EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Ninety Minute MacDuff and Some Pondering

Yesterday as I was clearing the table the idea popped into my head that I should give MacDuff a go at a One Hour Wargame scenario and that I should try an 1860's "Colonial" game.  I haven't gotten around to building my planned colonial native forces yet but I scrounged enough of the Brethren  of the coast to give it a go.

Roughly 1/2 way through and the final units are just entering the board while the Green Tigers have repulsed the first two rushes by mobs of swordsmen leaving a rather vulnerable salient. As long as the first card goes to the Queen it should be all right..... 
The scenario (whose number I would have to look up) was a surprise attack by the Queen's troops to seize a bridge. Both sides had a stream of reinforcements rushing to the field of battle. As is my custom I rolled twice on the 3 chart rather than once on the 6 chart. The Queen fielded 3 Infantry units with rifles, 1 unit of Light Infantry with rifles, 1 Naval gun and a unit of Lancers. The Brethren had 3 units of massed irregulars with melee weapons and a handful of muskets, 2 units of light infantry with rifles and a gun.

The Brethren obviously had a chip on their shoulder about being ripped off their bases then left to moulder on the shelf for months because they rolled like fiends while the red coats were a bit rusty to be kind.  The game lasted a bit over an hour, maybe 90 minutes (It was interupted by various things as chores and supper.) and was OK. Yes, just OK, in part because I had trouble getting a handle on the narrative and what exactly these units represented, partly because I rubbed up against several of the grey areas such as group moves where I had gotten no farther than deciding that they needed some more thought and improvement and partly because of the disjointed nature of the card initiative by unit without some sort of leader+group cohesion rule.

Still, it was OK with some tense  moments, some good and some bad luck, some tactical errors being punished and some but not all bold risks paying off.  Once again the Black Fox maintained his reputation as a bold and successful leader.

The 3rd rush, with the Black Fox in the thick of it has cracked the centre and it was all downhill from there. I don't think Larsen's Lancers have ever had an unluckier day. 
However, what this game did was bump me into spending yet more time thinking about what I was trying to achieve and revisiting various appropriate historical actions of the very small to small size to picture what they would look like as MacDuff scenarios.  The games have convinced me that the rules need to be expanded again and a lot more explanations and examples added. I also need to translate the sort of impromptu decisions I tend to make mid-game into distinct, clear, written rules.

That sounds like a lot of work and led to two more questions: "Are these going to be the rules that I would most want to use or the rules I use because I wrote them?" and "If I put that much work into them including scenarios, sample translations of historical actions into wargame units, notes  on my philosophy and so, should I then capitalize  on the work by going the self publishing route?".

The first question is as yet unanswered beyond thinking that if they would not be my first choice without radical changes, this may not be the best use of my time. The second question depends in part on this being a set of rules I believe in and want to use myself and but also on looking into copyright issues since they were originally published in the Courier.

In truth though I tend to prefer playing games at a slightly higher level than MacDuff was theoretically designed for  and which play faster. That's why I originally wrote Morschauser Meets MacDuff, which became Hearts of Tin,  and I've found myself thinking about those rules during both of the last games. A battle like Crysler's Farm or La Belle Famille (Niagara) is supposed to be pushing the high end for a MacDuff game but should be a small to average Hearts of Tin game. It is possible that MacDuff should be left pretty much as is and I should focus on a "final" polished version of Hearts of Tin.
I'm going to have to brush off one of the old versions of Hearts of Tin (HofT) and try a NQSYW game with them before I go much further.


  1. I am a Hearts of Tin fan. Please do dust it off and see where it goes. As you say, if the rules set you are writing is not your first choice to play (and you control everything about it) then what is happening?

    1. I think I have it sorted after some digging and thinking. The key is that they were originally designed for 25mm 1880's colonial skirmishes betweeen a couple of companies. At that level, they work.

  2. By the way, I have started a blog at: http://battlesandcampaigns.blogspot.com and have linked yours there.