Fantasy Wargaming, cover to cover (XVI)

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 The 6th edition of their game has been superseded by a 7th edition (which I found to be a little to complicated to teach myself) and then by the “DBx” family of rules (DBA, DBM, DBR, DBMM, Hordes of the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.

Published in: on August 10, 2010 at 10:00 am  Comments (10)  
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  1. I was a bit disappointed by this section re-reading a couple years ago. I came away thinking it was very much the side with more figures wins. But thinking about it I don’t think I was considering movement around the battle field.

    Personally I think a weak presence of magic on the battle field would be best. Wizards should not be able to call down a mountain (although I think that is in the magic system) and drop on the other side. Magic that effect a battle field should be limited, or warfare will quickly become who has the most wizards. I think more like Excalibur movie would be best. A wizards can call a fog and that is pretty powerful, rather than a group of fire ball throwers.

    Come to think of it the who manipulate elemental magic seems way over powered in FW.

    • Well, ANY presence of magic isn’t really covered. I think it should mostly affect morale, based on my limited reading of period literature. I remember reading one hagiography where a Saint basically made the enemy’s slings ineffective, and at the siege of Paris another saint may have ruined the Viking’s siege equipment, and although those are technically miracles of course they would use magic mechanics once the appeal is made.

    • Well, historically numbers usually did carry the day, unless the arms and armor are grossly different or one side is professionals and the other a mob, or if the terrain is really exploited well by one side. Which come to think of it is what I both love and hate about recreating historical conflicts, and part of why I don’t push for war-gaming more in our group..

  2. No i don’t agree, look at the acient greeks. Gear and training are just as important.

    • Yeah, I was calling training “being professionals.” But I think gear only decides the battle if there is a big difference, like between Germans and Romans or Persians and Greeks.

      • If their is a great differnece than steel trumps iron etc then it is almost the only factor. So I guess rather than argue what a “big” differnces is I will say this.
        Armored troops are much better off than unarmored. Metal shields are much better than wicker. Even Norman’s use of mail has been sited as a diesive advantage over scale armor wearing irish.

        A knights vs peasents without pike or long bows are vertually unstoppable.

        I just recall a weapon/armor advantge was like 10-15% I think that is too low.

        I would look at x2 for mounted x4 for armored and mounted (knights). Generally knights were worth 4-10 milita.

        • Oh, I misunderstood what you meant. I’ve been looking at a bunch of wargames rules lately so I can’t remember how FW handles cavalry. Being on a horse should be a massive advantage in most cases. I think you are right about not giving a lot of weight to weapons though.

  3. To be fair, though WRG7 (and DBx/HotT) “superseded” WRG6, there is still a strong contingent (including myself) who prefer the 6th edition (there’s even a Yahoo! Group about it).

    • Come to think of it isn’t “Might of Arms” sort of a rewrite of 6th edition too? Or does that go back to 5th ed. mechanics? I came late to WRG.

      • I haven’t played it, so can’t say for sure, but what I’ve seen of MoA looks more like Tactica with point-bought armies, though I understand that it started out as a set of house rules for WRG6.

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