Friday, March 25, 2011

One from the Archives: Morschauser Meets MacDuff

 While writing up a troop capability chart for HofT, I was reminded of my 1st kick at the Morschauser inspired rules can. I thought these might be some interest to some readers.  (A word file is available if anyone wants it.)  I had some very enjoyable games with these, no doubt that's why I felt the need to change them so much? Interesting to compare these with the nearly finished 2011 version of Hearts of Tin see how far the rules have come, or not. 
Toy Soldier Horse and Musket Wargame Rules
31 Jan 2003
It has been less than 2 years since I first encountered Joseph Morschauser's How to Play Wargames in Miniature published in 1962, less than 10 years before I went from playing with toy soldiers to playing wargames. An amazing oversight since this is one of the earliest publications on miniature wargames for adults. All of the wargame rules of that era that I was familiar were of British origins and were based on the use of single figures. In some cases movement stands were recommended or troops could be mounted in multiples as long as some singles were left to "make change" but always it was a case of "counting noses" as I liked to put it. It was years before I encountered the idea of stands or elements as the basis of combat (Simon MacDowell's "Deus Veault" being the first I encountered). After years of increasingly sophisticated rules and various basing systems I was attracted back to my roots and abandoning my multi figure bases and complex morale rules, I developed "With MacDuff To the Frontier" as a set of large skirmish/small battle rules drawing heavily on those simplistic early British sets that had been my introduction to gaming. The reults have provided me with many enjoyable and some memorable games but I found that as the size of the games grew, it became next to impossible to reach a conclusion in an evening and I began to cast about for a comparable bigger battle set of rules. It was at this point I was introduced to Joseph Morschauser.
These rules approach things very differently from the traditional British games. Troops are mounted more or less as decorations onto bases which are embued with various combat and movement capabilities. The resulting games are fast and bloody (in the original, all melees continue immediately until 1 side is eliminated) and very generic but surprisingly (to me at least) do tend to reward sound military principles such as concentration, surprise and so on. They also seem to be flexible enough to provide the basis of a game as complex or as simple as one desires. After laying out the basic rules Morschauser suggests some advanced rules and encourages gamers to adapt the rules to suit their own taste. In this spirit, I have attempted to keep as much of the original rules as possible while allowing for a little of the additional sophistication to which I have become accustomed over the last 30 years. Hopefully I have struck a balance that will allow an enjoyable fast paced game with just a bit more historical period flavour while maintaining at least some of the feel of those early days but I also encourage players to add to or subtract from the rules to suit themselves only reminding them of his stricture: Be sure to advise your opponant of any rule changes before the game begins!

A. Preparing for battle.
1. Unit Organisation. These rules are designed to work, not with individual soldiers, but with stands of troops referred to as companies. Each stand represents about 50 to 150 infantry, 1/2 that number of light infantry or cavalry, 2-4 guns with their crews and equipment or a general and his staff. Each company has a number of strength points. Generally when fighting a die is rolled for each strength point and 1 strength point is eliminated for each hit. When a company is reduced to 0 strength, it is removed from play. Theoretically the strength of a stand is not related to the number of figures glued to it but that does make a handy way of differentiating. The stands may be of any size but should be the same size on both sides. For my 42mm armies, I am using 60mm by 60mm squares with 4-6 infantry, 2-3 cavalry or 1 gun and crew. For my 54's I have stubbornly kept the same frontage and just increased the depth as needed for guns and cavalry. (3"x3" bases are recommended)
Companies may be further organised into regiments up to 5 companies strong and can further be assigned to the command of a general. In the basic game that really doesn't mean anything but in the advanced rules regiments and brigade and divison commanders are given a role to play.

2. Scales. Morschauser did not give any scale to his rules and indeed after laying out a structure of 5 companies to a regiment proceeds to propose armies of 6 regiments to fight the great battles of history. Based on his weapon ranges I have determined that aground scale of between 1"=15 yds up to 1"=25 yds would work. From this I have determined the number of men per stand. I do not, however, intend to be bound for this, but rather, in the tradition of earlier days am prepared to refight the great battles of history with greatly reduced armies or skirmishes with too many men present. For large battles it might be best to treat each regiment as a brigade and each brigade as a division. In that case you may want to paint each companies as a seperate historical unit.
3. Troop Types. The following basic troops are defined (note this is expanded from the original). More variations are added in the advanced section.
a. Line Infantry: The bulk of most armies composed of men armed with muskets or rifles fighting in line, column or square.
b. Light Infantry: Infantry operating in looser fashion, capable of fighting in rough terrain. Could be irregulars in swarms or trained skirmishers with supports. Although some troops were capable of fighting in either close or open order, for this game, the choice to be infantry or light infantry must be made before the start of the game. eg a Napoleonic brigade will often be fielded as a mix of Infantry and Light Infantry companies.
c. Heavy Cavalry: Shock cavalry relying on cold steel or close range fire.
d. Light Cavalry: Most other cavalry, operating in loose formations or with skirmishers and sometimes using firearms at long range.
e. Artillery: The bulk of most nations artillery using guns from 6pdrs to 12 pdrs.
i. Engineer: Pioneers and the like trained to doengineering tasks.
j. Baggage: Wagons etc

4. Troop Capabilities:


 Hits On

Line Infantry
Musket 6"

Rifle 18”

Light Infantry
Musket 12"
5, 6

Rifle 18”



Light Cavalry
Carbine 6”

Cannister: 12"

Shot/Shell 36”

Musket 6”

Rifle 18"


5. Sequence of play: Once the battlefield has been set up, armies chosen etc and deployed as the scenario or game calls for, the 2 opposing commanders dice off with the higher one choosing to move first or second. this sequence lasts for the entire game unless both players agree to dice again each turn.
During each turn, each company may move and fight as per the rules. Each company or group of companies resolves any shooting, melee and movement before going on to the next group.
1. Movement. A company may pivot any number of times per turn and may move up to its maximum move. Terrain may modify the distance moved.
2. Movement and combat. A company may move and then shoot or shoot and then move. A unit which shoots then moves may not charge. A unit which melees then moves cannot then shoot. A unit in melee range cannot shoot. Artillery which makes a road move cannot shoot.
3. Charges. A charge is any move to within 3" of an enemy company. Artillery, engineers and wagons cannot charge. Once a company moves within 3" of the enemy it must either halt or move towards that enemy. It must then initiate melee. To count as a flank attack, a company must be completely behind the front of the company it is attacking, before it comes within 3". A unit cannot conduct long range shooting then charge.

4. Shooting. .Shooting represents long range fire. Close range fire is included in the melee factor. A unit within 3" of the enemy must resolve melee rather than shooting. Roll 1 die per strength point and consult the unit capability chart to see if any hits were scored. Terrain and advanced troop qualities may effect the score to hit. A unit which is in melee cannot be targeted by shooting.
5. Line of Sight. Normally all shooting is line of sight. ie there must not be terrain or enemy or freindly troops in between the firer and the target. Howitzers may fire over freindly units or into the middle of a wood using shell only but only hit on a 6. Artillery on a hill may fire shot and shell only over freindly troops on lower ground if these are closer to the firing unit than to the target.
6. Melee. A melee is combat between units within 3" of each other. A unit must charge to move within 3" (see above). If it does so it must attack an enemy unit, once the combat is resolved it may not move again. If a unit begins its move within 3" of enemy, it must attack but after the combat is resolved it may retreat or if there are no enemy left within 3" it may advance but it may not charge a fresh enemy or shoot. For each strength point on each side, roll 1 die. If attacked from behind the flank use the rear melee value. If the score is equal to or less than the units melee value, 1 hit is placed on the enemy it is meleeing. The unit being attacked fights back simultaneously. Add 1 to a company's Melee value if a Bold or Rash general has attached himself. A unit may only initiate 1 round of combat each turn but may fight back as often as it is attacked. If both sides inflict the same number of hits on each other then then melee is drawn, otherwise the unit which took the most hits must immediately retreat a full move.
1. Roads. If a company begins its move on a road, it may add 50% to its move as long as the move is entirely along the road.
2. Woods. Artillery, wagons and cavalry may not enter woods. If any part of a Line Infantry company's move is through woods then its total move for that turn is restricted to 6".
No unit may shoot through woods. A unit on the edge can shoot and be shot at but subtract 1 from the scores that hit when shooting at units in woods. A unit which can enter a wood may melee attack a unit in the wood but 1 is subtracted from its melee value.
3. Hills. Gentle hills do not affect movement. Troops climbing steep hills move 1 contour per turn when climbing or descending. Troops behind a hill or on the reverse slope cannot be fired at. Units attacking uphill reduce their melee value by 1.
4. Streams and Rivers. Unfordable rivers may only be crossed by boats or bridge. When crossing fordable streams and rivers, a company must halt when it enters the water and cannot shoot. On the next turn it may move normally. If a unit is forced to melee against a unit on the bank, lower its melee value by 1.
5. Towns. Only line and light infantry can enter a town except to pass through on a road. If any part of their move is off road in a town, then their entire move is restricted to 6"
No unit may shoot through a town. Infantry on the edge of a town may fire out and be shot at but subtract 2 from the score to hit of the unit firing at them. . A unit which can enter a town may melee attack a unit in the town but 1 is subtracted from its melee value. When artillery hits a town, roll an extra die, if that die is 6 then the town has caught fire. All troops must leave the town on their next move. The town will burn for the rest of the game.
6. Fortifications. Earthworks are treated like towns except that artillery may be placed in them and they do not catch fire. High walls cannot be attacked unless storming parties are equipped with ladders in which case the attacking unit uses its flank value until it moves onto the wall or unless the wall is breached. A breach may only be created by a heavy gun or by an engineer blowing in a gate or by exploding a mine (must be laid before the game starts). To create the breach a heavy gun must be within 12" and roll a 6. The engineer must move into contact, survive a round of melee then roll a 4,5 or 6. Troops attacking a breach subtract 1 from their melee value.
7. Other terrain. Other terrain features should be defined by the game organiser. for example, most marshes are impassable but might be defined as crossable by light infantry. A high cornfield may block line of sight until trampled by units moving through. Low walls, fences and the like may restrict a units move to 6". Normally light infantry are not slowed by walls and the like. If a wall provides substantial cover then reduce the score required to hit by 1 when shooting at a unit taking cover and reduce the melee value of attackers by 1. An obstacle like an abatis might reduce an attacking company's melee value by 1.
A game should have specific objectives for each side and some form of time limit. This will prevent an endless fight to the finish. If desired or if playing a quick pick up game then the first side to lose 1/2 of its companies loses the game and must retreat.
1. Formed Regiments. If 2 or more stands of a line infantry or heavy cavalry regiment are touching, this is considered a formed regiment. All of the companies move together, take any morale or command tests as 1 and may distribute hits from shooting.
2. Command Control. All regiments and independant companies must be assigned to the command of a general. As each independant/detached company or formed battalion attempts to move , roll 1 die. A general may add or sutract 1 to the die for units under his command within 12" and in his line of sight.
5,6 Impetuous troops must charge unless in fortifications. Cautious troops may not charge. Otherwise obey orders.
3,4 Obey orders
1,2 No advance. The unit may shoot and if within melee range must melee attack as normal. If a formed regiment in column, companies in the rear may be brought up into line.
Personality. All player generals are bold. For others roll 1 die the first time it needs to be known. 6=Rash: must add, 5=Indecisive: does not modify the dice, 3,4 Bold: may add or subtract, 1,2 =Cautious, may only subtract.
3. Morale. At the start of a turn, if a general has lost 1/2 of the companies in his brigade, then each remaining company or formed regiment must roll a die. (Note this test is only taken once per brigade)
5,6 About face and move off the board by the most direct path while avoiding enemy, not shoot or charge but will defend if meleed.
3,4 Obey orders,
1,2 Retreat 1 move. (This uses the units move for that turn.)
4. Rallying Troops. Many of the casulties suffered in combat will be stragglers, men helping wonded to the rear, battle shock and the like. If at the start of a turn, a company or formed regiment is not within melee distance of any enemy and is joined by its brigadier or a higher general then roll 1 die. If the result is 5 or 6 the unit is rallied, remove 1/2 of the hits from those companies present. Round fractions down. This does not stop a unit from moving or fighting this turn.
Modifiers: Charismatic general +1, Elite or stubborn troops +1, Militia -1
5. Risk to generals. A general may only be shot at if he is the closest target. If a general attaches himself to a unit which fights in melee. 1 enemy die should be rolled against him.
6. Infantry squares. If 2 or more infantry companies are in base to base contact back to back or back to side and do not move then they are forming a square and do not have a flank. Cavalry attacking a square use their flank value.
7. Aditional Troop types.
a) Elite troops such as as Guards and converged Grenadiers have their frontal and flank melee values increased by 1. Melee value may never be higher than 5. Light infantry designated as sharpshooter units hit on 4,5 or 6.
b) Militia and poor troops should have their melee value reduced by 1. Melee value is never less than 1.
c) Inferior firepower. When playing transition games where one side had superior firepower (eg Crimea), reduce the weaker side's to hit roll to 6 only.
d) Battalion guns. Light manhandled guns that were sometimes used to accompany infantry only have a 24" range and 1 strength point. they move 9" per turn.
e) Horse artillery. Moves 24" a turn.
f) Early Artillery. Artillery without military drivers may not move and shoot during the same turn.
g) Heavy Artillery. Moves 6" per turn. Has 3 strength points. When firing at towns only reduce the hit score by 1 instead of 2.
h) Howitzers. May fire overhead as per line of sight rules. Maximum range is 24"
i) Rifled Artillery. Long range is 48" Cannister hits on 3,4,5,6
j.) Special troops: Players should feel free to design new troop variations to suit the campaign they are fighting. For example Jacobite Highlanders: Treat as light infantry but melee factor of 4 if charging, hit on a 6 when shooting. Early 19th century Egyptian Fellahin: Light infantry with no shooting capability, only close combat.
k.) Engineering. Certain tasks such as building or destroying bridges require a stand of engineers and a wagon with supplies. Rules will need to be drawn up for the particular task.
l.) Impetuous troops. Troops designated as impetuous are likely to charge without orders.
m.) Cautious troops. Troops designated as cautious may refuse to charge.
n.) Stubborn troops. Stubborn troops will rally more easily.
8. Pursuit. This is an exception to the normal only 1 attack rule. If a cavalry unit charges and eliminates its opponant or forces it to retreat, then the cavalry may advance 3" and melee another unit.

1 comment:

  1. Ross Mac,

    A very interesting blog entry that I intend to copy and add to my Morchauser archive.

    All the best,