Viewer's Choice Celebration MiniCampaign

It has now been over 20 years since I launched "With MacDuff On the Web" and nearly 10 years since I launched my 2 blogs: Gathering of Hosts and Battle game of the Month.

To celebrate the years and the friends and the million hits I've decided to run a 3 game mini-campaign in late October. By popular vot e it will be set in the mid 18th Century.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Don't worry, I grabbed a towel before running down the hall from the bath, hollering in excitement.

Its not even a new idea, just one that I came up with a few years ago but couldn't figure out how to implement. The break through is due to those Damned Hexes of all things! I'm not really using them at the moment except to provide guide lines on arcs of fire and to estimate distances but that latter was the key. Let me go back a bit.

I have long liked variable moves as a way of building in all the little things in life that interfere with things being done as quickly and efficiently as the General planned. But I also like long moves, in particular, long moves with big penalties for doing something other than straighht ahead. Various attempts to increase distances by increasing dice, doubling moves etc failed, in part because I hate rolling handfuls of dice and adding them up and hate multiplication even more but yesterday it occurred to me that the hexes provided a built in x4 multiplier. My first thought was, "Oh, that will be too long a move and too big a variation". My second thought was to sit down and calculate the best average distance per hex given the battles I want to fight and cross reference it with my preferred   time scales. If marching to the front without any interference, a rare thing if the maximum is rolled, then infantry will be able to move 1,200 yards. Given a  time scale of 15 or 20 minutes per turn, this is close to the full theoretical distance they could cover and the average of  6 to 8 hexes is close to the average that could be expected. With penalties for being engaged and for moving to the flank or rear, it can be to pull back engaged troops in good order and fancy maneuvers are risky.

It obviously wasn't going to work with the card based movement sequence as that calls for very short time slices in a low level setting that allow quick reactions.  OK for skirmishes where the commander is shouting orders directly to sub units but not for battles where orders are going down through a chain of command. I fell back to one of the oldest systems, taken straight from Featherstone's Battles with Model Soldiers and which I have used successfully in the past. If it were a rhyme it would be ABBAM. A moves, B moves, B fires, A fires, resolve melee.

The basic combat and morale rules come straight from the latest MacDuff  rules as I am quite happy with them and they have stood the test of time.

The examination of what ground my table can cover gave me some worries but eventually 3 scales emerged:

1. A hex = ~ 50 yds (or 1"=10 to 15 yds, 1 figure=10-15 men which was the original  MacDuff scale. This is only really good for a minimum of actions where I have details. If I had a 7'x9' table it would be ideal for almost everything I want to do but that would require evicting my wife and doing a major renovation to the house with the stairs coming up under the table. On the other hand there are a few actions which fit though there is always the option to fudge up to the next level.

2. A hex = 100 yds (or 1"=25 yds) 1 hex full of troops = ~300 men This will allow me to fit  75% or more of the desired battles onto my 5'x6' table. You will note the switch in troop definition. If I play this scale enough, I may be tempted to base for it allowing me to put 12 figures per unit (or 1/2 unit if at full strength)  or about 1:25  but in the meantime, my singly based or 45mm wide multi-bases both allow me to fit 8 figures to a hex  giving me between 30 and 40 men per figure depending on how I want to fudge it.

3. A hex = 200 yds (or 1"=50 yds) 1 hex full of troops = ~ 600 men. This is only required for the bigger Sikh War and Mexican American War battles.  It would require only 24 man (or 36 if I rebased)  British brigades if I stuck to 40mm and would really strain 40mm terrain. I can see reserving this scale for smaller figures, perhaps should I ever decided to go 10mm. (Don't hold your breath.) The alternative is to fudge the battles down to fit  the lower scale by adjusting orders of battle, compressing some terrain items and  by chopping the edges of the battle, shortening approach marches for example.  

The interesting thing is that the mechanics could still work for all scales, just the time scale and ranges would have to be adjusted. However, since I have 2 different engines to work with, my plan is to drive MacDuff back down to the lowest levels and keep the old card draw for a sense of  immediacy. Turns would be probably 5 or so minutes long. Hearts of Tin (with or without a new name) would re-emerge for the small to medium battles. The idea will be  write the rules to allow the use of a grid without making them necessary.

I haven't written up the rules yet with all the dots and crosses, definitions, variety of troop types, fringe elements and so forth but here is what I've been testing upstairs. One game is never decisive but this is the most engaging solo game that I have ever played (but I think a live opponent would be even better).

Without further ado:

Hearts of Tin v.H (aka Hexes of Tin)
(nee Morschauser Meets MacDuff

Turn Sequence: Roll 1 die per side for initiative. The high side chooses whether to go 1st or 2nd. in case of tie, repeat last turn's sequence. (If desired or playing solo high roll always goes first)

1st side Orders phase. The active player must announce what each unit is being ordered to do.
1st side movement phase: The active player rolls for each unit and moves it in accordance with the orders given then goes on to the next one.  His opponent may challenge what appear to be attempts to back pedal when ambitious plans start to fall apart.
2nd side orders then movement phases as above
2nd Side Shoots all eligible units and resulting casualties are removed.
1st Side shoots all eligible units and resulting casualties are removed.
Post Shooting Morale. Check for broken units and retreat them. Check for leader casualties.
Melee Phase. Resolve melee between units in contact
Post Melee Morale. Check for broken units and retreat them. Check for leader casualties.
Pursuit.  Move any pursuers then resolve melee and morale again. Repeat as needed.
Replace Leaders. Replace leaders who were hit in a previous turn.

Movement Roll dice as indicated, subtract penalties and the result is the number of hexes that may be moved. If not using hexes, multiply  by a convenient amount to suit your table (2", 4" etc)
Infantry and artillery roll 2 dice, Cavalry rolls 3 dice.

Out of command: If a unit is not within 12" of its brigadier or if the Brigadier has been wounded or has joined a unit then roll 1 die before moving.
3-6 Obey orders, 2 Roll 1 less die than usual, 1= no move
If a brigadier is not within 24" of the General or if the general has been wounded or has joined a unit then he must roll as above and the result is applied to all of his units. 

Penalties. For EACH of the following which apply subtract 3 from the total scored:
-Start adjacent to enemy (adjacent hex or equivalent distance)
-Change formation, limber/unlimber, mount/dismount
-Move to the flank or rear or change facing
-Interpenetrate friends
-Cross a passable terrain obstacle such as a ford or wall. 
Movement through woods etc is halved for infantry and is impassible to artillery and cavalry. 

Troops moving in column by road add 1die as long as they stay on the road. 

Roll 1 die per 4 infantry or 2 gunners. Front 2 ranks of infantry.
Units that are in a continuing melee may not shoot.
A score of 4,5 = 1 hit 6= 2 hits. 
Muskets 2 hexes
Rifle 4 hexes
Artillery 8 hexes.

-1 if target is over 1/2 range
-1 if target is in cover, skirmishers or cavalry

Roll 1 die per 4 infantry or gunners or 2 cavalry.
Formed Infantry may count 4 ranks, cavalry only 2, skirmishers only 1..
A score of 4,5 = 1 hit 6= 2 hits.
+1 Charging without firing.
-2 Attacking against troops in cover or uphill or if cavalry fighting infantry in square
-2  Fighting to flank or rear.
+1 Elite
-1 Militia

If during any morale phase, a unit has lost over 1/2 of its original strength, it must immediately retreat 1d6 hexes, back to the enemy without any penalties.

If a unit is not adjacent to the enemy and is ordered to rally instead of moving then roll 1 die for each casualty. Broken units must rally if possible. A score of 5 or 6 will bring the figure back into the ranks. Any other score removes the figure permanently.
+1 If joined by Brigadier or General
+1 if Elite
-1 if Militia.

Risk to leaders. If a general or brigadier is within 12" of at least 1 unit which suffered leader casualties or was attached to a unit which fought in melee, regardless of casualties. Roll 1 die, on a 6 he is wounded. He will be replaced at the end of the next turn.






  1. I should start off this comment with an apology, to be on the safe side. Stating the pathetically obvious has always been a strong part of my game - this is very occasionally useful, but usually just irritating.

    If you change the linear ground scale - say you double it - then if you have a linear style army - say all units are drawn up in lines 3 men deep - the number of fighting men in a hex will be, as you say, twice as many.

    If you are deploying an ancient army which used the big crowd as its tactical formation, then, since your hexes are twice as deep as well as twice as wide, you can pack 4 times as many actual men into a hex. You can even get a slight distortion here - if this ancient army has big crowds of men, only the front row of which can shoot (or sling stones, or whatever), then doubling the linear ground scale doubles the firepower, but it can increase the inertial (shock) mass by 4, which can change the balance between fire and melee.

    All right, all right - I know you had thought of this...


  2. Ross Mac,

    An interesting set of ideas and concepts. I look forward to reading about their development and subsequent play-testing.

    All the best,


  3. OK so I wasn't initially planning to go there but it was a pretty obvious next step. The rules presented are focused a couple of wars during which 2 deep was the standard and so because troops look prettier in 2 ranks, I field 1 rank of toys per historic rank which grossly distorts the depth even without doubling it. If I field a native army with 6 or 8 ranks of spearmen, if I want to be consistent, I would have to maintain the same "depth per figure" of 1. This might look odd unless the units are huge. I will probably fudge that making some sort of claim that each rank is less effective in melee as none have firepower and they aren't well trained. Thus allowing me to field 1 native spearmen represent twice as many men as his regular counterpart.

    It did belatedly occur to me that the system could be back dated to ancients, but I haven't looked at it yet. The first observation which follows from above is that the depth distortion can be lowered minutely because the average 2 deep formation of miniatures will represent 6-8 ranks of real troops. Apart from the occasional Theban, 16 deep is as deep as I would expect to see and this would then be only 4 figures deep. This begs the question as to why everyone didn't form that deep but I usually count the 2nd rank of stands at 1/2 effect, something that got missed in my quick draft. An over deep formation will just have more bodies to keep throwing under the bus in a war of attrition.

    I haven't dealt with 2 units right behind the other yet either but unless I go to Napoleonic Europe, I may not need to.