EXCERPT 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, November 19, 2011

Maintenance of the Aim

Congested street fighting (again) in Sawmill Village. This time Red won by a nose.

This has been a good exercise this week and things are all finally, falling nicely into place with 2 distinct rule systems for 2 types of game.

Having rescued MacDuff and finally getting it working the way I wanted, it is once again my game of choice for single toy soldier games. That in turn has allowed me restore Hearts of Tin to its original purpose as a quick game for elements or stands of troops, capable of handling small to medium sized historical battles.   Both games have been updated and can be found under links to the left, subject to further proof reading and play testing.

To avoid my old problem of having 2 sets of rules with the same name, 1 for the late18thC/early 19thC and 1 for the mid and late 19thC, I have renamed the 19th/20th C set With MacDuff To the Front and will leave the 18thC game as With MacDuff to the Frontier, or at least I will when I get to fixing it. The 2 rules will be as alike as I can get them to be, the main difference being in weapons.

Leaving aside minor changes, the main changes between the original and current MacDuff, at least in my mind, are:

1. A reduction in friction. This has been done partly by simplifying the Control Check and asking it to do less and partly by substituting fixed for variable movement rates for most troops. This has reduced the number of steps speeding play,  eliminated some double jeopardy and increased player control over their units decreasing frustration and increasing engagement.

2. A reduction in fiddleyiness. A lot of minor restrictions and clever bits have been dropped as being of little import for the end result and, based on experience running multi-player games over 15 years,  of interest to a minority of players.

3. A reduction is staying power of units. I have reluctantly, finally given up on my casualty recovery rules. The essential part of the original idea that units should be able to be repulsed, rally and come back has been retained in a different format but units now slide irreversibly towards destruction and a decision is reached more quickly and decisively.

The updates to Hearts of Tin was largely to simply revert all references to groups of figures to references to "companies" but I also took the opportunity to reinstate the ability of better troops to absorb more hits. When I get a chance I want to replace the fire and melee charts  with unit capability charts listing melee and shooting "to hit" numbers and ranges and movement for various units which will allow for easy addition of tweaked unit types.

Now to test HofT using 1/72nd ACW troops, play an 1840's MacDuff game and get casting and painting troops in khaki!.


  1. Ross,

    I'm glad that things are becoming clearer to you for your various rule sets. I think that I'll wait until you've made those changes to "Hearts of Tin" before downloading it again.

    I will say that I've always preferred variable to fixed movement rates because for me it provides a greater degree of "fog of war".

    My feeling is that, as army commander, I do not know just what "resistance" the terrain (or a random skirmisher) might make to normal movement . . . nor how competent the junior officer commanding a unit might be . . . so I never really know how far they might move.

    For myself I find that knowing movement rates in advance affects how, as a commander, I play the game. . . . And for me I prefer having to make command decisions with the factor of uncertainty built in.

    That's my tuppence worth anyway.

    -- Jeff

  2. By the way, Ross, I just noticed that you have a link to MacDuff/Front but not one to MacDuff/Frontier.

    You might want to have both, eh?

    -- Jeff

  3. Hi Jeff, Thanks for the comments.

    I used to think the same way as you. There were a few things that changed my way of looking at it fairly recently. When I examined various historical battles looking for examples of things that gave a result like variable moves, I had trouble finding them, especially in the short term. Things like attacking units stopping an inch short didn;t make sense. Since real life isn't played in bounds, a unit might take and extra couple of minutes to close the last few yards or be thrown into disorder but they wouldn't freeze in mid stride. I find that having a control check of some sort which gives a chance that a unit won't move at all, then over the course of several turns, the general cannot always guarantee that they will arrive at the right place at the right turn.

    I'll add a link for To the Frontier when I get it revised. Might be a while.

  4. Ross,

    I'm not arguing that you change back to variable movement . . . after all it is easy enough for me to substitute such if I choose.

    I was just commenting on why I prefer it.

    My interpretation when a unit "stops on inch short" is that their target was quick enough to get off another volley (or other response) before the charge reached them . . . and subsequent events will either allow the charge to press home or be halted/repulsed/whatever.

    It is just a matter of how we look at it. We can, I am sure, agree to each see it differently . . . and I'll happily play it your way should I ever get out to your place (as you so kindly played my rules here on Vancouver Island when you were out this way).

    -- Jeff

    PS, if you do make it back out here, remember we have that nice guest room which you would be most welcome to use.

  5. Ross Mac,

    Some interesting developments! Once you have settled on how you want the two sets of rules to look I will download them and read them in detail. In the meantime your battle reports will keep my interested piqued.

    All the best,


  6. Ross - this all makes good sense to me. As I get older and (maybe) wiser and (certainly) less patient, I am more and more convinced that getting rid of Fiddliness is usually a good idea - perhaps the world needs an Anti-Fiddliness League (AFL)?

    Example which made an early impression on me was rifles vs muskets - if rifles fire further, and if it matters, make the rules reflect this, but it doesn't matter exactly how much further, as long as the results are reasonable. Playability is paramount. I have spent far too many evenings fretting over the decimal places of something which ultimately doesn't matter. In most of my games, some of the troops can move 1 hex. Some of them can move 2. It works, and it saves a lot of time.


  7. Jeff, I didn't mean to sound argumentative, jsut trying to explain some of why I switched after so many years. I have always been an advocate of individual preference in rules.

  8. Bob, I'm hoping to get both sets signed, and sealed before Christmas with at least several test games of each.

  9. Tony, well said. One of the reasons why a grid can be so useful. If only I weren't so lazy over making terrain to fit.

    Perhaps an Anti-Fiddliness Union? (AFU)