Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Joseph Morschauser - An early pioneer

As a result of some of the comments made on the OLD SCHOOL WARGAMING group, I rummaged through the pile of storage boxes in my wargames room and found my copy of Joseph Morschauser's HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE.

The book was published in the same year as Donald Featherstone's WAR GAMES. It contains three sets of rules (for what he terms the Shock Period, the Musket Period, and the Modern Period) and proposes the use of multi-figure bases to make up units (something Donald Featherstone's book did not) and the use of what Morschauser calls 'The Roster System'. The latter was a means of recording casualties on units without removing the a base until a certain number of 'hits' had been inflicted on the unit.

Now none of this sounds new to wargamers now, but at the time this was very revolutionary stuff. This was certainly the first time that I had ever seen in print the idea of multi-figure bases making up units and individual figures not being removed after a 'hit' had been inflicted.

It is also interesting how your memory can play tricks on you. I remember photos of Morschauser's games showing a gridded playing surface, and therefore thought that the rules featured in his book used a grid. On re-reading the rules, I discovered that I was wrong. They do not use a grid; they use pre-cut measuring sticks and bits of string (the latter for movement that is not in a straight line). That said, two of the photos in the book show 54mm figures - mounted on multi-figure bases - on a gridded tabletop.


  1. Have you had a look at Memoir '44 by any chance? It's a light hex based Second World War game designed as part of the marking of 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings. The idea was to create a simple wargame that that would communicate the essentials of the campaign to children seven and up.

    There have been a variety of spin offs, but it's a fine game and well worth a look.

  2. I have a copy sitting on the top of one of the cupboards in my wargames room, and have played and enjoyed it many times.
    I wish that I could get a copy of BATTLE CRY! (it is the ACW fore-runner of MEMOIR '44), but it is now unavailable except on the 2nd hand market ... and then only at a very high price!
    Rudi Geudens and his group in Belgium have done a lot of work developing spin-offs from the basic game structure developed by Richard Borg. The rules they have developed can be found at the ANTWERP FUILIERS website.
    PS. I like your blog, particularly the reports of your H.G.Wells-style games (I love the idea of using plastic foam 'shells' fired from pop-guns!).

  3. It is an excellent game. There is an Ancients version, though not so much to my tastes, there are several in my circle that think of it very highly.

    BATTLE CRY! is by no means a bad game, though Memoir '44 is its superior. I think I have most of a copy lying fallow in the conservatory at the moment. It might require some remedial work, but the bones of it are there. Drop me a line after the holiday and I'll see if I can't sort you out. We're playing through the Tenessee campaign at present using BATTLE CRY!, but we use Memoir 44 boards and 6mm scenery and miniatures.

    Little Wars is a magnificent game and the scoffers aside, has treasures of its own that no simulation has to offer.

    The time limit is a very elegant way of imposing the problems of command, which are essentially those of decision making. The firing mechanic handles enfilading fire, friendly fire and the problems of ammunition resupply better than any other game I've played. Brigadier Young's assertion that armies do not lose their morale generals do often seems to come into play.

    The other great advantage is that it is (almost) whine proof. The players provide the element of chance, by their decisions and their skill with a nerf gun. You only ever have yourself to blame!

  4. Many thanks for your kind offer. I will get in contact after Christmas. In the meantime, have a good Christmas and happy wargaming!

  5. That is a great classic that I'm also lucky to have a copy of. I just got a cpoy of Table Top Wargames and as you said it looks fun (and tweakable). I'm also a big fan of the M44 series as well as Battle Cry and the Ancients version as well. I don't get to play it as much since my 3 year old loves to get at those plastic pieces!

    As another game related to the M44 system that uses a square grid is "Lionheart" by (I think) Parker Bros. It uses a similar combat system but does not have a card driven command system. I have 4 copies that I got on ebay the idea being to put 4 of the gridded boards to gether to make a big medieval battle with the figures in the game. They are pretty decent hard plastic and paint up well. So the TTW rules might work well with them.


  6. There now seems to be a considerable 'cross-over' from figure to board wargaming and vice versa. Both types of game have their advantages (and disadvantages) but the melding of the two styles of game - where the best of each is combined - can be nothing except a good thing for wargaming in general. Tim Gow and I found this when we began work on Megablitz, in which the game mechanisms are heavily influenced by board wargame design and yet it retains the aesthetic appeal of figure games.

  7. I'm beginning to think that these may be the rules I remember playing at home way back in the 1970, when I was a mere teenager. They were in a book I'd got out of the library, and they certainly used figures based as elements or groups, rather than as individuals. I remember sticking my Airfix Romans and Ancient Britons to pieces of cut up lino tile in order to play.

    When DBA first came out I could remember playing a game that used elements, but time had blotted it from my memory :)

  8. Kaptain Kobold,

    The timing would be about right for you having used Joseph Morschauser's rules. As far as I know, they were the only element-based rules around at the time as most other wargamers used figure removal to show casualties.

    All the best,



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