November 28, 2021

History of Wargaming – Jack Scruby’s Basic (Musket Era) War Game Rules

Robert Mosher, 4 November 2021

When H. G. Wells published Little Wars just before World War I, he was presenting to the world a pastime that would seem to pass out of fashion in the aftermath of the Great War. In the years after World War II, there appeared to be a resurgence of interest in wargaming with miniature figures in the UK and in the US with key figures presenting it as a ‘hobby’. One such individual was Jack Scruby, in California, who began making and selling model soldiers and shared his rule sets with which to refight ‘little wars’.

ScrubyNews-001
click images to enlarge

In 1973, Scruby published the first issue of The Soldier Factory News as his ‘house organ’, expressing a renewed enthusiasm after a “three-year layoff from participating physically, mentally and emotionally in war games” following a heart attack in 1969. As a factory publication, it advertised only Scruby Military Miniatures figures. 1

Eight of the magazine’s thirty-two pages were devoted to Basic War Game Rules for a Fast, Hard-hitting Musket Period Game with No Bookkeeping. The author explained that this was in response to many requests received for the rules he used in playing his new “N” Scale wargames. Examining this set of rules should reveal some of Jack Scruby’s game design philosophy and ideas about wargames (with an emphasis on rules with NO bookkeeping!).

TURNS

The rules give no time scale per turn (nor did H.G. Wells in Little Wars), but the sequence of play is as follows:

  1. Both players move *
  2. Artillery fire
  3. Musket fire
    — Fire and Charge
  1. Post-volley morale
  2. Melee
  3. Post-melee morale
  4. Special moves/cavalry charges
  5. * Roll for next move – the winner picks which flank to start at, his opponent starts at the opposite flank, and both move their troops
Jack Scruby 1962

 

 

FIGURES

The game envisions a number of troop types mounted in groups on movement stands, except for the artillery. All infantry armed with muskets have a firing range of six inches, which can be extended by one inch for every level of a hill the firing troops are shooting from.

INFANTRY COMPANIES

  • A Light Infantry Company consists of four figures on a stand. Their movement rates are set out below as for Light Infantry. They fire at their full normal firepower against troops in Defensive Positions such as woods, houses, stone walls, etc.
  • A Grenadier Company consists of four figures per stand. They move as regular Infantry. Their firepower is doubled as is their strength in Melee. A Grenadier Company retain their full combat value when attacking in melee against houses, forests, or other defensive positions (other infantry melee at half value in such contests).
  • A Fusilier (or Infantry) Company consists of four figures per stand. They move and fire as regular infantry.

INFANTRY BATTALIONS

  • An Infantry Battalion is made up of four Infantry stands, one Grenadier Company stand, and one Light Infantry Company stand.
  • A Light Infantry Battalion consists of four Infantry stands, one Grenadier Company stand, and one Light Infantry Company stand. The entire battalion moves twice as fast as a regular Infantry Battalion. However, except for the Light Infantry and Grenadier Companies, the four Fusilier companies fire as normal infantry.
  • A Guard Infantry Battalion also consists of four Infantry companies, a Light Infantry Company, and a Grenadier Company. Each stand in the battalion has double the normal Infantry firepower and is doubled in Melee (just like a regular Grenadier Company in a line battalion). Only the Light Infantry Company has double movement, the rest of the battalion moves as normal infantry. Guard Battalion companies melee against defensive positions at full combat value (like Grenadier Companies as noted above).

CAVALRY & ARTILLERY

  • Light Cavalry stands have only two figures and are armed with carbines. The carbines have a four-inch range.
  • Heavy Cavalry stands show three figures. They have no firearms and are purely melee troops. However, they may not attack infantry in square unless they are led by Lancers (Light Cavary).
  • Cannons move at the same rate as the accompanying troops. A cannon may also move two inches and still fire. Movement beyond that distance means that the gun cannot fire that same turn. The normal range for artillery is eighteen inches, plus an additional two inches for each level of a hill it may occupy above the main surface of the game table. When firing canister, it has a range of six inches but with double the combat power for each gun firing.
MOVEMENT

Movement in these N-scale rules is as follows:

TYPE OPEN COLUMN ROAD UPHILL MODIFIER DOWNHILL MODIFIER
Infantry 2” 4” 6” -1” +2”
Light Infantry 4” 6” 8” 0 +2”
Light Cavalry 6” 8” 10” 0 +2”
Heavy Cavalry 4” 6” 8” 0 +2”
Artillery Same as accompanying troops

Infantry Squares of four stands plus one in the middle can move at COLUMN speed of four inches, larger Infantry Squares move at OPEN speed of two inches.

COMBAT

FIRING

When conducting counterbattery fire against an enemy gun, a total of four hits are required on die rolls of 1, 3, or 6 (2, 4, and 5 miss). While artillery fires by line of sight, howitzers can conduct blind fire against unseen targets. Houses, walls, and other terrain objects can be destroyed by artillery fire on the same die rolls for hits with the total number of hits required to destroy each object set down before play begins.

Jack Scruby’s Combat (Results) Table in these rules reflects that used by H.G. Wells in Little Wars. The force with the greater number of figures and stands wins. Musket fire is considered simultaneous and casualties from fire combat are only removed after both sides have fired.

One
Two
Three
Heavy Cavalry Stand Kills One 2 model stand
One 3 model stand
One 4 model stand
Two
Four
Six
Light Cavalry Stand Kills One 2 model stand
One 3 model stand
One 4 model stand
Two
Three
Four
Grenadier/Guard Stand Kills One 2 model stand
One 3 model stand
One 4 model stand
Four
Six
Eight
Line/Light Infantry Stand Kills One 2 model stand
One 3 model stand
One 4 model stand
Two
Three
Four
Cannons Kills One 2 model stand
One 3 model stand
One 4 model stand

NOTE: One stand over one-half of the number of stands required to kill counts as the full number needed for a kill. Example: If six stands are required to kill one enemy stand but only 3 stands are attacking, there can be no kills. However, if you have four stands attacking then one kill is made.

Before musket and carbine fire, either player can declare a ‘fire and charge’ move for a unit and in this case the charge must take place after fire combat regardless of the results from fire. The attacker advances the charging stands into contact with the enemy force after all fire combat casualties have been removed. Only troops who fired may attack, though an infantry force in column formation may join the attack even if they did not fire. The defending player may add to the melee any troops who were in ‘close support’ standing no more than one ‘OPEN’ move distance away from the melee.

MELEE

All infantry and cavalry in two ranks count in melee. Attack columns may be three ranks deep and count in melee if used for attack. As noted, Cavalry can only attack infantry squares if led by lancers who are Light Cavalry. Infantry squares can be formed ‘at the double’, i.e., infantry stands can move twice their normal movement to come together and form square. Infantry in two ranks fight at normal effectiveness in melee, infantry caught in a single rank will fight at only half effectiveness in melee.

Terrain such as walls, woods, and hedges give no defense benefit in melee except to prevent cavalry from closing with infantry in such positions. Troops attacking a house can include in the melee twice the number of troops that the house has been rated as capable of holding. The defenders fight at plus half their normal value (two stands defending count as three stands) while attacking troops fight at half their normal value (except for Grenadier or Guard company stands).

MORALE

Morale is judged after fire combat and again after melee combat and reflects the number of casualties inflicted. Each player first counts the total losses sustained in the latest round of combat.

  • The side with the greatest losses must retire two regular moves to the rear, or behind the nearest supporting troops. The withdrawing troops may not make another forward movement or offensive action for one complete turn though they may fight if attacked.
  • The winning side may reform and then take any bonus moves that may be allowed.
  • If the losses by both sides are equal, each player then counts the number of figures that are engaged in the melee (Grenadiers and Guards counting double).

Each player than rolls a single die – a role of 1, 2, or 3 means that that player can double the number of figures engaged; a roll of 4,5, or 6, means that the player multiplies his number of figures by three.
The side with the higher number of figures after these multipliers are applied is the winner and the other side must retire.
However, if one of the two sides is occupying a defensive position you add %50 more value to the defenders – i.e., 8 model soldiers on a defensive position become 12 before applying any multiplier if that last step is still necessary.

STRATEGIC RULES

A final page added what were called Strategic Rules such as requiring both sides in large scale games with multiple players on each side to have three headquarters – one in the center and one for each flank on the left and the right. The survival of these HQs was one of the measures of victory or defeat. Each HQ served as a supply base, as long as a clear path ran along the roads from the HQ to the troops fighting on its portion of the front they were ‘in supply’. For each turn out of supply, the player has to remove one stand of troops, alternating between infantry and cavalry, until supply is restored.

These rules also included the possibility of moving troops via forced march (with a three-turn limit) allowing units to move three times their normal move – followed by one turn of ‘rest’ allowing no movement for one game turn.

The focus here is on playability, as emphasized by the ‘no bookkeeping’ mantra.

Finally, players could place markers on the table to represent their troops with a written note kept as to whether these troops were in line or column. These markers could also be screened by light infantry or light cavalry. The markers could be exposed by enemy soldiers, by combat, and morale rules.

Clearly, Jack Scruby’s rules here are in the H. G. Wells’ Little Wars tradition rather than the kriegsspiel tradition. However, unlike Little Wars, Scruby here uses dice to determine who gets to choose where their movement begins each turn, to resolve fire combat, and to help resolve morale in some instances after a melee.

The focus here is on playability, as emphasized by the ‘no bookkeeping’ mantra. These rules also envision the use of figures fixed onto movement trays or ‘stands’ whereas Little Wars only used temporary trays to facilitate the movement of figures in rear areas. The introduction of “N” scale figures, 9mm, appears to foreshadow the now popular 6mm figures. In both instances, the goal would appear to be the possibility of staging larger battles with more troops in the limited gaming space common to most wargamers both in the 1960s and ‘70s as well as today.


HISTORY OF WARGAMING
THE ORIGINAL KRIEGSSPIEL  ~ AMERICAN KRIEGSSPIEL ~ STRATEGOS ~ LITTLE WARS ~ PAWNS OF WAR ~ JACK SCRUBY WARGAMES
DISCUSSION FORUM THREAD


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Footnotes

  1. He did accept ads for other people’s rule sets, however, and this first issue included an ad for Guidon Games’ rule sets Chainmail, Hardtack, and Don’t Give Up the Ship.

Brant G

Editor-in-chief at Armchair Dragoons

View all posts by Brant G →

One thought on “History of Wargaming – Jack Scruby’s Basic (Musket Era) War Game Rules

  1. Hoi Robert, and did you happen to ‘recall’ where in that “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” ‘movie’ there was a ‘Miniatures Battle’ conducted? I have often wondered whether or not they also ‘Used’ them “Little Wars” ‘Rules’ as their ‘Basis’ on such?

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