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"Looking for rules sets for truly big armies" Topic

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Shadowdragon23 Dec 2017 6:15 a.m. PST

Recently I've been looking at some fantasy and mythological ancients rules sets for 15-20mm scale mass combat games. I've noticed that many rules sets seem to be designed for fairly small armies. At 15-20mm scale you'd think these games would allow for armies larger than your standard Warhammer army by several magnitudes, but most seem to be a fraction of the size. Are there any good rules sets out there that allow for really big armies? Something that works well with giant epic battles, like the big battles in Lord of the Rings, or a mythological version of the siege of Troy?

madaxeman23 Dec 2017 6:44 a.m. PST

Warhammer armies are (I believe) 1-1 scale, whereas pretty much all historical ancients rulesets have 1 figure or base representing dozens, hundreds or even thousands of men.

DBA uses only 12 bases of 3-4 figures, but can (pretty much) be used to recreate the largest historical battles. You just need to get your head round the scale ratios.

Sysiphus Inactive Member23 Dec 2017 7:01 a.m. PST

Use "Hordes of the Thing", the fantasy version of DBA and just grow the armies to the size you want.

coopman Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 7:01 a.m. PST

"To the Strongest" is played on a gridded surface. The standard grid squares are 6" x 6", but the squares can be larger to a fit bigger units in them if you choose to do so. The resulting mass big battle effect is quite pleasing. Do an image search for "To the Strongest" and you will find pictures of some pretty large battles that have been done.

Personal logo Dervel Supporting Member of TMP Fezian23 Dec 2017 7:33 a.m. PST

I just did a mass fantasy battle at Fall In with 6 players and three commands per side in 15mm.

We used Triumph! which has a point system so you can easily scale it up to any size you want.

This same system was also used to run Pelennor Fields in 28mm at Fall In with 5 commands per side.

Massive battles, but much faster to play than a smaller Warhammer battle (which I used to play) so you can setup and finish in 3-4 hours.

Currently working on Troy (with the option to add some mythological creatures).

YogiBearMinis Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 7:38 a.m. PST

Isn't Triumph a derivative of DBA by the same gang that was the core Washington DBA group for years and years? Nothing wrong with that, but in trying to place the rules on the spectrum it might help to recognize that it represents an evolution of those concepts as opposed to games based on Warhammer, or based on WRG precepts like Warrior is, etc.

Personal logo Dervel Supporting Member of TMP Fezian23 Dec 2017 7:58 a.m. PST

Yogi, yes it is by the Washington Grand Company:

My comparison was to the OP's comment about Warhammer. Sorry if you were confused.

I used to play Warhammer with a fairly large number of figures on the table. It was a point based system which took hours to set up and build the armies and even more time to play out a large battle. Triumph does not require that workload so I can build two forces and play a battle in reasonable amount of time with similar or larger sized battles than Warhammer. So that is the comparison, not that the mechanics are similar.

Triumph! does have some similarities to the old WRG systems in that it uses standardized base widths for units, Command PIPs and a single D6 contest roll to resolve combat. After that you will find it is a very different system in how it plays especially with the point system.

Ran The Cid23 Dec 2017 8:17 a.m. PST

Hail Caesar excels at large games. Playing with 16 to 20 units per side is something we do in a typical evening. I could easily imagine the rule set supporting multiple players with twice that unit count.

Marcus Brutus23 Dec 2017 8:44 a.m. PST

Impetus is a great game for large games. Relatively simple system with lots of interesting command decisions to make.

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 9:02 a.m. PST


Lee John Ayre23 Dec 2017 9:24 a.m. PST

Kings of War from Mantic Games. Doesn't have to be played at 28mm. You can reduce the measurements if you find them a bit long for 15mm (there aren't that many anyhow). It's designed for fast play and large armies.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 9:29 a.m. PST

Warmaster/Battle of Five Armies. It's designed for the mass battle look. Yes, it's intended for 10mm, but the sizes of the figures really don't matter; only the base dimensions are significant, and as long as you use a consistent base size, that's not all that significant either.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 10:55 a.m. PST

Big Battle DBA works fine with any number of multiples of armies. I've done lots of games with 4–5 'armies' per side. I find BBDBA plays much faster than DBM-type games.

Here's an AAR for the Battle of Tunis 255: link

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 12:08 p.m. PST

So yes, Hordes of the Things, like DBA also works great for epic battles with fantasy flavour!

kodiakblair23 Dec 2017 12:22 p.m. PST

I think the OP is looking for rules that handle 1000's of figures per side and I hope he finds one. Most of the suggestions have been for element/base type games and if my thinking is correct they wont satisfy him :-(

Take @miniMo's BBDBA 4-5 armies per side. That's 240 figs max,probably about 1000pts under WRG 6th.

30 odd year back did any of us think we were fielding massive armies ? I certainly didn't,in fact the lack of spectacle bothered me.Increasing the number of figures only made things worse as it threw the terrain scale to blazes.

I can't offer any solutions,I just keep dropping figure scale,but I'd be interested to hear about any rule set geared towards 1000' of figures myself.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 12:59 p.m. PST

For more spectacle without the increased headache of trying to just physically move 1,000 figures, just make larger elements.

Simply double the size of the bases and all distances and put 4X as many figures per base!

I've played DBA games with quad-sized elements just by putting 4 regulation-sized stands on larger sabots. (This would be easier we discovered if the sabots are magnetised.)

Triple-army Big Battle AAR: link

Personal logo Dervel Supporting Member of TMP Fezian23 Dec 2017 2:24 p.m. PST

I would have to agree with miniMo, if you want the spectacle of 1,000 figures then you would simply make the units bigger by placing more figures on the base.

Almost any of these systems are easily adaptable to this method.

kodiakblair23 Dec 2017 2:24 p.m. PST


"Simply double the size of the bases and all distances and put 4X as many figures per base!"

Why double all distances ? Would say 4000 men would march or charge a greater distance than 1000 men in a given time ?

Please don't concern yourself to answer. I can't get my head around absracts on the tabletop.

The figure/man ratio and figure/ground scale issue has bothered me for years :-) I settled on a pre-battle Legionary spacing of 4.5ft a long time ago then started raising 1:1 armies based on it.If 40 Legionaries need 60 yards frontage then only 30 sword wielding Celts can face them.

I saw the "mass battle rules" heading so was hoping for pointers and shouldn't have posted,it added nothing to the topic.Please accept my apologies

princeman Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 3:22 p.m. PST

To The Strongest and you probably will not have to alter your basing.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 3:34 p.m. PST

@kodiakblair, or anyone else who's wondering, it's simple geometry. If you double the base size (width & depth), you need a table that's twice as big. If you don't double the movement and shooting distances to match, then everything is moving at half the speed as they would with smaller bases.

Caliban Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 4:10 p.m. PST

Another vote for Tactica.

Shadowdragon23 Dec 2017 5:04 p.m. PST

I guess I'm looking for the asthetic. When I field an army in a mass combat game I want it to look like an army. Half a dozen bases with 4 miniatures per base is not an army, it's a skirmish group. I have thought about taking a game and simply increasing the base size and/or increasing the number of bases used, but that does create some issues for games not designed for such things. I was hoping there was a game that already took armies made up of dozens of large bases into account. BBDBA seems like the closest to what I'm looking for, but is it purely historic, or does it allow for fantasy and mythology as well? Does it differentiate between armies or is it like HotTs where every army is basically the same (all armies have access to exactly the same units, and a unit is exactly the same regardless of what army it's in)?

kodiakblair23 Dec 2017 5:05 p.m. PST


Might be simple geometry to you but I'm afraid it doesn't work for me.

I'm a carpenter so sizes are important. Show me 4 figures but tell me they're 1000 men I still see 4 figures. Same goes for 24 figures. With my 2mm I keep figure ratio,figure scale and ground scale all fairly equal at 1:1 or sometimes 1:2.I can judge distances easily that way. For example in 1:1 a 6ft table is roughly 1 mile wide,2" – 4" are charge distances, 2" – 3" effective range for bows.

I can't do that with the larger scales,to me it's like been given a 1:100 drawing but certain parts are drawn in at a different size say 1:50.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 6:00 p.m. PST

Here's a blog post of mine with pictures from a Warmaster game. No, there aren't "1,000s" of figures, but it looks like there are. The scale is 10mm, but a 15mm scale shouldn't look that much different.


khanscom23 Dec 2017 6:37 p.m. PST

DBM: use the 25mm base sizes with triple the number of 10/12/15mm figures.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 7:40 p.m. PST

DBA has a few more non-magical troop types than HotT. If your want more granularity than that, you certainly could do your own rules mash-up of HotT and DBM.

DBM has several grades of each troop type at varying points cost. Somewhat more complex rules and 4 times the Barkerese to plough through, but will certainly give more individualised flavour.

Sysiphus Inactive Member23 Dec 2017 8:15 p.m. PST

If anyone remembers the "Big Wheels" Bronze Age game put on at Historicon 1998; my memory is one of 300+ chariots per side plus a couple thousand infantry etc. in 25/28mm. using DBM.
Command was difficult as the tables stretched 30 feet wide or more, you became focused on what you could see in the five feet in front of you. One guy on the far left spent most of the game crawling across the table as his mounted arm raced after the enemy's open flank.
The T-shirts donated by Old Glory were nice but the game was you and the two guys either side of you, fighting the same three guys across from you. It never felt like the epic sized, twenty person, game it looked like.
You just might do better with a game program and CGI armies.

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 8:28 p.m. PST

I'm too young to really remember this myself, but I think a bloke once told me that the old Chainmail set (the one that inspired D&D?) was designed for loads of figures on the table. I can't vouch for it personally, but it is here if you want a look: PDF link

Otherwise, the Hail Caesar/Black Powder/Pike & Shot series was more or less designed to get 1000s of figures onto a table and still have a playable game. Not my personal cup of tea, but they seem to do what they were designed to do pretty well. Since they were inspired by Warmaster, that would probably work too: PDF link

Olivero24 Dec 2017 12:06 a.m. PST

Shadowdragon, Most historical rules are designed for effect, not show. no offence meant. They are designed to work with as few miniatures as possible. (When I was young I played a game of Warhammer Epic that took an evening to finish half a round. After 6 months of playing we lost interest . So what's the point?)
There are several big battle rules on the market mixing fantasy with history. Rally round the king got positive Reviews, you might try that.

Olivero24 Dec 2017 12:28 a.m. PST

P.S.: Do take a look at Kings of War. Huge units possible, 28mm, Warhammer inspired, streamlined, fantasy and/or historical, mostly good reviews

Shadowdragon24 Dec 2017 12:53 a.m. PST

Triumph, Tactica, and Hail Caesar look interesting, I just wish there were fantasy and/or mythological versions. I've taken a look at Kings of War and wasn't impressed. I'm not a fan of buckets of dice, and I didn't like the weird bumper car combat. Taking a game and expanding the armies beyond what the game was designed to handle will always cause problems, which is why I'd prefer to find a game designed from the outset to handle large armies.

Martin Rapier24 Dec 2017 2:08 a.m. PST

Tbh, anything which is element or zone based can be played with as few or as many figures as you want. You can get an awful lot of 15mm figures onto a 25mm DBA base, and you can get truly monumental amounts of figures into a 10cm Hexon hex, if you are say, playing CnC Ancients with figures.

My 2mm stuff is pretty much 1:1, but the bases sizes are just standard. Maybe 10,000 figures each side?

madaxeman24 Dec 2017 4:26 a.m. PST

Shadow dragon – If you want loads of figures on "big" bases I suspect it's Hail Caesar or any of the DBx sets using 6mm or 10mm figures on the base sizes recommended for 25/8mm figures that you will want to be looking at.

Marcus Brutus24 Dec 2017 6:28 a.m. PST

Shadowdragon, you still haven't defined or described what you mean by "large armies".

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP24 Dec 2017 6:51 a.m. PST

Well, Poleaxed can accommodate 18000 figures…


YogiBearMinis Supporting Member of TMP24 Dec 2017 7:23 a.m. PST

We have rebased many of our DBA/M armies to play 15mm DBA on 28mm-sized bases, with twice as many figures per stand. A standard 12-element game feels more like a real battle than a game of chess as a result, and Big Battle DBA with 36 of the oversized elements looks terrific.

DBA is based on the conceit that no matter how many figures or bases you have in your army, you end up with 10-12 or so maneuver groups. If you are honest about most game systems, that turns out to be true—whether Warrior, Warhammer, Hail Caesar, whatever, you always end up with the same ballpark number of maneuver groups, whether one stand, four stands, or a huge movement tray. I may be a DBA fan, but I have indeed noticed this with most other systems I have played. (There may be other issues with DBA, but I am just talking about the representational issue at the moment.)

Previous posters have made this point to the OP, by saying that he can achieve a "big battle" feel in part by just increasing the number of figures in each maneuver group/stand/unit. Increasing the number of independent units becomes quickly unworkable unless you have an equally increasing number of players.

Marcus Brutus24 Dec 2017 10:31 a.m. PST

I agree with what Yogi said. Are you imagining more units to play with or a more visually satisfying aesthetic experience? My Impetus lists vary from 10 to 25 units for a one on one game of 2 hours. We could play bigger games of upwards of 40 units for a person but that is about the limit that one could manage in an evening game of 3 to 4 hours.

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Dec 2017 1:18 p.m. PST

We ran Pydna with To the Strongest!, and yes we had around a dozen manoeuvre groups per player which I agree is optimum. I think we have five players per side, and almost 3K minis in units up to 72 strong. The game played in just over 3 hours.




mghFond24 Dec 2017 4:21 p.m. PST

I would cast my vote for To the Strongest. My biggest (in number of figs) ancients armies use this rules set. Great fun and we can always finish the battle in one evening's play.

Shadowdragon25 Dec 2017 6:24 p.m. PST

Had a look at some videos on YouTube. Hail Casear plays an awful lot like Kings of War, which sadly isn't a good thing. I'm not a fan of games that use buckets of dice, although at least Hail Caesar isn't nearly as bad as Kings of War.

Really not a fan of the grid movement used in To the Strongest, so that one's also out.

The Tactica rules seem to only be available by invite only, so I'm not even going to bother looking into that.

I can't seem to find much on how Triumph plays, or how it differs from DBA. I guess it's still too new.

it's also a shame that the majority of suggestions didn't have any kind of support for fantasy or mythological elements. it kind of sucks that the two main options for mass combat fantasy games are Warhammer and Kings of War.

Ah well, thanks to everyone for the suggestions

khanscom25 Dec 2017 7:42 p.m. PST

Shadowdragon said: "…it's also a shame that the majority of suggestions didn't have any kind of support for fantasy or mythological elements…"

If you're looking at massed battles in the vein of Lord of the Rings, The Worm Ouroboros, or Robert E. Howard most rules seem to deal with any unusual combat troops as relatively minor variants of historical prototypes. WRG 4th edition and Milgamex's Ancient Warfare do just this.

If dealing with magic, Arnold Hendrick in the Milgamex rules above says (specifically relating to LotR): "A careful examination of source material will reveal that magic was not a battlefield weapon (wizards didn't cast spells or thunderbolts that wiped out portions of armies), but used purely for small audiences. It is therefore of no significance for these rules." Effects of magic- users in the rules were limited to moral impact and leadership.

WRG 4th's magic rules are too silly to warrant comment.

I was never fond of the HotT magic rules, and devised a slightly more detailed variant that allowed a greater variety of battlefield magic, but even this was simply based on the mechanics of the HotT/DB combat system.

TSR's Legions of the Petal Throne included a rather formalized battlefield magic system for use in the EPT universe; effects of various spells affected casualties, morale, or movement with each attack spell matched with a comparable defense spell. Something similar could probably be worked into any historical ancients rule set.

Sorry if I misinterpreted the "big armies" reference to mean "lots of figures".

Don Cossack26 Dec 2017 6:35 a.m. PST

Shadowdragon, I don't know anything about Warhammer, but I don't see any reason why a game like MAYHEM could not be played however large you like. I really like the game, it's very fantasyish and has some very innovative rules regarding things like skirmishers, sieges and strongpoints and even the utilization of terrain. You can pick up a copy for something like 8 bucks at Wargame Vault. Worth a try, in my opinion. Mayhem

williamb26 Dec 2017 9:25 a.m. PST

Scutarii from Hoplite Research allows large battles to be fought in a few hours even with only one player per side. There is a free fantasy supplement for the rules. One of the largest historical battles was Raphia with armies of about 70,000 men per side.



The rules are available in England from Caliver books or in the US from Hoplite Research at

Personal logo Dervel Supporting Member of TMP Fezian26 Dec 2017 9:26 a.m. PST

Triumph is still in Early Access Edition… The initial release will be out soon and it will be oriented around historical armies from Meshwesh.

There are currently 648 historical armies online.

We are now running introductory fantasy games as well which uses the same standard troop types as the historical game but with some additional flavor.

So for my games I use the point system to build armies and then add in my own special rules like Troll Rampage, Ferocious Orcs, Woodland affinity etc…

Some day I expect there will be a fantasy version of Meshwesh or at least some popular options available (Lord of the Rings for example), but in reality the game provides a framework to build your own armies from your favorite fantasy genre. since it is fantasy, there are no wrong or right ways to do this.

I am working on a Trojan War project where I also plan to have some possibilities for mythological creatures (Cyclops, Hydra….etc).

Marshal Mark27 Dec 2017 1:18 p.m. PST

You might want to take a look at Sword & Spear. Like some of the other games mentioned it is a unit based game, with each player normally commanding 10 – 20 units, and units being represented by as many figures as you want (8 – 16 figures per unit being typical for 15mm). Sword & Spear Fantasy adds fantasy elements to the historic rules and is ideal for representing large battles from literature such as LoTR.

roving bandit27 Dec 2017 10:26 p.m. PST

We used to play Warhammer with all the standard bases but with four or so 15mm miniatures per base. So even though "by the rules" a unit might be 20 men/bases, on the table it would be 80 or so figures. Still moved the same, ranges were the same, etc. Made for some epic scales battles without any more complexity than standard Warhammer.
I have since done the same for many other "28mm games" using smaller scaled armies.

Markconz28 Dec 2017 10:27 p.m. PST

Agree with Yogi Bear's comment.

womble67 Supporting Member of TMP06 Jan 2018 6:45 a.m. PST

I would recommend Hail Caesar Rules. Hope it helps.

As always, comments are appreciated.

Take care


Capt Flash13 Jan 2018 3:02 p.m. PST

I agree with womble67. And if you can grab a copy of Warmaster- just transfer Warmaster's magic rules directly to Hail Caesar, as per Rick Priestley's advice a number of years ago.

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