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rddfxx writes:

RW and MW have significant differences. It is fun to play late Medieval, early Renaissance games under both rulesets and compare results. Jeff Ball, Terry's RW co-author, often switches back and forth between rulesets for War of the Roses scenarios. MW should do just fine for Early Italian wars just the way it is. There is nothing in the rules that needs to be modified to carry them into and past 1530. You do need to provide the army lists, perhaps by refering to RW.

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Terry L. Gore of SAGA writes:

SAGA Medieval Warfare Rules Design Notes

Medieval Warfare

With the advent of the Foundry edition of Medieval Warfare (followed by Ancient Warfare in due course), we can look forward to a very slick and professional ruleset. Lance Cawkwell, the Foundry rules editor, has spent well over a year designing, laying out and proofing the rules. I still do not have a solid publication timetable, but I am pressing, as is the editor of Foundry Books, to get this ruleset out as quickly as possible. After all of this time, I am more than eager to have them see the light of day.

Medieval Warfare will be the first of the Foundry rules releases, which include our aforementioned Ancient Warfare rules, Frank Chadwick's V&B as well as Frank's own Ancient rules. Being the first set to be released, MW will be the template for all future releases, and thus has been the most difficult to design and work to get together. With all the delays and publication glitches, it will still be quite the booklet when it does appear.

However, before I get into the Foundry revisions to Medieval Warfare, I would like to explain why some of the mechanisms in Medieval Warfare have been developed and why they work the way they do. This will hopefully give older players and new players alike a look at how the rules work and what my rationale behind them is.

Figure and Time Scale

Why is it even necessary to have these in rules? Well, all things are relative. Being tactical level rules, a smaller figure ratio was desired in Medieval Warfare, thus giving more importance to the actual representation of our 'men', in turn represented on the tabletop by our painted figures. In MW, each figure equals approximately 20-40 actual men or animals. We have played large-scale battles where this has been raised to 100 men per figure with absolutely no changes to the tactics or play of the game - as it should be. The figure scale should not really matter, and actually in MW, as far as play balance goes, it doesn't. The figure ratio is there simply as a parameter with which to establish relative ground scale.

As far as time scale goes, this is important, as this will dictate movement, rates of missile fire and duration of close combats. In order to keep the game/battle moving along at a comfortable speed, we consider each game turn to be of 5-10 minutes of actual time. If you play ten turns, the 'battle' is considered to have lasted an hour to an hour and a half. Once you have played a few games, you will find that your real time of playing the game will be in the vicinity of 2-3 hours, in which you would actually play 8-10 turns. At that point, you will find that a decisive tactical decision has been reached.


Why units? Because in my considerable research, it was unit cohesion - whether it be an Irish warband or a Byzantine skutatoi regiment - that determined what morale and physical condition your men perceived themselves to be in. Jungian psychology talks of the 'collective', of people being bound together psychologically. The collective of a man's feeling of well being in war is determined by how he sees his unit, his band of brothers, doing and what tactical position his commander has put him in. He cares about his friends, relatives and neighbors who are fighting alongside him. If holding firm and feeling strong, they will be fine. If taking heavy casualties, being tired, or in a precarious position, their morale may fail them.

For playing purposes in MW, the unit is a collection of figures mounted on stands or bases. We normally mount as many figures on the base as is given for that particular unit's strength in the army lists. Close order and trained loose order foot are mounted four to a base. Most cavalry and irregular loose order foot are mounted three to a base and skirmish foot and cavalry are mounted two on a stand. Artillery, elephants, wagons and ships are mounted one to a stand.

These bases or stands are then joined together in units. For cavalry, units are normally 2-6 stands. For foot, 4-8 stands. Larger units may be used, but they get a bit unruly and difficult to command. Projecting one's voice over an area occupied by a much larger number of men is next to impossible, especially in the heat of battle. You will find that practically speaking, the above unit sizes work the best. Larger units are in fact penalized as they must take morale tests for each stand lost, and each stand lost is a -1 on the morale roll, just like smaller units. This replicates the difficulties and vagaries of handling larger, unruly and often out of local command control, larger units.


Yes, they fight in MW. Each general has a bodyguard (figures on his stand). Generals take casualties and can be killed. They also can lose all of their order giving ability if fighting in a close combat, routing or leaving the table because they were too busy in these circumstances to give any orders.

Many wargamers complain about the lack of fog of war in their games. There is not enough hidden movement, enemy units are all so 'visible' and generals (players) have an unrealistic overview of the battlefield. How do you replicate this in a game that still works? What I did was simply restrict the number of orders each general is capable of giving each turn. Unlike another system, this does not change each turn, but is set at the beginning of a know how good (or bad) your commanders are and can plan accordingly.

Yes, you have the choice in determining which of your units get to do anything each turn, but you are restricted and will soon find you are hamstrung at times with command control problems. Even worse, if you have units outside of command range (16" if using large bases...28mm figures), they cost double orders to get them to move!

As for uncertainty, we have screens set up in the middle of each table so you have no idea about your opponent's setup until the screen is removed. Talk about fog of war....

And terrain setup...well, here is where superior generalship really shines. A charismatic or brave general gets to add or deduct one from his terrain placement die roll, giving him a better chance of getting favorable terrain...and isn't that what better generals did? If your commander in chief is charismatic or brave and the enemy general is not, you also get to add one to your initiative die roll each turn...allowing you yet another advantage for having a better commander.

Order Markers

There is no paperwork in MW. For orders, we use markers or chits. This serves a very real alleviate ambiguity, argument and mistakes. Having to place your orders simultaneously also eliminates any problems with 'interpretation'. Even though we use a you-move, I-move system (at least for tactical movement), with order markers, the opponent cannot simply react and take advantage of the person who moves first...he has to follow his own orders...period.

Losses and Removal of Stands

We use the term 'strength' to designate how many figures must be lost before the unit loses a complete stand. This system eliminates the paper roster system that has always been open to player mistakes and error, i.e. "Oh, did I forget to put down those losses from last turn?" With the actual casualties represented on the table with casualty figures, markers of whatever, this is no longer a problem. There is no ambiguity here at all and also no paperwork to be concerned with.

Complete stand removal also results in an easy and very visual way to determine how badly off some of your units have become. It also eliminates the problems inherent with single figure removal. As another visual reminder, it is easy to see how a unit's morale has deteriorated with losses as well.

Dice and the Role of Chance in AW/MW

As many of you know, my die rolls are the thing of legends...a continuous poor showing, over and over. For this reason, I have made chance less powerful in AW/MW than in most other systems. Yes, you roll dice, and it may seem rather dramatic at times what the fluctuation in rolls may result in...especially in regards to morale...but, you can alleviate most of these poor results with good tactical planning. Making certain your key units are supported and within close proximity to a general helps a lot. Being uphill or in a strong tactical position also helps. Having a good defensive situation with Defend orders and being in shieldwall or locked shields also can alleviate a bad morale die roll. In fact, oftentimes, it is near impossible to fail a morale test if you plan accordingly. Does this help? Yeah! I would be a perennial loser in every game if I did not plan for this. Making sure that you have your troops in the best position for success is part of a good battle plan. And if the worst happens, I have provided for an out...the famous 'God Roll' whereby you get to reroll one bad die roll per turn!

With missile fire, I have opted to use a lot of dice. Why? Simple, really. Most of us like to roll large numbers of dice from time to time and with missile fire, we get to do just that. Each shot is important, but again, the die rolls have a tendency to even out over the course of a game so you may start out cold as ice and end up hot at the end of the battle...provided you are not already out of missiles!

Yes...out of missiles...the problem with supply. I was accused of being too 'fiddly' with this, but supply is interesting and makes for another tactical decision each turn. Should you use your limited orders for re-supplying missile units or should you press home your shock attacks? Use of supply units...or lack of them as the case may be, can give you even more options. Should you spend the points to buy supply units or spend them on more troops? What if you run out of ammunition...what then? Well, without supply units, you don't have to worry about those missile troops anymore...they have done their job...for this battle.

Close combat is another thing entirely. Here, the dice have multi-layers of value, from determining the random factors of battle, to the integrity of a charge, to finalizing the casualty count. Each single die roll by itself will not be overly crucial, thus the layer effect. Yet, taking them as a whole gives you an outcome that seems to feel right. With any rules set, having a battle finish and being able to say that it felt like it was true to historical outcomes is very important to me. Playability is important, but I do not feel you have to lose historical outcomes to have this.

Factors and Their Numbers vs. Quickness and Speed of Play

Some...well, quite a few gamers have complained to me about the number of factors/modifiers that must be counted up when doing calculations for morale, missile fire and close combat. The conventional wisdom in a world filled with sound bites (along with mental distraction from the thought process) frowns on calculations and anything but the quick fix of an easy die roll. When we began to develop our rules, one thing I really wanted to bring out was the importance of morale, armor, weaponry and leadership on the psychological and physical state of a unit.

The charts in the rules are a bit comprehensive, but once you have played the game a number of times, the factors become second nature and you will find yourself running through them in your head...with little reference to the QRS. There is nothing extremely time consuming there, and in fact you will see that they are actually quite quick to adjudicate. Do they slow down play? For new players, yes, but again, once you have gotten used to the system, they will be very quick to figure out. They make the system flow and give realistic results...and what more can you ask?

Frenzied or Ferocious Charges

A normal charge can be made into a ferocious or frenzied charge in certain instances. This simulates the insanity of Medieval battles where blood feuds and vendettas often led to brutal fighting with high casualties and little quarter given Irregulars may always opt to try for this. Trained units within a certain range of a friendly charging general may also opt to try for it. It is simply getting them worked up enough to really go berserk. It is not a given, however. Like most things in MW, it is a risk. You must roll your To Pass morale number or higher to become frenzied. If you fail, you suffer the consequences...and these are far from pleasant. . There is an optional rule that I recommend which requires lance armed irregular cavalry to attempt to go frenzied and charge the nearest enemy unit within range! This simulates the problem with trying to control those impetuous knights of medieval lore.

So if you do not have to try to become frenzied, why take the risk? Well, a ferocious or frenzied charge gives you some valuable additional combat modifiers. It is often worth the risk, especially for veterans who only have a 20% chance of failing.

Why do Trained units get to do more things than Irregulars?

Because they had that training which allowed them to make moves that irregulars could not. Trained units normally cannot become frenzied (see above), but they could march backward, sidestep and were more maneuverable than their irregular counterparts. Trained cavalry are less adept, but even they are advantaged maneuver-wise over irregulars.

Once you realize that you can change facing and formation, expand out at ease, move (very slowly, mind you) through delaying terrain without disorder, and actually retreat half your normal movement without being disordered...something irregulars cannot do unless they are will readily see the value of a trained army.

Defend Orders

Infantry, but not mounted, units may be given Defend orders. These reflect the unit readying itself for either missile fire or close combat. Defend orders do not allow a unit to move, so this is something you give up. I liken it to digging in. You are butting your spears into the ground, preparing to receive a charge with maximum readiness. For missile fire, you are simply firing off more missiles or taking the time to aim. Defend orders also allows missile units to fire with much greater speed, thus the Arrow Barrage rule whereby an archer unit with Defend orders gets to fire 1/3 more missiles than usual.

Dummy Orders

These are used to confuse your opponent so that he will not know if your units are actually ordered to do anything or not. You can use as many dummy orders as your commander in chief has normal orders, so the better your CinC, the more able you are to confuse the enemy. Again, this is a fog of war idea. Since you are limited in the number of orders your generals may give each turn, without these the opponent would know exactly who has orders to do something and who has not. Adding more uncertainty to the battlefield is a good thing!

Strategic and Tactical Movement

This was a matter of wanting the units to move more quickly when they were further away from the enemy - in this instance, outside of command range (9", 12" or 16" depending upon base size). Once outside of this range from any visible enemy, you get to use the faster strategic movement. Movement is faster because units and the men in them are not concerned with thinking about enemy they are not within range of from missiles or are outside of charge range.

The movement also simulates the ability to move reserves more rapidly from one sector to another in order to lend support to the engaged line. Also, note that the strategic movement phase is simultaneous. Both you and your opponent move at the same time, speeding up the game.

Tactical movement is that movement done within command range of any visible enemy.

Terrain and Its Effects

I spent most of my life in upstate New York. We have a varied terrain here...rolling hills, mountains, woods, farms, etc. In walking through the various parks such as Letchworth and the Adirondacks, I have a great respect for how terrain can foil even the greatest of tactical plans. One thing in AW/MW that I wanted to do was remove the certainty of terrain delay from movement rates. Once you walk into a woods, you can never tell when you will come out...maybe not for hours! By using a variable movement rate in delaying terrain (i.e. a d6 or more loss of inches of movement), I could make this variable totally unpredictable and unknown. And it sure is! In AW/MW, moving through delaying terrain can be a disaster at times. You take a chance doing this. Just like in real life.

Terrain can also be very disordering. Many troop types were fairly useless in dense terrain, the reason why most cavalry, close order foot, wagons and elephants will avoid it. If you must go in there, use troops who were used to it, loose order foot or skirmisher foot.

Interpenetration and Disorder

The only units normally allowed to freely move through any others without penalty are skirmish infantry. This is because they were widely spaced out and could quickly slip through or past closer ordered ranks of their own army. This was the function of skirmishers, to harass and slow an enemy, inflict hits on him, and then turn and run away if threatened. They would not stay and fight unless this were other skirmish infantry, but instead would run from the converging enemy. All other units moving through each other cause both units to become disordered.

Crusader order is the exception to this, as foot would open lanes for cavalry to charge or retreat through. Only certain designated units in selected army lists were able to do this. The foot would not otherwise move if allowing cavalry to charge or retreat through them this turn.

Morale Tests

In MW, your unit is required to test for morale when being charged if the attacker is a better armor class, is infantry being attacked by non-skirmisher mounted in the open or is surprised by an enemy they did not see or expect. This reflects the actual psychological fear of being attacked by 'better' units.

Re-enactors (I used to be one) know what I mean by this. If you perceive yourself to be inferior, you might not want to stick around to prove your point! Other morale tests are the more usual ones, i.e. a general or a sacred relic seen routed or slain, seeing a friendly non-skirmish infantry unit rout close by, losing a stand, attempt to rally a routing unit, etc. One other test is for attempting to make a normal charge into a ferocious or frenzied attack. Finally, if being charged and having with bows, crossbows or artillery, you must roll to pass your morale number to get to fire at close range, otherwise fire at effective range.

If failing a morale test, there are two charts. One is for units testing while in the act of charging and the other for all other situations. Charging units are a bit more worked up, so are not as adversely affected by failed morale, though it still hurts them and potentially could hurt them a lot.

Adjusting Stand in Close Combat and the Random Die Roll

We allow the player who moved first to align stands that end up in ambiguous contact situations. He lines them up so that all stands fighting are in neat base to base contact with the opponent's stands. This eliminates needless and time-consuming fidgeting with the stands! It also gives an advantage to the player moving first.

The random die roll combines all of the imponderables into a simple d6 roll off between opponents. The high total adds the difference between the two die rolls to his close combat modifiers. This simulates all sorts of things that could have been added to make the close combat modifier too long and clumsy, so all of these items (unit tired, commander drunk, thirsty men, sun in your eyes, etc.) are simply handled this easy and quick way.

These have been just a few instances of why things are the way they are in MW. Now it is time to move the Foundry version.

The Foundry Edition of MW

What has actually been changed? Very little in substance, really, but a lot in the way of how the rules will be presented. The rules booklet will be approximately 64 pages, with additional pages of color photos and appendices. There will be a vibrant looking cover and sections on building an army and terrain will also be included. A substantial number of SAGA army lists will be included as well, I'm not sure how many exactly, but at least a dozen and perhaps as many as two dozen, depending on how much space is allotted to them.

I am really excited about having some very illustrious contributors such as Herb Gundt (photos of how to construct buildings from the ground up) and artwork from Peter Dennis enhancing the text sections on figure painting by Kevin Dallimore, terrain making and other interesting items to make the rules truly an all-in-one experience for beginner and veteran alike. The emphasis will be on ease of play as well as being pretty darned good to look at. I'm, looking forward to seeing all of those beautifully painted Foundry armies and what will be a very good set of rules being available to players worldwide.

The most notable actual change in the Foundry edition has to do with missile fire. In the past, we have used a system that some have had problems with. The main stumbling block had to do with the fact that the missile fire modifiers seemed strange with 'good' modifiers receiving a minus bonus and 'bad' modifiers receiving a plus bonus. For some reason, I never really thought about changing this...and the change was really so simple.

Basically, we will be going to a percentage chance for a stand to hit an enemy unit, similar to way a casualty is assessed in the close combat section. This means that the missile fire To Hit tables are changed. Now, instead of the previous 6+, 8+ and 10 needed on a d10 to get a hit, you will need to roll a percentage, (50%) or a 5 or less, (30%) or a 3 or less, or (10%) a 1 to get a hit.

The modifiers now will make sense, with good modifiers receiving a plus and bad ones receiving a minus. Also, instead of going low on missiles with a '10', you will now go low with a '1' rolled on a d10. This makes it more in line with the rest of the rules and also provides an easier, more understandable way to assess hits. You will still roll a d10 per stand firing as before.

Other changes:

Some nomenclature changes, such as Ferocious Charge instead of Frenzied, and Buffoons instead of Poor generals.

Elephant and camel armies will also now find that their own cavalry are not disordered by elephants or camels. This is a change from the current system. The new disorder penalty reads:

Cavalry units serving in armies which do not contain elephants or camels, coming within 1/3 engagement range of them.

This will make armies that contain elephants or camels a bit more powerful than before, but nothing too dramatic. I know I have had this argument with members of the group before and finally have decided to accept this. It is easier...if your enemy has elephants and/or camels facing you, his own cavalry will not be bothered by them.

If you do not have these animals in your own out for that disorder penalty.

I am looking forward to the release of these rules after six years. I will continue to be available for rules questions and comments as always. This will not change! SAGA, the SAGA Publishing website and the rules group will all be open for dialogue and discussion as they always have. If you haven't already, take a moment to join the SAGAWarfare rules group. Thanks for your continued and valued support!