Friday, April 19, 2013

Maurice Arrives - Initial Thoughts

Not one to easily pass by a sale, I ordered Sam Mustafa's, recently announced, Maurice package special.  The bundle came with rules book and card deck.  The production quality is very high with full color throughout.  My only complaint is that my copy arrived with visible shelf wear and a bit of dog-earedness.
I have seen several Maurice BatReps highlighting the mechanisms in the game and thought the games looked quite interesting, challenging, and fun.  In most accounts, both sides were faced with challenging tactical problems that resulted in tense and entertaining contests.  Sounds good to me.

Stand sizes are flexible such that most basing schemes will work.  No rebasing; that's good.  All arms are standard sizes.  That is, infantry and cavalry are four stands and artillery is one, single stand.  Measurement is predicated on base widths (BW) with each stand having roughly the same frontage.  Units move and battle by means of card activation.  The number of cards played to activate a unit or "Force" is based on playing (discarding) a number of cards with a total  "Span" equal to the distance from the CinC to the Force.  The closer your commander is to a force, the fewer cards or span required.  Activations may be modified by either the active or passive player.  Weapon ranges are four BW for musketry and canister and from 4-24 BW for artillery bombardment.

There is no figure-to-men scale, no time scale, nor ground scale.  With no game scales, games can represent anything from skirmishes to huge battles.  Regardless of the size, scope, and scale of a battle chosen, movement rates, weapons' ranges, and casualty rates remain constant.  What?  That's correct.  A four stand infantry unit always has a range equal to its frontage and always can absorb four hits.  At a battalion level game (where the basic maneuver unit is a battalion), a three-rank, 600 man battalion has a musketry range of about 130 yards.  If we move the scale up to a regimental level (each unit now represents two battalions) then a 1,200 man regiment in line fires out to 260 yards with artillery capable of bombarding nearly one mile!

The author does justify this anomaly by stating that one of the game's objectives is to model relative proximity and engagement of forces; not absolutes.  To me, this is essentially the definition of bathtubbing.  On the Playability vs Realism scale, I can accept this premise for a playable, beer and pretzels game that is meant for creating an entertaining game.  If I want to recreate a historical battle using this system, I will likely remain at the battalion level where the relationships between the figure/time/distance scales seem to coalesce.      

Even though the rules state no rebasing of figures is required as long a both sides are based similarly, will this work for my non-standard basing?  For many of my projects, I am in the camp of single base Basic Maneuver Units (BMUs) with whole BMU removal for losses.  My 18mm SYW project falls under this philosophy.  Each infantry battalion is based on a single 120mm x 30mm stand; each cavalry squadron is based on a 60mm x 30mm stand; and artillery is based on a 40mm square.  In line, one infantry battalion and two cavalry squadrons have the same frontage with one artillery stand roughly one fourth the frontage of the other two.  BW could be set at 30mm, 0.5in, or 40mm.  That should work.

No rejoicing yet. Mission is not yet accomplished.  My converged grenadier companies are mounted separately from their parent battalions on 40mm x 30mm bases with two such bases joined to form a combined grenadier battalion.  With grenadier battalions mustering at two thirds of a musketeer battalion's frontage, how will I account for this difference in game terms?  Theoretically, I could either treat the smaller grenadier battalions the same as their larger musketeer brethren or reduce the number of hits allowed from four down to three.  In shooting, perhaps allow the grenadiers to throw only three dice and penalize them in combat by -1DRM due to size?  Only a game or two will be able to answer these questions.         

The style of game play and level of abstraction appear similar to those found in the Commands & Colors series and Samurai Battles.  I enjoy the Commands & Colors genre very much and Maurice may be the system that actually motivates me to get this project out of its storage boxes and onto the gaming table.

6 comments:

  1. They do seem an interesting ruleset.

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  2. Hi Jonathan,
    They're a great set of rules, I think you'll enjoy them.

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  3. Jonathan, welcome to the Maurice club! These rules have moved our Ancients group up to the 17-18th century and we're now starting our 3rd campaign with them. A grognard might not like them but they're very entertaining. Nothing like dropping "that's not on the map" on your enemy as they move in for the kill.

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    1. Thanks, guys, I'm looking forward to giving these a try.

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  4. I picked up a copy as well. Maybe we could give them a try with our AWI armies?

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    1. Capital idea, Scott! Let's do it. I saw on TMP that Kevin was fishing for a copy of the rule too.

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