Sunday, 10 April 2016

Donnybrook - French Indian War

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One of the three three games featured at this month's club meet was this Donnybrook meets Hawkeye and Chingachgook using Mr Steve M's growing collection of 28mm French Indian Wars figures.

I had dabbled with this set of skirmish rules back in December last year with a scenario set up in Deepest Darkest Congo during our Xmas gathering at Chez Carter.
Deepest Darkest Africa with Donnybrook - JJ's Wargames

In that game Chas had made some adaptions, as the rules encourage you to do, to cater for a large number of players. This series of games, as we managed to play three scenarios during the day, was a smaller set up and thus allowed as to play the rules in their more purest form, ie as written using reload cards and special events, plus all the main types of characters.

During the day we played three fairly standard skirmish type game scenarios starting with an Escort mission, with a British escort accompanying a party of important ladies, an ammunition and pay wagon, attacked by a French raiding party with a potential British relief force on the way.

We then had a go at a British Rear Guard mission aiming to hold the French forces from leaving the table via the British base line for a fixed number of turns and then a straight up Meeting Engagement off the march with two equal forces looking to break the other sides army morale first.

The table set up for the 'Escort' mission
The table you can see was used for the three missions with the different forces changing base edge for each of the missions that generated three very different fights, all of which I ended up playing various factions losing - Jack, I still say you are a bandit!!

As we changed things around through the day I grabbed some pictures of the action, principally from the Escort and Rear Guard missions, for your amusement; and with a seemingly endless supply of skirmish level rule sets hitting the market and with myself just having ordered Sharp Practice 2 this week, thought I would share my impressions of how these rules play.

All round defence as the ladies take shelter in the main house during the "Escort" mission
The Donnybrook rules use a card driven system with cards in the deck representing the various single figure characters (Officers, sergeants, drummers, heroes - these characters have special effects options to add a little spice to the game); in addition there are the unit cards and event cards including, special events and reload fired weapons.

All the game activities are driven by the draw of these cards and the deck is reshuffled on the drawing of the Turn end card. All very straight forward.

Colonel McCloud commands the regulars to help protect the wagons on the road
Units and characters test for their ability to successfully perform actions once activated by the use of various numbered dice (D6, D8, D10, D12) requiring a 6+ to pass and obviously with the better ability reflected in the higher dice used.

There is a point system in the rules to work out the number of units you can field and their quality determined by faction (army, outlaws, civilian mob etc) and table size (4' x 4', 6' x 4') which simply determines whether you get to field a 4, 6 or 8 unit force, with units ranging from 4 elite, 8 drilled or 12 recruit infantry figures. The cavalry units, which we were not using, range from 3 elite, 6 drilled and 9 recruit troopers.

Rangers cover the rear as the British go 'firm' in the "Escort" mission
Our forces generally had one elite, two or three drilled and a couple of recruits or variations on that theme, to include Indian and Irregular forces.

In addition we fielded characters such as drummers who for example would give +d3 inches on movement or sergeants who could order a unit to reload instead of waiting for the reload card and others.

French irregular forces move in
Donnybrook are a well worked through set of rules and we found they give a fast and furious entertaining game without overtaxing the grey matter.

French regulars block the road preventing escape and relief
That said, the group of players at yesterday's game are all 'grognards' of the black powder, horse and musket era and inevitably we were wanting to have range bands and different reload rates for rifles over muskets, which the rules don't specify. However we were soon testing our own variations to cater for our own peculiar demands on the rules and I think here lies the strength in them, in that the basic structure seems very accommodating to individual tastes.

French militia move up through the woods
I know that might not be to everyone's taste, especially to those that have grown up with rules that 'chapter and verse' every possible situation and challenge their desire to find a way of breaking them. I am glad to say we don't have players like that in the DWG and thus we are able to model the games we want to play bringing to bear the vast amount of knowledge and gaming experience we have in the club. These rules are perfect for that approach.

More French regulars prepare to move in
The French firing line - pushing forward in the "Rear Guard" mission
Throughout the day we found ourselves comparing the play with "Muskets and Tomahawks" another skirmish set aimed specifically at the period we were playing. Of the two sets, I think I slightly prefer Donnybrook, but would happily play either.

The British rear guard defenders hold the line as the pressure grows
As I said in the preamble, I have just ordered up the Sharp Practice bundle having been following the thread of posts put out by the Lardies over recent weeks and I look forward to play testing them in time, so it will be interesting to compare.

French fire increases as the British prepare to pull back
As a keen horse and musket player I am looking for a 'turn to' set of skirmish rules that allow for a good modelling of those lower level actions that characterised all of the campaigns of the era and also give a fun game easily picked up and played.

Donnybrook definitely falls into the list of options and if you haven't played them, then keep them on the list of possible options.

The French light forces led by the Indians feel out the flanks
The two lines close and swap volleys
Skirmish fire from the tree line
Thanks to Steve M, Jack and Vince for a very entertaining afternoon in the wilds of French Canada and three good games of Donnybrook, probably the most scenarios I have played with one rule set in an afternoon at club.


  1. It all looks very pretty mate. Just like being there.

    I am in two minds about the Donnybrook rules. I think "Muskets & Tomahawks" gives a more rounded game, but Donnybrook still has a good feel and is very fast paced. One thing is sure though and that is that you couldn't have played three scenarios in one day with Muskets & Tomahawks.

    I guess you pays your money and takes your choice.


    1. Quite agree Vince, I think all rules, skirmish or otherwise have their pros and cons and will appeal to different folks for different reasons. As you say complexity is not an issue with these and I think when we need a set in the club to cover the big multi-player games such as Chas' Congo game these rules have a lot going for them.

  2. It was good days gaming, thanks for playing 'in the spirit' and not giving me too many headaches! 'No you can't unload the wagons and use them as barricades, or unhitch the horses and ride off Jon'! Maybe next time!
    I like the rules. Yes they are simpler than M & T, but they have some nice touches, and as the authors point out, if you don't like something change it! We adapted the 'drilled' Indian units in the final game, thinking them too powerful firing with 8 x D8, so reduced it to 3.
    All in all a good day was had. Never mind Jon, even if you did kill more of your own side with misfires........

    1. Yes good fun to play and with plenty of flex, dare I say, to build in unhitching horses and building barricades. Those misfires were a big of a problem, still I reckon everyone has to have there run in with 'Fortuna' at some time in the year so I am just pleased to have got my run of bad luck out the way fairly early in the year.

  3. Great looking table and figures! Since you are discussing rules, have you tried "This Very Ground?" I've read or played "everything" I could find for this period and I've become a real fan of TVG.


    1. Thank you Chris, I can't say I had heard of "This Very Ground" until you mentioned them and I see they have their supporters on the various forums. I must say I do like card driven turn mechanisms and am looking forward to the Sharp Practice use of chits as an alternative with the special attributes of the units and the events all determined by them, but thanks for the recommendation, always nice to have options.

  4. Great looking games, I've yet to play a game of Donnybrook yet, I've had a few run thoughs, with squares of card and really like the way they seem to work! Fingers crossed for a game real soon!

    1. Thanks Ray, I was looking at your review of the rules when I put this post together so I was surprised you hand't played a game yet. As per my comments above, I think they are well put together with plenty of scope for tailoring to the players content and ideal for a big multi-player game.

      Congratulations on you and your blog being recognised on Miniature Wargames. Well deserved.

  5. Interesting feedback and a lovely looking game! I've been using Donnybrook for a while now and fall in love with it more each time. Good points about the range bands and the instinctive feel to it. It's nice to see it being used for other periods and 'theatres' - I'm using it for ECW skirmishes, and it's working well more info on my blog! No tweaks as yet, but as you say, very adaptable! Thanks for the pictures, and looking forward to more reports!

  6. i really like Donnybrook as a rules set, and they are very flexible. We used them for colonial NW Frontier.