Saturday, 12 May 2012

First Look: Maurice

Since four possible choices for rules for my Marlburian project clearly weren't enough, I decided to pick up a copy of Maurice too.

The main rulebook is softback and 112 pages long.  It is split into two main sections, the Basic Game and the Advanced Game.   The first section covers the introduction, game set up, an overview of play, movement, volley & bombardment (firing), combat and some housekeeping.  The second section covers Epic (campaign) Points, Notables (personalities), optional advanced rules, historical scenarios, the Succession Wars campaign system and the Quick Reference Sheets.  The book is US letter size, generally in two columns and full colour.  The rules are clearly explained with examples, diagrams and interspersed with pictures of figures etc.

The rules are intended to cover a century of warare - 1690 to 1790.  This is quite a range and there were a significant changes in tactics over that time.  In addition, the unit and ground scales are flexible.  So these are clearly intended to lean more towards the game end rather than the simulation end of the spectrum.

Units are artillery, regular or irregular infantry and cavalry.  They are intended to be represented by four bases although other than for formation representation I am not sure this is critical as there is no figure or base removal.  Distances are all stated in "Base Widths" and so can be used irrespective of the actual basing of the figures.

The system relies heavily on cards, is IGO-UGO but with the chance to interrupt actions if you have the appropriate card.  The cards themselves are available separately (in a rather nice box), you can download the ones for the Basic Game from the website (but not for the Advanced Game).  A card based system for random terrain generation is included based around a fairly standard table set up and there is a points based system to create pick up and play games.

Each player has an initial hand of cards, which is usually larger for the player designated as the attacker.  These Action Cards are either Interrupt Cards (which can be played in the opponent's turn), Event Cards (which may be played to cause the card text to come into effect) or Modifier Cards (which can be used to improve the various Actions).  All the cards have a Span number on them as well and can be played for this rather than their other role (more of than later).

A game is played in alternating rounds with the attacker going first.  The active player can decide whether there will be a volley phase in the round (where infantry will fire) although the passive player can reverse this decision if they have the appropriate card.  The active player then has a choice to Pass, play an Event or play an Action.  Passing allows you to draw three cards into your hand (up to a normal maximum total hand size of 10) but do nothing else.  Playing an Event allows you to play an Event Card and have the text occur but does not allow you to draw any cards.  Playing an Action allows you to activate a group of units to march, charge, rally or, if they are artillery, bombard.  The more aggressive the action the less cards you get the draw into your hand.

The groups of units you can activate are quite limited, they must be of the same type, in the same formation and in the terrain that has the same impact on movement.  In order to activate a group you need to play cards the sum of whose Span numbers is equivalent to or greater than the distance between the C in C and the nearest unit of the group.  In addition you can play Modifier Cards which are relevant to the action they are performing.

Movement is dependent on unit type, formation and terrain and formation changes are neatly handled with both having the appropriate limitations for the period.  Oblique movement is available as an advanced rule to be included for games later in the periods covered.

Firing consists of a roll to hit which must then be converted to a Disruption.  Units can usually take 4 Disruptions before they evaporate.  The rally action can be used to remove Disruptions.  Melee is an opposed dice roll added to a modified combat value for the unit quality (Elite, Trained, Conscript etc.).

A game will run until the card deck has been run through a couple of times (a reshuffle card is added after the first time through, which allows the discard deck to be shuffled back into the draw pile and then removed after it appears) or when an Army's morale breaks.  If the card deck is exhausted then night is deemed to have fallen and control of a pre-determined objective determines victory.

The advanced rules provide for Epic Points which are useable in a campaign context; Notables who are attached to individual units and can provide them with benefits or, indeed handicaps (this is the age of nepotism!); reinforcements, engineering, pikes, additional artillery rules and an outline of how to play with two players per side (using two card decks, I note).

Guidance for scenario designers is also included along with three historical scenarios - the Battles of Fontenoy in 1745, Kolin in 1757 and Brandywine in 1777.  The Succession Wars section then provides a simply framework for playing campaigns and there are a few FAQs and the five page QRS to finish off (although it should be noted that the QRS is bound in and there isn't a separate one provided - a pdf is available to download though).

Overall, I am impressed by the presentation (although it ought to be good considering the price!), the card based approach looks very interesting but I am slightly worried that it may end up being a little too abstract - only actually playing will tell that though.  It will certainly be interesting to compare these to the other rules I have for the period.


  1. If you're looking for hyper-focused simulation, you'll be disappointed. If you want an excellent game where players adopt period tactics because they work (rather than because they are compelled to do so by rule restrictions), you'll love it. There's tremendous tactical depth, and the adoption of some of the special rules allow for period variation within an extremely flexible framework. There's several batreps on my blog, if you're looking for a sense of evolving game play. Can't recommend it enough.

    1. Having had a couple of games with them now I agree entirely. These are certainly a keeper but I can't see how they'd scale to a club sized multi-player game so the search is still on for those rules.