Friday, May 25, 2012

Obscure Games: Fantasy Wargaming, Part Four

"Compleat" is an exaggeration, but still there's
a lot in there.
This series began here.

The Large scale combat rules in Fantasy Wargaming were the first time I saw miniatures rules in a roleplaying game. I knew that there was a connection, but this was the place that I saw the connection firsthand.

The system is designed to handle a variable scale. That is, the number of warriors per figure can be changed easily, and the ground scale recalculated to fit. That way, if the players are limited in the number of figures available, they can still manage battles of nearly any size. There are some problems with the system as presented, but they could probably be easily overcome with a little development. For instance, in the rules as written there is no provision for changing the time scale of a turn, so that if, say, a figure represents 300 warriors and the ground scale is therefore 1" = 150 paces, the movement of open order infantry remains 80 paces per turn, or about a half inch!

For convenience, the designers chose to use the basing conventions common at the time, specifically the ones set out in the WRG Ancients/Medieval rules (which I have mentioned before).

In each turn of the miniatures game, there are four phases. Movement comes first, and is pretty simple. Different types of troops are given a base move, and different types of terrain modify that movement. Next comes Distant combat, which is missile fire. There is a formula for determining the number of casualties from missile fire each Distant combat phase. The third phase is Close combat. This uses the smaller force as a base 100%, and the larger force as the percentage of the smaller force (so that if one force is 100 men, and the other 150, then the larger force counts as 150%). This is then modified by a number of factors and then applied to a base a tenth of the men involved in the combat. So, if a force has 320 men and a total percentage of 161, they would inflict 32 x 1.61 = 52 casualties (the number is rounded up). Whichever side inflicts fewer casualties then recoils. This leads to the fourth phase, Morale. This is figured by a quick calculation from a base level (90 to 110), modified by situation. The result is compared a table (another table!) giving a result from (at the low end) "Drop everything, scatter and run like hell away from enemy" through the best "Obey orders" on up to "Charge as a disorganized open order mob at nearest enemy". Morale is good to have, but too much can be as bad as none at all!

There's a short section regarding personality and leader type figures, which gives some basic guidelines, but nothing too constraining (or helpful). And that's it. There is no provision for incorporating the magic system, monsters, particular characters, and so on, that being left to the Referee. In general, the Large scale combat system is not well integrated into the roleplaying rules, and you get the impression that the designers just wanted to present their own miniatures rules.

I also see that I did forget one element of character creation. A warrior character should select a troop type appropriate to his or her culture and time. This gives the weapons and armor that the character uses best. Those troop types are also used to select troops for mass combat. So, even though a starting character has zero in all three levels, there should still be a "class" of sorts selected. We'll be looking at the ones for magicians and religious types soon enough, but warriors have their own set of options.

Next time, we'll start to look at the magic rules.


  1. I think the lack of movement & maneuver rules (there are move distances but not much about how to adjudicate troops coming into contect, flank attacks, etc.) makes these more of an abstract 'mass combat' system than an actual wargame.

    I think they are very close to Bruce Quarrie's rules in the PSL Guide to Wargaming (no surprise, BQ is credited in the book and PSL is the publisher of both books...I believe Quarrie helped those scruffy college students get their game published too).

    Anyway the fact that they are largely adapted from an historical wargame helps explain why there is nothing about magic, monsters, & PCs! If/when FW gets "redone" that is on my list of things to fix. Being an abstract way to handle battles is fine; not mentioning how your characters influence the battle must be fixed!

    1. I think that they were assuming that players would be already familiar with miniatures wargaming procedures.

      I would like to work on a game that develops from some of the ideas in FW as published. Even where they made mistakes, I think that their ideas were sound.