Sunday, 30 November 2014

Shades of Morschauser

Despite all my good intentions, I was not able to mount a large play-test of the latest draft of my heavily revised PORTABLE WARGAME: COLONIAL rules yesterday … but I did manage a small skirmish!

It so happened that I found my green 3-inch square gridded felt cloth whilst looking for something else (isn’t that always the way?) and remembered that when Joseph Morschauser had written his original ‘Frontier’ rules, he had used 54mm-scale figures and a 3-inch squared grid. My collection of 54mm-scale Britains American Civil War figures was to hand … so I decided to use them. The resulting battle was a bit different from the one I had planned to fight, but nonetheless it was great fun!

Two small forces of Union and Confederate troops are scouting ahead of the main bodies of their armies. The countryside they are traversing is flat and featureless, and both sides are expecting to run into enemy Units during their reconnaissance.

The Union and Confederate forces are each comprised of four Infantry Units, a Cavalry Unit, and Artillery Unit, and a Command Unit. This means that both sides have a Strength Value of 24 and an Exhaustion Point of 12.

The Union side has been allocated Black as its Unit Activation Card suit colour, and the Confederates have been allocated Red.

The Battle
Both sides advanced with their Cavalry Unit covering one flank and their Artillery Unit the other. Both the Union and Confederate Artillery Units engaged the enemy’s Cavalry Units, and eventually destroyed them, although in the case of the Union Artillery this only happened as a result of the depleted Confederate Cavalry charging them and engaging them in Close Combat.

The Unit Activation Cards turned over were: Black 3, Red 4, Red 2, Black 3, Black 3, Red 4, Red 4, Joker. At this point the battlefield looked like this:

The Union side threw two of its Infantry Units forward, and they engaged the Confederate line with musketry. In reply, two of the Confederates Infantry Units fired back and then charged forward to engage the Union troops in Close Combat. In both instances both sides suffered casualties but the Confederate troops were forced to withdraw.

The Confederate Artillery Unit also fired at the closest of the Union Infantry Units, but missed their target.

The Unit Activation Cards turned over were: Black 2, Red 4, Joker. At this point the battlefield looked like this:

The Union troops were unable to make much progress before the Confederates launched a number of further Infantry attacks using musketry followed by Close Combat ...

... not all of which were successful.

When the Union troops copied the Confederate example their choice of tactic proved to be costly, and ended up with one of their Infantry Units being destroyed.

At this point the number of Union casualties reached the Exhaustion Point, and the Union troops were no longer permitted to carry out any further offensive actions.

The Unit Activation Cards turned over were: Black 2, Red 4, Black 4. At this point the battlefield looked like this:

The Union troops continued to suffer casualties ...

... but eventually they were able to extricate themselves from the battle and withdraw ...

The Unit Activation Cards turned over were: Red 3, Black 3, Red 3. At this point the battlefield looked like this:

The final Unit Activation Card turned over was Black 4. This allowed the Union troops to withdraw.

... leaving the victorious Confederates in possession of the battlefield.

Lessons learnt
The main object of this play-test was to see if the revised Close Combat system worked ... and it does.

A by-product of this particular play-test was the fact that I now realise that it is quite possible to use the rules with much larger scale figures than I originally intended to use them with (my plan was to use them with 15mm and 20mm-scale figures) ... and that playing wargames with traditional toy soldiers can be great fun. As I have quite a collection of them, I can foresee using them in PORTABLE WARGAME battles as well as in FUNNY LITTLE WARS wargames.


  1. Isn't it great, how much fun we can get out of a handful figures? Please, keep sharing your games. Always an inspiration!

  2. Excellent stuff Bob, and a real treat to see Britains' toy soldiers still in use :-) Really enjoy these postings and that's a great write up as well. Thanks very much indeed for posting... When's the next one :-)

  3. Ioannis,

    I am extremely pleased that you enjoyed this blog entry. You are right about not needing a large number of figures to have fun wargaming; all you need is some good rules, a good scenario, and a bit of imagination.

    All the best,


  4. Blaxkleric,

    I am very pleased that you enjoyed this blog entry. It made a very pleasant change to use some of my Britains toy soldiers.

    I try to make my battle reports as informative as I can but not too wordy, hence the use of as many photographs as possible. With luck I should be able to stage another play-test in about a week or so ... but it will probably not feature my Britains toy soldiers.

    All the best,


  5. A nice little game! I find this style of game to be very suitable for larger figures.

  6. Ross Mac,

    I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours fighting this little battle and recording it for posterity. It also gave me the opportunity to use part of my collection that normally only sees the light of day during the Summer months ... and then not very often.

    I need to acquire/make some basic terrain items if I want to use my Britains toy soldiers again for tabletop wargames, but that should not be too difficult a task. As to my 3-inch square gridded cloth ... well that is 12 x 16 and should allow me to fight slightly bigger battles.

    All the best,


  7. That's a proper game of toy soldiers! I think that sometimes I get too hung up on painting masses of figures and worrying about scenery! This is gaming like I used to do when I was young and played perfectly satisfactory games with unpainted Airfix figures on our coffee table at home.

  8. Legatus Hedlius,

    I think that we all suffer bouts of what Joseph Morschauser called 'massiveitis' (i.e. projects that involve large numbers of figures on huge tables covered in scenery). He advocated smaller games that could be set up and played quickly ... and as I get older I am following his lead with enthusiasm. This particular game was played on a dining room-sized table, but my previous battle was fought on a 2' x 2' cloth that would easily have fitted on a coffee table.

    All the best,



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