Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Keeping it simple

I have been spending quite some time over recent days thinking about how I am going to develop Joseph Morschauser’s FRONTIER wargames rules so that I can use them for the period 1935 to 1945. I have written and trialled a few game mechanisms, but each time I keep coming back to his original rules and asking the question ‘Is what I have devised in keeping with the basic design philosophy and simplicity of the originals rules?’.

Invariably the answer is a resounding ‘NO!’

For example, I tried giving armoured fighting vehicles the ability to fire and move during the same turn (something that most rules allow them to do but which in reality was usually very inaccurate). As I wanted to keep to the original turn sequence used in Morschauser’s rules (i.e. artillery fire, then units move, then combats take place) I had to find some way to indicate that an AFV had fired and that its movement was restricted. (I was not going to allow an AFV to fire and then move as far an AFV that had not fired). I tried using markers placed on or next to the AFVs that had fired, but in the excitement of the battle I either forgot to place the markers or left them on from one turn to the next … and I ended up worrying more about placing or removing markers than enjoying the wargame.

I therefore decided that AFVs will either fire or move … and will not be allowed to do both.

I also tried to ‘improve’ the artillery firing system … but what I came up with looked better on paper than it actually was in practice. Under Morschauser’s rules artillery only hits its target grid square on a 5 or 6 thrown with a D6 die. All other scores are either over or under or to the left or to the right. I decided that this could easily be changed to just ruling that the target grid square was hit on a 5 or 6 … and that all other scores were a miss.

On the face of it this seems no great change … but artillery is an area-fire weapon that should be used to suppress and disrupt the enemy as much as destroy them … and the change just did not do that. I therefore tried ruling that a 1 or 2 was an over that hit the grid square behind the target and a 3 or 4 was an under that hit the grid square in front of the target. This was better … but somehow it seemed to lack the simplicity and unpredictability of the original rules … so I rejected that change as well.

Trying to integrate AFV and anti-tank gunfire into the artillery firing system also threw up problems. The main guns carried by AFVs and anti-tank guns tend to fire at AFVs … and can be viewed as direct-fire rather than area-fire weapons. Therefore it somehow seemed wrong to use the same rules for AFV and anti-tank gunfire as it did for normal artillery.

I tried several alternatives but in the end I decided that I would use the rules that I had rejected for normal artillery and to rule that the target grid square was hit on a 5 or 6 … and that all other scores were a miss. Although this appears to contradict my previous thinking, it has the saving grace of being simple … and it felt ‘right’ when I tried it out. I also ruled that AFVs and anti-tank guns could only fire at targets that were in direct line-of-sight … and this also felt ‘right’.

So where am I now with my work developing Joseph Morschauser’s FRONTIER wargames rules so that I can use them for the period 1935 to 1945? The answer is that I am just about ready to write the first draft … and I hope to do that over the next day or so.


  1. Twice in this post you list the period you want as "1935 to 1845" . . . you might want to make this clearer because it sure seems weird, Bob.

    -- Jeff

  2. To my mind AFV fire and movement would only be done as part of what his original rules called "melee". In other words at short ranges.

    When you are stuck with something in the Frontier rules, perhaps you could check back to his original rules to see his thinking there, esp in the "modern" section.


  3. Bluebear Jeff,

    Thanks for spotting the mistake. I will correct the error ASAP.

    All the best,


  4. Ross Mac,

    I certainly agree that any fire conducted by AFVs and anti-tank guns at short range (i.e. between opposing units in adjacent grid squares) should be factored into the close combat mechanism ... and that is what I plan to do. I do, however, want them to be able to fire at some distance as well, and as you suggest I have already looked at Morschauser's "Modern" rules for ideas.

    All the best,


  5. Bob
    In relation to AFVs, I don't know what's the game scale level (Dvision or Squad). For small scale games, I would rather use the system in most TooFatLardies games, where the commander can give orders to the crew, to move and fire with some restictions, fire or move at full throttle. The other idea (for example, at platoon level) is to provide platoon orders like in IABSM, that are valir until they are changed (and only be implmented in the following turn): move (fast), engage (only fire) or hunt (move slow/cautious and fire). It is true that that means keep some bookeeping/markers for each unit, but increases your tactical options as you can order to advance with one platoon and the other to remain behind in support

    With regards de discussion on firing to other AFVs (AP) or to infantry (HE), you may consider assigning two different fire values to each type of tank of armoured vehicle.

    Hope this helps

  6. Anibal Invictus,

    Thanks for the suggestions. I have not used any of the TooFatLardies rules, so it was particularly interesting to read about the orders that players can give to the units under their command.

    I have no idea what 'level' the original FRONTIER rules were supposed to be set at, but always assumed that each unit represented a company-sized unit.

    All the best,