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

Friday, May 11, 2012

MacDuff Returns to the Frontier

Early this year, I had put MacDuff on hold while I tried to sort things out for my Aroostock game at Huzzah. That has now come and gone. Looking at the Colonial games at Huzzah made me a bit nostalgic so with a War of 1812 Skype gaming tentatively scheduled for Monday, and with lots of thinking under my hat, I decided to pick it up again.

There were a couple of things about the previous draft that I wasn't happy with. One is that while I liked the 2 hits on a 6, I didn't like the way that it created some "gotchas" in the application of modifiers. The original rules used a mix of die modifiers for range and half casualties for cover etc. In an attempt to use one or the other, I had moved to all modifiers. I am now trying all 1/2ing and modifying numbers of dice in a few select instances. This should allow the 6 to do what it should.  The other main thing was that the morale rules were getting more cumbersome and less effective. The answer to this was to find yet another slightly different way to apply the original rules. Now the retreat for units which have fallen below 50% will take place immediately. All units on both sides may rally at the end of each turn. Any unit still below 50% after the rally rolls will be removed.

Hopefully this and various other minor changes and clarifications will work as they reflect some key decisons. I always wanted the game to be simple and fast and while the mechanisms have been individually so, the aggregate has not always been so in practice, especially for players unfamiliar with the rules. The choice has always been between added granularity and practicability especially in convention games. I have noticed over the years that rules that appealed to me as framed sometimes ended up being rules that I ignored when playing solo or running a club or convention game, usually a good sign that they should be replaced. Solutions to things I'm not happy with in practice usually involve choosing between priorities and trying different approaches to achieve the same goal. An occasional revision of opinion on the history being represented has also had an impact from time to time which is a different thing.

I have also made yet another attempt to make the rules easy to read and clear to apply, putting important bits in what seem like the right places, rewording things and so forth and catching the occasional accidental deletions like risk to generals which had gone AWOL. The new draft has been loaded onto google docs and a link can be found at the left. Now I need to eat some of the MacDuff pudding.

(As an aside, while working on this, it occurred to me that a late 19th/early20thC version might benefit from moving the pinning effect of fire from the shooting rules to the Orders rules. In other words, rather than rolling to cause pinning, assume it and make it hard for units under modern rifle and artillery fire to advance. The shooting can then concentrate on actual casualties. There may yet be a "modern" version of MacDuff. time will tell.)


  1. Great to hear you're giving MacDuff another airing. I've been hoping to give it another try myself one of these days. I think it's good to play a variety of styles of game - skirmishes, toy soldiers, mass battles with element-based units etc - as a way to stave off burnout.

  2. I agree although I'm teetering on the edge of a different burnout with too many things going through my mind at once! But that'll calm down once more of them are past the conception and design stage.

  3. "...and while the mechanisms have been individually so, the aggregate has not always been so in practice"

    So true Ross. It takes me more time taking rules out in a game than putting them in and sometimes my heart sinks when I hear "I've got an interesting new rule mechanism" to which I mentally add the word "untested". Still, if we never developed anything, we would never have any fun :O)

    Kind regards, Chris