Donnybrook: I repeat, nice wargame rules

Today, after more than five years, I finally played a game of Donnybrook.

Donnybrook is a fast game. I bought it in 2015 as an impulse buy, the rules looked fine and I happen to like the late 17th century. Brits remember that age as the age of Marlborough, Irish as the age of King Billy, we Dutch remember it as the golden age of the Blue Guard, that Dutch musketeer elite unit that would tear the SAS and Delta Force to pieces with their sabres, even in 2020. We ruled the waves, William ruled Britain and Holland withstood the Sun King. That age. During lockdown weeks, I finished my Wargames Factory soldiers and today I finally tried the simple skirmish rules that were shelved for so long. A mixed collection of 40-50 miniatures per side is enough for a casual game.

I think I can only repeat what Mark from Mark’s Gaming Blog published five years ago:

The basic rules only occupy 12 pages and are fairly simple. The central mechanic revolves around a card activation system where each unit/character has an individual card in the deck, plus there are ‘reload’ and ‘turn end’ cards. (…) I must admit to liking the card activation mechanic in games, particularly solo games but it can work well in opposed games with opponents who have a ‘relaxed’ attitude to winning/losing.
The second, key mechanic is the ‘Ability’ dice used by units; Recruits use D6, Regulars D8 and Elites D10 (note to self – must buy some more D8’s!). For shooting, close combat and rallying the unit rolls using their Ability dice type, generally requiring 6+ for success. The quality difference between troops is clear in the probabilities of success due to the dice scores achievable. There are few modifiers and saving throws are made for cover etc.
Whilst these two mechanics drive the game, the other rules are very basic and easily understood.

Me and my opponent understood the rules within half an hour and had a fun afternoon with strange twists and turns and a final dice-off in the end. A unit can do one action when activated. Action is always a 5+, or 6, no need to consult tables. Just roll the right ability dice.

The system is not ‘sophisticated’, that was clear, even after just one game. Only one action, random card activation, just 2 formations, units are routed easily: it’s not very tactical. However it’s good fun, just the joy of gentlemanly pushing tin with tricorne hats. A kitchen table game, a cartoon wargame for a happy afternoon.

Here’s a game pic.

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