I could do that - so I am going to. Thanks Steve.

  4. The Scenario generator in OHW is the best feature. With a bit if thought you can bolt two together, and double up the game. The rules themselves - I don't know SIP - deliver an outcome, but do have some fundamental flaws. Luckily these can be fixed with some simple changes.

    1. Agreed. I think that your comment pretty much stands for all Neil Thomas' rulesets, both the negative and the positive sides.