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.

Itchy and Scratchy meets OP14 … the story continues

Although I have not mentioned it on my blog for the past few days, I have been thinking about bringing elements of OP14 and my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules (and possibly BATTLE CRY, MEMOIR ’44, and MEMOIR OF BATTLE) together. In fact I sat down one day with the intention of writing this ‘new’ set of rules … and promptly hit a mental brick wall.

Modern thinking about work practices seems to be that what I should have done at that stage is just ploughed on regardless … and hope that something useful would result. (I always think of this as the monkeys and typewriters approach!) It is almost as if being seen to do unproductive work is better than producing no obvious work at all, and that spending time thinking about solving a problem is wasted time.

I have never believed in this sort of approach … which is probably why I never reached any higher on my career ladder than I did. I always preferred to mentally ‘walk away’ from a problem that I could not immediately solve in order to let my subconscious mind do the thinking for me … and I usually found that it worked.

When I woke up this morning I felt as if I was almost ready to begin putting my ideas down on paper … but not quite. Hopefully this will change as the day goes on and I do everything except sit at my computer thinking about how to start!

Itchy and Scratchy meets OP14

One of the things that struck me as I was taking part in the recent Ivangorod 1914 re-fight was the similarity between the sizes of units used in OP14 and my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules … and in several other sets of rules (e.g. BATTLE CRY, MEMOIR ’44, MEMOIR OF BATTLE). All the rules seem to have gravitated towards unit that have the following number of figures:

  • Infantry: 4 figures
  • Cavalry: 3 or 4 figures
  • Artillery: 2 (or more) figures + 1 gun

With this in mind I began decided to see what sort of OP14 ‘armies’ I could field from my existing 15mm and 20mm-scale collections. The results were – to say the least – interesting.

15mm-scale OP14-style ‘armies’
A Fezian Army of three Corps and a reserve Division. Each Corps has two Divisions – each having two Brigades/Regiments – and an Artillery Brigade equipped with 96 Field Guns.

A Britannic Home Service Corps. It has three Divisions – each with two Brigades – and an Artillery Brigade equipped with 48 Field Guns.

A Britannic Foreign Service Army of two Corps and a reserve/lines-of-communication Division. Each Corps has two Divisions – each having two Brigades – and an Artillery Brigade equipped with 72 Field Guns.

20mm-scale OP14-style ‘armies’
A German 1944 Infantry Division. It has two Infantry Regiments and an Artillery Regiment with 48 Field Guns.

A Russian Rifle Division. It has three Infantry Regiments and an Artillery Regiment with 48 Field Guns.

It would appear that I could certainly field sizeable OP14-style ‘armies’ in 15mm-scale … and that 20mm-scale OP14-style ‘armies’ might make it possible to re-fight quite large battles in a small space.

If the opportunity arises, I may well take this ‘experiment’ further. The problem is that when I set out the figures to see what OP14-style ‘armies’ would look like. I was reminded that my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules still need further play-testing and that their origins lie in an idea that Archduke Piccolo had to fight grand tactical/strategic-level wargames. That said, by adopting OP14-style ‘armies’ and reducing the weapon ranges used in my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules I might just be on the verge of developing a set of rules that could be used for fighting grand tactical/strategic-level battles.

This ‘experiment’ has certainly given me plenty to think about over the next few days.

Morschauser and me

One of the articles from an old copy of the WARGAMER’S NEWSLETTER (No.62, published in May 1967) that Tim Gow recently sent to me was entitled GRIDDED WARGAMES. This described Joseph Morschauser’s gridded FRONTIER wargames rules in detail, and I although already had a copy of the article, I did read it again. (I incorporated the text of the article in the reprint of Joseph Morschauser’s book that I edited for John Curry‘s HISTORY OF WARGAMING PROJECT.)

What struck me when I re-read the article was how much my own wargame designs of recent years have been strongly influenced by Joseph Morschauser’s work. This is particularly true of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules and – to a slightly lesser extent – my MEMOIR OF BATTLE rules. (The latter owe almost as much to the work of Richard Borg as they do to Joseph Morschauser.)

All this has come at a time when I have been planning to do a lot of wargaming … but have not actually done any! I have therefore decided to ‘re-visit’ Joseph Morschauser’s gridded FRONTIER wargames rules for while in the hope that it will rekindle my interest in doing rather than thinking about doing some wargaming.

Another day, another visit to the bookshop … followed by an ‘Oops!’

My wife and I paid a visit to our local shopping centre today, and I made my obligatory visit to the branch of Waterstones … and bought a copy of ARMIES OF THE ADOWA CAMPAIGN 1896: THE ITALIAN DISASTER IN ETHIOPIA (MAA 471 by Sean McLachlan and Raffaele Ruggeri [ISBN 978 1 84908 457 4]).

The book follows the usual Osprey MEN-AT-ARMS layout (48 pages in length of which 8 are colour plates) and provides a background history to the war, a description of the actual battle, and information about the Italian and Ethiopian troops that fought at Adowa. Looking through it made me realise that it has the potential to be yet another war that I could refight using either my PORTABLE WARGAME or MEMOIR OF BATTLE rules … or both.

And then the ‘Oops!’ When I went to put the book on my bookshelves I discovered that I had already bought a copy … back in September 2011! I am going to give some thought as to what to do with my ‘spare’ copy … but whatever I do, I intend it to go to someone who will appreciate it.

Getting your priorities right

Over the past few days I have had lots of time to think. There is usually not a lot to occupy ones mind whilst sitting at a sleeping relative’s bedside … and since last Friday I seem to have done quite a lot that. I have used the opportunity to do some serious thinking about my wargaming priorities … and have made several short, medium, and long-term decisions.

In the short-term I want to finish play-testing my nineteenth century land/naval wargames rules. This will include another battle between the Rusland Navy and the Fezian coastal defences, and with a bit of luck I might manage that within the next week or so. I also want to re-visit my MEMOIR OF BATTLE and MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE rules, if only because they will give me a break from my PORTABLE WARGAME rules.

In the medium-term I want to get some models made and figures painted for both my nineteenth century and Interwar/World War II projects. For the latter I have to decide between:

  • Using 15mm-scale vehicles with 20mm-scale figures (my current plan … but one that may well be subject to change OR
  • Using individually based 20mm-scale figures and vehicles OR
  • Using 20mm-scale figures mounted on multi-figure bases and individually based vehicles that are compatible with my existing MEGABLITZ collection.

In the long-term I hope to:

  • Re-fight the MADASAHATTA Campaign … or at least a version of it;
  • Build up at least one 54mm-scale FUNNY LITTLE WARS army;
  • Stage an Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War campaign.

These are my current priorities … and all I have to do is to try to achieve them. On paper they look quite simple and easy targets to reach – given enough time – but I suspect that in reality they might be a bit more difficult to attain.


One of the things that I bought at the recent SELWG show was a number of pre-cut MDF bases from Warbases. The company produces a wide range of different bases, and I was particularly interested in the ones that took figures mounted on one pence pieces.

This morning I had the opportunity to see what the two, three, and four figure bases looked like with some 20mm-scale figures on them … and I think that look very good indeed!

I can envisage using the four-figure bases for COMMANDS & COLORS-style games (including BATTLE CRY, MEMOIR ’44, MEMOIR OF BATTLE, and MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE), a slightly larger version of the three and two-figure bases for MEGABLITZ, and any or all three of the base sizes for the PORTABLE WARGAME, depending upon the size of the grid squares/hexes.

I think that by going down this route I will be able to both have my cake and to eat it. In other words I will be able to have single figure bases and multi-figure bases available to me as and when I need then and will no longer need to have several different collections of figures for the same period mounted on single and multi-figure bases.