Review of Morschauser’s ‘How To …’ book

Paul Le Long reviews Joseph Morschauser’s 1962 book, “How To Play War Games in Miniature,” a classic from the earlier days of the hobby. It’s on the Reviews page.

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8 Responses to Review of Morschauser’s ‘How To …’ book

  1. John says:

    This is absolutely my favorite wargames book, hands down. Thank you for writing your review!

    I got the John Curry reprint for Christmas and was so inspired by it that I immediately placed an order for enough boxes of Zvezda 1:72 Great Northern War figures to field two armies according to Morschauser’s Musket period recommendations.

    His rules are very simple. And you’re right, most of us could probably come up with something similar on our own. But, just by learning one core set, Morschauser’s rules would allow someone new to the hobby to get gaming quickly in any period. At a time when published rules would have been hard to find, and for people who hadn’t played before, that would have been a real boon.

    One thing to note though, for those who might consider this book just for that reason, his close combat rules are somewhat confusing in my opinion. I had to re-read them several times to follow what he was saying. And even then, it was only a post on, I believe, Mr. Cordery’s blog that convinced me that it wasn’t a typo in the book.

    I may be far off-base on this, but Morschauser’s overall approach to the hobby strikes me as one more interested in playing a game with toy soldiers a la Wells rather than tackling historical military situations. This is distinctly different from the feeling I get when I read Featherstone. I suggest this only for contrast’s sake, and not to imply one is more valid than the other. You would have to pry books from both authors from my cold dead hands.

    This book is indeed a must-read. I would add not only for the history as you suggest, but for Morschauser’s enthusiasm for miniatures gaming, which comes through loud and clear 50 years later. Whenever I read from this book, I want to go and play a game as soon as I can. And that seems to really be the purpose of a book like this:to get people excited about war gaming, and I think he does a great job of it.

    • JAird says:

      I love reading stuff by truly enthusiastic people – whether I catch their particulear “bug” or not it generally acts to fire up my own enthusiasm !

  2. JAird says:

    Well Paul, as you know, I don’t have this book…but it looks like I need to put it on the shopping list ! Hmm, Salute is next weekend…..

  3. Paul Le Long says:


    Did you get the book at Salute today? I picked up the Phil Barker Ancients book that you reviewed so well recently! And a copy of Barry Carter’s Naval Wargames that Mike Crane reviewed on this blog. I can honestly say that I woyld have bought neither had it not been for reviews on this site.

    • JAird says:

      Sadly not – did pick up a few terrain items, and some board games (I’m having a bit of a resurgence of interest at the moment in SPI games and Strategy & Tactics in particular).

      And also some more 20mm plastics to add to the painting back-log !

      • Paul Le Long says:

        I wouldn’t mind some advice (if you don’t mind) on S&T type boardgames – which ones are best for adapting to solo play. My big interest in this area is WWII naval/air & WWII Desert War – both of which I think are more suited to boardgaming than figure gaming.

        But the only game I could find specifically written for solo play was S&T Coral Sea (which I failed miserably to find at Salute last week).

        By the way I’m currently playtesting Hill of Doves – a solo boardgame set in the 1st Boer War, designed by SWA member Godfrey Bailey. It’s excellent. I think he has his quota of playtesters but it’s nevertheless worth contacting him if this sort of thing interests you.

        Any advice on solo boardgames would be welcome.

        • JAird says:

          Perhaps predictably you’ve managed to hit on one of my weak spots ! WWII – I do a little (pre-1941) with miniatures, but I’ve never really enjoyed WWII boardgames. I blame Advanced Squad Leader for that I think – seemed terribly slow as I recall, and one game sticks in the mind where my tank was parked behind my opponent’s tank which couldn’t move (lost a track ? I forget). Anyway, I sat there shooting away at it – stationary target that it was. Could I hit it ? Well, eventually…..but it took ages and was quite…irritating.

          I’d imagine that tactical air war games woud be amongst the hardest to solo – I’ve never had much success with games like Ace of Aces because of the simultaneous / phased movement and response and haven’t tried any strategic air war games.

          Off hand the only WWII Solo game I can think of in S&T is “Tarawa – Red Beach One”, which I do have but have yet to play ! However an awful lot of the other S&T games are suitable for solo play (obviously not games which require some covert manouevering – like Plot to Assasinate Hitler !). There are many games – particularly for medievals – which require one side to be fairly static, which I find makes taking an unbiased approach to both sides that much easier. Clontarf is one such, where the Irish are pretty much the aggresive side, with the Vikings having to focus on holding a line AND killing the Irish commanders. But similarly anything like Hastings (bought that at Salute !) will see the Anglo-saxons sitting on the hill for much of the game – giving up their advantage to try and chase a more mobile enemy will have an inevitable outcome. I also try and look for games based on sieges. I suspect that some of these games would be a little dull against a live opponent who in effect is stuck with “just sitting there and taking casualties”.

  4. Paul Le Long says:

    thanks Jonathan – much appreciated

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