Colonial inspiration!

I have been fumbling about for some inspiration for my first tabletop battle in some time … and then I came across some pictures that I had used in a blog entry that I wrote quite some time ago.

The pictures are of one of Joseph Morschauser’s wargames, and they were featured in his book HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE. From the description in an article about his wargame that Joseph Morschauser sent to Donald Featherstone, and which the latter published in WARGAMER’S NEWSLETTER: No.66 (September 1967), they appear to show an attack by British troops on the Great Wall of Morobad, which surrounded the city of that name.

These photographs have given me an idea for a scenario, and I hope to use it for my forthcoming wargame.


26 Comments on “Colonial inspiration!”

  1. Don M says:

    A gem of a book I checked out of my school library many times in the early 70s!

  2. That first shot in particular is an inspiring one.

  3. Chris Platt says:

    As far as inspiration goes, there can be nothing more stirring !

  4. Don M,

    One of the things that I am proudest about it with regard to wargaming is helping John Curry to re-publish Joseph Morschauser's book. To my mind it was well ahead of its time, and deserves as much recognition as Donald Featherstone's first book about wargaming.

    All the best,


  5. Ross Mac,

    I totally agree with you. It is a truly inspiring image.

    All the best,


  6. Chris Platt,

    It is one of the images that persuaded me to look seriously at wargaming on a gridded tabletop.

    All the best,


  7. Morschauser was ahead of his time and his “How to Play Wargames in Miniature” is a classic in my book.

  8. Jonathan Freitag,

    Joseph Morschauser was at least twenty to thirty years ahead of the mainstream of wargaming, and has never had the recognition he deserved.

    All the best,


  9. I always find Morschauser inspirational and after more than 40 years, I still read through it every now and then. Hmmm, in 1962 using 12 elements on stands in an army – does sound familiar in a more “modern” setting.

  10. William Stewart,

    I keep my rather tattered copy of his book on my bedside table, and read it every so often for inspiration.

    He got so many things right so early on:
    * Using grids to remove the need to measure movement and ranges
    * Multi-figure bases
    * Keeping rosters so that a unit's losses were recorded
    * Armies of 12 units or elements

    All the best,


  11. I too have looked at that image and been inspired by it. I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

  12. RE 12 Element Armies
    I have long held that 12 BMUs is just about the optimal number required for an enjoyable and quick game.
    I did not remember that Morschauser arrived at that force size long ago.

    Thank you for the refresher!

  13. Chris says:

    A friend of mine many years ago that he knew Joe, who told him after he finished the book he felt kind of burned out on wargaming, and never did much of it after that. I've always hoped my buddy misunderstood him–I hate to think someone who contributed so much to the hobby in its early days essentially left it thereafter.

    Hmm–awhile back I suggested YOU write another book, Bob. Maybe I should have been more careful as to what I asked for… 🙂

    Best regards,


  14. Tradgardmastare,

    I hope that what I come up with does not disappoint you.

    All the best,


  15. Jonathan Freitag,

    Thinking about it, the ratio of 1 commander to 12 units is quite common in many armies, although often with several sub-commanders available to assist. For example an Infantry Division might have 3 Infantry Brigades/Regiments (each commanded by a Brigadier/Colonel) each with 3 Infantry Battalions plus an Artillery Regiment, Reconnaisance Regiment, and Engineers.

    All the best,


  16. Chris,

    I always thought that it was a shame that Joseph Morschauser didn't write any follow-up books, but I understand that he did continue wargaming after the book was published. Phil Barker has told me that he met Morschauser and his son at a Convention in the USA during the 1980s, and that he was still fighting wargames, although not as much as he had done.

    In answer to your suggestion that I write another book … well I have about 90% of the first draft of a thriller written, and I hope to finish that by Christmas. I will then set that to one side before I revise it, and in the interim I hope to begin work on a book about fighting wargames on a small gridded tabletop with small wargames armies.

    All the best,


  17. Gonsalvo says:

    I too love Joe's book – finding it by chance in my local public Library back circa 1967 is what got me into the hobby to begin with. It is the perfect introduction to our hobby, just needing some updating on the manufacturers and publications end. Curiously,. I have never played a game using his rules. That is a deficiency I must correct some day!

  18. Gonsalvo,

    Yours seems to be quite a common story; the books that started a lot of young 1960s wargamers off were either a copy of Morschauser's or Featherstone's that they found in their local library.

    When I helped John Curry re-publish Morschauser's book, I kept the original manufacturer and publication lists from the 1960s as I felt that it was important that modern wargamers had some idea about how little was available back then. Trying to update the lists would have been almost impossible as nowadays it would have needed to have been revised almost every month.

    What we did include were some of Morschauser's articles about the wargames he fought that used rules that were not in the original book, most especially his FRONTIER rules. These are the rules that he was using in the battles whose photographs are used to illustrate this blog entry.

    I would certainly recommend using his rules (either the ones in the original book or those in the re-print) as they are very easy to understand and produce interesting battles.

    All the best,


  19. arthur1815 says:


    I never saw a copy of Morschauser's book until a few years ago, when I found a s/h copy going cheap in the USA on Amazon, which I was glad to snap up, but had seen references to it in Featherstone's books.

    It strikes me that he was ahead of his time in producing what was, in effect, a 1962version of Thomas's One Hour Wargames: simple, stylised rules with a common core and amendments for several periods, all in one volume!

    But perhaps such wargames were fated not to enjoy much popular success until that generation of wargamers had progressed through ever more complex, unplayable, 'realistic' rules. They appeared too simplistic and 'unrealistic' to those conditioned to believe that a wargame had to involve thousands of miniature troops on a diorama-standard terrain controlled by rules such as the Newbury 'Fast Play' sets.

    Today, wargamers of our generation have become dissatisfied with such games, whilst youngsters seek the quicker fix that games such as DBA/HotT and OHW can provide, so the Morschauser style game is more acceptable, perhaps?


  20. Arthur1815 (Arthur),

    I had not realised that you have not read Morschauser’s book until relatively recently. I found my copy years ago in Foyle’s Bookshop, nad bought it because – like you – I had seen references to it in Donald Featherstone’s books.

    As you comment, Morschauser was well ahead of his time, and even now his rules are examples of simple mechanisms that can produce excellent wargames … and are very much a precursor to the work done more recently by Neil Thomas.

    You mention the Newbury ‘Fast Play’ rules in your comment, and I wondered if you ever used them. I bought a copy, read them, and decided that they were not my idea of ‘fast play’. I seriously wonder if anyone ever did think that they were ‘what it said on the cover’.

    I suspect that modern wargamers would probably pick up Morschauser’s book and his rules and – not realising that they were written in the 1960s – dismiss them as being very derivative, whereas they were stating fifty years ago what a lot of people now accept as being very mainstream. (I am put in mind of Chris Engle’s Matrix Games, which are now very mainstream amongst military wargame designers … most of whom have never heard of Chris!)

    All the best,


  21. I think Morchauser probably had a bigger influence in the US than elsewhere. When I started running modified Morschauser games at conventions in 2004 I was surprised at how many gamers of a certain age came up and reminisced about playing them in the day.

    Where did you get the 12 unit/element from? In his original book it was 35 basic units per side for dhock, 28 for horse & musket and a varying number based on points for modern. (an old idea used by HGW)

  22. Ross Mac,

    I am sure that you are right about Morschauser having had a much bigger effect in North America than he did elsewhere … which I happen to think is a great pity.

    The 12 unit idea was one that Morschauser wrote about in an article rather than in his book, and having recently re-read a lot of what he wrote I must have confused in my mind what was and what was not in the book.

    All the best,


  23. Don M says:

    You helped John Curry to re-publish Joseph Morschauser's book? Very cool is it still in publication?

  24. Don M says:

    lol found it on Amazon…..should look first huh….)

  25. Don M,

    I have helped John Curry with several of the books published by the 'History of Wargaming Project', including Jane's Naval War Game, Polemos (in one of the books about early wargames), and the 1956 British Army War Game.

    As far as I know, all the books that John Curry has re-published are still available.

    All the best,


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