This section will give you a very short description of the concepts and rules to give you an idea about gameplay. Note that several things are simplified or incomplete to keep things readable. You can download the rules for free to read the complete set.
All troops and commanders are described by a list of numbers called statistics or stats. There are relatively many stats to allow for troop diversity and to avoid modifiers. Stats are shown on the right with an example of the values for a typical unit with shield, hand weapons, and bow.
Orders determine what troops aim to do. All units always have an order which stays with them until issued a new order or changed due to game effects. Each order has its own ‘automatic behaviour’ connected to it, which determines where to move, if and who to shoot, if and who to fight, etc., unless specifically instructed otherwise. This seriously limits the control of troops, but ensures they will always do something.
Commanders also have an order which determines what he/she should get the troop to do. This limits what orders the commander can issue, so even your commanders need the right orders. Heroes are less restricted, but cannot issue orders to troops.
Giving the proper orders is essential, so it is important you quickly get an idea what each order means and what the game effects are. Available orders are:
In addition, the order mechanism is also used to describe morale effects. When failing morale tests, the unit will receive new morale based orders. Using the normal procedure for issuing new orders, your commanders can give other orders to such a unit as normal. This is an important way to keep your troops in the battle.
Stress is the level to which troops can follow their orders. Stress represents their casualties, confusion, demoralisation, etc., and is recorded using markers. Stress is gained in combat, when friends rout, through magic, etc. but can also be reduced by transferring it to commanders, nearby friendly troops, or through reforming and magic.
Stress affects many aspects of the troop’s behaviour. When stress is three or higher, the element’s combat ability is affected. When stress is higher than its Endurance, it is destroyed. Stress is also the basis of the morale tests.
The ‘flow’ and ‘diffusion’ of stress between neighbouring troops captures the effects of fatigue, mounting confusion, supporting friendly troops and leaders, resting, healing, etc. in a single game mechanic. Management of stress is one of your main concerns as a player and is coupled to your actions and orders.
Actions of commanders and heroes
Commanders use actions to issue new orders, but any deviation of the troop’s automatic behaviour also requires commander or hero actions. E.g to change movement distance, change primary enemies, change targets, reduce stress, etc. Commanders and heroes can also actively participate by shooting, fighting, etc. but are usually more effective commanding troops.
As each commander typically has two or three actions in a turn, you will have to choose and plan how to use them. Limited ranges for actions localizes a commander’s influence, making the positioning of commanders on the field important.
Gameplay follows a standard turn based sequence with five phases. All players are active during all phases. A short descriptions is given of all phases to give some idea of the rules and how they differ from other rules.
All troops from all players move according to their orders. The movement itself uses traditional movement speed, distances and manoeuvres. However, due to their orders, troops will normally move the maximum they can. You cannot halt them just at the edge of the enemy’s shooting range just because that would be optimal for this turn. However, movement can be influenced by commander and hero actions within 4 cm.
The order in which elements move is determined by an initiative number on the order counter with the lowest going first.
The movement phase is the most extensive section of the rules as this is what determines subsequent combat, shooting, etc. and needs to cover many situations. Don’t let this deter you.
Ranged combat phase
All troops with ranged weapons and the appropriate orders determine targets and try to do damage. Damage from shooting is relatively low, but can be enough to disrupt attacks and slowly wear down enemies.
Ranged combat consists of a single roll. The number of dice is the attacker’s missile shoot stat and the number to roll is the target’s defence. Each die result higher than the defence results in one stress.
Again, leaders can take actions to change targets, take a shot themselves, do ranged magic, etc.
Close combat phase
All troops in contact with an enemy will fight (unless routing). Close combat is identical to ranged combat. Troops use a number of dice equal to their attack stat. With the Attack or Defend orders, less than three stress and in the first round of combat, they can also use their impetus bonus dice. These are rolled against the opponent’s defence with each success resulting in one stress.
Different distributions of attack and impetus between troops strongly influences their use in the game. E.g. cavalry has a high impetus, but low attack score making them dangerous in the initial contact, but not effective in sustained combat. Infantry with pole weapons have a high attack and low impetus, making them very good at sustained combat.
The order of combat is determined by the ‘Reach’ stat, which makes it possible for spear and pike (with a high Reach) to do damage first possibly causing their opponent to lose their impetus bonus. An effective deterrent against cavalry.
During the morale phase three things are done:
First, stress is redistributed. Stress is moved from troops with high stress to neighbouring troops, commanders or heroes with less stress. This slowly distributes stress over more troops, which makes having friendly troops and leaders close a good thing. It does cause disruption in the area even for troops that have not been in combat, which must be managed by commanders.
Second, reform is done to remove stress. Troops with reform orders or special abilities remove (some) stress. Commanders and heroes can reduce their own stress by one using an action, effectively reducing stress in the area.
Third, moral is checked. All troops and (sub) commanders with increased stress must test their morale. A die is rolled for every stress they have, and each failure (result higher than their morale stat) causes a change in order. They go to Halt, Retreat and finally Rout. Depending on the orders they start with they can directly go to Retreat or even Rout, making some orders more stable than others.
In the command phase commanders can give new orders to troops within 16 cm. This includes orders that were changed during the morale phase, with the exception of Rout. As each order counter is randomly pulled from a container, the initiative with that order varies and there is a possibility of orders not getting through or being misunderstood. The likelihood of this happening depends on the army’s command structure, and the initiative varies per army making some more commonly move first, while others can react.
After the orders are given, a new turn starts.