I have previously reviewed Donnybrook by Clarence Harrison & Barry Hilton (Wordtwister Publishing 2013), based mainly on solo play. I therefore decided to trial a game at Devizes Wargames Club using my 1745 Jacobite and Government forces. The first game I played against Ian who used the Jacobite force. Initially The Government forces started strongly. My ‘regular’ Royal Marines deployed forward (using the attached ‘Scout’ character) and unleashed a volley which devastated a highland unit (and knocked out their ‘Bard’ character). My militia unit shot a couple of highlanders who were deployed forward on a rough hill. These highlanders were then charged by my regular horse and wiped out! (so, cavalry can be useful). Two Jacobite units KO’d for little lost to myself, this was a good as it got for me. The Jacobite leader and a bunch of highlanders then charged around a wood into my horse and routed them (they had a morale dice roll of 1). This is the stage of the game photographed below. The leader’s highland unit then continued to charge my militia, who were beaten and routed (another morale throw of 1). Next another highlander unit charged my Royal Marines and forced them back. I did manage to wound the Scots bagpiper, which I classed as a moral victory for the government cause. At this point my army was below 50%, so further morale checks needed to be done, and guess what, my Royal Marines routed (another throw of 1!). Finally the Jacobite leader charged my leader and the two spent the rest of the game duelling with each other. At this point I conceded the game because I had only a single unit still functioning. Game, set and match to Ian’s Jacobites.
Figure 1: First game. The government militia about to die!
The game only lasted 90 minutes, so a second club member, John, who had watched the first game offered to replay using the Jacobites. I again deployed my Royal Marines forward to enable them to unleash some deadly volleys into the Jacobites. Their activation card never came up and they were overwhelmed by a screaming highlander horde. On the other flank a group of highlanders crashed into my horse, who had moved to intercept them, killing my noble cavalry to a man. The victorious highlanders continued their charge into a regular infantry unit, who failed to fire! The ensuing melee was a convincing win for the highlanders, only my drummer managed to take out an opponent. Three government units down and my lone militia unit almost surrounded. It was time to give up and go home!
Figure 2. Second game. Before things went wrong.
So what was the verdict on the rules? Both games were fast paced and fun. The use of different dice to represent differing quality of troops worked well. There was a strong feeling that luck, particularly in the card activation sequence, dominated the games and that victory or defeat was not due to a player’s skill or decisions. I certainly found that throwing only 1’s when testing morale was disastrous, and I yet again found the ‘drummer’ character was very useful to the government forces. Both Ian and John very quickly picked up the rules, they did not even need to refer to the QRS to play the game, and quickly took on the aggressive highland characteristic of their army. I think John would have preferred to play without the ‘end of turn’ card, which would allow all units to move in a turn (a mechanism also suggested in the rules themselves), but he understood the rational for including it. As new players, both Ian and John, spent some time flicking through the Donnybrook rulebook and they commented that it was very pretty but contained rather too much ‘fluff’. Also, they found the inclusion of the ‘Cultist’ faction strange. I don’t think that either will be inspired to fork out £27 to get their own copy of the rules, but I think they would be very happy to play in future games that I might arrange.