Friday, 11 May 2018

Darkest Africa: Donnybrook

Another week, another set of rules - this week it was Donnybrook, from the League of Augsburg team -

I'm looking for a set of rules (a) to use for a display game at our clubs show (, and (b) to use as a generic skirmish set that we can dip into from time to time without having to spend time re-learning a complex set of rules every time we play.

I'd heard good things about Donnybrook, which seems to me to be a cross between Sharp Practice and Bolt Act action, with a mechanic that I particularly like which is the different dice sizes to match different abilities (d6, d8, d10, d12). Though it is period specific, apparently it started out life as a Darkest Africa set, and is readily amendable in true toolkit fashion!

I have added some more terrain and figures to my setup this week, including some native villagers, a corral and animals, a campfire and an extra foot of table (making 5' x 3') complete with dedicated village tile.


The game itself used some amendments I'd knocked up (liberally borrowing some ideas from the Chris Peers set 'In the Heart of Africa'.

The Forces


1 x Native Chief (Character)
1 x Witchdoctor (Character)
1 x Warriors (in 5s)
3 x Spearmen (in 5s)
1 x Musketeers (in 5s)
2 x Archers (in 6s)
1 x Pygmy Archers (in 6s)


1 x Explorer (Character)
1 x Allied Zanzibari Sheik (Character)
1 x White Men (in 3s)
1 x Soldiers (in 4s)
1 x Heavily Armed Askari (in 4s)
2 x Askari (in 5s)
2 x Allied Zanzibari Askari (in 5s)

Unit Statistics

Native Chiefd12d10d12d12Assegai: Heavy Weapon; Shield: ParryReroll misses in combat
Witchdoctord10d10d10d10Staff: Heavy WeaponCurse
Warriorsd8-d8d8Assegai: Heavy Weapon; Shield: Parry 
Spearmend8-d8d8Spear: Martial; Shield: Parry 
Musketeersd6d6d6d6Old Musket: Range 16"; Reload; Misfire; Hand Weapon 
Archersd6d6d6d6Bow: Range 12"; Move and Fire 
Pygmy Archersd8d8d6d8Pygmy Bow: Range 10"; Move and FireTreat soft cover as hard cover
Henry Morton Stanleyd12d12d12d12Rifle: Range 30"; Hand WeaponDisciplinarian
Shiek Y'Abouted10-d10d10Big Chopper: Heavy WeaponRe-roll misses in combat
White mend10d10d8d10Rifle: Range 30" OR Pistol: Range 10", Move and Fire; 
Soldiersd10d10d10d10Rifle: Range 30"; Hand Weapon 
Askarid8d8d8d8Musket: Range 24"; Reload, Hand Weapon 
Heavily Armed Askarid8d8d8d8Rifle: Range 30"; Hand Weapon 

I decide to drop some of the dice a grade, to reflect some of the ideas I had about ability. The differences between Warriors and Spearmen in the native faction are there to reflect different styles of fighting...something I may tweak in future. Also, because the muskets were mainly modern, I judged that Misfire wouldn't be appropriate. We kept it for the poorly maintained native musketeers though, and reduced their range accordingly.

I made up a set of cards using a double-sided colour printer, and some Ultra Pro Regular Toploaders (set of 25) which were excellent for the purpose.

The Scenario

The scenario was essentially a rules learning exercise.

The explorers were looking for safe passage for their caravan, and a group of Zanzibar Merchants had offered to show them the way.....of course, the Zanzibar player had a side mission, in that they were really slavers, and had to capture some of the villagers.

The natives were aware of the slavers presence, and simply had to defend their village.

The Game

The natives deployed across a broad front, archers on the wings, with pygmy archers in ambush.

The Explorers and their Zanzibar allies entered the table in line, just in case their was trouble!

Stanley, and the group of white men (2 x pistols & 1 x rifle) accompanied the booty!

This is where the rules came as a bit of a surprise to one of the players - he had expected to get a shot off with his elite soldiers, but the random unit activation meant the natives were on him (they can really get a lick on, moving 12" - 6" move, and a further 6" in their charge phase)...three kills on contact (units charging fight first, a la Games Workshop/Bolt Action etc. Combat is simultaneous in future turns) before any response could be made, and the soldiers immediately routed...!

Progress for the natives wasn't as good on the other flank, and ta unit found itself surrounded by Zanzibaris.

Meanwhile, the supporting archers advanced into terrain, using their "move and shoot" ability to good effect.

On the other flank, the Zanzibari Sheik saw off all comers...

The villagers were oblivious to their impending peril!

The Sheik was finally cut down by the Warriors...specifically designed as character killers, with their heavy weapons.

The Pygmys sprung their ambush, advancing to shoot Stanley and the white men...

...and cutting down the white men with their fire!

Stanley faced the charge, as the Pygmys moved in for the kill!

The booty tried to get out of the way, not seeing the Witchdoctor in the forest...!

Meanwhile, Stanley beat off the pygmy attack...

The pygmys got their revenge by shooting Stanley down....he died peppered with arrows!

The Warriors, having cut their way through everything in front of them, killed the last remaining askari...

...and the booty was theirs...!!!
An excellent game overall, Donnybrook is fast, furious and any character based game, you get out of it what you put into it. I thought that the Explorers firepower would give them an edge, but by failing to form a decent fire line, and allowing the natives to get into combat, they blew their advantage. It was brutal...!
Definitely a game we will play again!

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