Trying Donnybook for 40K...

I got into the Northstar pre-order of Rogue Stars.  I bought the hype so hard, that I ordered an ebook of the rules to read them right away.  Well, not my thing at all. Totally took the wind out of my sails. I expressed my disappointment to airbornegrove and he suggested I give "Donnybrook" a try.

Sooo... Donny'K?
Can I make that a thing?

The game reported below is assembled from an almost uncountable number of sources. The Universe is (sort of ) 40k. The scenario was rolled up from the Rogue Stars Rulebook.  The rules played were Donnybrook. (well, Donny'K). Let's not even get into the minis and scenery.

Spies for the Kingdom of Colores have discovered that a copy of plans for the construction of warp imploders are located in the “Remote Imperial Archive Station 881” on the planet Sca..(REDACTED BY DISNEY/LUCASFILM). The Kingdom of Colores would like to get the plans and deny them to the Imperium. The Imperium has spies of their own, and is aware of the Colores plot.

Additionally, a Trader in the secret employ of the Navigators Guild is at the Archive pursuing unrelated (but equally proscribed) research. All this attention directed at the Archive threatens to expose the Guild's research to the Inquisition.  The Guild explained to Colores that since this whole donnybrook was instigated by Colores spies, if their clandestine Merchant is arrested, Colores will be held responsible. 

Both forces arrive at the Archive at almost the same time.  The plans are located in the main building at the center of the map.  The objective is to get to the plans and transmit them to the HQ. A secondary objective is to recover/arrest the Navigators’ Guild Trader.


Space Marine Tac Squad 1,  D10, Armored, Vet Sgt
Space Marine Tac Squad 2, D10, Armored
Space Marine Tac Squad 3, D10, Armored
Wun Wun, D10, Tank, Armored, Heavy Weapons, Close Combat Weapons
Captain Marsupial, D12, Hero, Armored, Pwr Sword

Kingdom of Colores

Honschu Riders, D8, Cavalry, Vet Sgt (Cpt Paulus)
1st Squad, D8, Officer (Lt. Moybe)
Weapons Squad, D8, Heavy Weapons, Targeting Drone
Eight Ball, D10
Sgt Q’Taupa, D10, Sniper
Major Guiscard, D12, Hero, Pwr Sword


Cpt. Marsupial did not see any of the enemy forces yet. It was possible his unit had arrived first. Suddenly however, there was a loud booming as Imperial Combat Construct “Wun Wun” opened fire on the main building of the Imperial Archive Complex.

Cpt. Marsupial
“Wun Wun, what are you shooting at?” the Captian radioed to the giant robot.

Wun Wun
“The complex, Sir. You said it was full of ‘Rogue Traitors’”,

Wun Wun blasted the building again.

Cpt. Marsupial
“A Rogue Trader! dammit!  I said ONE,  just a single ROGUE, WUN!”

The construct fired again. The blast was so enormous, Cpt Marsupial was knocked off his feet and little Rogue Stars danced across his vision.

Cpt. Marsupial
“STOP doing that!”

Wun Wun
“Yes, Captain” and his guns went silent

Unfortunately the building was already ablaze… 

Meanwhile, hidden on the other side of the Archive...

Sgt. Mannesmann 
“Well Major, I guess the Imperials are here.” He said dryly.

Maj. Guiscard
“Destroying their own sh*t again…  typical.”
then keyed his comms.
"Everyone move out.  Weapons, cover the main bulding. On the way back, we will scoop up this Merchant / Spy requested by the Guild”
As the Colores Heavy Weapons Squad moves into line of sight, a chastened Wun Wun exchanges fire

while the Honschu riders spring forward to try and come to grips with the Tac Squad in front of them.

The view in the center is obscured for both sides by the burning Imperial Construct and Archive building, so Eight Ball moves cautiously toward the hiding place of the Merchant and the main objective.

Cpt. Marsupial radios back to HQ,
“The objective is burning and the whole area is overrun by fleeing Imperial staff.  We cannot assess enemy strength or intentions, because our targeting sensors cannot discriminate between our staff and the enemy. Can we get an overflight by a Stormraven?”

Imperial Comm Tech Jones
“A Stormraven is primarily a transport craft, Sir. Do you mean a Stormtalon?”

Cpt. Marsupial
“Yeah, Stormtalon, whatever  …. can it overfly our position and deliver some ordinance into the far treeline?

Comm Tech Jones
“Well Sir, delivering ordinance is done really well by a Stormsurge, but a stormsurge is a Tau weapon and it can’t fly.”

Cpt. Marsupial
“Storm friggin whatever!!! Hang on... let me check the database myself”

Cpt. Marsupial
 That’s it, I’ve had it! I’m done! We’re supposed to be the most elite fighting force in over forty one THOUSAND YEARS of human history, and we have the vocabulary of an eight year old!
Here's an idea...maybe, just maybe if I go over to the enemy, SOMEBODY over there will share a THESAURUS!"

Space Marine Private Smith
“Sir, you can’t say that. It’s heresy”

Cpt. Marsupial
“Shut UP!”

Marine Cpl Johnson
“You’re a heretic!”

Cpt. Marsupial

and Cpt. Marsupial is shot very..very...very dead.

Ok, so I HAVE to break the fourth wall here:
In the middle of the game we pulled the event card and rolled on the table.
The result is called “I gotta be me!”, and it states that a “prominent member” of the squad says: “I can no longer fight for a lie!” and declares his intention to join the enemy.  (you then roll on another chart to see what the unit does)
The result of that roll?  His unit immediately turned and summarily executed him!

LOL, How 40k is that????

I don’t care if that result ever happens again.  Seriously, that’s one of those hysterical moments in gaming that will stick in your memory forever. I am totally hooked.

I think all I need to write from here is a summary.  I mean really, is anyone going to be paying attention?  'cause I'm not.  I'm still replaying that madness in my head. 

... Colores got a unit to the burning building (Eight Ball) and they lost 3 out of 4 guys to the fire before the last guy made his rolls and transmitted the files to the rebel fleet above Scari(REDACTED BY DISNEY/LUCASFILM)

So About This Crazy Game...
Donnybrook is a card driven set of rules described by the authors as skirmish level for the pike and shot era.  It is a great rulebook by layout and execution. The author explains that the rules are derived from his homebrew set that he uses pretty universally. There is even a batrep online where the rules are used in a battle between Nazi’s and a combination of zombies and other monsters. (The Link is here: LINK)
So the ability to modify is there. 

The deck you build for a Donnybrook game includes a card that triggers random events. The first card drawn for the game report above was, of course, the event.  We rolled on the chart, “A random building catches fire.  Any figure in the building when their card is drawn, must roll 5+ on their ability die, or be wounded. The fire remains for the rest of the game.”

Guess which building ended up being on fire?
…and this was just the havoc caused by the FIRST event. Then the next time we drew an event,  complete insanity …

What a great time. If anyone is interested, I can do a follow up post that will run through the mods I used for sci-fi.


  1. Sounds like a hoot. The unit descriptions look....sparse. Do you find them enough to give you sufficient differentiation between units?

    1. Hi Dave,
      Unit differentiation is 2 things:
      1 Quality and Numbers (d6,d8,d10)
      2 Equipment (Weapons and Armor)

      My preference is toward 1 special rule per Unit (maybe one unit will have a couple). So for the batrep above I didn't differentiate between small arms, everyone carries the same "Combat Rifle", but Space Marines were definitely "Armored". It kept special rules to a minimum, but Space Marines rolling d10's to hit vs. the Regulars rolling d8's provided the difference in shooting quality.

      For greater granular differentiation you could certainly add more rules on a unit. For example, give the Space Marines a rule for having a better firearm.

      It is a great framework to hang as much or as little as you want.

  2. Oh, sir, this has been one of your top reports of all times :D :D :D

  3. Yes!!!!!! Awesome game and report!😎😎😎

    1. I was in the middle of typing up the report when you emailed me.
      Your enthusiasm was infectious.

  4. Great report! Glad you enjoyed the game. Here's the Donnybrook link you mentioned...

    To answer daveb... YOU make the differentiation in units. In the historical version of the game, pike and shot units are pike and shot units for the most part. Their main difference is in troop quality which is defined by the different die types.

    For Warhammer/40k, I usually give each unit a special ability to add some fluff to the quality type. For instance, in a recent Oldhammer fantasy game, my Empire Halberdiers were Stubborn (re-roll Morale tests) and my Flagellants had Frenzy (re-roll missed attacks). Here's a sample...

    Again, thanks for trying out the rules!

    1. Thanks for the great rules Mr. Harrison,
      I am placing an order for the hardcopy today. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and playing with the set. It is everything I am looking for. Simple to execute but subtle nuances underneath.

      I am planning to follow up with a post about my sci-fi mods, (and why you still need the "Reload" card in the year 40,000).

      Thanks again,

    2. Will, for some games, I use a natural one as a weapon jam or out of ammo (or overheating for a Plasma weapon). The reload card clears this status. You can also run Necromunda style games where ammo is scarce with the natural one being out for the rest of the game.

      For Necromunda, Inquisitor, etc. d6=Juves/Thugs, d8=Gangers/Soldiers, d10=Henchmen/Elites, and d12=Leader. The warband scenario in the Donnybrook rulebook has more rules for games with 6-12 models per side...

      Looking forward to seeing more of your mods!

    3. Hi Mr. Harrison,
      Apologies for the slow response, but I went ahead and cleaned up my mods (a little) and posted them to get it all out there.

      I see the ratings for Ability Dice the same as you, and I use the reload card as a check on Heavy Weapons to tone them down.

      I am interested in your thoughts.

  5. Ha ha, that is awesome Major! Hilarious, which is an essential part of gaming I reckon. Love your Storm... sequence. I'd be very interested in your modifications: makes me think about upscaling some of my games.

    1. Thanks Preacher,
      One thing about the game. Those armies in the report are for the smallest game possible. 4 tactical units generating 4 Characters/Upgrades. It will be very easy to go to 6 or 8.

      The Storm sequence was inspired by my son, who is Space Marine mad at the moment. He always wants to bring a flyer to the game, and I can never keep track of which one is a Raven/Talon/Hawk, all starting with "Storm" and it just went from there. Once we played through the battlefield summary execution, it was the first thing that came to mind that would drive a Space Marine around the bend.


  6. Great report Will & no surprise to see you got into the madness of it all, the take on GW's way of naming things had me giggling.

    1. Thanks
      When a game gives a result that is both completely surprising and yet completely within scope, it's a keeper.

  7. Made me laugh out loud :D Bloody Storm thingy's!!! :DDD

    Great batrep, using a new set of rules to play 40K with too! I think I've been on this sort of quest for quite a while myself, trying to find a better rule system for Rogue Trader. I'm toying with Stargrunt II atm, but there's still a bit of work to do before it'll be ready.

    I very much enjoyed reading your take on Donnybrook and look forward to reading the breakdown in your next post :)


    1. Thanks One, or Wun ;)
      The troop quality concept in Donnybrook is very similar to SGII. I used to play it and Dirtside (LOTS of Dirstside) back in the day.

      I think you'll find Dbk offers a less tactically predictable game due to the card activation system and the random events. I don't mean "better", I really mean different.. I mean, in SGII, one Unit will provide covering fire, and then on your next activation, the Assault Unit goes in. In Donnybrook, you have no guarantee of that sequence due to the units acting only when their card comes up.

      So it depends on which experience you prefer. No wrong way to play toy soldiers.
      I'll go into more detail in my next post.

  8. An entertaining narrative - as always...

  9. Brilliant report! You have some cool special effects in it too.

    1. Thanks
      It's funny, the app for those effects is on my phone, so I have to do the effects before exporting them to my laptop where they get cropped and resized.

      The downside is that the app lowers the resolution right off the bat, so they come out grainy.


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