Saturday, 11 April 2009

Joe Morschauser and Gridded Wargames

One of the early pioneers of wargaming who is not remembered as well as others, in the UK at least, is American wargamer Joe Morschauser. In particular, Morschauser is remembered for advocating a gridded wargaming system, but as Bob Cordery points out in his Wargaming Miscellany blog, the rules in Morschauser’s book do not reflect this. This perception seems mainly to have been based on a number of well known pictures, both in his own book, and from Don Featherstone’s Advanced Wargames. It also may be derived from articles by and about him in Wargamers Newsletter and some of the US magazines.

This article from Wargamer’s Newsletter 62 (May 1967) provides a little information on the gridded wargames system and provides Morschauser’s rules for ‘“Frontier” type gridded wargames.’


The leading exponent of this unique, and perhaps stylised, form of wargaming is Joe Morschauser of U.S.A. (author of "How to Play Wargames in Miniature" Walker & Co. Few York, 1962).

Joe uses boards gridded with 3" squares, on which he fights with 54mm troops on trays - 3 foot or 2 cavalry; 1 gun and 2 gunners per tray. A tray is handled and used just as a single figure could be -Joe's "Roster System" is not used. Flexibility is gained by narrowing the area controlled by a tray to merely the adjacent square.

Movement is always across side of grid square and to move on a diagonal requires the use of 2 for 1 so to speak. Trays control only grid square directly in front of them thus enemy could pass aside or to rear in adjacent square, provided no facing of trays is involved. This is what really gives you "space" on such a small table top. Guns fire 7 or 8 squares again using "across sides of square" for counting -the 2 for 1 on diagonal deal. There is of course no shooting of guns a la Wells, only dice rolling and troops do not fire as such but come into "battle-contact" when facing across sides of adjacent grid squares, Cannon "fire" (by dice) longer distances of course.

Joe has built a “city”, some hills, tree areas and a village for this set-up all of which look pretty impressive on the board, set up. Yet not one bit of this accessory material uses up a single grid square of space. Every one of the 144 grid squares on this board (it’s 12 by 12 grid squares in size) can be used to set troops in or move through. This was accomplished by having things like walls, houses in “flat” form running along the grid lines between the grid squares.

Here are Joe’s rules for “Frontier” type gridded wargames.


Infantry Moves: 2 squares; Battle Powers: 5; Range: Adjacent Squares
Cavalry Moves: 2 squares; Battle Powers: 5; Range: Adjacent Squares
Maxim Guns Move: 2 squares; Battle Powers: 6; Range: Adjacent Squares
Light Field Artillery Move: 2 squares; Battle Powers 1; Range: 4 Squares
Field Artillery Move: 1 square; Battle Powers: 1; Range: 6 Squares
Position Artillery Move: None; Battle Powers: 1; Range: 10 Squares
Command Units Move: 3 squares; Battle Powers: 6; Range: Adjacent Squares

Infantry & Cavalry: Native State units of this type have 1 point less Battle Power
Other units: will not move forward to replace enemy after successful attack
No Battle Power will drop below 1 regardless of other rules


1. First conduct fire. All cannon in range will fire before cannon hit are removed. Fire is thus simultaneous.

2. Now roll dice to see which side takes first move this sequence. High number takes first turn this sequence.

3. First-turn-side moves all pieces, then conducts battles indicated by contacts, removing casualties at once. Then second-turn-side the same. This completes the sequence and a new sequence will begin with conduct of fire again.


1. Move no pieces, fire cannon as they stand and face.

2. For each gun firing; point out target square then roll a die for shot fall location. A 5 or 6 indicates a hit will fall on designated target. . A 1 indicates fall at 9 o’clock, a 2 indicates fall at 12 o’clock, a 3 indicates a fall at 3 o’clock, and a 4 indicates fall at 6 o’clock thus…

3. Now roll a die to determine effectiveness of shot on the location already indicated. .
DIRECT FIRE HIT roll a 2, 4 or a 6 (**)
INDIRECT FIRE HIT roll a 4 or a 6 (**)
** Command Units: Direct Fire Hit requires a 4 or 6, Indirect Fire Hit requires a 6.

4. Range is counted off across sides of grid squares. If entire tray base (not troops on it) can be seen from gun, use direct fire. If tray base cannot be seen or is in town or wood, use indirect fire.

5. Fire is simultaneous. If cannon is hit it may still fire that sequence before removal. Roll only once per gun per sequence. Ca­nnon in battle contact during firing segment of sequence may not fire.

6. Arc of fire is 90 degrees forward, sweeping from one 45 degree diagonal line of squares to other. If location of shot fall is beyond range, or out of arc of fire, shot is ineffective. If shot fall indi­cates fall on friendly piece, die throw for effectiveness of fire is conducted by enemy commander.


1. Each piece may be moved only once per sequence. All moves are made across sides of grid, squares, never across diagonals.

2. A piece may be moved through grid squares adjacent to flank or rear of enemy piece provided its own front does not face the enemy during the move past the enemy.

3. A piece may not move through grid squares adjacent to the front of an enemy piece. It must stop in that grid square, face the enemy, thus ending its move that turn. If it moves into a square faced by several enemy it may face any of enemy; it then does battle with that enemy during its turn using the numbers v one rules listed in Battle Rules section.

.4. A piece facing or being faced by an enemy piece or pieces in adjacent square (s) at start of its move may break contact with enemy piece (s) and move away. It may not come in contact with any enemy piece this turn after breaking contact.


1. Battle contact is made when one piece faces an enemy in an adjacent square. A piece may fight only one battle during its turn, thatis attack only once during its turn.

2. When attacker moves into contact with flank or rear of enemy the latter is faced to meet attacker at once. If several attackers contact one enemy, enemy faces last attacker to be moved into contact. If attacker loses battle it is faced attacker that should be removed.

3. If attacker is successful, remove defender at once. Then move attacker whom defender faced into defender's square if desired (optional). If this results in new contact attacker still may not conduct another battle this turn. If defender is successful attacker re faces should be removed as noted above in (2).

4. When several attackers assault one, defender's Battle Power is reduced thus;

2 ATTACKERS - defender's Battle Power reduced 1
3 ATTACKERS - defender's Battle Power reduced 2
4 ATTACKERS - defender's Battle Power reduced 3

The Battle Power used for several attackers is Battle Power of attacker defender faces.

Battle Conduct

Side taking turn (attacker) rolls one die for its piece (or pieces), a different colour die for enemy piece. Roll only once per attack.

(a) Both dice show Battle Power number pertaining or less – remove both (if several attackers against one), remove defender andattacker he faced.
(b) Neither dice show Battle Power number pertaining or less - stale­mate, all pieces remain on board in position.
(c) One die shows number pertaining or less, other does not – remove other piece (if loser is several attackers, remove attacker faced by the defender's tray).


1. Hills - Take one point of Battle Power from attacker up 1 hill step, 2 from attacker up vertical two-step. Take one point from defender v attacker down one or two steps. Includes square adjacent to base of hill. Cavalry, Artillery, Maxim may not move up or clown two-step but may attack up or down same.
2. Roads - Each square on road uses only one half square of move. Standard move on or off, odd ½ square lost. Towns are roads.
3. Rivers - Two squares of move used to cross one of river or river line. Take one point of Battle Power from attacker across river. Pieces in adjacent square with river between are in contact or not depending on attacker's decision.

4. Trees – Take one point of Battle Power from cavalry attacking in or into woods or defending in woods.

On his Wargaming Miscellany blog, Bob Cordery has made a number of posts about a recent book, TABLE TOP BATTLES - TABLE TOP WARGAMING WITH MINIATURES,by Mike and Joyce Smith. This book contains “universal” rules for wargames using a gridded system.

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