Sunday, 17 July 2016

Maurice and the Curates Egg.

 Our latest attempt to find a decent set of 18th century rules other than the somewhat dates Warfare in the Age of Reason led us to getting Theatrical Steve to run a game of Maurice- the 18th century game by Sam Mustapha.. Steve has used these rules quite a bit so should know his way around them but they were new to the rest of the TWATS.
Now we've only played the one game and overall there is a lot to like here but equally some strange bits of complete tripe too
 So Tripe 1 Organisation- all units are "4 bases" which seem to represent eith an infantry battalion or a cavalry regiment. Now other rules do this and for much of the 18th century it is tripe. Cavalry were -in contemporary documents usually counted by Squadron not regiment- as the number of squadrons in a regiment could vary widely between time and place. So many French cavalry regiments were only 2 squadrons- though some were 4 and the French massed their cavalry by Brigades of around 8 squadrons British cavalry regiments were most often 3 squadrons- though there were exceptions - a very few Prussian regiments were 10 squadrons. Average Cavalry unit strengths varies much more widely than infantry battalions yet here we have the same old saw as perpetrated in many rules (AOR included) of infantry and cavalry units being the same strength-  they can even take the same number of hits ... Hmmmm.
Good bit1 The card driven system is actually interesting and keeps you alert. The various cards can mitigate or otherwise the nasty habits of the odious cubes(that 's dice to the rest of you!) so give that you have the good fortune to hold the right cards at the right time then things can happen. This is the major point of this system and goes a very long way to mitigating some of the tripe.
Tripe2- No continuity- you can issue orders to a unit or brigade to advance- or even-in certain circumstances your whole army  but that is only for 1 move- they forget the lot next turn. This also applies to artillery who can be given orders to bombard but you have to repeat yourself every time you want them to fire - unless its canister. Since any commander can only issue 1 action per turn this leads to a very bitty action with no planning even remotely possible unless you happen to get the right card at the right time-and can play it.
 If you don't get the right cards in even roughly the right order pack it in and save yourself some time. This is overly harsh but you MUST have the right cards near games end or all you may or may not have achieved previously is for nothing.- though the odious cubes also have a deliterious effect too. I lost7 army break points in 1 turn when up to that point had lost none- so I threw my hand in which at the time had only 1 useful card- of 4  sop could not advance to finish off the French while they had more and more useful cards.
 Not sure if this is actually a wargame- its more like bragg or draw poker. The model soldiers are irrelevant so like many "games" today it joins the anti-soldier crusade.
 Nevertheless with a bit of tweaking it could be made into something very tasty indeed and is definitely worth further investigation. For smalller sizes-15mm and down it could be the answer if we can sort out the organisational trouble and some of the lack of continuity in the orders system .
 I'd give it a cautious 7/10
 However after a little thought here are a couple of amendment ideas
 My biggest bugbear was the simple fact that sub- commanders seem pointless as they cannot perform any actions so how about making the total number of actions per turn equal to the number of sub-commanders so in the case of our first game 3 per turn since this includes such things as artillery fire and rallying as well as movement then this might make things move along a bit. However I'd add some severe codicils and limits so no sub- commander could do more than one action in any turn and  drawing new cards would be limited to the number of the most "costly" action . Still thinking about this.
 Equally I'd allow artillery to keep firing at the same target after the first fire without needing an action BUT if they wished to change targets that would cost an action.
 Also in order to make an action the sub-commander would need to be within command distance of the CinC- so cards would need to be spent. This would simply give more options and continuity.

As for the game itself in actual toy soldier terms it was pretty small- each british infantry bigade being only 3 battalions of 16- orrible to look at and cavalry units of 12- but since the soldiers are not pertinant to the actual gameplay then I don't know why I'm telling you this .....
 Mind you a minor miracle occoured Jim the Builder actually managed to turn up- thats 2 games in the last 2 years Jim- both in the last 2 months !!


  1. For mine, the big no-no in rules design is caprice, on the part of the designer himself, nor in way the game develops. That is why I don't much like the events cards concept - not in a competitive game, anyhow. For solo play,. the odd surprise is not a bad idea, just to obviate biases the player might harbour deep within his inner heart.

    Card systems can be useful I think in 'intervention' types of actions, such as ambushes, of defensive fire in the face of assault, or forming square against the threat of cavalry. But these things can be enacted in other ways. Does the battery on the ridge comntinmue to support the main attack, or turn to face the imminent cavalry charge from the flank? Does the war gamer get to choose, the rules make mandatory the response to the imminent threat, or is the matter decided by whether the battery even sees the threat amid all the battle smoke, and/or having seen it, abandon its orders to face it? In short, is that a matter for a die-roll?

    In my view, the presence of a human competitor on the other side of the table should constitute more than half the uncertainty you will face in a table-top battle. The parameters of uncertainty should I think be quite constrained, in order [a] than can one make plans that have a reasonable likelihood of going ahead; and/or [b] the result of the action is not going to hang on one or two exceptional - or egregious - dice rolls.

    For solo games, there needs to be a greater sense of uncertainty in order that the gamer gets to see a story unfolding without a complete foreknowledge of the outcome.

    Thanks for the review, Andy!

  2. Ion Cards are useful as you say Maurice has both but does need tinkering with to become both more military and more 18th century. I'm going to have to get a set and see what can be done here !