Friday, November 18, 2011

From the Archives: MacDuff as originally published in the Courier.

After an interesting lunch time chat about rules design yesterday, including the difference between fixing a rule that doesn't work vs trying to incorporate a "better" idea, I decided to go back to the original With MacDuff to the Frontier and see what I would have to change or take out to get close to what I used in my play test as opposed to starting from scratch. MacDuff was developed for 25mm Colonial Games, specifically British vs Sudanese, Zulu and Pathans though I had in mind dragging it back as far as the Mutiny (aka War of Independence). Imaginary conflicts and country were not on my radar at the time.

Since  the oldest version I have is an html version of the rules as  submitted to The Courier, and since Dick had kindly given me permission to post it on my now defunct website, I thought I would repost it here. 

Wouldn't it be great if there could be a compendium of back issues of the Courier printed up? or at least collected on CD?  

This is the version of the rules that were published in Issue 73 in 1997 as transcribed for MacDuff on the Web. The introduction is actually lifted from the sister version  adapted from this for the French & Indian Wars.   

With MacDuff To The Frontier Colonial Wargame Rules
 (Ross's Colonial Rules) SEP 95
These rules were  published in the Courier Issue #73. The Courier, (IMHO a great wargaming magazine)
 Table of Contents
 I. Introduction
II. The Rules
       1. Organisation
       2. Sequence of Play
       3. Command Control
       4. Formations
       5. Movement
       6. Charging
       7. Terrain
       8. Small Arms
       9. Artillery
     10. Casualties
     11. Melee
     12. Morale
     13. Engineering
    14. Errata
    15. Peshwar Gazette (Battle Reports from the NW Frontier)
    15. New Durban Times (Battle Reports from Africa)
I Introduction
This introduction is a slight modification of the introduction published with my French & Indian Wars rules which were developed from this set.
These rules may look a little old fashioned but they represent the culmination of 25 years of wargaming ranging from Don  Featherstone and Lawford and Young through WRG and on to Fire and Fury and Armati with many other stops along the way  including 10 years of playing only with homegrown rules. My aim has been to create a game which has an historical flavour, is  easy and enjoyable to play after a hard week's work, rewards historical tactics and gives a believable outcome to actions.
To further this group of divergent aims, ground and figure scales have been kept flexible and some things are done for the look or ease of play rather than as my best scientific simulation. For example after many bad and some good experiences  with seperate charge morale tests, I decided to combine the effects of fire, and morale (including the threat of the bayonet) into an old fashioned melee even though troops rarely crossed bayonets. Basically both  sides will suffer disorganisation and casualties and one side will run away. Whether the bulk of the losing side actually ran before the charge struck home or not is not really important in the long run. It is just a mechanism that is fun, lends colour  and gives an appropriate result in the end.
1.2 Scales and basing. Time, ground and figure scales are flexible but have been balanced to achieve the desired effect.
I have used companies of 6 to 12 figures giving a figure scale of about 1:10 but reduced the number of companies per battalion  dropping the overall scale to about 1:20 for large games. For scenario design assume 6 turns per hour and 1 inch per 10 yards  if fighting a small skirmish, 1 inch per 20 yards if fighting larger actions. Any distortions of ground and figure scales  this flexibility implies has no practical effect on the game. Regardless of scale, figures should be treated as if individuals not as groups of men. Normally all figures should be individually based, but, multiple bases and casualties  markers or rosters  may be used.
 1.1. General Rule. Figures must be organised into units with a leader and assigned to the command of a general. Units may not be reorganised during a battle and must stay together. A leader and up to 3 figures may be detached in open order to act as a scouting patrol. Native refers to non Europeans fighting in their own armies as opposed to those enlisted in Imperial armies. Imperial refers to the forces of European or American powers. Regulars are drilled according to European methods with a fixed comamnd structure. All artillery is regular. All other units whether disciplined Zulus, wild Afgan tribesmen or European volunteer cavalry are Irregulars. All units whether tribes, impis or battalions may be referred to as regiments for simplicity. Likewise native leaders may be refered to using equivalent European titles such as Colonel or Brigadier or they may use native titles.
1.2. Irregular Infantry. An irregular infantry unit consists of 1 leader and 19 other figures. All figures must try to stay within 12" of their leader. Normally no more than 1/2 of an irregular unit will have fire arms.
1.3. Irregular Cavalry. All irregular cavalry is light cavalry. Even if some figures carry lances, they do not get the lance bonus due to their lack of order. Irregular cavalry units are composed of a leader and 9 to 19 men.
1.4. Regular Infantry. A regular infantry regiment consists of a mounted colonel, a musician, and 2-4 companies each with an officer, an nco and 6-10 other ranks. As long as a company is within 12" of the colonel or his replacement, it is treated as part of the regiment for morale. If it is farther away it is treated as an independant unit. Companies do not have to adopt the same formation. A sergent-major and/or a standard bearer may be added to the regimental head quarters to represent units with higher morale or staying power. If only 1 company is fielded the colonel can not be fielded. Composite regiments composed of companies from different regiments get a colonel but no sergeant major, musician or standard bearer.
1.5. Regular Cavalry. A cavalry regiment is composed of a Colonel, a trumpeter and 2 squadrons each with an officer, an NCO and 6-10 other ranks. Light cavalry may be lancers.
1.6. Artillery. An artillery battery consists of an officer and 2 gun sections each with a gun crewed by a junior officer or NCO and 3 crew. Heavy artillery requires a 5 crew instead.
1.7. Engineers. An engineer company consists of an Engineer officer, an NCO and up to 6 sappers and miners.
1.8. Generals. A general is required to command each side. If there are 4 or fewer regiments this will be a brigadier equivalent. If there are 5 or more units, a brigadier may be fielded for every 2-3 units and a division commander may be added as commander in chief. Larger battles are not envisaged. Irregular generals may be accompanied by a drummer and standard bearer. They may be attached to one of his units to assist in rallying, but, may not leave a unit once attached.
2.1. General rule. Draw cards from a deck one at a time. As each card comes up one unit is activated. Imperial units act on red cards, native units on black cards. When activated a unit takes a control check if required then moves and/or shoots or passes. Each unit completes its action before the next starts. Detachments will act on the same card as their parent unit even if seperated. A unit which has been charged may react but is then pinned until the melee is resolved. After all units have acted or passed, resolve melees bewteen units in contact.
3.1. General Rule. Units within 24" and in sight of their brigadier are deemed to be in control and may be moved as he commands (subject to morale and movement restrictions). Units which are not in control must take a control check unless shattered.
3.2. Control Check. Roll 1 die and consult the following chart:
Cavalry and irregulars without firearms charge the nearest enemy if any are within reach. Other troops stand and shoot. 
Act as the player desires
No advance. The unit may retreat. 
3.3. Attached Leaders. The senior leader attached to the unit may influence the die roll according to his personality. Rash leaders always add, cautious leaders always subtract, bold leaders may add or subtract, indecisive leaders neither add nor subtract. Company or irregular officers add or subtract 1, higher officers add or subtract 2.
3.4. Personality. On the first occasion it needs to be known roll 1 die for each officer and consult the following chart.
Rash Leader
Indecisive Leader
Bold Leader
Cautious Leader
4.1. General Rule. All the figures of a unit must normally be kept together in a recognised formation and must act together.
4.2. Skirmishers. Any infantry may deploy as skirmishers in 2 ranks with 1" to 2" between figures.
 4.3. Mass. Any troops may form a mass 3 or 4 ranks deep with up to 1" between figures. This is the only formation shattered units may use, and the only close order formation that irregulars may use.
 4.4. Line. Any regular troops may form line 2 deep with all figures touching. Normally a regiment in line will form with all companies side by side. It is allowed to deploy with each company in line but lined up one behind the other. This is basically an assault column. it moves as a line but is easier to manouvre and adds depth to an attack on a narrow front.
 4.5. Column. Any regular troops may form column 2 wide with all figures touching.
4.6. Square. Only regular infantry and dismounted cavalry may form square. A multi-regiment square is not treated as a single formation. It is composed of units in line and or column each moving on their own card.
5.1. General Rule. The distance a unit can move is based on a fixed portion plus a random factor. It can be further reduced by shooting, terrain and formation. Infantry and cavalry may shoot then move half a move. See the shooting rules for the effect on their shooting.
5.2.Irregular Infantry. Irregular infantry could move quite rapidly but lacking discipline might not move when their general desired. Their close order formations were not tightly ordered, therefore they move the same speed whether skirmishers or in close order.
    Irregular infantry move 6" + the score of 2 dice.
5.3. Regular Infantry. Regular infantry was slowed by the need to keep order but their disciplined movement was more predictable. Skirmishers had less need of order than troops in line but were strictly contolled and therefore move the same speed as troops in line. Troops were formed in column when they needed to move any distance as the narrow formation was easier to manouvre, therefore our columns move faster. Squares were very difficult to move while maintaining formation and are therefore penalised.
    Regular infantry move 6"+ the score of 1 die.
    Regular infantry in column add 3" to their move
    Regular infantry in square move at 1/2 speed.
5.4. Cavalry. Cavalry's speed was affected by the need, even for irregular cavalry, to keep order and to preserve their horses. Irregular light cavalry tended to use hardy mounts and had less need to keep order, while regular light cavalry was practised at manouvering quickly and carried less weight than their heavy counterparts. Light cavalry will therefore be able to move faster than heavy cavalry. All cavalry usually charged at the gallop by this period therefore charging cavalry get a bonus. They must rally on the next turn even if they do not contact the enemy.
    Light Cavalry moves 18" plus the score of a die.
    Heavy Cavalry moves 12" plus the score of a die.
    Charging cavalry may add 6" to their move.
5.5. Manhandled Artillery. Artillery pieces may be manhandled by their crews. Machine guns were mounted on light carriages and were easily manhandled. Other artillery normally used limbers or pack animals to go any distance. If an artillery piece has less than 1/2 its full crew, it cannot be manhandled unless some infantry are assigned to assist.
    Machine guns may be manhandled 3" plus the score of 1 die.
    Other artillery may be manhandled the score of 1 die in inches.
5.6. Limbered Artillery. Pack artillery and heavy guns take a full turn to limber or unlimber. Other guns may move full and unlimber, limber and move full or unlimber and fire.
    Pack animals, heavy artillery and wagons move 6" plus a die
    Other limbered guns move 12" plus the score of a die.
5.7. Changes of Direction. Units may retire or take ground to the flank, facing the enemy at half speed or may turn and retire a full move. They must spend a full turn to face the enemy again and reorder their ranks. Other changes of facing must be done by wheeling or as part of a formation change.
5.8. Changing Formation. Only regular infantry need to change formation. Irregulars may close up or spread out as they move. Regular infantry take 1/2 a move to change formation including a 90o turn when changing between a line and column. Mounting/dismounting cavalry takes a half a move, not including a formation change.
6.1. General rule. A unit must declare its intention to charge and whether or not it will fire first, before rolling its movement dice. Its target must then announce its reaction. The charger may then wheel up to 45o then must move straight toward the target, moving figures into contact with enemy. Counter chargers move simultaneously. The chargers may break formation or close up as they charge so long as no individual moves more than their maximum movement. Now resolve firing, if any, from the defending unit. Casualties may be taken from the rear ranks if any. The defenders may now move figures upto 1" to contact attackers.
6.2. Reactions. A unit which is rallying this turn, which is shattered or which has already acted may not react to a charge. A unit which passed or which has not yet acted may react as follows:
Skirmishers may fire and retreat or retreat a full move.
Regular infantry may form square.
Cavalry may counter charge, wheeling up to 45o first
 Any troops may stand, firing if able
6.3. Reserved Fire. Infantry which moved upto 1/2 move and artillery which did not move may choose to reserve fire when they act. In this case they may conduct their fire when they are charged. If they are not charged they lose their fire. Note that the number of figures eligible to fire may be reduced if the unit moves.
7.1. General Rule. Any terrain other than a flat plain disrupted the movement of cavalry, artillery and regular infantry in close order. Some terrain is even more of an obstacle while other types can provide cover from fire or sight.
7.2. Difficult Terrain. Steep rocky slopes, swamps jungle and other very difiicult terrain is impassable to horses, wheeled vehicles and close order formations. They can only be crossed by skirmishers moving at half speed, or infantry columns and pack mules following a trail.
7.3. Broken Terrain. Woods, brush, soft sand, steep or rough slopes and similar may be crossed by all troops.
    Skirmishers and irregular infantry may move at full speed.
    Other infantry and pack mules may move at half speed.
    Cavalry, artillery and wagons may move at 1/4 speed. Camels are unaffected by sand.
 7.4. Linear Obstacles. Streams, river fords, ditches, hedges and low walls or fences take half a turn for infantry and cavalry to cross. Artillery and wagons take a whole turn to cross. They leave a gap in walls, fences and hedges which can be used by any column, wagon or gun without penalty. Very high walls or deep ditches can only be crossed in pioneers spend a turn to prepare a crossing point. Troops in column can then cross as if over a minor obstacle.
7.5. Villages. Villages are represented by a group of buildings on a base. Towns are represented by several villages seperated by a road. Only infantry may enter a village. They immediately loose all formation and move as individuals at half speed. They may not move through solid walls; they must enter the village and any interior rooms through doors, windows or breaches.
7.6. Roads. Roads are only useful to artillery, wagons and regulars in column. Troops on a road ignore off road terrain. Troops on a secondary road add 50% to their movement. troops on a highway may double their move. If a road crosses a steep hill road units move at normal speed.
7.7. Concealment. Native units may be deployed in concealment at the start of a game and kept off table until they are spotted or they move or fire. Unless an umpire is available, place a marker when they move to show their location, they may not be fired on or charged unless spotted. Massed troops may be concealed in brush, forest, jungle, villages or dead ground. Skirmishers may also hide in rocky areas and scrub. Dead ground should be defined when the terrain is laid out. Units within 6" may always see each other. Spotting is done prior to moving or firing. Each unit may attempt to spot into one area of concealing terrain within 12". Roll 1 die and add the fieldcraft rating of the spotting unit. If the result is 6 then any enemy have been spotted.
7.8. Field Craft. Units with field experience or composed of men from the fronteirs were more adept at scouting than units fresh from Europe. This is measured by giving Imperial units field craft ratings of 1, 2 or 3.Most European imperial units would be 1 with some veteran units and most sepoy type units being 2. 3 is reserved for Gurkhas and frontier light horse or the like.
8.1. General Procedures This period saw, first the wide spread introduction of percussion rifles, then the deployment of breachloading weapons that significantly increased infantry firepower. These rules do not cover the introduction of modern smokeless magazine rifles which changed the face of battle. Roll 1 die for each 2 eligible figures. Count remainders of 1/2 or more. Two ranks of figures may fire. The target must be within 45o of straight ahead and must be visible. If charged a unit must fire at the unit charging it, otherwise it must fire at the nearest eligible enemy. Firing uses 1/2 a move.
8.2. To Hit. At close range 4,5 or 6 will inflict a hit. At long range 5 or 6 will inflict a hit.
Smoothbore Carbines
Smoothbore Muskets
Jezzails/Rifled Carbines
8.3. National Modifiers. Boers and Metis add 1 to their dice. Other native units subtract 1 from their shooting dice when fighting the British. This variously reflects lack of training, shortages of ammunition and just generally British good luck. They often got off light when under heavy fire.
8.4. Muskets. The term muskets includes all muzzle loading small arms including rifled muskets and cavalry carbines. Although a musket could easily be fired and reloaded in 30 seconds by even an average soldier, they were slower to fire than breechloaders especially for skirmishers trying to stay under cover. To represent this muskets take 1/2 a turn to fire. When a unit fires mark the unit with a smoke cloud to indicate that some figures will now be unloaded. This will remain untill the unit rallies. The options available to the unit are as follows:
     a. Standstill and fire all figures
     b. Fire 1/2 the unit and move ½.
     c. Regulars in close order who have not fired since they last rallied  may opt to fire all figures then move half. Mark them with 2 smoke
        clouds, they cannot fire again until they rally.
     d. Early rifles firing patched ball take a whole turn to reload. They must use option c even if skirmishers. Once they fire, however,
        they may elect not to use patched balland may then commence to be treated as ordinary smoothbores. They may only regain rifle
        status by rallying.
8.5. Breechloaders. Breechloaders could be reloaded much easier than muzzle loaders. Troops with breechloaders may fire all figures and move half or may stand fire twice.
8.6. Repeaters. Early magazine rifles could put out a much higher rate of fire for a short period of time, however, prior to the introduction of magazine chargers, reloading was a lengthy process. Magazine rifles may operate as ordinary breechloaders or they may choose to stand and fire four times. If so they must rally before firing again.
8.7. Pistols. Early pistols will be ignored and only revolvers will be counted. They have a very short range but allow a single officer to roll 1 die for hits.
8.8. Spears. Thrown spears are included as part of charge resolution.
8.9. Mounted Fire. Only light horse or irregular cavalry can fire mounted. They use the normal rules for their weapon type but need to score 6 to hit.
9.1. General Rule. Artillery did not improve as drastically during this period. There was a gradual switch from smoothbore cannon to rifled guns but muzzleloaders remained in service along side breechloaders with field trials showing little to choose between them for speed or functionality.
Artillery targets must be within 45o of straight ahead and must be visible. If charged a battery must fire at the unit charging it, otherwise they may pick their target. Artillery may not fire then move. Horse Artillery may unlimber then fire. Heavy guns may only fire on alternate turns.
9.2. Cannister. At close range all guns fire cannister. Roll 1 die per gunner needing 4,5,6 to hit for smoothbores, 5,6 for rifles. Native artillery deducts 1 from all dice. When firing cannister against a battalion or company square, roll double the normal number of dice. Errata 12" for all guns
9.3. Shot and Shell. At long range ammunition is assumed to be a combination of shot and shell or shrapnell. Measure the range to the target in feet then roll 1 die per gun needing to score equal to or greater than the range to hit.
     Rifled guns +1 to the die to hit.
     Mountain guns and 6 pdrs -1 to the die to hit.
     Native artillery -1 to the die
 If a hit is scored roll 1 die per 2 crew needing 4,5,6 to hit. Native artillery deducts 1 from all dice.
9.4. Machine Guns. Early machine guns were prone to jaming when most needed. Roll 1 die before firing a score of 1 or 0 means the gun has jammed and may not fire this turn. Machine guns have a range of 24". If there is no jam roll 1 die per crew needing 4,5,6 to hit. Native crews subtract 1 from all dice.
9.5. Breaching Walls. When artillery scores 6 when rolling for effect against a wall or building, a breech 1 figure wide is created. Heavy guns create a breach on a score of 5 or 6.9.6 Line of Sight
10.1. General Rule. Close order infantry in the open suffer 1 casualty for each hit.
10.2. Cover. Troops behind hard cover suffer 1 casualty for every 2 hits on the unit from shooting. Native units may claim cover from small arms fire, but not artillery, if they are in brush or rocks.
10.3. Skirmishers. Skirmishers were harder to hit because they were dispersed and making maximum use of cover. Therefore, skirmishers remove 1 casualty for each 2 hits when being fired at. This is cumulative with the reduction for cover.
10.4. Cavalry. Cavalry usually suffered less shooting than infantry for several reasons. They tended to be in less dense formations and moved quickly while under fire and were thus not a target for as long as well as being harder to hit. Many of the hits were on the horses who would often carry on after wounds that would send a man out of the ranks. There also tended to be less straggling than in the infantry, if a man went down he was on his own as the regiment swept on as opposed to the infantry who would be helped to the rear by 1 or more comrades. Therefore cavalry suffer 1 casualty for each 2 hits from shooting.
10.5. Artillery. When artillery is fired on the hits may fall on the gun, the crew or the animals. Batteries normally contained enough horses to enable the guns to be moved even if some were hit, but there could be a delay while horse were redistributed. For each hit against artillery roll 1 die. A 6 means the gun was hit if the hit was from artillery the gun is destroyed otherwise there is no effect.A score of 4 or 5 means a draft animal has been hit. The gun may not move limbered this turn. A score of 1,2 or 3 makes a crew figure a casualty.
10.5. Remainders. If there is a remainder of half or more, place a casualty marker by the unit. If the unit receives a second casualty marker, remove both markers and a casualty. Ignore fractions of less than 1/2.
10.6. Risk to leaders. If a leader (including musician or standard bearer) is a target or is with a unit which suffers casualties, roll one die. If a 6 is scored a leader is hit. If several leaders are with a unit dice with an even chance for each to be hit.
11.1. General rule. Dice for each pair of opponents in contact. If one side's score is 2 higher than their opponent than 1 opposing figure is hit.
11.2. Die Modifiers.
    +1 Imperial Infantry/cavalry
    +1 Lancers or heavy cavlry charging
    +1 Defending obstacle
    +1 2 vs 1 (2nd figure must touch the enemy)
    x2 Cavalry charging infantry not in square or cover, or halted cavalry
11.3. Resolution. The side with the highest casualties from shooting and melee combined retreats a 1/2 move facing the enemy. If the original fight is a tie, cavalry which charged will pass though the enemy using any unused movement from their charge. Other troops will stand and fight again. Casualties may be replaced from rear ranks. If there is no result after a second round of combat, the charger must retreat a half move. Both sides must rally after a melee.
12.1. Shattered Units. When a unit suffers very heavy casualties it loses spirit as well as manpower. When a regiment, battery, tribe or detached company falls below 1/2 strength it becomes shattered and must immediately retire a full move in disorder unless surrounded. On its next move it must rally. If still shattered after rallying, it must retreat off the field of battle.
12.2. Surrounded Units. If a unit is surrounded and cannot retreat without approaching closer to some enemy then it may stand and fight until an opening appears. Once per turn the enemy may call upon the unit to surrender, both sides roll a die with the surrounded unit adding 1 for each attached leaders and 1 if the regimental standard is present. The highest score decides whether or not the unit will surrender. If a way becomes clear the unit must retire .
12.3. Recovery. If a shattered unit recovers enough casualties to rise above half strength, it ceases to be shattered and may operate normally until it falls below 1/2 strength again. A shattered company may rejoin its parent regiment. The status of the regiment is then based on the entire regiment.
12.4. Rallying. Rallying represents the regrouping of troops by their officers. Units must rally after a melee, when shattered, and may rally to recover casualties or reload. A unit may rally on the spot or fall back 1/2 move while rallying and may include a free facing or formation change. The unit may not shoot, evade or countercharge while rallying. The unit must end up in line or square if regular or in mass in irregular.
12.5. Casualty Recovery. Casualties include stragglers, men helping wounded comrades and lightly wounded or stunned men as well as serious casualties. Some of these may be recovered, therefore, when a unit suffers casualties, put them in a holding area. When the unit next rallies it may attempt to recall casualties to the ranks if it has any leaders attached.
 For each casualty in the holding area roll 1 die, on a score of 6 the figure rejoins his unit. Commanders were often able to inspire their men, if a bold or rash general has joined a unit to rally it, add 1 to the die. Martial music has long been used to stir men's spirit and many acts of heroism have been done out of devotion to a unit's or countrys colours. If there is a musician or standard bearer with the unit 1 may be added to the die. Any casualties which fail their roll are permenantly lost. Most armies attempted to rescue their wounded, particular Imperial forces facing enemies who did not take prisoners. On occasion, however, if units were under too much stress the men panicked and abandoned thier comrades. If a unit loses a melee and is shattered in the same turn, all casualties currently in the holding area are taken by the enemy and become permenantly lost.
13. Engineering
 13.1 General rule.  An engineer officer and a tool wagon must be present to supervise engineering tasks and provide materials. Only trained sappers may build a pontoon bridge or lay demolition charges. Any troops or conscripted civilians may be used for other tasks. Engineering tasks may not be conducted by shattered units or by units which shoot, move or which have been engaged in mellee during the turn. The owning player announces when that group is activated that they are working. If at the end of the turn they have not been disturbed then 1 period of work is completed.
13.2 Tasks.  The time taken for each task is as follows.
a) Build pontoon bridge if materials available: 1" per turn.
b) Lay demolition charge. 1 turn. When ready roll 1 per charge to find the damage inflicted. 6 points are required to damage a wooden bridge,
    12 points are required to destroy a wooden bridge or damage a stone one, 24 points are required to destroy a stone bridge. A damaged bridge
    may only be crossed by infantry moving at 1/2 speed.
c) Repair a damaged bridge: 1d6 turns.
d) Construct a redoubt to hold a gun or company: 6 turns.
e) Cut a road through a hedge or wall 1 turn.
f) Fortify a village: 3 turns.


  1. Ross

    The good news is that these rules still work just fine. The bad news is that they were published long enough ago to be considered "old school".


  2. Always nice to see you name in print - even so long ago! I always rather enjoyed the occasional issues of Courier I got to see.

  3. Peter, I like to think of them as Nouveau or perhaps Faux OSW. :)

  4. Tim, I miss the Courier. But is nice to see one's name in print and picture people in 50 years finding an old copy and thing "Who the heck was this guy?"