Saturday, 27 February 2010

Morschauser – The way ahead?

I had been studiously avoiding anything to do with Joseph Morschauser’s rules – and my various adaptations of them – for the past few days in order to come back to them with a clear mind. This has not been easy, as I had had several emails or comments on my various blog entries about the rules and I had felt duty bound to read and respond to them.

Today I felt that I had both the time and the inclination to revisit the situation, and before I did so I briefly summarised the suggestions that had been made so far. They were as follows:
  • Omit Commanders altogether; this is what Joseph Morschauser had done in order to keep his game as simple as possible.
  • Represent command and control by a different means that does not involve having the army Commanders represented on the battlefield.
  • Have one Commander for each side who can defend themselves if attacked, and who can give an additional combat die to any Unit they are orthogonally adjacent to.
  • Make the Commander just like any other Unit, but give them the ability to influence events by restricting the number of playing cards they can deal and allowing them to support other Units they are close to during combat (N.B. this is similar to the previous proposal but does allow the Command Unit to initiate combat rather than just defend itself).
  • Allow a Commander to activate any Unit they are with at any point during a turn; this would enable them to show personal leadership in battle but would make them more likely to get killed.
These are all excellent suggestions. Some are mutually exclusive, others are not, and what I had to do is to decide which – if any – I was going to follow.

However, before I was able to make that decision I received an email that has made me think again. It came to me second-hand (i.e. via an intermediary) from someone who writes that they have been using Joseph Morschauser’s rules for many years. I assume that the person who originated the email is probably not a regular reader of my blog, may not be on a regular Internet user (hence the email being sent via someone else), and that they are certainly of a similar or slightly older age to myself. The gist of what they wrote is as follows:
  • He had heard about the work I had done developing Morschauser's rules, and had been given a printout of the relevant blog entries by someone who knew of his interest in the rules.
  • He had used the rules as written in Joseph Morschauser’s HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE almost since he started wargaming, and that most of his wargaming was solo.
  • He had never used a gridded tabletop, but thought that what I had done with the rules to get them to work with a squared grid made sense.
  • He did not see why I had stopped using multi-figure bases and moved over to single figure bases; if I wanted to make the game last longer, why not use the roster system?
  • He had used the roster system for a time, but in the end went back to the original ‘its dead or its not dead’ system.
  • At this point he also mentioned that at first he had misread Morschauser’s roster rules, and had thrown only one die per Unit until it was destroyed. As a result the battles did last much longer, but tended to end up as massive skirmishes. He also pointed out that throwing one die per Unit was quicker than one die per figure, and that the end result was not that different, especially if I continued to use the ‘saving throws’ I had introduced.
  • He could not understand why I was bothering with Commanders (he called them Commanding Generals) as they seemed to be making things too complicated.
  • He then asked why I hadn’t stuck with what Morschauser had written in his book as this made sense; Morschauser had done a lot of work over a long time to develop the rules, and had only added the section that covered Commanding Generals as part of the optional Morale rules.
  • He ended by saying that he was glad to see that someone else had realised how good Morschauser’s rules were, and that it was about time that his contribution to the hobby was recognised.
This is all very interesting and thought-provoking stuff. The gentleman who wrote this email is obviously something of a Morschauser purist – and I have absolutely nothing against that – and probably does not like some of the things that I have done with the rules. He does, however, make some very important points that I need to think about.

In some ways I am more confused now than I was before this email arrived, but in others I can begin to see things somewhat clearer. What I need to do is to go back to first principles, re-read Joseph Morschauser’s book, and then decide what I want to do next. The way ahead is beginning to get clearer ... but is not yet totally clear.


  1. Hi Bob,

    I have only two questions concerning your commander conundrum.

    Do you really want them in your game?

    Do you really need them in your game?

    Or is this want/need a reflection of you being influenced by years of using rules that had command thingies of one flavor or another.

    We are a product of our environment. Maybe so?

    Are commanders necessary to make the game fun for you?

    If yes, then take the simplest course of action that makes you happy. That is all that matters. It is your game. Be happy.

    I think all our suggestions are merely confusing the issue and causing you to pause on the road to a fun game.

    Life is Good!


  2. Jim,

    You may well be right.

    At the moment I am still unsure where to go next ... but I am coming round towards having just a simple game. If Commanders are included, they will be there as a Unit with a distinct role and influence, just as the other Units do.

    Re-reading Morschauser has helped me to clarify my thinking somewhat; now I need to begin to put my ideas down on paper.

    Thanks for you help, advice, and support,

    All the best,



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