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.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Coming Home

The label "Old School" means so many different things to so many people that it is meaningless on its own. To me Charles Grant with his tables of stats and regard for consistent scale is a good example of what we could call Old School Simulationist. But to me the term brings to mind Featherstone and Lawford & Young who discourage becoming a slave to minor details or "dull consistency" in order to get the right over all effect  Back in the early 1990's, I had just started playing 25mm Colonials and had been re-reading Charge! for the umpteenth time. MacDuff To The Frontier was the result.

I was looking at the latest MacDuff ideas today and thinking back over some of the principles that I've tried to put in writing over the last 2 years (for example see)  and realized that various things violated some of these principles and that it wasn't the first time I tried them (for example the artificial menu of Order options). I also realized that the more I stopped trying to prescribe how players are to use their troops and just allowed them to be more or less historical as it pleases them, the easier it got to make the rules simple, quick and effective. Once again, the inspiration here is Charge! If you want to break your regiments down into companies and launch bayonet attacks in column Charge! lets you do it. Its almost guaranteed to fail against a player using historical tactics, but you can try it. Similarly, I am trying to keep in mind what experience has taught me playing MacDuff at conventions or club games with people who are not necessarily familiar with either rules or period. Too many clever bits, meant to increase various historical aspects, often result in "gotcha" moments or confusion. 

So, I have gone back through the various mechanisms experimented with over the last year, (including some shared by HofT like the Orders Chart)  and am now busy incorporating them into the latest version of MacDuff. The result will be posted sometime in the next few days but they are summarized below as a guide to me during the next play test.     

Long ago and so Faraway.......The 1st and 2nd Oberhilse Infantry Regiments cross the Blugene River in a surprise attack. 


MacDuff 2012
Jan 6 Proposed Basic Rules summary

1.    Scales. Roughly 1”=15 yds, 4 turn = 1 hour. Theoretically each toy soldier thus occupies the same frontage as 1 man for each mm of base. In practice I routinely expand or compress terrain and troop scales when converting historical events into game scenarios thus making them “inspired by” rather than a “recreation of”. 
2.    Unit organization can be anything agreed upon by the players or as set out by the GM. My own consists of 8 man "companies" which are grouped into 2-4 company Regiments. In a game, while I would normally try to keep the companies of a Regiment in a formation by themselves, but technically a "Brigade" consists of any number of companies (units) and a commander and the  player can arrange them in formations as he/she chooses.
3.    Formations are the key element of the game. Activation, movement, combat and morale is by formation. Formations consist of an arrangement of 1 or more units from the same brigade. Close order formations must have all figures aligned and bases touching.  A skirmish formation may not be more than 1 unit. A unit may only act once per turn other than to respond to the enemy or as a compulsory move so if a unit forms up with a unit which has not yet moved, that unit will be unable to move until next turn.
A brief summary of Basic Rules. 
1.    Sequence of play. 2 options. 
1.    Basic: Draw cards, Red one side, black the other. On a card one formation is activated, moves and fights.
2.    Alternate: Sides roll off at the start of each turn. Winner chooses to go first or 2nd. Active player activates formations 1 at a time as above.
2.    Orders. Issue an order (statement of intent) before moving a formation then roll 1 die. 2-6 Obey, 0,1= Cavalry, spearmen and impetuous troops charge if able, others stand and shoot if able, others do nothing. Less than zero retreat.  -1 if disordered, -1 if fired or fought in melee since last activated.  A general within 8” may join unit and re-roll.
3.    Movement. Infantry, Foot artillery12”. +4” in column. -4” to shoot -4” to turn, limber, unlimber etc
Cavalry, Horse Artillery  24” etc Must stop at least 1” from enemy unless charging. -4” to shoot. Movement is forward only, inc wheel. -4” for each turn unless skirmisher or disordered. -4” to limber/unlimber, mount/dismount etc. 
Terrain -4" cross minor obstacle. woods etc: skirmishers full, inf 1/2 speed disordered. 
4.    Reaction. If shot at, a unit may return fire or charge. If charged, a unit may fire, counter charge or take command test then change facing/formation.  Skirmisher, lt cav or horse artillery may retreat in disorder. 
5.    Shooting. Since shooting represents several shots, return fire is simultaneous. 1 die per 4 inf  or gunners with round shot, 1 die per 2 gunners with canister.  Round up remainders over 1/2  6=2 hits, 4,5 = 1 hit. -1 vs artillery, cavalry, skirmishers or partial cover, -1 disordered -1 over 1/2 range -2 vs fortifications  Musket 8”, Rifle 16”, Cannister 16”, Shot/Shell 24”/32”/48”. Arty rerolls misses if dense target (col/mass/square/enfilade)
6.    Melee Match up front rank figures and dice. High score wins. +1 elite or fighting militia, +1 defending cover or obstacle. +1 infantry charging if they did not fire +2 cavalry charging except vs square or cover.
Afterwards. Formation taking most hits retreat full move in disorder. If tie, fight again.
7.    Morale. A formation receiving 1/4 casualties (current strength) from 1 shot will retire a move in disorder. A formation suffering 1/2 casualties (current strength) from 1shot will rout and be removed.
Militia 1/6 and 1/3rd instead, Elites 1/3rd and 2/3rd instead). In mixed formations, figures will react by their class based on over all % hits. Rest of figures may choose to join a retreat. eg a formation  with 6 elites, 8 regulars, and 4 militia takes 1/4 hits. Militia and regulars must retreat, the elites may join them or stand. If it had taken 1/3 hits, the militia would rout and the rest be forced to retreat. Takes whole turn to rally from disorder, no shooting, may face the nearest threat.

     If 1/2 the units in an army have been destroyed, routed or forced to retreat off table then that army must concede. 

8.    General’s Rally. A Commander may make a rally roll if he is with a formation  that takes hits from shooting or melee. 6=remove up to 2 hits, 4,5 remove 1 hit, 2,3 No effect, 1 Commander is hit and removed from game. (OK this one is new and untested)


  1. MacDuff

    Looks good with the right retro feel.


  2. HI Ross

    This is close enough to my experimental rules that I’ll have to give them a try.

    I like your formation rule but how to keep track of which figure belongs to which company? I’m assuming that a formation can be broken up into smaller formations during the game. And how do you assign casualties from shooting?


  3. Peter, after playing out a test game this morning, that's my feeling too.

  4. Dave, Tracking who belongs to which company when the uniforms are the same has always been a bug bear, resulting in such things as pose by company or little dots on the base. With this new version, it doesn't really matter while they are formed.

    Sometimes it was easy to figure out where the hits should go since fire was coming in on 1 flank but usually I just spread them out. Occasionally I used the system from Charge! where you roll a die and count off from the right hand corner. For example I found myself with 2 grenadiers and 6 militia in a house and realized that the rules now allowed me to treat them as such rather than having to have a whole unit of grenadiers.

    Yes formations can be broken up as required.


  5. Very simple and subtle morale rules

  6. Ross, in that last paragraph I presume that the "2=remove up to 2 hits" should start "6=" rather than "2=" . . . is that correct?

    -- Jeff