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, June 10, 2016

There's The Beef

This would have been a good game for a narrative blog report but the campaign is a long way from starting and I haven't sat down to decide on character and place names or a storyline and do want to think and write about rule mechanisms. With that in mind I will stick to my now customary practice and use the picture captions to discuss the events of this generic skirmish, somewhere, somewhen.

The game was a minor variation of the Scenarios for Wargames version of Grant's wagon train scenario. Since troops were short and cavalry largely inappropriate I fielded a Commander, 1 cavalry troop, 2 infantry companies and 1 sharpshooter detachment to guard 2 carts and a (small) herd of cattle. The fort was garrisoned by a gun and 2 infantry units one of which had to stay in the fort. The Metis and Indians fielded 2 commanders and 7 bands of sharpshooters. In all 36 Canadian infantry plus a handful of cavalry and a gun against 28 Metis and Indians.  Not a very big game.

The Black Watch in action. Protect the beef and the beer!
With MacDuff to the Frontier was originally written for mid 19th Century Colonial games but for over a decade the vast majority of MacDuff games have used versions of the  French & Indian War variant so I was curious if not downright anxious as to how the current combined version would work for the 1885 Northwest Rebellion.

Having initially set out units for the Square Brigadier I had to scramble to prepare for MacDuff and ended up with insufficient figures, apart from Redcoats of which there is an excess even if most are historically inappropriate. I had to replace the irregular mounted rifles with hussars and field the rebels and the Sharpshooters as 4 man units which the rules weren't designed to handle. This meant that every hit on these units would cause a morale check but in the end it worked ok given the sharpshooter bonus. Once I get more Cree and some Metis painted up I may try 6 man units for this period but will probably just build up 8 man units.

Turn 3. The convoy is all on board and 4 bands of rebels are on table.  The 1st band of rebels, all in their first action, open fire from the flank . Taken by surprise A Coy of the Black Watch wavers but is steadied by Col. MacDuff and returns fire. The Cree pullback into the woods in disorder and wait until the convoy has moved past.
Since I had been focused on the AWI and War of 1812 I hadn't included breechloading rifles on the quick reference sheet. In the original rules they essentially had twice the firepower of muzzleloaders. Rather than double the number of dice I intended to treat extended infantry  or skirmishers as standard targets and double the effect against formed units. As it happens I forgot and just used the basic firing rules with rifle ranges. This meant constantly dealing with 1/2 casualties but the casualties levels were about right so I may just fallback on treating muzzleloading rifles as inferior at this point in time and breech loaders as superior in earlier games.

Turn 4. The Hussars move forward but are fired on and come tumbling back into cover. The Metis manouver around the flank of B company and open fire

At the last minute I decided to change the rule that said roll 1/2 the number of dice at long range to inflict 1/2 casualties at long range. The idea was to be consistent which is often a good thing. Since all units were skirmishing that meant long range fire was at 1/4 effect. I was able to handle that but when I had a target that was receiving fire from one enemy at close range and another at long range, I had to roll the dice separately and remember to add 1/2 the hits from one lot to 1/4 the hits from the other and suddenly rolling less dice at long range made sense since I could just roll them together and apply the same modifiers.

The small size of many of the units meant that there were fewer dice but each hit was more important.  Suddenly deciding whether to round up, round down, carry over or dice for halves made a big difference. I think that this is one of the areas where I will list options and say pick the one that works best for you for the particular game. The more units and figures on the table, the less it matters.

Turn 6. The convoy slowly creeps up the steep hill while under fire from all directions. A company of Fusiliers has sortied from the Fort and the gun has open up in support. Feels a bit sticky for the convoy as losses mount and more rebels appear. 

Another down side of the small units was that if there had been any melees there would have been very few dice on either side and I suspect a tendency towards draws. My intention is to return to the traditional figure vs figure melees with an optional mass melee rule for when two formed battalions clash.

The Fusiliers supported by the gun wreak havic amongst one band of Cree caught in the open, the survivor flees into the woods. The young band who first opened fire blazes away but without the influence of the Chief refuse to close with the convoy.
One thing I noticed early on was that I had imported the commander rally from Hearts of Tin but that it didn't really fit and wasn't what I was doing. I had also added back in unit leaders as useful for colour and narrative at this level. Their sole value is to allow a unit to automatically follow orders if within 12" of a higher commander but I will probably add a negative modifier to the morale test if all officers and nco's are lost.

The current morale rule replaced the original system of removing figures and trying to rally back stragglers with an eye to a fixed 50% morale rule. Once again it did the job with much less fuss and bother but in both this and the earlier game I kept rolling to rally disordered troops rather than it being automatic. I might not change that since there is an element of double jeopardy but I might as it adds uncertainty and may speed a conclusion.

The first oxteam reaches level ground, the driver whips them up to race for the fort and rolls snake eyes for movement!
The biggest problem with the game was that as soon as it was done I wanted to play again or at least paint more figures for this campaign, something I'm not supposed to be doing this year. I really need to get started on a full, up to date, rules edition though and need to put the musket era stuff through the wringer as Rob and I are tentatively planning to run two F&IW MacDuff games at Fall In 2016 in Lancaster PA in November.  One of those games calls for me to make some terrain items and I also need to work on fine tuning the massed fantasy battles rules which will make the 3rd Fall In game. Sighhh work work work.

Charge! The highlanders get frustrated, fix bayonets and charge sending the Cree heading for cover only to be cut down by handfuls of 5's and 6's as they pause in the open to fire at the redcoats. (ie they failed to roll high enough to make it to cover). The rebels have now hit over 50% shaken or destroyed and retreat.


  1. Well, i the game resulted in you wanting to play a second AND paint more figures, then it strikes me as totally and completely successful. It looks like a lot o fun, and your photographs (especially the first one) are great and inspiring. Just the thing.

    Best Regards,


    1. Thankfully it got me juiced up enough that I git back to work on one of the 2 other things that I'm supposed to be working on,

  2. Ross Mac,

    I can see why you want to get some more figures painted up! This looked like it was a great little battles, with lots of action and well-matched opponents.

    You'd better get those paintbrushes out!

    All the best,


    1. I have furloughed them to a shelf but they will be back.

  3. Stirling Confrontation- just the thing to spur you on for the Conventions. Regards. KEV.

  4. Hi Ross,
    Another great-looking and fun-sounding game.
    Question for ya: assuming you had enough figures, terrain, space, and time available, and you decided to game a large European TYW battle (e.g., Leuthen), which of your rules sets would you prefer to use?
    Thanks Ross.

    1. Tricky question. Should I get struck by lightning and wake up with an urge to recreate my 15mm TYW armies with the aim of fighting Leuthen, I would have to answer a couple of questions first. Is this a one man project where I get to decide everythings or am I going to try and leverage the local guys 25mm ecw armies? Will this be a multiplayer convention game meaning that I need enough figures and units to keep everyone busy or a 1 or 2 person game which could be a big game but which could also be a smaller high level game.

      Assuming the latter I would probably do a new set with Brigades & Tercios as multistand units. So possibly something Hearts of Tin related aiming for a 3 hour game.

  5. Jeff
    Jeffrey Bickel has left a new comment on your post "There's The Beef":

    This is a cool and unique period to be exploring as a wargame. Do you have some NWMP figs?

    Sorry Jeff, the tablet screen glitched as I was reaching for Approve so its h8ne.

    No mounties yet but they are on the list for next year.

  6. This is an excellent post Ross. Love the entire scenario concept so you now must consider! Your figures are great.