Help support TMP

"Aztec warfare/wargaming" Topic

26 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

Remember that you can Stifle members so that you don't have to read their posts.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Medieval Discussion Message Board

Back to the Renaissance Discussion Message Board

Areas of Interest


Featured Hobby News Article

Featured Link

Featured Ruleset

Forlorn Hope

Rating: gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star 

Featured Showcase Article

Oddzial Osmy's 15mm Teutonic Crossbowmen 1410

The next Teutonic Knights unit - Crossbowmen!

Featured Workbench Article

Featured Profile Article

Report from Bayou Wars 2006

The Editor heads for Vicksburg...

Featured Book Review

2,703 hits since 15 Apr 2018
©1994-2024 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Apr 2018 12:12 p.m. PST

Hi Folks

I've been considering the new 10mm Aztec range from Pendraken. I have no great desire to start a new period en-masse but I do really fancy painting these in small numbers but my knowledge of Aztec warfare is limited so I have some queries.

Can anyone offer advice on which figures might work for Mixtec/Zatopec, Tarascan and Purempecha (Chichimec) armies – particularly the latter, as no ‘warrior' archers are included in the range. Any Pendraken range or compatible manufacturer would do. I'm aware of some similarities between the armies (in appearance at least) but there still seem to be gaps when the similarities are taken into account (including bowmen as mentioned above and also shield bearers with large rectangular shields).

As it doesn't fit in with any other period I do at present I need some rules. I have found some dating back a while that seem to be a bit of a fusion between DBA & DBR (New World DBA) but would like something a bit more focussed on the native warfare as I have no interest in adding Spanish to the mix.

I'm looking for small battle / large skirmish type, multiple figure bases and some good ‘flavour'. I'm not interested in individual based skirmish rules or any that require tons of figures but somewhere between the two. Ideally they would be specifically written for early South American warfare but can't find any such beast so probably have to manage with a non-specific set.

Tony of TTT

mad monkey 115 Apr 2018 2:09 p.m. PST

Take a gander at Irregular Wars.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP15 Apr 2018 6:14 p.m. PST


May I recommend "The Sword, Cross, and Gold" variant of Larry Brom's venerable "The Sword and the Flame" rules? (scroll down the first page).

We've had a small number of games using them and Mark Stevens' Aztec and conquistador collection. They could easily handle small games of Aztecs versus other Indian forces.


GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Apr 2018 3:00 a.m. PST


Isn't the TSATF family all about individual figures ? I particularly want element based rules. Also these are colonial rules and they usually don't take native forces seriously.

Red358416 Apr 2018 2:41 p.m. PST

I'd recommend 'Quetzalcoatl Rampant, the Lion Rampant variant which can be found on the excellent 'I Live With Cats' blog….


GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Apr 2018 1:32 a.m. PST

Thanks for the suggestion Red but these are another skirmish set with individually based figures and buckets of dice – not my cup of tea.

ancientsgamer17 Apr 2018 8:23 a.m. PST

If playing in period vs historical opponents, I would give Mortem Et Gloriam a shot.

Not sure any rules set gets them absolutely correct for big battle. WRG 7th had them too powerful. I have seen the opposite with other sets. Slings and
macuahuitl did give the Spanish fits. Being that the Aztecs wanted to capture more than kill, I haven't seen any big battle game that simulates well. Then again, maybe in large battles capturing occurred after win was at hand?

Olivero17 Apr 2018 1:56 p.m. PST

I guess there is no dedicated big battles rules set for pre-Columbian warfare. Strange enough if you compare it to say Samurai warfare….

And this topic has been raised before, as have the mentioned rules here (all fine rules, I am sure)

Irregular Wars by the way is not a colonial set of rules, and has plenty of options for pre-Columbian american troop types.

And Lion Rampant/Quetzalcoatl Rampant a skirmish game? Depends on one's definition of skirmish….

Best bet might be here…. TMP link

I guess a lot of people would'nt mind playtesting those laugh

Wulfgar17 Apr 2018 7:24 p.m. PST

Another vote for Nicolas Wright's "Irregular Wars." They give a great game, and were designed with that time and place in mind.

mghFond17 Apr 2018 9:32 p.m. PST

I've played Irregular Wars and used it for Tlingits against California coastal Indians. I would think it could handle conquistadors v.s. Aztecs, etc.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Apr 2018 1:35 a.m. PST


Lion Rampant is described as a skirmish game in the description on Osprey – who are the publishers. Add single based figures & buckets of dice … that is giving a very strong 'skirmish' message to me.

A great deal of the descriptions & reviews I found make IW sound like a Colonial ruleset. Most of the battle reports I found were colonial battles. Without the rules it was a fair assumption, based on that evidence, that they were just that.

I downloaded a set last night and had a quick scan through. To be honest they still feel very much like a colonial set to me (first impression, still haven't read them right through) but the troop types are so generic that (like DBA) they could probably be used anywhere.

Bowman18 Apr 2018 2:14 p.m. PST

Being that the Aztecs wanted to capture more than kill, I haven't seen any big battle game that simulates well.

That's a common misconception.

The battles you are thinking about are the Flower Wars, which were stylized "battles" fought by smaller forces at predetermined times and locations. The point was to give combat experience to the warriors and hopefully gain some captives.

The Aztecs also fought in larger more traditional battles of conquest or retaliation where killing the enemy was important. But if you could subdue a high ranking enemy belligerent, then you would still gain prestige. This almost happened to Cortes, who was being dragged to the Temple of Tenochtitlan before being rescued by his men.

We don't know much about Aztec warfare as the Conquistadors were largely illiterate and showed almost no interest in the society they sought to destroy. What little we do know is that they fought in long battle lines, softened up the enemy formations with missile fire (arrows, slings and atlatls) and then would concentrate on areas of weakness to punch through with shock melee troops. Turning a flank was just as important as it was in the rest of the world. Units of warriors were not based on their weaponry or specialty but rather from which town or section of Tenochtitlan they came from.

I'd say most rules can handle what we know of Aztec warfare. For a good grounding on Aztec warfare, you can start with Ross Hassig's "Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Political Control"


Bowman18 Apr 2018 2:21 p.m. PST

Can anyone offer advice on which figures might work for Mixtec/Zatopec, Tarascan and Purempecha (Chichimec) armies

Sadly the Aztecs and their enemies wore distinctly different outfits. Also it is Purepecha, which is what the Tarascans called themselves. The word Tarascan is a derogatory Aztec term.

The Chichimecs were less civilized troops that probably looked similar to low cast Aztec archers.

Calculon19 Apr 2018 4:31 a.m. PST

What about L'Art de la Guerre? It's not an American continent specific ruleset but it's an element based game and I think you'd need around 30-50 elements per side (assuming you were using the 'traditional' WRG basing) to have a 200 point game. It's not a skirmish game but a compact representation of a large-ish battle.

The rules include lists for the whole ancient/medieval time-frame, and have quite a few American ones.

Thomas Thomas19 Apr 2018 8:51 a.m. PST


I'm in the process of modernizing DBX style rules and producing period specific versions. So far I've covered the latter Europeon medieval period in A Game of Knights and Knaves Expansions: Fire and Ice (WOR) & the Olde World (HYW).

Would consider adding a specific New World version. What would you suggest for DBX style rules for Aztec type warfare?

I've covered the New World a bit in Fire and Ice which has an alternative history campaign where the Lancastrians under Margaret accept exile to the New World and so clash with Native Americans, Aztecs, a Viking Colony, a Welsh Colony and finally the Spanish (I said it was alternative history). Army lists provided for all with period rules though not focused as much on Aztecs. Would appreciate your thoughts re DBX and Aztecs.

Thomas J. Thomas
Fame & Glory Games

Bowman20 Apr 2018 5:50 a.m. PST

Would consider adding a specific New World version.

Here's a good example of the element-style basing problems. This works OK with European armies. You can have a unit of billmen, a unit of pikemen, and unit of swordsmen, and a unit of crossbowmen. You can have elements for all of them. That makes sense in European armies where differently armed men had different roles on the battlefield.

This didn't really exist in Mesoamerican warfare. The basic combat units were not based on weaponry, or skill level, or special battlefield tactics. The combat units consisted of a variety of troops from veteran Cuachiques to novice warriors seeing their first combat. The unique thing is that all the warriors would come from the same "calpulli" or barrio. Therefore each warrior knew each other to some extent.

The problem comes about when you have an element of Jaguar Warriors, then an element of novice warriors, and then an element of warrior priests. That's not what an Aztec army looked like (as far as we can tell). I see this all the time in rulesets, especially with the DBX system.

What would you suggest for DBX style rules for Aztec type warfare?

Might not be the most exciting looking army. Most elements would contain a mixture of troops: fancy suit wearers at the front, regular troops in the middle and novices in the back. Warrior priests may have been in their own units, separate from the rest of the troops. But they would still start out as higher ranked priests in the front and novice priests in the rear.

Of course this "front heavy" formation wouldn't persist throughout the battle. Hassig suggests that the ranks were rotated so the front rank troops would retire to the rear for rest, food and water. This sounds logical but it is conjecture.

If the battle was big enough you would also have groups of "Macehualtin", who are non-professional lower social class archers or slingers. They would also be grouped together. Hope that helps somewhat.

Thomas Thomas20 Apr 2018 2:50 p.m. PST

Do you not think that the military orders (with backing novices etc.) should still be separate from the Cuahchicqueh and Otontin?

Its not uncommon in European stlye warfare for back ranks to be less armored.


Terry3720 Apr 2018 7:54 p.m. PST


I've read that it was common for the Aztecs to put the Quahchicque warriors behind the ranks To fill gaps as needed to save the line and bolster morale, or to push through the ranks to prevent a route. I suspect too that they were also probably an incentive not to fade back if you were in the front ranks.

My study has also shown that they did fight in groups, but there might be multiple groups spread throughout the army.

Of course I've also read that two or three of them might be enough to stop an invading army!!!! Can I say here that I saw it on the internet so it must be true!!!

In the HOTT Aztec army I am working on I have two elements of these bad boys planned as Warband.


Bowman21 Apr 2018 6:14 a.m. PST

Do you not think that the military orders (with backing novices etc.) should still be separate from the Cuahchicqueh and Otontin?

From what we know of the organization of an Aztec army (an admittedly poor understanding I'll admit) I'll have to say no.

The basic combat unit was the Xuiquipilli of 8,000 men, made of 20 Tzontli of 400 men each. Each Tzontli was from a "calpulli" or ward of the city. It would comprise of Cuachiques, Ontontin, Military Orders all the way down to novice warriors. Their weapons would most likely be the same, but their armour and uniforms would be different.

Since the regular training schools (telpochcalli) and the religious training schools (the calmaca) would exist in the same calpulli, then it is understood that the ward would also supply warrior priests to the Xiquipilli. What is not known is if the warrior priests fought in the same tzontli as the non-priest troops.

The cuahchiques were probably in the front ranks and would even come out farther forward, prior to the battle, to taunt and insult their adversaries. They may also have had special roles as Terry37 indicates. What is known is that they were probably the rear guard of the Aztec army, if it needed to fall back or retreat. It was reported that during the retreat from the battle of Charo, the Aztec army lost almost all of it's Cuachique and Ontontin warriors at the hands of the victorious Tarascans and their Matlatzinca allies.

Either way, any Cuachiques or Ontontin would be deployed in units that came from their calpulli.

Its not uncommon in European stlye warfare for back ranks to be less armored.

Agreed. I would offer that the Aztec army may have been organized more along the lines of ancient Germanic and Celtic warbands. The veterans and higher ranked warriors at the front, with warriors of less and less experience moving to the rear. Clearly, rank and status implies better armour in both cases.

The point I was making up thread was that the European style of forming similarly armed units to perform different duties on the battlefield was not really seen in the New World. For instance, units of pikemen have a different tactical role than the shot sleeves that are found on their flanks. Indeed, the conquistadors, in the early conflicts, brought pikemen. Once they found out that there were no mounted troops amongst the Maya and Aztecs, they quickly dispensed with the pikes.

Of course I've also read that two or three of them might be enough to stop an invading army!!!! Can I say here that I saw it on the internet so it must be true!!!

Lol. Well, the Aztecs were known for their mythologizing, self aggrandizement and propaganda. So I'm sure stories about a few Cuachiques stopping an entire enemy army were freely shared. Their only real serious defeat, prior to the Spanish arriving, was against the Tarascans, as I stated above. I guess the Tarascans didn't get the "memo" about Cuahchique invulnerability. wink

Olivero22 Apr 2018 11:23 a.m. PST


I suggested having a second look at Lion Rampant because although the miniatures are based individually, you move them as units (or am I mistaken?) and for me personally that is the major difference to a skirmish set of rules (for me, again, personally!)

As to what rules…

I gues most are aware of New World DBA link and link or if not, might be of interest….

And to go into another direction completely: If you look at renaissance warfare you have to consider wether the separation of troops according to type is really helpful in general. Here that question was applied to Samurai warfare, intersting stuff, I think: link

Olivero22 Apr 2018 11:15 p.m. PST

And the arme lists for New World Warrior contain a lot of information about mixing troop types, rank exchange, troop interpenetration and so on… link

Thomas Thomas25 Apr 2018 2:32 p.m. PST

Here is my first feeble attempt to get at least Alternative History Aztecs right (from A Game of Knights and Knaves Fire and Ice Expansion):

Aztec Expedition
Aggression: 3 Home Territory: Desert

Description Type Min-Maxi Cost
Military Orders Fast HF w/Swords 1-3 4
May make General (as Montezuma II & heirs) or Commander (+6)

Clan Warriors MF w/Swords 2-8 3
May make Fanatic as Ontontin or Cuachic 0-2 +1

Scouts LM w/Lances 0-2 2

Slingers Fast LF w/Bow (slings) 1-5 2

Great Cats & Handlers Ridden Beasts 0-1 4
Handlers count as "Riders"

Cannot take Castle upgrade to Camp

Use any figures intended as Aztecs. You may add a mix of better armor and weapons from various medieval figures. LM ride captured or prehistoric horses. Great Cats are prehistoric saber tooth tigers barely controlled by female handlers.

Additional Notes: this list comes from an Alternative History where the Viking settlements in NA were much more successful and so the New World proved convenient place to send exiled Lancastrians. In addition in this world the great die off of prehistoric mammals in NA did not occur so the continent is still full of wooly mammoths and saber tooth tigers.

Key: LF = Light Foot +2 Combat Factor(CF); MF = Medium Foot +3 CF; HF = Heavy Foot +4 CF. "Swords" are macuahutils; they raise CF v. Foot by +1, lower CF v. Mounted by -1. Fanatic troops "Shock" Heavy Foot (Destroyed on More). Fast increase movement at cost of Recoiling on Equals.

In retrospect I should have made the clan warriors Fast (or at least an option).

Thomas J. Thomas
Fame and Glory Games

Terry3725 Apr 2018 8:00 p.m. PST

Some really great points here. Sadly the best reference I ever found was Chronafus, but when I recently checked his site it was virus infected and gone. I have to say he knew more about gaming Meso-Americans than anyone as it seems he was able to read the Codex in detail and had them all.

Tom, I love some of the elements you've put forward and may adopt some. Especially the Jaguar mounted Indian. I'd use them instead of just Jaguar suit warriors – an idea I'd not thought of before!!!


Thomas Thomas01 May 2018 1:39 p.m. PST

Sorry for the awful formatting – some how it didn't translate.

A few notes:

In A Game of Knights & Knaves "Beasts" are Clumsy (take 2 PIPs to move) but if Ridden they are not. In this case the handlers don't ride them just goad them but count as Riders (but if you want women on saber-tooths or just big pre-historic jaguars go for it).

The idea is to distinguish between packs of dire-wolves and those ridden by Goblins for we traditional Tolkien fans.

Sorry for the non-historical diversion still working on the New World.

Thomas J. Thomas
Fame and Glory Games

Father Grigori02 May 2018 6:31 a.m. PST

Many years ago in Miniature Wargames (probably around issue 20 or so) there was an article with a simple set of rules for 5th Commando vs Simbas. The mercenaries moved and fought as individuals, the Simbas as groups on a single base, but commanded by individual officers. Each base had its own random factors for firepower (melee was an automatic win). The same kind of asymetric system could be used for Aztecs and Spanish. Spanish fight as individual figures, but Aztecs as groups.
Just an idea.

balagan20 Jun 2018 3:14 p.m. PST

Thanks to Olivero for bringing attention some of the Aztec material on my site, and in particular New World DBA.

If a DBA variant is your thing then have a look at the Rules of New World DBA. Personally I think this system gives quite a good game with reasonable simulation.

Unfortunately, and I've only just realised this, I haven't posted any battle reports of my own. I must rectify that. Particularly since I've rebuilt my Conquistatores on big bases. I just have to do the same for the Aztecs.


Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.