Donnybrook. Skirmishing In The Age Of Lace.

I’ve always loved the stories, and especially films, where the hero is a swashbuckling, rapier wielding, lovable rogue.  (Not that anyone I know can explain to me how I can buckle my own swash… Sounds too painful anyway!)

Another era that we have never really ventured into is covered by these especially good rules, provided by the League of Augsberg.  Napoleonic gaming is vastly popular and the main focus of many players and games clubs.  The period just before this is the era of Donnybrook – Skirmish rules, 1660-1760. It covers the period of unrest in Europe that was seen before the Napoleonic wars and can be used to play games set in both Europe (The French Wars of Louis XIV) and America (the French Indian Wars). Britain id supported too with lists for games such as the Scottish Rebellions and Jacobite Wars.  It even leaves space to play games based on the Witch Trials and Persecutions of 1660s-1790s.

Army lists make up the majority of the book as the rules are surprisingly simple with games playing quickly and basic troops dying easily while heroes and characters proving slightly more resilient.

So far we have only tried the army lists that are based on conventional army troops, as these are the only suitable figures we have at hand.  The book does allows for militia forces, rebel forces, outlaws and civilian mobs too, making village raids and piracy possible as well.  Tribal forces, religious types and cultists are also possible, and the game sees the superstitions of the age as a major factor in play.  So much so, that the cultist list has hell hounds and ghouls: Normal dogs and men who’s image and effect is increased by the cultural superstitions and their ability to create fear in their enemies.


The book is well worth a look and a good read even if you just want to look into an era that is slightly under your radar.

The game itself is well worth a try as it is a breath of fresh air rather than another I go you go game.  With its card based activation system and random events the game turn never plays out the same twice in one game.


Our first game was played when we decided to just ‘have a go’ one afternoon… The first few bits of scenery we found were dumped on the table and my tiny collection of Napoleonic troops press ganged into action.


We picked up the basics in the first turn and the rest of the game went without having to refer to the book much at all.

Troops only activate when their unit card is drawn from a shuffled deck of cards that defines the turn sequence. Black powder weapons are only reloaded when the single reload card is drawn from the deck, and an end of turn card means that most turns end without some of the units activating, or often without any troops reloading.


The random factor will annoy some players but, as the book states, “if you don’t like a rule, don’t use it”.


We put a bit more effort into our second game and played one of the set games “The Raid” where one side tries to steal the supplies defended by the other.

My new market place stuff worked well as objectives and my Napoleonic and American Colonial troops lines up ready to defend the village.


2 colonial units defended the village and the French with their Native American allies were set to act as their reserves.  The British line and skirmish troops began their attack and rolled into the village as the French approached from the rear of the market hall.


A second smaller force of elite French troops along with their general advanced to protect the wagon on the left flank while coming under fire from British scouts holed up in the houses.


With the scouts stalling the French advance the British troops started making off with all the supplies they could grab.


One use for the British line infantry (who managed to miss with most of the shots that they took) is to run off with anything valuable.


By this point the Indians that were supposed to be helping the French had packed up and gone home. This was due in part to never getting their unit card to come out, and then being the unit affected by an event card that stated they were homesick. So off they trotted without making any impact on the game.


The French line were able to take back the stalls outside the market hall from the British but not save their general from being overwhelmed on the left flank when the British rushed in to snatch the wagon before the game ended.


We are really enjoying this game at the moment (the word count of this post should show that) and I will be investing in some suitable troops in the next months.

What force to start is the question?  Scottish Highlanders or British Grenadiers maybe…  I suspect our various pirate crews will be making an outing very soon, as they will fit well as outlaws.  I wonder where can I get some 17th century villagers…

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