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

Monday, February 13, 2012

MacDuff vs Hearts of Tin, Why my confusion.

As Will noted in a comment on the last post, I have a tendency to wobble back and forth between my 2 sets of Horse & Musket rules, share some common mechanisms between them  (not surprising since HofT was originally called Morschauser Meets MacDuff) and occasionally have lost my way far enough to try and blend them into 1 set. Despite sharing some mechanisms, the rules are certainly different enough in approach and intent.

MacDuff was written for what the French called Little War, the war of raids and ambuscades, advance and rear guards.  It was designed for single figures with the "company" as the basic unit (though I sometimes forget and push it). For larger actions these companies start to represent several companies (Grand Divisions really). Perfect for the War of 1812 or the 1st Afghan War or for most Table Top teasers (no accident in any of these cases).

HofT was intended for battles, small battles but battles just the same. Looking at the War of 1812, a battle like Crysler's Farm makes a good BIG battle for MacDuff, taking probably 3 to 4 hours or as long as the original which was the intent. Lundy's Lane or the assault on Fort Erie would approach Mega-game status. For HofT, Cyrsler's Farm is about the smallest game that it is practical to play and will typically take under an hour to play.    

So, why the uncertainty and confusion?

As mentioned MacDuff is perfect for the War of 1812 which is of interest to me and for many of my favorite Teasers, such as Wagon Train. In theory it should be all I need, except.......I also have an interest in bigger battles, the occasional desire to command Brigades if not Divisions.  HofT is good for that. OK, 2 sets of armies, 40mm War of 1812, 20mm ACW. That was the plan, and it in could work, more or less.

The problem comes partly because I sometimes get the desire  to play both types of game with the SAME figures.  Not just the same armies but the same figures. In other words, to follow in CS Grant's footsteps if you will and send out 2 regiments to guard a dignitary's coach or let the fate of nations rest on the shoulders of a dozen of regiments. Since I lack the table space now to deploy 8x32man 40mm units and often lack the  stamina to push that many figures around for the 4-5 hours such a big MacDuff game can take, I gravitated back to HofT but for the small games, the games were often too small.

One of the experiments during the last 2 years was to see if I could arrange things so that the same figures could be used with both games but it while it worked to a degree, it wasn't quite satisfying and increased  confusion.  Another idea was to blend the rules and produce a set of rules with a battle game and a skirmish game using different scales but essentially the same mechanisms. (based on either MacDuff or HofT, I tried this with both).  The Canadian Wargames Group did something like this with their F&IW and 1812 rules but their version used 2 different organizations and more figures for the skirmish game.) This bumped into my decision to reduce my table size, (without totally coming to terms with smaller units)  a return of an urge for single figures for small games but not for big ones and eventually, I gave it up for the 40mm MacDuff/20mm HofT split.

I like some aspects of having single 40mm toy soldiers but it is a nuisance moving them if there are more than 100, especially if the terrain is uneven. My experiments with movement trays have been unsatisfactory but when they do work, they negate the whole point of the single figures. I did have some really fun games with the 40mm armies using HofT and 20 man regiments. I've also had some very enjoyable games using the Portable Wargame and just a handful of elements. I think it may be time for me to revisit the question of using HofT for both levels of game, but this time, the normal battle game  where a multi-stand battalion or brigade is a scenario "unit" and one where a single stand is a "unit". The basic rule structure would be the same but the scale would change and I'd have to look and see what special rules might be needed for the skirmish game. The goal would be for such small actions to be quick but have enough depth to be interesting.  I would leave MacDuff with its single figures and my existing armies for playing War of 1812 skirmishes and small battles when the urge called. the Atlantica campaign would then be fought out at all levels by either the battle or skirmish version of HofT.


  1. Ross Mac,

    I sympathise with your dilemma regarding single-figures vs. multi-figure stands/bases. If you remember, I have been through the same situation and decided to use multi-figure stands/bases for The Portable Wargame rules and single figures for the Memoir of Battle rules. Since making that choice I have not had any regrets ... and I suspect that what you have suggested your final choice will be is going to be the best solution for you.

    All the best,


  2. Glad you are keeping them distinct and using both. The Hearts of Tin user community wants the game to remain supported. :)

    1. Last time I went this route, MacDuff went out of sight for 2 years. I don;t think HofT has to worry. Big change coming though, all measurement in mm!!! (with 1mm=1yd)

    2. Oh dear, how "metric" of you!

      Please at least use centimeters instead of millimeters . . . there are too many "rules lawyers" out there who will debate in-or-out if it is fiddly little millimeters.

      (all of above with a bit of "tongue in cheek").

      -- Jeff

    3. Sorry Jeff mm it is! Actually, you can measure in anything you like. To ease my brain strain, I've just converted all ranges and moves to hundreds of yards and set the default scale to 1mm = 1 yard. You can easily drop 2 digits and double to find the distance in inches. or decide that 1cm = 50 yards etc what ever suits you.

  3. "skirmish version of HofT"? Don't know that I would go there. It sounds alot like what you have been trying to do the last year or so - both battle and skirmish with the same rules.

    If anything would work for both scales I would suggest MacDuff with single figures. For the skirmish go with those 20 figure companies while for the larger battles go with 8/12 figure battalions. In the end you will be moving the same number of actual figures.

    And yes there is room for the multifigure bases - the Portable Wargame. Humm - sounds something like what Bob just said. I'm going to have and give that some more thought for myself.

    In the end its what satisfies you that counts.

  4. Skirmish may be a misleading term. I just meant a small game with a dozen or so stands a side, lasting an hour or so. (Hmm add a grid and....) For a while in 2009 I was happily using Hearts of Tin for all sizes and shapes of scenario but in late 2009 I realized that I needed to reduce my table size and that with the basing I had then, the armies I had planned wouldn't fit anymore, I started tinkering to find a solution and things haven't been right since leading me to break MacDuff out again and jump through all sorts of hoops.

    I'd be happy enough with MacDuff at both levels, if my table was bigger, or my figures smaller but the figures are what's driving it all and the table is what I've got to work with.

    The element/single figure issue isn't all that important to me, besides I stil lahev my old Britain's :)

    So yes we'll see but I have a good feeling about this.