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

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

MacDuff Rattles and Now He Rolls Again

Poor MacDuff has been having a rough decade. He's not down and out yet though.

There were 2 main reasons that I originally started fiddling, apart from the periodic urge to try out a new idea which be devils all of my rules. The 1st and main one was that games took too long to finish despite playing at  a good clip. The 2nd was that I felt that there were too many, sometimes conflicting, devices to inflict friction and uncertainty.

There were 3  non-enemy related friction mechanisms, card draw play sequence, command check including personality and variable length moves.  It didn't take much tweaking to make the rules work with either the card draw or an initiative or even igougo play as desired. The command system was harder as I struggled to write a simple rule that didn't need a GM or 2 very in-sync, reasonable, fairminded, story oriented, non-competitive opponents but still gave reasonable results. I finally gave up. The rule I've used for the last while is purely negative and easy to forget.  Its not a good rule.

In the meantime I started thinking about the variable length moves. I had 2 practical objections and 2 theoretical ones. The process added time as players weighed their options  then rolled then changed their minds and it was a source of double jeopardy where a successful card sequence and command roll was followed by a negligible movement roll. On the theory side, I had been looking at the delay as a terrain effect crossed with unforseen delays. When comparing theoretical movement rates and time and ground scales, it was obvious that even the longedt moves were barely a quarter of the theoretical maximum so there was already room for delay.  The other issue was what happened when a charge ran short. People don't freeze in mid step when in danger, waiting for a green light to continue.  Its not that simple of course and there are aspects about the variable moves that I do like in both theory and practice but to limit what I was trying to manage and as an  easy way to speed things I swapped the variable moves for fixed ones. have missed them.

Recently as I pondered yet again what my 40mm games, esp the Atlantica ones, would look like I turned back to Macduff yet again as well as revisiting Rattle of Dice to remind myself that letting go of some things can improve the flow of a game. Belatedly I thought about looking upon the variable moves as a command and morale issue which, if combined with  limiting the number of cards which I experimented with a year or so ago, and if players were forced to declare intentions before rolling, ala BP, then that would be speedy, integrated (thus harder to foget) fun and allow that friction. Personality can be handled best by multi-player games or those keen on it can add on RPG elements for commanders.

While I was fiddling I tried on various play sequences but either they were too weird or just didn't feel like Macduff. I'm planning on a test game this weekend but so far this looks like it'll be the closest version to the original in a long time. I may even think about putting more designer notes and tips on organizing etc back in.

The untested draft is available here:

2014 version of With MacDuff To the Frontier


  1. This looks like a nice, straightforward rule set. Just one question: is it 'IGoUGo', or 'simul', or 'as you prefer'? I had typed in a legthy reply, but it occurred to me this might be better either as an e-mail to you, or as a discussion point in the MiniatureWargamesRulesDesign (http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/MiniatureWargamesRulesDesign).
    There hasn't been any activity there lately, but this topic should lead to a lively discussion (so long as it doesn't degenerate into this simulation/game argument which, though interesting in itself up to a point, doesn't really get anyone anywhere).

  2. Glad to see posts about MacDuff again! You have made quite a lot of changes since the last version I have tested (13 Sep 2013, up to now, my favourite). I look forward your next reports and resulting thoughts.