Last sunday we played our first game of Maurice. Maurice is an 18th century tabletop wargames ruleset produced by Sam Mustafa. I had never encountered any of his rulesets before so I was prepared for something new. I was not disappointed.
Let's start with what was not surprising. Maurice has a standard IGO/UGO sequence. It uses d6es for every diceroll. It has relatively mundane mechanisms for shooting (4+ is a hit, then roll for result). It uses multi-figure bases. No surprises there.
The first (so far untried) surprise is that Maurice has an integrated campaign system. I expect to dwell more on this topic in future posts. Maurice has no scale but measures distances for moving and shooting in base-widths. It could therefore be played in 10mm or 54mm without any adaptation as long as you use a consistent basing. My basing for Black Powder proved perfect, as I already based my regiments in 4 bases of 6 foot or 2 Horse. But any basing will do as long as the width is consistent.
Then I must mention that Maurice is not so much card-driven as well card-governed. The game comes complete with a custom card deck including Action Cards, National Advantages, Notables as well as Battlefield cards and some more features.
All units may volley fire (fire at musket or short artillery range) for free but to do anything else requires Actions. The Action Cards have the most direct influence on the game and have a double function. First, every card has a numerical value. Playing and adding these cards gives you command range counted from your C-in-C.. Every turn you may issue one command to a "Force" that is an integrated number of units within this command range. Only one you ask? Yes, only one. Usually, that is. Depending on the sort of command you may then draw no, 1, 2 or 3 new cards. If you ever run out of cards, you will have to pass and draw new cards.
The second function is that every card offers some special ability or influence. My hapless cuirassiers below for example were drawn into a premature charge by my opponent playing a card that could disrupt my plans. Thus they charged a superior force and were wiped out. When timed right, such cards can have quite an influence on the game as it turned out.
My cuirassiers revving up..
And here they charge for death or Glory! Death, as it turned out....
When building an army you can buy National Advantages. These are special abilities. I bought Lethal Volleys for example that enabled me to enhance the effect of my short range musket and canister volleys. This commits you somewhat to a certain strategy and tactics. Obviously, musketry would be a primary asset for me and my strategy should depend on that to a certain extent.
You can also buy Notables, on-table characters that attach to a unit and give that unit certain advantages and abilities. We skipped that for our first game, but one can imagine Prince Rupprecht of Twitterling-Hupsenback and his spaniels charging into the ranks with a +2 combat result.....
Here my opponent's Guards approach my thin red line...
And here they are gone, wiped away by Lethal Volleys and First Fire....
When fired upon units collect "wounds" called Disrupts. A certain number of Disrupts will break the unit, influence their combat abilities and may be Rallied away with a Rally command. Disrupts therefore function as a kind of dynamic Morale value.
Because Actions usually occur only once per turn, the game encourages you to manage your army in a cohesive way (as was the practice then, as it is now). Moving individual units costs lots of actions and the same number of turns, so you must move entire Forces to accomplish anything. Therefore battles tend to get decided at a certain, central point as can be read in the history books but is rarely seen on the wargames table. When you are used to the fact that your entire army is in action all over the battlefield and all at once, you will not see that in Maurice.
This resulted in our small 75-points game in a battle with an early fierce and short cavalry action, a initial artillery bombardment at long range followed by steady advances of the attacker's infantry. By using my Lethal Volleys combined with a First Fire card (which enabled me to "steal" his first volley in his turn) I wiped out his center infantry Force. Units that we placed far out on the flanks did little or nothing, since neither of us was willing to pay the cards for ordeering these units to do anything. Quite like the real thing, actually.
It was a very pleasant first encounter. I expect many will follow and I will certainly come back to you on the Campaign system.