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.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fine Tuning Fort MacDuff

I've now done three run throughs of the Relief of Fort MacDuff scenario.The first one didn't make it all the way into the first turn.

Last fall in a fit of state thought control I tried to impose a uniform command & control mechanism on my games. The MacDuff + orders dice worked well enough for one solo game and I was quite happy with it. I laid this game out thinking about the convention and 6 players and how to break up the commands to give every one enough to keep them engaged but keeping the game rolling at a good pace to a definite conclusion with a tight window with players who are learning the rules. If this was a 2 player game it would have been ok but to make a good 6 player game using d6 order dice, I would have had to double the planned number of units and allow each player to roll his own die. I have the troops but that many would make for an inappropriately crowded table top, unless I ended up on one of the larger tables. As it is there will be scant room for maneuver.

After a fit of thinking, it occurred to me that this was a scenario much like many of the old F&IW MacDuff scenario's that Rob & I used to run. I hadn't dropped the card activation because I didn't like it, I dropped it to make it easier to use different rules sets at home for similar games which seems rather pointless from even a little bit of space. So, I brought back the cards and the alternate initiative roll and set to it again with a hard fought fairly close game, ignoring the fort side of the table for the moment

3rd try.

The cards  worked as well as they always have and the uncertainty felt right for this sort of confused backwoods warfare. If anything, I was worried about too much predictability, and was tempted to bring back variable moves but I resisted and it worked. The variable order added the right amounts of tension and opportunities lost, exploited or wasted and about the right number of detached units declined to move when ordered.

The only sore spot was that with so many small units, there were too few dice rolling for average results and it was all a bit jerky, too many hits or too few. It also seemed too hard to get rid of units since they usually broke needing only 1 successful rally roll to stop running. I've had a love/hate thing for the double hit on a 6 rule. It works quite well for big units allowing similar results without using several of handfuls of dice but for small units of skirmishers they are often rolling 1 die with 6's being all that matter. I decided to try it again using 1 die for 2 figures and no double hits. This gives the same minimum/maximum number of hits but changes the spread especially for small units. To keep the over all average closer, I dropped the to hit number to 5 or 6 then at the last minute wavered and left the 4 in.

I also decided to drop all units to 8 figures and make more use of the brigade formation rule. Something I had been considering (and rejected) as an option for my own armies. This is the game shown above, a complete disaster for the Americans. Mechanics-wise,  the 8 man units were too fragile and the multi-unit formations too confusing. Near the end of the game I reverted to the 5,6 to hit and that seemed better.  I preferred the feel of the 12 man units in the previous game even though its neither company nor battalion and only works from a practical POV. Sometimes though, that should be enough.

So, back to the 12 man line, 6 man light units for game 4. I also shifted the terrain slightly to make better use of the table and am going to adjust the force balance slightly in favour of the US.


  1. Interesting. I like the picture of your game. It will be interesting to see how the 12 man ubits play out.

    1. So far in 2 games they are better than 8 or 16 but then 12 was what I originally used.

  2. It's been a while since we did a French and Indian War game...I want to dig out a copy of the magazine version of MacDuff and see what I think of it now.

    1. I think Pontiac was the last one. The original still work, just fidley and hard to reach a conclusion. Plus a bad series of command rolls can bore a player to death or sink him if he only has a few units. Other than that they're still sound, I just like the revised ones better. But I need to paint up a dozen Indians for May.