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Hordes of the Things

Simple fantasy rules for epic fantasy battles, including a variety of basic unit types (gods, magicians, heroes, lurkers, and so forth). Point cost system allows players to invent their own armies. Rulebook also includes campaign system, and a number of pre-generated armies.

Phil Barker, Sue Laflin Barker, Richard Bodley Scott
Wargames Research Group
Year Published
Out of Print
86-page paperback
Each figure represents an indeterminate number of actual combatants. Ground scale is 1" = 100 paces (when using 15mm figures or smaller); 10mm = 25 paces (25mm figures). One turn represents 15 minutes. Can be used with 25mm, 15mm, or 6mm figures.
The width of the base depends upon the size of figures being used; the depth also depends upon the figure's type. The number of figures per base also depends upon the figure's type. For instance, an element of 15mm swordsmen is composed of 4 figures mounted on a 40mm (frontage) x 15mm (depth) base; a 15mm dragon is mounted alone on a 40mm x 60mm base.

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This entry created by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian on 4 September 1999. Last revised by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian on 10 January 2017.

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Hordes of the Things

Quick play fantasy wargame and campaign rules with army lists

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As the designers explain, Hordes of the Things was designed:

…as a partial antidote to sets of fantasy rules which have both grown steadily more complex and departed further and further from what must be described, possibly slightly tongue in cheek, as "authentic" mythology... Our intent is to provide the simplest possible set of fantasy wargames rules that retain the feel and generalship requirements of battle.

Armies From Elements

Before the game can begin, both players must have an army. The gamer can select from the large selection of pre-designed armies at the back of the rulebook, or design his own.

When designing an army, each player is given a budget of Army Points (AP's) to spend (24 AP's for a typical game). Each stand or element in the game costs a certain number of points. The only restriction is that at least half of any army must consist of low-point-cost elements (you can't build an all-dragon army, for instance).

The possible elements (troop types) are:

Gods Virile pagan war-god. Powerful in battle, but enters the game on a random turn once play has begun. Might leave the battle at a random moment as well.
Dragons Powerful flying creatures, but likely to panic from the field if the fighting goes bad. Like gods, they enter the game at random moments.
Airboats Flying creatures or vehicles capable of making powerful anti-ground attacks (i.e., bombardments, showers of arrows, etc.).
Flyers All flying creatures not mentioned elsewhere (winged cavalry, pterodactyls, Gnomish machines, etc.).
Heroes Great warriors and their entourages.
Paladins Powerful warrior, whose presence disturbs the efficacy of magic spells.
Knights Heavily armed and armored cavalry.
Riders All cavalry which aren't Knights.
Behemoths Entities of exceptional size or strength.
Beasts Packs of wild animals.
Blades Soldiers armed with swords or other cutting-type weapons.
Spears Includes all troops using polearms. Spearmen receive a bonus when fighting in ranks.
Shooters All troops capable of making "ranged" attacks, including slingers, archers, crossbowmen, and musketeers.
Warbands Wild, irregular troops (such as Celts). Have a slight advantage when fighting vs. Blades.
Artillery Includes both mechanical and gunpowder devices.
Hordes Masses of weak but numerous infantry. When a Horde element is eliminated in battle, a new Horde element can march into the battle!
Lurkers "Hidden" elements which can ambush an advancing enemy. These could be bandits, crocodiles, wild apes, or almost anything else that fights in this fashion.
Sneakers Troops which utilize "infiltration" tactics, such as ninja or wraiths.
Magicians The only element capable of making a magical attack. Represents a powerful mage and his henchmen, or a small group such as a trio of witches.
Clerics Hinder magic by their presence; in combat vs. pagan gods, have a chance of causing them to flee.

Note that the same stats are used for all troops within the same element class -- for instance, there is no game difference between Elven Crossbowmen and the Red Gunners of Mars (both are Shooters).

Before play, one element in each army is designated to include that side's General. Certain elements (i.e., Gods, Lurkers) cannot "host" the general.

EXAMPLE OF ARMY BUILDING: Here is how one player spent his 24 Army Points to build a Gnomish Artisan army.

Point Cost Number Name Element Class Cost
4 points 1 Gnomish Mage Magician 4 pts. apiece
8 points 2 Giant, Trained Forest Apes Behemoth 4 pts. apiece
2 points 1 Gnomish Musketeers Shooter 2 pts. apiece
4 points 2 Gnomish Pikemen Spear 2 pts. apiece
2 points 1 Gnomish Flying Machines Flyer 2 pts. apiece
2 points 1 Goblin Mercenary Cavalry Rider 2 pts. apiece
2 points 2 Gnomish Traps Lurker 1 pt. apiece
24 points 10 elements TOTAL

Note that no more than half of the army (12 points' worth) consists of high-point-cost elements (i.e., Magicians and Behemoths).

In this case, he designated the Gnome general as being aboard the Gnomish Flying Machine.

The Sequence of Play

During play, both players alternate taking Bounds (turns). Each Bound consists of the following steps:

Initiative Phase Player randomly determines how many Player Initiative Points (PIP's) he receives this turn, then spends them so that elements can move or perform special actions.
Ranged Combat Phase Both players may make attacks with units able to attack from a distance (for instance, Magicians, Shooters, and Artillery). The player whose Bound this is determines the order in which attacks are resolved.
Melee Phase All elements in contact resolve close combat. The player whose Bound this is determines the order in which attacks are resolved.

Spending PIPs

During the Initiative Phase, the player rolls a die to discover how many PIPs he has that turn. PIPs can then be spent for --

  • movement
  • bringing a God into play (very expensive)
  • bringing all dragons into play (very expensive)
  • bringing a Lurker into play next to an enemy element (but only if the enemy is in suitable terrain)
  • bringing a Horde back into play
  • to "desorcel" (disenchant) a Hero or Magician
  • making magical attacks (during the Ranged Combat Phase)

Unused PIPs are lost at the end of the player's Bound.


To move an element, the player must spend a PIP. The exact cost depends upon the situation and troop type -- for instance, it is more costly to move troops not within sight of their general. Each troop type has a basic movement rate, given in terms of Paces. That rate might change depending upon terrain. For instance, Blades move 200 paces when off-road, or 400 paces on a road.

Generally speaking, elements can't move through other elements, though there are exceptions (Sneakers, for instance, can move through friendly or enemy elements).

Any number of extra PIPs can be spent to boost the movement of elements traveling by road with their general.

One way to conserve PIPs is to move elements by group rather than individually. Generally speaking, "groups" are elements moving in line or column formations, and not in contact with the enemy.


There are two forms of combat -- Ranged and Melee.

Melee Combat. During the Melee Combat Phase, adjacent elements must fight one another. If an element has more than one enemy, only one enemy can attack.

A dieroll is made for each element, and a bonus (determined by the element's type) is added to the result. In addition, an element might qualify for the following combat bonuses or penalties:

  • the general is present ("hosted" by this element)
  • being uphill
  • behind a river
  • in rough terrain
  • being attacked by more than one enemy

The two scores are compared, and the element with the high score is the victor. Two results are possible -- a minor or a major success.

A major success is achieved if the high score is double or more than the low score. In most cases, this causes the losing element to be removed from play.

A minor success is any victory which is not a major success. Many possible consequences are possible, depending upon the type of the victor and loser. For example, a Cleric who achieves a minor success against a God causes the God to flee; scoring a minor success against a Rider in rough terrain causes that element to be destroyed.

As a result of a minor success, a losing element might have to Recoil (back up) or Flee (back up, change direction, then move whatever distance is required by the minor success result). When their opponents retreat, certain element types (for instance, Knights) must initiate a pursuit.

EXAMPLE OF COMBAT: During an epic battle, a body of Gnomish Pikemen (two elements, one behind the other) are brought into melee combat by an advancing Horde of skeletons.

The Horde receives a combat bonus of +2, with no special modifiers applying. The Pikeman have a combat bonus of +4, with a bonus of +1 (supported by another Spear-type element behind).

The Undead player rolls a "6", which with the bonus (+2) results in a total of 8. The Gnomes roll a "1", modified (+5) to a total of 6. The Undead score a minor success (8 vs. 6).

Looking up the result of a minor success vs. a Spear-type unit, the player discovers that the Pikemen must recoil. (If the attacker had been Knights in good terrain, however, the Pikemen would have been removed from play!) The lead element recoils, immediately bumping into the supporting element of Pikemen, which is then "pushed back" to allow the first element to complete its recoil.

Ranged Combat. The same combat system is used for ranged combat, with the exception that the attacker is immune to adverse combat results (unless the enemy is capable of firing back, and chooses to do so). The attacker must be able to trace a clear line of sight to his intended target, and must generally be facing in that direction.

Artillery has the special restriction of only being able to attack during the enemy player's Bound, and only if it didn't move or pivot in its last Bound. No ranged attack may be made if the firing element is in contact with an enemy.

A penalty applies to ranged attacks against elements in the woods or buildings. If multiple (up to three) elements attack the same target, the "extra attacks" are not resolved, but instead a penalty applies to the defender's dieroll.

EXAMPLE OF RANGED COMBAT: Seeing that his Pikemen are in trouble, on a future Bound the Gnomish player rushes his Musketeers into range to attack the Undead skeletal horde. Like all Shooters, the Musketeers can attack at a range of 200 paces or less.

The Horde has no ranged combat ability, so cannot fire back. It still rolls the attack dice, but the Musketeers are immune to any adverse combat result.

The Musketeers have a combat factor of +3 against infantry, and no modifiers apply. The Horde has a combat factor of +2, with no modifiers.

The Gnomish player rolls a "4", modified (+3) to a result of 7. The Undead player rolls "4" also, modified (+2) to a 6. The Gnomish player wins, but not by enough for a major success.

The result of a minor success vs. a Horde is that the element recoils.

Magical Attacks. In HOTT, only Magicians are capable of using battlefield magic. As the designers explain:

In the worlds of fantasy fiction, magic really works, though apparently more effectively on a personal scale than in the clash of armies... In this rule set, magicians and their magic are mainly treated analogously to powerful long range artillery, but with the chance of disaster to inept practitioners, inhibition in the immediate presence of clerics, and the imposition of movement constraints on the user's side.

Magicians are limited in that there is an extra PIP cost for movement involving them, and that PIPs must be spent each time they attack (which means they can never attack during the enemy player's Bound).

The magical attack is treated similarly to a normal ranged attack, though the Magician has greater range and can attack in any direction. However, if during the course of a game, a Magician rolls a "1" for the second time when attacking, he is removed from play. (Or, if a suitable figure is available, the Magician is turned into a frog or insect.)

If a Magician scores a minor success vs. a Hero or another Magician, his victim becomes Ensorcelled and is removed from play. The victim is returned to play if the offending Magician is removed from play, or if PIPs are spent to Desorcel him (very expensive).

Battles and Campaigns

In a typical encounter, both players dice to determine which will be the defender. The defending player sets up the terrain. (According to the rules, the optimum playing area when using 15mm figures is 24" square, or 36" when using 25mm figures.)

The defender designates the four map edges as 1-4. The attacking player designates two of the edges as 5 and 6. A dieroll then determines which side will be the one from which the attack comes.

The attacker deploys his army within a short distance of his map edge, following which the defender deploys near the opposite map edge. (However, certain unusual elements are not deployed at start, but come into play during the course of the battle.)

The defender also places his stronghold during his deployment. A stronghold is a terrain objective of the defender's choice (i.e., castle, village, enchanted forest, etc.). Friendly troops cannot enter the stronghold (it is assumed to be fully garrisoned). One attack can be made per turn against the stronghold, but only during close combat. Strongholds have a high combat factor, but if an attacker achieves a "minor success" the stronghold is captured.

The defender begins the game, taking the first Bound.

The battle continues until one side loses. An army loses if its general is dead or if it has lost half its force (in Army Points), and if its AP total is lower than the opposing army. An army automatically loses if its stronghold is captured. The defeated army is assumed to flee from the field of battle.

Campaign Games. The rulebook includes a simple system for resolving multi-year wars involving any number of players. An area map is used, with links showing which regions connect to other regions (see rulebook sample, below).

Sample Campaign Map

Each "turn" of the Campaign Game represents one of the three war seasons of the year (nobody fights in the winter). When an army invades a region, the ruler of that place can decide whether or not to fight.

Allies also play a role in the Campaign Game. When an invasion is declared, other players have the option of coming to the aid of the attacker. Later, if the defending player decides to stand and fight, the other players can opt to ally with him.

When other players aid in a battle, they are allowed to send a small contingent to help in that combat. The allied force enters player at a random moment after the game as begun, from a map edge reflecting where they have marched from on the campaign map.

During the winter, each player has the chance to rebuild his army. Army Points are received according to the number of regions controlled, allowing the player to return to play those elements destroyed in battle. Armies can never grow larger than their initial strength.

The Campaign Game continues for a pre-determined number of Seasons. Victory Points are given for each city under a player's direct control, as well as for cities under the control of tributary players (those which have accepted that player as overlord). The player with the most points wins.

The Army Lists

Nearly half of the rulebook is made up of pre-generated armies, based on mythology or various works of fantasy. Each listing shows a basic army, then usually gives options for additional element types. For example, the basic Goblin Army consists of a Goblin chieftain with bodyguards, a vampire bat swarm, goblin wolf riders, a wolf pack, nine Goblin hordes, and some lurking spiders. The options are to trade out the Goblin chieftain for a Dark Sorcerer, or trade out two regular units in exchange for a troop of trolls (Behemoths).

The Army Lists provided with HOTT are:

Genre or Category Army Lists
GENERIC Elf or Fairy
Goblin or Orc
(Robert E. Howard's Conan world)
Northern Barbarians
Medieval States
Black Nations
Near Eastern Nations
(based on the Mars novels
of Edgar Rice Burroughs)
Red Men
Green Men
(based on Spencer's poem)
Gloriana's Knights
League of Enchanters
(based upon the Novaria novels
by L. Sprague de Camp)
(based on the novel
by Fletcher Pratt)
(based on the
Dray Prescot novels)
Pre-Prescot Vallia
Imperial Vallia
(based on the
Katherine Kurtz novels)
Army of ex-Queen Ariella
Army of Grand-Master Jebediah
Army of King Kelson
Army of Rebel Archbishop Loris
(based on the role-playing game
by M.A.R. Barker)
(Based on the Vlad Taltos
series by Steven Brust)
(based on the Glen Cook novels)
Plains of Fear Army
Army of the Lady
Army of the Limper
Taglian Army
Shadowmasters' Armies
(based on the
Terry Pratchett novel)



HotT first edition

First edition was a 40-page digest-sized rulebook.

Currently on version 2.1 (published March 2014).


Simple HOTT magic extension

Magic Extension

Steve Burt's rules give more options for magicians. Archived webpage.


Combines DBA 3.0 with elements of HotT 2.0. It allows you to play both fantasy and historical armies using the same DBA 3.0 mechanisms. Available from Thomas Thomas.

Hordes of the Empire (HotE)


Victorian colonial wars adaptation by Paul Potter, Blake Radetzky and Terry Webb. 6-page PDF. Available here.

Hordes in the Trenches (HitT)


WWI variant by Matt Kirkhart. 9-page DOC. Available through the Where Technology Meets Tradition Yahoo! Group. English and French versions available.


An adaptation of Hordes Of The Things to WWII rules while retaining the simplicity and spirit of the original rules.

By Bruce McFarlane. Webpage.

Hordes in the Nam (HitN)


Vietnam War variant by Matt Kirkhart. 9-page DOC. Available through the Where Technology Meets Tradition Yahoo! Group.