Friday, 27 November 2009

Something to ponder ...

At what point does something cease to be a development of someone else's work and become one's own?

I pose this question because of the recent work I have done – with the help and assistance of Jim Wright and Ross Macfarlane – modifying and developing Joseph Morschauser's wargames rules.

Whilst the basic mechanisms are still very definitely Morschauser’s, the wording of the rules is gradually moving away from his style, content, and layout to become much more like my own. Rules have also been added to those in the original version, and some of the original ones have been changed or even removed. At some time in the future I intend to add some explanatory notes and diagrams to the text, and at that point I suspect that over 50% of the content will be my original work rather than Joseph Morschauser’s.

But is it right to call the result mine?

My gut feeling is that the answer to this question is ‘NO!’ because the fundamental elements of the rules will still be Joseph Morschauser’s.

Perhaps the answer is to look for a solution in the world of music, where composers have used the work of others to produce variations. For example, Brahms's wrote VARIATIONS AND FUGUE ON A THEME BY HANDEL and the VARIATIONS ON A THEME BY HAYDN. So when I cast around for a name for the rules I am still developing, perhaps I should subtitle them something along the lines of VARIATIONS ON A SET OF WARGAMES RULES BY MORSCHAUSER.

Comments anyone?


  1. Howdy Bob,

    For a title I'd like to suggest "Foursquare Wars." Foursquare meaning marked by boldness and conviction, forthright. I think this applies to your rules. Foursquare also alludes to the gridded nature of the battlefield.

    So, "Foursquare Wars, an Advanced Variation on the Morschauser Wargame Rules." Of just "Foursquare Wars" and put a short thanks to Morschauser in the introduction or designer notes.

    Its not a quote as you seem to prefer, but it has a nice ring to it.

    Again I suggest that you tidy up your first Morschauser effort. Put a bow on it and set it on a self, available to other to use.

    Then, clearing your mind of any perceived debt to Joe Morschauser, go forward to create your new rules. Remember Mr. Morschauser himself said it was a starting place and one should alter as one saw fit. You have a wider and yet more detailed vision of the rules than Morschauser. Go for it.

    Ross and I will take whatever you make and tweak it, I am sure. All three of us enjoy the rules creation process, and each of us have our own vision of a "perfect" set.

    I personally like your WEC rules better as a whole. You are creating your rules, not mine. Make them what you want. You don't owe anyone anything. Your own enjoyment is the ultimate goal. If others use them, great, that is icing on the cake, a bonus.

    Just my opinion. Like the old saying goes, I have a bellybutton, so I'm entitled to an opinion. Ha!

    Have a glass of Holiday cheer. Go hug your wife and tell her thank you for putting up with your hobby.

    Then clear the deck for action, and full steam ahead.

    Happy Holidays,


  2. Jim,

    Hello to you to!

    I like the title. As they say in an advert in the UK 'It says what it does on the tin'.

    I must admit that the diversion into Morschauser's rules was originally just that; a diversion from the work I was doing on WEC to give me a break, but just like Topsy it ‘growed'. The problem is that I rather like the simplicity of the mechanisms he uses, even if the are rather deadly!

    I am at the stage where I can see it being something that I can put to one side and say ‘I have taken this as far as I want to for the time being’, and then move on to something else. However, I am very conscious that it has affected the way I will think about wargame design in the future. It has firmly convinced me that simple mechanisms that wargamers can grasp very quickly - and that have coherence about them – makes for a much better wargame. Once the basic rules get over three or four pages long, it becomes a reading exercise and not a game any more. That is not to say that there is no place for explanatory notes, diagrams, or pictures; just that players should be able to read and grasp the essentials in minutes and not hours (or in some cases, never!).

    Have a great Thanksgiving,

    All the best,


  3. Bob,

    In answer to your question about when do the rules become yours rather than Joe's, remember that you cannot copyright a mechanism, only the specific words that describe it. So if you take Joe's mechanics and describe them in your own words then IMHO those rules are now yours.

    Of course the proper thing to do is to acknowledge all the sources of inspiration in the Credits.

    I went through a very similar exercise with Paul Koch's "On to Richmond" that eventually became my rules "Raise the Rebel Yell".

    Best wishes

  4. Hi Bob:

    I think Jim Wright's comments on authorship are quite good. One other idea you could potentially consider would be to simply list Morschauser and yourself as co-authors of the rules -- "Title of the Rules" by Robert Cordery and Joseph Morschauser -- again as Jim Wright said, mentioning something in the introduction, perhaps about the respective contribution of each author.

    Chris C.

  5. I very much like the monniker 'foursquare'. It could become something akin to DBA/DBM where variants are developed by others, following the idea of playing to simple mechanisms on a gridded surface.
    I'm sure Morschauser would thoroughly endorse your efforts.

  6. Mike, Chris C, and jfidz (and Jim ... again!),

    Thanks for your comments, which reflect a lot of my own thinking on the subject.

    Whatever happens, I will certainly acknowledge Joseph Morschauser as the inspiration for the rules I end up with either as co-author, in a dedication, or in the introduction (or possibly all three!).

    As for the name … well Foursquare is defined as being ‘with firmness and unwavering conviction; without compromise’, all of which sounds like a good description for a set of wargames rules. In addition, it lends itself to a very simple logo – 4[] (well sort of; the restrictions on the html I can use means that I cannot use a square symbol, but you get the general idea).

    All the best,


  7. ewould you want to call the work "YOURS" or "MINE".I mean does anyone care?
    If the rules are good you helped.=Fine result

  8. Fixed Bayonet Metal Soldiers,

    Having had my work copied by someone else, who then passed it off as their own (all they did was change the measurements in the rules from metric to Imperial), the answer is that is does matter to some people, including me.

    Intellectual property theft is a problem, even in the world of wargaming, and whilst I agree that if the rules are improved by what I have done everyone benefits, I still have an obligation and a duty to acknowledge from whom the original ideas came.

    All the best,


  9. This is as close as I can get: あ

    I'll second Jim on this, Morschauser encouraged people to write their own rules using anything that he suggested if it suited them. I think a simple acknowledgement of inspiration is enough where the rules are a direct development of another set. I'm sure there is a fuzzy line somewhere between "modified morschauser" and "inspired by" but I'm not sure its important.

  10. Ross Mac,

    I am certainly going to include an acknowledgement in the introduction, and possibly something like 'inspired by' on the title page. I will see what it looks like at the design stage and go from there.

    As for the logo … well if I go with FOURSQUARE for the name (and I am more and more inclined towards it) the logo could be a 4 plus a square (4[]) or a 4 in a square ([4]). Again, this will be down to what the design looks like on paper if and when I get that far.

    All the best,


  11. But it seems from your tone that you want to try and make the rules yours, why not write
    original rules by --------------

    modified by Bob ?

    Game over

  12. Fixed Bayonet Metal Soldiers,

    As you say ...

    Game over!

    All the best,



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