Fantasy Wargaming, cover to cover (XV)

And so we move on to the combat rules. These were probably what “sold” my brother & I on this game back in the day — more “realistic” weapons & damage, hit locations, and so on.

In character generation you pick a warrior from the “Warrior Table” (covering the periods of the game, about the 6th to 15th centuries). In the high middle ages, culture doesn’t matter much, as armies were relatively similar all over norther Europe, but the Anglo-Saxon, Pictish, Welsh, Viking, and other dark ages lists are fairly varied. Based on the type of warrior you decide to be (assuming you are not a mage or cleric), you get the arms and armor appropriate to the warrior type, and all count as “favored” weapons for your character. I really like this “package deal” as it will make characters reasonably historical. You still get to choose one more weapon or armor piece, so there will be some variety.

The text notes that the “effectiveness” of weapons is partly tied to their speed, and daggers can stab repeatedly in the time it takes a two-handed axe to swing, but I don’t think fast weapons actually get extra attacks. I always assumed this was an explanation as to why weapon base damages are not that variable.

Before combat, a couple of rolls or checks are made, and each player writes down what he’ll be doing (attacking, moving, disengaging, parrying etc.). The sequence is

  1. Morale check
  2. Control (Berserking) check
  3. Players note actions for the next 10 second phase
  4. Missile attacks are made
  5. Prepared & instant spells are cast

Then, the combat phase begins:

  1. First strike (for combatant(s) with 2 foot or more reach advantage, or 4+ Agility advantage over opponent)
  2. Strike backs (for those attacked above)
  3. Simultaneous attacks (for all remaining combatants)

Then, the post-combat phase has:

  1. Morale checks (if necessary)
  2. Return to Combat phase

You’ll see from this outline that while missiles and spells go first, they only go at the start of the combat, unless the GM is going to allow any more distance attacks. I think you could play it either way — either the combat “flurry” goes on until all involved in melee combat are dead or victorious, or you could return to the pre-combat phase (which may be what was intended, as some Control tests are triggered by wound results).


The GM is instructed to make checks & hint at the results to players, and if they “consistently ignore” these hints, the GM may take over the PC for the phase. I know some players probably won’t like the idea of their character being out of their “control” in this way but I really like this approach. Why should PCs be invulnerable to fear and anger? It’s good to see Bravery come into play just like the vices did in the Temptation rules. The factors relevant to morale are Bravery, Combat Level, and a host of situational factors. These are rolled against another table with results ranging from “Obey orders” to “Flee”. It should be noted that the morale check is used to see if PCs follow the orders of the “Leader” of the party, as well as generally to see if they stand and fight or panic. We never actually used the morale rules as far I recall, but then we didn’t use leaders either.

Control test

Basically all Vikings and any other characters with a low intelligence and high bravery may go berserk in combat. This fits very well with Norse sagas, Celtic legends, and even Arthurian romances. A berserk character ignores the additional effects of exhaustion and wounds to specific to hit locations, which is very powerful, and does +3 damage (where a sword does a base of d4+3 and damage is subtracted from Endurance, a 3d6 score, that’s a big bonus!), but fights at -1 and may not disengage (one of the defensive maneuvers and the only way to leave combat). We did use these rules!


Striking is determined by taking the Combat Level (CL) and taking the weapon’s required Agility minus player’s Agility (“surplus agility”, divide positive sums by 2 but keep negatives whole) for the base factor, and then applying various factors for high or low Intelligence or Bravery, wounds taken, numerical superiority, and the results of the opponent’s efforts to parry, dodge or disengage (if any). This is then indexed against the striking table, which is the most complex in the the sense of having a wide variety of results possible, as each of “failure,” “partial success” etc. is further broken down into hit locations.

Lunging gives a 15% bonus on the roll, and is necessary for some of the most lethal results (throat and heart hits, which are rare unless your overall factor is very very high), but if you lunge you cannot defend on your next turn.

Damage is rolled based on the weapon (ranging from d4 for a quarterstaff to d4+8 for a battle axe) and the “surplus Physique” of the character (the staff requires 9 Physique to use, and the axe a 14, so a strong character, say a 16 physique, will do d4+3 with the staff and d4+9 with the axe). Most weapons are in the d4+3 range. The overall effect is that stronger characters are better off with heavier weapons, which of course makes sense, but a weaker warrior might still do OK with a very light weapon. Armor provides a damage reduction of 1-6. A helmet will do the same for the head and possibly face, at about 2-5 points, and a shield also provides its damage reduction on shield hits (a low striking roll will sometimes land on the shield or torso if unshielded), although the shield is more important for its use in parrying.

Different hit locations have different effects (double damage to the heart or throat; head hits may stun, and face hits blind; arm hits can cause weapons to be dropped, etc.).

Defensively, instead of striking one may make a shield parry, weapon parry, dodge, or disengage. These can all, at best, cause the opponent to miss, or at least negatively affect the striking factor. some weapons have better bonuses to parrying, as do shields. There is also a chart for checking for the breakage of weapons & shields when parrying, and it works out that bigger weapons are more likely to break smaller weapons. A battle axe will likely break almost any smaller weapon, whereas a dagger will almost never break any other weapon.

Armor and shields also may reduce the user’s effective Agility, so a heavily armored fighter is giving up a little offensive ability.

Next time: large scale combat (the wargame rules!)

Published in: on August 9, 2010 at 10:00 am  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Is there any opportunity to both attack and parry with a shield in the same exchange?

    • Not as I read the rules. It looks like you can strike, parry, dodge, or disengage, but only one at a time. The rules are kind of vague though.

  2. Alto of things are not that well defined. Like lunging gives a +15% to attack roll.

    You know thinking about it would be nice if you could attack + defend, attack with +15% (lunging or charging), or defend 2 different ways (parry and disenge), each round.

    I would not mind seeing a little more figure tatical/postion stuff too. But that is cause I like the figures in combat.

  3. Doing somthing like that would make alot of thing like using 2 weapons easier.

    What I do like about FW is shields are very important. Which aggrees with “real” mideval combat, as far as I can tell. “everyone” carried a shield until plate armor and polearms dominated the battle field. a system with DR could easily simulate this. For example if we play in a setting with “Full” plate it should have a massive DR.

    I would only stat out arms and armor per century too. So if you were playing in the l1 th century their might be Great Axes but not 2-handed swords and plate armor. The FW warrior tables are pretty good with determining what is out there for use.

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