Bob Cordery("Wargaming Miscellany") has done wargaming a great service by bringing the work of Joseph Morschauser back into focus. In 1962, Morschauser wrote a book called "How to Play War Games in Miniature". I saw it in a catalog, wanted it for Christmas, and despite my mother searching for it frantically, did not receive one from Santa Claus. Fifty years later, I did get a copy, off Amzon, and it was worth the wait.
This small (134 page) volume gives three sets of rules for actions in the "shock"," musket" and "modern" periods, with suggestions on how to run campaigns and use optional rules. The rules share many common mechanics, and can easily be blended. As an example, the "shock" and "musket" periods can be combined to cover a period such as the English Civil War. Game play is straightforward, charts are minimal, and a good session can be played to a conclusion in an evening.
Bob has built on this fine foundation with his Interbellum rules, Colonial Portable Wargame, and now his Modern Portable Wargame. All utilize precepts put forth by Morschaser, including one not specifically mentioned in his book: a gridded tabletop.
My first miniature wargaming used Jim Getz's "Napoleonique" rules, played on a hex grid. Over time, I began playing other rules, getting away from the grid.Grids were considered "old fashioned" and "restrictive". Scenery and rules issues made line-of-sight more complicated. I played one game of "Flames of War" with an opponent who used a laser pointer to argue for and against shots....This was progress.
Finding the Portable Wargame was like a return to sobriety and sanity. No more arguing over whether a figure was "bumped', taking it out of range. No more "phantom measurements". You are in range, or out of range. Period.
The small size of the table and armies makes a pick up game enjoyable. You can place a few pieces of terrain, draw a dozen stands of troops from your collection, set up, play and clean up in an hour. I have seen examples of the "random scenario" system for "Flames" take more than an hour to determine amd set up before the first shot is fired.
A campaign can be fought in an evening. I can set up three 2x2 foot boards. On one is "Hell's Highway", another has the Eindoven bridge, and a third downtown Arnhem. Play the first game. The winner gets an advantage in the second(Allies get a bonus tank unit, or Germans get initiative on the first turn), then move on to the third game, again with rewards to the last winner. All three games can be played in less than two hours.
Portable Wargaming encourages "tinkering". Bob's rules are really a toolkit, allowing you to craft the game you enjoy. do you like Hobart's Funnies? Modify the SPG rules to create an AVRE (SPG, infantry gun, no indirect fire, elite,to reflect heavy armor). Flail tank? (Tank, moves into minefield, rolls for hit. Either destroyed, or removes minefield on that turn). You get the idea!
While I can enjoy a "monster game", I find that the chance to play one gets more and more remote. I know very few people who can invest four or more hours in a game session. "Marathons" don't appeal to me as much now that I am older.
My plan for this blog is to post at least once a week, giving a battle report, with some suggested rosters and scenery. Feel free to second guess the commanders!
While Bob is happiest gaming the late 19th and early 20th centuries, I also enjoy the Black Powder period, and plan to produce charts for English Civil War/30 Years War, French and Indian/American Revolution, and the Mexican American War. I will post them for your review as they are finished.
Next Tuesday: A View from the Trenches:Portable World War One