Working towards a set of ‘universal’ wargames rules

Whilst I was on my recent cruise I had time to give quite a lot of thought to the rules I have been using in the Zubia-based mini-campaigns I have fought since Christmas … and have come to the conclusion that I am on the verge of putting together a set of simple, fast-play wargames rules that will be adaptable to a variety of different historical periods.

The ‘universal’ wargames rules that are evolving are based upon the work I had previously done when I wrote the following:


They also draw heavily upon the work of Joseph Morschauser and Richard Borg.

In a nutshell the rules can be summarised as follows:

  • Units have initial strength values of 4 (infantry), 3 (cavalry), and 2 (artillery);
  • Units retain an undiminished ability to fight (i.e. they throw the same number of combat dice) until they are destroyed (i.e. their strength value is reduced to 0);
  • When one side’s remaining strength value is reduced to 50% of the combined strength value they began the battle with, they cannot continue to advance from their existing positions, although they may withdraw and continue to defend themselves; when both sides are reduced to 50% of the combined strength value they began the battle with, the battle ends;
  • A card-driven unit activation system is used;
  • Unit movement is restricted by the terrain the unit is moving through and whether or not it is engaging in combat during its current activation;
  • One combat resolution system for both fire and close combat;
  • The combat resolution system uses standard D6 dice, with the number of dice thrown depending upon the range at which the combat is taking place;
  • The combat resolution system uses pairs of dice to determine ‘hits’ on enemy units (i.e. 1 + 1 = ‘hit’ on an enemy artillery unit; 2 + 2 or 3 + 3 = ‘hit’ on an enemy cavalry unit; 4 + 4 or 5 + 5 or 6 + 6 = ‘hit’ on an enemy infantry unit; enemy units in cover require these scores plus an additional pair to be ‘hit’)

I had initially decided to use special D6 dice similar to those used in Richard Borg’s BATTLE CRY and MEMOIR ’44 rules, but I found that my attempts to do so were flawed (i.e. the dice seemed to end up unbalanced) so I reverted to a simpler system based on the one used in my ITCHY & SCRATCHY rules. (The original idea for this combat resolution system came from Archduke Piccolo [see my blog entry of 14th September 2013 and his blog entry of 13th September 2013].)

These rules have now been set down on paper, but require some more play-testing before I make them more widely available. In the meantime I want to complete varnishing and basing my collection of Del Prado pre-painted 25/28mm-scale Napoleonic figures before the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo in June.

"If I was going there I wouldn’t start from here"

This is exactly how I am feeling today about my attempts to meld together elements of Richard Brooks’ OP14 rules with the combat mechanisms from my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY rules. Yesterday I thought that I was almost there … but the cold light of today showed that not only was I wrong but that I had made several quite fundamental errors that were going to require a complete re-write of what I had so far produced.

The problem is that I had thought that what I was doing was going to be a simple ‘cut and paste’ job that would require a little bit of tidying up at the end. That is how I started out … and that is why I have not got to where I wanted to be.

I am now in something of a quandary and need to find an answer to the following questions:

  • Do I persist with my current draft and try to iron out the problems?
  • Do I start again from scratch?
  • Do I walk away from my idea for the time being with the intention of returning to it at a later date?
  • Do I give up trying to do what I set out to do and move onto a new project?

I am very tempted to answer ‘No‘, ‘No‘, ‘Possibly‘, and ‘Yes‘ to these questions … but before I do I intend have a good night’s sleep first.

Itchy and Scratchy meets OP14: the first draft … and the siren call of Morschauser!

Thanks to a bad bout of insomnia last night, I rose early this morning and finished writing the first rough draft of my latest wargame rules. As regular blog readers will know, these combine elements of my own ITCHY AND SCRATCHY rules with some from Richard Brooks’ OP14 rules.

When I call then a first rough draft I mean that they are very rough indeed. In fact I know that there a still a few things that need to be ironed out before I can even begin thinking about play-testing them. As I am going to be rather busy for the rest of today (I have an important Lodge meeting this afternoon and evening) and for most of tomorrow (we had a guest staying overnight), I will have to leave the ‘ironing’ until later in the week.

During my bout of sleeplessness I began thinking about the various Morschauser-based rules I have written over the years … and how much fun and enjoyment they have given me. This morning I glanced through the computer file containing those rules, and began to hear (in my imagination) the siren call of Morschauser … and I must admit that ‘going back to Morschauser basics’ has a tremendous appeal.

I am trying to resist … but I doubt if I will be able to do so for very long!

Seduced by Morschauser

I spent most of the morning finishing off cutting up and shredding the remaining laurel branches that had broken off and fallen down during the recent storms. I then raked up all the dead leaves that had also come down … and now I have a large green wheelie bin full of leaves and shredded laurel branches and a largish pile of laurel logs.

By the time I had finished I was feeling rather tired and did little else before lunch. After lunch I helped my wife to try to sort out the information she had acquired concerning her father’s army career. We used a variety of different documents provided by the Army Records Department as well his Pay Book and Soldiers Book. None of the documents showed a complete breakdown of where he was, what unit/formation he served with, and the places he served in throughout his service. In the end I used a spreadsheet to enter and sort the information, and we finally have a slightly less confused idea about his army career, although there still appear to be some anomalies and quite a few gaps.

Towards the latter part of the afternoon I decided to try to do some more work on my combined OP14 and ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules … but despite my best intentions I was ‘dragged’ away by a recent addition to my collection of articles written by or about Joseph Morschauser. This happened because the VINTAGE WARGAMING blog had published a copy of Joseph Morschauser’s contribution to the 1966/67 edition of Donald Featherstone’s WARGAMERS YEARBOOK and I had printed off a copy of what he had written.

Over the years I have been transcribing and saving all the relevant articles that I can find. As a result I have a small but gradually expanding archive of Morschauser’s work … and this afternoon – as a consequence of reading the latest addition to my collection – I made the mistake of sitting back and reading through everything in the archive, with the result that I did very little work on anything else.

One thing in the latest article did make me sit up and think. It was the following paragraph:

I have been playing around with grids and small war game boards for some time now and have finally developed a workable and interesting method of conducting full-scale battles on a 3 by 3 foot board lined with a 3 inch grid. To push things to the limit so to speak I have designed this one for use with 54mm troops figuring that if it were possible to fight a full battle with these on such a small board any other scale would work.

Visions of some of my Britains 54mm figures being used on my small tabletop suddenly came to mind … as did the idea for a ‘Very Little Wars’ game! I even went into my toy/wargames room to see if I had a large enough piece of green felt on which to mark out a 12 x 12 grid of 3-inch squares before sanity returned and I decided that I needed to try to get one project finished first before I started another.

Yet again I had almost been seduced away from what I should have been doing by Morschauser!

A short break in the weather

For the first time in what seems like an age it was not raining this morning … and it has not started yet!

As a result I decided to spend some time in the garden cutting up and shredding the laurel hedge branches that had broken off and fallen down during the recent storms. After a couple of hours work I had managed to get all the branches together and had cut up and shredded about a third of them.

The time I spent gardening gave me the opportunity to do some thinking about how I am going to combine some elements of Richard Brooks’ OP14 wargame rules with those drawn from my own ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules … and with luck I should be able to start work on the first draft later today.

Itchy and Scratchy wargames rules: An update

During my recent cruise I did manage to spend some time working on the latest draft on my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY NAVAL wargames rules.

The main changes that I finally introduced (after quite a lot of thought) can be summarised as follows:

  • The Flotation Values of all ship types have been increased.
  • Ships can turn without having to move forward first.
  • Torpedoes now reduce a target ship’s Flotation Value by 2D6.
  • Rules for minefields have been added.

I hope to be able to play-test this new draft of the rules in the near future.

I also produced an amended version of the ITCHY AND SCRATCHY rules so that they can be used to fight early twentieth century battles. The data for smooth-bore artillery has been removed and new data (and rules) for tanks, armoured cars, and motorised transport have been added.

Some more thinking needs to be done … but not for a week or two

After giving it some considerable thought I have decided that I am going to put any further development of my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY NAVAL wargame rules to one side for a week or so. In the past – when I have been unable to decide what particular changes to make to a set of wargame rules – I have found that setting the whole thing to one side for a time allows me to review it with a fresh perspective … and usually leads to a quicker and better solution.