Sunday, 16 June 2013

Making Morschauser's 'Frontier' wargames rules less bloody

Yesterday's play-test of Joseph Morschauser's FRONTIER wargames rules was very enjoyable but it did demonstrate that the artillery fire and combat systems are rather 'bloody'. Units either survive or are destroyed; there are no other results.

Whilst this means that the battles can be fought very quickly, it also means that both sides seem to lose units at a very fast pace once the fighting starts. Although this can be rationalised away as representing the 'loss' of units that still exist but that are no longer capable of further combat, it does rather leave the tabletop battlefield somewhat denuded of toy soldiers ... and this can detract from the aesthetic appeal of the game. It also does not feel right.

So what can be done?

Firstly it should be possible to amend the artillery rules so that units can be hit but not destroyed. As written a unit that is hit is destroyed by a 2, 4, or 6 by direct fire and by a 4 or 6 by indirect fire. My current thinking is that this could be changed so that a unit will be pinned (i.e. unable to move, fire or engage in combat until the end of the next turn) by a 2 or 4 by direct fire and a 4 by indirect fire. This would reduce the number of units that are totally destroyed by artillery fire and also disrupt the movement of units on the battlefield.

Secondly the combat mechanism needs to be altered so that there are three possible results rather than the present two. Something simple could easily be devised along the lines of the combat system used in the DBA/HOTT rules. My current thinking is that each side could throw a D6 die and add the score to their unit's Battle Power. The side with the highest total score wins the combat. If the winner's total score is twice or more than that of the loser, then the loser is destroyed; if the total score is less than twice that of the loser, then the loser must retreat two grid squares at once. If it cannot do so, it is destroyed.

I would also like to incorporate the use of playing card tiles in my own solo version of the rules as I think that this would make the game a bit more interesting and a little less predictable. Likewise I am giving serious consideration to allowing Native infantry and all mounted cavalry the ability to move diagonally if such a move would bring them into combat with an enemy unit.

These are my initial thoughts about how the rules could be improved, and no doubt I – and some of my regular blog readers – will come up with others as the day progresses.


  1. This was the issue I had when I was adapting the Portable Wargame for the ACW last year. I had units suffer a Hit (which could be rallied), with a second Hit destroying them, and a bad rally result causing a rout as well. It's not perfect, but is slightly less bloody than the original rules.

    The initiative sequence becomes important then, as if a side goes second on one turn, then first on the next they get a chance to inflict Hits then convert them to kills before the other side can rally.

  2. Kaptain Kobold,

    Thanks for the suggestions. I like the idea that units that have been hit can rally and then be destroyed by a second hit. Likewise that a bad hit can cause a unit's immediate destruction.

    As you state in your comment, when you begin to make these sorts of changes the initiative/order in which units are activated becomes important ... and I will certainly be considering how best to deal with this.

    All the best,


  3. I have used the Morschauser's rules in the past and didn't like them because of how bloody they were. I do like your idea for having some of the rolls count as retreats. Such rules are good for solo games.

  4. Jhnptrqn (John),

    I need to do something about the combat system, and I hope to try a few alternatives over the next few days. If I was fighting a very large battle, the bloodiness of the rules might be slightly less of a problem, but most of my battles are quite small-scale and I need to have some sort of stepped combat results.

    They are, however, great rules for solo games as they are so simple that you can carry most of the rules around in your head and don't need to keep referring to a rule book.

    All the best,