Tuesday, September 26, 2017

DonnyHammer 1.0

Hi all,

Once I had my terrain boards and houses completed I started to really itch for an opportunity to get them on the table for a game.  I've also been getting pressure from my local gaming friends to host another game...and I've been wanting to give the Donnybrook rule set a try on my own.

I've played a couple of low key games with My Boy Airborne Grove in the past but hadn't tried to host one myself...and that required gaining a more complete understanding of the rules and adapting them as much as possible to the Warhammer world and "feel."

If you are not familiar with Donnybrook...well you should be!  This is a fantastic set of historical rules written by Clarence Harrison and Barry Hilton.  The rules are focused on skirmish sized battles in the late 17th and early 18th centuries...though Clarence does include some basic pointers for how to add some fantasy elements to the game as well.  The game has a number of really interesting features...the two most prominent of which are the Card based activation system...and the use of different dice to represent different quality troops.

With the Card based Activation you break the monotony of IGoUGo play...which is standard in warhammer games.  This adds a real tension to the game as it is unclear when your (or if) a particular unit will get to move again.  There is a card for each unit and character in both forces...these are shuffled between each turn so come out in a random fashion.  There is also a Turn End card in the deck which can cut any turn short unexpectedly.

The dice mechanism is equally interesting.  Most actions...shooting...combat...leadership etc. all have a target number for success (typically 5 or 6)...but as the quality of your troops increases so does the number of sides on the dice they use for that test.  Raw recruits use a D6...and therefore have a hard time achieving their goals....while elite troops use a D10 and have a much higher chance of success...heroes use a D12 etc....its very clever and works great in practice.

The challenge comes in adapting this system to Warhammer forces without losing the "warhammery" feel of the game.  I feel I had mixed success with this aspect of the game...but see plenty of area for improvement.

For my game with my local crew I pulled together a mixed bag of "Good guys" consisting of some of my Bretonnian collection and some of my dwarfs.

For the "Bad Guys" I used some of my Orcs, Chaos Dwarfs and a friends Skaven  troops (sadly I did not get a good studio shot of them).

We played a general encounter battle...with no particular mission other than driving the enemy from the field.

The game played out very smoothly without needing to reference the rules overly much.  There was a period of adjustment as we were all new to the rules and all our previous gaming had been with Rogue Trader or WFB 3rd edition.  Plus, other than my stalwart companion Bob (who supplied the Skaven), the other three players are only casual wargammers...the type that rely on me to supply figures, terrain, and rules...but bring a lot of enthusiasm, laughter...and beer to the the game.

Anyway...here are a few more pictures...

In the end I think that most people like the card activation system...though there was a bit of grumbling...particularly when units failed to move at all for a couple of turns. In particular the right flank of the Good Guys force was immobile for a couple of turns in a row.

In an effort to make the game play a bit more like Warhammer I had opted to make the range of bows and crossbows 24 inches...instead of the 12 inches suggested in the Donnybrook rules.  This may have proven to be a mistake as missile fire dominated the game to a large degree.  In particular the attack by the Goodies left flank was decimated by missile fire from the bad guys right flank...which had watched their own left flank destroyed in much the same way by the good guys archers earlier in the game.

For future games I will reduce range to 18 inches and see how that works...perhaps increasing saving throws for the victims of missile fire would be another option.  Also additional terrain would be helpful...the wide open space in the middle of the board was just a killing ground for missile troops.

One other area that I feel needs addressing is the fact that with Donnybrook being a historical set of rules the heroes are powerful...but not in the way they are in Warhammer.  Namely they have just one attack...like normal humans would.  This left many of the players feeling unsatisfied with the heroes and large models (ogres) and in the future I will adopt multiple attacks for heroes and elite troop...perhaps 2 attacks for D10 units/characters and 3 attacks for D12 characters and monsters.  This should allow them to have a more impressive influence on the battle without becoming over powered.

Overall this was a great game...and while we identified some rules that needed refinement we had a lot of fun playing...and of course that is the main goal of any game.  I highly recommend the Donnybrook rules to any interested skirmish player and feel they provide a very adaptable framework for modification to fit alternative environments like Warhammer fantasy.  Stay tuned I'm sure that further adventures in DonnyHammer will be forth coming soon.




  1. Yuuuuuuuuuuus!!!! Can't wait to play some more in NOv. ;)

  2. Sounds a little like Stargrunts 2, they use the same dice mechanic. I'm not a fan of the card activation, for the reasons illustrated during your game i.e. units potentially not moving at all.....pretty nonsensical IMHO.

    I'm interested to see how you develop Donnybrook for WFB Blue. It looks like it has potential.

    Cool table by the way :)

    1. Yeah the end turn card can be removed if it becomes too much of a problem...but as Clarence adds below it can add some interesting narrative aspects to the story/game as well which are kind of fun.

      Thanks for the comment on the table...I'm so happy to finally be able to put it to proper use!

  3. Great terrain and army shots. I particularly like the orc character vs. dwarf character showdown

    1. Thanks Anthony! Any chance you are coming to the Jerz this fall?

  4. Looks like an interesting game, and worth persevering with.

    1. I hope so! A few more tweaks and adjustments and I think we are on a winner...particularly for afterwork small quicker games.

  5. First of all your table looks absolutely fantastic! This seems like it was a good game, hiccups not withstanding. Your comment about attacks got me thinking, why not just use the number of attacks stat from Warhammer? Friends who bring beer and a good attitude? Sounds perfect.

    1. Thanks Sean! Thats kind of the way I'm leaning for attacks...though there are not as many "levels" of heroes in Donnybrook as there are in WFB...so that has to be adjusted for. I like the idea of D10 units/characters each getting two attacks and D12 Characters/monsters getting 3...That makes the small (4 model) Elite units more powerful and give the heroes a bit more teeth as well.

  6. This looks great. I actually do use multiple attacks for characters in my RT games. I also tend to use 24" ranges in fantasy, but my current armies are Chaos and Undead and I have a total of five crossbows on the board so it's not an issue. Certainly tweaking things depending on the armies and scenario is heartily encouraged!

    I get the part about not enjoying the card aspect when units aren't moving. It is easy to drop the turn over card. However, once you're use to it, it can become part of the narrative. Why did that unit of horse advance on turn one and then stand and get shot to pieces for three turns? Maybe they stumbled into a mire or encountered a hidden ditch. Maybe the officer is drunk or paralyzed with fear and uncertainty. Its not much different than Warmaster when you cast miserable dice in the command phase or Blood Bowl when your Ogre somehow sends up with 'both down' with a clear advantage on his blocking roll.

    The card mechanics tend to even out during the course of a game, but unpleasant issues are more pronounced with large forces or multiplayer games.

    I've seen people use two turn over cards and end the turn only after both have been drawn. I've also seen someone place the turn over card on the corner of the table and the turn ends after one of the sides have gone through all of their cards after that (this usually only leaves a couple of enemy cards unplayed). Or again, just leave it out if you don't like it. The unpredictable turn sequence is still better than IGOUGO to me.

    When I get my current book done, I am going to put together a free PDF tool kit for running Rogue Trader that addresses some of the issues for keeping the Warhammer in Donnyhammer.

    Great to see so many folks taking the core set and making it their own which is absolutely in the spirit it was intended!

    1. I'm so glad you responded Clarence!! thanks for your thoughts and open attitude toward people using your rules.

      I certainly used too many missile troops and too little terrain so that will take some adjustment as well. maybe also making missile troops on D6 units would be a good way to go. Anyway thats an easy variable to adjust.

      As to the Turn over card...it didn't bother me much and as you said it basically evened out over the course of the game....this is where having a GM can really pay off as well...if the Turn over card is causing too much trouble it can be removed or reshuffled or ignored...whatever.

      I;m very interested to see how you adapt things to the RT "universe" particularly with area effect weapons etc.

      Keep up the good work and I hope we get to roll dice together some time in the future!