Monday, October 31, 2011

Rules Update, Musket Mayhem

Here are updates to Musket Mayhem, skirmish rules I use for the Scarlet Pimpernel game and for the French and Indian War:

Musket Mayhem
Draft 21 October 2011
By Rob Dean and Ross Macfarlane


These rules are intended for use with small numbers of individually mounted horse and musket era miniatures. If multiple players are involved, they will ordinarily be divided into two sides. Each player will ordinarily command a number of figures—including one or more leaders--- and will designate one leader to serve as his personal figure and commander of the contingent.


Players (sides) dice for initiative each turn. Winner chooses to go first or second. If there is a tie, repeat the previous turn's sequence. While a player is active, he resolves movement group by group, and then resolves all hand-to-hand combat figure by figure. The inactive player shoots at any point during the active player's move. In the event that multiple sides are required, activation will be by card draw from a deck with one card per player. Inactive players may shoot at targets belonging to the active player during the active player's turn.


Movement may be by individual or by group. If as a group, roll once for the whole group. Individuals or smaller groups breaking off a larger group move at the group's rate during that turn. A group consists of figures separated by up to 1" between adjacent figures. Groups are defined by their position on the game table; figures must be kept separated if it is not intended for them to operate as a group. Groups generally wheel; figures individuals may generally turn as needed during movement. Figures moving to contact the enemy must move to contact the nearest edge; i.e., must start to flank or rear to end in superior attack position.

To determine distance roll dice as follows:

3d6": If moving as an individual
2d6": If movement begins as a group or the intention is declared to join a group or Indians or frontiersmen etc. in woods. (Most animals, wagons, etc.)
1d6": If crossing an obstacle, going through a doorway, moving through woods or other delaying terrain, rearranging a group or falling back out of combat facing the enemy. (Pushing a gun, with at least a minimum crew.)
+2d6" if mounted in the open.
+1d6 bonus for specially designated heroes, etc. (Optional)

Missile Fire

Fire is by individual. Each figure armed with a loaded missile weapon may shoot once at any point during the enemy's movement at a target within the weapon's range. A gunpowder weapon becomes unloaded (mark with a smoke puff or other agreed upon marker) and can be reloaded as an action by a figure which does not move during its own turn. The target does not have to be moving, but must be within a zone 45 degrees to either side of the front facing of the firing figure. (Figures on square bases may conveniently check this by using the diagonal lines of the base.) Figures may not shoot if they are in hand-to-hand contact with an enemy figure. They may not shoot over another figure (defined as any part of the figure's base) or through obstructions such as buildings. Roll a skill die for a potential hit on the target. If a potential hit is achieved, roll a results die for effect:

Skill Die (-1 if over half range, -1 if firing while mounted)
4-6 Target in the open checks impact
5-6 Target in soft cover (tree, fence, etc.) check impact
6 Target in hard cover (rock, stockade or building loophole, etc.) checks impact

Impact Die (+1 for muskets and rifles, +2 for canister, +3 for roundshot)
6 Target killed (see optional rules)
1-5 Target takes courage check

Pistol 12" (was 6")
Musket/Bow 24" (was 18")
Rifle 36"


Canister: 36" (= rifle range) roll against all figures in a cone 45 degrees needing usual score to hit. (Lay out the template aligned with the barrel of the gun).

Roundshot: 72" lay down yardstick(s). Roll against all figures along flight path needing usual score. Heavier gun could knock down cover maybe?

Reloading. When gun fires, place 3 smoke puffs. A trained crew of 3 or more (with a leader counting as two figures) may remove 1 per turn.

Morale/Courage Checks

Basic Courage values are:

5: exceptional leaders
4: ordinary leaders
3: ordinary soldiers and other combatants
2: Women and other non-combatants

A group or individual must check courage if one of the following events

1. A figure in a group is killed (only once per turn).
2. A group is ordered to charge. (Any move to contact the enemy is a charge.)
3. A group has been charged. (All figures within potential charge range must check)
4. A figure has taken a missile hit without being killed (individual check, but taken at the group rate).
5. If a company or warband's leader killed.

A check caused by a casualty or fire is taken at the end of the group's movement or combat as appropriate. A check for being ordered to charge is taken immediately before attempting to move the figures, and a check for being charged is taken as soon as the charger has successfully checked. Note that all groups or figures with the lines defined by the ends of the bases in a charging group, and within possible charge range, must check courage. (See diagram.) Groups charged by more than one group check only once, after all attackers have rolled and it is established that at least one will actually charge. For the death of a commander, all individuals and groups in the contingent must check at the end of the movement or combat phase in which the commander was killed.

Roll one die vs. the highest courage value in the group (individuals being a group of one). If the die is equal to or less than the courage value then the group passes. If the score is higher then courage has failed. If the group was ordered to charge then they stand still instead. In the other four possible tests, roll again against each individual's courage. If they roll higher than their courage, they run off the board and are removed. Otherwise they retreat 2d6" (or to the nearest cover if closer and as a result of enemy fire). Note that group checks are based on the situation on the ground at the time of the check. If casualties have cut a group apart, all resulting groups and individuals must check morale as they stand. Players may find a second rank helpful to keep groups together.


For each pair of combatants in contact, each player rolls a skill die, adds any applicable modifiers, and compares it to the skill die of the opponent. The high scorer has a hit against the enemy, and a roll for results is made. If the score is tied, then neither figure is affected. Figures are in contact if any part of their front edge is contacting an enemy figure, or if they are contacted by any part of the front edge of an enemy figure. The player whose turn it is decides the order in which combats are fought. All combats for one figure must be resolved before resolving combats for another figure. If a figure fighting several opponents is killed, combat ends for that figure immediately and any combats not yet fought are cancelled.

Modifiers to the skill die:

+1 if leader
+1 if defending an obstacle or in some other superior position (e.g. up hill, at a stream bank, mounted)
+2 if attacking from the rear or side.
+1 if 'shock troops' eager to close and melee (NB: The intent of this is to give a bonus to troops such as trained cavalry, Highlanders with claymores, or NWF swordsmen who can be expected to close to melee with the intent to use their weapons; but might apply to other troops, such as grenadiers or Indians, depending on the needs of the scenario.)
+1 for troops armed with bayonets against opponents with shorter weapons such as tomahawks

Melee Results

If a hit is scored, the results die is compared to the armament of the attacking figure. If the results value is equal to or higher than the armament value, the target figure is removed from the game. If not, the losing figure checks courage as in fire combat.

The armament values are as follows:

6: unarmed or knife alone
5: most weapons: e.g., bayonets, tomahawks, war clubs, musket butts, etc.
4: melee specialists such as trained cavalry with sword, etc.

Miscellaneous Rules

Stockade walls: Figures attempting to climb a stockade wall may do so if there is a clear space at least one base width to either side of the figure with no defenders. Roll one die. On a 6 the figure is placed on the other side of the wall and may fight normally on subsequent turns.

Fire: Figures carrying incendiary materials must be marked, and may not shoot or charge. Each such figure adjacent to a building or stockade wall section may set it afire on a roll of 6. For simplicity, any fire successfully set will burn for the remainder of the game, and is treated as an impassible area blocking visibility.

Search: The basic search rule is that the player rolls against the figure's search value and the referee roles against the search difficulty. If both rolls are successful, the player is given the necessary information; otherwise the player is told that he doesn't find anything. Typical figures would have a search value of 6, better figures a 5, and superior a 4. Positively identifying the Pimpernel would be a difficulty of 6, a deserter perhaps a 5, and a barrel as little as a 2, though identifying the contents of an unopened barrel might be harder.

Skills: If a scenario would require some other specific skill, an individual can be assigned a skill rating of 4-6, representing the minimum number to be rolled on a d6 to successfully use the skill.

Post-battle results: If important to a scenario, note that a distinction can be made between figures which run from the table and those downed by enemy action. After the battle, downed figures can be diced for, and are wounded on a d6 roll of 1-4 and dead on a roll of 5-6.

Heroes: Depending on the scenario, heroes could be represented by some combination of save tokens (canceling a death or morale failure), reroll tokens, or bonuses to skill or impact dice with specific weapons. (Hawkeye, for example, could be given a +2 to hit and a +1 to impact while using Killdeer, plus a couple of save tokens, where Uncas might get a + 1 to skill and impact in melee with a single save token...)


These rules are intended to provide a quick simple game and cannot cover all contingencies. Use common sense or roll dice to resolve situations not covered here. It is hoped that most players will be able to remember the necessary numbers involved in the game after fairly brief exposure, and not need to refer to the written rules during play. The rules are set up so that it is not necessary to remember any "continuing results" for one turn to the next, so that the situation can always be read directly from the table. The writers of these rules firmly believe that the best games result when the players are able to concentrate on the decisions rather than the rules. A version of these rules, Medieval Mayhem, covering knights and so forth, is also available.

Revision notes 10/21/11: added hero rule draft; post-battle results 10/24: Working on charge definition, clarifying melee bonuses.

1 comment:

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