Monday, July 8, 2013

Donnybrook

Clarence Harrison - Donnybrook is a set of skirmish rules for 1660-1760 due out later this summer. The impetus to create the game came from a conversation I had with Barry last year. We were discussing the various projects we had in the works and talking strategy for increasing our market presence (mostly BS-ing actually but didn't that sound professional?), when I mentioned that I thought we really needed a way to introduce new players to the period and a skirmish level game seemed like the perfect vehicle. The model seems to have been very successful in other periods, so why not in ours? Players could collect and paint a very reasonable number of models (Warfare Miniatures would be perfect for this) and get gaming straight away. Barry readily agreed and then asked if I had something we could use...

As it turns out, I actually did. I have been using my own rules for skirmish battles for a decade and have used them with everything from Warhammer Fantasy models to late 19th century Colonial Africa. I laid out the basics of the game for Barry on the phone and he said, " Sounds great... Get writing!"

First of all, my contribution to our partnership thus far has been limited to making the books look good... Layouts, artwork, photos. I have helped with game design in small measures (and mercilessly flogged the skirmisher rules in Republic to Empire from a paragraph to a full chapter) and provided feedback on mechanisms, but my actual writing has been limited to introductions and a short essay on painting in BLB2. I've done plenty of writing in other genres, but never really attempted to write wargames rules for actual publication. My skirmish rules were on one side of a single sheet of paper because that was one of the parameters I set when I designed them. I had a lot of writing to do!

Ok, to be fair, after "Get writing!" Barry added "Let me know what you need from me.", but I left that out initially because the first thing that went through my head was "Cr@p! He wants me to write it!" Barry is a published author many times over so being handed the reins felt a little surreal. In the end it wasn't as bad as I had imagined. The rules are solid, having been played many times over the years, and most of my work was taking the brief sentences I used to define an action for myself and make them clear to a wider audience. Barry and Dave O'Brien ran numerous games without the benefit of having me at the table and this proved invaluable as weaknesses were quickly exposed - normally in my explanations, not the rules themselves. Their games also helped to find the missing elements needed to take the rules from a generic set and ground Donnybrook firmly in the period.


The basic game of Donnybrook requires a force of four units of 3-12 models each, depending on their quality, and one character who represents the the player. Games are played on a 4x4' table. You can add additional units and additional characters as you like, as long as both sides use the same conventions, though you'll need a larger table as you increase the numbers! The game uses a card driven turn system, with a deck containing one card for each character and each unit on the table, one reload card (black powder weapons were notoriously slow to reload once fired), and one turn over card (reshuffle the deck... Yes, this means that not every model gets to act every turn!). When a character or unit card is drawn, they take a full turn - rally (if necessary), move, shoot, and melee. When their turn is finished, another card is drawn from the deck. There are several variations to the card system to allow you to tailor the action to the style of game you prefer.

Actions are resolved by throwing a die and comparing it to a target number to determine success or failure - shooting, for instance, requires a 6 or better to hit. Donnybrook uses those funny dice more commonly found in role playing games and the type of die you throw is determined by the quality of the model... d6 for recruits, d8 for trained soldiers and warriors, and d10 for elite troops. There are a short list of modifiers as well, but such things have been kept to an absolute minimum to speed play.


The rules are simple enough, but the heart of the game are the factions. These are 'army' lists designed to guide your force selection and add loads of period flavor. I worked out a rough format for the Army faction (the regular government troops of the age) and made few brief notes for other faction and character ideas and dropped the mess into Barry's lap to utilize his 20+ years of experience in the period. The results are fantastic. Besides marching government troops into battle, you can choose mobs of armed peasants, murderous brigands, religious fanatics, sinister cultists, ferocious highlanders, or tribal natives. Each faction is painted with a broad brush to allow the player to come up with his own narrative. For instance, an Outlaw force might be dashing highwaymen, desperate deserters, common brigands, wily smugglers, or swashbuckling pirates! 

While you can play the game perfectly well with a handful of units, Donnybrook is ultimately designed to be a character driven game. Once you have the basics of the rules in hand you will want to start adding these optional models. Each faction has a number of unique character models that allow you to enhance the performance of your units, hinder your foes, or grant a number of other special abilities to you force. Giving these characters names or even designing a backstory will add to the narrative element of your games...

We are nearing the book's completion. The main part of the book is finished and awaiting the final photos. There are a couple of chapters to write, but they should be done in short order. With our creative team consisting only of two very busy people, we don't try to set deadlines, but it is my hope to send the book off to the printer soon. Of course as we know more, we will post the news here!

35 comments:

  1. Sounds intriguing, Clarence. I will look forward to reading more in the future.


    -- Jeff

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  2. This sound like the game I have been looking for for ages now. Any idea on price point or when the release date is?

    Also would the game work for ECW?

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  3. I am currently exploring the possibility of custom sculpts to represent some of the key factions for Donnybrook which would mean factions could potentially be bought 'off the shelf' side by side with the rules.

    As the models would be period specific they would fit well with Warfare's current offer in terms of suitability in mainstream large scale games.

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  4. Really intriguing!
    What about, as the first supplement, a 'Gothic Horror' supplement?

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    Replies
    1. PS: the girl on the cover looks very 'Frazetta'!

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    2. Thanks, Abdul! If the rules are successful. We will explore lots of options. The core is very flexible and will work for almost any genre with appropriate mods.

      Frazetta was a huge influence on my career as an artist. Before I started working with Barry, most of my work was on fantasy and sci-fi projects. The damsel in distress was purposely painted in the character of a Frazetta style heroine.

      You can thank my wife. The initial draft of the character wasn't working and my wife merciless made fun of her... She even called her homely! Well, I guess I showed her...

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  5. Clarence and Barry, what about a Special Character pack for the different factions? Looking forward to the final set.

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  6. Now I'm curious - how would they translate to the 19th Century?

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    Replies
    1. Extremely well... I have used them for Napoleonic 'Sharpe-style' games.

      The core rules will work for any pre-vehicle period with mods for the weapons and armor. I haven't yet worked out rules for the mechanized age. You would have to devise your own factions and characters, but that's how I've played for years.

      To show the flexibility, my current project is to make them work for Lovecraft style horror games in the 1920's with small bands of adventurers and policemen battling cultists and Things That Should Not Be! These are purely for my own use, but some of the concepts (the effects of terror and insanity, the introduction of d20 monsters, etc) might be useful for a gothic horror genre. They also have me exploring rules for submachineguns and civilian vehicles so I am taking the first steps to true pulp era games.

      My mods for Napoleonic games may be the subject of a future article (or the subject of a new book)...

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    2. I've tried them for Indian Mutiny and the Vendee during the French Revolution by making a couple of simple changes for more up to date weapons but basically the rules were as they are written and worked extremely well.

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  7. Greg, you are in step with our thinking there. Just had that very conversation with Clibinarium at the weekend

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  8. Can't wait to see these in print. Gives me an excuse to base all of those individual Dixons individually.

    Tangiers, Raparees in Ireland, banditry during Tyrconnel's purges, patrol actions - all excellent excuses for scenarios I think.

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  9. Hi

    Sounds very interesting. Would be prefect for some "Snapphane" games during the Scanian Wars that I plan to run.

    Best regards Michael

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  10. We just played a King William's War version of a scenario a have written for Charles Grant's Wargamer's Annual 2013. I think Dave is going to write it up for the blog with some maps. It is different enough from the CSG version to be seen as new ie different theatre, different map, different variables.

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    Replies
    1. Most good skirmish scenarios can be adapted to almost any period and theater, since skirmishes (scouting, foraging, raiding, securing billets, getting intelligence, destroying items useful to the enemy) are a lot more constant across periods than big battles. I look forward to the writeup - and potential adaptations!

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  11. Any progress on these rules? Are they due out any time soon?

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  12. We are making all the right moves! Due out just before Christmas. Some trade press coverage in WI over the next couple of issues. We will be taking pre orders for the book in the latter part of November. Thanks for the interest!

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  13. Hi Barry. We playtested your rules on Crisis Antwerpen. Will there be rules for bows and medieval weapens inside, cause I read your side kick that he has played it in various non vehicle periods

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  14. Hello Bernard,
    yes the rules have capability for bows included already and medieval weapons would be covered under the following weapon types which are all included:
    Lance
    Pike/Long spear
    Heavy weapon: broadsword, pole arm, half pike, glaive or cut and thrust weapon
    Longsword
    Armour

    Should be OK for all of the above as these are written in.

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    Replies
    1. I can' t wait to have the Donnybrook game in my hands !!

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  15. Is there character advancement in the rules?

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    1. I have a very simple campaign system for Character advancement. There are lots of optional rules that didn't make it into the book for the sake of keeping things tidy and I will make most of this stuff available on this blog...

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  16. The rules do not provide a specific mechanic for character advancement. Characters are allocated/chosen one per unit. If you have a high quality unit the character is of equivalent quality. Characters can be detached from the unit they were 'bought' with and placed with a different quality unit. If you are running a narrative/campaign/game series then character advancement can be agreed between the players and should be fairly straightforward.

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  17. Rules are being finished at printers today. Binding next. This means pre orders will be up in the shop later today or tomorrow for shipping before January end.

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  18. Thank you for your replies.

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  19. And the point of the gratuitous scantily clad woman on the cover of a set of skirkmish rules is ... ?

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    Replies
    1. Well this was to titillate followers of The Duchy of Tradgardland as it has obviously done. http://tradgardland.blogspot.co.uk/

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    2. I think we may be straying into a very subjective area. For the record, my wife and daughter love the cover. They are more weirded out by wargamers they often tell me with a grin. For some individuals this may be risqué, I make no comment on that, each to his own. When I look around me everyday at billboards, tv, internet and movie advertising I see in the public eye, stuff that is way more un PC and nobody gives it a second thought. I respect your views RC but honestly cannot subscribe to them. If that cover stopped someone buying the book I would be astonished. If it is not for you then I accept that. I think you'd be missing a treat though!

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  20. >>Are you serious??????????

    Yes, basically. Go and show the cover to any women you know and ask them what they think about it.

    I'm looking forward to the rules but really, without wanting to sound too pc :) ask yourself would you be happy to show the cover to, say, your daughter, or women colleagues at work for instance?

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  21. My wife, my greatest critic, passed the cover. In fact she mercilessly made fun of my original draft of the character and I was forced to revise the painting. My MOTHER posted a link to the book on Facebook which included a pic of the cover...

    It was a conscious decision to mimic pulp era classic fantasy, despite the overall historical nature of the rules. Women I've met who are into gaming are generally not bothered with such stuff. My sister collects ERB Barsoom merchandise where women are always draped in jewels, gauze, and little else. Games Workshop sells armies of Witch Elves. There are model companies who make nothing but half-clad females. How about comic books? Outside of gaming and modeling, check out the covers of a few modern bodice rippers for the kind of thing acceptable to some women.

    I don't concern myself with political correctness. Most who would find the cover objectionable are not in our audience and give you weird looks anyway when you start talking about playing games with toy soldiers. I'm sorry if anyone is offended by the cover, but the general response has been overwhelmingly positive and I really won't debate this any further.

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  22. May I ask if the author is familiar with any of the TooFatLardies games specifically Sharpe Practice as the from what I read in your description sounds to be almost exactly the same activation mechanism?
    thanks
    Geoff

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    1. I've never read any of the TwoFatLardies books, but there are lots of games that use various forms of card mechanics. I think I first used the system in Wild West skirmishing with the Rules With No Name when they were first published in Wargames Illustrated #105 (?). There was one card per model and the Turn Over card that meant not every model got to act every turn. I adapted the system for my Darkest Africa games and then Napoleonics and Warhammer skirmishes in the tradition of Mordheim.

      I also played lots of Piquet and have a couple other games like GASLIGHT, The Sword and The Flame, and an unpublished (?) Horse & Musket game that was available from Wargames Foundry back when they first released their SYW range.

      I can see I now need to go buy Sharpes Practice or one of the other TFL publications because this is the second time I've been asked this... Sounds like I would enjoy them...

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  23. I think you will be surprised then how similar the systems are.
    I've played quite a few TFL systems (and am a big fan) so my interest was naturally piqued when hearing about the way your game plays. It is a very interesting approach in comparison with the traditional IGO-UGO methods.

    thanks
    Geoff

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  24. Ok, in the interest of full disclosure I found I DO own a PDF copy of Sharpe Practice. I've never played it and don't remember reading it beyond a scroll through. I probably bought it because I heard about the card system.

    The copy I have was published in 2008. My own Victory Without Quarter that uses card mechanics similar to Donnybrook has been available free on the web since 2006.

    I've been playing games with toy soldiers for twenty five years. I own more than a hundred rule sets. I suspect Richard Clarke and I share many of the same influences, including a love a Bernard Cornwell novels!

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