Sunday, 17 April 2022

Morale in Wargames

If you have a regular wargame opponent, as I am fortunate to have, morale will probably play an important role in your wargames.   When both of you have a good grasp of the rules, and a lot of experience of gaming together, it is often the thing which decides the outcome of the game.

When I started my 1813 campaign I decided that I would have to write my own rules, both for the campaign and the wargame.   I wanted the campaign to provide interesting battles for my wife and I to wargame.  And I wanted the wargame to be fun and fast moving, whilst still reflecting Napoleonic warfare.  It soon became apparent that the morale rules would be critical in both the campaign and the wargame.

To keep it simple I decided on 1 six sided dice to determine the outcome.   This would be amended as follows

Plus 1 for elite troops

Plus 1 if general in base contact

Plus 1 if supports within 4”

Plus 1 if garrison or in woods

Plus 1 if 20” or more from the enemy

Minus 1 if conscript (poor quality) troops

Minus 1 no general within 8”

Minus 1 no supports within 8”

Minus 1 for each casualty

Minus 1 for rout within 4”

Minus 1 if routed through

Minus 1 if disordered

Minus 1 if shaken

Minus 2 in rout

The total of the dice and the total plus or minus would decide what the brigade would d


3 or more pass morale test

1 or 2 shaken

0 or less rout


Most of the modifiers are not down to the player, but the result of casualties or current morale.    But the player can ensure that all brigades are within supporting distance (4”) of each other.   And that their general remains within 8”.

The overall effect is that most troops without casualties and with supports will make their morale.

After a battle all casualties are transferred to the campaign.   Infantry casualties can be concentrated in one brigade, but 10% always remain with the brigade who received them.  This applies for the remainder of the campaign.   So casualties in one battle have an effect until the campaign ends.

All casualties, less the 10%, can be replaced by reinforcements.   However they take a long time to arrive.   A corps must be stationary, not in contact with the enemy and be in supply to receive reinforcements.   They then receive 1 casualty per corps per move.   These are allocated in priority to artillery, cavalry and then infantry.

In addition in each corps all infantry casualties, less 10% per brigade, can be transferred to the brigade with most casualties.   This allows all other infantry brigades to quickly come to full strength, less the 10% casualties which will remain until the end of the campaign.

It sounds a little complicated, but it is really simple to apply in use.   After each campaign day is completed I adjust casualties to each corps.   When a battle is declared the current strength of each brigade is noted and shown on the wargames table by use of a small token which shows the casualties as numbers, with 1 representing 10%.

At the start of the campaign all brigades will be full strength.  So in their first battle all will follow orders until they start to receive casualties.   The more casualties they receive the more likely they are to fail a morale test.   It usually requires a poor dice throw, plus minus modifiers, for a brigade to rout.

When they do all supporting brigades (within 4”) must immediately test their morale.   If they rout, then all brigades within supporting distance of them must test morale.   This is when earlier battle casualties have an immediate effect on the current game.   All brigades with 10% casualties or more are more likely to join the rout.

For us this simple rule mechanism usually determines who wins the game.   Neither of us tend to make either rule or tactical mistakes.  We have used the rules so often that we have learned both very well.    So it is loss of morale, often sparked by a single casualty, which often results in a victory or defeat.

Simple morale rules like this will not appeal to everyone.   I have used many commercial rules over the past 50 years.   All had morale rules, some very complicated.    I remember that WRG rules had lengthy lists of modifiers, most of which cancelled each other out.   But they were impossible to remember and would require long periods of consultation during the game.

Our morale rules have served us well since they were written 14 years ago.   They have had many amendments in the light of play experience.  But having written the rules myself these changes rarely has unexpected consequences in later games.


I have set the settings for comments to come to me before posting so that I will not miss any