|Positions by the end of turn 1|
I also added a 10 man light infantry unit to each side, and rated one unit per side as elite (the Guardsmen and the Zepptruppen)
The first thing I noticed, unconnected with the rules on test, was that the multi-figure movement trays didn't seem to save that much time, and were in fact a bloody nuisance on occasion with the cluttered terrain. The trays were too wide to fit on my road sections, kept snagging on terrain items and sticking up and out in a most un-aesthetic manner. Units changing formation from line to column or vice-versa took just as long to pivot each figure in the tray as it would to move all the figures individually, and as the game progressed I gradually phased them out for most units. These trays would be excellent for playing big open field battles, but for busy terrain layouts like this one I'm going to go back to individual figures.
The next thing I noticed is that Macduff is clearly written for the larger wargaming table. Infantry in column along a road can get up to 18" a turn, cavalry easily 24". That can really tear up a 4' table, and meant that manoeuvring was going to be severely limited. However the number of figures I was trying to cram onto a small, tight terrain meant that I was almost forced to keep some troops in reserve
|It's not easy, being green|
|The Border Light Infantry discovering that the |
Guardsmen's bearskins make excellent cover.
In the centre, the Germans ran into something of a traffic jam in their deployment through the village. But once they'd gotten into good positions they were able to put out a very effective curtain of fire against the attacking British. They were also forced to split their artillery apart, one gun engaging the massed British artillery on the hill and quickly coming off the worst, the other facing up the main road and pouring fire into the flank of the British left-flank unit.
|Shock and Awe, Victorian style!|
|Bravely ran away, away...|
The Grenadiers and the other unit of infantry were slowly rallying, and it was at this point that I called the game in favour of the British.
|The penultimate turn - the Uhlans in the far distance were eventually |
whittled down to one man and the German infantry in the foreground
down to three before they both retired.
But on the whole I found the rules clear and concise and with enough tactical options to make it interesting. For example, there may be times when it might be best not to React to enemy fire - instead of the Grenadiers standing on the hilltop trading fire at a disadvantage with the better entrenched German infantry, they should have gritted their teeth and waited until their own activation, then either attempted a charge (where their Elite status would have evened the odds) or pulled back out of sight to Rally before attempting to advance again. If on the other hand the Germans had been supported by a second unit, the Guards would then have to endure their fire as well, suffering even more casualties and making the immediate Reaction option more favourable.
The Reaction system also cancelled out the big weakness of Igo-Ugo initiative systems, whereby the side who gets to fire first in a turn gains a great advantage. The Germans won every initiative roll in the game except the last one, but every British unit they targeted was able to fire back at full strength before taking casualties.
I believe these rules are aimed at a fairly open terrain layout, with most clutter and obstacles not portrayed on the tabletop but abstracted into the movement distances. It didn't take long to adjust things to my more cluttered countryside terrain.
As the German Uhlans showed, with 10 man cavalry and 20 man infantry units, a frontal cavalry charge against an unshaken infantry unit is a recipe for disaster, especially if they're ready to give Reaction fire before you contact them. But as the British Lancers showed, at the right place and time a cavalry charge can be devastating. And instead of barrelling straight into the Zeptruppen's position, they should have either withdrawn to cover, or continued up the road and around the Zeptruppen's flank, making their position unsustainable.
|All God's chillun gots guns.|
The pace of the game was pretty good - the first couple of turns took about 45 minutes to an hour each including a lot of reading and rereading the rules, but by the end of the game I was managing a turn in about a half hour (less as more units became ineffective or were destroyed). I'm confident that these rules could still play well with many more troops on the table, especially if you're able to play for a longer time.
To adapt Macduff for VSF would need a little bit of work. Tweaks to ranges and fire dice could give a bit more variety in weaponry, with vehicle movement distances set by vehicle type and size, comparable to infantry and cavalry. A weapon vs vehicle damage system would have to be constructed from whole cloth, or transplanted from another game.
If I were to play this scenario again with MacDuff, I'd switch to three 10-man units per brigade, with fewer Brigadiers. Cavalry charges are more likely to make it home against 10 man units, plus you're more likely to see shaken units being rallied back up to 75% (actually 80%) strength, which means you're more likely to see units attacking, bouncing, pulling back to Rally then being thrown back into the fight.
To some up, "With MacDuff to the Frontier" gives a really enjoyable game of toy soldiers, with enough options and tactical choices to make it mentally challenging, and with an overall result that feels "realistic". I definitely want to play it again, both solitaire and with a human opponent, even if I don't choose to adapt it for VSF gaming.