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

Monday, June 20, 2016

Some things are just like you remember.

Last night I played the scenario using the old melee and rally rolls. It was like I remembered. Exciting, chaotic, atmospheric, fiddly where terrain intervened and often indecisive as the game dragged on.

The Grenadiers and Highlanders halt at long range to return fire before plunging into the ford.
The scenario was inspired by an incident that occurred during the British advance from  Fort Lawrence to attack Fort Beausejour in 1755. A marshy creek lay in between the two forts with only one place where the guns could cross. A small party of French Colonial troops, Acadian militia and allied First Nations defended a small redoubt and the stream to either side.  There was no attempt here to recreate units, numbers or terrain, just the vague idea. The French had a unit of regulars, a gun, 2 bands of Indians and 2 units of Acadian Irregulars. The British had 2 units of Elite infantry, 4 units of infantry, a gun and a unit of Rangers.

I allowed the British to search the stream for other fords passable to infantry of which one was eventually found on their left. The bushes along the stream blocked line of sight and provided concealment but not cover. The British plan was to scout their left with a company of rangers, plant the gun anywhere where it had something to shoot at without being in the way, and hey diddle diddle with the redcoats right up the road and over the redoubt.  Their first assault was repulsed but they rallied, came back and stormed the redoubt only to be thrown back out by a counter attack by the original garrison after it rallied.

The Grenadiers and Black Watch take a pounding from cannister and point blank musketry and are repulsed
One of the things about MacDuff that was inspired by Charge! is that the combat system has a very wide spread of possible results due to the way the dice are used. A player can optimize his chances but he can't guarantee anything and thus needs to be prepared to handle almost anything. Unlike Charge! though, movement is also less than 100% predictable.  In this game, the French Colonial troops were extremely gifted with the dice rolling close to 60% 5's and 6's in combat, but especially when rallying. Using the same dice the Grenadiers and Highlanders managed   to average out the results by concentrating on 3's and below.

For a while I wondered if the game was even winnable but the British General got smarter and sent the Irish to clear out the militia on either side while moving his artillery up to pound the redoubt. The militia proved to be stubborn but less effective and were eventually seen off. The provincials on the left flank tied up one group of Indians while the other refused all hints, orders and pleas for them to leave the impassible section they were guarding and move to the centre.   By this time the British elites had been repulsed and rallied yet again but the redoubt was outflanked on both sides. A final all out assault took it and I ruled the game over before the Colonial troops could try for another unlikely rally.

Three hours had passed.

The British begin to make headway.
So, what I had feared rather than what I had hoped for. Everything worked as well as I remembered and took as long.  A string of incredible rallies is extremely frustrating with this system because the units sometimes come back barely weakened as opposed to the new version where they may fight to the last man but get weaker and weaker even if they do. The figure to figure melee was fine in open ground and didn't take much longer to resolve. Where it got frustrating was around the redoubt because there was no way to line figures up due to the lumpy terrain piece and I had to resort to just counting the figures and figuring out how many separate opposed dice rolls to make. The newer system is easier and can be every bit as unpredictable as I found out in the second game..
The 2nd game draws near the end. The remaining Grenadiers have finally agreed to move forward again while the last 2 Highlanders are still attempting to hold the captured redoubt, hoping the Irish will save them. Across the river, the Indians have heeded the call and are about to close in on the center.  
This morning I reset and replayed the game making the same choices as far as possible but using the 2016 version with a morale check instead of 50% understrength  rule with rally rolls, and with dice per unit for hits for melee rather than comparing rolls.  The game was still exciting with some unexpected results and swings of fortune. For example, the unfortunate Grenadiers who rolled 6 dice for 4+ giving 0 hits from a point blank first volley followed shortly afterwards by 6 Elite melee dice giving the same result followed by a 1 on morale after the defending Colonial infantry troops slaughtered them, or the bold militia who repulsed 3 charges against their breastwork.  It was also very close with the British suffering such heavy losses that they were nearing their army morale point when the French broke instead.

So, both games were exciting and close and gave a similar result given similar command decisions. The biggest difference was that the first game took three hours and was beginning to feel never ending while the 2nd game was over in less than 2 hours with an increasing feeling of desperation on the part of the British commander.  Oh, and I didn't need to drag casualties with me whether lying down or dunce capped. Sometimes you shouldn't go back.

Onwards it is!


  1. Fast is good. Speedy games are excellent.

  2. Sounds like a usefully conclusive bit of playtesting. Two hours is a good length for a game I find, kind of a sweet spot.

    It's difficult to let go of figure-to-figure meleeing, it's got such a cultural resonance in toysoldiery gaming, but I do like the newer melee system, it's very robust and quick.

    Resurrection rallying is also perfectly authentic but I was never that keen, liking the idea in principle but finding it fiddly in practice, dragging corpses around.

    Fastwards and onwards is good :-)

    1. That is the hope! First pass at the full set is done. Needs to set a day or 2 before I revist.

  3. My favourite combination!: a MacDuff game, with your 40mm soldiers and played over your cloth terrain.
    Thank you very much for sharing it!

    1. I got the cloth out just for you Cesar. It is time for a new one though.

    2. I really appreciate that!
      Sometimes I feel a little bit reiterative in my comments but simply I can't resist to express how I like the terrains you create with this old cloth.
      Thanks again Ross.