The Invasion of Morschauserland: Play-test 4 – The road to Morschauser City

This battle was fought to test the latest version of my adaptation of Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Modern’ period wargames rules for use on a 3-inch square gridded battlefield, and specifically to see how well the new ‘hit effect’ rule would work.

Scenario

Now that the bulk of the Morschauserland Regular Army had been defeated and destroyed, the Eastlanders were intent on continuing their advance on Morschauser City. They stopped for a short time to regroup and to bring their forces up to strength, and this gave the Morschauserlanders enough time to set up a last ditch defence line on the road to Morschauser City.

This defence line was constructed from obsolete tanks taken from the Army’s reserve stocks and sandbagged defences that were manned by the remnants of the Morschauserland Regular Army. In addition four concealed minefields were laid, and some barbed wire entanglements erected. The position of each of the minefields and barbed wire entanglements was determined by throwing 2D6 to indicate which column they would be placed in and a D12 for the row. As Morschauser himself writes:

LET THE DICE DECIDE!
Forces Deployed

    Morschauserland

    • 2nd Machine Guns: 1 x Machine Gun Unit
    • 4th Machine Guns: 1 x Machine Gun Unit
    • 5th Machine Guns: 1 x Machine Gun Unit
    • 1st Artillery: 1 x Howitzer Unit
    • 1st Reserve Tanks: 1 x Tank Unit
    • 2nd Reserve Tanks: 1 x Tank Unit

    Eastland – 1st Wave

    • 203rd Rifles: 3 x Rifle Units
    • 204th Rifles: 3 x Rifle Units
    • 101st Self-Propelled Artillery: 1 x SP Field Gun Unit
    • 102nd Self-propelled Artillery: 1 x SP Field Gun Unit

    Eastland – 2nd Wave

    • 101st Tanks: 2 x Tank Units
    • 205th Rifles: 3 x Rifle Units

    Eastland – 3rd Wave

    • 102nd Tanks: 3 x Tank Units
    • 101st Rifles: 3 x Rifle Units
    • 102nd Rifles: 3 x Rifle Units
    • 102nd Machine Guns: 1 x Machine Gun Unit
    • 102nd Mortars: 1 x Mortar Unit
    • 101st Artillery: 1 x Howitzer Unit
    • 101st Antitank Artillery: 1 x Anti-tank Gun Unit

Initial Positions

The following map shows the initial positions held by the Morschauserlanders and the main axes of attack used by the Eastlanders. As occurred in the previous battle, the 1st Wave of the Eastland attack contained the 203rd Rifles and 101st Self-propelled Artillery (on the northern axis of advance) and 204th Rifles and 102nd Self-propelled Artillery (allocated to the southern axis of advance). The subsequent two waves were to advance on to the battlefield as and when the Eastland commander felt that they were needed to exploit any breakthrough or reinforce any stalled attacks.

Morschauserland’s ‘Forlorn Hope’: The final defence line on the road to Morschauser City.

Turn 1

Both sides threw a die to see which side would move first; the Morschauserlanders threw a 1 and the Eastlanders threw a 5; therefore the Eastlanders moved first.

The 1st Wave of the Eastland attack advanced on to the battlefield. The 101st Self-propelled Artillery engaged the dug-in Tank Unit to their front. They threw a 4 and missed their target. The 102nd Self-propelled Artillery followed suit and engaged the dug-in Tank Unit to their front. They also threw a 4 and missed their target.

As no other Eastland Units were in range of possible targets, it was then the turn of the Morschauserlanders to fire. The 1st Reserve Tanks engaged the 101st Self-propelled Artillery, threw a 4, and missed their target. The 2nd Reserve Tanks then fired at the 102nd Self-propelled Artillery, threw a 5, and hit it. Because the 102nd Self-propelled Artillery was in the open they required a 6 to survive the hit, but they threw a 2 and were destroyed.

First blood to Morschauserland! During the opening exchange of fire, the 2nd Reserve Tanks destroyed the 102nd Self-propelled Artillery.

Turn 2

Both sides threw a die to see which side would move first; the Morschauserlanders threw a 5 and the Eastlanders threw a 2; therefore the Morschauserlanders moved first.

Once again the Morschauserlanders remained behind their defences, content to engage the attacking Eastlanders at long range.

The 1st Reserve Tanks again engaged the 101st Self-propelled Artillery, threw a 6, and hit their target. The 101st Self-propelled Artillery threw a 4 to determine the effect of the hit, but as they were in the open this was not enough to save them from destruction.

The 2nd Reserve Tanks then fired at the southernmost Rifle Unit of the 204th Rifles, threw a 5, and hit it as well! The Rifle Unit also threw to determine the effect of the hit, but the score of 1 was too low to save them from being destroyed.

The Morschauserlanders continued to cause casualties on 1st Wave of the advancing Eastlanders.

It was now the turn of the Eastlanders to move. The Eastland commander had insufficient room to deploy the 2nd Wave of his troops until the 203rd and 204th Rifles had moved forward. Both Units did advance … but a barbed wire entanglement held up the right-hand Rifle Unit of the 203rd Rifles and the left-hand Rifle Unit of the 203rd Rifles marched straight into one of the concealed minefields. A dice was thrown, and the score of 4 resulted in the Rifle Unit’s destruction. At the same time the right-hand and centre Rifle Units of the 204th Rifles were able to advance unopposed until the latter also marched into another concealed minefield. A further dice was thrown, a 5 was scored, and that Rifle Unit was also destroyed.

The leading Rifle Unit of the 203rd Rifles opened fire on the 2nd Machine Guns. They threw a 5 and hit their target, but because the 2nd Machine Guns were behind soft cover they were able to throw to determine the effect of the hit. They threw a 5 … and survived. The remaining Rifle Unit of the 204th Rifles fired at the 5th Machine Guns. They threw a 3 and missed their target.

The leading Eastland 1st Wave Rifle Units were unable to inflict casualties on the Morschauserland defenders.

Turn 3

Both sides threw a die to see which side would move first; the Morschauserlanders threw a 4 and the Eastlanders threw a 3; therefore the Morschauserlanders moved first.

The 2nd Machine Guns opened fire on the leading Rifle Unit of 203rd Rifles. They threw a 1 and missed their target. The 1st Reserve Tanks also engaged the same target and threw a 6, hitting it. Because the Rifle Unit of the 203rd Rifles was in the open it needed a throw of 6 to survive; unfortunately it threw a 5 and was destroyed.

The 4th Machine Guns then opened fire on the remaining Rifle Unit of 204th Rifles, and threw a 5, which meant that they had hit their target. A throw of 6 by the Rifle Unit was, however, sufficient to ensure their survival for the present. The 5th Machine Guns then fired at the same Rifle Unit of 204th Rifles. They also threw a 5, which meant that the target had been hit a second time. The Rifle Unit threw a 4, but this time the score was too low to ensure their survival, and they were destroyed.

The Morschauserland defenders wiped out almost the whole 1st Wave of Eastland attackers before the 2nd Wave was deployed onto the battlefield.

The Eastlander commander then deployed the 2nd Wave of his troops. Their axis of advance straddled the main road, and they were led by the 101st Tanks, with the 205th Rifles deployed in line abreast behind the Tank Units.

Whilst the remaining Rifle Unit of the 203rd Rifles removed the barbed wire entanglement that was hampering its advance, the right-hand Tank Unit of 101st Tanks opened fire on the 1st Reserve Tanks. They threw a 1 and missed their target.

The left-hand Tank Unit of 101st Tanks engaged the 2nd Reserve Tanks, but they threw a 5, hitting their target. Because the 2nd Reserve Tanks were behind soft cover, they needed a throw of 5 or 6 to survive, but they threw a 3 and were destroyed.

The Eastlanders finally inflicted some casualties on the Morschauserland defenders when a Tank Unit of the 101st Tanks destroyed the 2nd Reserve Tanks.

Turn 4

Both sides threw a die to see which side would move first; the Morschauserlanders threw a 6 and the Eastlanders threw a 4; therefore the Morschauserlanders moved first.

Having lost such an important part of their defences, it was vital that the Morschauserlanders inflicted casualties on the Eastland attackers before they came too close.

The 1st Reserve Tanks opened fire on the right-hand Tank Unit of the 101st Tanks. They threw a 3 and missed their target. The 1st Artillery then fired at the left-hand Tank Unit of the 101st Tanks, threw a 6 and hit it. The Tank Unit threw to see if it would survive the hit, but its score of 1 was far too low and it was destroyed.

Whilst the gunfire of the 1st Reserve Tanks proved to be ineffective, the 1st Artillery destroyed a Tank Unit of the 101st Tanks as it advanced towards the defence line.

The remaining Eastland Units moved forward. Unfortunately the remaining Tank Unit of 101st Tanks drove straight into one of the concealed minefields; a die was thrown, and the score of 4 resulted in the Unit’s destruction!

The centre Rifle Unit of 205th Rifles engaged the 5th Machine Guns, threw a 2, and missed its target. The last Rifle Unit of the 203rd Rifles fired at the 2nd Machine Guns, threw a 4, and also failed to hit its target.

The improvised Morschauserland defences – and their stop-gap defenders – proved to be a match for the first two waves of Eastland attackers. The burning hulks of the attacker’s tanks provided testament to the doggedness of the defence … and the effectiveness of concealed minefields!

Turn 5

Both sides threw a die to see which side would move first; the Morschauserlanders threw a 4 and the Eastlanders threw a 5; therefore the Eastlanders moved first.

The Eastland commander now decided to throw in the 3rd Wave of troops. Whilst they advanced onto the battlefield, the Rifle Units of the 203rd and 205th Rifles advanced towards the Morschauserland defences.

The last Rifle Unit of the 203rd Rifles fired again at the 2nd Machine Guns, threw yet another 4, and again failed to hit its target. The right-hand Rifle Unit of 205th Rifles engaged the 4th Machine Guns, threw a 3, and also missed its target. The centre Rifle Unit of 205th Rifles opened fire on the 1st Artillery, threw a 1, and missed its target.

The 101st Artillery fired at the 1st Reserve Tanks. They threw a 5, thus hitting their target. Because the 1st Reserve Tanks were in soft cover they were able to throw to determine the effect of the hit; they threw a 4 … and were destroyed.

The 203rd and 205th Rifles engaged the Morschauserland defenders at short range, but were unable to inflict any casualties.

The 101st Artillery were much more successful than the Eastland Rifle Units, and were able to destroy the last remaining Reserve Tank Unit.

The Morschauserland defenders then fired back at their attackers. The 2nd Machine Guns fired at the last Rifle Unit of the 203rd Rifles, threw a 5, and hit them. The 203rd Rifles were in the open, threw a 3, and as a result they were destroyed. The 4th Machine Guns engaged the right-hand Rifle Unit of 205th Rifles, threw a 1, and missed their target. The 1st Artillery opened fire on the centre Rifle Unit of 205th Rifles, threw a 5, and hit their target. Because the Rifle Unit of 205th Rifles was in the open they threw to see if they would survive; their score was 3 and they were destroyed.

The Morschauserland defenders fired at the 203rd and 205th Rifles at short range, and wiped out two of the three attacking Rifle Units.

Turn 6

Both sides threw a die to see which side would move first; the Morschauserlanders threw a 2 and the Eastlanders threw a 5; therefore the Eastlanders moved first.

The Eastland troops advanced towards the centre of the Morschauserland defences. The right-hand Rifle Unit of the 205th Rifles fired at the 4th Machine Guns at short range. They threw a 5, and hit their target, which in turn threw a 1. Despite being in soft cover, the 4th Machine Guns were destroyed, and the Rifle Unit – which had not yet moved – advanced and occupied the now vacant defences.

The left-hand Rifle Unit of the 205th Rifles engaged the 5th Machine Guns and threw a 5, with the result that they also hit their target. The 5th Machine Guns threw a die to determine the result of the hit, and their score of 4 was insufficient to prevent them from being destroyed.

The 205th Rifles finally overcame the Morschauserland 4th and 5th Machine Gun Units.

The right-hand Tank Unit of the 102nd Tanks opened fire on the 2nd Machine Guns. They threw a 3 and missed their target. The centre Tank Unit of the 102nd Tanks followed suit, and also missed when they threw a 1. The left-hand Tank Unit also engaged the 2nd Machine Guns, threw a 5, and hit their target. The 2nd Machine Guns threw a die to see if they survived the hit; their score of 6 was sufficient to ensure that they did.

The 102nd Tanks attempted to destroy the 2nd Machine Gun Unit with gunfire.

The Morschauserlanders were now reduced to 50% of their original strength, and stood a 50:50 chance of retreating (i.e. A score of 1, 2, or 3 = Retreat; 4, 5, or 6 = Fight on). The Morschauserland defenders, knowing that unless help came they were the last hope of preventing the Eastlanders reaching Morschauser City, threw a 5, stayed put, and engaged the closest enemy Units.

The 1st Artillery opened fire on the centre Tank Unit of the 102nd Tanks. A score of 5 was enough to hit the Tank Unit, which threw a 3 to determine the effect of the hit. This was not a high enough score to prevent the Tank Unit’s destruction.

The 2nd Machine Guns turned to their right and engaged the Rifle Unit of the 205th Rifles that has just broken through the defence line. A score of 6 ensured that they hit their target, which threw a score of 3 in response. The Rifle Unit was destroyed!

The Morschauserlanders were determined to fight on despite being outnumbered, and continued to inflict casualties upon their attackers.

Turn 7

Both sides threw a die to see which side would move first; the Morschauserlanders threw a 4 and the Eastlanders threw a 3; therefore the Morschauserlanders moved first.

Although their situation was desperate, the Morschauserland defenders refused to retreat. The 1st Artillery opened fire on the nearest Tank Unit of the 102nd Tanks, and threw a 5, hitting it. The Tank Unit threw a 5 in reply, but this was insufficient to prevent its destruction.

The 1st Artillery knocked out a second Tank Unit of the 102nd Tanks.

The destruction of the second Tank Unit of the 102nd Tanks meant that the Eastlanders were reduced to less than 50% of their original strength. This meant that they stood a 50:50 chance of retreating (i.e. A score of 1, 2, or 3 = Retreat; 4, 5, or 6 = Fight on). The Eastlanders threw a 1, and began to withdraw from the battlefield. Morschauser City was safe … for the time being.

Conclusions

The new ‘hit effect’ rule worked very well, and because it was much more difficult to destroy dug-in troops, the battle lasted much longer than before.

I now feel that the rules are at a stage where they are playable and that further tinkering and development is presently unnecessary. I would like to incorporate some air support and air-to-air combat rules at some time in the future, but for the time being I am happy with the rules as they are.

Joseph Morschauser’s original rules were basically very sound, simple to use, and easy to remember, and my adaptation of them has provided me with lots of interesting problems to solve and some exceedingly enjoyable play-tests. I intend to continue to use them for the foreseeable future, and already have ideas about how to adapt them for colonial wargaming … but that, as they say, is another as yet to be told story.

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Wargames on film and TV: The Four Feathers (1977)

I was searching through my DVD collection today, when I came across my copy of the 1977 remake of THE FOUR FEATHERS. The film starred Beau Bridges (Harry Faversham), Robert Powell (Jack Durrance), Simon Ward (William Trench), and Jane Seymour (Ethne Eustace), and featured Harry Andrews (General Faversham) and Richard Johnson (Abou Fatma).

It is not the most memorable of the film versions of A.E.W. Mason’s original story (although it is far more faithful to it than the most recent version), but the film’s title sequence and opening scene features a Napoleonic wargame that is being fought using 25mm scale figures.

Kneeling British Napoleonic Infantry.

Charging Polish Lancers of the Imperial Guard. These form the front rank of a large group of French Cavalry, and the following shots show the subsequent ranks of …

… Chasseurs à Cheval of the Imperial Guard, …

… Mamelukes, …

… and Dragoons.

British Infantry open fire.

French Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard return fire.

A column of French Imperial Guard Infantry receive their orders.

General Faversham (Harry Andrews) lectures the young Harry Faversham about using the right tactics to defeat an enemy.

I understand that Eric Knowles supplied the troops used by the film company from his extensive collection of Napoleonic wargames figures.


Christmas past … and presents!

My wife and I have just returned from a short break at our favourite hotel – The Le Strange Arms Hotel, Old Hunstanton, Norfolk – where we spent a very relaxing Christmas. As usual the food and entertainment was excellent, and we greatly enjoyed the company of our fellow guests.

I received an interesting mixture of presents this year, including several books and a game. My wife bought me the recently published THE DEFENCE OF THE REALM – THE AUTHORIZED HISTORY OF MI5. Professor Christopher Andrew wrote this book, and he was given unprecedented access to MI5’s files in order to write this book.

The book is divided into several sections. These are:

  • Section A: The German Threat, 1909 – 1919
  • Section B: Between the Wars
  • Section C: The Second World War
  • Section D: The Early Cold War
  • Section E: The Later Cold War
  • Section F: After the Cold War

The book is published by Penguin Books Ltd., costs £30.00, and is available from most large bookshops (ISBN: 978 0 713 99885 6).

The second book I was given was a present from an old friend, Tony Hawkins. It is SANDS OF DEATH – BETRAYAL, MASSACRE AND SURVIVAL DEEP IN THE SAHARA by Michael Asher (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, ISBN: 978 0 297 84643 7).

The book tells the story of the ill-fated French expeditions – led by Major Paul Fletters – to cross the Sahara. Michael Asher has an excellent reputation as a writer as well having extensive experience of the desert and the Arab world, and I am looking forward to reading this book in the very near future.

The final book I was given was a recent re-print of Carlo D’Este’s FATAL DECISION – ANZIO & THE BATTLE FOR ROME (Aurum Press Ltd., ISBN: 1 84513 242 4). I borrowed this book from my local library and read it when it was originally published in 1991, and I am please that I now have a copy to add to my collection of books about World War II.

My wife also gave me a game that I had never heard of before – BEYOND SUDOKU – SEA BATTLE.

This is a combination of Sudoku and the old game ‘Battleships’. The game looks like it will be interesting to play as it is, but my wife bought it for me because she thought that I could use the components to develop my own games … and I must admit that thought had crossed my mind as I unopened it!


Wargames on film and TV: Game of War

This was Channel 4’s attempt to make Kriegsspiel into a spectator sport. Unfortunately it did not work very well and only lasted for a single, short series of three programmes.

Details from the programme’s opening credits.

The programme was hosted by Angela Rippon, assisted by Iain Dickie (who gave general advice about tactics), Arthur Harman (who acted as combat umpire), and Paddy Griffith (who acted as the player liaison umpire).

From left to right: Arthur Harman, Iain Dickie, Angela Rippon, and Dr Paddy Griffith.

Three battles were re-fought by eminent modern-day British generals (both active and retired) who were in turn assisted by professional military historians.

The umpires’ map was a three dimensional representation of the battlefield, and the position of forces deployed by both sides were indicated by differently coloured and shaped plastic playing pieces.

A close-up of the plastic playing pieces.

The two opposing commanders and their staffs had a two dimensional representation of the battlefield to work with. Differently shaped and coloured plastic plaques indicated the positions of their own troops and those of the enemy that they could see.

The battles were:

  • Naseby
  • Balaklava
  • Waterloo

It was a valiant effort to make wargaming interesting to the general public, and the interaction between the commanders and their ‘staffs’ was very interesting – for example towards the end of the Battle of Naseby both sides thought that they were about to lose – but there was insufficient spectacle for the average viewer. It was also unhelpful that the programmes were transmitted quite late at night.


Wargames on film and TV: The Oxford Murders

Whilst I was writing the most recent blog entry about Callan the Wargamer, I remembered that last year I watched a film entitled THE OXFORD MURDERS. The film starred Elijah Woods and John Hurt, and at one point in the film they play a wargame. This forms the backdrop to a conversation they are having with a senior police officer, and has little or nothing to do with the film’s plot except to reinforce the point that both of them are intellectuals who are interested in mathematics, codes, and strategy.

The wargame sequence is quite short, and is not particularly well lit but …

Martin (Elijah Wood) and Professor Arthur Seldom (John Hurt) contemplate their next moves.

The battle appears to be one from the Napoleonic era and the terrain is constructed from Geo-Hex.

Martin (Elijah Wood) in a classic wargamer’s pose – bent over moving figures across the tabletop. It is a wonder that more wargamers don’t suffer from bad backs!


Callan the Wargamer: Part 2

I managed to watch CALLAN: THE MOVIE last night, and I enjoyed the experience no end!

Watching the scenes that featured the wargame between Callan and Schneider reminded me that at the time the film went on general release, the terrain and figures that were used were what every wargamer seemed to aspire to have. Now it would look rather run-of-the-mill at most wargames shows in the UK. I suppose that this demonstrates how far the desire to have aesthetically appealing wargames has developed in the intervening years.

And now on to the film …

David Callan (played by Edward Woodward) surveys the battlefield at Gettysburg and writes his initial orders down.

A Federal commander near Little Round Top.

Federal troops – in this case Zouaves – line the top of Cemetery Ridge.

More Federal troops deployed along the top of Cemetery Ridge.

The Confederates are deployed in the valley below the ridge.

Another view of the Confederate front line.

Confederate Artillery Batteries occupy the high ground behind their Infantry.

Columns of Confederate Infantry advance on Little Round Top.

The Confederate troops move forward inexorably.

The view from behind the Federal troops on Cemetery Ridge.

The Confederate and Federal troops face each other.

The Confederate advance up Little Round Top meets resistance …

… but this is soon overcome and the Confederates appear to be about to turn the Federal flank.

However Federal Cavalry advance to cut off the Confederates on Little Round Top, and it looks likely that this will result in a disaster for the Confederacy.

As happens in so many wargames, the battle ended just as it was getting really exciting. Usually this happens because both sides have run out of time, but in this instance it was the arrival of the Police that brought the whole thing to a premature end.


Callan the Wargamer: Part 1

I managed to spend an hour this afternoon relaxing and watching a DVD recording of ACT OF KINDNESS, which is my favourite episode of CALLAN.

During the episode David Callan fights a series of wargames against Heathcote Land, and the following stills are from these battles.

The first battle is fought at a wargames convention, where Callan commands a small French Napoleonic army and Land commands the British.

Heathcote Land’s British Royal Horse Artillery prepare to open fire on Callan’s French Infantry.

The French Infantry have formed square because of the presence of British Cavalry, but this makes them a prime target for Land’s Royal Horse Artillery and they suffer casualties as a result.

Another view of Land’s British Royal Horse Artillery.

The British Cavalry finish the job, and charge into the already damaged French Infantry squares.

As the British Cavalry hit the French Infantry squares they become aware of the presence of French Artillery and Cavalry. This causes them to turn away and return to the main body of the British army.

This timely retreat is not enough to save the British Cavalry, who are chased from the battlefield by Callan’s French Cavalry.

The second battle is fought as part of a short campaign set in Southern France that Land suggests that he and Callan should fight. The first move of the battle was shown as a series of stills that were linked together to form a sort of animation.

The French Cavalry advance, forcing the British Infantry to form square.

The tension rises as the advancing French Cavalry are getting closer to the as yet unformed British square.

It is now obvious that the French Cavalry are going to reach the British Infantry before their square will be fully formed.

The French Cavalry hit the unformed British Infantry square, which disintegrated as a result. However Land had stationed his Artillery behind the Infantry, and he opened fire on the French Cavalry with devastating results.

I hope to have enough time to watch CALLAN: THE MOVIE tomorrow, and if it is possible I will try to get some stills from the American Civil War Battle of Gettysburg that Callan fights with Schneider.