Large Scale Combat
The mass combat rules follow the small scale/individual combat rules, and the text recommends the mass combat rules for engagements involving 20 or more characters. The rules assume the use of miniatures (and the text states minis were used for the individual combat rules too but there is little or nothing necessitating their use there), and the basing follows WRG 6th edition basing conventions, although the rules themselves are considerably different. The “Warrior table” (and, effectively, army lists) also gives WRG 6 equivalents for troop types.
WRG (Wargames Research Group) publishes some of the most popular historical wargame rules (and added a fantasy supplement for their 4th edition rules, and later published the stricly fantasy Hordes of the Things rules, which I whole-heartedly endorse). The 6th edition of their game has been superseded by a 7th edition (which I found to be a little to complicated to teach myself) and then by the “DBx” family of rules (DBA, DBM, DBR, DBMM, Hordes of the Things, etc.). Although WRG 7th ed. and the DBx rules all use “stands” of several figures rather than individually-based figures, the WRG 6th ed. basing standard is compatible; 2-4 miniatures on their WRG6 bases form the correct frontage and depth to replicate a 60mm wide WRG7/DBx stand.
I’m glad to see FW uses the WRG standard as this is one issue I’m very dogmatic about. I refuse to rebase my miniatures for the sake of any game’s idiosyncratic rules. D&D 3rd edition used ridiculously small bases for giants, and then oversized ones for cavalry and horse-sized creatures. So anyway I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for any mass combat rules to accept, or at least be compatible with, WRG/DBx basing conventions. The vast majority of commercially available wargames rules now follow WRG basing, which is a good thing. End of rant.
The text refers readers to the PSL Guide to Wargaming (published by the UK publisher of FW and edited by FW contributor Bruce Quarrie) for information on wargames in general, and I’ll be trying to get my hands on a copy by interlibrary loan. Then, to introduce the large scale combat rules, the reader is walked through a game pitting Normans against Anglo-Saoxns in a sort of mini-battle of Hastings. (The Anglo-Saxons even have an unusually high proportion of huscarls, as they did at Hastings!). It would have been nice to see more examples of play in the other rules sections. I’m guessing Bruce Quarrie, the most experienced rules-writer, wrote this section.
The rules themselves are fairly loose. The combat factors are detailed in a long list, and the movement rules are very vague by the hair-splitting standards of modern wargames. Serious wargamers will probably just fill in the blanks with their own favorite rules regarding movement and such. Once troops are in contact, there are rolls for morale and luck but the actual combat results are basically predetermined by the sums of the factors, and luck plays very little role in the outcomes. Some gamers will love this and others not so much.
There are fairly simple rules regarding character involvement in battles. Chances for death & injury are determined by how the larger units fair. Leaders help with morale but don’t have much if any effect on combat itself, unless they are the general.
As promised, they do provide some guidance on how to scale troops to figure ratios, and ground scale, according to the figures available and numbers of troops involved. Ranges for missile weapons are given here in paces rather than yards (which is following WRG conventions) and these are not necessarily equal to the ranges given on the weapons chart, either because “effective” ranges differ from maximums, or else this is an oversight.
Most glaringly absent form these rules (in light of the game’s title) are any consideration of magic or monsters. Skipping ahead to the religion rules you’ll find possible effects on morale brought about by Masses and the like, but nothing else that could really be called “fantasy” here. So these are decent, fairly simple medieval wargaming rules and that is all.
I haven’t played any wargame like this, where luck has very little influence on the outcome of combat, and it has certain appeal. Morale has more luck involved so its not as if the battle is decided entirely by deployment. I’ll probably stick with Hordes of the things, but maybe I’ll try this out after Chainmail.