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"Warband - Early Medieval / Dark Ages large skirmish rules" Topic

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3,235 hits since 24 Apr 2013
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Marshal Mark24 Apr 2013 11:10 a.m. PST

I've recently completed some rules for large skirmish battles set in the Early Medieval / Dark Ages period. The rules are called Warband, and they are hex-based, card driven rules, designed for around 50 100 figures per side. We played our first playtest game last night and we are playing a second playtest tonight. The first game went very well, and it doesn't seem that any significant changes are required, so I'm putting them out for public use. You can download them by joining the Yahoo Group : Warbandrules.
I would appreciate feedback on them, whether from reading them through and not finding parts to be clearly explained, or after playing them.
The rules require a hex-map to play, and singly based figures (or multiple bases with enough based singly to split up when necessary). Each hex should be big enough to accommodate 8 foot or 4 mounted figures (as that is the limit that can be placed in each hex).
Why use hexes ? Well, one reason is that it simplifies lots of things such as movement, line of sight, range, lining up and conforming, multi-unit combat. In fact the use of hexes is the main reason the rules can be kept so brief the only section of the rules that takes up more than one page is combat, which runs to two pages. However, the main driving force behind the use of hexes was that they are required to accommodate the fact that there are no units in this game. I don't believe that Dark Ages armies would be organised into distinct small units, and when games do this it is a fudge to allow the game to work. In Warband there are no such units. You can mix different troop types together in a hex or adjacent hexes and move them as a group. You can activate any or all of the figures in one hex, or if there is a leader in the hex, any adjacent hexes also. So a Viking army can have armoured warriors with two-handed axes mixed in with levy spearmen, and even have archers mixed in as well if you like.
The rules are card driven, and this mechanic has some similarities to the Command & Colours series of games in that you play one card on you turn to activate some of your troops. Each player requires a 60 card deck which are included in the back of the rules. Each activation card allows a group of figures to move, shoot, charge the enemy, fight in melee, etc., depending on the text on the card. There are also event cards which give combat advantages, hinder the enemy, etc. One activation card and any number of event cards can be played each turn, but you only draw two cards at the end of your own turn. This creates a situation where you cannot always do what you want, and you need to plan your movement and attacks to make best use of your hand of cards.
The rules are deliberately simple, so that the focus is on the play of the cards and the interactions with the troops on the battlefield. There are no tables, charts or lists of dice roll modifiers. Each figure has only two stats Attack and Defence, which determines how many dice they contribute to combat. Typically Levy are Attack 1 and Defence 1, Warriors (better trained and equipped troops) are Attack 2 and Defence 2. The target number for all dice rolls is 5+, unless the text on a card changes this (for example, the Shieldwall card means your Defence dice cancel hits on 4+ instead of 5+). There are some special rules for Mounted, which are again simple and subtle, but create significant differences between foot and mounted troops, and mean you need to use your cavalry wisely to make the best use of them.
So please download the rules, have a read through and try them out. All comments gratefully accepted.

Great War Ace24 Apr 2013 11:18 a.m. PST

Shouldn't that be spelled, "warbands rule"? ;) ….

religon24 Apr 2013 1:07 p.m. PST

Glanced through them. Promising. I like your choice of success on a 5+ on a d6. I like the limit of 2 cards per turn and the adoption of an activation model similar to games written by R. Borg. I play a lot of hex-based games. While hexes are not the obvious choice for this scope and period, I'll check it out.

One potential problem appears to be the army break points (Section 9). With levy armies like Anglo-Danes, it may be possible to slaughter fyrd without contesting the harder huscarle units. This problem tends to be more prevalent with card activation than traditional UGIGO. The sample rosters appear balanced, but the OOB for Hastings would likely prove problematic.

The other potential problem is the freedom the player appears to have while activating units. Perhaps consider grading troops like BattleLore into Light, Medium and Heavy only to restrict the players activation choices a little more. Players may just keep driving elite cavalry for the entire game.

All in all, it looks very good.

Marshal Mark24 Apr 2013 3:06 p.m. PST

Thanks for taking a look and the feedback. We just finished our second game, and again it worked well. The freedom to activate units didn't come up as an issue – in fact the opposite was the case, as there were times when we couldn't activate anything, so I think a couple more Activation cards that allow any activation and allow two groups to be activated ("Tactical" and "Strategic" cards) are required instead of some of the event cards.
There are no units, and I don't want troops graded by type (other than Foot and Mounted) as I don't think these types of distinction are really applicable here.
You could just keep activating cavalry, but it wouldn't do you much good, as cavalry are not super troops, and will die against decent foot.
Regarding break point, if you have lots of Levy and you leave them exposed, then yes the opponent will pick on them. So you put them in the same hex with Warriors (ie Huscarls), or in hexes behind to fill in when front rank troops are killed, and don't put them at the end of your battle line where they are vulnerable. Warriors have to be taken as casualties first, so you tend to lose more Warriors than Levy.

Marshal Mark24 Apr 2013 3:09 p.m. PST

One thing I'm planning on doing next with these is making some army specific cards, so each army gets a few (somewhere between 5 and 8) special cards unique to that army that the player can choose to mix into his card deck instead of some of the standard cards. So there is an element of pre-game deck building, allowing the deck to be tailored to the type of game the player wants to play, and to the troops he has chosen for his army.

Marshal Mark24 Apr 2013 3:11 p.m. PST

The reason I've crossposted to the Fantasy board, is that I will be adding some fantasy supplements to these rules. There will be a Lord of the Rings supplement (with hardly any changes required, just the addition of large creatures such as trolls), and a probably also a more generic fantasy supplement.

wingleader35624 Apr 2013 7:28 p.m. PST

damn it… i just submitted name suggestions on the original thread! hahahaha

Thomas O25 Apr 2013 7:56 a.m. PST

Looked over them quickly, but they look pretty good. Not a fan of hex based miniature games though. I like the idea of Army specific cards.

Marshal Mark25 Apr 2013 12:11 p.m. PST

Here's some photos from our game last night. Normans vs Anglo-Danish.




coopman25 Apr 2013 3:56 p.m. PST

For every person that is not a fan of hexes, there is another who is…ME!

Personal logo rampantlion Supporting Member of TMP26 Apr 2013 8:02 a.m. PST

Hi Mark, signed up last night. I will give them a read through this weekend and post after that. If the rules are interesting to me it might be another good reason to think about Hexon terrain from Kallistra.


Hobhood418 May 2013 7:42 a.m. PST

Just foind this thread – and downloaded rules. Maybe just what I'm looking for for dark ages, as I like C&C – hex based card activated…am I right in thinking that the picture shows a mat 13 hexes wide, each hex 8 – 9 cm? Or 4 inches?

Marshal Mark18 May 2013 11:10 a.m. PST

Yes, I made the hex cloth to play C&C Napoleonics, so it is 13 hexes by 9 IIRC. The hexes are 10cm wide.
If you like the C&C system then hopefully you will like the rules.

vtsaogames18 May 2013 12:05 p.m. PST

Can this be played with DBX based figures? I've got Normans and Saxons while a friend is painting up Vikings.

I'm currently working on a set of Napoleonic rules designed for a 9 X 13 hex mat.

Marshal Mark18 May 2013 1:32 p.m. PST

Not really I'm afraid. It's a large skirmish game with one figure representing one man and no units or fixed organisation structure, so individual basing is required.

vtsaogames18 May 2013 3:54 p.m. PST

OK, thanks for the prompt reply.

Hobilar27 May 2013 1:37 p.m. PST

Just joined the group and downloaded the rules.

I won't likely have time to look them over for a few weeks, but I am very interested. I have lots of 28mm plastic Vikings that I'm looking to use in a simple system with my son.

We also have lots of GW LotR figures I'd like to use for this as well.


Marshal Mark07 Mar 2014 3:50 p.m. PST

Just an update…these rules are still available, but I've given up on yahoo groups as I can't access them.
I now have a website and forum to promote and discuss these rules and some other rules I am working on. If you would like a copy of the Warband rules you can contact me through the website and I will e-mail them.

Website –
Forum – link

Mithmee Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2014 8:36 a.m. PST

Sorry I make it a point never to read


Marshal Mark08 Mar 2014 12:27 p.m. PST

Well, if a page of text is too much for you then you're not really the target audience for my website anyway.

coopman08 Mar 2014 8:13 p.m. PST

If the no. of figs. purchased in your force was compatible with the multiple figure basing, and the units were organized such that each unit was 2 or 3 bases, wouldn't that work with the DBX basing? Casualty rings or caps could be used to note the figures eliminated from a unit.

Marshal Mark16 Mar 2014 3:36 p.m. PST

It wouldn't really work. One of the key points is that there are no units. Figures can move individually, so need to be based individually. In particular, the way figures in a hex behind support figures in front (losses can be replenished by figures moving in from adjacent hexes, and this avoids the requirement for a recoil) means that figures must be able to be moved individually.

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