Memoir of Battle: Play-test 1

The Maharajah of Kanatuna had been allowing – and possibly even leading – raiding parties that had been attacking native villages across the border in British Chindia. The local British District Commissioner ordered the commander of the British garrison in the area – Colonel Sir Johnny Come-Lately – to mount a punitive expedition against Kanatuna to teach the Maharajah a lesson and to deter future raids.

Colonel Sir Johnny Come-Lately assembled his expeditionary force along the border with Kanatuna. It comprised:

  • An infantry unit each from the Border Guide, the McBean Highlander, and the Cambridgeshire Light Infantry Regiments,
  • A machine gun unit from the Queen’s Own Hertfordshire Regiment (armed with a Gatling Gun), and
  • An artillery unit from the Royal Artillery (armed with rifled artillery).

The Maharajah heard about the punitive expedition from his network of spies and informers inside British Chindia, and also assembled his troops just inside the Chindian-Kanatunan border. His troops comprised:

  • An infantry unit each from the Red, White and Cream Turban Regiments, and
  • Two artillery units (each armed with smooth-bore artillery).

The Maharajah drew his force up so that they commanded the main route into Kanatuna … and then he waited for the British to advance.

Turn 1
Knowing that the Maharajah was likely to set up his main defence line across the obvious line of advance, Colonel Come-Lately deployed his troops in an extended line they moved forward. The Maharajah was wary of the British advantage in firepower – he had heard about the devastating effect of machine gun fire and shells from the newly introduced rifled artillery – and posted most of his units on low hills so that they would gain some advantage from the terrain.

As both sides had artillery that could fire at enemy units, the turn began with an inconclusive artillery duel, where neither side managed to hit an enemy unit.

Both sides then threw a D6 die to see who would move first. The British threw a 2 and the Kanatunans threw a 6; therefore the British moved first.

Colonel Come-Lately decided that the best course of action was to move his artillery up so that they could begin to soften up the enemy at shorter range, prior to an all-out infantry assault. He therefore ordered a general advance toward the Kanatunan positions.

The Maharajah, who felt that the much-feared British artillery was not as good as its reputation had implied, did nothing, and left his troops where they were.

Turn 2
Both sides engaged the other with their artillery, but again it had no effect.

Both sides then threw a D6 die to see who would move first. The British threw a 1 and the Kanatunans threw a 4; therefore the British moved first again.

All the British units advanced, including the artillery (which would now not be able to fire at the beginning of the next turn), and the infantry and machine guns opened fire. Even though the range had been reduced, the British were unable to inflict many casualties on the Kanatunans; however, the rifle fire of the McBean Highlanders did drive one of the Kanatunan artillery units out of its position, thus rendering it unable to fire as it no longer had direct line-of-sight to a British unit.

With the exception of the artillery unit that had been driven back and that used the opportunity to regain their previous position, the Kanatunans remained where they were, and returned fire. Their fire was twice as effective as that of the British, and they inflicted one casualty on each on the Border Guides and the Highlanders, and two on the Cambridgeshire Light Infantry.

Turn 3
Only one artillery unit could fire – one of the two Kanatunan artillery units – as both the others had moved during the previous turn. It fired at the British machine gun unit … which it hit, causing a single casualty.

Both sides then threw a D6 die to see who would move first. The British threw a 6 and the Kanatunans threw a 2; therefore the Kanatunans moved first.

The Maharajah decided that rather than attack the British – which would justify their claims that he was an aggressor – he would keep his units where they were, and rely upon their rifle fire to defeat the British. All the Kanatunan infantry units fired at the nearest enemy infantry unit … with varying effect. The Border Guides lost a further two men, whereas the McBean Highlanders and Cambridgeshire Light Infantry suffered no casualties at all.

At this point Colonel Come-Lately realised that he had underestimated strength – and effectiveness – of the Maharajah’s army. He therefore decided to withdraw his punitive expeditionary force for the moment, and return at some future date with a much stronger force. The British did not, however, depart with their tails between their legs; theirs was a fighting withdrawal, and any unit that could fire as it moved back, did so. The Cambridgeshire Light Infantry was the only British unit to inflict any casualties on the Katatunans, who’s Cream Turban Infantry suffered the loss of two men.

The rules certainly worked without a hitch, but I realised that I need to make it clear that an artillery unit that has moved – even if it is a result of being forced to withdraw – cannot fire during the next turn. It is also apparent that the 15mm figures I used in the play-test have bases that are just a bit too large for the Heroscape hexed terrain. This leaves me with several choices:

  • Use my Hexon II hexed terrain. This has possibilities but would take up much more space than the Heroscape terrain and the 15mm figures might look a bit ‘lost’ in the larger hexes.
  • Remount my 15mm figures onto smaller bases. This also has possibilities, but would require time that I currently don’t have and effort that I am unwilling to make.
  • Leave things as they are for the moment, and live with the discrepancy whilst I am play-testing the rules. This is the option that I currently favour … although my next play-test may be set in a slightly later era than this one.

I have been to … the National Archives in Kew

One of the reasons why I have not yet been able to play-test my new rules – MEMOIR OF BATTLE – is because my wife and I spent most of yesterday at the National Archives, Kew.

We have been going there for over five years – on and off – to undertake a variety of research, most of it genealogical.

Yesterday’s visit was mostly concerned with tracking the military service of three individuals during the later half of the eighteenth century. I was looking for a John Haugh and an Alexander Currie/Curry, both members of the 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment of Foot (Marquis of Lorne’s/Duke of Argyle’s Regiment), and my wife was tracing Maurice/Morris Bayne, a Drummer in the Royal Artillery.

After an exhaustive search of the Regimental Muster Rolls, I discovered that my two soldiers served with their Regiment in Gibraltar until the end of 1776, when the Regiment returned home to Britain. In September 1777, John Haugh deserted whilst stationed in Chatham, and Alexander Currie/Curry followed his example in November 1780 after being imprisoned for over a year beforehand. Unfortunately the Muster Rolls do not record why he was imprisoned, just that he was.

My wife’s search revealed that Maurice/Morris Bayne served in Woolwich – the home base of the Royal Artillery – until he was sent to Port Royal, Jamaica, where he died of Yellow Fever within three months of his arrival.

Part of my research included reading the Establishment Book for the Gibraltar Garrison 1756-57. This laid down the official strength of the eight Infantry Regiments stationed there. It also gave details of the daily rates of pay for each of the ranks, and although this is of little interest to me, I thought that those of my readers who are interested in the military history of the eighteenth century would find it of use:

At the end of the day I had a couple of minutes to undertake some research of my own … and I used the National Archives online catalogue (PROCAT) to search for ‘war game’. The last time I did this search was some years ago, and other than references to the BBC television programme of that name that cause so much controversy during the 1960s, I found the British Army’s 1956 TACTICAL WAR GAME, which is now available from John Curry as part of his HISTORY OF WARGAMING project. This time there were far more references, and the next time I visit the National Archives I hope to spend some time looking at some of them.

Memoir of Battle: First draft of the rules

Each turn is divided into several distinct phases. These are:

  • Both sides fire their Artillery. (N.B. Artillery fire is deemed to be simultaneous, and an Artillery Unit that has been hit may fire that turn – even if it is destroyed – if a suitable target is in range.)
  • Both sides throw a D6 die. The side with the lowest score moves and fires first that turn.
  • Once they have moved their Units, any of their Units that are within range of enemy Units – with the exception of Artillery Units as they have already had the opportunity to fire that turn – may fire.
  • The other side then moves their Units.
  • Once the other side has moved their Units, any of their Units that are within range of enemy Units – with the exception of Artillery Units as they have already had the opportunity to fire that turn – may fire.
  • Once both sides have had the opportunity to move and fire, the turn is complete and the next turn can commence.

Battle Dice
The six faces of the D6 Battle Dice are marked as follows:

  • 2 x Infantry
  • 1 x Cavalry
  • 1 x Artillery/Machine Gun
  • 1 x General
  • 1 x Retreat Flag


  • Four foot figures.
  • Move two hexes or;
  • Move one hex and battle.
  • Range = 4 hexes; four battle dice are thrown: 4-3-2-1.

Machine Guns

  • One machine gun and two crew figures.
  • Move two hexes or;
  • Move one hex and battle.
  • Range = 5 hexes; five battle dice are thrown: 5-4-3-2-1.

Smooth-bore Artillery

  • One gun and two crew figures.
  • Move one hex or battle.
  • Range = 5 hexes; five battle dice are thrown: 5-4-3-2-1.

Rifled Artillery

  • One gun and two crew figures.
  • Move one hex or battle.
  • Range = 6 hexes; three battle dice are thrown: 3-3-2-2-1-1.


  • Three mounted figures.
  • Move three hexes and battle.
  • Range = 1 hex; three battle dice are thrown: 3.


  • One foot or mounted figure.
  • Move three hexes.
  • Add one battle dice to Infantry and Cavalry units they are in the same hex with.

Wood or Forest hex

  • Units must stop when they enter a wood or forest.
  • Units entering a wood or forest may not battle.
  • When battling a unit that is in a wood or forest, reduce the number of battle dice thrown by one.
  • Woods or forests block line of sight.

Orchard or vineyard hex

  • No movement restrictions.
  • No battle restrictions except that when battling a unit that is in an orchard or vineyard, reduce the number of battle dice thrown by one.
  • Orchards or vineyards do not block line of sight.

Hill hex

  • No movement restrictions.
  • When battling a unit that is on a hill, reduce the number of battle dice thrown by one except when a unit on a hill is battling a unit that is also on a hill; in this case the number of battle dice thrown is as per normal.
  • Artillery firing from a hill increases the range they can fire by one hex (5-4-3-2-1-1 for smooth-bore and 3-3-2-2-1-1-1 for rifled artillery).
  • Hills block line of sight except when units on a hill are looking at units on other hill that are the same height.

Built-up Area hex

  • Units must stop when they enter a built-up area.
  • Units entering a built-up area may not battle.
  • When battling a unit that is in a built-up area, reduce the number of battle dice thrown by two.
  • Built-up areas block line of sight.

River or Stream hex

  • Units must stop when they enter a hex containing a river or stream.
  • Units may only cross rivers or streams in hexes that contain a bridge.
  • Rivers and streams do not block line of sight.

Field hex

  • No movement restrictions except that units in fields containing tall crops may only move one hex.
  • When battling a unit that is in a field containing tall crops, reduce the number of battle dice thrown by one.
  • A field of tall crops block line of sight.

Rough terrain hex

  • Only Infantry may enter rough terrain.
  • No battle restrictions.
  • Rough terrain does not block line of sight.

Fence or Wire hex

  • Units must stop when they enter a hex containing a fence or wire.
  • When battling a unit that is in a hex containing a fence, reduce the number of battle dice thrown by one.
  • When in a hex containing a fence or wire, Infantry either reduce the number of battle dice thrown by one when battling or do not battle and remove the fence or wire.
  • Fences or wire do not block line of sight.

Fieldworks hex

  • No movement restrictions for the fieldworks; other restrictions may apply.
  • When battling a unit that is in a fieldwork, reduce the number of battle dice thrown by two.
  • Units in fieldworks ignore the first ‘flag’ rolled against them.
  • Fieldworks do not block line of sight.

Sand hex

  • Units moving on sand may only move a maximum of two hexes.
  • No battle restrictions.
  • Sand does not block line of sight.

Water hex

  • Units moving on a water may only move a maximum of one hex if they are landing; units may not retreat into water.
  • Units on an water may not battle.
  • Water does not block line of sight.

The number of Battle Dice thrown by a Unit depends upon:

  • The type of Unit it is.
  • The range at which the Unit is firing.
  • The terrain the firing Unit and target Unit are in.
  • The presence of a General with the Unit

The number of Battle Dice thrown by a Unit does not depend on the number of figures in the Unit.

For each face of the Battle Dice that matches the type of Unit the target Unit is, the target Unit loses a figure.

When all the figures in a Unit have been removed, the Unit is destroyed.

Some more thoughts about a colonial version of Memoir of Battle

As I sat pushing a few colonial figures around on some of my Heroscape hexed terrain this afternoon, it struck me that although I had been thinking about developing a specific version of my MEMOIR OF BATTLE wargames rules for colonial warfare, a generic set of rules would be a much better starting point. These could then be given some specific colonial modifications … if they need it.

I have therefore begun work on the first draft of MEMOIR OF BATTLE. As it involves a fair amount of cutting and pasting ideas from previous drafts of my modified version of BATTLE CRY and MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA, it should not take me too long to put the draft together.

Some thoughts about a colonial version of Memoir of Battle

So far, all I have done is had a few thoughts about my proposed colonial version of MEMOIR OF BATTLE. They are as follows:

  • I want to keep the idea of all artillery fire taking place before anything else happens each turn. This is something that Joseph Morschauser used in his ‘Frontier’ wargames rules, and I used it in MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA.
  • I intend to keep the Unit statistics from my modified version of BATTLE CRY.
  • I intend to add Unit statistics for Machine Guns. My first thoughts are to treat them as Smooth-bore Artillery that can move like Infantry (i.e. Move two hexes or move one hex and battle).
  • I intend to keep the Terrain effects (with a few suitable modifications) from my modified version of BATTLE CRY.
  • Units will comprise four foot figures (Infantry), three mounted figures (Cavalry), a gun and two crewmen (Artillery and Machine Guns), or a single foot or mounted figure (General).

These are my preliminary thoughts about the rules … and before anyone mentions it, I am still thinking about whether or not to use Command Cards. I probably will use them for face-to-face games, but as most of my wargaming is done solo, I think that I have to come up with an alternative system. This might include using the system I have already used in MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA (i.e. using a D6 die score to determine which side will move first each turn after the Artillery has fired.

What next?

Having spent the last few weeks in a rather ‘wet’ wargaming environment, I am now considering ‘going’ somewhere a little warmer. Perhaps the Sudan, for example?

I am thinking about working on a colonial version of MEMOIR OF BATTLE, and as I have figures for the Sudan Campaign, it would seem obvious that my next little project could be MEMOIR OF BATTLE IN THE SUDAN (or MOBITS).

It is just a thought at the moment … but you never know where that thought will lead me!

… And our saucy ship’s a beauty

Having taken the photographs of my two ‘fleets’, I thought that they were a bit too small to see … so I had a go at trying to photograph each ship so that the detail would stand out.

The results were … not quite as good as I had hoped … but not very good photographs are better than no photographs at all!

The British Fleet

HMS Benbow

HMS Collingwood

HMS Rodney

HMS Howe

HMS Camperdown

HMS Anson

The French Fleet


Amiral Baudin





We sail the ocean blue …

I have spent part of this afternoon looking for … and eventually finding … some model ships that I thought might be useable with my MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA naval wargames rules.

The models were made many years ago from sheet polystyrene and various bit and pieces from my scrap box, and are supposed to represent the six British late nineteenth century Admiral-class barbette ships …

… and some French opposition (Two Amiral Baudin-class barbette ships and four Terrible-class coastal defence ships).

As the photographs show, the models are a little too large for the blue Hexon II hexes that I had hoped to use.

Never mind. I will have to make some new models … which I thought I might have to do anyway!

Memoir of Battle at Sea: Re-drawn diagrams

I have added another explanatory diagram to my MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA naval wargames rules, and I used the opportunity to re-drawn the existing diagrams so that they are all of a consistent design.

Arcs of Fire: Guns
Arcs of Fire: Fixed Torpedo Tubes
Arcs of Fire: Trainable Torpedo Tubes

If they are free … they cannot be very good!

Oscar Wilde once said that:

‘The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.’
But what about wargamers? Sometimes they can appear to be just like Wilde’s cynic.

Let me explain. Over recent weeks I have been developing a set of naval wargames rules based around the firing mechanisms used in Richard Borg’s BATTLE CRY and MEMOIR ’44. The resulting rules – MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA – have been play-tested, and after a few minor changes, they have reached a level of maturity that satisfies my needs. I have made the rules readily available on my blog, and over the past two days I have added a couple of diagrams that I hoped would enable potential players to have full understanding on the rules.

I have had several requests for copies of the rules, and I have sent them to everyone who asked for a copy. Imagine, therefore, my surprise when I received an email from one of the recipients that said how disappointed they were with what I had sent them. Apparently, they did not like the way the rules were laid out, found some of the rules far too ‘vague’ for their liking, and described the diagrams I had used as ‘amateurish’.

My first reaction was disbelief, followed rapidly by a sense of anger, and then resentment. If something is given to you freely and at no cost, do you have the right to ask that changes be made to suit your particular requirements? Am I being unreasonable to take affront at the manner in which requests were couched? (They were more akin to demands than requests!) Or am I just being oversensitive?

I certainly do not object to valid and well-argued criticism; in fact, the whole process of wargames design would be far more difficult without it … but this did not and does not seem to me to be valid or well-argued. It seemed more petulant and self-centred than helpful and constructive.

This particular wargamer seems to me to be someone who does not know the value of one thing … goodwill … but would probably have paid a handsome price for my rules – and not complained about the cost – if they had been printed in colour with lots of illustrations and professionally produced explanatory diagrams.

In future, if someone wants a free copy of my rules I will have to add a rider:

No Wildean cynics welcome!