Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Donnybrook review


Bugger, buggery, bugger....

I had a plan for 2014...I really did!  I wrote it down and everything.

Finish off the 15mm Early WW2 Germans and French for Chain of Command, work on the Darkest Africa/IHMN project and begin a Fallout Post Apocalypse variant of IHMN.  It was always quite likely that something would tempt me off course but I'd at least hoped to last beyond January.  And then along came Donnybrook...

This is the new set of skirmish rules from the League of Augsburg and very nice they are too.  Presentation-wise these are 110 page bound rule book with lots of colour pics.  Throughout the book are excellent photos, often used to illustrate points from the rules...they've also included some comic-strip style illustrations which I guess people will either love or hate.  I found them very entertaining and useful way of helping clarify the game process.

The rules are aimed at the period from 1660-1760 and include a number of scenarios and settings ranging from fighting Berbers in Tangiers through the WSS to Jacobite skirmishes.  Of course this is a period for which I have virtually no figures so logically this should have no appeal, but hey, we're wargamers... things like that don't stand in the way of frivolous impulse buys!

I do have some 15mm WSS figures but, although I've tended towards 15mm as an ideal scale for skirmish gaming [eg with Muskets and Tomahawks, Force on Force etc] this does feel like a ruleset that cries out for 28mm.  

The rules themselves appear to include elements of various Too Fat Lardies games with a card activation system, and Force on Force with different flavours of dice used to represent troop quality.  Like many TFL games units and characters are activated on the turn of a card, with an optional Turn End card meaning you may not get to activate everyone in every turn.  I know this is a bit of a Marmite feature that people seem to love or hate and the writers sensibly advise ignoring it if you don’t like it [... personally I do like it.. it adds a real degree of uncertainty to each game]
The dice used range from d6 to d10 for different types (d6 for Recruits, d8 for Drilled and d10 for Elite) and hits are scored on a 5 or  6, so the common rabble aren't going to be great shakes in a combat!

Characters use d12 so are suitable heroic and have additional abilities which can assist troops in various ways.

The rules are designed around 7 factions although it would be very easy [and encouraged] to develop your own.  The factions listed include the Army, Civilian Mobs, Cultists, Covenanters, Highlanders, Outlaws, Raparees and Tribal.  Again each of these has a number of special abilities to make them distinctive.

So given that I don’t have any figures for this era what am I going to do with the rules....
Well, a couple of years ago I went through a not very well thought out phase of painting 28mm ECW figures.  I think I had a plan to build up  Covenanter and Royalist/Parliamentarian armies [I couldn’t decide which] but clearly my gnat-like concentration span  meant that was never going to happen.  It does however mean I conveniently have enough a couple of factions for  Donnybrook... some Pike and Musket armed troops and some Scots and Parliamentarian Cavalry.  The rules are aimed a t a slightly later period but wouldn’t take much in the way of tweaking to be ideal for the Civil Wars or the 30 Years War.
I’ve always had a bit of an interest in the 30 years war period ever since I read CV Wedgewood’s excellent [and snappily titled] “The 30 years War” and it would be a short hop from this to other similar genres such as Pirates, Three Musketeer *  style games etc. From some of the discussion on the LoA forums it looks as though there are plans to produce supplementary resources for later and earlier periods anyway as well as some ‘darker’ material....hmmm... Witchfinder General....
All of which gives me the perfect excuse to link to this... the best theme song of any ...erm...’historical’... drama.....


There’s a bit of rebasing to be done with the ECW figures before I can try the rules out but I’m already thinking of other periods that would interest me.  Barbary pirates are tempting but I’m not sure how easy figures would be to come by.  The whole Covenanter/Jacobite period is tempting too and  there seem to be a whole host of obscure early colonial wars in North America that I’d never heard of.  The period that tempts me least is the ‘big one’ for the span of the rules... the War of the Spanish Succession.  I can see the appeal for big army games but I’m not sure about lower level skirmish actions.

Overall the rules look very impressive... a combination of mechanics that I like and at a skirmish level that I'm increasingly preferring to larger battles.  Really nicely presented too.  Recommended [on the understanding that I haven't actually played them yet but have been swayed by the pretty pictures!!]

*  The Three Musketeers... I have to say I’m distinctly underwhelmed by the latest BBC offering on Sunday evenings.  It might have passed muster as a Saturday teatime programme in the same way that Merlin or Robin Hood did, but as a peak time Sunday night programme it’s a bit meh...



  1. Barbary pirates shouldn't be too difficult to source. Some generic troops in Arabic clothing with some painted as being of European origin, plus a few Janissaries as the "heavy" troops.

  2. I've succumbed as well, I've even bought 25mm figures....something I swore I'd never do again!!!!!

  3. Good review - I can see how you are drawn to the Flashing Blade, excellent tune, reasonable fast paced action & crap dubbing. Time I got out the box set again.

  4. I think the music was probably the best thing about it! Mind you I'm remembering it through a misty eyed 40 odd years so it may all have been crap!

  5. Agree re the three musketeers-my wife and gave up after the first episode!