Welcome to Platoon Forward!

Welcome to the site where the story of the battle is as important as the battle itself. Here we will focus on men thrust into extraordinary situations of life and death. They must lead other men with duty and honor to meet their countries objectives. Some will be blessed with great skill, some will carry great shortcomings. No matter what nation, no matter what war, no matter what theater, they are all called to move their Platoon or Squadron forward!

These are their individual stories as played out using my various campaign rules . Hopefully these stories will entertain and inspire you to use your own troops, airmen and sailors to accomplish your own great heroics.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Donnybrook/ Analysis and AAR

After 4 games of Donnybrook am starting to get me head around the rules.  Read my review of them and thought, good review but no analysis.  If I had handed this in at the pentagon my boss would have handed it back!     So here is my anaylsis of Donnybrook.  Read the review from 7 Feb and then come back...

What I like about Donnybrook is the musket reload card.   Sharp's Practice doesn't have this and it is a great idea.  To be fair to SP, most of those weapons are rifles but it is a great idea.  It adds unpredictability to the reload sequence. ( have to figure out how I am going to do rifles!)  I like the card activation in general as I play 90% solitaire and this mechanism is very solitaire friendly.  Changing the type of dice is novel and I will see if I like it.   For hand to hand I think it works brilliantly and you can differentiate your hero (d12) from some scrub sailor (d6 or 8).  As readers of this blog know I have been looking at how to do boarding actions for my pirate games.   Donnybrook is the answer almost unmodified!  The only modification it needs is for combat to be simultaneous.  There are instances (such as first round of boarding) where the defender should go first but the rules state that the attacker normally goes first.  This is just too much of an advantage to me and I have played it simultaneous after the first two games and it playes very well.   There are not a ton of but several well thought out modifiers that give the combat flavor.   It is very bloody but I would expect a Donnybrook to have men quickly out of the fight.  (not neccessarily killed)    I also love the wound table you roll if a character is hit.  It is tied to the type of die so a bigger big man has less chance of being hurt or killed; elegant!!   The factions are also well done.  The characters by and large are useful, add color and are not too powerful or gamey.  This is what is slowly turning me off to SAGA. 

What I don't like about Donnybrook is that after playing Sharp Practice the combat in the open seems suicidal.  These are muskets not rifles and I can't get anyone across open ground.  In SP you need a 5-6 to hit on a D6 at short range.  then you roll a save with 1-2 being a miss, 3-5 being shock and a 6 being a kill.  In DB you need a 6 to hit and there is no saving throw. That seemed much deadlier upon reading and in practice this has proven to be the case.   My asaulting units always get 50% casualties then roll a 1 or 2 on morale and rout or retreat.  Now mathimatically this shouldn't happen but it continues. I am not am expert in this period but one of these two game systems has it a bit off.   While we are knocking the shooting,  unlike the Donnybrook sequence which has a few elegant modifiers, there are no modifiers for muskets other than being in close order-- boo.  Now I understand I don't need to hold my fire until I see the whites of their eyes but it would be cool if I had too!  The last thing I was disappointed about was the morale rules.  They have been kept intentionally simple but they are a bit too simple for my taste.  They don't kick in until 50% of your unit is gone and then you either retreat or are removed from the board.  This just doesn't seem as elegant and well thought out as other parts of the rules.  I was hoping for some wavering and a chance to stop routing troops.

Despite the shortcomings I think it is a very good set of rules.   As stated in my review it offers a lot, particularly for someone not well versed in the period.  It is easy to make a game complex.  It is a tribute to Clarence that Donnybrook is relatively simple.  The structure is there for the gamer to add his own level of complexity should he wish too.   Highly recommended!

Break Break-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Since this blog is suppose to be about battles I will give you one.   I have started to add my house rules to Donnybrook.  These include variable movement, new morale, saves in the open for muskets, new leadership rules and two tea break cards instead of one.   So far I am going to call this "Donny Practice."   Off course once the rules are set I will roll this into a campaign format of "For King and Country."    I take you now to Tangiers and Lt Prescot of the 21st regiment of foot...

"Prescot!  I need you to take a cannon over to the bastion we are building over near the west side of town.  These Wahlahs are all over so take some men with you to ensure the cannon gets there." 

So Lt Prescot's adventure in Tangier begins.  The men are still settling in so he takes a dozen including a promising Corporal named Tenison.   They meet the four naval crew and off they go.

Lt Prescot   D10  LvL 2     Gambler/ wealth
Cpl Tenison D8   Lvl 0      Pragmatic/ religious
standard bearer  11 drilled soldiers
Petty Officer Childs  D8  LvL0 and 3 drilled sailors + 1 light cannon.

 The board with the Berbers in hiding!

 Lt Prescot leads his men!

 The evil natives lie in hiding!

Suddenly the sky darkens with arrows  and two men fall from the lead column. 

 Banshees break from cover to attack the column.   The English are momentarily stunned!

 The Wahlahs are on the cannon before the Navy knows what hit them.  The Tars beat a hasty retreat under the Arab wrath.

 Cpl Tennison gets his men into a firering line.  Will they get off a crushing volley in time? 

 The Arabs are too fast.   The Donnybrook is furious as both sides loose two men.  (I  play simultaneous.)  Unknown to the Corporal at the time, one of the Berbers he knocks unconcious is actually a well respected Berber fighter.  Mercifully, the Wahlahs don't like english short swords and retreat back to the palms!  ( In the event of a tie both sides take a morale check.) 

Meanwhile back at the head of the column...

Lt Prescot recovers his senses orders his men out of column and fires at the advancing calvary.  (Being a lvl II leader helps! )  Of course my die rolling continues and 3 of the 4 horsemen are slain in the open even with a saving throw.  
 Lt Prescot takes stock of his situation.   He has 4 men at the back of the column.  2 sailors and 4 men left at the front with arrows starting to rain down that kill another man.  While his men are reloading the archers put down their bows, draw swords and ...
CHARGE!    The fighting is furious and our Lt is in the thick of it for two rounds.  Two additional troopers fall and our Lt is severly wounded but three of the horsemen are slain.  The final one turns and leaves to go back to his evil lair. 

Great game and I was please that my changes enhanced the game for me.   Still working on the musket fire in the open.   Will play a couple more games with a 6 saving throw and see how it works.  Maybe I am missing something.   I really had fun though and that is what counts.   For those whishing to try this the Natives had

Leader  mounted   D10
4 elite calvary bows and long swords
4 drilled calvary  spears/ shields
Sgt d8 long sword shield
6 raw infantry with spears or long swords and shields   I would probably give them 8 if playing again.

Natives set up hidden.   Don't forget English get -1 morale against natives.   




  1. In your analysis of the rules you mentioned your boarding action and that the defenders should fight first, this is what happens in DB. Normally the attacker fights first except when troops are defending an obstacle in which case they fight first.

    During all the playtesting we did with the rules we never found muskets to be that effective since they can't move and shoot if in open order they can shoot in any direction but if they are in close order they can only shoot at targets directly in front of them.

    Units take morale when they lose a round of combat as well as losing 50% casualties.

  2. Joe, I've used Donnybrook for lots of Napoleonic games. The only changes I used are dropping the move or fire from muskets, rifles ARE move or fire and have a 30" range, and drop the misfire from black powder weapons (I believe they were more reliable by the 19th century).

    I love the fact that you've found it easy to tweak things to the kind of game you enjoy!

  3. David,
    Correct on the rules but normally the attacker goes first; why?
    Regarding muskets, I wonder why I am having the problem. I know I am rolling well. In the Tangier scenario my 5 musketeers rolled 3 sixes thereby stopping the Berbers in their tracks. I 5 games I have only had 1 instance where forces have crossed in the open to engage in close combat and survived a volley of fire. Was it really that deadly? My WW II forces do better.
    Love the game- trying to figure out musket fire. Have read that rifles are much more labor intensive to load. Would you add two reload cards to the deck?
    Meant what I said about designing a simple game. It is hard to do. The temptation is to make it ubercomplicated. My hat is off to you sir!


    1. If you add two Reload cards, everyone reloads faster! The move or fire rule is to simulate the loading... that's why I removed the move or fire from muskets, but keep it for rifles. You could try requiring rifles to need TWO appearances of the reload card for rifles to be ready, but you may find them severely handicapped. The reload card doesn't always come up every turn...

  4. Joe, the reason the attacker goes first is because there's no plus for charging so they get first hit, this is negated if the defender is behind cover and they get first hit.
    I wish I could roll as many 6's as you 8-)

  5. Clarence,
    Sorry I didn't expalin well-- I meant requirering two reload cards for rifles. You are right they might never get to fire then. If it works for you and Nappy's I will try it that way when I get there.
    I have never been in actual hand to hand combat, only training. Is charging that much of an advantage? For cavalry I understand but for a man? My musketeers do see to have a hot hand; wish I had the same hot hand for saving throws!
    Thank you both for the explanations.


    1. Hand to hand combat can be lethal, especially if you have a close order unit of pikes, even if they have been charged.
      I assume because you keep rolling 6's you won't be affected by the misfire rule for muskets? Our mate Gerry seems to inflict more casualties on his own units with the number of misfires he rolls, He has lost 5 in one game we played.

    2. I think the misfire rule is neat. It has happened occasionally.


  6. Now that I have done a little reading about Tangiers I realize that Lt Prescot should be in the Tangier's regiment, not the 21st of Foot and the flag is all wrong!
    (I already knew the uniforms were wrong but these guys are also going to be in the AWI.)


    1. I wouldn't worry about minor details like that Joe, I would just concentrate on having fun.