Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rattling MacDuff's Cage or Boiled Figgy MacDuff

Lord Snooty watching the Hougal Zoauves exercising now that they have finally been recruited up to full field strength. His horse, Jerome, has been the talk of the town since he arrived. At 18 hands, he is the tallest horse ever seen in Atlantica (evidence of some Shire blood perhaps?). With the Lord himself standing 6'4" in his stockings, they make an impressive sight together. Off to the side, Private Wayne is sampling the wares of a passing sutler before buying refreshments for Lord Snooty.

MacDuff is at heart a simple set of rules but it looks so much more complex than Rattle of Dice that I decided to count the number of rules in each of MacDuff and Rattle as a starting point for analysis. Depending on how you define "a rule" (eg does each sub paragraph count as a rule? What about each modifier?) MacDuff has 16 named rules vs 9 (disguised as 8) in Rattle.  If you expand to include sub rules it goes up to between 50 and 70+ rules vs around 20 for Rattle.

Huh! How about that?

In part this is because MacDuff  attempts to be more prescriptive or at least more definitive, listing, for example, 17 troop types versus none. (Rattle presumes that some one who doesn't know what "infantry" or "cavalry" are, will google the terms and make their own mind up.)  Since I don't believe that a set of rules is a good way to teach history to a player, do not believe a player can be forced to play a game as intended if it differs from what he wants to do,  don't intend MacDuff to ever be published again and since anyone downloading them is free to email me, I think I will strip out most of the explanations and the various special rules for oddities. As I have time and interest I will add some appendices with the optional extras and oddities perhaps some design notes to guide players.

At the same time, I have been waffling for ages over die modifiers for things like cover and range which reduce the probability of a hit but do not affect the minimum and maximum hits that can be inflicted versus a Charge! or Kriegspiel like halving of effect which absolutely reduces the number of hits. I like the latter better and this is how MacDuff started but the former is slightly simpler, especially when more than one reduction applies and is the current system.  I'm going to go back to halving.

While I'm at it, I'm going to experiment with an older fashioned play sequence. I've been using a combined movement and shooting phase since the mid-1980's but  after re-reading an old Featherstone book this week, I've been reminded that the initiative roll that I borrowed from him originally had a sequence of Side A moves, Side B moves, Side B shoots, Side A shoots, then all resolve melees. This puts an interesting  extra twist on the decision to go first or second and eliminates the chances of one side firing twice without the other side having a chance to reply when having troops NOT return fire was the historical problem, without putting in reaction fire or more complicated rules.

I think I'll try all 3 ideas on for size later this week. After all both the Zoauves and the Queen's Lancers are now up to strength and Lord Snooty has been promised a battle.


  1. Ross Mac,

    Donald Featherstone's death spurred me both to fight a battle using my RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES - TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED and to re-read two of his books ... and I am finding that I am reconsidering several of my current sets of rules in the light of these experiences. I am now thinking about simplifying my rules even further, and I suspect that I am going to end up with some very 'old school'-style rules as a result.

    They may not be super-accurate, but they will be simple and fast to use ... and FUN!

    All the best,


    1. I think the accuracy of a game lies as much or more in how the players handle their troops than it does in the complexity or prescriptive-ness of the rules.

  2. As he's from East Anglia perhaps he's more Suffolk Punch. I can see that Lord Snooty is rather larger than the others in the group, perhaps it's as well that he didn't bring an escort of troopers, it could have seemed intimidating.

    1. Lord Snooty is a bit taller but well with realistic variation and of similar build which is even more important to my mind.

      I'd never heard of the Suffolk.The picture on Wiki looks more like him but I see they don't usually grow above 17 hands, and he is at least 18, still its possible. The local horses are on the small side, 15 hands or so being common. There has been talk of trying to convince Lord Snooty to ride one of the local horses when he rides into battle with the General's Staff so as to be less of a target. No one wants a diplomatic incident because of a bullet from one of the Red Queen's men.

    2. at least his feet wouldn't drag on the floor.