Random Thoughts of a War Game Enthusiast

This article, as far as I can tell is Morschuser’s first published writing on the topic of war games. You will find themes presented here will be repeated in his later writings. The more of Morschauser’s works the more I believe that he was indeed a war gamer ahead of his time.

I hope that you enjoy this article as much as I did.

By Joseph Morschauser III
The War Game Digest, June 1959

As a rather new member of the WGD group, I have been, fascinated by your whole operation. As a boy I was always interested in soldiers, and fought a number of “wars” with Herb Roig, of Poughkeepsie, NY, who sent in my original request for WGD along with his a few months ago. Since 1942 I have had little chance to do much with War Games, but recently Herb and I have talked of reviving our interest in the hobby.
Since we do not live close together, this may, be impossible, and I’m afraid “soldiers” for me will remain a vicarious occupation, one of the mind and not only for lack of an opponent, but also for lack of time. (As a magazine writer my time off the job is taken up either by family activities and duties, or by the typewriter) Therefore at the moment I can only be with WGD people in spirit a bitter pill to ‘an old time “soldiers” man. Meanwhile, several hundred Britains 54mm, 50-66 tanks and cannon (many handmade) gather dust in my parent’s attic.

But despite the limitations on my physical participation, I have “never” forgotten the hobby. At one point I drew up two fully equipped WWII army’s on paper and wrote a history of the campaigns they fought. By much searching and the help of a friend, I also located a Copy of Fletcher Pratt’s Naval War Game rules, and reworked and modernized them. This booklet, by the way, is long since out of print.

Someday I hope to get into the Ancient Wars (Greek, Roman) and it is my fond hope that the Scruby soldier producing operation will turn out some 30mm figures of the se periods. I like the Ancient times because in that period there was everything, without overpowering weapons. They had missiles, armor, forts, border wars, sea power – everything we have today, only without total destruction. In addition individual bravery and skill counted much.

One other period interests me also – the period between the two World Wars. The armor developed in the 30’s didn’t carry over powering weapons, nor was their armor so thick that a .50 caliber anti-tank rifle carried by a single man couldn’t cut through it.

Take for example the British Vickers Medium ‘A’ tank of which the English firm DINKEYTOYS once made a model suitable for 30mm use. Its armor was, only about 15mm thick, its speed about 17 MPH, and it carried several machine guns and a 40mm cannon. Thus, it was a limited weapon and I think it would be fun to fight the modern war game with such limited weapons. As a result infantry would have a chance against armor and, not be slaughtered by heavy fire.

A bit more data on my past: Herb Roig and I were tank men, and as a matter of fact, served with the Armored Forces during the war. Strangely, as a result of my studies of the war game before I entered service, I found I knew much more about enemy armored vehicle types, etc. than many of the instructors at Ft. Knox, where I took my basic. But having learned early never to volunteer, I kept my mouth shut. My experiences have convinced me that the art of war is insane, or has become so, and thus I have become bored with all “that damn equipment and machinery”. Thus, it’s back to the Ancient times for me. Also, I think rules for the modern war game are too complex because of the increasing complexity of the machines and weapons involved, and spoil the game because of this.

I should suggest though that a new book by Lidell Hart called the. TANKS (publisher, Frederick A. Praeger, 15 w. 47th St., NYC) is a complete history of every important tank battle and argument which has taken place in the last 40 years, and should be of interest to all lovers of military history.

I’d like also to mention in passing that WGD reader Gerard DeGre is an old professor of mine, and I’m glad to see he has never given up war games. DeGre introduced me to naval war games while I attended Bard College right after WWII. Unfortunately I have had little contact with him since I whipped him (beginner’s luck!) three games out of three in 1948. However I suggest that WGD readers consider his Principle of Simultaneity, which ‘basically is simultaneous range estimation for everything from single rifles to big guns, and a simultaneous movement of troops. Thus a war game breaks down into movement turns (simultaneous) and firing turns’ (simultaneous). The results are very realistic, and don’t think it is easy to judge range within a few mm. No one ever gets so good that they can do this.

To my way of thinking DeGre’s method eliminates the dice throwing. in war games, which bothers me a great deal (at least from what I have read’ in WGD) It seems to me too much reliance is placed on the dice, which means that a man good with the’ bones’ is a good general. Frankly, chance does play a part in real war, but not in the sense indicated by the use of dice in WGD. For example, something is wrong if a general out flanks his .enemy, places his army in what should be a superb position, and then loses because he has poor luck with the dice.

One more: thing that should be clearly understood; I consider WGD a rather fine bit of copy. There are hundreds of pieces of copy and letters that I see every year – some by professional writers – which are no patch on the copy in WGD. I suspect that WGD is definitely a labor of love, and not a financial venture, and such it should be. So don’t think I sit studying WGD looking for copy errors! For after all, the game’s the thing!