Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tweaked

Its been 5 years since I decided to develop a fast and easy set of homegrown rules for my ancient/medieval games rather than trying to keep up with the latest commercial fad. This current exploration of a Morschauser based set is nothing like what I had in mind back then. This has led me to question whether or not I should keep the Gathering of Hosts name so I decided to go back and check the rules against the original criteria. (See camel meets straw post)

So far the new rules clearly meet 4 of the criteria. They are simple and intuitive enough to be played without a QRS and to be easily learned, focused on major troop types rather than details and the 6 cm bases are compatible with more than one set of commercial rules, esp since I will end up with many pairs of stands. The original list calls for single figures but allowing for elements and tracking hits which is how the new rules work.  The intention is to develop some sort of command control for commanders so that remains a maybe. Lastly while large battles work I have not yet tried a small game so that is also an open question. With somewhere between 5 and 7 of the 7 criteria met, I am satisfied that I am justified in continuing to use the name.

That settled, here is a summary of the rules as played by Rob, Norman and myself last Friday.

Morchauser Shock Rules Test 5 Quick Reference 



  • Play Sequence. Alternate turns.
  • Active player shoots with archers and artillery. Horse archers may move upto 1/2 then shoot then finish move.
  • Active player moves units in any order
  • Resolve all melees
  • Movement.
    Hvy Inf, Med Inf  6", Lt Infantry 8", Archers 8", Heavy & Medium Cavalry 10", Light Cavalry and Horse Archers 12", Artillery 4", flying creatures 12" May pass over units of either side.
    Stop when entering a ford.
    Units may turn or move sideways as desired unless engaged or attacking but no part of stand may move more than move allowance.
    If 2+ Pike units turn back to back they form square instead of moving. Then then have no flank but may not move. 
  • Engagement Range. If a unit is within 2" of the enemy it is engaged. Moving to engagement range is an attack. When moving within 2" of enemy a unit must halt or move to contact an enemy. If starting within 2" of enemy front a unit must halt, move to contact or retreat.
  • Shooting. Archers that shot may still move but may not attack. Artillery which shot may not move.  Roll 1 die per remaining strength point.

    1. Range: Archers 12", Mtd Archers 4" 
    2. Effect: Each 6 hits Heavy or in cover,  5,6 hits all others. 
    3. Artillery: Range 12 hit on 2,4,6, range 6 hit on any but 6.
    4. Limits. Must have line of sight. May not shoot if fording. May not shoot if self or target is engaged. LOS in woods 2"




  • Melee. If in contact both sides roll during the melee phase. Roll 1 die per remaining strength point Roll Melee Power or less to hit. Front/flank values. 

    1. HC & MC 5/3, Lt Cav 4/2, Horse Archers, flyers 3/2 
    2. HI 4/2, MI 4/2, Pikemen 4/1,  LI 3/1, Archers 2/1 
    3. Modifiers: to power but never less than 1 after modifiers
      1. -1 to power if attacking uphill or out of stream or any but Lt Inf & archers in woods
      2. -1 to power  if enemy is heavy or is behind hard cover or if cavalry fighting pikes frontally.




  • Strength Points. All units start with 4 strength points except artillery which have only 2. When all are gone the stand is removed.
  • Commanders. Form part of unit. Commander rolls extra die in melee. Commander will be last man killed on stand. If commander killed all units roll 1 die. 5,6 carry on, 3,4 retreat a full move, 1,2 Rout.
  • Army Morale. When an army has lost 1/2 of its units it may no longer shoot or attack or move into contact.


  • ........................................................................................
    These are the rules that we used for the playtest, it was just a matter of figuring how to catagorize each stand of orcs, elves, wolves, men etc . The dragon was a bit of a puzzle but we finally decided to count as flying heavy cavalry  with 6 hits.

    After a brief discussion on magic we decided to defer and just made the scenario be about disrupting a wizard who was casting a complex spell to demolish the Elven castle. (he can be seen atop a small green knoll in the nearest corner of the table in the picture.

    I spared a few troops to delay the enemy's approach on the wood and deployed the rest in 2 lines between wood and table edge with a reserve of warg riders and flyers including the mighty if somewhat cartoonish dragon. The enemy massed cavalry and spearmen against the gap with a host of elves going through the wood. The attackers had 37 stands and the defender 35 iir.

    I took an early lead as my archers shot well at the attackers. Since Rob's cavalry started opposite my main line while Norman's infantry had to slog through the woods and over the river in a giant wheel, his cavalry struck first and, after a fierce fight, were pretty much wiped out before his infantry could close in support. I did a sort of Roman line relief and battled with his heavy infantry, getting the worst of it before my reserve attacked his flanks and rear (I like flyers!).

    My horse archers sat and watched Norman's advance for a while but finally took off for a ride around the enemy, hoping to hit Rob's heavies in the rear. Norman's archers did some nimble blocking and though I got around them it took too long so I turned on them. It took about 4 turns but eventually I wiped him out at a cost of over 1/2 my force.

    Back in the woods Norman's eleves finally threw the few remaining remnants of my flank guard out of the wood. They were just in time to see the sort of damage a playful dragon can do. During my melee phase the enemy lost their 19th unit and were no longer able to shoot or attack. My forces had lost only 15 units so the wizard was still mumbling and waving. The castle soon exploded in  colourful clouds of blue and green and there were loud cries of delight and chortling, barking and fighting from the chaotic crowd in front of the castle.

    ----------------------------------

    On the whole the rules worked well though we needed better names for unit types as well as some magic and monsters. Tge question of characters and command control are still up in the air. The command and control is especially problematic since the game ran well without any including the occasional blunder, units not moving, or the wrong ones,  open flanks etc. With 3 players and roughly 3 dozen units aside, the game ran about 2 hours. Clearly room for more rules & complications or more figures though a more complex scenario might help. A three hour game would be fine.

    My next step will be to move more figures to 60cm square bases and play a small skirmish.

    Sunday, May 10, 2015

    On the Border

    A person might ask why I need to refurbish old 25mm armies for Fantasy/Shock games if I have 40mm armies that would serve if I just added a few monsters and magicians, and it would be a good question.

    For those who missed it, the armies are enumerated in the captions of the last post. The basic progress of the battle can be followed in the following pictures and their captions.
    The opposing missile troops meet as the English advance. Losses are heavy on both sides but the Franco-Scots army gets the worst of it in the centre and near the western flank, largely because the attackers got first shot and rolled high.
    Once again, on the whole this was a fast paced, exciting game with a few twists of fortune and some lessons in game tactics. The dice made a difference here and there but command decisions usually trumped them, in part because there were so many die rolls that they almost couldn't help levelling out.  On the 3rd to last turn the Scots looked to be down and out but by the end of the following turn they rocked the English back, taking the advantage with a rash but necessary counter attack. Indeed the Scots almost won it on their half of the last turn but the dice weren't there to back up their gamble and the English came back both strong and lucky for a decisive, come back, win.

    The first moral was that Morschauser was right to warn that upping the percentage of missile troops would upset the balance of the game. They are deadly especially since the attacker can almost always get the first shot and with a move of 4 and range of 6 they can appear out of nowhere and concentrate fire in incredible fashion. This will be a problem if wanting to show the characteristics of different races and nations including those who rely on archers. 

    The second was that I forgot about my proposed pushback rule until the last turn but didn't miss it. Might have made the fighting a little less quick and deadly though. I'm undecided about the 2 melee turns, it reduced some of the advantage to not having all melees go to the death as few stands survived 2 rounds of melee. In short melee between heavy and medium troops is DEADLY. Stands die like flies. Good for a quick game but with full sized armies making my table crowded he game still lasted only about 90 minutes. I could have dragged that out a bit by being a little more cautious but not by much.

    The English have just enough missile power left to force the French Landsknechts to attack. East of the river, the Highlanders and Border Horse are driving off the opposition while the Highland archers slowly win their long distance fight with the longbowmen.  
    So why was it fun and engaging? I'm not sure. One thing might be that while results against individual stands were quick, Groups of stands took longer to deal with and since movement is fast, it was often possible to pull back or bring up reserves to change the situation giving scope for generalship on a higher level than worrying about alignment and arranging factors and modifiers.  The unpredictability of individual die rolls may also play a role. 

    The English have been driven off from across the river but they fought stubbornly and there is not enough Scots cavalry to force the river in the teeth of reinforcements. The Highlanders start fording. In the middle the English lancers have ridden over the Halbardiers but the pikes are holding their own. 
    At this point the only thing I would want to fiddle with is the missile power. If the range is reduced it will make the archers too vulnerable to cavalry charges and I don't want to start fiddling with things like 1 die for 2 figures if shooting. Instead, I think merely removing the ability of foot archers to move AND shoot will suffice. Then a defending line of archers would get first shot as the enemy approached and it would be much harder to suddenly amass a deadly barrage focussed on 1 stand by bringing up 1 stand at a time and shooting until that target is dealt with and then focussing on another.

    As the Highlanders engage piecemeal, the Franco-Scots left collapses.With the English, still 20 strong and  able to occupy part of the ridge without contest, the Franco-Scots have now lost 20 out of the original 35 and their morale is broken.
    I'm looking forward to getting together with Rob at Hiuzzah next weekend to talk this over in addition to other things. We have only touched so far on magic and monsters. Look for more refurbished 25mm games before long.

    Saturday, May 9, 2015

    A Summary for a Summery Test Game

    I haven't had a chance to get too deep into discussions over the OS Fantasy project with Rob yet but I wanted to get another test game of the basics played before leaving  for Huzzah which is next weekend. I haven't rebased enough 25mm troops yet to play a full Morschauser game with 35 stands per side, but I do have enough 60mm bases of 40mm troops: pikemen, light infantry, archers, heavy and light cavalry. Did I mention canon and arquebusiers?  Oh well close enough.


    The English Army: 10 bow/shot, 8 MI, 1 Lt Inf, 1 cannon, 5 HC, 5 MC, 5 LC.

    I've thought about the rules a bit and come up with next to  nothing to add. For example one could argue about crossbows having better armour penetration but slower rate of fire and so on but the balance of simple but deadly rules is delicate. In any event, I thought I would prepare a summary for myself.

    Mostly Morschauser Shock Rules Test 5
    Quick Reference 
    1. Play Sequence. Alternate turns.
      1. Resolve continuing melees.
      2. Active player moves and shoots units in any order
      3. Resolve all melees
    2. Movement. In base wide increments.
      Hvy Inf, Med Inf  3, Lt Infantry, Archers 4, Heavy Cavalry 5, Light & Medium Cavalry 6, Artillery 1
      Stop when entering a ford.  Only Light Infantry and archers allowed in woods or on steep hills.
      Units may turn or move sideways as desired unless engaged or attacking but no part of stand may move more than move allowance.
      If 2+ Pike units turn back to back they form square instead of moving. Then then have no flank but may not move. 
    3. Engagement Range. If a unit is within range 1 of the enemy it is engaged. Moving to engagement range is an attack. When moving within range 1  of enemy a must halt or move to contact an enemy. If starting within 1 of enemy must halt, move to contact or retreat.
    4. Shooting. May then shoot then move or move then shoot but may not shoot then move into engagement range. Roll 1 die per remaining strength point.
      1. Range: Archers 6, Mtd Archers 4. 
      2. Effect: Each 6 hits Heavy or in cover,  5,6 hits all others. 
      3. Artillery: Range 12 hit on 2,4,6, range 6 hit on any but 6.
      4. Limits. Must have line of sight. May not shoot if fording. May not shoot if self or target is engaged. 
    5. Melee. If in contact both sides roll during each melee phase. Roll 1 die per remaining strength point Roll Melee Power or less to hit. Front/flank values. 
      1. HC 5/3, MC 4/2, LC 3/2 
      2. HI 4/2, MI 4/2, Pikemen 4/1,  LI 3/1, Archers 2/1 
      3. Modifiers: to power but never less than 1
        1. -1 to power if attacking uphill or out of stream
        2. -1 to power  if enemy is heavy or in cover or if cavalry fighting pikes frontally.
      4. Result. If neither destroyed a unit that took more hits than it gave will retreat 1 length. 
    6. Strength Points. All units start with 4 strength points except artillery which have only 2. When all are gone the stand is removed.
    7. Commanders. Form part of unit. Commander rolls extra die in melee. Commander will be last man killed on stand. If commander killed all units roll 1 die. 5,6 carry on, 3,4 retreat a full move, 1,2 Rout.
    8. Army Morale. When an army has lost 1/2 of its units it may no longer shoot or attack or move into contact.
    FrancoScots: 12 pike, 3 MI, 4 LtI, 9 bow/shot, 2 cannon, 5 LC


    Game Report and comments next Post.


    Monday, April 20, 2015

    Experiencing Shock

    There are worse ways to while away a Sunday than playing a series of wargames.
    For the first time in over 50 years my Mini-Marx Knights on their white steeds take the field. These  are the only 25/30mm figures I have that were around when How to Play Wargames was published, so  figured I'd include a few.

    I started off just dumping a few pieces of terrain on the table then reread the rules with especial attention to winning and losing, a topic I couldn't remember much about, with reason. He is just a tad vague on the subject other than to urge you to have objectives for each side to avoid a fight to the finish with victory to the last stand standing. Luckily I'm not starting completely from scratch so declared that both armies were seeking to dominate this pass between wood and hill and that any army that suffered 50% stand loss would be incapable of further offensive action. No attacks and no shooting but they could defend in melee.

    A basic Shock Period army in Morschauser consists of 35 stands, 10 Heavy Cavalry, 5 Light Cavalry, 5 Heavy Infantry, 10 Light Infantry, 5 Missile Infantry. I had about 1/2 of that ready to go on 60mm bases or something close so the Empire fielded 3 HC, 2 LC, 3 HI, 4 Lt I, 4 Archers.  (Given the long ranges, the armoured handgunners were fielded as Lt infantry rather than Missile Light Infantry). The Turanians of the Great King of Kings fielded 5 HC (there are no elephant rules and HC are the toughest troops on the table), 4 LC, 4 Lt Inf and 3 Archers.  I used the roster method with 4 hits/dice per unit.

    The Turanians
    The Empire's mercenaries.
    The game which lasted nearly 1/2 hour was more interesting, more challenging and more fun than I expected and I can see how a master player could use game tactics to great effect to discombobulate an opponent. With every melee ending in the death of 1 side though, an historic clash of hoplite phalanges would result in about a 3 turn game with most of both sides dead. Essentially heavy troops kill everybody, especially each other. Joe gives tactical advice which is reasonably sound about finding ways to create holes in the enemy line and then dashing through to sieze objectives but it sounds a but more like Patton than Ptolemy.

    It took a few turns to get used to not having any command control rules and having only the dice, my judgement and the enemy's moves to provide friction but I soon got used to it.

    It was a good starting point. I reset the table.


    The end of Game 1. With the Spear Phalanx holding the hill and handgunners holding the wood, the Imperial Heavy Cavalry smashes the Turanian center and brings their army to 50% so that no counter attack may be launched.  


    I didn't want to change too much too fast (my all too frequent approach in the past) so I started with a few minor adjustments to fit my troops and table, added some more unit types and a way to have  melee not be necessarily decisive.

    The first step was to cut the movement and ranges to suit my smaller table. In the original rules the stands are 3" square and all distances are in multiples of 3". That sounds alot like ye old Base Widths to me. He recommends smaller bases for smaller figures and since I was using 60mm square bases, I converted all 3" segments to 60mm and improvised a new measuring stick marked as Melee/HI/LtInf/HC/LC & Bow. (For the first game  I used the stick I made for Comitatus a few years ago.)  Even this minor adjustment helped the game fit better on my 5x6 table.

    To address the quick and deadly melee I simply ruled that there would only be 1 round of melee each turn rather than all melees continuing until 1 or both were dead. In addition, the sight of spearmen fiercely battling  each other from 3" away had just not looked right, OK for musket armed troops or even peltasts perhaps but I addressed it as Rob & I did in Rough Wooing by keeping the zone of control aspect but requiring troops to move into contact for melee.

    The troop additions were on top of the rules not a replacement these were:
    1. Spearmen. Cavalry attacking the front of light or heavy infantry with spears, loses 1 from their "Power". This does not apply if the spears attack (loss of formation?). Obviously this begs for troops like Romans to have their own bonus but I only dealt with what was on the table.

    2. Horse Archers. The Light Cavalry in the rules have no missile capacity but have the same fighting ability as heavy infantry except they move twice as fast. I picture them as standard cavalry while the Heavy Cavalry in the rules sound like knights or cataphracts. My Turanian Horse Archers seemed to need something else so I gave them the LC move, a 6" (2 BW) Bow range and a melee factor of 3 instead of 4.

    3. Peltasts etc. I also gave light infantry with short ranged missile weapons a 6" (2BW) range with no deduction. So tougher than archers in melee but a shorter range,

    4, I left the elephants at power 5 but reduced their move to 12 (4 BW) like light infantry, and ruled that cavalry fighting elephants would lose 1 from their Power.

    Lastly, I realized part way through that the system where you only rolled as many dice as the enemy left larger units at a disadvantage if there was only 1 round of rolling so I eventually allowed units to roll as many dice as they had strength points remaining.

    The resulting game lasted about an hour and 1/2 and was actually quite interesting and fun with more nuances. It ended in a draw with both the hill and woods still in dispute and neither army able to attack.  I was getting a feel for handling troops under the system and when to risk combat and when to pull back for "strategic" reasons and the system was growing on me, reminiscent of the early days of Rough Wooing. The only real sore spot was that heavy troops were as easy to kill as light ones in melee. Armour was only effective against shooting, in melee it just helped you kill. That didn't seem right. I reset the table.

    In game 2 the long spears tried charging uphill into the elephants and belated realized that they have a terrain penalty and just forfeited their bonus. oops. In game 4 both sides were more cautious.
    Rob and I had discussed armour saves as an approach and so I tried them. With 4 hits per stand the result was tedium and very slow results. OK perhaps with a dozen units a side but with 30 or more units aside with the figures already on hand it didn't look good. I switched to 1 hit per stand and it felt too random and almost as brutal as the original. I forget who won in the rush to reset the table.

    After a break for supper and a bit of thought including several failed ideas like varying strength points,  I eventually thought about how being uphill protects you by lowering the enemy's chance of hitting. I added a loss of 1 to a unit's offensive power if attacking a heavy unit (minimum of 1) and started playing again.

    Game 4. After a long, tough, seesaw, struggle, the Turanians drop to 1/2 and must cease offensive actions.  Now outnumbered by the Imperial heavy troops and unable to reply to the fire of 4 bow units the Turanians cede the field. 

    There is more work to be done but this was a game that I could see playing again.

    Cliche or not, sometime Less really is More.


    Saturday, April 18, 2015

    An Old Shock Returns

    Before I redrew my grid I considered the effect on my recently revived medieval/fantasy armies. My basic conclusion was that I wasn't sure that I was headed in the right direction but that I was enjoying it and in one format or another it was here for a while yet!

    Advance Guards of the Great King and the Empire clash.

    A short while later a conversation about an Old School fantasy battle game based on Morschauser rather than Chainmail or some newer system sparked my interest. So, here I am, about to play a game with Morschauser's original Shock Period rules as written before I start serious work on a derivative.

    Saturday, April 11, 2015

    Couldn't help myself

    All I really wanted was a bit of modelling putty and the first place this side of the border that has any was RAFM. Seemed a shame to pay all that postage for just one thing.

    RAFM 25mm Character RAF03922
    She'll find a home in the West Folk Host, probably leader of one of the bands of forest critters and woodsmen despite her Desert Warrior listing. My Historical Ancients credentials have just slipped another notch but I'm enjoying myself.

    Usual light grey prime and cheap craft acrylics.

    Still haven't got the putty, hopefully its back ordered. In the meantime, "Something wicked this way comes"........

    Monday, March 23, 2015

    Never Ending Knights

    It's been almost a month since I started this group of Garrison knights and sergeants. They hit a near perfect wave of obstacles ranging from the minor things like repeated calls for physical labour during my best painting light hours and the resulting tiredness in the evenings to major things like having trouble choosing the colours and heraldry and not liking the 1st attempts to an odd reluctance on the part of the figures to accept paint graciously, something I experience now and then. (Cynics might suggest the problem is actually to do with how tired or distracted the painter is.)

    In any event they have been bypassed several times while I worked on something else but after having a fairly relaxing day with a game and only 2 hours of snow clearance I decided to force finish them before they got quietly put away unfinished for ever. Luckily gloss varnish hides a multitude of sins.

    Sir Daniel Lichen and Sir Edward Longbottom and 2 henchmen almost ready for battle.
    When I started in on them, they were going to be a 4 figure unit on unarmoured horses. They would serve as a supporting unit for the Earl of Cowcross or as medium cavalry if needed. Sir Daniel just seemed to need a barded horse though, and possibly a front row seat. Then, the more I thought about it, the less likely it seemed to me that the sergeants and lesser knights and other men at arms would be serving in separate units. It seemed more likely that they should be permanently attached as a 2nd rank to the great lords and knights on their barded horses leaving it to mounted crossbowmen and some sort of border horse to form the light or medium cavalry.

    Then I changed the grid size........

    My existing and in progress units were designed as 2 stand units to fit a 4" grid. They look a little lost on the 6" grid so either bigger stands or more of them are called for. Either way will allow me to use more figures without making the games bigger, longer or more complex but if I go for more bases I can also add more depth to the units without adding complexity.

    So now the plan is to convert the existing partially built armies to a smaller number of larger units, 6 stands if heavy, 3 if light. Since most of the units are not uniformed its mostly a matter of shuffling but, this just might mean "having" to buy more figures.......