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

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Rough Overview of the New Rules.

Here is a summary of my thoughts so far. Obviously a lot to do yet and not as drastic or original as my wildest thoughts. As far as I can tell, there is nothing original in any of the rules but I'm not sure I have combined the ideas in exactly this configuration before. There may be just enough MacDuff left in them to keep the name.

Ross’s New Horse & Musket rules for small actions or
MacDuff 2012

A Bit of Underlying Rationale.

  1. Events are portrayed sequentially on the table even if overlapping
  2. Time is lost and wasted in and around getting things done. In some turns units will be more active and get more done than in others or do some things faster and spend more time waiting. In other turns everyone has finished what they're doing in a minute or 2 or maybe they've actually borrowed time from the next turn to get to where they are. None of this is shown on the table and the game and the turn sequence will march on tirelessly.
  3. Perception distorts and thus time travel appears to be possible. "A" appears to happen to a unit early in a turn then "B" appears to happen  and changes the outcome. In some cases, A did happen followed by B but in other cases B began before A ended and thus changed the end result. In any event the actual event become equal to A+B if you like and any thing else was just how it appeared to an observer who couldn't see the whole picture. 
  4.  Units have a posture based on their orders, in part this reflects not just where they are now but what they were previously doing.
  5. Unit commanders will react to immediate threats
  6. Generals react to what they can see or get reports of but this takes longer and is shown by the orders they issue next turn.
  7. "Hits" don't equal casualties. They are the sum of all things that wear down a unit's combat capability including dead and wounded, fear, fatigue, loss of discipline etc
  8. Morale is based on melee outcomes and on % losses. This appears deterministic but since casualties are variable it is not. A 32 man unit may fight until it is 3 strong without being forced to retreat or may fight all day and never take a hit since there are no automatic or minimum hits. It does avoid double jeopardy where a combat test indicates 1 result and a separate morale test negates it.
  9. Scales. Roughly 1”=25 yds, 1 turn = 15 minutes. Infantry in line move 12”    Musket range is 8”, rifle      range will be  16", canister 16", shot shell varies varies by light/foot/heavy. My "standard" unit will be 4 x 8 man companies but small games will see companies as "units" and battalions as "brigades".
A Rough Draft of only the most Basic Rules. (I am not going to waste time writing up the rest until the important bits are tested. When in doubt I'll improvise or refer back to MacDuff)  
  1. Sequence of play. 2 options. 
    1. Standard: IgoUgo with an initiative roll at the start of each turn. Within turns units are given orders and act 1 by 1 then combat is resolved. (Several units in a brigade  can form up together and are treated as 1 for activation).  Movement and combat is all resolved before the next unit is activated. 
    2. Alternate: Draw cards, Red one side, black the other. On a card one unit or group of units is activated, moves and fights. esp if fighting at night, in fog or forest or if preferred.
  2. There are 4 orders:
    1. March/Work. The unit forms column and moves double speed to indicated target but may not shoot or attack and ends in march formation. Also used for pioneers to do work.
    2. Prepare. The unit deploys, ready for battle. May move 1/2 in any direction and change facing/formation. May not shoot or attack. The unit is ready to react to enemy threats.
    3. Attack. The unit must be deployed, facing the enemy and not disordered. Move towards the enemy or indicated position at normal speed. If they get close enough attacker may shoot first at 1/2 effect or let defender react first. Defender may shoot or retreat in disorder or test then charge or test then change formation/facing. Attacker may shoot if they didn;t shoot earlier or may charge. Resolve melee if there was a charge. If a unit attacks into an ongoing fight, only the defending unit is reactivated and it can only react to the attacker. No charge or formation/facing change is allowed as reaction in this case.
  3. Things don’t always go as planned. All units test when ordered. 1= no move, no rally, no deploy. units already in range may shoot.  -1 if disordered. A general who is close by may intervene
  4. Morale. A unit receiving 1/4 casualties (current strength) or more in 1 turn will turn and retire a move in disorder. A unit suffering 1/2 casualties (current strength) or more in 1 turn will rout and be removed.
    Militia 1/6 and 1/3rd instead, Elites 1/3rd and 2/3rd instead)
  5. Shooting 1 die per 4 round up remainders over 1/2  6=2 hits, 4,5 = 1 hit. +1 cannister -1 vs artillery or cavalry or partial cover, -2 vs hard cover or skirmish  -1 over 1/2 range 1st fire 1die per 3 figures.
  6. Melee Match up front rank figures and dice. High score hits. +1 elite or fighting militia, +1 defending cover or obstacle. +1 charging except vs square or cover.
    Any forced to retreat do so. If still in contact, attacker falls back either 1" in good order or beyond enemy cannister/ small arms range in disorder.
An imagined example with no surprise shift of initiative . 

1759. Three French infantry battalions each 24 strong deployed 8 wide and 3 deep formed as a single unit attack 2 British battalions 32 strong deployed 16 wide and 2 deep. 1 French Battalion is regular, the other 2 are rated as militia do to the number of militia mixed in to bring up numbers. The British are rated as Regular

The French stop at long range and opt to fire first. They will count 1/2 the figures in the front 2 ranks or 24 figures in all but for first fire will get 1 die per 3 figures with a -1 modifier for long range fire. 8 dice with each 5 or 6 indicating a one hit,  They make fairly average rolls and inflict a couple of hits on each British line with no other effect. The British choose to hold their fire. That activation is over. 

The British  move next and choose not to attack so there is no firing by either side.  

On their next move, French advance to close range and fire first again. Again they fire only 1/2 their figures but there is no minus 1 so 6's will be 2 hits and 4,5 1 hit. They now roll 6 dice (not first fire) they now score slightly higher than average and do 3 hits on 1 unit and 4 on the other but this has no morale effect. The British now return fire at close range with 1st fire. The line slightly overlaps the French so they end up with 5 dice against the center battalion and 7 dice against each of the flanking ones (1d per 3) and are looking for 4,5=1 hit, 6 = 2 hits.    They inflict 5 hits on 1 militia battalion, 4 on the regulars and roll up slightly inflicting 6 on the other militia battalion forcing both militia units to turn and retire in disorder.

The British move next and decide to fire first with 1/2 their figures, take the French fire then charge. The end result will depend on the dice but the odds should be in favour of the British sweeping the field. 
Now in keeping with a desire to reduce the number of games with stand in figures, I am going to set up a small War of 1812 action to test things out on the table.(and get casting and painting so I can get the mid-19thC guys into action again).   


  1. Ross
    This looks familiar but a good fresh start at the same time. Out of curiosity how are your 24 man French units 3 companies of 8 (pretty tough to see this if they form up in 3 ranks) or 4 companies of 6 (which fites the formation but not the standard unit)?


  2. Well if I had 1759 French, their paper strength would be standard but they would be severely understrength. In practical terms I would say 3x8 man companies on the shelf or in a skirmish but when they form as a battalion for a battle they would become 1x24, following standard practice of ignoring administrative companies and telling battalions off into equal sized platoons and divisions.


  3. Hi Ross,
    Re-writing your rules again, huh? Do they make pills for that? If so, where can I get some?

    Seriously, it's always faxcinating to watch the process. Thanks for sharing.

    Question: in your example battle, if Militia retreat on 1/6 casualties, shouldn't BOTH French militia units have retreated if one received 5 hits and the other received 6?
    I can't help it; I work in QA.


  4. Ross,

    Are you keeping distances in multiples of 4" so as to accommodate using a grid? Having the troops fit a grid system might be tricky, unless there is a limit of 4 figures per square, but this might not be what you have in mind.

    Just wonderin'...

    Chris, from Baja Canada

  5. Looks like a shocking case of Cordery-itis!


  6. Eh? Ummh mumble, multiply, divide, round, OH, Right. Militia,( blush ) Yes both Militia units are forced to retreat and I didn't to fudge an above average roll but that would have sent regulars back too. Even better, now the Brits don't need to charge they can probably rout the last regiment by fire.

    I'd better amend the example.

    Thanks John!

  7. Chris, I've always tried to use multiples, partly for ease of memory but mostly to try and minimize the existance of odd artificial sweet spots, the sort of thing where say, a range of between 13" and 15" suddenly becomes an optimum range.

    However, I am shifting the multiplier to 4 and it is linked to the grid that sometimes appeared. I don't intend to use it per se, I think the changes to do so would be drastic, even though I can squeeze an 8 man company into a hex. However, when playing solo, if the ruler is on the other side of the table I tend to use the grid to eyeball ranges and movement. I think the technical term is called being lazy.


  8. Conrad, Its all Don Featherstone's fault. He urged me to tinker when I was only a minor. Ruined for life!