Finally got the Donnybrook rules I have wanted. Must commend Mr Hilton on his customer service as it was quite an ordeal to get the money paypal'ed to him!
Have played four games withe them so here are my impressions: be advised I have never met a set of rules I have totally liked!
First off the production values of the book are top notch. There are tons of colored (coloured if you are from the wrong side of the pond) pictures of well painted figures to inspire and the book is well layed out. It comes in at 110 pages so there is plenty to look at. There is no index but there is a separate quick referance sheet which answers 90% of questions.
The rules are card activation type with units getting to move or fire on their card. (Someone will say the rules state you can do both but practically musket units can't. ) Firering units having to roll a number (6) to achieve a hit. Each man gets to roll a die. The better drilled a unit the larger type of die (D6, D8 ect) it gets to use. Units in cover get a save roll. If you are hit you are dead. (Since units in the open don't get a save roll combat in the open is very deadly. ) Think Piquet at the skirmish level without impetis and you get the idea. They do include a "turn end" card and a "musket reload" card to add some chaos.
There is no variable movement unless you move through broken terrain then you roll 2 die and take the higher.
Morale does not come into play unless a unit is at 50% strength then the unit takes a morale check with each loss. This can result in retreating or routing off the board. The loosing unit in a melee (a donnybrook) also takes a moral check. Donnybrooks are handled similarly to firering except while there are a noticalbe abscence of modifers there, their are some cool modifiers here. As an example long swords and bayonets get a +1.
The rules also introduce characters which, as you might expect, add a lot of character to the game. A great thing about character is when they are killed they get to roll on the character killed table which will result in them being unconsious, killed, reduced in ability or barely scratched. There are also a list of "factions" that include government troops, outlaws, highlanders and the like. Each of these factions have their unique characters. These characters bring unique things to the table. For example, the highlanders have a piper. Any unit within the sound of him (a foot) can throw 2 dice for their morale check and take the better one. Most of the factions are written generically enough that the player can use them for many things. For example, Outlaws can easily be modified to be highwaymen in Scotland, smugglers on the continent or Pirates in the Carribean.
Factions included are government troops, civilian mob, covenanters, cultists, highlanders, outlaws, rapparees and tribal. These all look fun but the cultists and civilian mob seem gamey to me.
Next there is a section on weapons and special rules. This is helpful and it is short.
Afterwards is a section of events that can be used. While fun to read I don't think anyone would use these in a game. The effects of some are huge but some people might like them.
Next come 6 scenarios that are pretty standard fare.
The seventh scenario is not only well thought out but is shown in comic book format using painted miniatures! Very cool! I am going to order some Spanish just because of this scenario.
Finally the book ends with 20 pages of light history of various wars copiously illustrated with photos of miniatures. For people that are well versed in this time period and know how to paint the figures, this will be a waste; but for me I really enjoyed this part of the book.
Great looking pictures and history for novices
Best melee (Donnybrook) rules I have seen
Card activation easy for solitaire games
Factions are fun without being too gamey
Musket combat too deadly in open (I have only had one instance where a unit succesfully charged and managed to get into close combat with a musket unit. Have modified this to units in open get a saving throw of 6.)
Morale rules weak (I was expecting more meat here.)
These are a great set of rules and I recommend them. They are simple and fun. They are particularly useful if you do not know the period. I am tinkering with the morale rules and am going to incorporate Big Men into the system. It is a tribute to Clarence that his rules are sound enough to bear these changes. The other changes I have done are: variable movement and added a second Tea break card. ( Muskets are only reloaded if the card comes up before the first tea break card though.)