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, May 26, 2012


It's Saturday, its cloudy with rain any time now (come on rain), its been weeks since I had my toys out and I was tired of thinking about Colonial wargames, it was time for a game. My 40's aren't ready, I was going to be using the old rules, it just made sense to break out the old figures.

Two things rapidly became obvious:
1. I need to stop breaking out the old 54mm Colonials unless I want to get side tracked into fixing up chipped paint, dropped shields, etc adding some more Zulus, mounted rifles, infantry in sun helmets, fixing wagons etc etc......, essentially duplicating this project in 2 scales or replacing the planned 40mm version which fits the table better and will look just as good once done. I try never to have regrets about roads taken or not taken but its hard not to reflect on what my collection would be like if I had stuck to my original plan of Soldier Pac recasts and Dorset toy soldiers and not been decoyed into modern plastics.

2. I also need to stop thinking about setting aside a few days to work on cleaning up my room and cupboard and DO IT. While digging out cavalry  from the back of the cupboard I had another incident with the stack of spare parts bins that was in front of them. Sighhhhh

The Newport Noodle does not cover events in Nku khuland so I've had to wire the information to the New Durban Times which has not been published in a decade. They should have the presses dusted off and a report up by tomorrow but in the meantime I'll present my thoughts on the game and where I want to go with all this now.

 The Quarter Master Sergeant presenting Colonel MacDuff with a list of Deficiencies while a scout tries to draw their attention to a more immediate problem. 

 I'll try not to give away too much detail about this squeeker of a game but it was a MacDuff game of the old vintage that I have such fond memories of from the turn of the century (if I can use that phrase without feeling too pompous).  For some reason, the combination of setting and real toy soldiers seems to strip away all that silly nonsense about fixed time and ground scales and relationships between what real life activities can be done in a certain amount of time vs what can be done in a game turn. I still find it odd that violating those things often makes the game feel more real, but I'd best leave trying to explain that to some student of psychology, philosophy and game theory.

I did find myself slipping back into some old MacDuff habits, but after all, the Colonial MacDuff was the original version. I've played more F&IW and 1812 games than Colonial ones but the rules were written for the Sudan, Zulu Wars, NW Frontier and in hopes of  one day doing the Indian Mutiny, the earlier stuff was a later adaptation.

That said, there was lots about the current version that worked better than the original and once I settled in, I didn't really miss the variable moves or multiple command levels. The simpler control/orders chart is better but I think the game would benefit from an optional subordinate personality rule for solo or 2 player games. It also seems to me that I was fudging the orders aka Control chart a bit as I went and I think it needs some work for the wider time period and wider selection of troop types. I may be asking too much of it and may need a separate chart for things like "should this cavalry unit pursue against orders". Basically same test chart but different results depending on the situation, if that makes any sense. Its about layout and clarity as much as anything, avoiding strings of conditional clauses, exceptions and modifiers as much as possible.

That goes for some other areas of the rules. Last year when I started to rework them, I still wasn't sure what I wanted and ended up taking a lot of shortcuts, leaving things out, skimping on explanations etc. I believe I have that sorted now, I now what I want Hearts of Tin to do and I know what I want my MacDuff to remain. There will always be overlap territory, so, to be hypothetical for a moment, a Sikh War project could go either way but the lines are now clear again. Yes, I know, this means certain shiny 40mm  soldiers might be repeating their drill to go from 6's to singles but not until enough new Colonial troops are added to make a game and not until I have decided whether or not I'm going to be doing massed 1840's battles with a dozen battalions a side and definitely don't want to use Hearts of Tin for the same. (I have some ideas about room layout and casualty shelves that may resolve the big issue of mid-game casualties getting lost.)

Anyway, I am now chuffed to start  a slow careful  editing and lay out of MacDuff to cover the whole time period with the rules laid out in a clear, easy to understand fashion with examples and illustrations. This may be seamless or it may be a matter of basic/introductory core rules and campaign/special rules + design notes. Brevity and timeliness will not be primary aims this time around, a finished "product" that I can stand behind and leave alone will be. It was around 1992 that I started working on "With Fire & Sword in the Sudan" which became "With MacDuff to the Frontier" a year or 2 later when I added other campaigns.  Time to finish the job.
Fort Belmont, defended by 90 year old veterans including an example of just the sort of field gun that I need for my 40's only I need it one size smaller. Britain's did make just such a thing for their W & B series, I've just never seen one in the flesh.


  1. Ross Mac,

    Good luck with your latest project.

    I am sure that the outcome will be a success.

    All the best,


  2. "if I had stuck to my original plan of Soldier Pac recasts and Dorset toy soldiers and not been decoyed into modern plastics" - yes, I've thought that too of my own collection.

    "another incident with the stack of spare parts bins" - [smile] tumbling boxes must be nature's way of telling us we've got too much stuff and/or it's not organised properly.

    Best wishes for the MacDuff edit.

  3. Steve, I think you are right. We need to "heed the signs".

    Hopefully, if I make the new draft thick enough, I'll be afraid to touch it again!