Sunday, 28 February 2010

Morschauser – The way ahead?

In his comment about yesterday’s blog entry with the same title, Jim Wright made the following points:
‘I have only two questions concerning your commander conundrum.

Do you really want them in your game?

Do you really need them in your game?

Or is this want/need a reflection of you being influenced by years of using rules that had command thingies of one flavor or another.

We are a product of our environment. Maybe so?

Are commanders necessary to make the game fun for you?

If yes, then take the simplest course of action that makes you happy. That is all that matters. It is your game. Be happy.

I think all our suggestions are merely confusing the issue and causing you to pause on the road to a fun game.'
As ever, Jim has managed to get to the nub of the problem in one go. I had got myself so tied up in trying to write a set of rules based on those written by Joseph Morschauser and trying to add bits of probably unnecessary ‘chrome’ to make them appeal to a wider audience, that I had lost sight of why I was actually going through the process.

So what am I trying to do?
  • I want to write a set of simple, fast-play wargames rules based on those written by Joseph Morschauser
  • I want to be able to use the rules for solo battles as well as face-to-face battles
  • I want to use a gridded battlefield to reduce the amount of time spent measuring movement and ranges (and the associated disagreements that can occur in face-to-face battles)
  • I want to be able to use my existing collection of 15mm 19th century figures, most of which are based on 40mm wide multi-figure bases
  • I want to be able to have some means of representing an army’s commander on the battlefield, and I want that commander to be able to exert some influence on events as they unfold
  • Finally, I am writing these rules for my own personal use, not for anyone else; if other people want to use the rules – either as they stand or modified to meet their own requirements – this should be possible but should not be a defining factor in what I include or chose not to include in the rules
I have written my specification; all I have to do now is write my rules!

Saturday, 27 February 2010

In praise of another blog ...

I follow quite a lot of other blogs, and I continually draw inspiration from them. Some of them a written by people I know or with whom I am in contact on a regular basis – for example A WARGAMING ODYSSEY, GATHERING OF THE HOSTS, JOY AND FORGETFULNESS, MEGABLITZ & MORE, THE GAMES WE PLAY, WARGAMING FOR GROWN-UPS, and BATTLE GAME OF THE MONTH – whilst others are written by people that I only know via their blog.

One of the latter is MRFARROW2U(PLUS JACK & AMYS!!) DBA 1500 ONWARDS PAGE. I always enjoy reading the blog entries written by 'Mr Farrow', and I await each one with great anticipation because I know that they are going to be excellent. The most recent one is no exception.

The latest action fought out across the 'pages' of his blog is a refight of the battle between the Imperial Japanese Army and the Samurai army that is featured in the film THE LAST SAMURAI. The course of the battle is re-told in an exciting and inspiring manner, and kit is an exemplar of how it can and should be done.

Maximum marks 'Mr Farrow'!

Morschauser – The way ahead?

I had been studiously avoiding anything to do with Joseph Morschauser’s rules – and my various adaptations of them – for the past few days in order to come back to them with a clear mind. This has not been easy, as I had had several emails or comments on my various blog entries about the rules and I had felt duty bound to read and respond to them.

Today I felt that I had both the time and the inclination to revisit the situation, and before I did so I briefly summarised the suggestions that had been made so far. They were as follows:
  • Omit Commanders altogether; this is what Joseph Morschauser had done in order to keep his game as simple as possible.
  • Represent command and control by a different means that does not involve having the army Commanders represented on the battlefield.
  • Have one Commander for each side who can defend themselves if attacked, and who can give an additional combat die to any Unit they are orthogonally adjacent to.
  • Make the Commander just like any other Unit, but give them the ability to influence events by restricting the number of playing cards they can deal and allowing them to support other Units they are close to during combat (N.B. this is similar to the previous proposal but does allow the Command Unit to initiate combat rather than just defend itself).
  • Allow a Commander to activate any Unit they are with at any point during a turn; this would enable them to show personal leadership in battle but would make them more likely to get killed.
These are all excellent suggestions. Some are mutually exclusive, others are not, and what I had to do is to decide which – if any – I was going to follow.

However, before I was able to make that decision I received an email that has made me think again. It came to me second-hand (i.e. via an intermediary) from someone who writes that they have been using Joseph Morschauser’s rules for many years. I assume that the person who originated the email is probably not a regular reader of my blog, may not be on a regular Internet user (hence the email being sent via someone else), and that they are certainly of a similar or slightly older age to myself. The gist of what they wrote is as follows:
  • He had heard about the work I had done developing Morschauser's rules, and had been given a printout of the relevant blog entries by someone who knew of his interest in the rules.
  • He had used the rules as written in Joseph Morschauser’s HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE almost since he started wargaming, and that most of his wargaming was solo.
  • He had never used a gridded tabletop, but thought that what I had done with the rules to get them to work with a squared grid made sense.
  • He did not see why I had stopped using multi-figure bases and moved over to single figure bases; if I wanted to make the game last longer, why not use the roster system?
  • He had used the roster system for a time, but in the end went back to the original ‘its dead or its not dead’ system.
  • At this point he also mentioned that at first he had misread Morschauser’s roster rules, and had thrown only one die per Unit until it was destroyed. As a result the battles did last much longer, but tended to end up as massive skirmishes. He also pointed out that throwing one die per Unit was quicker than one die per figure, and that the end result was not that different, especially if I continued to use the ‘saving throws’ I had introduced.
  • He could not understand why I was bothering with Commanders (he called them Commanding Generals) as they seemed to be making things too complicated.
  • He then asked why I hadn’t stuck with what Morschauser had written in his book as this made sense; Morschauser had done a lot of work over a long time to develop the rules, and had only added the section that covered Commanding Generals as part of the optional Morale rules.
  • He ended by saying that he was glad to see that someone else had realised how good Morschauser’s rules were, and that it was about time that his contribution to the hobby was recognised.
This is all very interesting and thought-provoking stuff. The gentleman who wrote this email is obviously something of a Morschauser purist – and I have absolutely nothing against that – and probably does not like some of the things that I have done with the rules. He does, however, make some very important points that I need to think about.

In some ways I am more confused now than I was before this email arrived, but in others I can begin to see things somewhat clearer. What I need to do is to go back to first principles, re-read Joseph Morschauser’s book, and then decide what I want to do next. The way ahead is beginning to get clearer ... but is not yet totally clear.

Yet another book to read!

During today's foray to the local shops I managed to get half an hour in Falconwood Transport & Military Bookshop, where I bought a copy of Terry Gander's MACHINE GUNS (The Crowood Press Ltd. [2003] ISBN 1 86126 580 8) for £10.00, which is about half the original price.

I discovered this bookshop some years ago, and it is without doubt a little goldmine. Although it is only open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday it is well worth making a visit to. The proprietor does go to lots of air and vehicle shows, and also sells on eBay. If you are ever in South East London on one of the days it is open, I recommend that you pay it a visit.

The contact details are:
Falconwood Transport & Military Bookshop
5 Falconwood Parade, The Green, Welling, Kent DA16 2PL
Tel: 020 8303 8291

The following maps show its location.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Model bargains

The past few days have been a bit hectic. Work and other commitments have rather eaten into my time for wargaming and blogging. I have, however, managed to fit in a bit of shopping into my busy schedule.

Last night my wife and I visited our local, large shopping centre to do the weekly food shopping. As usual we also made sure that we set aside a bit of time for ourselves whilst we were there, and I spent mine visiting a branch of Modelzone.

They are currently having a sale of plastic kits, and these included several models manufactured by Pegasus Hobbies. The one that caught my eye was the 'Jaguarundi', which was a projected design by Porsche for a small tank to be built for the Wehrmacht in 1946. The project was also known as 'P245-010', and the hull and turret look more akin to a 1930s Science Fiction concept for a tank than a serious design developed as a result of six years of combat experience.

That said, the turret looked like it had been taken from an 19th century ironclad, and therefore has potential modelling uses. As there were two models in each box, and Modelzone were selling them for £2.99 per box, I bought three.

On getting them home I discovered that the trackwork and chassis of the 'Jaguarundi' tanks will be useful when I get round to building armoured vehicles for one of my 1930s and 1940s imagi-nations, and that the turrets will be ideal for small ironclads and/or gunboats.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Zubia – A 'forgotten' imagi-nation rediscovered

Some time ago – before I started writing this blog – I began designing and developing a Matrix Game based around a European invasion of a North African country during the latter part of the 19th century. The intention was to use the Matrix Game to run the campaign, with the battles being fought out on the tabletop. It was designed like this to facilitate the involvement of a friend who had been posted overseas. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, the whole thing never got off the ground, and the whole thing was filed away on my computer.

This morning I decided to have a trawl through my computer files. I do this every so often, deleting files that are no longer needed and logically sorting files out into folders. It was whilst I was doing this that I came across the Zubia file. Besides a short briefing document about Zubia, there was a map of the country.

It is very obvious that Zubia is based upon Egypt, but the map is actually a map of a river delta in Lithuania …

... turned through 90-degrees, and then re-drawn.

Thus Zubia was born.

The briefing stated:
The history of Zubia can be traced back to the beginnings of recorded history and beyond. It is one of the earliest cradles of civilisation, and its people live in the shadows of many ancient monuments. However its era of importance as a major power has long gone, and it is now just a dusty, insignificance province of the Ottoman Empire … or is it?

Zubia occupies a potentially strategic position in northeast Africa. At present its current ruler – the Khedive of Zubia – is a middle-aged, fat, and indolent individual who lives in luxury whilst the peasants live in abject poverty. He is descended from an Albanian soldier who was made Khedive over one hundred years ago by a grateful Sultan (the Albanian had saved the Sultan’s life). The country could be rich – it has the potential to grow far more food crops than the population can eat – but the Khedive has done little to improve the lot of the population. Instead he taxes them hard and uses the money to buy fine wines for himself, French dresses for his numerous mistresses, and to build himself bigger and more lavish palaces.

The River Zub is Zubia. Without it the country would not exist. The river brings the silt that makes the land fertile. Its water is used to irrigate the fields. It also provides an easy means of movement from one end of the country to the other. Along the banks of the river everything is green; away for the river everything is desert.

The majority of people in Zubia are hard-working peasants who live in the villages and settlements that dot the fertile area along the edge of the River Zub. They tend their fields, grow their crops, and pay their taxes – often under duress. They are not generally a warlike people, but when roused they can be formidable opponents. Most towns are populated almost exclusively by urbanised Zubians, whereas a cosmopolitan mix of European traders and bankers, Turkish civil servants, Albanian army officers, Levantine businessmen, and Zubian servants forms the population of the capital city – Zubairo – as well the main towns of Secundria and Port Zub.

A few Zubians still follow the old ways and live nomadic lives. They move from one oasis to another as the seasons change, and they depend upon their herds of camels and goats to supply them with almost everything the need. They rarely visit the fertile area along the River Zub except to buy essential supplies and to trade camel or goatskins.

The army of Zubia is small but reasonably well equipped (see Note 1). Its recruits are ‘taken’ (see Note 2) from amongst the Zubian peasants and the officers are mostly second or third-generation Albanians and Turks, although a few Zubians have been promoted from the ranks.

The Zubian Army is composed of:
  • 1 Battalion of Guard Infantry
  • 3 Battalions of Infantry
  • 2 Battalions of Zouaves (Light Infantry)
  • 4 Batteries of Field Artillery
In time of crisis a levee en masse would raise further troops:
  • 3 Battalions of Irregular Infantry
  • 2 Batteries of Field Artillery
The Zubian Navy is small and virtually ineffective. Like the army, its recruits are also ‘volunteers’ (mainly from the coastal area and the River Zub’s delta) and the officers are mainly Turkish in origin.

The Zubian Navy is composed of:
  • 2 ‘Flatiron’ Gunboats – ‘Khedive’ and ‘Zubia’
  • 4 Batteries of Coastal Artillery
Note 1: The regular infantry are armed with Remington Rolling Block rifles and the field artillery is equipped with modern Krupp breech-loading cannon. Irregular troops are armed with Snider-Enfield Mark I & Mark II rifles and rifled muzzle-loading artillery.

Note 2: Service in the ranks of the Zubian Army is supposedly voluntary, but almost all recruits are press-ganged.
I am really pleased that I rediscovered this 'lost' imagi-nation.

If you are wondering where the name Zubia comes from, the origin of the name came about as a result of an incident during World War I. The Royal Navy had a class of destroyers named are various tribes, and two of these were called HMS Zulu and HMS Nubian. HMS Nubian hit a mine, which destroyed the ship's forward section, off the Belgian coast on 27th October 1916. On 8th November 1916 HMS Zulu was hit by a torpedo off Dover, and lost her stern as a result.

Rather than repair both ships, the Royal Navy decided to join the two undamaged parts of the ships together, and the 'new' ship – HMS Zubian – was commissioned into service on 7th June 1917.

Callan the Wargamer: Part 3

Yesterday I received my recently ordered copy of CALLAN: THE MONOCHROME YEARS. The first episode on the first DVD in the set is actually the pilot that was made as part of the ARMCHAIR THEATRE series, and that was transmitted on 4th February 1967.

The pilot was entitled A MAGNUM FOR SCHNEIDER and the plot was later used as the basis for the film CALLAN: THE MOVIE.

As in the film, Callan is set the task of liquidating Schneider, with whom he shares an interest in wargaming. This first comes to light when Callan deliberately bumps into Schneider in the corridor outside the offices where they both work, and seeing that Schneider has some military figures, Callan manages to get himself invited into Schneider's office. On a table in the office Schneider has a display of some of his figures set up.

As a result of this shared interest, Schneider invites Callan to take part in a couple of wargames at his house. The first is a Napoleonic battle, which Callan wins.

The second battle that they fight is the Battle of Gettysburg.

Callan demonstrates his tactical adroitness yet again when Schneider orders Pickett's division to charge ...

... and Callan counters by outflanking the attackers with his cavalry.

At this point Schneider decides that rather than attack, he will withdraw. In the subsequent scenes Callan kills Schneider.

As will be obvious from the quality of the images, the original recording was made in black and white 405-line format, which does not allow current viewers to see a great deal of detail. The wargames were fought on maps rather than on a beautifully sculptured terrain, and the miniatures seem to be 54mm round figures, with the occasional larger scale figure thrown in for good luck.

By modern standards this is not quite how wargamers expect to see wargames portrayed on TV or film, but to a 16-year old (I was 17 three days after the programme was transmitted) this showed a lot of my sceptical friends that wargaming was not 'playing with toy soldiers'; it was a legitimate, if somewhat little known, hobby.

It did wonders for my self-esteem, and I very pleased that I now own a copy of the programme.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Fielding commanders on the tabletop – some more thoughts

The more I think about how to include Commanders in the redraft of my Modified Morschauser ‘19th Century’ Wargames Rules, the more confused I seem be.

It started out as a simple exercise; just the addition of a few extra rules and simple mechanisms to reflect the presence of a Commander on the battlefield. In the process it has become something far more complex, and it is in danger of turning a set of simple fast-play wargames rules into a monster.

At present I do not seem to be able to find a way forward that meets the twin criteria of being compatible with the existing Morschauser rules and their underlying philosophy whilst also allowing Commanders to be represented on the tabletop.

I have therefore decided that the best course of action I can take is to walk away from the problem for the time being. If I do this, and concentrate on something else for a week or two, I will come back with a refreshed perspective on the problem. I may well not come up with a simple solution … such a thing might not be possible … but at least I will not get more and more frustrated with the rules as they currently stand, which is what is happening at present.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Fielding commanders on the tabletop

Almost as soon as I had made the latest (and what I thought was the final) redraft of my Modified Morschauser ‘19th Century’ Wargames Rules available via the RED HEX WARGAMES website, I started to get some very helpful feedback. The points made by Arthur1815 and Chris J have made me realise that I have still not quite got things right, and a further redraft will be needed.

If I get enough time today I hope to have a long, hard look at what I can do to improve the current rules for fielding Commanders on the battlefield. I hope to keep any developments that I do make as simple as possible; in the meantime, any further feedback would be welcome.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

PBEM Kriegsspiel – The Waterloo Campaign

An extract from von Blücher’s diary for the evening of 12th June 1815:
Our troops have clashed with what appears to be the bulk of the French army today, and although we have suffered grievous casualties and have been forced to take up a defensive posture, they have not got away lightly.

The men fought well, and although there has been talk of too impetuous an attack by one of my generals, I cannot fault a man who attacks the enemy wherever he finds them. My last orders to him were to go forward, and that is exactly what he did.

I have also had news of His Grace, The Duke of Wellington. I had hoped that he would have been here today, fighting side-by-side with us in the battle against Bonaparte, but it was not to be. Such is fate.

I know not what tomorrow will bring, but I fully expect that Bonaparte will attack in the hope of destroying my army. If he does, he will find that we Prussians will fight to the death for our King and our country.

Modified Morschauser ‘19th Century’ Wargames Rules

The final redrafting of these rules has now been done, and they are available as PDF downloads in two different versions from the RED HEX WARGAMES website.

The longer version contains rules for fielding Commanders on the battlefield, whereas the shorter version does not contain these rules.

I have done this so that potential players can print the version of the rules they wish to use.

The Chaco War ... again!

I have had quite a lot on interest in this topic, so much so that I have created a separate 'label' for the Chaco War so that blog readers can follow that particular topic should they wish to.

Some years ago I actually wrote some ORBATs for both sides for Megablitz. They can be found on the Megablitz website here.

The ORBATs are for the Bolivian Army in 1932 and 1935 and for the Paraguayan Army in 1932 and 1935.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Not another new book?

Having already acquired copies of ISRAEL DEFENCE FORCES – THE SIX DAY WAR by Colonel Mordechai Bar-On (W. Foulsham & Co. Ltd. [1968] ISBN 0 572 00792 2) and THE SIX DAY WAR 1967: JORDAN AND SYRIA by Simon Dunstan and Peter Dennis (Osprey CAMPAIGN Series No. 216 [ISBN 978 1 84603 364 3]), I just could not resist buying THE SIX DAY WAR 1967: SINAI by Simon Dunstan and Peter Dennis (Osprey CAMPAIGN Series No. 212 [ISBN 978 1 84603 363 6]) when I saw it on sale today in the Maidstone branch of Waterstone's.

I now have quite a few books about the Six Day War, and would like to wargame it as a campaign at some time in the future.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Modified Morschauser ‘19th Century’ Wargames Rules

I have not yet had a chance to play-test the latest draft of these rules, but already I have had some very helpful feedback from Jim Wright.

I have read through his suggestions – all of which make the rules much clearer and more concise – and I am likely to incorporate most – if not all of them – into the latest draft before play-testing takes place. This has rather put my planned schedule of wargames to fight this week out a little but … they are only games after all!

As soon as the newest draft is ready, I will make it available in PDF format via the RED HEX WARGAMES website.

A (newish) book about the Chaco War

In one of the issues of EL DORADO (the journal of THE SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICAN MILITARY HISTORIANS SOCIETY) that Terry Hooker recently sent me in PDF format, there was a review of Adrian J. English's THE GREEN HELL – A CONCISE HISTORY OF THE CHACO WAR BETWEEN BOLIVIA AND PARAGUAY 1932-35.

Although the book was published in 2007 by Spellmount Ltd., (ISBN 978 1 86227 445 7) this was the first I knew about it, and so I ordered one immediately. It arrived in the post today, and a quick glance through it indicates that it is even better than I had hoped.

This is hardly surprising as Adrian English is probably the doyen of English-speaking historians who specialise in the study of South American military history.

The book has chapters and sections entitled:
  • Chronology of Events
  • 1. The Actors and the Stage
  • 2. The Roots of Discord
  • 3. Preparations for Conflict
  • 4. The Dispute Escalates
  • 5. The Road to War
  • 6. The Opposing Forces
  • 7. The First Paraguayan Offensive
  • 8. The First Bolivian Counter-Offensive
  • 9. The Second Paraguayan Offensive
  • 10. The Third Paraguayan Offensive
  • 11. The Second Bolivian Counter-Offensive
  • 12. The Paraguayan Counter-Offensive
  • 13. The War in The Air
  • 14. The Fourth Paraguayan Offensive
  • 15. The Closing Phase
  • 16. Armistice and Peace Treaty
  • 17. Summary
  • 18. Epilogue
  • Appendix I: Bolivian Army Units
  • Appendix II: Major Equipment of the Bolivian Army
  • Appendix III: Material Captured by Bolivia During the War
  • Appendix IV: Aircraft of the Bolivian Air Force
  • Appendix V: Paraguayan Army Units
  • Appendix VI: Major Equipment of the Paraguayan Army
  • Appendix VII: Material Captured from the Bolivians by Paraguay During the War
  • Appendix VIII: Ships of the Paraguayan Navy
  • Appendix IX: Vessels of the Paraguayan Merchant Marine Mobilised and Incorporated into the Navy During the War
  • Appendix X: Aircraft of the Paraguayan Air Force and Naval Air Arm
The book seems to have just about every piece of information a wargamer would need to have to refight this war. All I have to do now is to resist the temptation to do so!

I blame Hergé for my interest in the Chaco War

The truth is that I don’t blame Hergé (whose real name was George Remi) at all. His Tintin books – which I read when I was young – were so well written, researched, and illustrated that I found them inspiring.

My two favourite Tintin books are THE BROKEN EAR and KING OTTOKAR’S SCEPTRE. The former is set in San Theodoros, a small South American country that is ruled by a dictator (General Alcazar), and which is on the verge of war with its neighbour – Nuevo Rico – over possible oil deposits in the border area called the Gran Chapo (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). The latter is set in Syldavia, a small Balkan country ruled by a king (King Muskar XII), and which is on the verge of war with its neighbour – Borduria – who had conquered Syldavia in the twelfth century and ruled it until it revolted and regained its independence after 1277.

Research has shown that many of the illustrations in Hergé’s books – including those in THE BROKEN EAR – were based on contemporary photographs, and as a result the stories seem to have added authenticity. Hergé also uses characters and organisations that can be recognised even if they are not mentioned by their real names but are given names that are similar or parodies thereof.

Examples of this include Mr Tickler of ‘General American Oil’ (there was an oil company called ‘General American Oil Company of Texas’ that was founded in 1936!), …

… Bazil Bazarov of ‘Korrupt Arms GMBH’ (this is obviously a double reference to Sir Basil Zaharoff, a director and chief salesman of ‘Vickers Armstrong’, and the ‘Krupp’ armaments firm), …

… who sells General Alcazar six dozen 75 TRGP Field Guns (incidentally, this was one of the Field Guns used by the Belgian Army at the time; it is worth noting that Hergé’s brother was a Belgian Army officer), …

... and an unnamed representative of ‘British South-American Petrol’ (a slightly veiled reference to British Petroleum, which began life as the ‘Anglo-Persian Oil Company’).

The uniforms worn by the San Theodoran army are also worth a second look; they bear some resemblance to those worn by the Bolivian Army during the 1930s.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Chaco War

As I mentioned in a recent blog entry, I have had an interest in wargaming the Chaco War for a long time. One reason why is because of its relative obscurity; another is the range of 'kit' that was used by both sides. For example, where else would you find a war where Vickers Machine Guns, ...

... Stokes Mortars, ...

... Schneider Mountain Guns, ...

... and Vickers Six-ton Tanks being used in land battles that were as bloody as those fought on the Western Front during the First World War, ...

... whilst overhead Vickers Biplane Fighters patrolled the skies ...

... and Junkers Ju52 Transport Aircraft brought in supplies and evacuated the wounded, ...

... Italian-built Gunboats gave fire support ...

... and American-built narrow gauge railways carried troops and ammunition to the front line.

What else could a wargamer ask for?

Book bargains!

During today's visit to my father-in-law in Herne Bay, Kent, I was able to go to a small second-hand bookshop just off the High Street where I managed to pick up some real bargains.

The first was a copy of MILITARY MINIATURES – THE ART OF MAKING MODEL SOLDIERS by Simon Goodenough and ‘Tradition’ (Orbis Publishing [1977] ISBN 0 85613 047 8).

I remember getting this book out from the library many years ago, and found the chapter on painting techniques very helpful. What really stuck in my mind, however, was the photograph of a wargame that was featured in the book.

The game was obviously being fought on the floor and covered a massive area. I recognised some of the models that were being used (ROCO Minitanks and Airfix Landing Craft) but was more impressed by the number of HO scale model railway building that had been used to create the built-up areas. This was the sort of wargaming I aspired to do … but never did, and am likely never to do … but one can still dream!

The second book I found was the ISRAEL DEFENCE FORCES – THE SIX DAY WAR. This was edited by Colonel Mordechai Bar-On, and published by W. Foulsham & Co. Ltd., in association with the Chief Education officer, Israel Defence Forces and the Publications Division of the Israeli Ministry of Defence in 1968 (ISBN 0 572 00792 2). The foreword is written by Moshe Dayan (then the Israeli Minister of Defence) and it is a day-by-day account of the Six Day War. Dayan describes the book as an album, and it does contain a very large number of photographs as well as descriptions of the battles that were fought. It also has some detailed maps which have overlays that show the locations and movements of both sides’ units.

The third book is a copy of THE SOMME 1916 – CRUCIBLE OF A BRITISH ARMY which was written and illustrated by Michael Chappell (Windrow & Greene [1995] ISBN 1 85915 007 1).

Until recently the battles fought on the Western Front during the First World War have not particularly interested me, but helping my wife trace her family’s genealogy – coupled with recently listening to a very interesting lecture about the Hertfordshire Regiment’s part in the battles around Ypres – has begun to arouse my curiosity. This excellent book will help me to develop my interest, particularly with regard to the Battle of the Somme.

And what was the cost of these books? £05.0, £3.00, and £4.00 respectively! A bargain, every one!

Modified Morschauser ‘19th Century’ Wargames Rules

The latest draft of these rules is now available in PDF format from the RED HEX WARGAMES website.

This draft includes rules that allow Commanders to be represented on the battlefield, and are a development of ideas that were included in WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! and Joseph Morschauser's HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Modified Morschauser ‘19th Century’ Wargames Rules

I finally managed to finish the latest redraft of my adaptation of Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Modern’ Period Rules for the 19th century era just before midnight. Once I got started this morning I seemed to be making good progress, but then I was unavoidably interrupted several times and it has taken me some time to get back into the right frame of mind to finish the job.

All I need to do now is to read through the new draft to check that there are not too many typographical errors, and that the text at least makes sense to me. Once that is done I will make it available in the usual way.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Synchronicity

‘Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner.’
Carl Jung coined the term synchronicity to describe what he called the ‘acausal connecting principle’ that links mind and matter. He stated that synchronicity manifests itself through significant coincidences that cannot in themselves be explained by cause and effect, and when a strong need arises in the psyche of an individual.

So what on Earth am I going on about? Well … it happened to me … like this …

I used to be a member of THE SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICAN MILITARY HISTORIANS SOCIETY, and I recently received an email from the society’s president – Terry D. Hooker – in which he very kindly offered to send me some electronic copies of recent issues of the society’s journal, EL DORADO. I accepted this offer with alacrity because the military history of South America has always been of great interest to me. The very first article I ever had published in THE NUGGET was about the Chaco War, and I followed this with a more detailed article on the same subject that appeared in an early issue of WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED.

One of the issues of EL DORADO that Terry sent me included a article about PARAGUAYAN UNITS OF THE CHACO WAR complied by Gustavo Adolfo Riart, and as my work of the redraft of Morschauser’s rules was stalled, I decided to get some of my Paraguayan and Bolivian army units out of their storage boxes to remind myself of all the fun and enjoyment I had had producing them. The armies were created using Peter Laing 15mm figures, and are mounted on multi-figure bases that will fit nicely into 3-inch grid squares.

Having got some figures out of their boxes, it seemed like a waste not to fight a battle with them. At first I thought of using one of the earlier, multi-figure base versions of Morschauser’s rules, but instead I dug out the most recent draft of WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! as it seemed more appropriate. As I reacquainted myself with the rules I suddenly realised that an answer to the problems I was having with Commanders in the redraft of Morschauser’s rules was staring me in the face. I had got too close to the problem to remember that I already had a workable solution to a similar problem. All I have to do now is to sit down for an hour or two at my word processor tomorrow morning, and with a bit of luck I should have the redraft written by midday.

And what has all this to do with synchronicity?

Well if Terry Hooker had not sent me the email, I would not have read the article about the Chaco War in EL DORADO, as a result of which I would not have got my Paraguayan and Bolivian armies out of their storage boxes. I would not have thought of fighting a battle with them, which would have meant that I would not have re-read WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! and I would not have realised that I already had a partial solution to my problem with representing Commanders on the tabletop.

I had a strong need to find an answer to a problem, the coincidences – which I cannot explain – occurred, et voila, I have a possible solution! If that isn’t synchronicity, I don’t know what else to call it.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Nugget 233

I have just uploaded the latest issues of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT in PDF format to the Wargame Developments website.

Read and enjoy!

Nugget 233

I hope to take the latest issue of THE NUGGET to the printers tomorrow so that I can pick it up later this week and post it out to members of Wargame Developments by next Saturday at the latest. With a bit of luck it should reach them early next week.

I intend to upload the PDF version of the latest issues of THE NUGGET – along with the latest THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT – to the Wargame Developments website later today so that full members and e-members can read it before the printed version arrives in the post.

I thought that it would be simple but ...

I am now on my third attempt to draft the latest version of my adaptation of Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Modern’ Period Rules for the 19th century era so that Commanders can be represented on the battlefield ... and so far I just cannot get it right!

The problem is the basic simplicity of Morschauser's original rules. Everything represented on the tabletop is a Unit which has certain attributes, and the rules deal with the interaction of these Units. As presently written, if I treat the Commander as a Unit, they cannot be in the same grid square as another Unit at the end of a turn; this means that they cannot easily enhance the fighting capacity of a Unit under their command in the ways I outlined in my blog entry of 7th February.

I have attempted to redraft the rules in such a way that Commanders can be in the same grid square as another Unit, but the wording ends up reading like a legal document because there as so many caveats and exceptions. Experience shows that when this happens, players will either misunderstand the rules or ignore them. In addition they do not fit in with the basic simplicity of Morschauser's original rules.

So what can I do?
  • I could ignore the problem by not representing the Commander on the battlefield. In essence, the rules would remain as they are.
  • I could continue to attempt to redraft the rules in such a way that they do not end up reading like a legal document, but as I have already tried this twice before and failed, I do not expect that this will be very easy and it may be impossible.
  • I could go back to first principles and have a complete re-think. Perhaps I could change the rules so that two Units are allowed in the same grid square at the end of a turn? This would make it easier to treat Commanders as just another type of Unit that has its own unique attributes, but may well open a whole new can of worms!
This problem has given me something to think about for the next few days. However, until I come up with a solution I cannot make any further progress on my redraft.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

It has been a busy week, but now ...

For some reason the last few days have been very busy, both at home and at work.

As the half-term holiday starts today (hurray!), and because most of the students are on two-week-long work placements immediately afterwards, I seem to have spent all my time at work helping them to prepare for their work experience and collecting in missing or previously incomplete work. The result has been that I have had to work later than normal on most nights this week, and this has meant that I have had little time to do things that I wanted to do (rather than had to do) at home.

Now that half-term has started (My wife and I now have nine days before we have to go to work again!) I can think about doing some of the things that have been 'put off' as a result of recent events. My 'want to do' list is as follows:
  • Complete the next draft of my adaptation of Joseph Morschauser's rules for fighting nineteenth century battles
  • Play-test the rules
  • Redraft my adaptation of Joseph Morschauser's rules for fighting 'Modern' battles to include the changes made in the nineteenth century version and to look at adapting them for use with a hexagonal rather than a square grid
  • Play-test the rules
I hope to achieve the first two items on my list; if I manage either or both of the last two, it will be a bonus!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

One year on ...

On the 11th February 2009 I added a 'hit' counter to this blog. Since then it has had over 55,000 'hits' ... which is a few more than I expected!

This works out to be more than 150 'hits' per day, which is quite something. It makes me very pleased (and more than a little humble) to think that people out in the 'blogosphere' actually like to read 'the random thoughts of an ancient wargamer' ... and can be bothered to contact me about them.

So it is a big 'Thanks!' to all my blog readers ... and please keep reading!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Birthday Books

Amongst the other presents I was given for my birthday were two books. They were given to me by my old friend Tony Hawkins, and I look forward to reading them.

The first is THE DEVIL'S PAINTBRUSH by Jake Arnott (Sceptre [2009] ISBN 978 0 340 92270 5). It is a fictional account of what might have happened had Aleister Crowley (the notorious occultist who was also known as 'The Great Beast') met Major General Sir Hector Macdonald during the latter's last few days in Paris before he committed suicide.

The second book is a facsimile of Brigadier General E Howard Gorges THE GREAT WAR IN WEST AFRICA (The Naval & Military Press Ltd [2004] ISBN 1 845741 15 3).

Although I do have a couple of books about the Great War in Africa, I do not have a specific volume about the operations that took place in West Africa. I suspect that it will give me lots of ideas for small battles and skirmishes that I can fight using my latest wargames rules.

Thanks Tony for some excellent books! If this is the standard of present I am going to get I should have birthdays more frequently than once per year!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

I'm feeling old today ...

... which is not surprising, as it is my birthday ... and it is one of those important ones this year because it has a big ZERO at the end of it!

Once my new 'Freedom Pass' arrives, I shall be able to travel on public transport in London for free, and hopefully this means that I will be able to visit all those museums and other historic places that I have been meaning to visit for years!

Roll on retirement ... when I can get down to some serious reading, wargaming, and blogging.

Have a nice day ... I intend to!

Representing wargame army 'commanders' on the battlefield: Some thoughts

When I wrote yesterday’s blog entry I expected some feedback; what I had not expected was the level and detail of that feedback!

Interestingly everyone agreed that representing commanders on the tabletop was a positive step forward, and as this is something that I wanted to do it, it has encouraged me to look at the best way of achieving it.

Now I am an incremental wargames developer. I like to get the basic structure and mechanisms right before I start to add any extras or ‘chrome’. I am happy with the way my version of Joseph Morschauser’s basic rules work, and so whatever I add has to fit in with his basic design philosophy. My first port-of-call was therefore to read the relevant section in his book – HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE – before proceeding. In the chapter YOUR OWN RULES, Morschauser suggests using command figures as a means by which morale effects can be generated.

’Another means of adding morale factors to the game is to have a staff and a commanding general represented on the table by a tray. This Staff Unit never engages in active combat, but it must remain within a certain number of move distances of at least two-thirds of the army’s Units. If the Staff Unit is lost, then the entire army must roll for morale. In other words, a die is then rolled for each Unit to determine the effect of the death of the commanding general and staff on that Unit. If a 1 or a 2 turns up, things remain as before, and that Unit continues to fight on. If a 3 or a 4 comes up, the Unit reverses direction on the next turn and moves, turn by turn, off the table. It can only fight if attacked, and if not, it will soon be out of the battle. If a 5 or a 6 comes up, the Unit retreats for that turn. The effect of this on your formation can be devastating. A carefully planned attack can go to pieces because Units break and run when the commanding general is killed.’

‘To prevent unfair concentration of fire on one tray – the commanding general’s – and the rapid conclusion of a well-arranged and exciting game when it has barely started, it is wise to have not only a commander and Staff Unit but one or two other Staff or Substaff Units. These can replace the main general and staff, and will stop the battle from coming to a too quick and unfair conclusion.’
I can see why he has made this suggestion, and that it will fit in with his rules. The latter do, however, generate quite a large number of casualties, and the mechanism he outlines above seems to accept that fact as a given. As my version has moved on from that somewhat, I need to develop a different approach.

So what do commanders do? Obviously, they command, either in person or by order. Joseph Morschauser’s suggestion does not seem to take this into account, and it is in this direction that I want to develop whatever mechanism or mechanisms I use.

Indirect Command and Control – Giving Orders

When a commander is not in personal contact with a Unit, they can only control that Unit by giving orders. Due to a variety of circumstances (the quality of the commander, poor basic staff work, lack of communications, orders getting lost) Units do not always do what they are ordered to do. So how can this be simulated on the tabletop without too much complication?
  • The PIP system: Phil Barker et al developed a very simple system for DBA, and this has been copied extensively … because it is simple and it works. I could follow suit and ‘borrow’ this system knowing that players understand it and it will fit in quite easily with most of my existing rule mechanisms. However since I began using a card-driven turn sequence, this might be problematic as the PIP system is essentially designed for an ‘IGO-UGO’ turn sequence.
  • Limited Command Radius: This follows on from what Joseph Morschauser suggests. Units have to be within a certain number of ‘move distances’ to receive orders; the problem is how many ‘move distances’, and how to measure them? My first thought was to make the Command Radius 6 grid squares, measured orthogonally. This fits in with existing method used to measure distances on the gridded battlefield, and is easy to remember. However, my gridded battlefield is a 12 x 12 grid, which means that if a commander gets close to the centre of the battlefield he can give orders to Units almost anywhere on the battlefield (the exceptions would be the corners, which would be outside the Command Radius).
  • The WEC system: When I wrote WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! I developed what I thought was a simple system for restricting the number of stands a commander could ‘activate’ each turn. Each commander was rated according to ability, and this rating – added to either a D12 or 2D6 score, depending upon whether or not the commander was a non-native or Native commander – generated the number of stands a commander could ‘activate’. This could easily be adapted to restrict the number of orders a commander can issue each turn. Commanders could be given a basic rating (Good = 3, Average = 2, Poor = 1). At the beginning of each turn each commander would throw a D6 die, and the two numbers added together would determine how many order ‘cards’ a commander could deal that turn. This system has the advantage of being simple; it also gives the commander control over which Units will get orders each turn, whilst stopping them from being able to control the entire battlefield. It also gives a ‘poor’ commander the outside chance that once in a while they might just be able to out-general a ‘good’ commander!
Direct Command and Control – Supporting Units in combat

It has been argued that the presence of a commander with a Unit can have both a positive and a negative effect on that Unit. Whereas I accept the latter can happen, from a wargaming point of view I prefer to concentrate on the former.
  • Enhancing a Unit’s Fire Combat capacity: If a commander is co-located with a Unit, their figure will increase the number of dice the Unit can throw when firing at an enemy Unit. This is as far as I think that the commander’s ability to ‘enhance’ a Unit’s Fire Combat capacity should go. I do not advocate any change to the scores a Unit must throw to ‘hit’ an enemy Unit as this would skew the results too much.
  • Enhancing a Unit’s Close Combat capacity: If a commander is co-located with a Unit, their figure may increase the number of figures both the Units can throw a dice for in the Close Combat. This could result in higher casualties on either or both sides – including the commander. This may appear unfair on the Unit that the commander is co-located with, but if he places himself in a situation where he is at risk, there should be a possibility that he will become a casualty.
Commanders becoming casualties

If a commander is ‘hit’, either because they are involved in Fire or Close Combat as an individual or because they are co-located with a Unit, some mechanism is needed to adjudicate whether or not they are killed. Looking for a suitably simple mechanism, I am drawn back to both Joseph Morschauser’s basic mantra of
LET THE DICE DECIDE
and the system I developed for my REDCOATS AND NATIVES wargames rules. In the latter the fate of the commander was decided by the turn of a card:
  • King, Queen, of Jack of Hearts = The commander is killed
  • Any other red card = The commander is wounded
  • Black card = The commander is unwounded and may carry on fighting
Whereas I am happy to use the cards to ‘drive’ the turn sequence, I would prefer to use a dice-based system to determine if the commander is killed or not, as this follows both the style of the other mechanisms used in the rules and seems to be closer to Joseph Morschauser’s design philosophy. My suggested system would require a D6 die to be thrown whenever the commander – as an individual – becomes a casualty or is with a Unit that suffers casualties:
  • 1 or 2 = The commander is killed
  • 3, 4, 5, or 6 = The commander is not killed; another figure is removed if the commander is co-located with a Unit.
Whilst none of the above is a perfect solution to representing commanders on the tabletop, they are paths along which developments can progress.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Representing wargame army 'commanders' on the battlefield

Although Joseph Morschauser's various sets of rules have a great deal to commend them (which is why they have formed the basis of my last two sets of wargames rules), there is one element that is missing – the presence of any 'command' figure or figures on the battlefield.

The reason why I like to include ‘command’ figures in my rules is very simple; I think that it gives the players something that they can identify with on the tabletop. In some ways this is a purely psychological ploy by me to try to get the players ‘down from their wargamer’s helicopter on high’ – from whence they can see the entire battlefield in one sweep of the eye – to ground level, where they have to worry about how they, as a commander, can influence matters at first-hand whilst keeping themselves from being killed. In the simplest terms, the ‘command’ figure represents the player’s alter ego on the battlefield.

I am currently thinking about how I could include ‘command’ figures in my versions of Joseph Morschauser’s wargames rules. However I do it, I will keep it as simple as possible so that it does not distort the basic (and very simple) game mechanisms that are already in place.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Tony Bath's Hyborian Campaign

Many years ago Tony Bath ran a very popular and well-known campaign based on Robert E Howard's CONAN stories.

Rudi Guedens, the Belgian wargamer who runs - amongst other things - THE UNIVERSAL GENERAL website, has dedicated part of his website to this campaign, and I thoroughly recommend that anyone with even the slightest interest in the Hyborian Campaign should visit this website.

Besides an obituary written by Phil Barker about Tony Bath, the website has an introduction to the Hyborian Campaign, A Wargamer's Guide to Hyboria, and a copy of Tony Bath's map of Hyboria. The latter differs somewhat from the map that formed part of yesterday's blog entry.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

I have finally started to read ... The Complete Chronicles of Conan

I bought this book last month, and have finally got round to starting to read it.

So far I have read the first chapter of this anthology. It was written in 1936 and is entitled THE HYBORIAN AGE. This is a fictional history of Hyboria and begins with the following statement:
'Nothing in this article is to be considered as an attempt to advance any theory in opposition to accepted history. It is simply a fictional background for a series of fiction-stories. When I began writing the Conan stories a few years ago, I prepared this 'history' of his age and the people of that age, in order to lend him and his sagas a greater aspect of realness. And I found that by adhering to the 'facts' and spirit of that history, in writing the stories, it was easier to visualize (and therefore to present) him as a real flesh-and-blood character rather than a ready-made product. In writing about him and his adventures in the various kingdoms of his Age, I never violated the 'facts' or spirit of the 'history' here set down, but have followed the lines of that history as closely as the writer of actual historical-fiction follows the lines of actual history. I have used this 'history' as a guide in all the stories in this series that I have written.'
Having read this I can see why the stories that Robert E Howard wrote about Conan and the Hyborian Age are still so well regarded today.

The endpapers have a map of Hyboria which is based on an original drawn by Robert E Howard, and I found constant reference to this map very helpful when reading the opening chapter.

The map of Hyboria from THE COMPLETE CHRONICLES OF CONAN by Robert E Howard (Gollancz [2006] ISBN 978 0 575 07766 9).

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

More books for my shelves!

Last weekend I made one of my periodic trips to the local branch of Waterstone's and bought two books from the Osprey CAMPAIGN series.

The first was LENINGRAD 1941-44 by Robert Forczyk and Peter Dennis (Osprey CAMPAIGN series No. 215 [ISBN 978 1 84603 441 1]).

I have visited Leningrad/St Petersburg twice in the last two years and although it is difficult to see some of the places mentioned in the book, I was able to see the Aurora and visit both the Peterhof Summer Palace, which is located on the coast to the west of Leningrad/St Petersburg, and the Catherine Palace near Pushkin, which is to the south of the city.

The second book was THE SIX DAY WAR 1967: JORDAN AND SYRIA by Simon Dunstan and Peter Dennis (Osprey CAMPAIGN Series No. 216 [ISBN 978 1 84603 364 3]).

I was 17 when 'The Six Day War' broke out, and like a large number of my friends I was stunned and amazed by the speed with which the Israeli Armed Forces were able to achieve such decisive victories over their opponents in such a short time. The battle in the Sinai and the capture of Jerusalem were well covered by the newspapers and TV at the time, but less mention was made of the fighting that took place elsewhere. I am hoping that after all these years this book will enlighten me as to what actually happened during the fighting to the north and east of Israel.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Modified Morschauser ‘19th Century’ Wargames Rules

The latest draft of these rules is now available in PDF format from the RED HEX WARGAMES website. The rules cover European and Colonial warfare from approximately 1875 to 1900.

The new draft includes all the changes outlined in my earlier blog entry, and will be play-tested as soon as possible.

Modified Morschauser ‘19th Century’ Wargames Rules

My recent play-tests, in addition to feedback from people who have used the present draft of the rules, have made me reconsider ideas that I had previously considered or rejected.

Primarily the question how good Native troops are – or are not – at hand-to-hand combat has given me pause for thought, and I intend to re-draft the Unit Data Table to reflect the various suggestions that have been made. These include:
  • Making Militia Infantry Units smaller than the standard four-figure Infantry Unit to reflect their lack of ‘staying power’
  • Making sword and spear-armed Native Infantry Units larger than the standard four-figure Infantry Unit to reflect the fact that there tended to be more Native Infantry (in larger units) taking part in colonial battles than non-Native Infantry Units
Other suggestions that I am considering are:
  • Introducing some form of ‘morale’ element to the rules. My current thinking is something along the lines that when a Unit reaches 50% strength or less it cannot initiate a Close Combat. It can fight if attacked, but cannot start a fight
  • Not allowing Artillery and Machine Gun Units to ‘move and fire/fire and move’. At present both types of Unit can – if they want to – move around the battlefield, firing as and when they like. This does not seem to reflect either the tactics in use at the time nor the sheer amount of effort needed to move such weapons. My thoughts are to make them able to move at the same speed as Infantry but not to fire during the same turn
  • Clarifying what adjacent means in relationship to Close Combat. It has been suggested that Units that are diagonally adjacent could not – and should not – engage each other in Close Combat; it just does not look right! Having thought about this long and hard, and having rejected this idea on previous occasions, I must admit that the argument to make the change is a compelling one
With a bit of luck I should be able to make these changes today or tomorrow, and then make the new draft of the rules available online.