Monday, 2 November 2009

The Rules of the Modern Period ... by Joseph Morschauser

The following 'Modern' period wargames rules were first published in Joseph Morschauser's book HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE (1962).

The Basic Units referred to in the rules are single bases or 'trays' of troops for Infantry and Artillery and individual vehicles for Tanks and Armoured Scout Cars. He recommended that for 20mm scale figures the bases or 'trays' should be 1-inch square, with one to four figures on the Infantry bases/'trays' and one gun and a one-man crew on the Artillery bases/'trays'. Whilst these were of a suitable size for the small Airfix figures he used, I am considering 1.5-inch square bases/'trays' for my somewhat larger figures.

The rules seem – on the face of it – to be very simple, but they do use some mechanisms that stand up to the test of time quite well.

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Joseph Morschauser’s Rules for a Modern War Game


Unit Type: Rifle
  • Move: 9"
  • Melee Power: 4
  • Weapon Range: 15” for rifle; 4” for A.T Grenade
Unit Type: Machine Gun
  • Move: 9"
  • Melee Power: 2
  • Weapon Range: 15”
Unit Type: Antitank Rocket
  • Move: 9"
  • Melee Power: 2
  • Weapon Range: 9”


Unit Type: Field Gun
  • Move: 6"
  • Melee Power: 1
  • Weapon Range: 36"
Unit Type: Field Howitzer
  • Move: 6"
  • Melee Power: 1
  • Weapon Range: 24"


Unit Type: Tank
  • On Roads: 12"
  • Off Roads: 9"
  • Weapon Range: 24"
Unit Type: Armored Scout Car (carries a machine gun)
  • On Roads: 18"
  • Off Roads: 6"
  • Weapon Range: 15"

All turns are alternate, first one side taking a turn, then the other. Roll the dice to see who moves first. The high number moves first. A commander completes all moves, firing and melees of Units during his turn, and then the other commander does the same.

a) Each vehicle and each tray (each Basic Unit) may be moved only once each turn.

b) A Basic Unit may change its direction of move any number of times during its move.

c) A move may not be split. A Unit may be moved all or part of its move during a turn, but this can be done only once during a turn. If a Unit has been moved only part of its move during a turn, it may not be moved the rest of the distance later in the same turn.

a) Each Basic Unit fires once (one shot) each turn. A hit destroys one enemy Basic Unit.
For Machine Guns Only: Roll one die for each shot. A 2, 4 or 6 is a hit.
For All Other Weapons: Roll one dies for each shot. A 4 or 6 is a hit.
b) Firing should be done at the beginning or end of the Unit’s move only, never at mid-point of move.

c) Rifle fire and machine gun fire can destroy only Infantry and Artillery Units.
Cannon fire, tank fire, antitank rocket fire and antitank grenades (thrown by Infantry Rifle Units) can wipe out all types of Units.

d) Infantry Rifle Units may either fire their rifles or throw antitank grenades during a turn, not both.

e) FIRE ARCS. All weapons except howitzers fire in a straight line-of-sight. Howitzers can fire over Units, trees, hills, etc., and hit Units behind these things.

a) Melee Range is two inches. If Units are two inches apart they are in Melee Range.

b) Units in Melee Range must melee. A Unit may not move past an enemy Unit within Melee Range without meleeing.

c) Melee is conducted at the beginning or end of a move only. If a Unit is blocked part way in its move by a melee situation, it cannot move farther.

d) Tanks do not engage in melee. If their move is blocked by an Infantry or Artillery Unit, they may run down the Unit, but their move is ended there. The run-down unit is removed, and the tank is placed in its spot on the battlefield. To run down an enemy, the tank must be able to completely move over the area of the enemy card. Just being in Melee Range is not enough.

Scout Cars may not melee or run down enemy units. If blocked during their move, they are stopped.

Melee Conduct

The Attacker rolls a die for his Unit and a different color die for the enemy Unit at the same time.

1) If both dice show the Melee Power Numbers or less: Both Units are removed from the battlefield.

2) If one die shows the Melee Power Number or less and the other does not: The Unit represented by the die which does not show the Melee Power Number or less is removed.

3) If both dice do not show the Melee Power numbers of Units or less: It is a draw, and the dice should be rolled again at once.

1) Roads – Roads add no additional speed to Units in general, except in those cases listed above.

2) Hills – Take one point of Melee Power from each Unit which is attacking uphill against an enemy Unit. The point is lost during the attack uphill only.

3) Rivers – In crossing a shallow spot in a river (ford), a Unit moves into the river on turn A, moves out of the river on turn B its full move for that turn. No Units in rivers may fire.

Take one point of Melee Power from a Unit in a river attacking an enemy on the bank.
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Once I had transcribed these rules into a format that I could modify, it immediately struck me that most of the measurements Morschauser used were in units of 3-inches. It should not, therefore, be very difficult to 'convert' them for use on a 3-inch square gridded battlefield.

Perhaps I see where I shall be going next in my quest to recover the 'lost secret' of Morschauser's gridded wargames rules!

PS. I have transcribed the rules as closely as I can to the way in which the original version was published. The main exceptions are sections A), B), and C), which were originally laid out as a set of small tables. I have retained the use of US spellings throughout.

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